Evolution Valley, California, in King's Canyon Park (John Muir Wilderness) region is about as remote and pristine as you can get in the Sierra Nevada Range. It was originally mapped and explored by Theodore Solomons and E.C. Bonner of the US Geological Survey in 1895. One of the mountains rising above the basin is named Mt. Darwin. Other areas are named after primatologists like McClure Meadow and Goddard Canyon. Mount Fiske, Mount Haeckel, Mount Huxley, Mount Spencer, and Mount Wallace, Mount Lamarck and Mount Mendel were features named from famous naturalists.
Solomons and Bonner claimed they named the area Evolution Valley because they were inspired by Darwin's work and theory.
Elevations reach into the 11,000-foot mark in this area and the trail pass season is only from August-September in many areas. Trailhead elevation is 9500 feet. This is a high altitude, rugged climate, alpine area. It may not be ideal for us Homo sapiens, but if you were a man evolved for high elevation climbing, oxygen, and climate, might it be?
And, so, our story about this region begins as our outdoors guide, Ken Gentry, recalls it for us his friend's experience -
Ken begins the story of a friend for decades who worked for the forest service in the Sierras. The friend's boss was about to retire as the leader of a program called SEKI (Sequoia Kings Canyon) project. They were having a retirement party out in the woods at the center in King's Canyon.
The story was told to Ken by his very credible friend and it outlines a night that the friend would never forget. Let's call the friend “Jarvis.”
According to Jarvis, there were two research groups in the region, SEKI (Sequoia King's Canyon) and MIKI (Mineral King Canyon). They were having a party to celebrate the retirement of the leader of SEKI.
The group hung out late into the evening, laughing and recalling the years together. As they got ready to close up the party, Jarvis and the retiring leader took a bottle to the Azula Campground to have some drinks. They downed some liquor, had some arguments about politics and religion and the like.
One guy in the group brought up Bigfoot and balked at Jarvis, “I bet you don't even believe in Bigfoot.”
Jarvis, being a practical guy by nature replied, “Nope.”
The retiring leader looked over at Jarvis and said, “hey, I haven't finished cleaning out my office yet. Whatcha say we go?”
Jarvis followed him, figuring he could help the man pack and prepare to clear out all his gear. It seemed the appropriate thing to do as a last thankful gesture.
They went into the building and the leader reached into his pocket, jingling some keys.
“Lemme show you something.” He offered.
Jarvis watched the leader go to a closet, open the door and there was a doorway with 3 padlocks inside. The man dug the keys into them and opened the locked door.
Jarvis watched the leader turn the lights on in the room and go over to a cabinet. He swung around, opening up a folder and spread it on the table. The photos were gorgeous, National Geographic in quality.
Jarvis smiled as he studied the mountains that he loved, the fir trees, sequoias….
He walked over to study them under the desk lamp and his hand started shaking as he pointed. The photos documented what was greatly known as the Bigfoot. There were adult males and females, children in some of the photos. The family units showed the adults teaching the youth at the stream to catch fish.
Jarvis clutched the desk to try and stay steady as he sorted through the photos and looked at the leader tentatively as if to say, “am I allowed to see this?”
Suddenly very sober, Jarvis heard the leader shuffling through a bin. He came forward with film reels in his hands.
“They've been photographing, filming and documenting a clan here in the valley for five, six, seven decades.”
When Jarvis could not form words in his dry throat and his eyes widened as he studied the reels in the man's hands, the leader set down the reels and poked a finger at the photos.
“Ya believe now?“
Jarvis nodded. “Holy hell!” He howled and ran his hand over his face as if to jar the images loose, but they remained there on the table in the bright wash of a 100 watt bulb.
“You ever wonder about the cameras at the entry and exit points up here? They watch traffic in and out of the Valley. Kinda strange up here at this elevation, this remote a reach of the Sierra Nevadas, huh?” The leader shook his head and paced the floor as if he were unloading years' worth of burden.
Jarvis could only stand there and listen with his mouth unhinged.
“Yup, they monitor. Hikers are to get their asses in and out of the valley in 24 hours. The forest service groups have funding for game cams and gathering evidence.” The leader pivoted on his heels and faced Jarvis with a finger pointed to the sky. “Wanna know what they're gathering evidence for?”
“It's funding for something called the Primate Study for the Central Sierras.” The man snorted and let out a belly laugh.
“Primate study in the Sierras?” Jarvis frowned.
