Saturday, November 24, 2007

Drinking Coffee is for the Birds!

I came across something interesting that you may want to think about the next time you pull in for that double shot half caff super grande mocchassippi. I picked up a brochure from an organization called They promote awareness for shade-grown coffee and how it benefits migratory bird species. Here are a couple of highlights:

Shade Grown Coffee:
Grows on forest like foarms that provide viable habitat for an estimated 150 species of migratory birds.
Needs fewer chemical fertilizers.
Grows among several layers of diverse trees, flowers, and plants that provide additional income and a healthy environment for farmers and local communities.
Tastes delicious! Bean mature slowly, creating a robust, full and pleasing flavor.

Sun coffee plantations:
Involve clear cutting the forest.
Cause a dramatic reduction in biodiversity
Expose the landscape to open sun, increasing the intensity of land management through regular chemical fertilization and erosion control.

So - I thought some of you might like looking into the issue of shade grown coffee. Since as Americans, most of us drink lots of coffee, we can have an impact by making choices and letting our stores and coffee shops know that we want shade grown coffee. As consumers, we vote with our choices. Let's take this one small step for migratory birds by requesting shade grown coffee!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kayak Fishing Paradise

"Those Florida guys come over here and fish a tournament and they'll tell you 'we got the pretty water, but ya'll got the fish'". No sooner had those words come out the mouth of our guide Danny Wray than a big redfish hit Becky's line. The reel whined with that high pitch sound of line being stripped by a big strong fish. Becky pulled up on her rod and I watched with (just a little) jealousy as it bent almost double. Her screams of delight were so fun to watch. Danny said mid-fight "you gotta quit smilin' so much!". That wasn't going to happen.

We were a couple of hours in to a guided kayak fishing trip with Danny Wray of Calmwater charters in Grand Isle. This was our first official "Pack & Paddle Staff Trip". Almost everyone was in attendance: Amy, Loren, Matt, Johnny (who had helped in our construction), Becky and I were there. All others were sitting miserably at home wishing they were there.

We had arrived at the Grand Isle camp of Danny and Kristin Wray the night before. Danny had the barbeque pit going with some huge slabs of fish on the grill. Kristin was upstairs preparing the rest of the feast for us. After supper, we headed to bed to get ready for an early start. In the morning after a great breakfast we headed for the put-in. Sworn to secrecy by Danny himself, I can't divulge the spot - but we were soon in the marsh.

After about 20 minutes, I realized I hadn't seen a motorboat (or any other boat) out here. The reason is simple. You can't drive a motorboat in the shallow waters of this marsh - leaving it all as a paradise for kayak fishermen. There was literally nobody out there but us (and a lot of reds). The day started with a good omen when I caught a flounder on my first cast. When I got it in the boat, I didn't know what to do with it. Kristin was off with Amy across the marsh. I turned back and forth with the fish, put it in the rear cargo area, then thought that wasn't a good idea. I picked it up again, turned left, then right trying to decide what to do with it and with a flip of it's tail, it was swimming free back in the waters of the Louisiana marsh - a little older and wiser.

We fished the edges of the marsh grass in the coves and pockets that the irregular surface creates. I was popping my cork, distracted by some birds flitting in the marsh grass when a redfish slammed my line and took it on an abrupt path out towards the middle of the channel - the reel screaming as the fish steamed away from my kayak. I was shocked that I was actually catching a fish. Especially a fish bigger than a bream. I am famous in my family for catching small fish. I've actually caught fish that were not a whole lot bigger than the minnow we were using for bait today! But this time, I was on the other end of the line from a the biggest fish I've ever caught in my life. I have to tell you - it was so fun. Wow.

The group came back together at a confluence of channels, then spread out again - this time Becky and I were with Danny. We fished some spots where channels came into other channels. One of these spots was where Becky caught her big fish. Then it was time to start heading back to the take-out. On the way, I spotted a school of reds swarming along the bank with their black backs out of the water. Danny and I paddled hard to get in front of them as they came up the bank. Danny said "Throw 10 yards in front of them. Whatever you do, don't throw it into the group - keep it in front" as we paddled to get ahead. I knew I would only get one throw - and my casting is not what you'll see on those fishing shows - so I hoped I wouldn't blow it. We got ahead and both casted. Danny's was perfect (of course) and mine was maybe 5 feet in front. Good enough. Both of our reels were screaming at once as the redfish dragged our kayaks around the channel. This time it was Becky who was jealous.

As we drove home, we were commenting about how people from Louisiana will travel to Colorado to hike or ski. If you want to kayak fish for reds, South Louisiana is where people come - from all over the country. We live in a paradise for kayak fishing and the possibilities are endless. Miles and miles of marsh accessible only to kayaks that are literally teeming with redfish and speckled trout compliment tons of options for bream and bass in the fresh water. Maybe the best part is getting there under your own power and being in places you can't get in a motorboat. Letting your mind drift while watching that bird in the marsh grass - until wheeeeeeee - your line is screaming and it's time to get to work.

We would like to personally thank Danny and Kristin Wray - our hosts in Grand Isle for the weekend. Their hospitality as much as their fishing expertise made our trip awesome. We ate great food, had fun hanging out with them and (of course) enjoyed our kayak fishing experience. Kristin and Danny run Calmwater Charters ( - a kayak specific guiding service. Next time you're headed to Grand Isle, give them a call - and tell them the folks from Pack & Paddle sent you!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Glamping Anyone?

Becky found the following article in the November issue of Readers Digest. I'll allow ya'll to draw your own conclusions...

"Roughing It Goes Soft"
Here's a new term to get used to: glamorous camping, aka glamping. It's luxe leisure for those who want to get back to nature without leaving their creature comforts behind. At the Paws Up resort in Montana's Big Sky country for instance, guests pay $595 per night to sleep in a tent that comes with a butler who builds campfires and a maid who turns down the heated down comforter. Better pack the fine china along with the calamine lotion.

