Outdoor guide site RootsRated is set to launch in partnership with Grassroots Outdoor Alliance retailer Alpine Shop this week to provide locals and visitors to the St. Louis area with a highly usable guide for discovering local experts’ favorite places for outdoor recreation.
RootsRated is, simply put, an outdoor travel guide. Ever find yourself traveling to a city, wondering where you can rock climb or trail run when you get there? Are you new to your area, or looking to try a new sport? With RootsRated, the best local outdoor experiences are at your fingertips.
This is “expertly-curated” information, which means our local experts have selected their favorite spots for you. You won’t have to wade through dozens of options before making a choice; the 5 or 10 best local spots are right there, so you can pick one and get out there. If you need a piece of gear before heading out, you’ll be able to connect with Grassroots Outdoor Alliance retailers in that region — the same experts who’ve provided the content.
Here’s what Alpine Shop Marketing Director Todd Oswald had to say about the project:
“We’re already a hub of local knowledge for trails, paddling routes, and crags in the St Louis and Columbia regions. RootsRated will give us an innovative way to become the digital hub as well. We’re looking forward to giving our customers another resource to help them get outside themselves.”
RootsRated is going to empower adventurous people to find the most memorable experiences; this platform is the perfect resource for those in search of authentic local knowledge. Find your favorite local places to go and things to do with www.rootsrated.com.
Outdoor Nation was a unique and exciting experience. The 2011 summit I attended took place in St. Paul, Minn. at the University of Minnesota – St. Paul and included about 95 young people ages 16 – 28 from all across the Midwest. While the majority of participants were from the Twin Cities-area there was also a large group of high school students from Chicago and representatives from as far away as Texas!
Issues and Concerns
We began the summit discussing obstacles that prevent youth from spending time outside. The issues brought up ranged from safety concerns in inner cities, to lack of outdoor education in school curriculum, to the rising dependence on technology. We discussed our concerns in broad terms, and through a series of 6 person discussions, followed by large-group votes, narrowed down our broad topics to specific issues we, as a whole, wanted to address. From these specific issues we broke into several small groups to come up with program ideas that we could then implement, and the top four ideas received seed money provided from Outdoor Nation to put their plans into action!
Decisions and Developments
It was neat to be involved in the decision process that lead to implementable, outdoor, youth programs. The four ideas chosen were all excellent and spanned a broad range of topics including: helping start community gardens, mentoring elementary and high school aged youth and trying to influence political leaders. The majority of the participants were from Minneapolis area, so all the programs developed were for that area, although each has the potential to expand to include other regions in the Midwest.
In addition to seeing the existing programs grow, I hope the summits move to new cities each year so they will continue to get a diverse group of participants and expand the reach of their programs throughout the country. I am very glad to have had the chance to participate in this program and to be involved in the initiatives that resulted from the summit, I am excited to see it grow in years to come!
Over a million people a year visit the Current and Jack’s Fork Rivers – otherwise known as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, part of the National Park system – to partake of the amazing natural beauty of the area. The vast majority of those visitors float the streams in canoes, kayaks and rafts. However, paddling is far from the only attraction this park offers to outdoor types. It also offers caves and springs, trails for hiking and horseback riding, camping and even some cycling. In fact, it is quite possible to have a week-long trip in this beautiful national park and never take to the water.
Below are Alpine Shop‘s five best non-paddling destinations to round out your visit to the ONSR.
1. Round Spring & Cave
Located on the upper section of the Current River, Round Spring is a delightful place to visit. The surrounding terrain and mineral content of the water makes the flat surface appear to be curved and the spring opening is almost perfectly circular, thus the name Round Spring. Round Spring adds an average of 33 million gallons of water to the Current River each day. The beautiful spring branch flows under a short tunnel while making its way to the river. This area was one of Missouri’s first State Parks (1932) prior to its inclusion into the national park in 1964. (Note: people are not allowed to swim or wade in Round Spring.)
Nearby is the extremely beautiful Round Spring Cave. The National Park Service offers guided tours by lantern from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There is a small charge for the tour ($5 for adults and $2 for kids) and participation is limited to the first 15 people to buy tickets. These tours are offered daily at 10 am and 2 pm. Tickets go on sale 30 minutes before each tour. While there are over 300 known caves in the park, Round Spring Cave is the only one open to public tours.
