By Polly Keary, Editor
Fascinated by what he believes was an early glimpse of the mythic beast known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch, Tyler Bounds has chased the primate all over Washington, from Sultan and the Sky Valley all through the Cascades and into Eastern Washington.
He never did expect it to be more than a hobby. But as his skills as an outdoorsman and Washington woods expert made him more and more valuable to the community of Bigfoot hunters in the state, his hobby became something more. It became a television career.
Bounds, who became a researcher and crew member on the Animal Planet show “Finding Bigfoot,” will appear at the Monroe Library Tuesday, July 16, to talk about his search for evidence of the elusive hominid, his experience as a crew member on the popular Animal Planet show, and the dramatic evidence he has since discovered that suggests that the creature may, in fact, exist.
A singular hobby
Bounds, 41, is an affable and enthusiastic outdoorsman with a low tolerance for hyperbole and overblown claims.
His conversation about his singular hobby and subsequent career is marked by understatement rather than exaggeration.
In fact, he said, his first decades of Bigfoot hunting yielded nothing at all, nor did he really expect it to.
Rather, it was something fun he did that arose from an experience he’d had as a child.
“When I was four or five years old, I saw two of them in Northern California on a hike with my grandfather,” he said. “I remember it barely. I try not to embellish it through the fog of time. I was really young. I might not have remembered it all, but my grandfather sent scouts back to get casts of its prints.”
When what looked like two large primates crossed their trail, Bounds’ grandfather, himself a bit of a Bigfoot enthusiast, dispatched a couple of young men back to the location to see if they could find its footprints, and to take plaster casts if they could.
The young men returned with the casts of two footprints, which Bounds’ grandfather placed in a small collection of nine or 10 others.
“I used to look at them and say, ‘Those are the ones that I saw,” said Bounds, who grew up in the Stillaguamish River Valley and who spent much of his childhood freely exploring the woods.
Throughout his childhood, he maintained an interest in Bigfoot, which was easy to do, as it was something of a local fascination in the foothills of the Cascades.
“You’d drive around and see chainsaw carvings of them,” said Bounds. “It’s more in the public consciousness here than other parts of the country.”
He never went actively searching for them, though, until a trip in 1992 brought him back to Northern California, where he took his rental car though the back woods, stopping at every noise to investigate with a flashlight while his terrified sister yelled at him to get back in the car.
After recovering from a broken back, which meant relearning how to walk, while in college, Bounds was even more appreciative of his ability to get out in nature, and he spent as much time in the woods as he could. He was mostly focused on geology in those days, but he never stopped looking for any sign of Bigfoot.
Then his life took a different turn, and he wound up in Alaska for a decade, where his interest in the animal took a backseat to other pursuits.
But when he returned in 2008, his interest roared back to life.
His construction company closed in 2008 when the building economy tanked. So he took a bunch of the money he’d saved and went back to the woods. This time, though, he sometimes went with a team of Bigfoot hunters.
He had found out online that there was a group of Bigfoot experts in the state that took people on guided hikes. On a whim, he decided to join one of those hikes.
“It was a turning point,” he said.
“They weren’t people”
Bounds learned a lot about Bigfoot lore. But he also learned that many of the experts knew a lot more about the mythical creature than any of the real ones inhabiting the mountains.
“A lot of these Bigfoot experts were pretty clueless about tracking, and edible plants and berries, and it dumbfounded me that I knew a lot more about a lot of stuff than they did,” said Bounds. “We’d hear something, and they’d say, ‘That’s not an owl,’ and I’d be like, ‘Yes it is. That’s a barred owl, defending its territory.’”
Bounds’ skill as a woodsman led him to become a valued member of the community. And while he was spending time with the hunters, he finally had an experience that convinced him that Bigfoot does reside in the Cascades.
“I was east of Mount Rainier and I saw one, and it totally blew my mind,” said Bounds. “It freaked me out. It really messed me up. It was vindication, too, like, okay, I did see them when I was little. It wasn’t a dream, and it wasn’t made up.”
The following day, he and a whole team of people saw what they believed where two Sasquatches.
“We thought they were other people coming to join our group. They were 400 feet way, just standing there. And then they ran into the woods and up a mountain. It took them 12 seconds to climb what it took us four hours the day before to climb up, hand over hand, bushwhacking. Within moments they were way up the hill,” said Bounds. “They weren’t people.”
Shortly after that, a television crew came to the Olympic Peninsula, along with Bob Saget, to do a show about Bigfoot. Bounds was invited to help.
“We ran around the woods, and it was hilarious and bizarre and random, and the people in the TV business got my name, I guess,” said Bounds.
So when Animal Planet decided to do a show called “Finding Bigfoot,” using the same cast members, they asked Bounds to help out with the logistics of camping, looking for evidence and so on.
Filming on six episodes began in 2011. Bounds was in three of them. One of them took place in Georgia, and it was a turning point in Bounds’ new career.
“They were investigating this one guy who found footprints, and I was running around the woods, staying out of the way,” said Bounds. “I wasn’t there in an official capacity, but I found two footprints, and that changed the whole course of that episode. No one expected to find prints.”
The episode led the season.
The show got a second season, and Bounds got a camera.
“Even though I’d never hardly done TV stuff in my life, the producer said, ‘Here’s a camera; here’s how you turn it on. Do a good job; a million people will watch it every Saturday,’” said Bounds. “I was like, ‘Sweet.’”
The crew is just getting ready to produce the fourth season, and Bounds is a production associate. Filming begins July 22.
Local library talk
But before he goes back to work on the show, Bounds is going to appear at some libraries in the areas he lived and hunted Bigfoot in the early years, including the Sky Valley, where he once lived in Sultan.
At a recent talk in Oak Harbor, 150 people crammed the library, and soon Bounds abandoned the presentation he’d brought and just answered questions.
“People can watch video and pictures of mine all the time, but they like it when they have someone right there in front of them who they can tell their stories to, and say, ‘Something happened to me 10 years ago. I saw something out camping one time,’” he said. “Or they want to know something about the show.”
He is ready to talk about what he knows about Sasquatch sightings in the Sky Valley, too.
“There are reports going back a long time, to when they were punching the railroad through, building the Cascade Tunnel,” said Bounds.
“People would go up and relax at Lake Lichtenwasser by Lake Valhalla, and railroad workers would see the Wild Man of Lake Lichtenwasser, a wild, hairy guy who was fast as a deer and would hop to rock to rock,” said Bounds. “It was a fact of life.”
There have been many other reports from Scenic, Startup and Gold Bar, including a recording of a possible Bigfoot made in Gold Bar that has stood the test of sophisticated analysis.
When he considers his career, Bounds said he can’t believe how lucky he is.
“I did something right somewhere,” he said. “Animal Planet gives me money to go around the country with my friends and camp and look for Bigfoot.”
Bounds will appear at the Monroe Library Tuesday, July 16, at 7 p.m. Managing librarian Betsy Lewis said that seating is limited to about 60 at the most.
“I would get there early,” she said.