Well- As I said, I'll let ya'll draw your own conclusions about Glamping. Feel free to click and comment on this article!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Elephants, Yaks, Base Jumpers... Oh My!

I am blogging today from Banff, Canada where Becky and I are attending the 32nd Banff Mountain Book and Film Festival. We have spent the last few days listening to authors and watching films - all centered on Mountain Culture and activities. If you're a climber, hiker, kayaker or general outdoor enthusiast, this event should be on your life list. It is thought provoking and inspiring.

We saw John Harlin III do a live presentation on his book "The Eiger Obsession" in which he describes going back to climb the Eiger 40 years after his father died on the mountain. His emotional recounting of the events were worth the trip by itself. We then heard from several other authors over the next couple of days about their books. Lunches are a "Literary Lunch" with a reading from an outdoor author.

Yesterday the Film portion of the event began. My favorite film was a documentary on Base jumping called "20 Seconds of Joy". Also we enjoyed a documentary showing the plight of the Pygmy Elephants in Borneo as well as a documentary about Joe Simpson of "Touching the Void" fame talking about the thread of climbing in his life and how he feels about climbing several years removed from the accident. Another great film showed the annual migration of Yak herders in Nepal - showing how even though their culture is virtually untouched, the problems of cheap import of salt threatens their unique way of life. It is reminiscent of the Chinese Crawfish import problems of our area.

I hope this blog entry starts to whet your appetite for Mountain Culture style films at our Venue at Pack & Paddle. Our first "Movie Night at P&P is coming up less than 2 weeks from now on November 13th!!! Mark it on your calendar. This will be a great film and a wonderful happening for the Lafayette Outdoor community.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blue Jeans in the Sky with Diamonds

I guess the first cool, crisp fall days in south Louisiana will do it to you. This week, the need to do something with at least a small dash of adventure was running high. I had recently written a list of things I like doing - one of which was watching the sun rise. One thing led to another and I somehow came up with the idea of riding my bike out to Lake Martin to see the sun come up.

The night before, I pumped up my tires, got out a water bottle, found my bike shoes and helmet and set the alarm clock. In the morning, I stumbled downstairs, ate a little breakfast, and headed out. As I rolled down Pinhook in the dark (I do have a flashing tail light and headlight), I realized how chilly it was. The air bit into my windshirt and froze my fingertips.

It took 30 minutes of riding before I started enjoying what was going on around me and quit indulging myself in the worry that was wallowing around in my head. I started to notice how white the light was that was coming from the stars set onto the nearly-black indigo sky made them look like clear white diamonds. The trees that line the road were black, with the texture of their shape morphing to a smooth line in the distance. As I rode, the orange to indigo fade on the horizon warmed to a hue of tangerine fading into the color of some well-faded jeans. About the time I started thinking that maybe I missed the turnoff to the lake, the bright green "Lake Martin - Bird Sanctuary" sign came into view.

I rode the gravel down to my favorite spot along the lake, threw the bike down and laid on the grass for a few minutes. Twenty minutes till sunrise. The birds were already busy - with everything from the "T-T-T-T" of the little birds to the squawking of the bigger birds. I thought (as I do on every trip) that I REALLY need to study and learn the sounds of birds. The cypress emerged from the black to take on their colors of green brown and grey. The sky had become a kaliedoscope of turquoise to orange to tinted blue to the steel blue of the old jeans.

I noticed that even in this serene setting, that I could hear the noise of Lafayette in the distance as we all participated in taking part in our American duty of creating "progress". I wondered how long it would be before this jewel was overtaken by the city.

Small sparrow-like birds flew overhead (I really DO need to learn my birds) in huge bunches. They swooped inches over the water collecting their insect breakfasts with their aerial maneuvers. As the sun began to finally make its entrance, I realized that the magic of it all was already gone. The transition to daylight had long since taken place when the sun came over the horizon like a shining silver platter.

As I got back on my bike for the long trek home, I tried to sort out my feelings from the morning. I had seen an amazing show of the world coming to life for the day. I felt glad for what I had witnessed. It connected me again with the feeling of wilderness and adventure - all within 15 miles of my house.

At the same time, I felt strangely disconnected - almost as if I were a spectator instead of a participant in it all. Maybe that's what city living does to you over time. Maybe this feeling is telling me that the months of re-construction at the shop has cost me that frequency it takes to feel "connected" when I am in the outdoors. At the same time, I felt so grateful that it's all out there, just waiting for me. I am so looking forward to fall and winter - my favorite time of year here in the south, and getting my frequency in the outdoors where I want it to be.....

Keep the faith folks. I'll see you out there!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Wow - What a Night!

In case you missed it, our opening night in the new room was fantastic. In this blog, I am going to let the pictures speak for the evening. I will narrate as I show you some shots of the building:

This is a photo of how the room looks in daylight with some random slides of trips we've taken, the construction process and some group shots of Pack & Paddle trips from this year. This was during the open house and folks were able to mill around and check out the new space.

These are some pictures of Becky and I with Matt and Amy. We had a wonderful time with family, staff and tons of friends that showed up to give our new space a great send off.

Around 7, I spoke about the things we've been through as a staff and a family in the construction of this new space. I talked about the shared journey that we have taken together and how it relates to the outdoor experience.

Here's a picture that is real special to me (right). It shows me speaking to the crowd with my parents (founders of Pack & Paddle) in the background.

Around 7:15, it was time for Nate to make his entrance. The crowd was very fired up and amazingly loud. It felt almost like a rock concert. This picture shows Nate walking out of the back room towards the stage. I can say that for me, this was a really exciting moment. We had visualized the idea of this venue months ago, and watching it come together in that moment was very satisfying.

This photo (right) shows a view of the room with some of the crowd. You can see Nate reflected in the windows. Everyone commented on the feeling and "vibe" of the room. In retrospect, after months of work, I can say that the feeling of the love that we put into the design and building of this space comes through.

The photo on the left is a great shot of Nate performing. He showed slides of his historic walk of the West Coast while inspiring us with his music on the guitar and banjo.

