Carlsbad Caverns


We had a wonderful adventure exploring Carlsbad Caverns. We decided we would take a ranger guided tour, to the King’s Palace, then explore the Big Room on our own along the self guided tour (after lunch).

Would I recommend taking your Troop here? It depends on the Troop. here are some things to consider:

  • The entrance to the caverns is on the top of a mountain in the Guadalupe Mountains. So my acrophobia was triggered on the road up and walking in the parking lot – you might have girls who are similarly nervous. 
  • It’s a cave. If you have girls who don’t deal well with dark, or confined areas, this might not be a good trip for them. Although, I will say that the Big Room actually did not have many places where that might be an issue. It’s called the Big Room for a reason. The King’s Palace tour, though, might trigger fear in these types of girls. There were several tight squeezes and once the Ranger turned out all of the lights to let us be in the natural cave. 
  • It’s BIG. Each tour was about 1.5 miles. Some of it steep(ish).
  • Make sure it’s something your girls are interested in. This goes without saying, right? 


We also watched the bat flight. This is when the HUGE colony of Brazilian Free Tailed bats emerges from their roosts in the caverns at dusk. It is an amazing sight to watch thousands upon thousands of bats fly over your heads. No pictures, though. They are not allowed. I highly recommend this if you come for a visit, with the following caveats:

  • It takes a long time for thousands and thousands and thousands of bats to emerge from the cave. We were watching for 45 minutes. 
  • You have to be silent and still as you can be so as not to startle the bats. 

Have YOU been to Carlsbad Caverns? Have you taken your Troop? What was your favorite part?

After the Rally . . .

Can we all just take a moment and be thankful that GSUSA and all of our local Councils are now able to register girls and adults online?  I can remember the stacks and stacks of paper registrations I had to deal with as a Placement Specialist the year before it went live in my Council.  At least 5″ of quadruplicate forms.  And then each new Troop Leader was handed a stack at least 1/2″ thick.

But it’s not that way anymore.  However, even with online registration, Troop formation is still not an automatic thing.  Unless your Service Unit/Community manages to get all of their new Troops formed at Rallies, then the Registrar and Placement Specialist will have some work to do after the Rally sorting girls into new and existing Troops.

One of the main goals for any Placement Specialist or Registrar or Recruiter (whichever your area uses) is – believe it or not – to place EVERY GIRL in a Troop.  If we had our way, every girl who wanted to be a Girl Scout who be placed in a Troop.  The problem comes in the forms of well meaning parents and Troop Leaders.

Parents whose daughter has to be in THIS Troop, because well, those girls have been friends forever and their Troop sounded like they had so much fun last year, and of course I can’t be the Troop Leader for a new Troop.  *sigh*

Troop Leaders who will take girls from THIS elementary, but not THAT one.  Troop Leaders who say their Troop is closed until their best friend’s daughter wants to join.  Troop Leaders who think they can only handle 6 Brownies in their Troop.  Troop Leaders who are finished after Juniors, but their girls would really like to continue on to Cadettes. *sigh*

How to be kind to your Placement Specialist as a Parent

  • Be very clear on the days and and times when your girl will be available for Troop Meetings.  These can range from once a month to once a week, depending on the Troop.
  • Be very clear on how flexible you are.
  • Know whether you want your girl in a single level or multi-level Troop.  Here’s a post which compares them.
  • Know how you want to volunteer to help your Girl Scout’s Troop.  In my Community, girls with guardian who volunteer at Rally Night get placed before girls whose guardians are “too busy” to help in any way.  Girls whose guardian volunteers to be Troop Leader get first dibs, of course.
  • Understand that the older your girl is, the harder it will be to place her.  As Troops get older, they start closing to newcomers because they have started planning bigger activities, that require bigger budgets.  It is not fair to accept new girls halfway through saving for that big trip – not to the girls who have already been working towards their goal.
  • Give the Placement Specialist a method of contacting you that you will actually check and respond to.  If she/he is going to go through the effort of trying to find a home for your girl, the least you can do is take the effort to respond to her.  They are not going to spam your main email account.  They don’t have time for that nonsense.

If you’ve been a Registrar/Recruitment Specialist/Placement Specialist/Whatever your area calls the person who places girls into Troops, what other words of wisdom would you give new Girl Scout parents/volunteers?

New Shoes

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. . . and old shoes.  They are lost the exact same shoe, except I couldn’t find the old model number, which kinda irks me.  When I put those shoes on, they were as comfortable as if I had been wearing them for years – like old denim.  They were the first shoes I had bought in over a decade that were the right width (I have WIDE feet, and generally have to get a size or two larger than my actual foot just to get the width I need).  It made me think I could actually get my real shoe size.  I hated the style of the shoes (very orthopedic looking), but I quickly learned to ignore that in favor of shoes that actually FIT.

