Thursday, April 22, 2010

So What Does Earth Day Really Mean?

Let's get this out right from the start: we're an outdoor recreation company. We love to be outside. Nothing is more relaxing, more exhilarating or more life-affirming for us than to take part in the activities that the great outdoors make possible. So, yeah, we have something at stake when it comes to the state of our planet.

Today, April 22nd, 2010, we recognize Earth Day and we will participate in a number of events this weekend to show our support. We'll be at the Farmer's Market in Kirkwood, on Saturday, April 24 and we'll be in Forest Park on Sunday, April 25 for St. Louis's city-wide celebration. If you're out and about, we hope you'll join us.

But what is Earth Day really about? The first true Earth Day in 1970 was organized by groups fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, loss of wilderness and extinction of wildlife. Unfortunately, the whole concept of "Earth Day" has turned in many places from a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment into a political landmine. Environment issues have become conservative and liberal issues.

Loving political landmines like we do, let me just put it this way – No matter what you've heard about our environment today, research your own facts. Find out whether or not the "truths" you believe in are really the facts. This goes for global warming, water quality, air quality, and much more. So much of the vitriol that is thrown from both sides over the internet is simply half truths at best. We all have our beliefs - and our reasons for them. There's nothing wrong with that. So maybe, if we can all understand why each side believes what they do, then, maybe we can all sit down rationally and find a way to move forward.

And no matter which side of the argument you land on, hopefully we can all agree that this is the only planet we've got.

Hopefully, we can agree to make this the best place for our kids, and our kids' kids, and so on, and so on, to grow.

Hopefully, we can agree to make sure we all appreciate what we've got.

And hopefully, we can agree - for one day - to celebrate this magnificent place we call home.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Spring Wildflowers are near their peak!

But a lot of showy ones are starting to fade. There were a lot of great ones the week-end before last such as Bellworts, Virginia Bluebells, and Dutchman's breeches, but now we are moving into some of my other favorite such as Jack-in-the-pulpits, and Columbines (which I haven't seen any of yet).

Due to our huge swap event this past week-end, I didn't get to get beyond the confines of my backyard, but luckily I have a pretty cool backyard!

Here just a few of the flowers I saw yesterday!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Alpine Shop Ozark Trail Mega Event 4/9-4/11

The Courtois Gap in the wonderfully scenic Ozark Trail is now history thanks to the hard work of over 200 volunteers who devoted their time and energy in this great cause! The weather was beautiful as were the campsites at Bass River Resort and it was a great opportunity to see spring budding out all over this part of the Ozarks.

Here are some scenes from the event week-end.

Thanks again to everyone who came and helped!

from Rich Orr, Angie Bono, Justin Scott, and the rest of the Alpine Shop staff and friends.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Get out on the Ozark Rivers, April 10th -- NOW !!!

Late afternoon (April 10th) and evening pictures of the Current River and it's valley near Cedargrove, MO. The river was running full; about 1-2 feet above normal stage, the redbud was in full bloom; dogwood coming out, temperature 75F, clear skies, light wind. The next 7 days looks to have a nice forecast and the water is perfect. Go take advantage for at least one day !! Stop by Alpine Shop for gear and updates on floats. Love to see you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Watch for Wood Warblers and Vireos this next 30 days

Wood warblers begin to arrive in Missouri for courtship and nesting, and some may be just passing through Missouri to the northern states and Canada for nesting. A few older birds begin their trek from South America, the Caribbean, and Central America in early March. The courtship and nesting begins in early April in Missouri and continues through June.

Warblers are small birds usually colored grey, black, bluish, yellow or orange. They spend much time in the top of trees and along creeks and rivers. Vireos are much the same but often have a buff or greenish tint.

Their songs are buzzy, of low volume, and pretty; so they are not as prominent as the larger ground and bush dwelling bird common here year round.