“They rent a place at Dinky Creek. The funding is 200,000, maybe 300,000 a year.” The leader leaned against the file cabinet and crossed his arms over his chest. “Sometimes they take to snowmobiles, sometimes snowshoes. The climate is a bastard, but it doesn't stop these Tall fellas.” He nodded. “There's lots of areas of interest around these parts including Tea Kettle and Jackass Meadow.”
The leader shuffled through the photos, giving them one last longing exploration with his weary eyes and tucked them back in place.
He guided Jarvis from the room, clicking off the light, locking up the padlocks, and making it nearly impossible for Jarvis to sleep that night with the images running through his head.
As with any third-hand telling, it's up to the reader to decide if it sounds logical and worthy or not. Ken's friend who told him of this ongoing study in the Sierras and his experiences with the retiring leader have some true merit, given the location, it's short length of being open, it's rarely traveled, and well monitored location lends itself to this.
Did Solomons in 1895 run across something in the Valley that led him to name the area Evolution Valley and a nearby mountain, Darwin Mountain? What would the government be doing having an ongoing primate research project in the Sierra Nevadas? An isolated high altitude region with few travelers and a one-month time period for rare visitors seems like an ideal laboratory to study a people who are acclimated to mountainous regions and cold climates. Over decades, a lot could be understood about the life and habits of these other human family members.
It is certainly the government's MO to deny something they do not want to have to throw money at, focus on, or be bothered to explain it to the citizens. If they are allowing the Bigfoot to simply go quietly extinct in populated areas of the country, they can certainly gain some interesting knowledge in them in an isolated pocket of population to better understand what might come to be known the true Natives of our country, the first immigration. If they don't bring them to public view, then no relationships change, either with the Amerindians or the newer inhabitants of the continent that came by boat from the 1400s onward.
After all, what do you do with acknowledging a silent population that cannot be tracked and monitored, its children cannot be vaccinated, they cannot be assimilated, and they possess unusual strength and “wild” qualities in that they are feral? There is nothing that can be addressed in this situation and so the logical option is to study an ideal habitat for these people in a remote place where visitors are exceedingly rare and can easily be monitored.
There is some real credence to this series of events relayed to Ken by his fellow explorer. Ken says he and his team use Goddard Canyon and a pass called “Hell For Sure” Pass as a kind of backdoor to the area to enter without notice.
Interestingly, this land has a history of giant encounters. In fact, the Paiute tribe in Nevada who spoke of the red-haired giants said they had come from the region to the west (California) down from the mountains.
In Evolution Valley runs a creek called “Piute Creek.”
(LINK) Piute mountain and creek in Tuolumne County are apparently named after the Mono-speaking Indians of Mono County, who affiliate with the ‘false’ or Northern Paiute.” (Kroeber: California Place Names of Indian Origin, 1916, p. 55.)
Adding to this is my hike in the mid 1980s with a group up to Baboon Lake at 11,000 feet. I had no idea where I was, I simply packed up my backpack and went. At the time, I had no idea that Baboon Lake (LINK) was in this John Muir Wilderness area. This is where I had my own sighting in May when snow was melting off the mountains and sending waterfalls falling over the edges. I always wondered why they called the lake “Baboon” in a state with no primates, but it would seem everything in Evolution Valley is oddly referenced to primates and those who studied evolution.
Rangers and Native Americans who worked for forestry department told Ken about Junction Meadow. It is a junction of 3 or 4 canyons that meet where they have the largest amount of wildlife passing through passes there where it combines into that one junction. It also has some of the highest amount of park service sightings reported by hikers and folks on the trails. Imagine a bottleneck for wildlife and a Bigfoot sitting at the busy intersection? When people report these things to the forest service, the service says, “ah, we don't really keep track of these kinds of reports,” but they actually do, according to Ken's sources within.
As well, the region has some heavy sightings in the Sugarloaf area of King's Canyon. Bigfoot are regularly seen there by mule skinners, trail builders, guides, hunters and suppliers who go in and out. Near Horseshoe Meadow there is one of them sighted so regularly that many have come to nickname him with a common man's name. He is about 6 feet tall, hunched over and silver haired like an old man.
There are more than enough reports of Bigfoot in the Sierras and one of my favorite researchers in that territory is Jaime Avalos of Sierra Sasquatch. His videos (LINK) and website (LINK) are great sources of knowledge.
- Ending on a smile -
On a side note, Ken shows that everything he does, he does with a zest for life and to have experiences, gain insights, and appreciate life. I came across this video of a song he wrote about addiction to honor fallen folks -