On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey
Directed by Seth Breedlove | Small Town Monsters
Bigfoot is many things to many people. But rarely is the creature considered a New Yorker. For most, the mention of New York conjures images of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building. Skyscrapers, subways, and Times Square. But New York City is really just a tiny fraction of New York State. Unbeknownst to most people, New York is also home to the lower 48’s largest state park, Adirondack Park. At 6.1 million acres in size, Adirondack Park is bigger than Death Valley and Yellowstone National Park combined, and home to some of the highest peaks on the east coast, as well as hundreds of lakes, rivers, and ponds, as well as bear, deer, coyotes, and tons of other wildlife. And as On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey shows us, the Adirondacks may also be the home of Bigfoot.
On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey continues the On the Trail of… series from Small Town Monsters. But much like the recent Beyond the Trail film by Aleksander Petakov, this is a more personal search for Sasquatch. Director and narrator Seth Breedlove returns to Whitehall, NY, the site of his first Bigfoot documentary, and the Adirondacks at large, to search for the elusive cryptid. But the timing of the Small Town Monsters crew’s adventure is also poignant. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing the country to shut down, we were all forced to stay home, and to stay indoors. Unable to do the things we love most, or go to the places we feel we need to be. The Journey is not just about searching for Bigfoot. It’s also about Breedlove’s search for a return to normalcy, ultimately finding peace in nature, and in his ability to make documentaries again. After a year and a half of this pandemic, this is a cathartic film. Not just for Breedlove, but for all of us in his audience as well.
Spanning 5 days in the Adirondacks, with a brief crossover into Massachusetts, The Journey follows Breedlove and his team as they get back into nature, and discover how large of an area the Adirondack Park encompasses. They start off in Wells, NY (where my own Adirondack adventures began), and then move on to Hadley Mountain. They revisit Whitehall, perhaps the most famous spot in New York for Bigfoot sightings, mainly due to the Abair Road incident from 1976. This sighting, wonderfully documented in Small Town Monsters’ The Beast of Whitehall, had 3 boys spotting a hairy humanoid creature with glowing red eyes. After alerting the local authorities, police officer Brian Gosselin had his own sighting of the beast. The town has since been inextricably linked to Bigfoot.
Beyond the ADK
On their way southeast to Massachusetts, the team stops off in Kinderhook, NY, home of the Kinderhook creature. Popularized by author Bruce Hallenbeck, the Kinderhook Bigfoot was spotted by members of Hallenbeck’s family in the early 1980s, and he would occasionally hear the creature as well. Hallenbeck’s family plays some recordings they made of alleged vocalizations of the creature, which are indeed eerie. Hallenbeck details the Kinderhook Bigfoot, as well as other cryptids, in his awesome book Monsters of New York.
In Massachusetts, the Adirondacks give way to the Appalachian Mountains, a mountain range with its own long history of paranormal and supernatural legends, such as the Mothman, and of course, Bigfoot. Breedlove and company meet up with investigator Jonathan Wilk, and his Squatchachusetts team. There, they go on an overnight investigation in search of the Bigfoot of Savoy State Park, where there is alleged to be lots of Sasquatch activity.
On their last day of shooting, the team returns to the Adirondacks. Their adventure culminates in a helicopter ride over the Adirondack Park, and the High Peaks region in particular. Here, Breedlove and his crew truly get a sense of the immense size of the Adirondack wilderness. And the views here are truly awe-inspiring.
Keeping the Bar High
Like all Small Town Monsters films, On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey is a serious, sincere, and thought-provoking look at the Bigfoot legend. And as stated earlier, it’s poignant. Not just for Breedlove and the STM crew, but for anyone watching. And for me, in particular. In the past few years, the Adirondacks have become very special for me as well. It’s where I go with my buddy Josh when we want to get away from the modern world. To get away from politics, and social media insanity, and trying to work in the time of COVID. If you’re reading this on the day it was posted, I’m packing up to meet Josh again, for a trip to the northwest ADK. We’ve done our own searches for Bigfoot. And maybe, just maybe, he found us at Ross Pond. But we keep going back. The Adirondacks just have that pull. That allure.
Aside from the personal nature of the film, The Journey has all the qualities of other STM films. As always, the film looks and sounds great, with an appropriately grandiose musical score, suitable to the sheer size and vastness of the Adirondack Mountains. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the Bigfoot illustrations are detailed and chilling. Again, Breedlove presents stories, witness accounts, and alleged “known” information about Sasquatch. And he’s not afraid to question the researchers. A nice touch missing from most documentaries on the subject.
Familiar Faces and Themes
There are lots of familiar faces here. Seth and his team investigate Buck Mountain with New York Bigfoot researcher Steve Kulls, who runs the YouTube Channel/podcast Squatch-D TV. Emily Fleur, of the Forest Fleur podcast, gives her thoughts as well, as she does most of her investigating in the Adirondacks. Paul Bartholomew, who initially investigated the Abair Road incident, as well as Bruce Hallenbeck, both chime in with their thoughts on Bigfoot in New York.
As always, Breedlove takes a more pragmatic approach to the subject matter. He questions researchers, and at one point, the film highlights the dangers in allowing Bigfoot research to become a religion of sorts. While STM films are not skeptical in nature, per se, they always try to present the information as it’s known, and allow and encourage the viewer to make up their own minds. In a time when most TV shows and other documentaries are trying to sensationalize the paranormal and cryptozoology, it’s always a welcome to be presented with some sanity.
On the other hand, The Journey really illustrates how vast the Adirondacks actually are. It’s great to witness the crew’s reactions – as they happen – to being there and experiencing the wilderness first-hand. But it’s also a lesson to all the armchair skeptics out there. When you actually experience the vastness of some of these wilderness areas, it’s much harder to discount the possibility of Bigfoot’s existence out of hand. It’s quite easy to believe that humans live everywhere, and have been everywhere. Until you are deep in the woods, and there’s not another soul for miles. Except maybe an 8-foot tall creature that’s not supposed to exist…
On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey is easily the finest Small Town Monsters film to date. It is personal, poignant, timely, and sincere. This is not just a film about the search for Bigfoot. It’s about the search for ourselves. Our search to regain our normalcy, our humanity. This was clearly an important film for Breedlove. Returning him to his roots in searching for monsters, and to his love of filmmaking. And it’s hard to watch this flick and not feel his sense of relief as he returns to his passion.
Whether or not you believe in Bigfoot, this film is one of the best arguments I’ve seen for getting out there. To get out into nature. See the beauty it has to offer. And to discover for yourself all the mysteries the world holds.
On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey is already available for pre-order on Amazon, iTunes, and on DVD/BluRay at the STM website, and arrives on most major VOD platforms Tuesday, June 8th.