One of the things I loved about the night is how comfortable the room felt in terms of beauty and grace. Everything just fits together perfectly to create an intimate and cool feeling for an event like this.

Here's a picture of how everything looked from outside the shop. We love our window wall!!!

Well, the opening night has come and gone. It was more exciting and satisfying than I could have imagined. To see a dream become reality is a fantastic feeling. To be able to share it with friends, family and most importantly, all of our wonderful customers that have meant so much to us over the years. This venue has always felt like it would be a gift to our community. The special evening we had Saturday was only the first of many wonderful evenings to come. We so much enjoyed sharing our venue with you and look forward to many more great nights together in the future!

Special Thanks To:

The nearly 200 outdoor folks that came to experience our initial event. It was a blast!!!

All of our staff, friends and family that worked on this project with us. Your help was critical and appreciated.

Our lead carpenter - Pops a.k.a. Gerald Istre.

Catherine Schoeffler - for glazing all of our old windows.

Great Harvest Bakery for all the great breads and sweets.

Mountain Khakis, Patagonia and Chaco for their generous donations of product for us to give away.

Ed Boustany and his scout troop for coming out to help us with the parking.

I would like to say thanks to our friend Jason Cohen who took all these photos. He's a talented professional photographer. He does incredible work on weddings and other photography jobs. You can link to his site at

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Food Drying

We had a really fun seminar last night. Karla Coriel came over from Baton Rouge to lead a workshop on food dehydrating. She showed everyone how to prepare their own dried foods at home. These foods are great not only for camping trips but also for hurricane foods.

Karla started off showing basic things like a 1 lb bag of broccoli dried into a small ziploc weighing less than 4 ounces. She did the same for spinach and several other vegetables. Karla then rehydrated a couple of types of cole slaw. She then moved into fruits, passing around dried apples, fruit leathers and other delicious goodies. Then Karla rehydrated several meals including red beans and rice, ham broccoli rice, and an amazing meal that used noodle ramen as a base and added in dehydrated ground beef, tomatoes, and several veggies. They were awesome!

Everyone loved the seminar and took tons of notes. We very much appreciate the trouble Karla went to in preparing for and doing this seminar. What a treat!

This seminar marks the last time we use our current small space for an event. Starting only a week and a half from now, we'll be moving our events into the very cool new space that we've been working on this summer. Looking forward to seeing ya'll at P&P soon!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When Nature Whispers

Update on entry one year later:
Here's an update on my little piece of nature in Lafayette. As the song goes: "Pave paradise, put up a parkin lot". I took this photo to show you what's become of this little piece of green in Lafayette. Obviously progress is important, and everyone has the right to do what they want with their property. I don't know any solutions, other than to look for opportunities to preserve greenspace for future generations when they appear. Things like the Horsefarm park and the Atakapas Ishak trail must be supported to keep greenspace a vital part of Lafayette.

Original Entry - September 18th, 2007:
I always get a little surprise while riding home on my bike on these slightly cooler days. When we come up Pinhook between Chili's and Kaliste Saloom, we ride near some patches of forest. Each time, you're just riding along, traffic whizzing by and then all of a sudden you hit a nice pocket of cool air. It's like a silent little treat from nature on the otherwise thankless concrete of Pinhook.

Folks, we need to fight to maintain green spaces in our city. I won't preach to you about why. We all know the myriad of reasons. But - somehow in our busy urban lives we seem to forget. Riding through these cool pockets of air is nature whispering it's reminder to us that trees and green space make the difference between a town that's unique and beautiful and one that's a clone of the strip-mall America that we're careening toward.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why Tha Wookie?

I've had friends asking about the event we have coming up on the 29th with Nate "Tha Wookie" Olive. I thought it might be a good idea to give you some background and tell you a little about the event and what we are hoping for.

Early in the summer, we were looking for a speaker that we could bring in that could embody what we envision for our new room. Becky sometimes looks through online journals of thru-hikers to read their experiences. She was looking through Trail Journals ( when she came across Tha Wookies journal. A side note: Tha Wookie is a "Trail Name" or nickname that hikers give each other when they are doing thru-hikes of long distance trails. Anyway - she started reading Tha Wookies journals.

We were taken with his writing skills and insights into life on and off the trail. We did a little more research and found his site ( and read about his historic hike of the American West Coast Trail. His pictures were so phenomenal, and his writing so inspiring, we decided to ask Nate if he would come to Lafayette to speak.

At first, he was hesitant. Nate is pursuing a doctorate in forestry and wasn't sure if he would have the time to do a program in Lafayette. We kept pursuing him, plying him with tales of great food and great people. He finally relented and agreed to come.

To me, Nate is the perfect speaker for our facility because he embodies everything we dream of in a program: His program focuses on outdoor adventure. He brings beautiful photography that will inspire us. He's an interesting speaker that will challenge our thinking on the outdoors and life. He will be combining original live music (banjo and guitar) with his presentation that will bring a beautiful artistic flair to the whole event.

So - that's the story of how the Wookie is headed to Lafayette. We are very excited and hope that you'll attend.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Reaching into the Future

I can remember being a 11 year old boy scout at Camp Thistlewaite. A counselor took a red external frame Kelty pack out of his tent and showed it to us. Then he described hiking in the mountains. We were HOOKED! A year or 2 later, my experiences in hiking New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana with my scout leaders Dr. John Meriwether, Ken Roy and John Sullivan helped to shape much of the rest of my life.

This week, I gave presentations at two groups outside the shop. One was a group of local scout leaders and the other was a school group that has a great outings program.

Being at these meetings brought me back to the days when Becky and I led a high school outings group for four years. I remembered the tremendous time commitment it took to organize and run a group like this. From this experience, as well as looking at the thread of my own life, I know first hand the effect wilderness can have on the lives of kids. It can build character, confidence and even give a sense of direction that you just can't find in the city.

