Kayak Fishing and Hiking in Illinois and Missouri

This past May I went back to my old stomping grounds to visit some family, kayak fishing with my dad, and do a little day hiking. The area I visited is on the Illinois/Missouri border and has many great fresh water fishing ponds and rivers.

Many of the areas my dad and I fish are private ponds that are on his friends land or at a state park in Missouri called Wakonda. A lot of what I was fishing for when I went back up north was bass, blue gill, crappie (sacalait), and catfish. When we went to his friends pond in the Illinois countryside we caught a lot of crappie and ended up doing a fish fry with them later that week.

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A couple of the crappie my dad and I caught at a private pond and at Wakonda State Park.

 

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Spring time in Illinois and Missouri is full of greenery and flowers. Couple this with amazing 70 degree weather and you get the perfect conditions for day hiking the hilly countryside.

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A black eastern grey squirrel we saw on a day hike in Missouri.

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One of the overlooks of the Mississippi from the Missouri side of the Mississippi

Gear Used During the Trip

Columbia Tamiami L/S Fishing Shirt- Offers great UV protection and is quick drying for when you get a little wet.

Free Fly Breeze Short- An amazingly comfortable short for travel, athletic wear, and fishing. Dries quick, lightweight, and comfy. A great “do-whatever” short.

Exoficcio Give-n-Go Boxer Brief- The best underwear I have ever owned, Never bunches up and dries fast if you take a dive into the water.

Costa Fathom 580p Sun Glasses- Lightweight, polarized sunglasses that help you see into murky water while in the kayak.

Keen Uneek Sandal/Shoes- Breathable, lightweight, and comfortable. These will give you great footing on the boat, dock, and bank while fishing, and if you do get them dirty they are easily hosed of for your next adventure.

Yeti Tundra 35- If you are looking for an ice chest that is great for every occasion, look no further. This ice chest is great from the kayak to the car for the road trip. Put it through anything and youll still have ice at the end of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing at a Rock Near You! (approximately 7.5hrs)

Sand Rock (Cherokee Rock Village) and Horse Pens 40 are both just north of Birmingham, AL. It’s early April and it’s a gorgeous weekend to #geauxoutthere!

Sand Rock is a maze of cliff sides, pinnacles, chimneys and boulders over looking the Coosa River.  There’s plenty of Sport and Trad to be had here, along with some bouldering. The park has developed a good bit over the years, and there’s a fairly new restroom and shower facility along with a large pavilion area. It’s also easy access; you can park and camp right on top the cliff, and there’s sure to be a route right at your camp site, so watch where you put your tent. And because you’re at the top of the cliff there’s a number of places where you can set up a top rope too. We started our weekend here to get some sport climbing in before we headed back down Hwy 59 for a bit to boulder at Horse Pens 40 the following day.
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Carolina led Pigs In Zen 5.10d! Really fun; I highly recommend this one!

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Here’s Lindsey strutting her stuff on My Dog Has Fleas, 5.8+ in her Prana Meme pants!

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And then there’s me finishing up First Black In Office 5.9.

When the sun starts to go down and it gets a little cooler and you still have plenty of time to be active, I throw on my Smartwool 250 top to stay comfy and keep my body temperature just right.  And when I’m chillin’ at the top cleaning up gear for a rap down or just hanging out mid route to take a breather, the Black Diamond Primrose harness provides just enough comfort. If you’re about to head out on a climbing trip and realize you need a few more slings, an extra quick draw or a random footage of cordelette for a prusik or anchor, we got ya covered; come swing by the store and tell us all about your trip!

Day two at HorsePens40 (home of one of the Triple Crown Bouldering Competition.) With over 400 routes on sandstone the variety is incredible, from cracks to slabs, jugs to crimps, and plenty of slopers in between.  Also, extremely easy access, not only do you get to camp amongst this city of boulders, you’re also only a few yards from Lookout Point, the best place to watch a sunset or do some early morning stretches.

After our early morning stretch, Matt came to grace us with his presence, on his drive out to Greenville, SC where he is moving after 5 years at The Backpacker! If you’ve ever been to The Backpacker in the past five years, you’re sure to have met Matt. He’s that guy; that guy that showed you how to pack a pack, that guy that helped you fix your broken stove, or schooled you on what you need and don’t need for that trip to Philmont or the slopes in Colorado. He’s that guy that biked from Saint Francisville to work and back on a regular basis. He surely spent more time educating you than you may have expected but it was probably worth it. I just wanted to give a shout out to his big butt, and if his can fit in the Prana Zion short, so can yours!

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Matt on Contraband V1

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Another view of Contraband. I’m rocking the Prana Halle pant here; they are able to stretch and twist with me and are still durable enough to take a beating from the rock; hands down my favorite pant. And the TASC Core Racer Tank is so soft and comfy you won’t want to take it off; made of about 50% bamboo, naturally wicking and anti-odor.

