While the elusive Sasquatch roams the poorly photographed forests of North America, The Bigfoot Club at Virginia Tech employs a fun approach to hiking Southwest Virginia.
From what you may have heard around the campfire, you may think that all Bigfoot hunters professionally scour the world for Sasquatch encounters, armed with high-tech equipment and plenty of true stories too incredible to catch on camera. There might be a few of those people out there, but the Bigfoot Club at Virginia Tech has taken a different angle to hiking the area since 2016.
“Bigfoot is a little more of a mascot than he is something we literally look for,” said Linley Pierson, Bigfoot Club president and junior construction and engineering management major. “It’s a good opportunity for students who have never hiked before to go with people who know the trails pretty well and hike with a group that makes them feel safe.”
With numerous unique hiking locations within reasonable distance of Virginia Tech, students may feel like they should at least go hiking once to experience all that the area has to offer, but many don’t know where to begin.
While there are several outdoor groups at Virginia Tech, The Bigfoot Club takes on hiking in the area with a twist that sets it apart from others: searching for the legendary sasquatch. On each hike, the club prepares for any potential bigfoot encounter, equipped with plenty of preparational knowledge and a field expert on how to look out for signs of the creature, such as animal tracks.
“For each hike we have a field expert who’s in charge, and they are informative of bigfoot facts,” said Sami Livingston, co-founder of The Bigfoot Club and a senior in wildlife conservation. “We like to stop and take a break and look for signs before going on our way, but it’s all in good humor.”
Good humor is a great way to describe the fun dynamic of The Bigfoot Club, as they are primarily a hiking club with an emphasis on Bigfoot. Since the club is very diverse in ideas and interests, there is a varying level of seriousness when it comes to the existence of the Sasquatch, from a fun play on hiking to serious implications.
“We have actually had people leave because it’s not as serious about Bigfoot as they wished it was,” Livingston said.
Even though The Bigfoot Club may not be serious enough for the most hardcore Sasquatch fanatics, going on frequent hikes in the area might have people second guessing themselves, only adding to the mystery.
“We have the field expert do a Bigfoot call every now and then, and during one hike last spring, we heard a call back to us,” said Lauren Hurt, treasurer of The Bigfoot Club and a junior political science major. “When we were walking back, we didn’t see anyone, and in the parking lot only our cars were there, so it still remains a mystery.”
Since most of the hiking is generally done on narrow trails in single file lines, The Bigfoot Club places a large emphasis on getting to know each of their 50-70 active members, and they have numerous social events and gatherings throughout the year, which makes the club more inclusive.
“We have date parties and social events that are Bigfoot themed,” Hurt said. “We have ‘Squatchtoberfest’ and ‘Saint Squatche’s Day.’ We also do hammocking in the quads. We even had a cookout once, and sometimes we do camping trips.” The club does many other events every semester, according to its Twitter page.
The Bigfoot club also participates in community events as well. “We have done the NEDA Walk before, which raises awareness for eating disorders. We always do The Big Event and this year we are looking into doing something about cleaning up local trails,” Livingston said.
With such an emphasis on Bigfoot and having searched the area for the creature since 2016, what would The Bigfoot Club do if they actually saw a real-life Sasquatch?
“We would definitely tell everyone to not go near it, because it’s a lot bigger than us, but we like to think that Bigfoot is a peaceful creature, so if he waves at us, we might wave back and then we’d be like, ‘Wow, we really found a Bigfoot,’” Pierson said.
“We would also probably report it to BFRO, the Bigfoot Research Organization,” Livingston said. “There has actually been two reports on there from around here, one of them from Floyd County a few years ago.”
While spotting a real bigfoot may be in the mindset of some, one of the best parts of The Bigfoot Club is the opportunity for Virginia Tech students to get outside and enjoy nature the area has to offer while getting to know others that they wouldn’t get to meet in any other type of club.
“For me, it’s more about getting people into the outdoors and getting them to see the amount of trail opportunities around here,” Pierson said. “Having them learn that the New River Valley is a really great place to be is great, and we want others to see how beautiful it is.”
If anyone is interested in joining The Bigfoot Club, they are available on GobblerConnect, through social media and they are also always at Gobblerfest every year.