With this blog post, I just really want to say thank you to the volunteers that take the time to invest their outdoor experiences into the next generation. What you do is essential and critical. Your effort and leadership has effects on people that reach far into the future.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Eagle Rock Trip Report

Our intrepid band of 9 hikers headed to Arkansas to hike on the Eagle Rock Loop. Known as the most beautiful loop trail in the state, we were treated to tall mountains, beautiful creeks and nice trail.

We hiked in around midnight on Friday, and set up camp. The night was cooler than I expected. I had brought a thin sleeping bag liner and woke up freezing! I put on my raingear and then later had to wrap up in my bug net to try to keep warm. Definitely not what I expected. Ironically the next day one of our group was affected badly by the heat - followed by another member on Sunday.

With a couple of route modifications, we arrived at Winding Stairs on Sunday night and enjoyed an evening of swimming in the cold creek and then laying out on the sun-warmed rocks. A good time was had by all!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Varied Shades of Green

Becky and I just returned home from the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City. For us, this is a 4 day blur where we decide on our product lineup for Spring '08. This year, one of the over-riding themes that we saw everywhere we looked was the "greening" of our industry.

Only a couple of years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find more than a handful of companies talking about green technology utilized in their operations or their products. Now, it seems to be pervading everything. Forgive me for being the eternal cynic, but I wonder how many of these companies will be pounding the green drum 3 years from now.

The outdoor industry is perfect for championing all things green. All of us as enthusiasts love
the outdoors and (logically would seem to) care if a company is destroying the earth in order to produce a product for us to go out and enjoy the earth. Hmmm.... My question is do we really care? And how much do we care? Where is our threshold?

I found myself studying a new sleeping bag being made that is constructed using some recycled drink bottles. My first instinct was to: a) see how much it cost compared to its petroleum counterpart; and b) How much it weighed vs. the standard model. Obviously - even I have some kind of threshold. If the standard bag costs $150 would I purchase the recycled one for $175? How about $200? Even more disturbing is that I am checking performance questions - Will the bag be as warm? Is it as durable? Does it weigh more? In other words - I am all for the environment - but obviously because I am looking, there is some performance standard at which I would be more than willing to destroy the environment to have a better sleeping bag. Or a bag that costs less. Or a bag that looks cooler.

Which brings us back to the question of how many of these outdoor companies that are out there screaming "GREEN" right now will be doing so in 3 years. I think that all depends on me and it depends on you. Does it matter to us how the products we buy are produced? Do we care if the company that made the product has a zero carbon footprint? Will we pay more for a product made by a company like this? Will we even take the time and energy to find out? The answer to all these questions will determine the answer to the big question. If we respond and purchase from responsible companies producing great products that are easier on the environment, then 3 years from now, the sky is the limit.

We are all children of our society. In America, we like things to be black and white. We are programmed to think "What am I getting" and "What am I paying". We have all been brainwashed by slogans like: "Always Low Prices - Always". We are trained as Americans to make decisions on a strict price/value relationship. Our responsibilities are as consumers with regards to the treatment of the planet (as well as the treatment of the people) in the production of these products is simply not on the radar screen. But maybe they should be.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Just wanted to give everyone an update on what's happening with our construction project in the new room. Here's what you can expect when we are finished:
40% more floor space will allow us to spread things out and show all our gear better.
We will be able to show around 30 boats inside instead of our current 13.
We will have a dedicated "Tent Center" that will allow us to expand our selection of tents and make shopping for tents at Pack and Paddle much easier.
Gear such as packs, tents and boats will not take a back seat to ski and winter wear during the fall and winter seasons. You will be able to shop year round with the best selection anywhere.
Our roofrack department will be using a spiffy new fixture from Yakima.
We'll have some new surprises for you in the water treatment, stove and sleeping bag departments.
You'll be able to get the feel of climbing shoes on our indoor wall.

In case you haven't heard, our new room is convertible to a venue that will feature a variety of events:
Armchair adventure series will take you along with local enthusiasts to great locales and expeditions.
Clinics will help expand your knowledge of outdoor skills and subjects.
Environmental talks will show you both national and local issues and offer ways to get involved.
Adventure and environmental films are great evening outings that will keep your outdoor desire burning.
National level speakers a couple of times per year will be exciting events to participate in.

These are a few of the things you can expect. Again, mark your calendars for September 29th when we'll host our first national speaker. Nate Olive, thru hiker, writer, musician and storyteller will speak and show his photography. If you want to know more about Nate, see the previous post (July 19 - Wookie Wisdom) in this blog or go to
Of course, you'll be invited to participate

Friday, August 3, 2007

You Call This a Strategy?!!!

Lately I have been making lots of appointments with reps for the upcoming Outdoor Retailer trade show that we attend twice a year. Reps will call and invariably the conversation turns towards business. "How are things going?", "Are your sales up?", "Do you have any new directions that you are driving the business in?". Then I get treated to tales of other stores that are selling online or building new stores in other towns in their attempt to chase growth. By the time I hang up, I usually feel kind of small, unimportant and out of touch with the business culture.

You see, Becky and I have been following a different direction from what the business world of 2007 in America will tell you is right. Read any business magazine these days, and you might have a tough time finding any articles trumpeting the virtues of doing business in a small town, friendly way driven by your passion for an activity rather that a passion for growing your business. In America, bigger is always better. Right? Can a single store survive in a world with mail order, internet competitors, box stores and (horror of horrors) Wal-Mart?

Honestly - I really am not that sure. But chasing the aggressive, big growth route of business just doesn't seem to inspire me. It seems that the more you chase growth, the more you seem to separate yourself from being with folks that become customers and then become friends. Growth puts me in a chair, in an office, in front of a computer basking in the glow of my monitor instead of on a trail or in a canoe.

If the "business" part of being an outdoor outfitter like Pack & Paddle separates me from people and from being a passionate, active and real outdoor enthusiast, then it all somehow becomes pointless. If that happens, I become a fake - chasing dollars and pretending to be something I have "evolved" out of. This evolution would take me from Capilene to business suit, from Chacos to wingtips. If I can't regard myself as a paddler or a backpacker FIRST and a business person SECOND, I might as well be putting on a suit and working for X corporation.