As far as shoes go, La Sportiva’s Finale is my new go to climbing shoe, just the right balance of performance and comfort. The Vibram XS Edge rubber outsole and a tensioned heel rand allow for higher-end technical performance than say the Tarantula or Mythos. While at the same time, they aren’t super aggressive; I can keep them on for more than just a single climb.

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The Stranger V2

Goal Zero makes tons of great products to keep you charged up while out on your adventures. I like the Torch 250: solar recharge panel built in to give your phone or camera an extra boost, and it doubles as a flashlight and flood light if you get caught on the trail after the sun goes down.

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Need approach shoes or a can crusher? Matt’s got ideas.

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Lindsey flashing Merlin V1

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Cool rock formations make for some fun scrambling.

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Meanwhile, Carolina crushes this V3+, Panty Shields. Look out y’all!

Hi my name is Shelly and I’m addicted to Prana, Smartwool and Climbing. I’ve been working at The Backpacker for over 2 years. I love hearing about our customers adventures and sharing photos; come by and see us before you #geauxoutthere!

Walter’s Rock Climbing Trip to Joshua Tree

I ventured away from Louisiana a few weeks ago and went to Southern California to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree is located near Palm Springs about an hour and a half from Los Angeles County.

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I visited May 9th – May 12 and the weather was highs of 75 and lows of 45, overall great weather. We found a spot at Jumbo Rock campground that was a first come first serve campground with 124 spots. It was a nice campground because it was surrounded by boulders and there were some trails nearby. We packed pretty heavy because we decided to car camp so we didn’t hesitate on what not to bring. One essential was an awning. Joshua Tree is a desert so there is not much natural shade and the sun can beat you down. Other things to mention is you have to bring your own water and most campgrounds only had outhouses and no potable water.

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To highlight some of the gear I used Camping:

Helinox Chair One – Super comfortable and only 2 pounds!

Helinox Table One – Compact, great to play card games on and lightweight.

Big Agnes 4 person Tent-Spacious and easy to pitch great for car camping.

Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight- Gives lots of light (has floodlight and flashlight settings), has the capacity to charge electronic devices, and recharges itself with built-in solar panel. 

Our main reason for traveling to Joshua Tree was to check out the climbing. Since I was traveling, to cut down on the weight we focused on bouldering.(Really wished I had some rope though!) 

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IMG_0437This photo was provided by Scott Poupis.

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Climbing gear I used:

Black Diamond Mondo Pad-Great large pad, downside it is really expensive to check on a plane. My solution was I found I could mail it via USPS priority two days and that cost me around $55.00.

La Sportiva Skwama’s- I was super happy with these shoes because they were easy to get on my feet and were more comfortable than other aggressive shoes I have tried on in the past. They are sensitive enough for small chips and the heel fits great allowing good use of a heel hook.

Friction Labs Bam Bam Chalk – Honestly, I use whatever chalk is available to me. But, friction labs I do believe last longer and I find myself chalking my hands less.

Prana Brion’s – These pants are my favorite because they look good and they stretch. I can do anything in them from hiking, working, climbing or whatever else the day calls for.

The last day of our trip we used just to hang out around camp and enjoy all the beauty of Joshua tree. #geauxoutthere

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Til my next adventure!

Wetland Conservation Project

The Youth Wetlands Program has groups of students come down every year from the Edmund Burke School of DC, to help restore receding coastline by planting native Louisiana Irises. This year The Backpacker and Everybody Plays Foundation got to partner up with them, and were a huge help in transporting and guiding the group along the way. And of course they had loads of questions about the effects of Katrina and they knew very little of the Great Flood of 2016, which we were sure to share our stories. Oh and they all had questions about alligators and what to do if you see one? are they going to attack the boat? what if I fall in?  Let’s just say we had a fun time with these students from the city.

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Loading up and heading to Cane Bayou!

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This is probably 500 Louisiana irises. They can produce asexually, where multiple flowers can come from just one bulb. Which means they can also be invasive, so we are relocating these where they will actually be useful and help better solidify a marshy coast.

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Gator siting! Thankfully everyone remained fairly calm and the gator didn’t eat anyone, at least not in our group.

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Osprey nest

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Erin Sullivan of Everybody Plays Foundation is explaining the root system of the irises we are about to plant.


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“Ew, why does this mud smell like fart?”

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This katydid was a big deal. “AHHH, something’s on my leg!” “Does it bite?” “How did you just catch it like that?”

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Louisiana’s wetlands are home to a diversity of wildlife, and provide a much needed natural barrier against the storm surges that occur during hurricanes. Just 1.3 miles of wetlands can reduce a storm surge by a foot. That is a foot less water coming onto land during a storm—the wetlands are vital to reducing erosion of the coastline and destruction to lives and property.

