I used to live in Camino, Ca. and would go up into Desolation Wilderness, northeast of Wright’s Lake several times a month. The trout fishing was really incredible and it left a wonderful lasting memory with me. Since moving from the area, 9 years earlier, I hadn’t been there for a long time. I talked to a friend of mine about going up and camping overnight and do some trout fishing. He agreed and also invited another friend along for the ride. We got up there in the early afternoon and hiked upstream from Wright’s lake and then set up camp. A couple hours later a ranger came by and informed us that we hadn’t actually made it into Desolation wilderness yet, and we were still within the Wrights Lake recreation area, and that we needed to go uphill for another half mile before we made it into Desolation Wilderness area. For clarity sake, there are no signs in the area, telling you where one area starts and the other area begins, unless you had a GPS receiver and a topographical map, and it had been nearly a decade since I had been to the area.
So we broke down our camp, and then the 2 guys that were with me, suggested that we go into Placerville and get a room. Apparently they weren’t up to camping and fishing after all. I said no thanks, and that I came up here to camp and fish, not to go and “party” somewhere in town. So they left and I went up the hill farther. The ranger had suggested enchanted pools as a camping and fishing location, because it was starting to get late in the afternoon, and there was no way I could make it all the way to Twin Lakes before dark. He gave me a general location of where it could be found and what trails to take to get there, but when most of the area is large (football field sized) sheets of granite, and the trails are only marked with little stacks of rocks here and there, I ended up getting a little bit lost.
I could hear water flowing over rocks to the north of me, and so I walked another half mile or so and located the stream. Below me, about 35 feet down a cliff, was a stream that did have a pool in it, right on the tree line. I thought “Wow, what a beautiful place that would be to camp”.
So I picked my way down the steep cliff side. I set up camp next to the west side of the pool and had some very dense woods about 15 feet away to the north. I started fishing as soon as my tent was back up and had a gorgeous finish to a very nice day. Then, after it got dark, I climbed into my sleeping bag looking to the east at the Crystal range, I think it is called, and watched as the glow of a full moon worked it’s way up over the top of the granite mountains. Once it was over, my day was complete and I decided to go to sleep.
That was at 10:30 pm. As I started to drift off to sleep, I heard what could only be described as a very deep, low, rumbling growl. The shear volume was incredible. It was so loud I could actually feel it.
When I go into a wilderness area, especially a place I know has a large population of bears; I always carry a handgun with me. On this occasion it was a compact .45 ACP. When I heard the growl, it really scared the crap out of me, because it was so close. I jumped up, with my .45 in hand and looked out the top of the screen mesh on the tent. I could see a dark mass about 4 1/2 feet tall, and basically rounded off at the top, right at the edge of the tree line, 15 feet from my head. I yelled some really loud obscenities and started climbing out of my tent. Once I was clear of the door I brought up my pistol and fired into a dead tree stump, a few feet away from what I thought was a huge black bear.
As soon as the pistol went off, it turned and ran back into the brush, but it didn’t seem to go very far and that concerned me. Bears will usually run like heck and for a long time, after getting shot at that close. This seemed to go only about 50 feet or so into very thick brush. I could hear it thrashing about as it moved around in the trees.
After awhile it started to quiet down and it sounded like it was moving away from my camp. After about 15 minutes of complete silence, I decided to try and go back to bed. However, shortly after going to bed, I started hearing what sounded like decent sized rocks, hitting the water in the creek, just above the pool I was camped beside. It would happen every couple of minutes or so.
It was the sound of not only the splash, but also of the rock hitting other rocks, submerged in shin deep water. That “underwater cracking” sound. Anyone who has ever had a rock roll out from under his or her foot, and strike another rock, as they crossed a creek, knows this sound. This really concerned me. I was thinking the “bear” might be crossing the stream and circling my campsite and trying to get at me from a different angle.
