What is the first scent of each morning? Cold. Fresh. Crisp. That first rush of morning air as I unzip my tent greets me, sometimes hits me harshly on my warm face, awakening my senses and filling my lungs. I dig in the dirt for my morning cleanse and smell the fresh wet Earth, toiled soil of metallic chill. I brew my coffee, ah the scent of fresh “instant” coffee, there’s nothing like it! My coffee is special, and dare I admit it is a total luxury the way I prepare my coffee on the trail. First, I have freeze dried Organic Fair Trade Mount Hagen coffee crystals. I add Sucanat (organic evaporated cane juice), next I add a blend I pre-made for myself, consisting of organic coconut milk powder, with Coconut Cafe. Seriously? The procedure is actually quite simple, it does add a little extra weight, but I have decided this morning pleasure is the way to go if you love coffee. It tastes amazing and it is quite energizing!
After my morning coffee, breakfast, and general lazing around camp maybe writing in my journal, taking photos, meditating, or just looking out at the surroundings, I begin to get ready for the day. Ah, the scent of my sweaty clothes from yesterday. Not only are they stinky from yesterday, they have the stink from the day before, and the day before that, and, yes, the day before that too. Mmmmm…… As I grab my damp shirt and swiftly pull it over my head, I catch a whiff of the pits and know I have worked hard. Actually, I decided that this, what I call, back packer’s scent, is quite naturally mimicking that of wild sage. So, I enjoy it rather that deny it. The scent of fragrant wild sage on my body all day!
Meandering along my way, as I get into the groove of the hiking day, my rhythm settles into a pace that I find lulling, I take deep breaths and extend them to my sore spots, my shoulders, neck, hips and low back. In those breaths, I take in the scents of time. These are seasonally specific fragrances that are natural desert perfumes so pleasing and stimulating. Wild lilac (ceanothus), almost Jasmine-like and heady when you stop to bring a head of the tiny flowers to your nose, makes you happily dizzy. Passing across a slope filled with blossoming Yucca’s the air is a pool of light sweetness, it makes you feel light despite the heavy weight on your shoulders. Then on a Western facing slope I pass through sections of mountain sages, tender new leaves and shoots four feet tall stick up close to my face. I gently caress one branch of buds and they react to my touch by releasing the sweet and pungent aroma that reminds me of prayers and giving thanks to the Spirits. Burning sage as a Sacred practice, to clear a space, to make an offering, to give thanks or to ask for guidance. I asked the sage plant for permission before I selected four small leaves to take along with me. They will be used wisely.
Day three on the trail brought me to a halting stop at Mt. Laguna, where a massive storm was coming in. I tried to hike far enough to get up the rim of the Mountain on approach to the descent to the dessert, but was literally knocked down on the ground with 80mph gusts. Not safe. I was with two other gentlemen who also got knocked down. We only make it five PCT miles that day, and these winds were icy cold. We determined to stay at the closest campground at Mt. Laguna, and found shelter amongst Cedar Trees. I nested in a trine of Cedars and buckled down for the storm heading in. Having stopped early for the day, I had time to take a hot shower, and cook a good meal before settling into my sleeping bag. It was already in the 30’s and we knew there would be snow. Fortunately, I had stopped at the General Store at Mount Laguna earlier that day, and guess what I purchased besides cheese and crackers and a few post cards? Yes, I got myself a little plastic six ounce bottle of Sutter Home Pinot Noir. Yes, Pinot Noir. I tell you what, sitting in my little cozy tent, getting ready for the snow, I enjoyed that wine with my dinner and I lit a piece of Tibetan Incense with it’s woodsy, campfire-like aroma inside my tent, and gave thanks for my warm, safe, space on the Earth surrounded by Cedars. I burrowed deep into my sleeping bag, and waited for the first taps of the ice storm hitting my tent. This paper thin material is all I have separating me from freezing cold gusts, 105 mph in places, and sub-zero temps, yet I am protected my these wonderful trees. Thank you trees. Tap tap tap….the rhythmic tapping lulled me to dreamless sleep.