Day 1: I hopped out of the shower this morning smelling of the fresh rainforest pictured on my bottle of shampoo. The day had just begun and my backpack was leaning by the front door waiting to packed into the trunk. After getting quite the scare from the neighbor’s dog snarling behind the fence post, I hit the road ready for two glorious weeks of backcountry camping. I was leaving behind the necessities of life including all my social media machines, nightlights, and Speed-Stick deodorant.
Upon arriving at the trail, I was pleasantly welcomed with a cloudless sky, although by the time I really started making my way down the dirt path, the glaring afternoon sun caused the pit stains on my shirt to nearly double in size, and slowly I smelled my rainforest shampoo being washed away by damper conditions on my forehead.
Day 3: The trip has been going well so far, and I have found my time spent in the wilderness pleasant. It has been 3 days since I last showered, although I did dip my face into the stream the other day. I would never go three days without showering in the “civilized” world, but upon passing a few other hikers going the other way, and walking through the cloud that followed them, I realized that I have yet to reach my true stink potential.
Day 5: As I was bending over this morning to un-stake my tent from the ground, my nostrils caught a full whiff of my open armpits. My nose hairs curled up and I had to check to make sure some hideous bug hadn’t found its death inside my t-shirt. Upon the next whiff though, I could detect the fair aromas of campfire, perspiration, and the hot afternoon sun. And after looking around to make sure no one had seen me smelling my own armpits like a Sommelier smells his wine, I continued down the trail and away from the stench of my own shadow.
Day 7: I had to stop in a small mountain town to re-supply my camping food. As I was perusing the deli meats for an afternoon sandwich, I could see the butcher frantically looking for something amongst his piles of meats and cheeses. He picked up the pastrami and looked inquisitively between its layered sheets. Finally, without finding what he was looking for, he turned to a fellow butcher and exclaimed that one of the cheeses must have spoiled.
Day 7: As I was perusing the limited selection of granola bars in the small mountain town for my re-supply, a young mother pushed her stroller pasts me as she was heading for the baby formula. The moment she passed, the young mother stopped only for an instant, as if her stroller had hit a crack in the linoleum floor, and in that moment the young baby let out a loud cry. The tears continued as the women quickened her pace, forgetting the formula she was looking for.
Day 7: A break of good luck at the register, the small line that had formed in front of the cashier suddenly vanished as soon as I took my place behind them, and some customers even left their groceries on the counter as they quickly left the store. When it was suddenly my turn to pay for my groceries, the cashier must have had a personal issues going on because she had tears in her eyes, but I thought it better to not ask. As she counted out my change, I took off my hat, only to realize that the lack of my usual rainforest shampoo had created a bit of a dandruff emergency on my scalp. As my flakes coated the counter and even the hand of the cashier who timidly held out my change, we both made eye contact for a short moment. Sorry was all I could say as I took my change and groceries, eager to get back on the trail where my odor belonged.
Day 9: Mosquitos have quit biting at my neck as I move along. I saw one land on my upper thigh as I was eating lunch in the late afternoon, and after eating a quick lunch itself, the mosquito was unable to fly out of the hazy atmosphere it found itself in. I felt bad for the little guy, and if it wasn’t for the red bump now swelling on my leg, I would have maybe considered not flicking it out of the air and into oblivion, but my leg was really starting to itch. I think it might have worked as a message to all those other pesky mosquitos.
Day 11: It rained pretty hard the night before and much of the morning. It’s sunny now, but just before noon I was hiking with all my rain gear on keeping the precipitation out and trapping my stench within. If I turned my neck a certain way, what seem like a gas bubble escaped from my jacket and puffed right into my face. I wondered at these times if this is what other people smelled when they encountered me, but quickly decided it was just a more concentrated version. After the rain let up, my clothes and body dried pretty quickly, and for a while it felt fairly refreshing, but now mildew has emerged into the smell mixture. I am currently in the process of checking for mold on my body and clothes.
Day 13: I have seen an amazing amount of wildlife in the past couple of days. It began with a colony of rabbits that all just sat and flopped their ears as I passed them on the trailside. Then I came across a deer, or rather, a deer came across me. I was walking to the sounds of my own footsteps when suddenly a young doe passed me on the trail. It startled me for sure, getting passed by a deer like I was in the slow lane of the interstate, but the deer didn’t even seem to notice me. And then finally and perhaps most amazingly of all, as I was searching for the perfect spot to dig a hole and take care of some “business”, I heard some twigs breaking to my right and saw an enormous Grizzly Bear. I was taken aback of course, and I couldn’t help but have the feeling that the bear was trying to take care of the same business as me. The bear raised his snout to the air and took a couple quick whiffs, and then he looked right at me, we connected eyes, and he simply nodded as if to say “occupied.”
Day 13: Upon further investigation and thought, I believe that without showering for nearly two weeks I have now assimilated into nature, I have found my spot back in the animal kingdom. I am considering ways and options to bottle this wilderness scent and sell it at a high-end boutique. Ode de Animál is what I think I will call it. I have begun the process of empting my spice container and trying to capture the seed scent.
Day 14: The container that was to hold my cologne scent has melted, which renders it nearly useless. But luckily I didn’t have to lug around the garbage much longer because I had reached the end of my wilderness loop and found myself back at my car.
When I sat down behind the wheel, the palm tree air freshener I had hanging from my mirror shriveled and turned black, which is something I didn’t know they did. I drove home with the windows open and once, when I was stopped a red light, the car next to me must have been in a hurry because after they stopped, the accelerated through a red light narrowly missing other turning vehicles.
As a pleasant surprise when I got home, the neighbor’s dog must have just gotten back from obedience school because instead of his usual barking tyrant from the other side of the fence, all I heard was a soft whimper as he ran back onto the porch and scratched at the door. And after taking off my boots with a definite slosh of sweat, after stripping away the clothes I had worn for the past 14 days, I stood in front of the shower, towel in hand, wondering, “why’d I ever shower every day in the first place?”