<![CDATA[Pedal, Paddle, Pack LLC - Backcountry Blog]]>Tue, 22 Dec 2015 02:17:32 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Athletic Apps]]>Mon, 02 Jun 2014 17:36:30 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/athletic-appsPicture
There is no shortage of health and fitness apps these days, and that shouldn't come as any surprise, given that fitness based competitions like 5k's to Marathons and Bike Races to Paddle events seem to be popping up everywhere with participation in the 10's of millions.  But, which one is really the right app to use.  Some are only available on iPhone or Android, some are free and some are not, and some only track one activity type while others include nearly 30 trackable activities.  I personally haven't tested them all, so I'm not the expert on the subject, but I did do some research and here is what I found as it relates to Pedal, Paddle, Pack.

With the shear volume of apps available, you will likely be able to find a free app that will work just fine.  So, no paid apps here.  Also, I like the idea of being able to share your fitness achievements, regardless of how big or small they are, with other individuals.  I believe, the additional support of fellow users helps keep you motivated and helps keep you on track with your goals.  So, with that being said, apps need to be on multiple mobile platforms and be able to post to social media.  And lastly, its important to be able to track anything from a bike ride, to a canoe trip, to a fitness run. 

Here's what we found:  At around 30 million users each, these three apps seem to be outpacing much of the competition.   RunKeeper, Endomondo, and Runtastic all are feature-rich apps that enable GPS tracking, distance, speed monitoring, caloric output, and activity history. You can use them just for running or in multiple other sports, including cycling, hiking, skiing, and swimming.  Once your workout is complete, the data can be synced to your account on their websites to keep track of your vital stats.  And, if you want to stir up a little competition between friends? Post your results to Facebook and Twitter!  Or create a course, event, or competition online to challenge others in your area. 

I'm sure there are other apps out there that likely perform just as well as these three, but 100,000,000 users seem to have established the front runners.

"It is health that is real wealth, not gold and silver."  Mahatma Gandhi

<![CDATA[Born Wild]]>Wed, 28 May 2014 15:41:07 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/born-wildPictureWI DNR - Elk in Wisconsin
Now that spring is finally here and we are pushing towards summer, there will be a lot more participants in outdoor activities.  One of the favorite activities throughout Wisconsin is wildlife watching, whether that's bird, deer, or other furry creatures.  And, this time of year is an ideal time make your observations.  Late spring ushers in the newest members of the wilderness communities.  We will begin to see deer fawns, baby birds, and bouncing bunnies in our backyards, and for the more adventurous observers you may get a glimpse of bear cubs, wolf pups, or even a young elk.  But, no matter how cute they are, we have to remember they are wild animals and should be treated appropriately.  The following paragraphs are taken from a June 2013 article in Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine by Mandy Cyr, a WI DNR Biologist.

It is common in most wildlife species for parents to leave their babies unattended for periods of time while they forage or hunt for food. Parents also minimize time spent at nest sites to prevent predators from easily finding their babies.

Fawns are born with spots and little scent to help them blend into their environment and stay hidden. They move very little in their first weeks and they are often left alone for much of this time. Their mothers only return a few times a day to feed them and then fawns return to their hiding places. If you see a fawn lying on the ground by itself, you should leave the fawn where it is and try not to disrupt the area.

Baby rabbits also are usually alone in their nest during the day when the mother is not there. The mother rabbit will return a few times a day to feed her babies, but will then leave quickly because baby rabbits’ best protection from predators is to remain in their nest concealed with grass or vegetation.

Baby songbirds are also left alone in their nest at times when their parents are looking for food. As baby songbirds get older they move around more and start to test out their developing feathers. At this age, songbirds are called fledglings. Fledglings leave the nest just prior to the full feather development and, thus, cannot fly for several days to a week. During this time they hop around on the ground building their strength and coordination under their parent’s watch. It is best to leave the fledglings alone to finish their developments.

It is a common misconception that human scent on a wild animal will drive the parents away. If you or someone you know picks up a wild baby that is healthy and not orphaned, and it has been held for less than 24 hours, place it back where it was found. Also keep pets and activity away from the area so  the parents will feel safe enough to return.

It’s also important to understand the laws and risks about handling wild animals. Most wild animals are protected under state and federal laws, making it illegal to take them from the environment without proper permits and authorization. However, citizens may temporarily possess sick, injured,
orphaned, or displaced wildlife for up to 24 hours for the sole purpose of transfer to an appropriately licensed individual.

