The Ouachita's Secret: Part 1

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BANG! Something rattled off the roof of the “hooch” (a large carport like structure used to cover various supplies used in the daily operations of the NAWAC), followed by a loud, climbing, wwwhhhOOOOOP and then….laughter (?), that echoed throughout our small camp deep inside the forests of the Ouachita Mountains.

See, there I go again, getting ahead of myself. We’ll return there later. But first, the beginning….

Oklahoma is hot in the summer…

I’m not sure what I thought it would be like, honestly. Cool?

To be completely transparent, I hadn’t given much thought to Oklahoma prior to my interest in the subject of Bigfoot, and even then it wasn’t until much later did I first hear about this mysterious place called “X”.

Until then, Bigfoot was relegated to the Pacific Northwest, remote sections of Florida swamp, and Ohio.

Oklahoma, though? Isn’t it just…flat?

No. Far from it, actually (my tired legs would later remind me of that fact).

Wide open, yea?

Wrong, at least where base-camp is located deep within the Ouachita mountains. Off trail (even “trail” is a bit of a misnomer. More like a succession of stamped down boot-prints that vaguely resemble a path between the tangled thorns, tree roots, and rock), one can only see 5-7 feet at most in some spots before foliage suffocates any hint of afternoon light.

Open it is not.

But I digress…

Let’s go just a bit further back…

Looking back now, I realize what the world of Bigfoot, as crazy as it sounds, has given me. Random messages on social media about a giant, hairy, ape living in the woods (which most consider absolutely crazy in the first place) have turned into real-world friendships (yep, those are still a thing…) that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

So, that’s how this whole thing started.

A text that would change many of my preconceived views on the Sasquatch subject.

“Hey man. Would you want to go with me to “X” this summer?”

Now, for the uninitiated, “X” could represent anything. “X” could mean “fill in the blank”. However, in the Bigfoot world “X” represents the infamous “area x” of southeastern Oklahoma.

Even for me, it was several years into my interest in the subject that I’d stumbled across the mention of “Area X” on a podcast called “The Bigfoot Information Project Podcast”. Apparently, there was a group of credentialed, respected researchers who believed they had found a refugium of large, bipedal apes, living in the mountains of Oklahoma. This group operated under the title of the TBRC (Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy) and eventually morphed into the NAWAC (the North American Wood Ape Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit scientific-research organization).

Because of my scientific lean, the fact that there was a group of actual scientists, army special forces members, biology professors at accredited universities, and generally “science minded” Bigfoot enthusiasts, giving this topic an actual look, was incredibly exciting.

Not only were they looking, but supposedly, they’d found…

It didn’t take me long to consume everything I could about this mysterious “area x”.

Because the area is kept under wraps, there wasn’t much in the way of video (or pictures, for that matter) of the area itself, the men and women involved, or the evidence found. I’d often found myself daydreaming about what it might look like. How remote it must be. How amazing it was that these men and women had found somewhere so rife with activity that they’d set up a permanent research installation to monitor the animals. Not only did they set up permanent camp, but they actually spent a majority of the year, broken into teams, embedded in this “ape” habitat.

The kid in me, who wanted to believe that there were “monsters” in the woods, couldn’t have been more enamored with this group or their secret place (so much so that I inquired, and eventually joined, the group now known as the North American Wood Ape Conservancy, paid my dues, and proudly supported this effort to discover what was really out there). The skeptic in me remained, well, skeptical. The hopeful little boy in me was thrilled.

Needless to say, it took roughly .47 seconds to respond with…

“Yes! When?!”

Seth Breedlove is a documentary flimmaker who focuses his talents on local legends and folklore. Needless to say, many of these “legends” revolve around Bigfoot and Bigfoot-like creatures. Seth and I met by chance (over music, ironically enough) and had become “internet” friends and eventually, “actual” friends (that kind where you hang out and interact in the real world. Crazy, yea?).

Seth was (and is, at the time of writing, currently finishing) a documentary series covering all aspects of the Bigfoot phenomenon as told by the people who live and breathe the subject day in and day out.

Editors Note: The series mentioned in the previous paragraph has now been titled “On the Trail of…Bigfoot” and has wrapped production, and info can be found at onthetrailof.tv

An entire episode of the series would focus on the people and the area that had captured my imagination for years prior in the Southeastern mountains of Oklahoma.

Finally, “X” would be more than a conglomeration of generic trees, rolling hills, and untouched wilderness, made up and imagined, tucked away into the corner of my mind relegated to the few fleeting moments I’d allow myself to indulge in such a place.

It was real.

And I was going in…

Rough was an understatement…

Bouncing and rocking, rolling, and scraping, Seth and I made our way into the deep recesses of Oklahoma forest with camera gear in hand, under foot, piled up, and sat upon. I could’t help but think of how someone might feel if Jurassic Park was a real place, and they’d been given a “behind the scenes” pass to tour the park beyond the safety of the electrified fence surrounding the T-Rex. This place wasn’t just off the map.

It was off the map, over the edge, and underneath.

I began to feel small and silly for the space I assumed I took up.

The world, and specifically the woods, are still wild and a great deal of it remains untouched.

After a leisurely 2.5 hour, approximately 8 mile rock crawl…

Our path opened into a small camp, complete with research cabin, covered supplies, and a few prominent members of the NAWAC (North American Wood Ape Conservancy).

We were welcomed by the current team of researchers occupying the site (the NAWAC rotates researchers in throughout the year), including former military intelligence officer, Darryl Colyer and host of the (now, unfortunately, extinct) very popular podcast, The Bigfoot Show (as well as the aforementioned Bigfoot Information Podcast), Brian Brown.

Having read (dreamt of, wishfully wondered) about Area X and listened to “The Bigfoot Show” for the past half decade, I was admittedly a bit starstruck. Add to that the next introductions were from Bob and Kathy Strain (look them up, they’re a big deal in the Sasquatch world), I would have been content if the trip ended right there with a meet a greet and rock crawl back out to civilization.

Thankfully, we stayed to play a few days in the land called “X” in hopes of confirming our skepticism or opening our eyes to the real possibility that the forests of North America could be harboring one last, large, bipedal, secret.