Restore Louisiana Now is a great resource to learn more about the eroding coastline.

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A lone iris already in bloom on Cane Bayou! Hopefully where we planted will also look this solid.


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We got down and dirty and had a lot of fun doing our part. Thanks again to everyone that helped make this a success!

 

Lindsey’s Ski Trip to Steamboat

Instead of hittin’ the Mardi Gras parades, I decided to hit the slopes with Backpacker Tours! I had an awesome experience traveling with our team, from the charter flight (direct from BTR) to the Apres Ski Party!

 

Caroline and I @ Apres Ski Party
Caroline and I @ Apres Ski Party

 

This was my first time skiing in Steamboat, and I definitely recommend what it has to offer. It had been a few years since I last skied, but the wide variety of trails from beginners to experienced skiers made Steamboat an ideal spot for me to hit the slopes again.

While in Steamboat I stayed at Trailhead Lodge. Trailhead had great amenities including transportation to the Mountain via Gondola, not to mention complementary ski/ snow board and boot storage with boot warmers! Did I mentioned boot warmers?!

 

View from Trailhead Lodge
View from Trailhead Lodge

 

My top gear picks…

– The FERA Jen Insulated Parka had a incredible fit along with great insulation and lots of functional pockets! The pockets were perfect for storing my wallet, phone, keys and my Goal Zero Charger.

The FERA Lucy Pant had all the features I needed and wanted while skiing. The Lucy Pant had a variety of features from DWR waterproofing, stretch, articulated knees and powder cuffs.

 

Fera Jen Parka and Lucy Pant.

 

The North Face Glacier 1/4 zip I used as a layering piece on colder days on the mountain. The Glacier 1/4 zip is a light weight fleece that you will get multiple uses from the slopes to back home on a chilly day.

Sorel Joan of Arctic boot kept my feet warm and dry!

Smith Transit goggles are a must. My first few days of skiing it snowed and the Transit came in handy!

 

Smith Transit goggles
Smith Transit goggles

 

Lindsey has been with The Backpacker for over 3 years. She is the apparel, footwear and accessory buyer. Her favorite brands include Prana, Dylan by True Grit, FERA and Tasc.

How to Layer for a Spring Ski Trip

Planning a spring ski trip? Be sure to pack lots of layers. You’ll be glad you did. Weather can be hard to predict for February, March, and April skiing. Keep reading for a practical guide on what layers to pack the next time you hear the mountains calling.

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Beautiful from the inside out. Each layer has an important function, and it’s fun to color coordinate the entire ensemble. Here’s what I packed for my cross country ski trip to the Continental Divide’s Boreas Pass Section House in mid-March 2017. The temperature low’s were in the upper 20s, and the high’s were in the lower 60s.

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Three Layers on your Torso, Two on your Legs 

BASELAYERS: Next to your skin you want clothing that is either synthetic or wool, and absolutely not cotton. This distinction is important because cotton holds moisture whether it’s from perspiration or snow. Once the cotton is wet, it becomes cold and makes you shiver. On my mid-March trip to Breckenridge, I wore The North Face Reaxion Tank underneath a Smartwool Lightweight Crew. The extra core warmth provided by the tank in the morning also doubled as a 3:00 pm escape from the heat when I was ready to soak up the sun in 60 degree weather. I prefer wool over synthetic for my long sleeve because I can wear it several days in a row without fear of it smelling of sweat. My husband, Clayton, is warm natured and often wore just his baselayer and no jacket. We both wore Smartwool Lightweight Leggings.

MIDLAYER: The perfect midlayer for me is a light puffy jacket. I prefer a puffy over a fleece because of it’s weight to warmth ratio. In other words, it is much warmer while being lighter weight than a fleece. It slides into my coat with ease, and I don’t feel constricted in the sleeves. It also takes up less room in my luggage. If you decide to wear fleece, the thickness depends on how insulated your outer shell is and what the weather conditions are. I wore an Arc’Teryx Atom LT as a midlayer in the morning and evening. It also ended up being used as an outer shell most of the trip because the temperatures were so warm and sunny.

OUTER SHELL: Spring skiing weather can vary from warm and sunny to cold and snowy. That being said, I prefer a lightly insulated, waterproof jacket that I can layer under according to the weather that day. On my mid-March trip to Breckenridge, I found myself only wearing my outer jacket over my midlayer in the morning and after sunset. I didn’t need it mid-day because it wasn’t snowy, but I was glad to have it when the temps plummeted. Speaking of plummeting, my North Face Ski Pants came to the rescue keeping me warm and dry even though I fell numerous times!

Aside from all the layers, here’s a handy checklist for everything else to pack for your next snowy exploration: The Backpacker’s Winter Hike Checklist

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If you’ve got the guts, we’ve got the gear!