Most wild animals have an innate fear of humans and are not meant to live in captivity. They have complex nutritional, physical, mental and social needs that are not easily replicated in a captive setting. They can also be stressed by human interactions and noises associated with human activity; or even become habituated to and completely dependent on humans, making reintroduction back
into the environment impossible.

Wild animals also carry diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to humans or domestic animals such as rabies, salmonellosis, mange or intestinal roundworms. If an animal is truly orphaned or appears to be sick or injured, you should contact the Department of Natural Resources or a wildlife rehabilitator immediately. Wildlife rehabilitators are licensed by the state and federal
government to temporarily care for and treat wildlife with the goal of releasing them back into their natural habitat.  An online directory of wildlife rehabilitators is available at:  Wildlife rehabilitation directory  

Key points to remember: 

- A healthy animal’s best chance of survival is to remain in its natural environment.
- Wild animals are not meant to live a life in captivity.
- Young wild animals found alone are not necessarily orphaned.
- Human scent on a wild animal will not drive the parents away, so healthy baby animals can often be returned to their nests.

    "In all things of nature there is something marvelous." - Aristotle

<![CDATA[Canoe Camping]]>Mon, 19 May 2014 16:26:29 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/canoe-campingPicture
I found this article by Darren Bush on ArtofManliness.com and it describes my ambition for canoe camping exactly. 

Canoe tripping is part of the fabric of the North woods. It was the canoe that carried Native Americans throughout North America. Canoes brought the first Europeans into the interior of the frontier to trade and proselyte.  And it was from the inside of a canoe that Lewis and Clark explored and mapped our new nation.

So it is no wonder that the idea of paddling away from civilization and into the wilderness has always held great romantic appeal for men. What man has not sat at his desk, surrounded by the walls of his cubicle, and closed his eyes to imagine gliding through the water of a clear river, surrounded on both sides by emerald forests or vibrant fall foliage?

But it needn’t remain a mere fantasy. Canoe tripping is not only romantic, it’s also a very practical way to camp.  The utility of the canoe is undisputed. In the hands of a skilled paddler, it can carry amazing amounts of gear, navigate waters from tiny streams to vast oceans, and do it with a panache that is unquestionably manly.

Last time, we talked about one of the advantages of car camping over backpacking; mainly, that with car camping you can pack more gear, allowing you to camp more comfortably and cook and eat more delicious grub. Of course the downside of car camping is that it lessens the feel of getting away from civilization and losing oneself in nature.

Well, with canoeing, you can have the best of both worlds. You can plunge yourself deep into the wilderness, a la backpacking, while at the same time carrying 100 pounds of gear in your canoe. It is camping that is both rustic and luxurious, which makes it, in my humble opinion, the best kind of
camping of all.

By now I’ve convinced you that a canoe trip is in your future. But many men seem to find the idea of planning and executing a canoe trip intimidating. Loading a tent and sleeping bag in the car they can do. But heading down a river into the wilderness seems a bit more daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. Planning a canoe trip is like planning anything, you’ll simply need to:

• Decide what you want to do
• Research what you need to know
• Find the resources you need
• Execute your plan

"Everyone must believe in something.  I believe I'll go canoeing." - Henry David Thoreau

<![CDATA[Nature's Garden]]>Mon, 12 May 2014 15:52:01 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/natures-gardenThe late spring, cooler than normal temperatures, and continuous rainy weather has many gardeners concerned about when they will be able to start their planting/growing season and how long the season will be.  But, while we wait for ideal conditions, mother nature has already started to produce its forageable foods.  As I walked through the forest last weekend, you could see the beginnings of some excellent spring wild edibles.  Ostrich ferns are beginning to emerge, trout lilies are abundant, and of course the plant that seems to account for half of my backyard, dandelions are making the push for maturity.  

Foraging has become more popular in recent years, as restaurants start to be more locally focused and experimental, but with popularity comes some concerns.  Over harvesting is a major concern for some edible species, and inaccurate identification can lead to some adverse reactions.  Ex: (Just because fiddleheads are ferns, doesn't mean all ferns are edible.)  Here are a few guidelines to follow before you try foraging on your own.  

1. If you can't positively identify it, don't taste it, and definitely don't eat it.
2. Remember that just because a plant has edible parts, it doesn't mean the whole plant is edible.
3. Some edible parts of the plant may be inedible during some stages of the plants growth.
4. Harvest in healthy places away from roads and polluted waters.  And, definitely away from backyards with dogs. 
5. Keep the health of your resource in mind.  Harvest only 10% of each patch, and pass by small patches all together. 
6. Know the rules of foraging when on public lands.
7. When you try a new edible for the first time, always eat it in moderation.
*Guidelines provided by "Abundantly Wild - Collecting and Cooking Wild Edibles in the Upper Midwest by Teresa Marrone

Foraging is a great way to get outside during all times of the year.  Whether it's for fiddleheads or ramps in spring, berries and milkweed in summer, or nuts and tubers in autumn; Grab an identification guide and the family, and have a great time outdoors.

