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Linda K Murdock, author of A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices and All Things Colorado blogs about things to do in Colorado, networks with crafty Coloradans, gives spice advice and writes gentle rants. See Categories or use search to find what interests you most.

Curt Gowdy Hiking and Biking Playground

Curt Gowdy Hiking and Biking Playground

Curt Gowdy State Park rock formations

If you don’t want to fight the traffic going west of the Denver Metro gridlock, try heading north to the Curt Gowdy hiking and biking playground, better known as the Curt Gowdy State Park. Located just north of the Colorado border and 24 miles west of Cheyenne, Wyoming, the park began in 1971. There is a lodge and three reservoirs in the area. Besides hiking and biking, fishing and archery, the area also attracts birdwatchers in the spring.

With an elevation of 7430 feet you may experience a little bit of everything at the park. It has aspen, pine, mountain mahogany and even a waterfall to hike or bike to. The trails are well maintained and well marked for those of us, who are directionally challenged. When I texted one friend that I hiked 9.5 miles that day, she called me a “hiking monster.” On the other hand my sister’s droll comment was “I drove 9.5 miles today.” It’s hard to impress family members.

Because the trails are relatively short in length, we were able to go awhile, break for lunch at the parking lot and picnic area and then head out for round two. I enjoyed my hike to the waterfalls more than the morning hike. There was a lot of variety and “playground” areas, where mountain bikers could test and/or improve their skills. These skill areas are also fun as diversions for hikers.

Curt Gowdy Hiking and Biking Playground

A rock orgy?

The thing that most stood out were the rock formations. Some of them were cracked as you might expect, but instead of western buttes, all I saw were rock butts. If you’ve ever been to Buena Vista, there is a KOA campground there among boulders that you can climb around on. Curt Gowdy State Park was like that, but spread into a much wider area. It also looks like the Decker area near Buffalo Creek, but without as much water and boulders more widely dispersed.

The afternoon hike to the Hidden Waterfall kept you in the trees and in higher and shadier rock formations. The trail was busy. Most of the mountain bikers realize that waterfalls attract a lot of folks on foot and wisely avoided the trail. I noticed a large assortment of boulders that formed a crevice and framed the bridge on the trail up ahead.

Curt Gowdy Hiking and Biking Playground

Perched Caterpillar

I wasn’t able to get off by myself much at the Curt Gowdy hiking and biking playground, but I did manage to perch on a rock downstream from the falls and noticed a caterpillar in front of me, also enjoying the view. Wildlife comes in many forms and sizes. So, when trails are thick with outspoken people, loud children and even radios don’t expect to see much in the way of large wildlife like deer. At those times I look to ground level for smaller critters and flowers or look up to admire rock formations, tall pines and quaking aspen.

Craft Marketing Tip: Different Means Better

When you go to a craft show, what are you looking for? Could you have found it at a retail establishment? If you are like many people in the craft going public, you go to craft shows because you think Different Means Better. You don’t want to purchase the same gifts that everyone else is buying. You want to find something truly unique that says the recipient is special and deserves a gift that is one of a kind.

“Why aren’t you making Colorado flag emblem hats?” That is what one person asked me last year, since I make and sell crocheted hats. Yes, they are popular, and you see them everywhere. I responded very honestly with, “I could, but why should I since everyone else is making them.” Why would I want to put myself in competition with everyone else? How is that any different than mass-produced retail offerings? If everyone is making the same hat, as a consumer you are no longer interested in the quality of the work, but only in the price. That forces everyone to lower prices to be competitive. How does that benefit anyone?

Another common practice of crafters is that they make many duplicate items. Why not vary the pattern by making each item unique? Place different ribbons, buttons, bows, flowers, etc. to make that hat unique compared to all the others. Make the same pattern in different colors or materials. Choose cotton and colorful pastel yarns for summer wear and darker, warmer yarns for winter wear. If you make the effort to provide the buyer with something unusual, than different means better. It also means that your items will stand out from the copycats.

Crafting is attractive to you, because it allows you to be creative and expressive. So be creative! Vary the free pattern you downloaded so that it fits your child, your husband, etc. by making it smaller or larger than the given pattern. Add some color by using a variety of leftover yarns. Include a rainbow of color varieties so that it will attract people who like that color. How often do you turn away from a purchase, because you can’t find a color that you like? Offer your customers several or all of the colors of the rainbow in the items that you create.

Extra effort in making your craft has another benefit. It means others will respect and admire your products. It also means that your professional results can garner higher prices. We’ve all been tempted to reduce prices to move products. It took years of craft show participation to get the price that I wanted for some doilies. But lowering prices just lowers the value you place on your own hard work. Granted, I won’t be making any doilies to replace those sold, but I’m glad I stuck to my guns. Being different can mean waiting for the market to catch up with you­–another good reason to have a variety of items in a range of prices to help attract a wider group of consumers.

Craft Marketing Tip: Different Means Better

Great way to package lightbulbs!

Packaging is another way of saying different means better. It can mean a tag explaining how you came to create what you are selling; how you selected the material you used; or even what or who inspired you to make it. Don’t be afraid to tell a your story if it results in more sales. Packaging can also mean a nice box, colorful bag or clever container. If you save your customer some time and effort, they may just be willing to pay a little extra for that service. Packaging is another way to turn what may be an ordinary item into an extraordinary gift.

In researching this article, I found a website that crafters may find helpful. It is The Artful Crafter. Eileen has a simple, clean layout for her site and talks about all crafts. You might want to check her out. I hope she feels that some of my articles are equally informative. I happened to find her via Ezine Articles. I’ve included her in my Resources menu item.

Hiking in Golden Gate Canyon

Hiking in Golden Gate Canyon

Meadow near old homestead

Hiking in Golden Gate Canyon

Can you find the snake?

Once again I took advantage of my husband’s bicycling meet-up group and accompanied him for some hiking in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. It is just one of 42 state parks in Colorado. Reached by a meandering road 9 miles northwest of Golden and 30 miles from Denver, it is a great example of the different terrains that can be seen around the state. In places it reminds me of Fairplay with its rocky ground, its mix of conifers and aspen and open meadows. While my husband biked with his friends, I hiked up the Blue Grouse Trail and then switched to the Mule Deer Trail. There was a connection to the Black Bear Trail, which is designated for hikers only. I checked out a few of the camping sites and had a quiet snack. I took the outside loop of the Horseshoe Trail and enjoyed the Frazer Meadow surrounded by stone-topped crags.

Back to the Mule Deer Trail I completed my 5-mile loop that took me in and out of trees, lush meadows and solitude. I spotted two snakes, one black-tailed squirrel and heard a variety of birds. With about 35 miles of trails, Golden Gate Canyon makes it easy to get away from crowds. Hikers have the right-of-way on trails that allow bicyclists. However, when you hear them coming up fast, it is best to just step off the trail and let them go by.

I know how fun and thrilling mountain biking can be, but I also know that being quiet and watching and listening to the woods around you has an attraction all its own. Whether hiking in Golden Gate Canyon or elsewhere, when you slow down life’s frantic pace, you allow yourself to be aware of senses seldom used. Smell the crisp aroma of the fall season quickly approaching through the scent of decaying undergrowth. See the last efforts of forest blooms in the asters and the bright red berries of the ground-covering kinnickinnick. Listen to the call of both familiar and strange birds. Feel your feet connect to the ground as you pick your way through roots and stones, always looking for the path of least resistance like descending water on a slope. Indeed, I often feel myself flowing down the path, switching back to the dominant sense of sight and allowing the other senses to gradually fade in the background on my return trip to humanity.