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.