Sitkoh Bay
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 28 May 2022

Sitkoh Bay, 5/28/2022, National Geographic Quest

  • Aboard the National Geographic Quest
  • Alaska

The first thing we saw when we climbed the bank from the landing beach to the old logging road paralleling Sitkoh Bay this morning was a fresh, undisturbed pile of bear scat. Wet, green, handball-sized clumps clung together. Buzzing around it like electrons humming around so many stinking green nuclei, excited flies searched out the perfect spots to land and oviposit their next generation in this lush, protective, nourishing bed. It was a thing of beauty.

Taking advantage of the perfect focal point, we gathered around the deposit to discuss our strategy should we encounter the depositor of this gift to the forest on our walk. “Don’t yell, don’t run, stick together, turn to your guide.” We iterate and reiterate these simple instructions every day until, hopefully, following them requires no thought, happens automatically, like tying your shoes or brushing your teeth.

Following our pre-hike briefing, we set out, a baker’s dozen walking the road. We had no real agenda, though we did have a hope of reaching the meadow at the head of this long, slender bay. For nearly an hour-and-a-half we walked.

Along the way, the bear scat was so prolific that I was torn between analogies of mine fields and games of hopscotch, finally settling on the latter as I did not want to think of bear scat as being anything destructive or negative.

Were I a poet, I would write a poem about this connect-the-giant-dot trail of excrement. I might begin my ode with the story of a bear swallowing grass, barely taking time to masticate, swallowing his roughage still intact. Perhaps I would steal from popular music, write to the melody of The Age of Aquarius: “The Grass through the Esophagus, Esophagus, Esophagussss!” But, alas, as the previous sentence evidences, I am not a poet.

We followed the trail until, finally, we reached the meadow. Time to turn around. I suggested we take a moment to search the meadow for bears before starting back. As soon as I mentioned the idea, a guest replied, “There’s one!” Not more than 100 yards away, a brown bear was grazing, paying no attention to us, just enjoying the abundant spring grasses.

We took photos of the bear, took a group photo, then walked back, following the trail of scat back to the landing beach, back to our original deposit that was now being explored by a six-inch-long banana slug. William Pitt Root once wrote an ode to banana slugs titled, “Slugs Amorous in the Air.” It is quite the poetic tribute to these lovely, slime-laden hermaphrodites and their intense passion. I highly recommend it.

Perhaps we could petition Mr. Root to take on bear scat. Otherwise, we are stuck with me forcing bad lyrics into silly pop melodies. Or, perhaps, you could write a bear scat poem.

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