2. Rocky Falls
This 40 foot wide cascade is one of the best waterfalls in the Ozarks. Some water flows year-round, but in the spring and after heavy rains will give you the best view of this amazing geologic formation. The falls are located about 22 miles east of Eminence, Mo. off Hwy H. The area includes pit latrines and a small picnic area. The plunge pool below the falls offers a great place for a swim during the hotter months.
3. Blue Spring
Blue Spring, called “Spring of the Summer Sky” by native Americans, is over 300 feet deep. This amazing depth gives the spring its brilliant sky-blue coloration. The area is reached by a gravel road off Hwy 106 east of Eminence, MO and features a picnic area and restrooms. This spring is best visited before the afternoon sun casts its shadow on the spring pool.
4. Big Spring
Big Spring is the one of the largest single outlet springs in the world pumping out over 246 million gallons of water on an average day. This amazing site offers picnic grounds, cabins, a dining lodge, and campground. The beautiful spring branch flows about a half mile to the Current River. Big Spring is located just outside of Van Buren, MO.
5. Klepzig Mill and Shut-ins
Located downstream from Rocky Falls, Klepzig Mill and Shut-Ins is one of the hidden gems of this National Park. You can find this seldom-visited place by following a somewhat rough gravel road (County Road #522) that heads to the left where the pavement ends on Highway NN. The old mill sits along the creek with a fascinating shut-in below. There are no facilities here, just a couple of pull outs for cars. The shut-ins provide a great place for a picnic.
Who goes backpacking for their honeymoon!? What is romantic about hiking 280 miles in three weeks, 30 lb. packs, sleeping on the ground, a lack of showers, freeze-dried meals, bugs, and all other not-so-glamorous aspects of spending days on end in the woods? Honestly, I’m not sure what is so romantic about it; ask me in a month when I get back, but my husband and I are confident it’s how we want to celebrate our marriage. That’s why we are spending the next three weeks backpacking on the Appalachian Trail for our honeymoon.
The idea of backpacking for one’s honeymoon is the antithesis of what a honeymoon is typically all about: pampering yourselves, spending money lavishly, enjoying superfluous comforts of five-star hotels, etc., but it is of no surprise to me that we are choosing a tent and Therm-a-Rests over pillow-topped beds and beaches. After all, the Appalachian Trail is how we met.
I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, known as “thru-hiking” in 2009. It is 2,178.3 miles long and runs from Georgia to Maine. It took me five and a half months. As I was hiking through Pennsylvania, a stranger, my now-husband, Will, offered “trail magic” to me and my hiking buddies. Trail magic can be described as random acts of kindness by strangers to help hikers on their journey. Examples of common forms of trail magic seen on the AT are: rides to town, a bed to sleep in, a home-cooked meal, or a random cooler in the middle of nowhere filled with soda. Thru-hikers rely on the kindness of strangers throughout their journey. Will had a love of the AT, too, but being a teacher during the school year, he knew that a thru-hike was likely not in the cards for him since it’s takes about six months. So, instead, he read books and blogs about the trail and provided trail magic to thru-hikers on his days off during the summer (he worked at a summer camp in Pennsylvania).
I kept a blog throughout my hike which I updated in towns when I had the chance. Through this, Will was able to follow my progress northbound. When he checked in on my blog in early Fall and saw I had completed the trail, he emailed me a note of congratulations. I wrote him back and a couple visits and a few months later, I moved to St. Louis so we could be together. I found a wonderful place of employment at Alpine Shop, which allows me the opportunity to share my passion for the outdoors with customers, as well as the flexibility to pursue my own outdoor adventures, such as three weeks of time off to go backpacking for my honeymoon! And of course, we have been able to completely outfit ourselves with everything we could possibly need for this adventure from the shop! I will be promoting Alpine Shop everywhere I hike on the trail with my new hot pink Alpine Shop Nalgene, too! Gotta represent!
We organically came up with the dream of hiking the entire trail together, in small pieces (known as section-hiking) over our life-time. When thinking about what we should do for our honeymoon, it just felt right to begin our marriage with our first official section hike of the Appalachian Trail. And, as symbolism would suggest, we are beginning at the southern-terminus, Springer Mt., Georgia, and doing the first 280 miles northbound.
There is something special about backpacking with the one you love. There are no distractions. The only worries are food, water, shelter, and physical well-being. It is life and love in its simplest form. There will be sunsets and sunrises, shooting stars and campfires. But let’s not forget the bugs, bears, blisters, and torrential downpours. You need to rely on each other to help make it through the tough times and you get to share in the beauty and magnificence of nature during the good times. Both types of experiences bring you closer to each other and make your relationship stronger – just like real life.
