In praise of hand sanitizer, pine needles, and Stella

For me (and I would assume for most other people as well) certain things immediately remind me of places I’ve been before and things I’ve seen. A number of different things can set off a memory in a second. It can be something that appeals to any of the five senses.

The first item I’d like to mention is a strange one, but it always succeeds in bringing me back (in my head) to some of my favorite places I’ve been. The unusual item I’m referring to is Germ-X hand sanitizer. I always had some of it on hand when camping.  Between setting up my campsite, grilling different meats, and building campfires it proved to be very helpful. I always used the same kind, the “original” version of Germ-X’s hand sanitizer. The smell of it is what brings me back to my campsites in several of the National Parks out west. I find it kind of odd, but also interesting that I don’t recall a specific memory when I smell the hand sanitizer, but it just makes me think of camping out west and it makes me happy.

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The smell of pine needles is another one. It has to be a strong smell of pine needles on the ground to hit me hard. When it does, I can close my eyes and picture a forested trail between mountains. This is another thing that doesn’t typically remind me of a specific trail or place, but it makes me think of hiking the great National Park trails of the west. I’ve hiked so many great trails out there that are soft under foot due to a layer of pine needles over dirt. If I had to choose a place I’d say Grand Teton and Glacier pop to the top of my mind.

So, my first two items provide reminders via smell. My next one is through taste. That would be Stella Artois, which is a fairly popular beer. Stella is a Belgian pilsner, and while it’s a decent beer, I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites. However, it will always hold a special place in my heart because I enjoyed several of them on Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park. I camped in Kalaloch Campground for three nights with my friend Joe and each night we hung out on the beach. We had bonfires a couple of nights and had some beers and snacks there. I will forever think of Stella as the beer I drank on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

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I’ll just include one more thing to this short list. That would be an especially starry night sky. I can be anywhere, maybe even pulling the garbage cans down my driveway to the curb, and look up and see a beautiful night sky. I can usually make out a few stars in the sky, but where I live (in the suburbs of Buffalo) it’s rare to see a sky full of stars. Every once in a while though, I’ll look up and be treated to a dark sky littered with shining stars. I don’t know why it just happens to appear every once in a while (something with the moon perhaps?), but I don’t complain when it does.

I am immediately reminded of two moments in those instances. The first was in Yellowstone. I was walking back to my campsite in Canyon Campground and looked up and was amazed by the amount of stars above me. I had never witnessed a sky like that before. I turned off my flashlight and easily walked under the guidance of the bright stars.

The second time I was lying on my back atop a picnic table at my campsite in Mather Campground in Grand Canyon National Park. There was a gap in the trees above the table, providing a great view of a stunning night sky. It wasn’t quite as wondrous as the scene in Yellowstone, but it was still a phenomenal sight, and obviously a memorable one for me.

There are certainly other things that spur memories from past travels for me, but those are a few of the ones that first popped into my head. Have any to share?

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7 thoughts on “In praise of hand sanitizer, pine needles, and Stella

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  1. I’m with you on the first two. In fact, hand sanitizer happens to be a very good way to remove tree sap so the two smells go hand in hand for me….

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  2. Aidell’s chicken and apple sausages reminds me of camping every time. Easiest thing to cook up, so it always made it into our camping menu. Starry nights (for me triggers a Joshua Tree memory), marshmallows and the smell of mosquito repellent… aah, good camping memories.

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