Part II of a two-part series
ADK, more than just fish
"That hula girl you have on your dashboard is really dancing around," says ADK from the middle row Captain's chair in my minivan.
And he would be right, because I'm driving my minivan on a freakin' dirt road in the middle of the Adirondacks.
Even my GPS unit is stunned. I've got a mountain man and a counter-terrorism guy in a soccer mom vehicle going 10 miles an hour so I don't run over a tree stump.
Oh, and the map we're following, ADK drew from memory on lined three-hole paper. On ADK's version of Mapquest, in big letters, is this: "100 miles. All Remote Wilderness To Canada."
"We're here," says ADK. Denver, who can sit at his desk and track a mountain goat from the heavens looks at me with a face that says, there is no here, here.
"Yep, we're here. This is where I first came across those Bigfoot tracks."
At which Denver about gets whiplash turning his head to look at me.
"Ahhhh sorry, Den. Didn't I mention ?"
Yeah, seems that over the past 10 years or so while out fishing the remote streams of the Adirondacks, ADK keeps coming across what he says are Bigfoot tracks.
"I've seen some unusual tracks of some human-like creature," he says. "The tracks are 17, 18 inches long, twice as wide as a human's foot. Big strides. You're talking about a 6-foot stride between each foot. I've seen 15 tracks in four different locations."
ADK even has a plaster cast of one of the tracks. To be honest, it's not an actual casting, but more like when you catch a trophy fish and you take a bunch of pictures and measurements and send it to some guy, who sends you back an exact plastic replica, while the real fish is still alive and well.
That's kind of what ADK has. Not so sure how much of an exact replica it is though.
While Denver has fished most of his life, he has also had a mystery trailing him almost as long. Goes back to a time he and his grandfather were walking the farm in West Virginia and came across a sighting his grandpa would only ever say "was mighty peculiar."
I met Denver on an ESPN.com story I did about a Bigfoot hunt a couple of years back. Last summer we took a week's vacation together, along with my son and Denver's state cop friend, Spinner, and roamed the woods on the other side of the Adirondacks looking for the beast. After $2,000 worth of cabin and food and all we saw was a salamander and a wild chicken. And to be truthful, I think Spinner ate the chicken.
A local paper for some unknown reason wrote a story about our trip. ADK saw it, got his buddy Mike to show him how to use a computer, and e-mailed me this:
"found tracks on four occasions in remote area of north lake black river area, forestport, town of Ohio. latest found in 2003 off logging road. please contact by mail [no computer] "adirondack jack" Leach "
I must have forgot to forward that to Denver. My mistake.
So as ADK took us to the four locations where he says he saw Bigfoot tracks, we hear from him, that he may not be the only one around these parts with some mighty peculiar happenings.
"Just a little while back a couple Adirondack hunters, one told me he seen a creature, much like an ape, on four legs run down through a swamp, and it ran up to him, and stood up on two legs, then got down again on all four legs and ran off into the swamp. He seen the face and everything. It was all red, and when it stood up it was maybe 5-foot-8."
"This other hunter," Jack continues, "he sees this thing run out of the swamp. The hunter started shaking, he was so scared. This thing got 20 yards away from him, looked him in the eye, and ran back into the swamp. It had hair all over its body, face, was about 7-feet-tall, had no clothes on, but it looked him right in the eyes. It terrified him."
At our next stop in the ADK Bigfoot Tour, he told us a story that the wife of a hunter he knows recently confided in him:
"Two wives and their husbands were staying in a cabin off North Lake Road, rented the cabin for seven days. The first night they were in the cabin they heard this animal screaming like nothing they ever heard before. The second night it was screaming louder and louder getting closer and closer. The third night this thing was right up at the cabin screaming, the most treacherous sound they ever heard.
"One of the husbands ran into the closet and got his shotgun, and he went out on the cabin front porch. He looked around but he didn't see nothing, but he went back into the cabin. The two wives were terrified, both the husbands were terrified, and at 5 that morning, they packed all their gear up and went out of the cabin four days early, saying they would never return. And these were people who grew up in the woods all their lives."
As we pull out the fishing poles, Denver pulls on his waders and I carry the worms and the camera. We venture down the bank of a stream lined with boulders and sand, dwarfed by huge pine trees. The sound of waterfalls and rapids almost drown out ADK, but not quite.
"The last bigfoot track I saw was on the river bank of the Upper Black River," he says. "Clear as day in the sand, a huge one."
"Cool," I say as I watch Denver try and ford the stream, camera up to my eye, setting on the sports mode so I can get the eight frames a second I need to capture his certain fall into the river. "How far away was that last sighting?"
"Just right on that bank over there by the second tall pine tree. Right where Denver is headed."
I shout out nothing to Denver. And sure enough, in about the same spot, there was another strange track in the sand. Denver says he thinks it was a double strike bear track there was a hump in it where an arch of a foot might go. ADK Jack seemed to think it was a faint "Bigfoots track."
I took a picture. To me it looked exactly like sand. Riverbed.
But if you want to look for yourself, it's on public land. All you need to do is head for the Adirondack town of Ohio, N.Y. Drive past the Buffalo Head Restaurant (great fish fries by the way, and they didn't pay me to say that) and keep heading north on North Lake Road until it ends. Then keep going for another five miles or so, and turn left at what would be the last hole in the three-hole lined paper map that ADK sent me.
Or if you have a GPS, punch in these numbers: N 43º 28.65' W 075º 00.633'
If you go, bring a whistle.
"The Fish Whisperer"
Denver's phrase, not mine.
In scenery with a stunning view around every corner, we got handed a fishing clinic. Actually, Denver got the fishing whooping, while I documented it in photos.
