Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Vacation Photos--Colorado's Weminuche Wilderness

While we enjoyed camping in the beautiful Weminuche Wilderness in southwest Colorado, we hiked on the Weminuche and Squaw Creek Trails.  These two trails start from the same trailhead in 30 Mile Campground near Rio Grande Reservoir (by the way, this campground has some of the nicest outhouses I've ever visited--carpet remnants on the floors, skylights, nice posters on the clean walls, clean interior and exterior, and neat trash cans). 

A ways down the Weminuche trail, you enter the Weminuche Wilderness. 

Because of all the recent rains, the trail was a muddy mess.

 But you had an idea of who else was using the trail . . . Hmmm. . . Elk and deer?

The Weminuche Creek is gorgeous!

Sneaking up on a butterfly:

Heading back to camp . . .

Time to sit and relax and plan the next day's activities . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Soaping and Lotion Plans

Valentine's Day Soap
One of my favorite things to do is make soap.  Now I'm learning to make lotion and cream, too.  It's very satisfying to take some pretty interesting ingredients and follow a recipe or formula and end up with a pleasant product that is both dreamy and practical.  

I've been making soaps for about two years and I learn (I hope) with each batch I make.  

One time I made a few batches of soap and was wrestling one of the batches out of the mold.  I was making a mess of things and was just plain cranky.  My husband reminded me that this was supposed to be fun.  

He was right.  He's also pretty wise and has told me more than once that having the right tool is important when that tool makes a task easier and does it better.  

So . . . I'd been thinking about a new mold for a while, but I'd resisted because of the expense.  But then my husband made the leap and got this wood log mold from Bramble Berry.  I'd been studying it for a while.  It's a five pound mold with sides that swing down.  It makes removing the soap sooo much easier.  My husband is happy when I use it because I'm happier and don't need to call him for help.  I love it because the soaps practically slide out. 

Here's the mold "in action," so to speak:

In fact, the recipe that's in the mold is from this post on the Bramble Berry blog, Soap Queen, written by Anne-Marie Faiola.  I love all the ideas and instructions that come from this blog and the videos that Anne-Marie makes.  

My good experience with this wooden mold encouraged my husband to get a larger wooden mold for me from Bramble Berry.  It's the 18 bar mold.    Pretty cool.  Obviously, I can make more soap in one big mold.  I can make pretty cool swirls in a larger mold.  

I haven't taken any photos of the new 18 bar mold yet.  I've used it only once and I really liked how my soaps turned out.  And more of them!!  

I've ordered other soap making supplies and fragrances from Bramble Berry, too, and some lotion making supplies.  All orders come with a free sample.  Fun stuff!

I just started making lotions and creams.  I have three batches of lotion/cream under my belt and they have been well received by family and friends.  I really took advantage of the Bramble Berry instructional information (both free and paid videos) for the confidence to go ahead and give it a try.   

Why the long "discussion" about soap, molds, lotions, creams, and Bramble Berry?

This is my application to be on Bramble Berry's S.O.A.P. panel.  Panel members will receive six or seven small fragrance samples of Anne-Marie's top floral choices for Spring 2011.  Anne-Marie asks panel members to sniff the new fragrances and test them in any product they want (soap, lotion, cream, bath fizzies).  Then Anne-Marie asks for a report to help her figure out the top picks. 

I'd like to be on the panel.  I think it would be fun.  I think it would help me be more organized in my own testing of products.  And . . . it's been a little while since I made soap or lotion and I'm ready to get back at it!  

I also have a built-in group of willing opinion givers with family and friends who receive samples of my soaps and lotions already.  They really like testing and opining and thinking up new ideas waayy faster than I can make them up!

This panel would be a really good reason to pull out the tubs of soap and lotion stuff and test away.  And make up some of my own (and my friends') ideas, too, while I'm at it.  

What are you making or thinking about making?

More Vacation Photos--Southwest Colorado Camping

View from our campsite in Lost Trail Campground
 After we left the relatively highly populated Mesa Verde National Park, we headed for the isolated high country of southwest Colorado.  We went through Durango and stocked up for our trip to the Weminuche Wilderness.  We got groceries, of course, and ate ice cream in the parking lot because we weren't going to get it again soon.  We left our hiking sticks at home, so we stopped at Backcountry Experience where we rented some for our hike.  They were nice people and gave us good information about the equipment and our planned destination.  And they were pretty right on about the weather--unpredictable!

Off we went on our new adventure, passing through some gorgeous scenery in southern Colorado.  We turned at South Fork and headed through the little historic silver mining town of Creede.  Then we turned off onto a dirt road and passed the Rio Grande Reservoir.

A little ways past the reservoir on a rough and potholed road is the small Lost Trail Campground.   

We set up camp and I walked around the campground and surveyed the scenery . . .

Then we went for a hike on the Weminuche trail.  

I'll have more photos of this beautiful place in another post.  Wanted to share these with you now. 

Have a pretty day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mesa Verde National Park--Photo Essay

Here are some more photos from our August 2010 vacation trip to Mesa Verde National Park.  Please enjoy and make your plans for your own next adventure!    

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Vacation Photos--Mesa Verde National Park

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park
After we left Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico, we headed north to Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado.  It's another magical place with many dwellings left by the Ancient Puebloans.  

In the summer, the park has a wonderful program where rangers portray a historical person relevant to the area.  That person leads a late afternoon tour of a cliff dwelling while in period dress and acting in character.  On the day that we arrived, we signed up for the tour of Cliff Palace led by Al Wetherill (one of the men who "discovered" Cliff Palace) portrayed by a ranger whose name I have forgotten (I'm sorry because he did an excellent job). 

The tour began above Cliff Palace and "Al Wetherill" explained that for the next hour we would be in 1902 and that he'd hoped we'd filled our canteens at the nearby spring.  

Away we went for our tour of the Cliff Palace ruins.  We got a history lesson about the Wetherill family and the discovery and study of Cliff Palace.  We walked down the trail and down some stairs as the sun started going lower.  Al paused and showed us a rough, rocky trail that used to be his way down to Cliff Palace.  Once we got down to the ruins, we sat on a large, curving rock ledge while Al told his story.  

One story of the Wetherill family history is here.  We can see that the Wetherill family had a lot to do with the sites of ancient peoples in the Four Corners area of northwest New Mexico and southwest Colorado.  

As the sun lowered in the sky, you can see that the ruins (above) positively glowed in the light.  

Al had us mesmerized with his story and the story of Cliff Palace and his many visits to the ruin.  Then he said we had to get moving since the sun was getting lower.  We got up and moved to another location in front of the cliff dwelling while Al told us a bit more about how he and his wife had to leave this area after they lost their ranch in order to survive.  He thanked us for joining him on this visit--his last visit to Cliff Palace.  Then he paused and removed his hat and . . . became the ranger.

The ranger then filled in other parts of the story that Al didn't know and could not have known. 

It was fascinating, but we had to get moving to beat the sun out of the canyon. 

Cliff Palace

We had to climb a few ladders to get out of the ruins and to the rim of the canyon.  I do NOT like ladders, but I tried not to think about that too much while I tried to just keep moving.  I muttered to myself and my man talked encouragingly to me while we made the climb with the others on the tour. 

Once out of the canyon, we headed back to the Mesa Verde campground where we spent a quiet night.  

The next morning we met some of the campground residents.  
Mesa Verde campground resident

 There are many deer in the Mesa Verde campground.  

And bees.  That wanted to share our meals.  I like bees about as much as I like ladders, so we kept our tent in the shaded campsite and ate our dinners in an open, sunny, unoccupied campsite where there were fewer bees.