My knuckles turned white from the death grip on my axe. Chewy clutched his shovel like a bayonet. We squinted in the cold dark forest. The campfire cast long distorted images across the exposed ridgeline. Our eyes darted back and forth with every movement. All alone in that vast wilderness, we kept a vigilant watch. I feared for our lives. But it wasn’t until first light when we would hear the demonic howl. And feel the ground shake.

I’m a Hotshot Forest Firefighter. We are the Marines of the wildland firefighting community. We’re a tough bunch. Afraid of nothing.

We had just extinguished a fire in Northern California. My crew was getting evac’d by helicopter. Everyone was loading in when the Heli-tec said, “All full. Sorry Chewy, you two will have to wait.”

Chewy chuckled, “Oh come on. You aren’t still mad? It was a joke.”

The Heli-tec pointed at the sunset, “We’ll be back in the morning. That’s if you survive the night. You’re in Bigfoot country. This is where that video of Sasquatch walking was filmed. That’s why we’re flying folks out. Rangers are saying it killed a bunch of sheep and smashed some equipment. And then there were the reports of its demonic howl. Sleep well.” The Heli-tec hustled aboard the chopper and whisked away.

I was stunned. Chewy said, “Don’t listen to him. He’s messing with us.”

Now, there is a competitive rivalry between crews. Folks love to play pranks on one another. Chewy did confess that he had used that Heli-tec’s coffee thermos as a spittoon once, so this was payback.

We dropped our packs, built a campfire, and then hunkered down. Ever notice that things during the day seem ridiculous, like vampires and zombies, but then when you are alone at night, reality shifts and they suddenly become very real. So, there we were. Two grown adults. Super tough Hotshots. Afraid of nothing.

Alone at night. I felt our reality shifting.

“Chewy, you don’t believe in Bigfoot? Do you?” In the distance a tree branch fell and Chewy jumped to attention.

We spent the rest of the night in defensive stances. Reacting to every tiny movement. But then, at daybreak, came the sound of a terrible demonic roar. The ground shook. Tree branches swayed. Dust swirled around our campsite. The roar grew louder until it was deafening.

Chewy shouted, “Sasquatch!” That was when we saw the beast. A Bell Twin Two Twelve helicopter rise over the ridge and hover over our campsite. The rotors blasted the ridge with violent wind gusts as the engine reverberated a demonic roar. In the front window was our Heli-tec waving two middle fingers.

We gathered our belongings and I noticed something, “Hey Chewy, where’s our backpacks?” After a short search, we found them. Torn to pieces. Shredded. A chill climbed my spine.

We convince ourselves that coyotes ripped apart our packs. But when I’m alone at night, in my heart, I know that it was Bigfoot.