So - that leaves us with one central business "strategy": Stay Real. Keep getting out, doing trips, sharing those trips with friends in the community, introducing folks to outdoor adventure and having fun with them inside and outside of the shop. Keep developing the best single store shop in the country with an amazing product mix that's exciting and different - born out of true experiences in the wilderness. Do our best to explain these products to friends that come in and match up our offerings with what their hopes and dreams are for their outdoor activities - and use our experiences to put these products into perspective in a real-world way.

So, class - that sums up our lecture for today. I feel bad about venting on this subject - but it's something I've been thinking about for a while. I feel a little like Jerry McGuire - writing his "memo". Even so - I feel hopelessly optimistic and excited. Whether our "strategy" works in the "growth at all cost" business atmosphere of America in 2007 or not, we will definitely have a lot of fun come success or failure.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

We WON!!!

As an update to my post on the Prana merchandising contest - I wanted to let you know that from hundreds of entries from across the US, our Wind Over Water display was chosen as the third place winner!

I have to say that even though it seems cool to say it doesn't really matter, it was fun to be named in the winners circle. When I read the email to Amy, Loren, Becky and Jamie, everyone was running around yelling and high fiving. It was really fun.

I guess what was the most fun was to see the team come together and create something better than what any one of us could have acheived on our own - and then have it recognized. Wow. I wish every day could be like that.

If you haven't been by yet to check it out - drop in when you get a chance and see our (AWARD WINNING) display!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fragile - Handle with Care!

Last week, Becky and I attended a family reunion in New Mexico. While there, we had the opportunity to take an interpretive tour of the Pecos National Historic Park. Our tour guide painted a picture in our minds of what this area was like when the native americans lived there for literally thousands of years. The area was beautiful, the way their culture fit into the landscape was ingenious and how they lived was inspiring.

What made me think was how fast all of this was lost. After thousands of years of successful living, this culture was dispersed and obliterated within 50 years of the Europeans arriving in the area. I left feeling a little down, thinking about how quickly everything in life can change. Cultures, families, ecosystems, species. All of these can change and even be lost in the blink of the eye of time. The answers I am not sure of. I guess that my thought is that we must as thinking humans respect the things that have been here since before we were. Try to create as little change as possible - especially when we are doing so to satisfy our own selfish desires. I know maybe that this seems a little preachy - but I am sure that the Spanish didn't think about what would be lost with their effect on these beautiful lands. Maybe we can try to do a little better.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wookie Wisdom

Hi Pack & Paddle Folks,
I am posting a trail journal entry from a Hiker with the trail name, Tha Wookie. In this entry, Tha Wookie (AKA Nate Olive) journals about something Becky and I thought of many times on the AT, but had trouble putting into words. Nate has hiked the AT, the PCT and was the first to hike the entire west coast from Canada to Mexico:


July 5th
It was interesting to me that in all this solitude and distance from any town that I should meet a southbound section hiker who knows me from the internet. It has happened before, out in the hills of Georgia and then in Southern California, but neither were as a remote a location.

We paused in a mosquito-slapping descent into Cascade Valley to meet Kent, who told us of his readings online to keep up with this year's hikers. "Beats work", he said. Indeed. But it doesn't beat going out and doing it yourself. We were happy to see someone doing both. As for work, it sometimes saddens me to come across those who believe that they are somehow obligated to trade their freedom for the duty demanded by the protestant/corporate so-called "ethic".

I certainly can't speak for anyone but myself, and some really need the money for child support or perhaps to pay medical bills for a loved one, but more often it comes down to choice. I say this because so many we meet attribute our good fortune of life to "luck". "Wow! You're hiking to Canada (or Main, or Durango, or across Athens, etc.)! You are lucky!" True, we are lucky. We were born into supportive families. But as much as they nurtured and educated us, they did not put us on this trail. We've made choices -- sacrifices -- to get where we are. We did not float here on a magic Tyvek groundsheet. We are free, but not of reality. The fact that we hike is our choice.

If it was baseball, we'd be heros and respected for our "work ethic". It's ironic that "work" is only considered to be when one is paid. Then truly, we both worked to afford the trek. One of the things I did was sit in the forest and administer Forest Service interviews to visitors. Now I walk 20+ miles a day, and it is considered a vacation by some. Perhaps the common notion of "work" really is that which robs ones mental freedom. Then I suppose we ought to be compensated for watching the Tee-Vee.

The truth is that while people look me in the eye and say, "That's my dream. That's what I want to do", or maybe they had some other "fantasy" they claim to wish to live, they really don't mean it. They claim to desire freedom, but what they'd rather have is perceived security. Or maybe a car. Or a house. Or maybe a garden. Those are their choices, and mine are mine.

Freedom is not just found in the wilderness. Can a man not be free in all his endeavors, even when he profits by them? It is time we are held accountable for our choices in life. This planet is suffering severely because so many Americans refuse to do so. The economy did not make us nor will it break us. What will break us is not just when we only look out for ourselves (we're past that), but when we start looking out for those who distract us from our dreams. Don't sit there with a Big Mac and a lottery ticket and tell me about your aspirations. Instead, be like Kent, and send me a postcard.

