Bear Grylls, wilderness survival guru, and President Barack Obama headed to the Harding Ice Field in Seward, Alaska last night in a very special episode of Running Wild With Bear Grylls. The NBC show has taken a variety of celebrities like James Marsden and Michelle Rodriguez, and put them in conditions that push their limits and increase their sense of high adventure- jumping out of planes and rappelling off steep mountain crags.
This episode was a little different from the other celebrities' experiences. Due to the president's position, they could not put him in such extreme situations, but Obama, who is a fan of the show, asked to be on as part of his campaign to observe climate change in Alaska. The Harding Ice Field's exit glacier has shrunk significantly- 812 feet since President Obama took office in 2008. Obama says, "...it underscores once again why it's so important to pay attention to climate change and understand that there's something we can actually do about it."
Grylls shows the president how to collect Catkin leaves to make tea- lots of vitamin C and anti-inflammatory, and apparently good to prevent flatulence. Bear also finds a trace of bear fur, and they discuss what to do if you encounter a bear. If one has a bear approach them in their camp, they should stand their ground and make themselves appear to be big and not someone the bear would mess with. Grylls said if you come upon a bear, maintain eye contact, and back off slowly. You should make lots of noise when hiking in the bear territory to let them know your presence is around.
Behind the scenes, Bear shows the tight security that is there. Sniper teams are lined up all along the route, and Bear shows the military helicopter flying overhead. Obama has staff along- including a taster. He is not supposed to eat or drink anything that hasn't been checked out first.
President Obama does not carry a cell phone for security reasons. Had to borrow one from his staff when he and Bear Grylls were taking selfies at one point. He was pretty sure that his daughters would be rolling their eyes at how he fumbled his attempts to use his staff's smart phone.
"I'm in what's called the bubble, and Secret Service makes sure that I'm always out of danger, which I very much appreciate but can be a little confining, so to be with Bear in the woods, it doesn't get any better than that."
Grylls teaches Obama to build a fire. He was eventually able to start the fire with "one of those little gizmos." (flint and steel). Said that he had to get one of those, and have the Secret Service carry one in their supply kit.
On being President and Dad, he says that he's been able to spend more time with his kids since entering the White House. Being able to have dinner with his girls every night is something that has been able to happen, and he enjoys the time with his daughters and hearing about their day.
Bear pulls out a half eaten piece of salmon that was left because the bear went for the fatty parts of the fish and left the rest. Earlier in the show, we hear Obama saying that he has seen what Bear has given other guests to eat, and he hopes that whatever he makes for them will not have its eyes or legs. The fresh, half-eaten Alaskan salmon is cooked on a rock. "Bear is a mediocre cook...Would have been nice to have a cracker to go with it," quips the president.
President Obama wasn't supposed to be seen eating anything on camera, and Bear somewhat expected his secret service to jump out and grab it away, but he followed Obama's lead, and the president seemed to go along with it. After dinner, the president cooked some s'mores for the two of them.
They talked more about Obama's life as President of the United States. He revealed that the first time he visited the White House was when he was 21- a time where one could go right up to the fence and look in at the White House, but never thought he would be looking through the fence the other way.
Bear commented about how down to earth Obama was. "What he's doing on climate is incredible," Mr.Grylls said. "He's protecting the planet. I'm proud to stand beside him or behind him, and feel proud to champion that."
"Climate change is as an important agenda as I'm ever going to do," says Obama. This message comes at a timely point as representatives of 195 nations reached an accord for nearly every country to committing to the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions to help reduce the harmful effects of climate change.
Many of Grylls' fans had told him they wanted him to get Obama to drink his own urine. Bear informed the president that one should drink urine when they are still hydrated as it will stretch out the water supply, and drinking urine would be no good when one is dehydrated. The president said he would consider it if he were in an emergency situation, but of course, he wasn't drinking it for the show.
Bear's special request at the end of the president was that his wife wanted him to autograph something. He pulled out an Obama bottle opener. The bottle opener had the president in shorts with a surf board and well-defined abs. "It was what I could find in the airport," Grylls commented. After he had autographed the item, Bear Grylls asked the president if he could pray with him.
"It's one of the most special moments of my life," Mr. Grylls said. "I wanted to put my hand on his shoulder and say a bit of a prayer, to pray for protection over his family and for forgiveness when you get things wrong," he told the NY Times.
"...Forgive us when we fall short, and help us be strong in You," Bear prayed.
You can watch the full episode on NBC's website until the 12th of January.