Sasquatch and Mount St. Helens

Pre-1980, pre-eruptions, it seems that Sasquatch or Big Foot, was a tourist cottage industry around the slopes of Mount St. Helens.

Many a story was told around campfires on the shores of Spirit Lake about the time a creature attacked five miners near Ape Cave in the 1920s and how the miners valiantly had fought off the beast’s attacks.

What really kickstarted the Sasquatch craze was film footage reportedly of a female Sasquatch or Bigfoot walking along Bluff Creek in Northern California. The 1967 film is now known as the Patterson-Gimlin film and iconic, Frame 352, shows the creature looking back towards the camera with arms extended away from it’s dark hairy body in it’s simian lope. The famous imagine, included in the featured sketch, is the blueprint for many subsequent representations of Sasquatch. This is the iconic “Big Foot” imagine that is recognized around the world much like the Surgeon’s photo of the Loch Ness Monster. Both images have been claimed to have been faked, but there are those who will always believe.

Of course that all changed after the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens where seeing a live volcano was a major draw for the tourist dollar and poor Sasquatch receded into the past. More volcano tourist attractions and museums appeared around the mountain, selling tourist trinkets with imagines with erupting volcanoes, pushed Sasquatch swag off the shelves.

This cartoon, printed in the Columbian in 1980, highlights the conflict between Sasquatch and the now famous volcano.

One such tourist attraction is to be found along the Spirit Lake Highway near Kid Valley. This is the North Fork Survivors Bigfoot & Mt. St. Helens Interpretive Center. The attraction sits across the highway from the Toutle River. This has it all for the Mount St. Helens/ Sasquatch fan.

When the volcano erupted it sent mud and melted waters from glaciers and the snowpack racing down the North Fork of the Toutle River, which destroyed everything in it’s path: forest, bridges, and homes. One home that survived is the A-frame house that was half buried by the mud flow. The house is left as it was on May 18, 1980, still furnished but now filled with 200 tons of ash, mud, and silt. You used to be able to explore the interior but it has now been deemed unsafe and is now a nesting site for barn swallows.

On the other side of the parking lot is the 20 foot statue of Sasquatch, leaning on a branch for support, like someone at a wedding, who has had a tad too much to drink. This is what attracted my sketching eye and I began to render the statue in pencil and ink.

The butt-end view of the Sasquatch statue at North Fork Survivors Bigfoot & Mt. St. Helens Interpretive Center.
It’s all about Sasquatch around Mount St. Helens. This is a road I found on the south side of the mountain on my way to Windy Ridge. I had to pull over and take a photo.

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