"Do you see him?" Michael Johnson asked a woman looking at a photo. "The easiest way to find Bigfoot is to look for his nose."
Johnson and five other members of the Sasquatch Investigations of the Rockies presented their case Sunday at the Florissant Public Library for the existence of the hairy, giant, human-like creature said to inhabit the Western United States and Canada.
Interest was high, with dozens of people attending the group's presentation, which was at the invitation of the Pikes Peak Historical Society.
The invitation to talk about what the scientific community dismisses as an enduring myth perpetuated by fuzzy and even doctored photographs and unverified claims of sightings, didn't carry an endorsement.
Historical Society President John Rakowski said the topic was a way to generate interest in the society and its Florissant museum.
"It's an interesting, possibly controversial topic and we hope it will bring people in," Rakowski said. "It's not necessarily a scientific topic."
Johnson acknowledged being a Sasquatch proselytizer isn't always easy.
"It's a tough hobby," Johnson, 54, of Parker began. "I'm not going to lie to you."
He showed photographs of broken trees, footprints and a giant ground nest.
With each slide he told the crowd his thoughts and speculations - tree breaks and structures are a way to communicate with other Sasquatches; nests are for Bigfoot offspring.
Johnson spoke about the family dynamics, the sound of a Sasquatch roar and hair samples.
"We have 30 hair samples," he said. "We haven't gotten them tested because it's $1,500 a pop. We try to be as scientific as possible. We're not scientists, but we're not dummies."
Johnson spoke for 40 minutes before taking questions:
How do they bend the trees without breaking them?
Johnson couldn't say.
How long has this search been going on around the world?
Johnson knew of a carving from Europe in the 1200s. "There's a hairy man depicted in the wood carving with two animals that are now extinct," he answered.
You've never found a dead one?
"People get rid of their dead," Johnson said, attributing human-like qualities to Sasquatches. "I haven't found a dead human in the forest either. If you respect your dead, you take care of them."
The crowd was engaged. They asked questions for another 40 minutes.
Johnson said he's heard from truckers, Army Rangers and foresters who've all had experiences, but they almost always request their names not be used.
"They don't want to be 'that' person," he said. "Bigfoot is thrust upon you. That's what happened to me."
Johnson said his first experience was an accident in the early '90s around Thanksgiving.
He and his brother stumbled upon a set of footprints near Pikes Peak.
"They were 17 inches long and about half as wide," Johnson said. "The prints came over a hill but stayed away from the road."
That experience launched three decades of searches and a website called Sasquatch Investigations of the Rockies.
Of course, the investigations have been met with skepticism, but Johnson says the burden of the proof is on them.
"You explain to me the face in the photo," he said. "It's a unique dermal ridge pattern. You try to recreate it and tell me who it belongs to."
While there are many naysayers, Johnson says he frequently hears from people wanting to share their own experiences. And he welcomes it. The Sasquatch website is straightforward with pages of photographs and experiences.
Johnson said it's natural for people to be curious and want to piece together the anomalies in their lives. The field of cryptozoology - the search for and study of animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated - is attractive to people because they want a way to explain their photos or experiences. Johnson believes the world is on its way to paying attention and accepting the existence of Bigfoot.
"When you start looking," he said, "there are things to be found."