Gary Lytle Jr. believes incidents that occurred while hitchhiking in Florida and Oregon were close encounters with the elusive Bigfoot.
He was recently asked to recall one of his stories on an episode of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” reality show, now in its seventh season. In the episode “Squatchin’ in the Sunshine State,” the team of investigators takes a closer look at the somewhat-famous “Myakka Skunk Ape” video recorded about 9 miles east of Sarasota. During a town hall meeting prior to overnight investigations, local witnesses were asked to give their testimonies, and Lytle was one of the featured speakers. Click here for more information on the show.
Lytle now lives in Chattanooga with his wife, but he was between jobs and attempting to hitchhike from Florida to North Carolina for work at the time of the encounter.
Although he’s never actually seen Bigfoot, he is convinced that two separate but similar experiences are related to the elusive apelike creature. Both incidents involved hitchhiking in relatively remote locations.
“You could say I take the ‘why not?’ approach, be it Bigfoot, aliens, ghosts, Nessie [Loch Ness Monster] and even religion,” Lytle said. “The more fantastical and unbelievable, the more I want to see them.”
His first encounter occurred while he was sleeping in a hammock by the Hillsborough River near Tampa, Florida.
“I was laying under the northbound underpass when I heard something rustling near the river on the south side,” he said. “I figured it was just a possum or raccoon.”
Not wanting to have a run-in with any creatures, Lytle moved his hammock to the tree line, slightly away from the riverfront. But at about 2 a.m., the situation grew more disturbing.
“I heard what I can only describe as the ‘barking’ sound the raptors made in ‘Jurassic Park,'” he said. “Fifteen or 20 minutes go by and to my right in the trees I hear a low-pitched whistle, like wind blowing through a creaky old house.”
A few more minutes passed until Lytle began hearing soft thuds around his camp. He realized that whatever was making the noises had started hurling rocks in his direction.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh, my God! There’s a Bigfoot!'” he said. “I’m really paying attention now, but it’s still pitch black and I didn’t have a flashlight, no camera, and my flip phone was nearly dead.”
Lytle remembers sitting up and hearing what he describes as a terribly loud tree break.
“It was so loud and so close I thought the tree I’d tied my hammock to broke,” he said. “I quickly got down, packed up, caught a ride back to Tampa and bought a bus ticket to North Carolina.”
A similar incident occurred in 2014 while traveling in the Pacific Northwest. Lytle was camping near the beach outside of Tillamook, Oregon, in Cape Meares State Park on his way back to Portland. As he was sleeping near the forest line, he was startled by a familiar sound.
“It was a long, sustained, low-pitched whistle nearly identical to the one I had heard the previous year,” he said. “Instead of waiting around, since I knew what came next, I broke down my camp and headed back into town.”
Lytle contacted the producers of “Finding Bigfoot” following his first encounter in 2012 and has stayed in touch since. He is also a fan of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization and contacted founder Matt Moneymaker about his story. Founded in 1995, BFRO is the only scientific research organization exploring the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery. Affiliates of the organization, including Moneymaker, often appear on the “Finding Bigfoot” program.
Following his experience, several members of BFRO investigated the Tampa encounter site for clues. They discovered two sets of tracks, one of them measuring 16 inches long and the other 13 inches long.
“Their theory is that I was preventing two Sasquatches from meeting up,” Lytle said.
The full “Squatchin’ in the Sunshine State” episode can be viewed on YouTube.