We can’t wait. Who knows when the next opportunity we will have to spend three weeks alone together in the woods will be? Probably retirement.
As outdoor recreation lovers, Alpine Shop employees are naturally drawn to our national parks. As a company, we celebrate their existence, their protection and their continued preservation for our use and our children’s use and our children’s children.
The National Park Service consists of over 375 parks and historic sites covering an amazing range of landscapes, wildlife and history. Below are just a few of the most interesting facts on this expansive park system.
More than 300 million people visited our national park areas in 2010.
The first national park, Yellowstone, was created in 1872 through a law signed by President Ulysses S. Grant. The cavalry was the first caretaker.
The first nationally-proclaimed protected area of public land in the United States, Yosemite, was created in 1864 by the passage of the Yosemite Grant.
The largest living things in the world live in national parks; Sequoia Trees, and the world’s largest carnivore; the Alaska Brown Bear.
National park areas have volcanos, glaciers, white sand beaches, and dinosaur fossils.
Starting in 1910 with “The Immortal Alamo”, filmmakers have been coming to national parks year after year to capture majestic scenery for their productions.
While all of these parks are worthy of protection some hold a special place in the American experience. While there will never be a consensus on which parks are the best we have listed below the ones that have become part of our staff’s hearts and souls.
The 2,221,766 acres of this astounding land make up the world’s first national park. Created in 1872 the park features nearly a thousand miles of trails, over 280 backcountry campsites and 466 miles of roadways.
Within it’s boundaries you will find over 10,000 hot springs, geysers, and other thermal features, dramatic mountain ranges, beautiful rivers, hundreds of waterfalls and some of the best wildlife viewing this side of the Serengeti.
Much of the park sits in an ancient caldera of a super volcano resulting in over 2000 earthquakes in an average year.
This crown jewel of the National Park system in California was the first park to be protected by the American Government in 1864 with the passage of the Yosemite Grant.
Yosemite Valley is famous throughout the world for its waterfalls and the dramatic granite cliffs rising up, in some cases, 5000 feet above the valley floor. The iconic face of Half Dome in the southeast corner of the Valley can be seen on everything from the California quarter, the logos of such respected outdoor companies as The North Face and Sierra Designs and on countless tourist photographs throughout the world.
The park extends for 1169 square miles, 94% of which is wilderness.
This park in NW Montana is dubbed “The Crown of the Continent”. This mountain park lives up to it nick name featuring stark mountain landscapes, dozens of glaciers, and amazing wildlife.
The park has about 700 miles of trails with each one more beautiful than the last. It is a hiker’s paradise with many backcountry campsites to choose from. The Going to the Sun Road is one of the most beautiful drives to be had anywhere. This 52 mile long roadway was constructed in the 1920’s. There are many sheer drops sans guardrails to keep you holding tightly to the steering wheel.
The park is one of he last refuges of the great Grizzly Bear. Other wildlife includes Mountain Goats, Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Lion, Black Bear and deer.
While tiny in comparison to Yellowstone, Yosemite and Glacier National Parks, Arches packs a tremendous amount of things into its borders. Crammed into it’s 76,000 plus acres are over 2000 sandstone arches. Many of these outstanding geologic formations are easily accessible by car and short hikes. A couple of the more impressive arches include Landscape, Double and the states symbol Delicate Arch. The park is just a couple of miles north of Moab, Utah and features a small campground and picnic areas.
Another “can’t miss” Utah park is Zion. This fantastic park offers canyoneering, waterfalls, great rock climbing, and unusual geologic formations. One of the most popular activities is a walk up the Virgin River into the Narrows. On this walk the canyon walls will tower over you rising up to 1500 feet from the canyon floor A convenient shuttle bus system takes you into and out of the canyon proper. There are two campgrounds, lots of trails as well as excellent opportunities for cross county travel.
The old story goes that if you cannot take a great photo in Bryce Canyon you may as well throw your camera away. The park is a series of horseshoe canyons carved out of the top of the Grand Staircase geologic formation. Trails will lead you though a fairyland conglomeration of brightly colored spires, walls, hoodoo’s, and fins.
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!
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.
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.
David Frei and I (Jeff Sona) – members of Team Alpine Shop – signed up for the New Belgium Brewing Urban Assault Ride a week before the race.This is a scavenger hunt bike race starting in Forest Park in St. Louis to checkpoints across the city with various challenges at each one.
