The day hikers smell nice

I have several beautiful memories of hiking with my mom when I was a little girl. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about a hike we did on Mary’s Rock- just a stone throw away from the farm. It was a Virginia summer; a type of hot and humid that has you running to the cool, shaded mountains. You can see the heat radiating off the rocks, you can practically scoop the moisture out of the air with a spoon, you hear the dead grass and leaves crunch under your hot rubber soled shoes. Worst of all, you are surged by an entourage of the most persistent blood suckers, and gnats that always find a way into a sweaty ear or nose hole. Anyway, mom and I were on our way down the mountain when we passed a small group of people coming up. I remember us stepping aside to let them by. I personally have found this interaction uncomfortable at times…those conflicting moments of pause or ‘push on’ I feel when I cross paths with other hikers. Some like to stop and chat, others don’t acknowledge you at all, other say comments like “You’re almost there!” that make me cringe. I often go up the mountain with what I think is a convincing smile that suggests that this damn incline is actually “100% enjoyable” and find myself uttering statements like, “It sure is a beautiful day!” – which requires every ounce of breath just to make it sound like I am physically and mentally enjoying this experience (not always true). Regardless, I’m not sure who I’m saying this for. 

Again, I digress…on this hot summer’s day, my mom and I were passed by hikers, most likely city folk, and my mom inhales the deepest breath through her nose, smiles, and says, “The day hikers smell nice!”  

I do not know why those words stuck with me, but recently with preparing for my thru-hike and the more time I find myself alone in the woods, I am often visited and inhabited by new smells. When you pass a day hiker after being a few days into roughing it in the wilderness, you are reminded quickly of the different civilized smells of fresh laundry, flowery deodorants, and the unique potpourri of sunblock, bug-spray, and a dash of cologne. In small doses it is refreshing, it is also a reminder that we all have our own real smells somewhere mixed in, much the same, are own stories.

I hope I do not offend anyone by assuming the potent day hikers were “city folk”- I mean this in a joking manner simply to make light of how rural and often “uncivilized” my upbringing was…in other words, I don’t believe I ever smell that pleasant.

Smell is an interesting thing. It is our essence, chemicals, fluids, and pheromones.  I am excited to be in a context where I can really stink and experience the contrast of being clean. I encourage everyone to embrace their smells on and off the trail- they are only yours. 

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Comments 2

  • CSW : Mar 8th

    My husband, who has never worn deo or cologne, has pheromones that light up my brain. Funny thing is, some days his scent is more prominent than others, all things being reasonably equal. Wonder if guys have hormonal ebbs and flows? Bet they do.

    Still, several days of not bathing and wearing the same clothes day after day, even his force field would be rank.

    That’s okay, getting real down and dirty’s part of the experience and may be rather valuable on several levels.

    • Heid Eastham : Mar 10th



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