A Nasal Essay


Striped Skunk, Salton Sea, California. The various bouquets of the Salton Sea make a skunk nearly undetectable

Striped Skunk, Salton Sea, California. The various bouquets of the Salton Sea make a skunk nearly undetectable

WC and Mrs. WC chased reports of an Indigo Bunting and a Blue Grosbeak at Fort BoiseWildlife Management Area on Saturday. We dipped on the birds – for the second time, in fact – but there was one aspect of the trip that didn’t escape us: a symphony of stinks, a miasma of malodors.

Start with the widespread smoke from the large number of wildfires around Boise. Along with orange light and limited visibility, there’s that reek of burned wood and grasses, something like being permanently downwind of a smokey campfire, but without the pleasure of an actual campfire. That’s the background reek.

As you drive on Interstate 84 towards Fort Boise, you pass a couple of sugar beet factories. There are two separate reeks associated with sugar beet processing: the miasma from the factory and the reek from the windrows of processed sugar beet pulp.

Is your nose starting to itch yet?

To access Fort Boise Wildlife Management area, at the confluence of the Boise and Snake Rivers, and to continue the sinus symphony, you take back roads past a whole series of feed lots. For sheer, eye-watering stench, it’s hard to surpass a feed lot, with an adjoining, overflowing lagoon of mixed cow crap and piss.

And, for the piéce de resistance, a road-killed skunk just a little further along the back road.1

Our birding skills may not have gotten much work, but our olfactories sure did. It’s not the worst stinks WC has encountered while birding. That prize goes, by a couple of gag reflexes, to the southern end of the Salton Sea, where you have the retch-inducing fumes of the Salton Sea itself and any number of adjoining feedlots.

But still, the trip to Forth Boise was pretty bad.

 


  1. Louden Wainwright III’s classic “Dead Skunk” song has kind of become a cliché, but needs mentioning here. 
Advertisements