In the meantime, I'll be in my office. Tha Wookie


I have planted this journal entry in our Blog for another reason. We have arranged for Nate to be our first major speaker when we open our new room at the end of September. Mark your calendars for September 29th for a very special evening of incredible photography, great stories and original live music that will bring you into the Thru Hiking world of Tha Wookie.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Power of Wind

A few weeks ago we received an invitation to compete in a merchandising contest for one of our clothing brands. Prana is having a contest to see what store can create the best display of their products. I started talking to Amy on our staff about what we could do that would be interesting. We wanted to do something that would tie in with Louisiana and still connect with the Prana brand. We let it simmer for a while and when the deadline started getting close, we finally had a breakthrough.
We had just seen the movie "Wind Over Water" at our Sierra Club Film Fest movie night. This movie outlines the effort (and problems) associated with creating a wind farm around Cape Cod. Amy remembered talking to Harold Schoeffler about a similar effort here in Louisiana where abandoned offshore oil rigs could be fitted with wind turbines to create electricity. Since Prana has a large effort in all things green, we thought it would be a great tie in to the Prana brand from an environmental standpoint.
We started off thinking of printing out some pictures of oil rigs and wind turbines and creating some signs around our displays. About the time we were stagnating a little, the power of community (and holding the strings loosely) kicked in. All of our staff members got involved: Loren said "how about if we make a model of a wind turbine on an oil rig out of scrap lumber?" He spent parts of several days creating a really cool wind turbine out of an old display fixture and some scrap wood we picked up at a cabinet shop. Kristen painted a mural to go behind the turbine that helped to make it show up and added a really artistic flair to the project. Jamie found quotes about wind power as well as Prana's approach to green energy as well as lots of graphics on oil rigs and wind turbines. Then Matt took the quotes that Jamie found and built some signage for the display. Amy took all the pieces and put them together into a final display. Today a friend who's a photographer is going to come and take pictures for us to turn in to Prana.
What started off as something we didn't really want to do has turned into a true community effort at our shop and we're really excited about the result. We're hoping for VICTORY over all the other sub-standard displays other shops from around the country will turn in. I guess whether we win or not - we had a great time as a group building this project and bringing something interesting and new to Lafayette through our shop. Come by and check it out when you get a chance!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Holding the Strings Loosely

We had a little bit of a curve ball yesterday. We were doing our usual run-around of working with our staff, moving ahead on projects, preparing for our film festival night and working on future booking orders (for next spring - believe it or not) for new products. Our architecht, Scott Shall, who is also a professor at UL came by to look at the progress. We have known for a few weeks that he will be leaving in order to take a position at a university in Philadelphia. The curve ball came when we realized that he will be moving in 3-4 weeks. Aaagh. Stress.

We've depended on Scott to work with us "on the fly" with this project. He reminded me that he will be able to work remotely and email us drawings from Philly. It's just that it still feels like we're in the infancy of this project. There's definitely no way to clearly see the end from where we are now. And our guide, our guru and to a large degree our leader is leaving in 3 weeks.

Now I am hanging on a single thought and concept: Hold the strings loosely, and things will turn out better than you could have imagined. Let things develop naturally, look for people and things that are put in your path and it will all work out. This is how we lived on the Appalachian Trail on a daily basis for 5.5 months. Even now, it's not my nature to live this way. I am still finding I have to keep my "Control Freak" inside at bay. And it's not easy. But I am trying.

I don't have a cute ending for you on this post. This is just an entry about where we are right now. And - I guess - that's kind of what life is pretty much like most of the time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Value of a Lazy Day

Before hiking the Appalachian Trail last year, I don't think that I fully understood the value of a lazy day. Even though most people would call me laid back, I tend to be a pretty driven person. I like to have a project to sink my teeth into, a job to work on, a goal to accomplish. Even with 6 months of not being plugged in to what we referred to on the trail as "The Matrix" (real life), I still battle being sucked back in to that old mindset constantly.

Since today is the 4th of July, we're closing the shop and taking the day off. OH REALLY??? Yeah - I admit, we have a plan of riding our bikes to Girard Park to run, then going over to P&P to try to get on top of organizing our new office. Hmm... sounds like maybe I'm plugging back into that matrix more than I would like to admit.

I'm afraid that I don't have any words of wisdom on this. I like being goal driven. It makes me feel good to get something accomplished. But - being good at enjoying a lazy day seems to take just as much determination. Have some friends over. Enjoy a good book. Lay in a hammock. Quiet your "Matrix" self long enough to let the lazy magic begin to take effect.

So - On this national holiday, my hope is that you are having one (a holiday), that you are working on your "Lazy Skills", unplugging from the matrix and allowing life to take you where it wants to go.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Archaeology of Remodeling

The new space at Pack & Paddle has had several lives, and as we progress in the de-construction phase, we've been able to see each life kind of like an archaeologist would see a past civilization. The most noticeable thing you'll see right now is the large airbrushed mural on the wall that was exposed when the tin came down off the walls. Many people that were around in the 80's will remember this mural. It was painted to add atmosphere to "Cypress Mountain". Cypress Mountain was our mechanical ski slope for which this section of the shop was originally built in 1981. It was basically an angled, carpeted conveyor belt that allowed people to ski indoors. We taught skiing and hosted birthday parties on Cypress Mountain from 1981 through 1989.

The next thing you might notice is the unusual paint on the floors. In the late 80's our bicycle department was taking off so much that we decided to remove the mountain, and build a huge bicycle shop in that room. The floors that were painted red, then overpainted with contrasting greys that we put on with a feather duster. Also, it was during this construction that the tin was put on the walls.

Of course the climbing wall is very noticeable. It's roots trace back to the late 90's when P&P returned to its roots of authentic outdoor and filled this room with outdoor gear. The wall was built by Arthur Cormier of the Rok Haus. This phase occurred when we decided to eliminate the bike department from Pack and Paddle.

Removing the bike department was a shock to many as P&P was the largest and most popular bike store in Lafayette. Even 2 years after the bike department was gone, Pack & Paddle was voted Acadiana's favorite bike store in the Times of Acadiana. The reasons for not doing bikes were many, foremost of which was a desire to simplify the business and return to our roots. In closing this part of the shop, we dropped almost half of our sales. Although this was a dangerous thing to do, it has allowed P&P to flower as a pure outdoor store over the last 8 - 10 years and become the shop it is today.

In 2000, Becky and I bought the shop out from my family and moved Black Ice Sports into this room. This is the way that the room stayed until this year when we began the remodeling project. The next time you're in, poke your head in the door and see us doing what we do best: Change and create!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Windows and Doors

Seems like I've heard a story about windows and doors that had] an inspirational message somewhere before. Since I don't remember it, I guess that's a little off the point. But - I do have a neat story about how an old set of windows brought us together with a really cool person.