To view warblers in Missouri, wear rain gear, a good pair of hiking boots, carry a wood warblers guide and a pair of binoculars in a fanny pack. It your plan to photograph them, it take patience and a very good lens of at leans 300mm due to their small size, and high activity. Find a trail along a creek or river; such as Castlewood State Park or the Rockwoods Conservation Area.

I have included a few pictures of some warbler photographed by me in March; a Yellow Warbler, Yellow Throated Warbler, a Common Yellowthroat (raccoon like face) a Northern Water Thrush (warbler), and a White eyed Vireo.

Follow this link to a check-list of Missouri's 428 species of birds from the Audubon Society:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2010 Banff Film Festival Is Coming to St. Louis!

If there's one event that Alpine Shop puts on each year that I think truly represents what we stand for, it's the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. No other event showcases our vision of "Generations Transformed Through Discovery Outdoors" like this.

There is something for everyone here from high-adrenaline thrill seekers to families with small children. More than anything, it shows that adventure is what you make of it. And adventure is what makes us who we are.

We've made our way through all the information we have on the films on tour. From that selection, we've narrowed it down to a total of 13 films over two nights. For the complete list of anticipated films on each night, visit: Please, note - these selections may change based on a number of a reasons.

Join us for an adventure that hopefully spurns you on to your next adventure. Tickets are on sale now only at Alpine Shop locations or over the phone at 314-962-7715. Cost is $10 for a one-night pass or $17.50 for a two-night pass. But, if you'd like to come, I urge you to get your tickets in advance. We sell this show out every year!

And we're still waiting for the first Banff film to come out of St. Louis!

Below is this year's trailer for the show. All the films shown here will not be shown at the festival; but we do promise a night of adventure you won't forget.

The full list of anticipated films on each night, visit:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Paddling season is here!

I have long recommended the Mississippi as an ideal paddle destination but people in St.Louis tend to avoid it out of an unrealistic fear of danger and the misconception that it is too dirty or dangerous to paddle in. It does get a lot of recreational use by power boats in the impounded section above the last of the lock and dams north of town but very little use by paddlecraft. So you can be a real pioneer of sorts.

Here are a few photos of a typical kayak trip on the Mississippi, albeit at a fairly high springtime lever.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why don't more Missourians paddle?

Until the Missouri Department of Tourism switched it's slogan over to "Close to home. Far from ordinary," the catchphrase on our license plates was "Where the rivers run." Our state is actually named after the river, not the other way around, and do you know what the river is named for? It's name comes the word "ouemessourita" which was the Illinois Indian tribe's name for the Siouan people. It translates to "those who have dugout canoes."

For a state who's past and present are so closely tied to rivers, why is it that we have so few true paddlers?

Don't get me wrong, I've been on the Meramec and Huzzah and other Ozark streams and rivers on a Saturday during the summer. I know people use the rivers and have a great time on them. And that's great. But there's a big difference between the "paddler" whose idea of "paddling" is seeing how far he can get down the river before he flips and loses all of his beer, and the paddler who is out on the water to simply enjoy the river, or to fish or to introduce his kids to the art of piloting a canoe.

I've loved paddling all of my life. I've gone from my first trips in an aluminum canoe on the Black to paddling a Kiwi Kopapa down the Russian River in California to an Inazone whitewater kayak to too many other whitewater boats to list here, and on to a Bell Northwind canoe that I take out with my family. I love to paddle, and I'll even deal with the crowds on the weekends just to be out on the water. But, for the life of me, I don't understand why this area - with so many year-long opportunities available to paddle - doesn't produce more world-class paddlers.

Things look like they may be beginning to change, though. The relatively recent addition of the Missouri River 340 to the paddle scene has dramatically affected how Missourians (and other Americans) are viewing our namesake waterway. More people than ever are viewing the Missouri and Mississippi as important recreational vehicles, instead of just things we have to cross over on bridges.

With the economy tanking on us over the past year and a half, many families decided to pick up kayaks and canoes as inexpensive modes of both entertainment and exercise for the whole family.

