Expedition Bigfoot explores
historic quests for Sasquatch

The ninth and final part of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
series on fun things to do in the North Georgia Mountains.

David Bakara can pinpoint the precise moment in his childhood that his life’s course was set.

It was the day in 1974 when the 12-year-old north Michigan native watched “The Legend of Boggy Creek.” Claiming to be based on a true story, the movie intercut documentary-style interviews with fictitious re-enactments to tell the story of a Bigfoot terrorizing an Arkansas community.

David and Malinda Bakara, owners of Expedition Bigfoot. Contributed photo

David and Malinda Bakara, owners of Expedition Bigfoot. Contributed photo

“I became obsessed,” says Bakara, now 55.

That obsession is now on display at Expedition Bigfoot, a museum in the tiny mountain town of Cherry Log, halfway between Ellijay and Blue Ridge. The 4,000-square-foot exhibit space devoted to expeditions and sightings of the creature is so well executed, visitors might just leave believers.

Photo: Melissa Coffell and her grandson Zaiden Higdon, 6, look over an Abominable Snowman display, including a replica of the mask made for the History Channel show “MonsterQuest.”

Most compelling are clips of murky filmed sightings; eerie audio recordings of whoops and knocks, said to be Bigfoot’s mode of communication; and castings of footprints and scat, some of which are on loan from the University of Idaho.

Exhibits focus on past expeditions, many of them led by scientists and anthropologists. Displays examine the various tools of the trade, which grow more sophisticated over time, from two-way radios to thermal cameras capable of capturing body heat images in the dark.

Photo: Visitors observe video while looking over eyewitness sketches of Bigfoot.

Plastered on the walls are maps of sightings all over the world, including the backwoods of North and South Georgia, and there are explorations of the many names and forms that Bigfoot takes: Skunk Ape of Florida, Wendigo of Canada, Yeti of the Himalayas and Yowie of Australia are but a few.

While the exhibits strive for an academic tone, the museum also pokes fun at the goofy, pop culture aspect of the mythology, particularly in the gift shop where Bigfoot socks and refrigerator magnets are sold alongside DVDs of B-movies on the topic.

But make no mistake: Bakara is a believer.

The Ape Canyon cabin incident from 1924 in Washington state is recreated in a display at Expedition Bigfoot. A group of gold prospectors claimed to have been attacked by ape-like creatures at a remote cabin around Mount St. Helens in the Lewis River area. The canyon was named after the incident.

“In the ’70s, they had such good documentaries about Bigfoot on ABC and NBC that were so well done,” he says. “A lot of them included scientists and anthropologists. At that time, it was totally legit. It was a serious thing. It’s not like today when everybody laughs about it. But for me, it’s still a serious thing.”

Bakara went on his first expedition in 2010, searching for the Swamp Ape in Tallahassee, Fla. Since then, he’s been on countless expeditions, and has had two encounters, he says.

“I was charged by one in the Green Swamp East near Tampa in 2013.”

The museum opened two years ago after Bakara, formerly a bar manager, and his wife, Malinda, came to Blue Ridge for vacation and loved it so much they bought a house and stayed. The Bakaras now devote their attention full time to running the museum, and so far it appears to be successful. It’s projected to have 33,000 visitors this year, its first full year in business.

An abominable snowman replica of the original mask make-up artist Dan Little created for the History Channel's "Monster Quest."

An abominable snowman replica of the original mask make-up artist Dan Little created for the History Channel's "Monster Quest."

So, the question remains: What exactly is Bigfoot?

“That is the $20,000 question,” Bakara says. “Nobody knows for sure what they are or who they are. They’re a big secret, and they want to keep it that way.”

10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Tuesday. (Closed Tuesdays-Thursdays Jan. 1-Feb. 29.) $8 adults, $6 children 5-12. Free for military with ID and children 4 and younger. 1934 Ga. 515 S., Cherry Log. 706-946-2601, expeditionbigfoot.mdom.mobi.

Discover North Georgia Mountains

From outdoor activities to culinary treats, the AJC has your favorite activities covered in this special travel series of stories and videos on fun things to do in the North Georgia mountains.
Find previously published stories and videos on fly fishing, waterfall hikes, breweries, wineries and dining options at www.myajc.com/travel.

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