We've known Catherine Schoeffler for a lot of years, but have never really had the opportunity to spend any time with her. Recently, we were talking to her at the shop about the sale of her share of the Blue Moon to her partner. I asked her what kind of job she might want to move on to. She said "I can skin a deer". Hmm... That one won't land you a lot of jobs. Then she said "I can glaze windows". Becky and I looked at each other in amazement.

We had been looking for someone to glaze 40 old wooden windows that are going to be used in a unique window wall that is going in the new room of the shop. It's not easy these days to find anyone that knows how to glaze windows. So when Catherine said she knew how to glaze and had a free week before she headed off to Alaska, we jumped at the chance and asked if she could start tomorrow.

Over the next week, we had fun getting to know her better and watching her work. 40 is a lot of windows to glaze! She got a bit of a production line going with a young man that's helping out with the construction. She has a great ability to involve people and have fun working with them. By the time the 40 windows were done, and she was headed to Alaska, we were sad to see her go.

So - I'm not sure if the inspirational story was about looking for open doors or going through the windows, but we know that these 40 old windows have been the catalyst to us meeting a new friend here in Lafayette.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Getting Started

We've been working on this project for what seems like forever, and we are only just now getting ready to start building new stuff. Here's some of the things we've been doing so far:

  • Working with our architect, Scott Shall
  • Tearing down 3 of the old decks in the room.
  • Removing the tin from the walls.
  • Tearing down all the old EPuck racks
  • Moving our office to the old Boat room
  • Moving the boats to the far clothing room
  • Clearing our the downstairs office
  • Completely gutting the downstairs office
  • Clearing out the upstairs office
  • Completely gutting the upstairs office
  • Totally renovating the rent house that EPuck used for 7 years
  • Building a new boat rack
Part of the work is going through years and years of things that have collected on shelves, in drawers and in closets. It's a little like moving out of a house you lived in for years. We're now on the brink of the "fun" part of the project: watching our vision that we have come to life.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's So Fun to Buy Something New

Yesterday a father and son were in the shop looking at a backpack. I have to tell you: I love being part of this interaction and the experience of them purchasing the son's first pack. The dad is proud to be passing on backpacking (something that's been a part of his life) and the son is super excited about all the cool packs and is envisioning himself on the trail with his dad. It's just really fun and cool to be a part of it all.

Anyway, this excitement with getting a new piece of gear that I know I'll use a lot is something I forget. Recently I was reminded of this feeling for myself when I purchased a set of new load carrying panniers for my bike. They're from a cottage industry builder called Cobbworks ( These things are made out of reclaimed oyster buckets. They are watertight, durable and made totally from recycled or reclaimed materials. Since we ride to work nearly every day, I couldn't wait for my new buckets to arrive.

As soon as I saw them, I had to take them over and put them on my rear rack. They looked great and fit perfectly. I read all the instructions on how to remove the lids, what to do when you're carrying something taller than the bucket as well as how to attach them.

I think though, the part I am most looking forward to is personalizing the buckets.

A couple of months back, our friend from the AT Tinkerbell (aka Zeb Maharrey) sent me a sticker I had seen with him on the trail. The words on the sticker (in Wal-Mart blue and Wal-Mart typeface) say:
"Mal-Wart Your Source for Cheap Plastic Crap"
I can't wait to put this sticker on the buckets tomorrow. No matter how old we get - we all still love getting a new toy every now and then.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Change Is Difficult

Change is difficult. We all know it, but somehow nobody ever likes going through the process of change. As they say, things get worse before they get better. In case you haven't noticed, we're in the midst of some change at Pack & Paddle.

It's been 20 years since the last major construction project at P&P. We are now on the brink of some major changes to our building. The plans from the architect are nearly complete and we're about to start hammerin' nails. Am I excited? Definitely. Even so, I swing back and forth from elation over some of the ideas we will be bringing to you in the next few months and near-panic of how we'll get it done. We're taking the adventurous route of not hiring a contractor. The technical building will be done by Gerald Istre (a friend who hiked the Appalachian Trail the year before Becky and I), and our staff will provide some of the non-technical grunt work along the way.

This is definitely not the "right" way to go about a project like this. Getting bids and contractors would probably be smarter. But we wanted to leave the project a little loose so that we can experiment and create along the way. When you think about it - this is the way really good outdoor adventure is: Make a good plan, but leave it loose enough to improvise. The fact that you can't clearly see the end is what makes it an "adventure". I would love to say that I'm all about the adventure of this project 24 hours a day. The fact is, I hate the discomfort of not knowing how we'll get this project done. But I also know that by doing it this way, we'll be putting our heart and soul into the construction and in the end that will come through to all of you. Next time you're in, ask us about what's happening - and we'll give you a tour!

If you've been reading Wilderness Words for the last few months, you may remember my lament on saving a few gallons of gas by riding my bike to work since last September. An update on that: Becky and I are still commuting to work on our bikes (and loving it - even in the heat!). What's fun though is that over the last few months all of our fellow employees have begun to commute as well. Today when I went to grab my bike for lunch, there were 5 (!!!) bikes parked there. Take a stand! Conserve fuel, limit your carbon footprint, be a leader and have fun - all at the same time when you ride your bike to work!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Whooping It Up

This weekend reminded me of why I love my job. Becky, Loren and I led our Waterfall Hike with 15 hardy souls in tow. We had decided to take the longer "Primitive Trail" so that we could see the maximum number of waterfalls. If you haven't been there, the Primitive Trail is pretty challenging.

I loved seeing folks in the early stages of the trip clambering up and down banks, walking through streams and climbing the steep hills. After a couple of hours, everyone was getting a little quiet - probably worrying a little about making it through the whole trail.

We finally stopped for lunch and I could see that they were pulling together as a group and starting to enjoy themselves.