And organizations like the Missouri Whitewater Association and the St. Louis County Canoe & Kayak Club continue to produce some of the most skilled paddlers for miles around.

If you already are a paddler, I think you know what I'm talking about. If you're not, why not give it a try?

This weekend, Alpine Shop Kirkwood will host it's 10th Annual Great Canoe & Kayak Event. There will be hours and hours of clinics, programs, films and trip reports all designed to get more people a chance to get out on the water. There will also be some great deals across the paddle department on everything from the boat, the method of paddling and the way to get it to the river.

Best of all, nearly everything about the event is free. You've got nothing to lose for coming out and seeing what's out there for you to enjoy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Roger Taylor has passed away

Sadly, Roger Taylor, a strong leader in local river preservation and education efforts died of natural causes Monday, died Monday February 22.

Roger can be remember by his books on the history of the rivers in the St. Louis and Missouri region, the Watershed series, and by his three song contribution to the CD River Voices and Songs, that we carry here at Alpine.

His devotion to and enthusiasm for the rivers of Missouri will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

St. Francis River at Silver Mines on Feb. 21, 2010

Nice runnable water, on a slight rise, on last Sunday afternoon. Reminders:

1. The Great Canoe and Kayak Event at the Alpine Shop on March 5th and 6th.

2. This river is far the experienced boater;

This reach of the St. Francis River (in lower water levels) has numerous rapids in the class II to III range that can pose problems for lazy or inexperienced paddlers in canoes or kayaks, though none is a serious threat to paddlers in rafts except at very high flows. Strong cross currents, haystacks and small holes around the large rocks that create the rapids demand good planning and execution to avoid pinning and/or wrapping a canoe or kayak.

Most hazards can be scouted from your boat in the river, but if there is a doubt about the best line, then beach the boat and take a look before proceeding. The largest rapids will be in the lower 2.5 miles of this 15.7 mile run. None of the rapids should pose any serious problems for paddlers with at least strong intermediate level whitewater skills.

Highway H bridge one mile west of Syenite at 0.0 miles; SH 72 bridge at about 10.7 miles; Millstream Gardens State Forest at about 13.2 miles; Highway D bridge at USFS Silver Mines Campground at about 15.7 miles. There may be other access points along this reach of the St. Francis river.

Friday, February 19, 2010


While I feel that there are many special places on our planet-not the least of which is our beloved Ozarks-there are few places as unique and wondrous as the canyon country of the Colorado plateau in Utah. It would consume-and has-many lifetimes of determined effort by many individuals to see just a fraction of the secret waterfalls, canyons, cliff dwellings, and ancient rock art that abounds in canyon country.

I've been fortunate enough to have gotten to see some of Canada's canoe country wilderness, the High Sierras, the redwood forests which astonished be beyond words, some of the Alps, Rockies, and the Appalachians, but I've never been as awed by God and nature as I always am when I have the pleasure of traveling in Southern Utah. I'm sure this slide show will help other experience a bit of what that part of the Southwest has to offer, even if it does emphasize places that are not yet protected from damage and development.

Rich Orr

Alpine Shop Kirkwood will host a traveling presentation entitled “Wild Utah: America’s Red Rock Wilderness” on Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 3 pm.
Robert Redford narrates this multi-media slideshow documenting citizen efforts to designate public lands in southern Utah's spectacular canyon country as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. This 15-minute journey through red rock splendor invigorates and motivates viewers to participate in the movement to protect these unique lands.
“Wild Utah” was made possible through the generous donation of photos, music and words from concerned Utahans who wish to pass this heritage on to future generations. It will be shown in conjunction with a presentation on the current status of the Utah wilderness movement by Clayton Daughenbaugh, Midwest Regional Organizer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and its partners in the Utah Wilderness Coalition seek to gain local support for the “Citizens’ Proposal” to protect wilderness areas in Utah’s red rock canyonlands. Legislation to do so is currently pending in the United States Congress and administrative decisions by the Department of Interior are ongoing.

