Site-smelling in Alaska: The Good and the Gross

Many people talk about sight seeing, but that’s only one small part of travel. Let’s embrace all the different ways we can experience our world!

Descriptive Transcript

A wide, paved path curves around a fountain with a majestic whale statue, and then continues alongside the channel with beautiful views of Douglas Island and downtown Juneau. Haben walks the path with her guide dog Mylo.
Haben: Site smelling is an overlooked part of travel. We should challenge ourselves to move past an ocular-centric culture. Alaska has one of the longest coastlines, so walking around the coastal trails, we enjoyed breathing in the fresh sea air, which felt really energizing. There were familiar smells, wonderful smells, and a few unpleasant smells, which honestly were opportunities to learn something new.

Haben kneels next to Mylo on the edge of a forest trail.
Haben: One of the smells you might notice in Juneau is skunk cabbage. And there’s some, kind of to my left, behind me.

Haben gestures to the left, we zoom in on a vibrantly colored plant growing from rich, damp, brown soil. The plant’s leaves are green and a single, large, yellow petal wraps around a long stem. On the stem, there are hundreds of tiny flowers that have yet to bloom.

Haben: It’s bright yellow and the smell is kind of a mix between mud and body odor. A very pungent smell. The funny thing is, even though I’m right next to it, I’m not really getting much of a smell. But with the air currents, and maybe when it’s in different stages of growth, the smell changes. It gets stronger or weaker. So sometimes people pick it thinking: “Oh, it’s very pretty”, and they take it home. And then the next day their house smells terrible.

Haben smiles and places her hands in her lap.

Haben: So be careful! Skunk cabbage!