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But after 444 miles (according to my FitBit, so add some from before I got it), these shoes were ready to be replaced. The trip to Salt Lake City finally did them in.

The new shoes aren’t quite as perfect on the inside, and even more orthopedic looking on the outside – but they don’t cramp my toes, which can’t be said of 99% of shoes out there.  After 100 miles, they’ll be perfectly beat up and broken in. 🙂

(BTW – did you know that you should replace your shoes every 300-500 miles?  And if you are getting 10,000 steps in a day, on average, that means they should be replaced 4 times a year!)

What didn’t work

The Shoes.

My new boots that I thought I had gotten decently broken in.  Did. Not. Work.  I wore them to my GSU sessions the first morning I was there, and by the end of the first 90 minute session where I was SITTING the whole 90 minutes, I was in agony.  I don’t know if they weren’t broken in enough, or if my feet had swollen from all the walking, or from the altitude.  I just know I was sooooooooo happy I also brought my well-broken in walking shoes.

In fact, they were so well broken in that now that I have put another 30 miles on them over the course of the trip, they are pretty much done for.

The Pants.

I brought two pairs of pants with me, and I am SO grateful I did.  The first pair of pants I bought in May or June.  And then I lost 50 pounds.  Needless to say, they were about 2 sizes too big on me, and hung there, looking like a sack from my waist.  I had originally thought that they would be super comfortable to wear on the way home, you know, big and slouchy.  But come Sunday morning, I could not stomach the idea of wearing them again.  They were lined, and the lining had ripped at some point, making them even worse looking on me.

So I chucked them.  Just threw them away in the garbage.

I wore my other pair of blue pants, which fit perfectly, and saved a little space in my bag.

Laundry.

I had planned on washing my pajamas/workout clothes every morning after my workout in deference to my roommate’s nose.  Yeah, didn’t happen.  I did wash them after the second day, though (because 4 days without washing would have grossed me out), washing and rinsing in the sink and hanging to dry in the bathtub.  They were mostly dry by the time I wanted to get ready for bed, but I did move them and wring them again halfway through the day.

I also brought several dryer sheets to keep everything smelling “fresh”.

Trivial Details – Nails

Confession time:  I’m a nail polish whore.  Makeup on my face just irritates me and makes me sweat, which is why I generally don’t wear any; and I’m planning on bringing minimal makeup with me to Utah.  But I don’t feel “dressed up” if my nails are naked.

This is a fairly recent development, since when I was in school, I was a nail biter.  It took an act of will to leave my nails alone long enough for them to be  paintable.  And of course, my nails are naturally thin with a tendency to snag and rip.  So for the most part, I only needed two bottles of nail polish when I was in school – clear for pantyhose and tights, and black.  If I told you I wore a lot of plaid flannel, I bet you could pinpoint my graduation year pretty closely. 🙂 And since my toes were always locked in combat boots, I didn’t care what my toenails looked like.  Which is a good thing, because . . . lets not talk about that, mmkay?

Cut to now: I have literally every color of the rainbow in nail polish.  Except orange.  Because I hate orange, and 99% of oranges look awful on me.  I have also started going to the salon to get mani/pedis.  This started because my toenails actually were all long enough to do something with, but I’m still too big to be able to pull my knee to my chest and hold it while I try to paint my toenails. Soooooon . . .

For some reason, toenail polish (on me, YMMV) lasts for weeks and weeks and weeks; while polish on my fingernails lasts 2 days, max before getting a chip or snag or something.  Not a problem for me, I just go to my extensive polish collection and repaint.

I am not going to have time to repaint my nails in Utah.

So, I decided to try out gel nail polish (or shellac). Because my nails are so thin, I have never been interested in acrylic nails (seriously, I don’t need thinner nails which are permanently damaged on top of that).  But after doing a lot of research online, I decided that this would be the way to go if I want nice looking painted nails the entire time I was in Utah.  But I wanted to test them.  And luckily, I came to this decision more than a month before my trip. 🙂

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So my nails have had this pretty taupe color on them for the last 12 days.  As you can see, my nails have grown quite a bit since I got them painted (notice the unpainted nail by my cuticles?), but NO CHIPS.  In fact, the gel seems to have protected my nails from the snags I get constantly on the sides of my nails – I’ve only had to file a couple of rough spots over the past week and a half.  I did get a bad snag on my other hand, but I normally am filing every other day so this was definitely an improvement.