“These are spectacular public lands owned by all Americans. As citizens we have a great opportunity to act to protect these special places,” Daughenbaugh said.

Daughenbaugh is also the Chair of the Sierra Club’s National Wildlands Committee and, a former Chicago community organizer, is author of “Common Sense Democracy: How to Complete the American Revolution in Your Neighborhood.”

For more information contact: Rich Orr at 314-775-2144

Monday, February 15, 2010

Official info on bat killing "White Nose Syndrome-WNS"

Hello all MOcavers,

I wanted to clarify some things about our WNS planning at the Missouri Department of Conservation.

WNS is not in Missouri yet. We are checking certain hibernacula this winter--actually most of that is being done by Tony Elliott, my fellow cave/bat biologist from Kirksville, and Derek Shiels, our cave biology assistant. We follow the WNS disinfection rules.

As Mick reported, we are working on our MDC WNS Action Plan, which governs the 290 MDC caves we are responsible for. Actually, we have not closed all 80 known MDC bat caves yet, but that is in the plan once a "WNS trigger" occurs, which would be WNS reliably reported or confirmed in Missouri or an adjacent state. We are working on refining our tiered approach to further triggers, in which we would further control access to other caves. So, the exact sequence of closures is not determined yet.

We did totally close Smittle Cave to permit caving recently. No more permits in the spring and fall for the forseeable future, the primary reason being that up to 500 people were going there, under permits, every year, some from out of state, and we could not adequately prevent the possible accidental introduction of the WNS fungus, Geomyces destructans, with that kind of situation. Smittle Cave is an important site for endangered gray bats year-round, and other bat species. We have seen a decline in the gray bats over the last two years too, so we were concerned about that being caused by too much visitation anyway.

Before I joined MDC in 1998 the official MDC policy was that MDC caves are closed to caving unless signed open or you had a proper permit, which could be granted by certain signs. That was widely misunderstood and ignored by many. With the threat of WNS coming, we think it is necessary to emphasize this existing rule, which is in the Missouri Wildlife Code, adopted by the Conservation Commission many years ago. One change we did make years ago was to remove cave locations from our area brochures, which I changed as MDC's cave biologist. So, we tried to regulate cave access to three types of caves: Class 1 (open if you abide by certain rules), Class 2 (permit access), and Class 3 (closed except for research). These are the same three classes used by the other state and federal agencies in Missouri. With our new emphasis we will be changing our signs to clarify this "closed unless signed open" requirement, especially if WNS hits. But we do not plan to close all of our caves in one move unless it is warranted. We will do it in steps.

Even though we still have our old signs, we have asked our area managers to require that WNS disinfection be required to enter all MDC caves. So, we would appreciate the cooperation of organized cavers, and perhaps y'all could help by informing and teaching others who go in caves.

Some people are questioning the value of disinfecting caving gear, and say that WNS will arrive via the bats anyway. I strongly disagree with that idea. There is strong circumstantial evidence that WNS spreads via both humans and bats, and we need to give our bats the best chance we can. Six specis can be infected so far. We hope to slow the spread of WNS and buy time for our bats and caves in case researchers can come up with an effective treatment method soon. The antifungal, terbinafine, is being researched now.

Some recent news: WNS was confirmed in one bat, Myotis myotis, in a French cave. This revives a hypothesis that WNS came from Europe somehow, possibly via caving gear, and that our bats are less resistant to it. That is just one hypothesis. Other news: A recent test showed that healthy little brown bats got infected after they were introduced into a WNS-infected site in the eastern USA; the site was by then absent of bats and screened to keep the new bats from exchanging. So, once a cave is infected, bats can get WNS from the environment. Also, we recently learned that WNS-infected bats in Pennsylvania had a much higher mortality rate in a site where the cave gate was breached and humans disturbed the bats, than there was in a nondisturbed WNS site. So, human disturbance of bats is still a major factor in their demise, even more so with WNS. Therefore, you can expect to see more cave gates being built on important bat caves, and more enforcement. Those will not solve the entire WNS problem, but there is no one method that will solve the whole problem. We intend to do our part for now, hoping that brilliant scientists will figure out what we can do later on.

