They Take Away the Bear Skat to Keep Wedding Gowns Clean

It’s hard to try to wrap your head around how accessible the wilderness is here in Alaska.

We’re only an hour’s easy drive from Anchorage, and we’re staying in a national forest campground, not some boondocking spot down a long dirt road. To get to the trail I’m talking about here, for example (the Byron Glacier trail), we simply rode our bikes from our campground to the trailhead; other people parked their cars in the trailhead parking lot.

The trail itself is wide and flat: the Chugach National Forest has cut a swath on either side and maintained an even gravel surface. I’m not sure it’s wheelchair accessible, but most other people could walk all the way down this trail to see Byron Glacier.

Which is what Tracy and I talk about while walking on all the trails around here: how disconcerting it is to be seemingly strolling along an urban walkway then look up and see this. We’re geared to equate beautiful views with rough hiking terrain, not boardwalks and level gravel drives. Heck, if there were really as many bears around as we’d been warned about, that means someone has even cleaned up the skat that morning.

Why would they do that? To keep the trail clean for all the wedding gowns that go down it, of course.

When we reached the glacier’s terminus, there were two couples and their two photographer entourages hogging (in my opinion) the direct views. For the hour or so we explored the area, they were playing music to psych up their camera subjects and make the event a party.

As my friend Heather told me,

Unspoken rule: if you are in a wedding dress, you get dibs on the glacier.

I get that. And I’m joking about the bear skat cleaning (although there really was none around).

A young mother was breastfeeding her baby while sitting on a rock beside the snow. A van full of tourists left their backpacks on the trail so they could walk up the ice a bit.

It’s a needed service that I’m glad is provided, that many people get to see scenes like this. And don’t get me wrong: I’m far from feeling a sense of ownership over all glorious views or feeling that they have to be earned by a long hike.

I’m just getting used to the fact that there are so many glaciers in this region—there are 60 glaciers within an hour of Anchorage. That’s akin to the fact that there are 1,900 moose living in the municipality. My goodness, what a truly wild place this is.

(I’ve altered the warmth of some of these photos to show off the blue ice in the glacier: it really did look like that to the naked eye, but I couldn’t get a photo to show it without a bit of editing. Also, I’m not writing about global warming or the melting of glaciers and subsequent ocean level rise or why moose live in the city or any of the actually important topics related here. I’m just making a joke about wedding gowns and bear poop.)

One thought to “They Take Away the Bear Skat to Keep Wedding Gowns Clean”

  1. I always thought the blue I saw in photos was phony, touched up somehow, till I saw it for myself. Definitely real! Your description of the awe you feel reminds me of how I felt in Rome. You’re just walking down the street minding your own business, and you turn a corner and see a 2000-year old ruin, like the Colosseum, an ancient wall that they decided to use for part of a new building. The locals walk around like this is just normal, as it is for them. For us, it’s time travel!