I got out of my tent on several occasions, and was trying to see if I could make out any movement on the other side of the stream but I didn’t see anything out of the norm. I usually keep a small flashlight in my tackle box, for baiting hooks at night, which I had, but it was one of those small “shake it” and it charges up the cell and lights up for a few minutes. It isn’t much of a flashlight really and worse yet, the handle is clear and so when I would turn it on, the handle would light up too, actually making it harder to see as the light reflected back into my eyes.
I had a full moon though and the area is surrounded with stark white granite slabs, and so except in the darkest of the woods, I could see pretty well. This went on most of the night. Every time I got in my sleeping bag, I would hear more splashes and the rocks clacking together. As soon as I got out, it would all stop.
Then at 2:00 am, I got another “visit”. I didn’t get to see it, this time, but I heard movement really close to my tent again, same place as before when I saw the rounded shadow. This time when I yelled at it, I got a return of something that sounded like an “Ooof” “Ooof”, but really deep sounding. I jumped out of my tent, and even though I couldn’t see anything there, I put another shot into the dead tree stump and again all hell broke loose and the trees got another thrashing. Again, it only went about 50 feet back into the trees. After things began to quiet down again, I started trying to rationalize what this “bear” could possibly want with me. Was I camped on its trail to the water? Was it used to finding food in tents etc?
Desolation Wilderness area is a very high traffic place in the summer. Although this particular spot is only a short distance from the main trail, it didn’t appear to have much in the way of hikers. People will usually leave some kind of sign, trash, fishhooks, or something, to say that they were here before, but this place was very clean. So I decide to take my sleeping bag out of the tent and move over to the middle of this big slab of granite that I was on. There is about a 4-foot tall ledge facing the woods where all of the activity was going on. But now the tree line is 50 feet away and not 15, figuring this would give me more of a chance if I got charged. Well as I tried to sleep with one eye open, the splashing and rock clanging continued every couple of minutes. I kept checking my watch, hoping the sun would come up soon. Then “she” showed up. It was 4:40 am and I snapped awake.
Not sure what woke me, I looked towards the tree line, but didn’t see anything. I then looked at my tent, but didn’t see anything there either. Near the foot of my tent, was a young pine tree. Behind the tree, in the shadows, I could just barely make out a silhouette. I couldn’t make out any details, just an outline, and I had no idea what I was looking at. My tent is 42 inches tall, and the shadow was over twice as tall as the tent. I was straining to understand what I was seeing, when she suddenly stepped out from behind the tree into the light of the full moon. It was like turning on a spotlight on her and I immediately panicked! I picked up the .45 from my lap and fired a warning shot off to my left, away from the creature. She stopped and looked at me. Then she started walking towards me again.
She was very fast. I don’t mean that she was running, what I’m saying is her steps were so big, that the distance closed very fast. I don’t think my .45 would have been able to bring her down, she was just so huge. I fired a second warning shot, and this one was much closer towards the animal. I could see her very clearly at this point, and I literally pee’d my pants. The second shot made her stop again. She just stood there, 15 feet away, looking down at me, for a good 20 seconds. Then her head quickly snapped to her right, like she had heard something. She stood there, looking in the direction of my second warning shot for about 2 seconds. Then she turned and ran off in that direction at great speed. It was almost looked like someone had turned a VCR on fast forward, when she left. Until it got light enough to try and find my way back to the parking lot, I stayed there against the ledge, with my gun in my hand, and shaking all the way down to my core. Finally it got light enough and I was able to get up and wash out my shorts in the stream, and then I packed up my gear and hiked back to the parking lot at Wrights Lake.
I have not been able to sleep right since then, and for the next couple of months after the incident, I couldn’t sleep at all. Every time I closed my eyes, I would hear the growls and the rocks splashing and then see her coming at me. I have been an avid outdoorsman and have hunted and fished as well as hiked and camped all over the western states, and have never seen anything like this before. If you had asked me before this encounter, whether or not I believed in the existence of Bigfoot, I don’t know what I would have said. I never dedicated enough brain cells to the subject, to even develop an opinion on the matter, much less an actual belief.