By the time we reached the 3rd to last waterfall, people were whooping it up, laughing and having fun under the waterfall. We splashed and played like kids and had the time of our lives.

I have to say - this is what it's all about. Everyone that attended the trip - thank you. You made my week. Maybe my month. For everyone that's thinking of coming on a Pack and Paddle trip, we're looking forward to whooping it up with you!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Bicycling the Natchez Trace

March 30-April 8
As usual, our little vacation became kind of epic. This started out to be a cycling trip Becky was going to take with a friend. They would ride a 500 mile route up the Natchez Trace from Natchez to Nashville. When the friend bowed out, I was really excited and schemed my way into the trip.

Keep in mind that we were trying to ride the Trace in a week with no training at all (not recommended). Our trip started out with two days that took us to Vicksburg with my parents and our friends Jim and Carol Whelan. Vicksburg is a 20 mile detour off the Trace but well worth it. After our goodbye's we had our first epic day. We rode almost 80 miles over a lot of small hills, up through Jackson and all the way to the north side of a large lake. It was one of those days that really challenge you. I had 3 flat tires that day (the first 5 minutes after we started). We were pretty exhausted and found ourselves looking for something to eat around 5pm. When we couldn't find something Becky liked, we ended up eating Papa Johns pizza on the sidewalk near our bikes. This felt very much like stops on the Appalachian Trail. We still had 15 or 20 miles to go and it was getting dark so we headed north again on wobbly legs. Finally - around dark we reached our campsite: A picnic table near a boat ramp. Not very inspiring, but beautiful to us.

The days passed as we worked our way north to Tupelo where we had a great reunion with Zeb Maharrey - our hiking friend that we spent 4 months with on the Appalachian Trail. Daily we continued to grind towards Nashville. The biggest problems were our feet (numb) and our butts (painful). Somehow we made it though and met Zeb and our friend Jerry on the northern end of the Trace near Nashville. Jerry drove up to pick us up. After a great night listening to music in Nashville, we headed home - tired and satisfied. This trip reminded me so much of the Appalachian trail in the way our days went. Not knowing how we'll cover the mileage, being patient, staying positive, hoping for the best and dealing with whatever came along.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Savin' Gas

Becky and I have saved 33 gallons of gas over the last 5 months by commuting on our bikes to work here at P&P. I was lying in bed thinking about this dismal fact last night.

Was it worth it to sweat, freeze, get rained on and honked at - all to save 80 bucks and reduce worldwide oil demand by 33 gallons? Mix in the friends we’ve met, memories of pedaling through Lafayette after dark, the feeling of connection to our community and I can truthfully say that I think so.

Most of all though, it feels like we’re living purposefully on things that we value. Im not too worried about how large or small the results are. Commuting is fun, we feel good about it – and in the end, maybe that’s what it’s all about.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Our Anniversary

Actually, this is one day AFTER our year anniversary of hiking north from Springer Mtn Georgia. Tonight, we presented our finished AT slideshow to a wonderful group of around 30 people. I was so pleased that this many folks turned out to hear about our adventure.

I spent hours trying to get just the right music and timing on my slides. Yesterday, I spent 4 or 5 hours going through my journal to come up with some good quote to use during the show. These journal quotes were intended to give people an inside feel for our state of mind and our emotions at different points in the trail. I was a little embarresed when I started getting choked up reading some of these journal entries. Luckily I pulled it together and I don't think that many people noticed.

Well - I think that the turnout for this event shows that there's potential for what we want to do with Pack & Paddle and the new room once EPuck moves out in May.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Trail to Trial - A Whole New Life

Over the last few weeks, friends and acquaintances have been coming in to see what's happening at Pack and Paddle. I've had a lot of fun telling them what we're planning for the business and how much fun we're having.
That brings me to today. I've decided that it would be fun to share some of the stories of our re-construction project with you over the next few months. Since we've been working on this for a while, I'll spend the next few days catching you up to what's been going on in our lives this spring.
Let me begin at the beginning (sort of): Becky and I spent 6 months of 2006 hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. I don't think that at the time we returned that I fully appreciated the depth and breadth of the changes in our lives that took place on this adventure.

I came home calmer, bolder, stronger, more confident and most of all, having more fun with everything I did. I don't know where the change came from, but now that we've been home for over 6 months, I can tell you it's happened and it's not going away.
Two days after we arrived back in Lafayette, our biggest competitor out of California called and was interested in purchasing (our internet based hockey retail site). Long story short: EPuck was sold in early February. This freed Becky and I up to become more creative and have more fun with Pack & Paddle than we ever had before.

This joy that we've shared with so many of you is where our new adventure began. So far, things have not gone the way we expected. It's been more difficult to transition from trail to business than we thought. Actually, I hope NEVER to make that transition. But we are muddling through. Just like the AT. Step by step with patience and (hopefully) a touch of humor.

If you stick with me, I'll share the true stories and thoughts that are making up my life right now. If you're in the shop sometime, please mention that you are reading my blog - that will definitely make my day and keep me writing...

Thursday, February 8, 2007

This is What it's All About

I had more fun tonight than I've had in a really long time. I presented a slideshow of the Appalachian Trail to a group of scouts and gave them a talk on lightweight backpacking. This is my first duty to perform in my "new" role at Pack & Paddle. Only hours before the event, we signed final papers for the sale of our business ( Then I'm in the warm and woody womb of P&P talking about some of the things I love most: Hiking, Kids and Gear.

When I started, I had a rough idea of what I wanted to say. By the time I was done, I had talked about the AT experience, Hiking gear, responsibility on a trip to your group, leadership, preparation and even making the most of life. It was like when Jerry McGuire's manifesto (memo) poured out of him. For me, it was an uplifting, exciting and fun experience. Becky was there with me, making it complete.

This was an auspicious start in that it totally defined what we hope to be and become at Pack & Paddle. I left the building pumped up about all the possibilities of things we had in front of us over the next few months.