The plan is:

  1. Get manicure with gel nail polish.
  2. Go back to salon to get it removed when it looks like crud, or after 2 weeks – whichever comes first. (if it only lasted 3-4 days, it’s not worth it)
  3. Leave nails unpolished (or use my Julep nail polish, which allows oxygen get to the nail bed – important for recovery) for the next couple of weeks.
  4. Get manicure with gel nail polish the Monday before I leave so that my nails are fabulous all weekend long! (I’m thinking navy . . .) (also, remember to bring the sunscreen this time)
  5. Probably never get another gel manicure again, unless I have another trip where I want my nails to look nice for a week or more.
  6. Profit??? *grins*

Have you had a gel manicure?  How was your experience?  Also, if you are a nail polish whore like me and haven’t checked out Julep yet, you MUST GO. 🙂  If you want to help me earn credits, you can use this link.  I really am happy with their monthly boxes, and even splurged on the October full collection, because it’s awesome.  Not all of them are, though (September was fine, it just didn’t make me go “must have ALL THE POLISHES!!” the way October’s collection did).

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap

A while ago, I wondered if Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap was all that it was reported to be. From travel websites to camping websites, it is spoken of in the hushed tones reserved for holy relics.  I wanted to see how it stacked up as a travel product, and how it worked with my finicky hair and skin.

My hair is super fine and super straight.  We are talking so straight and flat that when I have tried to get perms in the past, they fell out by the end of the day.  It used to be that my usual hairstyle was waist length hair, twisted into a knot on the top of my head, easy and it doesn’t matter how thin it is.  (But people were always amazed when I took my hair down because it looks like it would be shoulder length when it is in a bun.)

My skin is red head fair (though my hair hasn’t been red since I was a baby), sensitive and freckled.  For some reason, my body has decided that my 30’s would be the perfect time to have major acne breakouts, instead of my teens.

20140614-082913-30553858.jpgI got a 2 oz. bottle of lavender to take on our trip to San Antonio in June, to see how I liked using just it in a hotel room.  I also wanted to see how much I used.  As you can see, using nothing but this soap for my hair, my body, and some light laundry duty for five days (showering everyday)  I used about half the bottle.  I enjoyed the very herby scent of the lavender, but it may not be for everyone – this is not sweet, but a true lavender smell.  San Antonio has hard water, similar to Houston; so the soap took some coaxing to lather up nicely, but it washed away very quickly and cleanly.  As suggested by several websites, I also used a conditioner to keep my hair my from getting completely dried out.

I also got an 8 oz. bottle of the peppermint scent, to use at home in a controlled environment.  I have to admit, I was curious about the peppermint zing I read about, too.  Well, yeah, it zings, allright!  Once you figure out how to lather up correctly, the longer you let the peppermint soap sit on your body, the more it feels cool and tingly. Especially anywhere you might have a cut or scratch.

I did not try it out as toothpaste.  I just couldn’t bring myself to put soap in my mouth.

My son also used the peppermint, and loves it – but he has a serious thing for peppermint in all forms.

So, my reactions?

  • Out of the bottle, in the shower, the scents are kind of intense, but they quickly fade as the soap gets washed down the drain.
  • I’m not sure I would recommend these as shampoo for people with already dry hair – they seriously strip all the oils off your hair!  And if you have normal hair, I definitely agree with using a conditioner every time.
  • But, that being said, it was amazing for my hair!  My hair dried very quickly without a blowdryer, and fluffed out as it dried – something which doesn’t normally happen, even with “volumizing” shampoos.  I got a pretty style without the need for gel, mousse, or hairspray – which all weigh my hair down and make me sweat when I go outside in the heat and humidity.
  • As a soap it worked as well as other soaps (I tend to use handmade goats milk soaps, or Ivory).  It didn’t make my skin crawl with dryness like Ivory, but it didn’t moisturize as well as the goats milk soap.
  • It didn’t make me break out any worse than I normally do, but I would not recommend using the peppermint for your face.  The fumes get very intense, and the peppermint oil in the soap is not fun to have that close to your eye area (I did not get any IN my eyes, but the delicate skin around them sure reacted!).  Look into “beezin” for info on why peppermint oil near the eyes is bad.

I am worried about taking it to the desert, though.  It worked well in a humid area, and I didn’t notice too much dryness with my skin or hair – but Utah will be a different story.  I remember that the way that first rush of desert air feels when you leave the airport – my gills hurt just thinking about it! 🙂

Does anyone have any experience with using Dr. Bronner’s while traveling to the desert?  Preferably from a highly humid region. *grins* Thanks!