We established a Missouri WNS Working Group of biologists, land managers, cave owners and cavers at a meeting on Feb. 5. The purpose of the group will be to exchange information as it comes out from the Fish & Wildlife Service, eastern state agencies, scientists, and our group. I will not be sending out much information until we have completed our MDC WNS Action Plan, we hope by March, maybe later. Many agencies and landowners want to see the MDC plan and possibly follow some of the elements in it, but we do not expect them to simply adopt MDC's approach. They have the right to adopt their own plans. However, MDC does intend to lead an effort to develop a statewide WNS plan, which will mostly be information-sharing and cooperative planning. MDC has state constitutional authority to regulate fish and wildlife in Missouri, so we take that responsibility seriously and hope to help all to work on this problem.

Cavers, master naturalists, college classes, stream teams and others qualified in caving may be able to participate in a cave stewardship program, which MDC hopes to initiate later on. We are not ready quite yet, and it is not really funded yet. Trained cave stewards could help MDC and others by learning disinfection, monitoring abnormal winter bat activity at selected cave entrances, and checking other things under MDC permits. This will not be the style of caving that everyone likes, but I know serious cavers who are already planning to get involved in this.

I would like to compliment CRF, MSS, Chouteau Grotto, Hi Lonesome Master Naturalists, Springfield Plateau Grotto, Kansas City Area Grotto and many other cavers who are preparing wholeheartedly for WNS. We still need skilled cavers to map, photograph and document caves, bats and other resources. We will all have to be more cautious about entering bat caves in the future, including common caves with eastern pipistrelles (tri-colored bats), as they are susceptible too.

Bill Elliott

Missouri Department of Conservation

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jackson Kayak Demo Boats Arrive at Alpine Shop Kirkwood

Back in 2003, I was on pace to hit about 70 days on the river in a whitewater kayak. That June alone, I was planning on spending 17 of the 30 days of the month either creeking or in a playboat clinic.

A funny thing happened, though, on my way to the St. Francis River take out on Memorial Day that year. While playing in a pour-over not 200 yards from my car, I tore my rotator cuff. (Or, at least that's all I thought had happened.) After over six months of pain, three doctors, eventual surgery for impingement syndrome and then three months of recovery, I came out of my "non-boating" period in 2004 with a completely different life: went in single, came out
married; had a different job with Alpine Shop, a new house and a completely different lifestyle. The closest I would get to 70 days on the river was a five day trip I took in October of 2004. Chalk it up to the rigors of family life - and the incredibly hard transition involved with caring for our disabled daughter who arrived in 2005.

So, why the long back story? Because 2010 is the year it looks like I'm getting back on the river. Alpine Shop just got in its first shipment of demo boats from Jackson Kayaks and we're getting everything together for our first demo days in February down on the St. Francis River.

Here's a few shots of the new 2010 boats:

2010 Jackson Fun (L: 6'5", W: 25.2625", weight range: 135-180 lbs.

Then there's the 2010 All-Star:
(L: 5'10", W: 25-3/4" weight range: 130-200 lbs.)

And here's a great shot of the length and volume differences between the 2010 Superstar (on top) and the '10 2 Fun on the bottom. The Superstar is for paddlers between 160 to 230 lbs and is a half inch shorter than the 2 Fun (below) which is for paddlers between 110 and 155 lbs.

Demo Days begin on Saturday, February 13. See you then!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Help Preserve an Ozark Wonder!

As shown in this link to the River Hills Traveler, this April the Mark Twain National Forest is asking for volunteers to help restore the old mill and cabin at Falling Spring in Oregon County, near the Arkansas border.

This very special and unique natural and historic area is about as isolated and unspoiled as it gets in Missouri. But it's very remoteness means that it is very susceptible to neglect and vandalism. The 1920's mill and nearby cabin are wonderful historic relics of the past located in one of the most spectacular parts of the Ozarks near the Eleven Point River and the heart of the Irish Wilderness, a federally designated wilderness area.

