You’re all fleeced up in Patagonia. You’ve donned Gore-Tex gaiters and those low-top Hi-Tec’s. Hoist up that high-tech Lowe pack and, damn, you look good. You look the part. But do you look your very best?
What about personal grooming for the rugged outdoors man or woman? Uncommonly tough males may want to limber up each morning with a vigorous rub down using a cedar bark sponge soaked in octopus broth. That should get the old blood moving. Or so thought coastal native groups who used this very treatment on young sons to ensure they grew up dauntless. Those who practice no trace camping may even be tempted to drink the bath water.
And what about for the ladies? Stand aside Oil of Olay: native herbalism offers more support than a cosmetics counter. Want soft, supple skin while out in the elements? Simple. Concoct a skin cream out of deer belly fat and cottonwood resin. Melt the two ingredients together and pour into a hollow bull kelp bulb. Once it sets, peel away the kelp and smear it on: Voila! Eternal youth.
A similar mixture of deer fat and hemlock resin makes for a quick and dandy sun screen. Who needs pink zinc anyhow? Since those prehistoric-looking horsetails contain silica they make for a perfectly eco-friendly manicure. Native women on Vancouver Island are said to have added a little salmon slime for lubrication to buff fingernails to a gleaming lustre.
To keep dandruff, mites and other pests at bay, boil a little cow parsnip with chokecherry, red willow branches (and eye of newt if you have it.) This traditional scalp rinsing solution is even said to prevent grey hair.
When that little visitor arrives on the trail finely pounded red cedar bark, tree lichen and spagnum moss can all be used for feminine protection.
And for fresh backcountry breath try chewing on the rhizomes or roots of the common licorice fern. Or, in its place, the resin of hemlock trees is reputed to make a fine chewing gum. Like Trident, it has no added sugar.