As I stood on a boulder next to ADK and watched Denver yank on what was soon to become his seventh lost hook of the day, we talked fishing.
Me: "So, ADK, you think Denver is a good fisherman?"
ADK: "He's a damn fine tracker, he is."
Even though he had only known Denver a few hours, he wasn't going to cheap shot someone he was now calling, "My fishing buddy." Riverbank manners at their best.
As I leaned up against a wall of a metal roadway bridge where trucks and cars hummed a song as they drove, ADK fished unseen below. Between tunes of the singing bridge, he told me how he fishes the waters of the Adirondacks.
"I'm a wormer, mainly just use night crawlers," he said. "Use a size 10 hook, 8-pound test fishing line, split shot sinker, and a bobber if the water is low, just to float it down the river. I usually put a 2- to 2 ½-foot span between the bobber and the sinker just so the hook floats a couple feet below the surface. You got to get 2 to 3 feet down into the water to hook the whoppers."
ADK told me he mainly fishes the North Lake area, going only 30 times a season since having a couple of heart attacks. "Before then," he says, "I was back there every other day, probably 80 to 90 times a fishing season."
But trust me, as I sit here rubbing Bengay on my ankles, the guy never stops moving. He throws 10 or 15 casts in a spot before moving along, covering all kinds of ground. His idea of ideal conditions are in early May, when the water's cold and "the brookies" bite best. He also recommends fishing in muddy conditions, when the big fish are coming out of brooks into the main river. "That's when the trout are feeding," he says, "because all the worms are falling off the bank and going into the river and the big ones are waiting for them."
I watched as ADK took his pole apart and walked over to where Denver was fishing. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but as he talked and pointed about the stream, Denver followed every move. ADK later told me that he advised Denver: "Look for the ripples in the streams where the deep holes are, where the water comes down through, goes around rocks, because the big trout are always hiding under them boulders, by the side of the boulders in the shade."
And a cast or two later, Denver caught his first fish of the day, which is the picture that started all this.
Back in the motel parking lot, ADK showed me one of the brochures he gives to tourist areas around New York State. The crude three-fold is about fishing the Adirondacks for trout and is called "Kids and Fishing." ADK makes the brochure up on his kitchen table, gets 20,000 of them printed, and pays the $700 printing bill out of his own pocket.
He's been doing that every year now for the last 16 years. I didn't ask what his retirement check is, but I'm sure you can't hide a $700 dollar expense in it. I did ask if he gets paid to hand them out. "Nope," was the answer. "Never took a buck for it, never will."
So why does he do it? "I love the place," he says. "There's a saying that says, 'It's not what you take, it's what you give,' and I try to do that."
With passion like that, the man DESERVES to wear a homemade vest featuring two sewn-in American flags, and across the shoulders the words "ADIRONDACK JACK."
I'm only doing this Postscript thing because my ESPNOutdoors.com editors are probably freaking out about the length of this thing and I thought by calling it a Postscript I could get more stuff in here without the normal tongue-lashing I get about going over my word count by several thousand very well written words.
If you're reading this, it worked. So here goes.
If you want to come to the Adirondacks and fish like ADK, he has some advice: "Find a good guide. You really need someone who knows these woods, don't just GPS it or only have a compass. There is lots of iron ore in the ground up here, and if you're over iron ore I've had the compass start spinning. You lose your bearings."
TRUST ME, losing your bearings up here would be a bad thing.
From Denver on whether having his fishing butt handed to him was worth the worldwide humiliation about it that I managed to get in this story:
"He's a great fisherman," Den told me. "With the sinkers, he's almost got it down to a science. It's either one split shot sinker and a bobber, two split shot sinkers and no bobber, or no split shot sinkers and just let the hook ride if the water is right. He said always play with the weight on your hook, and that's what's going to get you into the fish.
"He would move the sinker around, use the bobber on certain water, but if it was a fast-moving current he would never use a bobber, and he would play with the tip at a 45-degree angle upstream sort of just feeling where the hook is in the water. Sometimes he took all the sinkers off, and just let the hook ride, and all of a sudden he'll start catching fish. If he stops catching fish he'll add one split shot sinker, and he'll start catching fish again. He constantly plays with the hook and where it lies in the water."
About the Bigfoot stuff, from Denver who has traveled all over the country looking to wrestle with the beast: "Do I think he's lying about what he's seeing with the alleged Bigfoot tracks, absolutely not. What he is describing, the shape and look of the tracks, the location of the tracks old logging roads, river banks match the Bigfoot lore and what a lot of the people who believe Bigfoot exists say.
"To tell you the truth I think Adirondack Jack is pretty much a Bigfoot virgin. I don't believe he's read much about it. He doesn't even have a computer to get on all the Bigfoot sites and boards out there, so he's come up with his own theory on Bigfoot that happens to jive with the Bigfoot believers community. You've got to put some credence in that."
For the Bigfoot record, Denver says that he believes "it's possible there is such a creature, just not very probable. I'm pretty much a skeptic."
Me too, but I will keep chasing it.
And one last thing, in the picture gallery thing attached to this story you will see some sort of "paw print" on the back of my all-terrain minivan (Toyota, if you read this, driving down unpaved roads looking for brown trout and Bigfoot is not singled out anywhere in my lease papers as a thing not to do).
ADK Jack said he thinks it's a bear track on my minivan. Denver isn't quite sure. We used Google until about 2 a.m. that night and couldn't find a print that matched. So by any chance if you see the print, and know what the hell it was that made it, please let me know.
Otherwise I may stay out of the woods, which is a real pain when you get paid to write about the outside.