North Bonneville is known for its dam on the Columbia River, golf course in the shadow of Beacon Rock and Chevron gas station at milepost 38 along State Route 14.
But those who turn off the highway and follow the Bigfoots are going to discover 12 miles of paved pathways that lead adventurers to 30 wooden Sasquatches carved by Washougal resident Ken Craig.
Bonneville Trails Foundation Executive Director Jacob Meyer believes this place could one day become a central hub for hikers to park their vehicles and hop on buses to all the trails throughout the Columbia River Gorge. Up until now, the North Bonneville Discovery Trails have been a mystery. Meyer and members of the Bonneville Trails Foundation are ready to change that.
“My dream vision is that Bonneville becomes one of the major points along with Cape Horn, Beacon Rock State Park, Hamilton Mountain, Dog Mountain, Eagle Creek and Multnomah Falls,” Meyer said. “We want to be in the same sentence as all those popular access points and trailheads, but we also want to be differentiated by offering something not found anywhere else in the gorge.”
That’s where the Bigfoots came to life in Meyer’s mind. He said each one has a story to tell.
There’s a Sasquatch dressed as a fisherman down by the river and another one swinging a club near the Beacon Rock Golf Course.
“This is a very easy trail that’s paved and flat, which is rare in the gorge,” Meyer said. “We introduced this whimsical Bigfoot concept to promote that this is a kid, family friendly trail system, in addition to having all this access to the more rugged trails.”
Craig has been carving for 30 years. He does everything from Native American themed museum pieces to Bigfoots, bears and critters.
“I guess you could say I’m retired. I really don’t know what that means because I’m a musician and I’m a carver and I’m a philosopher,” Craig said. “Once the body lies down and I croak, I’ll be retired.”
The Bigfoots were introduced July 6, 2012. Meyer said more than 100 people attended the official dedication. Craig read the proclamation and then unveiled the Great Elder Bigfoot.
“That was a great day,” Craig said. “This was Jake’s idea. He happened to find me. I was already carving Bigfoots and bears and such. This has really been a kick.”
Craig said each Bigfoot took about a day or two to complete.
“It depends on how I feel, what’s going on and the type of wood,” he said. “It’s got an energy and life of its own. If you just go with the flow, it all falls into place.”
He is open to the idea of carving more Bigfoots for the Columbia River Gorge.
“I’m just the doer,” Craig said. “If they say, ‘We want a Bigfoot,’ I’ll come up with one. It’s been fun. As long as I’m able to do it, I’ll keep doing it.”
Meyer said North Bonneville resident Linda Starr has been a wonderful asset to the Trails Foundation. She has hiked or biked several trails along the gorge.
“We are at the center of an amazing trail network. It makes sense to take advantage of that and let our community shine,” Starr said. “We don’t have to fly halfway across the Earth to get this. We live here. This is our backyard.”
Starr encourages visitors to appreciate this area, help protect it and keep it special.
“Park and just follow the trails and see where they take you,” she said. “There are times when I say, ‘I can’t believe I’m here. I can’t believe I walked here from my house.'”
The next Bonneville Trails Foundation meeting is Tuesday, April 18. The new non-profit organization meets at 3 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month, at the Bonneville Events Center off State Route 14 at milepost 38.
Meyer said the major project going on right now is linking North Bonneville to Aldrich Butte, Table Mountain and the Pacific Crest Trail. He also is working with Gorge Towns to Trails Manager Renee Tkach to design walking paths that reach Stevenson, Washougal and Camas.
“We are an ambitious group that has a lot of motivation right now,” Meyer said. “Never before has this area seen a group like we have working together to create something special for the gorge.”