Canoeing and Paddling Gear Checklist

Canoeing and Paddling Gear Checklist

Getting ready for whitewater or maybe just a relaxing paddle down a remote river? We’ve got you covered.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Clothing
Outerwear

  • waterproof/breathable jacket
  • waterproof/breathable pants
  • fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • waterproof gaiters
  • synthetic hiking pants
  • synthetic shorts

Base Layer

  • midweight long john top
  • midweight long john bottoms
  • long sleeve T-shirt
  • synthetic briefs
  • synthetic sports bra
  • synthetic T-shirt

Accessories

  • wool or fleece hat
  • midweight wool or fleece gloves
  • Footwear
  • boots, sneakers, or sandals
  • camp footwear (optional)
  • wool or synthetic socks (3)
  • liner socks (2)

Extras

  • sun hat
  • personal locator beacon (optional)
  • bandanna

Gear
Canoeing Specific Gear

  • tripping-style canoe (16-17′)
  • personal flotation device (PFD)
  • throw rope
  • paddle (straight or bent shaft) and spare
  • drybags
  • plastic map case
  • waterproof binoculars
  • duck boots (optional)

Other Gear

  • Internal or external frame backpack
  • three-season tent
  • down or synthetic sleeping bag (15° to 30°F)
  • inflatable sleeping pad
  • canister stove and fuel canisters
  • lighter and waterproof matches
  • cookset
  • eating utensils, bowl, and insulated mug
  • headlamp w/extra batteries and bulb
  • 32 oz. water bottles (2)
  • water treatment (filter, tablets, or drops)
  • pocket knife or multitool
  • compass or GPS (and map)
  • sunglasses
  • first-aid kit with personal medications
  • stuff sacks
  • assorted zipper-lock bags
  • bear-bagging rope (or canister)
  • insect repellent (optional)
  • mesh head net or suit
  • sunscreen (SPF 15+)
  • lip balm (SPF 15+)
  • toilet paper and trowel

Swamp Hiking / Paddling Gear Packing Checklist

Swamp Gear Packing Checklist

Ready to get wet and wild? This packing list will prepare you for any swamp trek.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Clothing
Outerwear

  • waterproof/breathable jacket
  • waterproof/breathable pants
  • fleece jacket or wool sweater
  • waterproof gaiters
  • synthetic hiking pants
  • synthetic shorts

Base Layer

  • cotton T-shirt
  • synthetic T-shirt
  • synthetic briefs
  • synthetic sports bra

Accessories

  • synthetic liner gloves

Footwear

  • camp footwear (optional)
  • waterproof hiking boots
  • wool or synthetic socks (3)
  • liner socks (2)

Extras

  • sun hat
  • rain hat
  • bandanna

Gear

  • internal or external frame backpack
  • screen tent or tarp
  • synthetic sleeping bag (30° to 50°F)
  • inflatable sleeping pad
  • trekking poles
  • canister stove and fuel canisters
  • lighter and waterproof matches
  • cookset
  • eating utensils, bowl, and insulated mug
  • headlamp w/extra batteries and bulb
  • 32 oz. water bottles (filter, tablets, or drops) (2)
  • pocket knife or multitool
  • compass or GPS (and map)
  • sunglasses
  • first-aid kit with personal medications
  • personal locator beacon (optional)
  • stuff sacks
  • assorted zipper-lock bags
  • sunscreen (SPF 15+)
  • lip balm (SPF 15+)
  • toilet paper and trowel

Dayhiking Gear Checklist

Dayhiking Gear Checklist

Ready your gear quiver for a for a full day outing.

by: The Backpacker Editors

ON YOUR BODY

  • Synthetic short-sleeve t-shirt
  • Lightweight synthetic shorts or trekking pants
  • Synthetic briefs or boxers
  • Synthetic bra
  • Wool hiking socks (liner socks optional)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat
  • Gaiters (optional)
  • Hiking shoes or boots

 

IN YOUR PACK

  • Midweight synthetic or fleece long-sleeve top
  • Waterproof/breathable jacket or windproof shell
  • Waterproof/breathable pants (optional)
  • Extra pair of socks (optional)
  • Wool or fleece hat
  • Lightweight gloves
  • Sunscreen (SPF 15+)
  • Map
  • Compass or GPS
  • Headlamp
  • Extra food
  • Water bottles and water treatment (drops, tablets, or filter)
  • First-aid kit (with personal meds)
  • Firestarting kit
  • Toiletries and trowel
  • Personal locator beacon (optional)

COLD WEATHER ADDITIONS

  • Down or synthetic insulated jacket
  • Emergency shelter (bivy sack, tent, tarp)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Fleece pants
  • Insulated gloves or mittens