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The Great Outdoors 05/28/2010

Is there anything better than going camping for a few days and having the opportunity to experience all of the sights, sounds and (of course!) smells of the great outdoors?  Not that I can think of.  Certain outdoor smells just scream camping to me and to many others I am sure, and here are some of the memories that I brought back with me from this trip.

     Of course, it all starts with the campfire, doesn’t it?  The cedar, oak, pine and hickory wood smells from the firewood brought along.  The resin & sap in the wood that is slightly sweet when it is burning.  The thick smoke that can come from having wood under-seasoned or wet … thick enough that when the wind blows it in your direction you find yourself moving fast to another part of the campsite away from it!

     Then we have cooking over the actual campfire … or more appropriately in my experience the attempt at cooking with an actual campfire.  You can find a foil-wrapped potato in the lower right as it bakes itself into basically a charcoal briquet since my coals were way-way-way too hot, which I was able to figure out when I pulled it out and could smell the burn all around it.  Much better luck was had with the Bannock bread cooked on a stick … smelled just like fresh-baked bread when it was cooking and after it was done.  We spread some homemade strawberry jam onto it that was so sweet, and the combination knocked our socks off!

     Jiffy POP popcorn!  One of the original camping treats from when we were kids growing up.  Once you get it cooked over the fire and pull back the foil pouch, that buttery-salty steam from the popcorn hits your nose, with just a touch of smokiness from the wood fire, and before you know you are digging in by the handful.

     Okay, so maybe a lot of my scent memories from camping revolve around food … then again, a lot of my life revolves around the love of food so I guess that makes sense.  Waking up in the morning and going outside of the tent, breathing in the fresh air that is damp, dewy and somewhat lightly sweet smelling before everyone else is up.  Firing up the propane stove and catching that small whiff of propane before it is lit.  Getting the coffee percolating (yup, old school style) and smelling the freshly-ground Jamaican blend as it brews, and suddenly realizing that you have to wait until it is completely done since there is no “pause’n’serve” button on old school style technology!  Frying up some bacon or sausage next, and then some potatoes & onions & peppers along with some eggs at the end … camp breakfast smells floating through the air that everyone by now is awake and ready for!

     We went hiking down to the small lake near our campground and experienced so many changes in the smells along the way.  Walking through the forest it was cool, damp, earthy and you felt like you could smell the moss and ferns.  Right at the bottom of the small man-made dam it was very moist from the small amount of mist coming off of the waterfall, with a moldy smell permeating through it from all of the dampness.  As we got closer to the lake itself the air became much warmer & heavier, and the smell of the lake bordered on swampy decay.  You could smell the thick scum settled on top of the water before you could see it.  You see, it was a smaller lake that fills with a lot of silty clay runoff from the surrounding area, doesn’t have a lot of water flowing through it, and heats up a lot more due to the shallowness.  Think stagnant, smell stagnant, and you have the picture!

I’ll post pics and descriptions of the living history farm we visited on our last day in a coming blog.  For now I hope that everyone has a great holiday this Memorial Day weekend, and don’t forget to thank those you know in the military that work to keep us all safe today, just as they have done throughout the past 234 years now!

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