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Colorado cool stuff: Beetlekill bowls, fantasy plushies, hotels book



Wife-and-husband team Cynthia Hoffman Phillips and Joe Phillips work together in a trio of businesses: a forestry firm (Mountain High Contracts), a wood products company (Mind to Spirit Pathways Colorado), and a Tibetan yak operation (Mystic T Ranch). When Mountain High fells beetlekill, the couple turns the wood into everything from fencing to mulch, and Mind to Spirit takes leftovers and turns it to décor of all kinds.

"We’re utilizing every bit of the tree," Cynthia says. The catalog ranges from candleholders to furniture to custom signs as well as feed bags upcycled into totes; ornamental spalted wood bowls are a specialty. "Spalting is basically decomposition of the wood," Joe says. "It gives it some really pretty coloring." Adds Cynthia: "People aren’t seeing the beauty – they see the devastation, but there’s also a beauty to this wood grain." Bowls: $20 to $95 retail.

Made by Mind to Spirit
Pathways, Central City,


Working as a physiologist for pro cycling teams, Allen Lim, Ph.D., found a home-cooked meal to be a big advantage to athletes. "Whenever we cooked from scratch, the athletes performed a lot better," he says. He applied the philosophy to a homemade performance drink with half the sugar and twice the salt of leading brands, and no artificial flavors (that’s real freeze-dried fruit) or colors.

"On every level, we’re different than other sports drinks," says Lim, who made bigger and bigger batches starting in 2008, and even used the paint shaker at McGuckin Hardware as a powder-mixer for his "secret drink mix." Word-of-mouth-driven demand from runners, cyclists, NASCAR drivers and even chefs led Lim to launch Skratch Labs in February with Aaron Foster. Ten months later, the largely direct-sales company has boomed to 14 employees and more than 200 retailers. "It’s been a wild ride," Lim says. "It’s pretty exciting." $20 for 1 lb. of powdered mix retail.

Made by Skratch Labs LLC, Boulder, www.skratchlabs.com. Also available at Whole Foods and numerous bike shops in Colorado.


Gil Campbell, the original Air Force Academy librarian, started Filter Press in 1957 and offered reprints of historic Western texts. (A collection of John Wesley Powell’s writings for Scribner’s Magazine was a top seller.) Tom and Doris Baker bought the publisher in 1996 and today Doris, a retired editor and librarian, and Tom, a retired software engineer, release about a half-dozen titles a year, including two series of biographies of notable Coloradans.

"There are so many great stories from Colorado," says Doris. "It goes on and on and it’s endlessly fascinating. The people who came here were adventurers and visionaries -- or they were sick." New from Filter this fall is "Colorado’s Landmark Hotels," by Linda Wommack, covering 30 of the state’s standout historic hostelries. "I love every single one of them, from the Broadmoor to the Rio Grande Southern Hotel in Dolores," she says. "Each one has its own unique story." $16.95 retail.

Written by Linda Wommack, Littleton; published by Filter Press LLC, Palmer Lake, (888) 570-2663, www.filterpressbooks.com.


An avid Dungeons & Dragons player and an expert crocheter, Jacinda Espinosa combined her two hobbies in 2010 when she made her D&D cohorts plushie versions of their characters as Christmas gifts.

"They loved them," says Espinosa, who subsequently went pro with NeedleForge to knit custom interpretations of D&D characters, as well as stock monsters such as goblins. To date, she’s crocheted life into hundreds of characters, ranging from drow elves to dungeon masters. "They’re very unique," Espinosa says. "They all turn out to have different personalities." $20 to $60 retail.

Made by NeedleForge, Lafayette, www.needleforge.com or www.etsy.com/shop/needleforge.

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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