Five checkpoints were given to us via the web prior to the event with one mystery checkpoint revealed via a word scramble clue 2 days before the race.That clue was: “antarctic granolalimbo dens”.That turns out to be “Botanical Gardens Climatron”.
A trivia quiz promoting race sponsors and cycling was e-mailed out on the Wednesday before the race and based on the score on the quiz, teams started in three heats, two and a half minutes apart.Our trusty team secretary, aka my wife Carrie – also a member of Team Alpine Shop, scored a second wave start for our team, two and a half minutes back at the start.
After the word scramble, the known checkpoints going into the race were the Botanical Gardens Climatron, Tower Grove Park (Gus Fogt Picnic Area), BicycleWORKS, City Museum, Big Shark and Mesa Cycles.We would collect a bead to put on a chain at each checkpoint.Our route had us going to the Botanical Gardens first and then continuing on to the others with the plan to go to a second mystery checkpoint whenever it made the most sense with our planned route.
175 teams lined up at the start for a 200 yard run to the bikes.150 seconds after the first heat took off, we ran to our bikes.We were pushing hard to make up the time and starting passing teams; so much so in fact, that we arrived at the Botanical Gardens in first place.Unfortunately, no one at the Gardens had any clue what to do with this until a lady finally came out and had us go around to the side just as other teams were getting there.Once directed, we ran around the side to the Climatron.There we were shown the picture below as Mystery Checkpoint 2:
David said “I know exactly where that is. “ Back on the bikes for a quick trip to Tower Grove.We were the first team to Tower Grove Park in South St. Louis where we faced our first challenge.We both put one foot in a pair of shoes with left and right reversed with a Frisbee attaching them at the top holding 3 tennis balls.We had to walk about 50 feet to a series of cones while balancing the balls.We dropped them a couple times.
As we were heading out other teams showed up.Off to BicycleWORKS for the best challenge of the day: adult Big Wheels on a serpentine course.We probably lost a little time spinning out around the tight corners but what a hoot!Instead of putting the beads on the necklace, David was putting them in a pack and kept saying, “I hope this doesn’t have a hole in it!”
A long ride to City Museum followed with us pushing hard with a little tailwind, mostly green lights and light traffic.At the City Museum, other teamswere already in the midst of the challenge: climb 10 flights of stairs to the roof, up three more flights to a tower with a ramp encircling it to the tip top of the tower.The view from the top was absolutely beautiful.Another bead and a slide ride down to the rooftop and then 10 flights back down.From David’s Wild Onion Adventure Racing days he can fly down the steps and beat me down.He ran out, got his bike and had my bike up and ready to go.
From there on to Big Shark. Because teams had their choice of route it was hard to know where we were in the pack.At Big Shark the challenge was for both of us to get on a skateboard together with a plunger and use the plunger as an oar while picking up cans of 3 different colorsfrom buckets at the end of the parking lot.There were five buckets set up and you could only get a single can from each bucket.David was in the front with the plunger and I was getting cans.Got a red one first and rolled past the second bucket and grabbed a blue one; but I overturned the bucket and had to stop on a downhill and pick everything up.We then had to go back uphill and I took the plunger to the back and pushed us up.Another bead and on to Mesa.
At Mesa we did the wet sponge toss to a laundry basket on David’s head.We had to catch three.We got three in a row but they didn’t see the “swoosh” laid down on shot number 2 so we did one more.One more bead and to the last checkpoint which was Roxy Paine’s 56-foot-tall stainless steel tree outside the St. Louis Art Museum.When we got there we were the first team there and we realized it looked like we would win because it was our last checkpoint.We picked up our seventh and final bead, placed it with the rest that were luckily all in the pack, strung them and had a short trip back to the finish.
We came in to the parking lot where Carrie was cheering and happy to see us in first place.We pulled our bikes into the field, took off our bike shoes and went through the blow up obstacle course.Taking the the kids to Bounce U had me done before David and we handed them our beads with a winning time of 1:23 and went to check out our new cruiser bikes!
Excellent after party.Many teams had great costumes and there was a bike limbo and other games and frivolity.Do this race next year!You won’t regret it.
On the evening of July 25 into the morning of July 26, Team Alpine Shop was hard at work in the Bonk Hard Racing Dusk To Dawn Adventure Race. Nine hours after their start, our team consisting of Carrie and Jeff Sona, David Frei and Doug Nishimura, have another win in the books.
