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KAMAS - When Oakley resident Melissa Morrison used to come to Summit County as a child for family reunions, her uncle told her campfire stories about seeing Sasquatch wandering through the Uinta Mountains.

Those stories terrified her, and she had to wonder: Could the large big-footed creatures exist?

According to members of the Big Foot Research Organization who came from all over the country to search for Bigfoot sightings along the Mirror Lake Highway this week, the answer to that question is, Yes, Melissa, there is a Sasquatch.

Scott Taylor of Tacoma, Wash., says he saw a Bigfoot in 2005 while deer hunting on the coast of Washington.

"It's not like going out and watching deer and elk," said Taylor. "These are creatures that don't want to be seen. But when you see one, it changes your life forever."

At twilight on his 2005 hunt, Taylor saw a hulking figure with a strong smell and heard a "whoop" sound like he had never heard before.

He was among a group of about 45 people at the Uinta Mountains gathering led by BFRO director Matt Moneymaker. The group is using sophisticated equipment such as parabolic microphones and night vision goggles to search for a Sasquatch.

Taylor's Bigfoot experience motivated him to pay a one-time membership fee of $350 to go on excursions organized by Moneymaker in search of the creature. Organization members say there are between 2,000 and 4,000 of the large, secretive animals residing in North America.

They point to personal experiences such as Taylor's as well as a 1967 film by Roger Patterson that purportedly captures images of Bigfoot walking as proof that the creature many regard as fictional actually exists. Moneymaker said Friday that there is more modern and better footage taken in Kentucky, but the man who filmed it won't release it because he is planning to use it in a documentary.

According to the group's Web site,, the term Sasquatch is an Anglicized derivative of the word Sesquac, meaning "wild man" used by the Coast Salish Indians of the Fraser Valley and parts of Vancouver Island.

The group cites reports of 40 sightings or vocalizations in Utah over the years, the last one in July 2006 near the remote High Uintas area where the group hiked this week.

Moneymaker, a lawyer from Capistrano, Calif., said he started the organization as a clearing house for sightings from around the country. He claims to have been as close as 15 feet from a Sasquatch in 1994 in Portage County, Ohio.

"Utah has a reputation of being a place with enough sightings and steep terrain where it is possible to see one," he said

Because of the Pioneer Day holiday, areas around the Mirror Lake Highway were crowded, which Moneymaker said reduces the chances of seeing one of the shy creatures. So he was moving his group Friday to a more remote area.

Other members of the group claimed to have seen one of the elusive animals in the past.

Take the story of Joe Yarborough of Rock Springs, Wyo., who was on a lonely road near Dubois, Wyo., in 1993 when he drove around a corner and saw a large creature step out of the shadows near the guard rail.

"It took three steps and disappeared into the woods," he said. "It was not a bear. I screamed like a little girl and slammed on the brakes. I was going to follow it and then turned away from him. I didn't want to take a chance."

Taylor, who is an engineer for Boeing, said many people have seen Sasquatch but are too afraid of ridicule to actually report the sightings.

Acting Kamas District Ranger Dave Ream of the Forest Service said he was not aware of any Bigfoot sightings but was impressed with how seriously the BFRO group took the stories. He said that campers should be more worried about bears, which are coming closer than usual to campgrounds because of dry conditions and wildfires.

Still, those who have heard or seen Sasquatch are never quite the same.

"You have never felt fear until you've felt that," said Taylor about his experience.

Big Foot Sightings

The Bigfoot Field Research Organization's Web site lists the following reported possible Bigfoot sightings in Utah:

* July 2006, Uintah County: Possible morning vocalizations heard north of Vernal

* October 2006, Morgan County: Possible vocalizations heard near East Canyon Reservoir.

* August 2001, Beaver County: Daytime sighting at Labaron Lake, Fishlake National Forest

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