In 1924 a group of miners were prospecting for gold near Mt. St. Helens, Washington. Fred Beck was one member of the group, and he is credited with the sighting as he was the first to report it. Beck even wrote a book about the experience called I Fought The Ape Men of Mt. St. Helens.They began to notice a lot of strange activity near their cabin including large footprints, and they would hear strange noises at night around their cabin. These noises consisted of thumping noises like a gorilla banging its chest, and strange whistling on the ridge near their cabin, and each whistle would have a response from a different location in the canyon. One day they noticed a 7-foot tall ape-like creature spying on them as they went to fetch water from a spring. One of the men fired at the creature with his rifle which made the creature run off. The man claimed that the bullet grazed the creature’s head and it ran out of sight. Another one of the creatures appeared to investigate and they fired at it, presumably killing it and causing it to fall off a cliff and into a gorge.
The men felt overwhelmed and fell back to their cabin, planning their escape for the morning. The men just had to survive the night, so they fortified their position in their cabin and awaited an inevitable assault. The cabin was built to be effective in cold winter weather so it was windowless. Darkness ascended in the valley and all was quiet, the men eventually fell asleep, effectively letting their guard down. They were awakened by a loud thud against the cabin wall, they listened as they heard multiple pairs of footsteps walking around their cabin. The men became startled when all of the sudden the apes started to bang on the cabin walls attempting to break in. The men sat in fear with their rifles in hand as rocks were thrown at the roof and the creatures continued to pound on the cabin attempting to enter. One creature was successful enough to make a hole large enough to reach its arm in. The men were able to fend off the animal and it fled from the hole. The men claimed it was reaching for an ax, which isn’t an unreasonable claim because apes are known to use tools. The attack continued for hours, the pounding would only stop momentarily before starting back up. Running low on ammo the tension became high and the men used their ammo sparingly only discharging their rifles when the pounding would continue and ceasing fire when it would stop. After countless hours of defending their cabin the pounding stopped and the apes fled the area. The sun rose shortly after and the men cautiously exited their cabin.
The miners fled the area leaving most of their gear at the cabin. They escaped the forest without encountering another ape-man. When the story got out many hunters went searching for the apes, only to be unsuccessful in their attempts. The event of large groups of people searching for the mystery attackers became known as the “Great Ape Hunt Of 1924″. The place became known as Ape Canyon after the attack. It is widely speculate by many that this story was just a hoax in order to get attention or to keep people away from their gold claims. If that was truly the plan it had the opposite effect because it caused many to venture into ape canyon. No evidence of apes were ever found and most believe that this never actually occurred, however Fred Beck swore up to his death that the attack truly happened and none of them made it up. Sightings of Ape-men are nothing new for the state of Washington but after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 the sightings of them in the area dropped dramatically. Any ape-men in the area could have been killed during the eruption. We will never know if the Battle of Ape Canyon truly occurred or not, we can only take Fred Beck’s word for it and hope he was telling the truth.
My friend and I made a stop at this state park in western Indiana in the evening after returning from our canoe trip, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it had a unique aesthetic and was fun to explore. We started at the nature center where there were a variety of taxidermied native animals, some reptile exhibits, and a large window looking into their garden where we could see several hummingbirds and small ground critters feeding. After taking the trailhead behind the building we crossed a large suspension bridge over the creek and followed some trails winding through old rock canyons cut by water and ice. I’ve never seen anything quiet like this in the eastern woodlands forest. The canyons varied in height and width, and some spots had lost light due to the setting sun. The river beds were fairly dry and the trails went over slick rock, up stairs, down ladders and along ridges. The 3 mile loop had some great scenery and proved to be good exercise. There seemed to be a lot more trails and parts of the park to explore, so I’d definitely say this park was worth the fee and I’m glad to have gotten the chance to check it out.
Sometimes I miss the woods and streams and bleak stone landscape of the winding canyon behind my childhood home so fiercely its as if I can feel the roots of those trees I knew by name twisting in my gut. I was always convinced my canyon was a magic one; that if I looked far enough, listened hard enough, sat still long enough…it would reveal itself to me. And in retrospect I think it did. Not in the form of faeries or special powers or anything like what I expected at 9 years old, but just in the quiet sense that I spent such a large portion of my childhood trying to communicate with a place, memorizing every cracked stone and leafless tree, that its as if I swallowed that canyon into my soul. It’s where I go when the world is too loud or when I feel I’m getting too far away from myself; I simply return to the canyon inside me, and I’m home.