Here’s Carrie’s account: Doug, Jeff, David and myself headed to Lake Perry for D2D.We have done this race all 4 years and love the format.Race mantra- “Start at dusk and finish at dawn- racin’ in the cool of the night”.
The pre-race meeting was at 7:30 pm and we got the maps.With all of us relegated to reading glasses except our youngster Doug, at 40, we were happy to see that all the controls were marked and we didn’t have to plot.The race start was moved up to 8:30.We went back to the TA and got busy route planning.We would start on foot and then we would come back to the TA once early and then not til the finish. The start was moved to 8:45 and we lined up.Jason held up the flag, played the national anthem and then shouted go.Fast and furious start as usual.About a mile road run to 3 controls in the woods that could be obtained in any order.Mass crowd to CP 1 and 2 and then on the way to 3 some teams cut off at a pond that didn’t seem far enough to Davidso we kept going.We were in and out of 3 at the front and headed back to the TA.We were happy that the 3rd control was a little challenging to separate the field.Total mileage of the first O section was at 4 miles.A couple of solo racers got back ahead of us by a couple of minutes.Next up was heading out on bike and then to a bike drop.Exciting event for 1st section- Doug lost his shoe in thick mud twice.
Afew miles ride to get out of the park to a bikewhack to the road.We saw Phil (soloist) taking the hill to the left of where we went up.We got up the road farther and saw a 2 guy team ahead and passed them.Then we saw Eric (soloist) and were feeling good as we were in the lead with them.Phil and Eric stuck with us until we got to the paddle.Few uneventful controls on the bike before the bike drop.22.5 miles to the bike drop followed by the second trek section that looked like straight forward follow the trail type stuff to the paddle put in.We were disappointed that the nav was easy but it turned out to be more challenging than we thought.Staying on the trail was difficult.David didn’t want to give up on it and just head south as finding it again when it petered out could prove tough.He was right so we pace-counted and stayed focused to keep track of where we were on the map closely.With his careful nav we went right to everything and got to the canoe.Second trek ~ 4 miles.Gear check with some nice identical twin sisters at the canoe and then we started paddling.Exciting event for section 2- I went down hard on my left hip on the gravel skidding to a stop at one of the controls.I have a big bruise there now as a result.
At the paddle, Eric and Phil got to paddle their kayaks while we had lovely aluminum canoes.We chose to take only 1 kayak paddle (for me) but the paddle was twice as long as we thought as we didn’t realize we were going to paddle to our bikes and then put them in the canoes with us and take them to the paddle take out.The paddle was beautiful with a crescent moon and perfect temperature. We paddled to the bike drop to load up our 50 + pounds of expensive weight and secured them in the boats and headed out.The soloists had their bikes moved for them as they were in kayaks so they got to keep moving and we got behind them and never could catch them again.Bushwackers was the closest team to us and we knew they took kayak paddles so were worried.We saw the Bushwackers glow sticks as we headed out of the CP.Jeff was bumming he didn’t have a kayak paddle and was moving his little canoe paddle like crazy.We paddled to the take out and kept looking back but we never saw Bushwackers.Paddle 9.2 miles.Exciting event- lake so shallow in the middle of the lake that Jeff got out and pushed at one point.
At the boat take out we unloaded our bikes and had a 3 point O section.As we headed out we saw Eric finishing the O.We had a little problem with one on the shoreline that took a few minutes but no major deal.When we got back to head out for the last bike section we saw Bushwackers coming in from the paddle.O section 3 miles.
Last bike was ~ 20 miles with 6-7 of it a rocky, single track section.First section of single track was fun but by the end I was losing my sense of humor with the rocks and ready to get to the finish!There was a night trail run on the same trail that night and there were pink ribbons and glow sticks adorning our route but the prettiest sight were the jugs and igloo coolers full of water at the CP in the middle of the single track.We were all at the end of our water so we guzzled, filled up some bottles and headed for the finish.Crossed the line just before 6 am.Exciting event- 1st place finish!
Results/splits http://www.bonkhardracing.com/races/dusk_2_dawn/results.asp.Good race all the way around.Well organized, fun format, CP’s spot on.Sadly, Jason says this is the last year for D2D at Lake Perry but we’re hoping he finds another spot for this great race.Thanks to Jason, Laura, Kelly Sumner (course designer) and all the volunteers.