By James Proffitt
Posted On: Jun 10, 2018
LORE CITY -- We went, we searched. The thick, expansive reach of Salt Fork State Park held us in its lush spring grip: a mix of fir and deciduous trees, 60-plus miles of hiking trails and a massive meandering body of water at its core. The most elusive creature to ever inhabit the Buckeye State was, alas, nowhere to be found. At least by the eight of us. However, we did find all kinds of cool stuff on our trek, guided by Ohio State Parks Naturalist John Hickenbottom.First and foremost, foxfire. Never seen it before, but we found it right at our feet, then huddled around a tiny bunch of bioluminescent fungus, cradled in Hickenbottom’s palm. Also called fairy fire, the fungus actually glows a ghostly green. And right on the tail of foxfire, we located some larval stage lightning bugs, which don’t flash on an off, but remain “lit.” Huh? Most of us never knew! Maybe the reason they need light, we speculated, was because they were busy chasing down slugs in the middle of the night – to eat them. I was clueless: knowledge courtesy of Hickenbottom. When we stopped and listened, we were told there was an owl making passes overhead. Likely a barred or screech owl, Hickenbottom said. We hoped to glimpse a bobcat, which are often sighted near dusk, or even a black bear --slightly less common. Ohio Division of Wildlife Chief Mike Miller said interest in Bigfoot, also known as the Ohio Grassman, is growing. “It’s been going on for quite a while. Its popularity is amazing.” Miller himself has a Do You Believe? Bigfoot sticker on his family minivan. And he said there are plenty of stories floating around southeast Ohio, such as the one where witnesses say they saw Bigfoot jump over the Kokosing River with a deer under each arm. “I’ve never seen evidence of Bigfoot myself,” he added wryly. Ohio parks like Salt Fork and surrounding areas, are Bigfoot central. And FYI, if you ever see more than one we were informed, it’s not Bigfeet. It’s Bigfoots. Really. If a Bigfoot hike alone doesn’t satisfy your Bigfoot hunger, try out a Bigfoot Adventure Weekend, says Alan Megargle, who helps organize the annual event at Salt Fork. “The last two years we’ve sold out,” he said. “There’s a mix of people, from families and casual Bigfoot fans to some professional investigators that come out. We’ve really tried to make the event for everyone.” Running for about six years, it seems to be growing. “The last two years we’ve sold out,” Megargle said. “We usually try to limit it to about 50.” And if searching for the Ohio Grassman makes you hungry, you’re guaranteed to locate a Bigfoot Brisket Burger at Theo’s in Cambridge. It’s a beast of a sandwich with brisket, ham, salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, banana peppers, lettuce tomato and Italian dressing. FYI: there are plenty of other Bigfoot burgers, dogs and dishes at eateries in the region. But the annual OBC isn’t the only opportunity to seek Sasquatch knowledge in the Buckeye state. There’s Creature Weekend at Salt Fork in October. And just last year, Seeking Bigfoot, Inc. producers traveled to the Youngstown area after a resident snapped a photo of a Bigfoot. Again, no Bigfoot found. But, on the upside, says Hickenbottom, of all the looking, is that plenty of people, including families, have been hanging out in Ohio’s wild places. “No harm can come of that,” he says. Hickenbottom said great Bigfoot hunting grounds include Mohican and West Branch state parks as well as the Hocking Hills area. My friend Judy Wells says she’s never looked for the creature and wasn’t nervous at all about possibly finding him – or her. “I thought it was fun, but the most enjoyable part was being in the woods with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts and experiencing something new. I think Bigfoot(s) would agree. For more travel inspiration, Find It Here at Ohio.org.