This area abounds in natural and historic wonders, ranging from the nearby Wilderness Cemetery to Turner's Mill, spring, and cave on the Eleven Point National Wild and Scenic River.

That makes this is a wonderful opportunity to get to see one of Missouri's wildest corners and help protect and rebuild an important cultural resource for future generations to enjoy!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rollin' for Charity! Alpine Shop Employees & Elite Cyclists Race 100 Miles Indoors for Charities

Two of St. Louis’s top cyclists will go head-to-head this weekend in an indoor race for charity. The inaugural Rollin’ for Charity Indoor 100 Bike Race will pit man versus woman and mountain bike versus road bike in a race to raise cash and ride 100 miles on bicycle rollers at Alpine Shop’s Kirkwood store.

Chris Ploch, the reigning and four-time Missouri State NORBA Mountain Bike Champion, and Carrie Cash, the current Missouri State Cyclocross Champion, will be competing for over four hours to raise funds for the ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter and the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, respectively.

Alpine Shop, employer for both Ploch and Cash, has offered a $500 prize with $350 going to the charity of the first racer to complete the 100 mile race and $150 to the second-place racer’s charity.

The truly unique aspect of this race will be each participant’s bike. While both will ride on rollers - a type of treadmill for bikes known for its difficulty - Ploch will be racing on his Gary Fisher Superfly mountain bike and Cash will be on her Team Vera Bradley Foundation Specialized Amira road bike.

“100 miles on indoor rollers is going to be uncomfortable,” says Ploch. “But nowhere near what my grandmother went through with ALS.”

“Racing 100 miles - especially indoors - is like a puzzle,” says Cash. “You start with a lot of pieces. Eventually, the fewer pieces you have left, the better the picture looks.”

Both riders are aiming to raise $1500 for their respective charities through this competition. Anyone wishing to support Ploch and the ALS Association St. Louis Regional Chapter or to support Cash and the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer can visit for links to the specific charities. Pledge amounts may be made in any amount. All supporters will be entered to win in various drawings throughout the day.

The race will begin at 11 am at Alpine Shop Kirkwood (440 N. Kirkwood Road, 63122) and will run for approximately four hours. To make this fun for both racers, as well as those who come out to support them, mini-competitions will be held each half-hour during the race with prizes given to the winning racers’ supporters.

The Rollin’ for Charity Race is part of the Outdoor Fitness Festival going on Saturday, January 9 at Alpine Shop Kirkwood. Various clinics will be held throughout the day giving tips on using the outdoors to accomplish your 2010 fitness goals.

About Carrie Cash

The current Missouri State Cyclocross Champion, Cash is the co-founder of Team Revolution – a cycling education and advocacy non-profit organization for women. Following three years of racing for her own organization, Cash is heading into her first year as a professional cyclist racing for Team Vera Bradley Foundation. In 2009, Cash had 14 top 20 finishes in major competitions including five top 10 placings.

About Chris Ploch

Chris Ploch is a four-time Missouri State NORBA Champion and currently races for both Team DRJ-Racing and the Gary Fisher 29er Crew Racing Team. He was also the 2009 champion of the Alpine Shop Short Track Dirt Crit Series and has made the move to the Semi-Pro status heading into 2010. Last year, he also participated in the Missouri River 340 River Race and competed with the Alpine Shop Adventure Racing Team at the Goomna 6 Hour Duathlon.

About The Alpine Shop

The Alpine Shop began life in 1973 as a small climbing shop. Today, through its three locations in Kirkwood, Chesterfield and Columbia, Mo., it serves almost every type of outdoor enthusiast—be they backpackers, campers, cyclists, hikers, paddlers, skiers, snowboarders or climbers—with a friendly and knowledgeable staff, cutting edge products and a wide variety of how-to clinics for all activity levels.