I love the smell of wet dog in the morning. It smells like summer.
In fact, there are a lot of scents you get to experience during the Alaska summer that you just don’t get to enjoy during the winter. During the winter, everything that might emit a smell is frozen or covered with snow and ice. And if there is a scent wafting on the winter breeze, chances are your nose is too numb to pick it up.
That’s not the case in the summer, though, when the Kenai Peninsula comes alive for your olfactory enjoyment.
There’s lots of what most folks would call pleasant smells — fresh salmon on the grill and flowers in the garden.
The smells I like best don’t necessarily fall into the “pleasant” category, but they’re my favorites because I associate them with being out and doing things.
For example, wet dog means we’ve been out hiking, or as was the case this past week, doing some canoeing. The best part about wet dog is that it will linger in the cab of the truck for a few days to come — a reminder of the weekend’s adventures.
During the summer, there’s usually a number of smells detectable in my truck — in spite of the air freshener. I like to blame them on banana peels left under the back seat by the kids, but to be honest, I’ve probably generated most of them.
For starters, my mountain bike shoes compare favorably to a swamp. I think it was from that time I did a bike race at Tsalteshi last summer that traversed what I think should have been named the Dagobah Loop. For whatever reason, I got busy with other things and didn’t let the shoes properly air out, instead shoving them under the back seat (where I blame the kids for leaving banana peels). Let’s just say those shoes are now ripe — and I won’t forget to let them air out ever again.
Then there’s all the other mountain bike and hiking clothes, which have taken on a nice earthy scent from lots of use and not quite as much washing. Why wash them today when you’re just going to get them dirty again tomorrow, right?
That scent pairs wonderfully, in my opinion, with sweat, bug dope and sunscreen. Throw in a dash of campfire smoke, and you’ve got the perfect summer scent. Old Spice’s nature fragrances have nothing on summer in Alaska.
There’s plenty of reminders of summer fun around the house, too. In another month, my garage will smell mostly like bicycle chain degreaser (provided I remember to bring the trash to the transfer station in a timely manner).
There’s the fresh-cut lawn, which I try to avoid because it makes my eyes itch and I’d rather be doing other things. And there’s the laundry room, which from time to time starts to smell a lot like the inside of my truck. That’s when I know we’ve been having some serious fun — when there’s piles of stinky laundry waiting for the washer because clothes were so dirty they had to be taken off right by the washing machine and not taken another foot further into the house. (Again, any laundry stench is generally my fault. In fact, as I write this, there’s a pile of biking clothes fermenting in the corner because I didn’t have a chance to run them through the wash before we snuck out for a quick camping trip.)
Then July hits — when the salmon are running and everyone smells just a little (or a lot) like fish, whether they’ve been fishing or not. There’s just something in the air when the fish are in the river.
There is a fair amount of research that suggests that smell can be a powerful memory trigger because the part of the brain that processes scent is closely related to the part that processes memory. If that’s the case, then this is certainly the season for making memories.
It’s summer in Alaska. Take a good whiff.
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.