GRANITE FALLS — They are true believers in a mythical beast.
John Ray, of Marysville, and Rob Parker, of Snohomish, have spent years hunting in the old-growth forests of Snohomish County for evidence of Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch.
They haven’t convinced the scientific community, but the “squatchers” say it’s only a matter of time.
Parker, 60, is a former policeman and compliance officer for the state Department of Labor &Industries. He now oversees safety for a Bellevue contractor. Ray, 49, works as a procurement agent and contract administrator for a “large airplane manufacturer,” but he didn’t want to say which.
Recently, news broke that scientists determined DNA taken from hair samples attributed to Bigfoot in reality was from known animals.
Those who say they’ve seen one describe a stinky, ape-like creature covered with hair, standing about 10 feet tall.
Parker and Ray understand that they’re hunting something most people don’t believe exists. But they can’t shake the strange things they say they’ve seen and heard in the woods.
“When you rule out everything that lives in that forest, what are you left with?” Ray said. “You can’t say it’s not a Sasquatch.”
On a July night, under a full moon, Ray and Parker each drove a truck along the Mountain Loop Highway, communicating on radios.
“We’re going to see what jumps out in front of us,” Ray said. “Hopefully, we’ll get something big and bipedal.”
They use technology to help them in their hunt: dash cams, thermal imaging cameras, their radios and audio recording equipment.
Ray said he doesn’t use night vision cameras because he’s “pretty sure” Bigfoot can see the light that’s emitted. That’s why, he continues, squatchers on Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” series haven’t captured the creature on film. Ray appeared in an episode that aired in January 2013 called “Sasquatch Spies.”
Seeing Bigfoot, they say, is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
Parker said he came upon his first bigfoot by chance. He was fishing at Mount Si in 1969. “There was this godawful, roaring scream,” he said. “It was terrifying. It clearly did not want us there.”
He said a hairy beast pulled a bush aside and peeked its head out. It stood and roared. At the time, Parker said, he didn’t know what to make of it. Later, he read a book about Bigfoot.
“I thought ‘son of a gun, it was a Sasquatch. Other people see them too,’” he said.
The pair serve as investigators with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, a national group trying to prove the creature exists. The group collects reports of purported Sasquatch sightings and vet the claims.
Ray and Parker were invited to join the exclusive group years ago after going squatching with BFRO members.
“They’ve got to make sure you’re not too crazy,” Ray joked.
Parker said his investigative experience aids him in stalking Sasquatch and vetting other people’s sightings.
“It’s easy to tell when someone’s telling you a whopper,” he said.
Snohomish County, and the Mountain Loop, are considered hot spots for Bigfoot sightings, they said.
Parker has been researching Sasquatch for the past four decades. In the 1970s, he worked with John Green, a retired Canadian journalist, author and leading Sasquatch researcher who is known as “Mr. Bigfoot.” Parker also has his own group, Snohomish County Sasquatch.
“If you’re not afraid to let people know you’re a nut, the reports start coming out of the woodwork,” he said.
Parker tracks the action on a topographic map. He and Ray also use the BFRO database to look for trends in activity and narrow their search.
In the woods, the pair let out long, guttural howls and whoops. They also knock on wood, clack rocks and make game calls.
“I want to say ‘hey look at these hairless dudes here,’” Ray said. “We’re just trying to get them to hang out with us.”
Ray started actively hunting the creatures following a BFRO expedition in 2008. A large, dark figure emerged on a ridge near his campsite, he said. “I saw these two huge, glowing red eyes,” he said. “They were the size of 50 cent pieces, nine feet off the ground.”
The beast looked right at him.
“I just stood there with my mouth wide open,” Ray said. “I never expected that would happen. I’m a logical person.”
That’s when a hobby turned into something more. He was hooked. “You get this thrill of seeing something that doesn’t exist,” he said.
Ray takes two of his sons, Michael, 16, and Christopher, 12, out on the bigfoot hunts. The boys are bait; children and women pique the creature’s curiosity, Ray said.
“They like women and kids because we’re not much of a threat,” Michael explained. That’s why he’s glad he’s getting older.
“Now, I’m no longer just bait,” he said. Still, he said, most of his friends think he’s “full of beans” when he tells tales of Sasquatch.
On their July hunt, a full moon illuminated the Mountain Loop. The reputedly elusive creatures don’t usually come out on a bright night. But when it comes to squatching, Ray and Parker heed one regard.
“If you weren’t there. If you didn’t see it. You can’t say it happened — and you can’t say it didn’t,” Ray said.
Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; email@example.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports.