Monster Hike is a book in the spirit of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. As Avrel Seale approached 50, he decided he needed an adventure. A hike seemed just the thing. He can’t leave his job to spend months hiking the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail and doing just a portion doesn’t appeal. He wants to do ALL of something.
He decides to do the Lone Star Hiking Trail through the Sam Houston National Forest in eastern Texas. The trail runs about 100 miles, a distance he thinks he can do in the time he has available. But, unlike most long hike books, Avrel Seale isn’t looking for enlightenment, he’s looking for big foot. He’s convinced that big foot exists and that there is a large population living in the Sam Houston National Forest. He also believes that the USDA and the Dept. of Interior are covering up the existence of big foot and keeping the population down.
Seale has been interested in big foot since he was a kid. He follows the research through books and organizations like the North American Wood Ape Conservancy, the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, and the Bigfoot Field Research Organization. He also follows a podcast called Sasquatch Chronicles.
Seale believes because of the thousands of sightings, video and other evidence. He also notes that the phenomena appears to be worldwide, not just limited to North America and that sightings stretch back in time with consistent details. He subscribes to the theory that big foots can be found in forested areas that receive at least 40 inches of rain annually and that offer prey such as deer. The Sam Houston National Forest fits that description, offering not just white tailed deer, but also wild hogs. It is considered a hot spot for big foot sightings.
So, while Seale follows the standard format of a hiking genre book, detailing the physical challenge experienced and providing some history of the trail, he also discusses why he believes in big foot, the state of the research and what signs of big foot he finds along the way. Along with the usual hiking gear, he brings audio recorders and a camera.
He sets off, alone, and on his very first night completely freaks himself out. He sees and hears a helicopter and gunshots. He thinks it must be the government hunting big foots. He’s convinced (at least in the middle of the night) that he hears big foots killing a white tailed deer. Twice. He also hears ‘tree knocking’, which is thought to be big foots hitting trees to communicate.
He feels better in the daylight and spends the second night in a camp, but still doesn’t sleep well. His brother is acting as support, and meets him at a trail head. Because he has slept poorly, he opts to have his brother pick him up each night and stay in an AirBnB with him. So, hike during the day and stay with his brother for most of the nights.
Near the end of the hike, he finds what he thinks is an 18 inch long footprint. It doesn’t look like a footprint to me, but, I’m not exactly a tracker. He finishes the hike and feels elated at his accomplishment.
As I’ve been reading rock-n-roll biographies, I’ve tried to make it an immersive experience. If the author talks about writing a song, I listen to the song. If they talk about a video, I watch the video. I even bought and drank Trooper beer. So, when Seale discusses (for example) The Bigfoot Field Research Organization, I checked it out. I even listened to part of a podcast. Apparently, through BRFO, you can join expeditions to search for big foot and they will train you in the correct, scientific, techniques. Essentially, you go camping with other people who are interested in finding big foot. Now, if you want to hunt big foot, well, look elsewhere. BFRO is strictly no kill. I bet the people that sign up have a blast!
When this book popped up in my Amazon recommendations (I blame you people!), my first reaction was to roll my eyes. Then, I thought this would be a fun review for Glibertarians. I was right. Seale comes across as plausible. He explains why he believes in ways that mostly stopped me rolling my eyes. For example, to the question of why haven’t we found big foot if it exists – he answers by asserting that we have! There have been more than 10,000 reported big foot sightings. As the book progresses, he points out that even if he’s wrong, no one has been hurt and he has learned science and met interesting people along the way. Not a bad return for any hobby.
Overall, I thought this book was a fun twist on the hiking genre. It didn’t change my mind about big foot, but it introduced me to a whole new sub-culture I had no idea existed. I rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars.