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BLACKFOOT â€” Dennis Rinehart of Blackfoot describes himself as just a regular 'Joe Shmoe.' However, he is a 'Joe Shmoe' who believes without a shadow of a doubt that he has had not one...but two...encounters with Bigfoot.
Rinehart replied to a local advertisement, put out by the Animal Planet Television Network, seeking Bigfoot stories from eastern Idaho for the show: 'Finding Bigfoot.' He and approximately 20 others responded to the ad and gathered in Pocatello last month with the show's producers for a 'town hall meeting' to tell their Bigfoot stories.
Rinehart said the two encounters he had with Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) were within a ten year period of each other and were both in the vicinity of Wolverine Canyon-a rugged wilderness area-northeast of Blackfoot.
It was in October of 1992, right before his 13th birthday, when Rinehart is convinced he saw Bigfoot for the first time.
"I was camping with some friends and family...the sun was setting...it was getting chilly and everyone was going into their tents to go to bed. I stayed up (alone) waiting for the campfire to die out," Rinehart recalled.
It was while he was tending the fire that Rinehart claims he heard a loud grunt and smelled what he describes as a "strong, musky 'wet-dog' like smell"...a distinct odor that he says he will never forget and can still recall to this day.
Rinehart said that at first he thought maybe it was a bear or some deer mating in the forest; however, once he got a closer look it was apparent that this was not deer or a bear...
"From about 15 feet away I could see a figure crouching down...it grabbed a tree trunk and pulled it towards itself," Rinehart said. "I never saw its face directly but I could see that it had long, bushy reddish-brown hair like a grizzly bear."
Rinehart said the big, burly figure then stood upâ€”revealing a broad frame of well over 7 feet tallâ€”and walked away in the opposite direction covering about 8 feet with just two steps.
Rinehart said he went to bed that night with his heart pounding, unsure of what it was he had witnessed, but not saying a word to anyone until the next day.
"I was only 13 years old - I had never even heard of Bigfoot or Sasquatch - I didn't even know what to tell people what it was that I saw...," he said.
In the days that followed, Rinehart began to describe to his buddies what he saw on that lone evening...
"They (my buddies) all told me it sounds like Sasquatch or Bigfoot and they kind of ridiculed me about it," he said.
Thereafter, Rinehart went on to self-educate himself on Sasquatch and Bigfoot reading (pre-interent) articles and encyclopedias and watching the Patterson Films (a collection of films based on Bigfoot sightings around the country). Rinehart's self-studies reaffirmed his belief that it was indeed Bigfoot who crossed his path as a young boy in 1992.
It was February of 2002, not far from the area he had camped at 10 years prior, that Rinehart claims to have had a second (less direct) run-in with Bigfoot. He and a friend from Germany were winter camping along the creek in Wolverine Canyon when that distinct smell, that Rinehart said he could never forget, came wafting through the air.
Shortly after 'smelling that smell,' Rinehart said a giant boulder, that could only be lifted by two hands, came flying across the creek toward their tent.
"I knew by the smell...exactly what it was...Bigfoot protecting his territory," Rinehart stated.
Rinehart, an avid outdoorsman, said based on his experiences and what he has learned about Bigfoot, he has no fear of the creature and that his conviction in his existence has not wavered through the years.
"I believe Bigfoot is an advanced primate with human characteristics...they exist around the country...they bury their dead like we do and have their own form of communication," he explained. "There's no reason to fear Bigfoot...they are a protective creature..but not an aggressive creature."
While Bigfoot remains elusive, sightings have been reported around the country (and the world) for hundreds of years. Its estimated that there are about 900 reports of Bigfoot in the United States each year. There have been recent claims of Bigfoot sightings regionally in the areas of Rose Pond (Blackfoot), Mink Creek (in Pocatello), Salmon, Fort Hall and the Sawtooth Mountains.
Rinehart, a father of three who works as a trainer at Convergys in Pocatello, reiterates that he's a normal guy... just a regular 'Joe Shmoe,' and whether people believe him or not...he saw Bigfoot.