Most people believe the desert is a hot, rough, tough, indestructible environment, but Connie Birkland knows better.
She knows that the high desert environment has cryptobiotic soils that are very fragile and are made largely of micro living organisms.
“You don’t want to step on and destroy these fragile biological soils. You want to keep them intact so that plants can exist. Once you see it you would recognize it,” she said.
Birkland says if these soils are disturbed, the rain and wind will erode something that took hundreds of years to build.
She spent the better part of her adult life educating people about the delicate environment, hoping that arming them with that knowledge will encourage them to stay on the trails during their visit to red rock country in Northern Arizona.
But that part of her life is in the past.
Birkland retired on Jan. 3, after more than 33 years as a Forest Service employee. Most recently, she worked as the public affairs officer on the Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest in Sedona.
“It was more of a service position,” she said. “I supported the district ranger and all the resource shops helping to tell their stories. There is always a lot to tell about what is going on in our National Forest and how to work together to protect our natural resources.”
She also has helped make several videos for use at the visitor’s center, which welcomes about 500,000 visitors a year.
Now, she is on to the next phase of her life as an entrepreneur, selling her own organic bath and body products under the name of Pure Mountain Bliss.
“I would say I have always been interested in healthy living, healthy food and interested in botanical plants and oils.”
Birkland grew up in San Diego where, as a teenager, she worked at the state beaches such as at Cardiff by the Sea and Encinitas.
She said she worked in “little kiosks,” checking people into campgrounds and giving out tourist information.
“I think I lived in every area in San Diego.”
She says she had a wonderful childhood with her parents – her father was an entrepreneur who was always looking for new opportunities. As a result of moving frequently, she learned to adapt and make friends easily.
It was when she took a trip around the country with friends that she decided she wanted to move to the mountains.
She went to college at Utah State out of Logan, where she studied forestry. She met her husband, Denny, in Utah where she was a part-time ski bum, resort maid and waitress. He drove snow cats on the mountain.
“We didn’t get together for a few years,” she said. “We got married after college.”
They have two children: a son, Clint, 26, and a daughter, Alyssa, who is 24.
During her career, Birkland worked in Utah, Montana and finally, Arizona.
“I have been in Arizona for 27 years. Most of my career has been here on the Coconino National Forest,” she said “We love Flagstaff.”
In her free time, she loves playing outdoors, either hiking, horseback riding, skiing or going to Lake Powell.
“I love the outdoors and forest. My family builds our lives around what we like to do. That is why we live in Flagstaff. There is so much to choose from,” she said.
When she decided to retire from the Forest Service, she said she was ready for a change.
“I have been making natural skin products over a long period of time.” She gave them away as gifts to friends and family. They kept asking for more, so she decided to expand her hobby into a business.
“It seemed like the logical thing to do. I know what I like and like to share that,” she said. “It’s a nice change.”
Over the years she has perfected her products, which are primarily lotions, body butters and bath essence.
“I like my own products and I know what is in them. It’s all just pure botanical products and essential oils,” she said. “I’m trying to keep prices low.”
Pure Mountain Bliss is not her first business. She also has a booth in Cobblestone Antiques in Sedona.
“I sell used items, jewelry, antique dishes, furniture and I carry my products there.” FBN
For more information about Pure Mountain Blis,s contact Birkland at www.puremountainbliss.com or call her at 928-853-4617. She also has a Facebook page.