An homage to the scent of Algonquin Park

An homage to the scent of Algonquin Park

Insect repellant, campfire, hot sun on a weathered dock: It’s a many noted perfume that sustains one editor until the next trip north.

The smell of insect repellent (aka eau de forest) isn’t so off-putting to me. Mosquitos really like me, so whenever I go anywhere even remotely damp and forested, I cover myself with it. I have yet to find a natural repellent that works as well as Deet, so my Off Deep Woods Spray is what I pack every year on my annual trip to Algonquin Park. And despite the chemical-laced aroma that usually has me running (metaphorically) for the woods, the smell of Deet actually brings a smile to my face because it usually means I’m in one of my favourite places.

Beyond mosquito repellants, there are other Algonquin scents to get excited about.

Take the smell of rain for instance. Rain on a lake or in a forest is very different than city rain. It’s less of a nuisance and much more impressive. I always hope for a rain storm when I head to Algonquin. Just for an afternoon or a night. (Though it should be noted I stay in a cabin, not a tent. I feel for campers who get drenched, but I hope for rain regardless.)

The smell of Algonquin post-rain is murky and earthy: Mud and wet bark mingle with lush greenery for a scent that combines opposites, at once dirty and fresh.

Of course it doesn’t rain all the time. Visiting Algonquin Park in the summer usually includes a couple of hot, sunny days spent at the dock or in the lake. The smell of lake water is very different than that of the beach or the ocean. It is not fresh or clean, but it is crisp and smooth, especially in the sun. It’s darker than the ocean, more like velvet than silk. And combined with the cedar of the newly-built staircase, the (less identifiable) weathered wood of the dock and the heat of the sun, there is richness and depth.

Do rocks have scent? In Algonquin they do. It may be my imagination, but the rock faces in the park smell old, like a library, but cooler.

Of course the mandatory campfire warms things up. Sometimes the fire smells sweet (I’m sure the chocolate and marshmallows help with that) and smoky too of course. But the it’s the wood that smells the best: Crackling, spicy, sharp, smoking wood.

I’ve just returned from Northern Ontario and so the smells are fresh in my mind—though I imagine they’ll carry me through the year until my next visit. Until then, Algonquin.

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PHOTO: Alexandra Donaldson
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Alexandra Donaldson is the editorial assistant at The Whale & The Rose and a freelance writer and content creator. Although she recently took up yoga in an effort to be a healthy adult, she still binge-watches cartoons on a regular basis and dreams of running away to a cottage in the woods. She has yet to nail down her favourite perfume, but knows that it smells green, earthy and maybe a little bit spicy, but definitely not sweet.