Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide
by Robert Michael Pyle, Houghton Mifflin, 338 pages .
Robert Michael Pyle earned a Ph.D. in ecology from Yale, wrote the respected Audubon Field Guide to Butterflies , and also got a Guggenheim grant to study the legendary Bigfoot and its followers in the Pacific Northwest. Though Pyle would love to believe as strongly as the Sasquatch faithful he met, the tone of his book is one of fond agnosticism. He has camped out many nights in the beast’s favored Olympic Mountains of Washington State, met a man who claims his grandpa started the “hoax,” and has sat around the campfire at the Bigfoot Daze jamboree with fans of the creature who tell him, over “Bigfoot burgers,” of their visitations. “As the October light faded into vague mothglow … the members gathered around a Coleman to share Bigfoot tales old and new. Martin, an older man with a silky white beard, recounted his wife’s sighting of a seven-foot ape on their honeymoon forty years before, as she nodded approvingly.” Not all of Bigfoot’s trackers wish the animal well; Pyle met a few hunters who stalk it for the prize of bagging the conclusive pelt.
Along the way Pyle has kept a naturalist’s eye on the palpable wilds he comes across—the mountain ash, bunch grass, Rubus berries, marmots, deer, butterflies, elk bones, and mountain bikers that line the trail of the ever- retreating American yeti. Pyle’s book is a natural history of the Northwest as well as an education in forestry. Even if the creature is only a metaphor for our diminishing wildness, by the end of this book it remains a far more powerful symbol than the spotted owl or marbled murrelet. To Pyle it is a myth worth rescuing “from the gutter” and the tabloids.