"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." - Aldo Leopold.
<![CDATA[Healthy Hiking]]>Mon, 28 Apr 2014 14:57:05 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/healthy-hikingPicture
Whether you have one day or numerous hiking excursions planned for this summer its extremely important to be prepared properly.  From hip and ankle soreness to tired shoulders, backpacking can be we a great full body workout.  To help you minimize the pain and maximize the enjoyment, try these five exercises as you get ready for your next adventure.  These base exercises come from Backpackers Fitness Special - Hike Forever by Casey Lyons.  If you want to learn more about Hiking Forever, there are additional articles and workouts that are age group specific on Backpacker.com.

Hip Swing
Build explosive, fast-twitch strength to power up steep, big-stride climbs.

How - Sit on a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp a 25-pound kettle bell (or free weight). Stand up, thrusting your hips forward and penduluming the kettle bell until it's straight in front of you. Keep your shoulders back, stomach muscles tensed, and eyes ahead. In harmony with the kettle bell's motion, return to the starting position by whipping your hips back and sitting down.

Do it - 30-60 seconds; 1-2 times

Beginner: Chose a weight that works your muscles without overtaxing them–even if that's no weight to start.
Intermediate: Use 25 pounds.
Advanced: Use 50-60 pounds

Box Squat
This key exercise builds leg strength for hill power and stabilizes ankles and knees.

How - Sit like you did for Hip Swing, but wearing a weighted pack (beginners go packless). Lift your feet, plant them in front of you, and push through your heels into a standing position. Keep your back straight and stomach muscles tense. Pause for one count, and return to a seated position.

Do it - 6-8 reps; 1-2 sets

Beginner: Work eccentric muscles by standing fast and sitting slowly.
Intermediate: Load your pack with 40 pounds and do 3-5 sets: gradually decrease chair height.
Advanced: Use 40-50 pounds and alternate pack from one shoulder to the other. Do 90-degree squats with no chair.

Prone Extension
A core-strength builder that guards against spine injuries and bolsters balance for knife-edge walking. 

How - Lie on your stomach with forearms planted under you, palms down. Bring your legs together and straighten them, lifting your torso into a plank position so that your toes and forearms are the only points of contact with the ground. Reach your left arm forward and lift your right leg. Hold for one count, return to plank. Alternate sides.

Do it - 30-90 seconds; 1 set

Beginner: Start on your knees and forearms.
Intermediate: If you can hold here for more than 90 seconds, put on a pack loaded with 15 pounds.
Advanced: Add pack weight until you tire in less than 90 seconds.

Turkish Get-Up
A full-body workout unto itself, this balance-boosting move will make your legs like pylons during river crossings.

How - Begin on your back with your legs shoulder-width apart and left arm at a 45-degree angle to your body. Bend your right knee; place your foot on the ground. Grasp a 15-pound kettlebell (or free
weight) with your right hand, and hold it above you (lock your right lat and scapula to avoid shoulder injury). Perform the following as fluidly as possible:
1. Push with your right foot until your hip comes off the floor; shift your weight onto your left forearm.
2. Transfer your body weight onto your left palm, keeping your left leg straight and lifting your trunk.
3. Push your left hip off the floor while bending your right knee. Plant your knee  behind you in a lunge position.
4. Lift your left hand, square your hips forward, and stand up, keeping the weight overhead and your right lat and scapula locked in place.
5. Fold back down to your starting position, reversing the motions.

Do it - 2-5 reps per side; 1 set. If 2 reps are too difficult, decrease the weight. If you can do more than 5 reps, add some.

Beginner: Start in the standing position with no weight, and slowly fold yourself into the supine position. Progress to 2-5 pounds and do the full range of motion. 
Intermediate: Use a 15-pound weight.
Advanced: Use 30-40 pounds and do fewer reps.

Chins/Negative Chins
No single move provides as much upper-body strength as this exercise. Strong arms are vital for class IV (and up) scrambling and for transferring weight onto hiking poles (and off of stiff joints).

How - Grip a chin-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart. Use either an over- or underhand grip, but be sure to mix it up. From a fully extended hanging position, pull your chin above the bar.
Lower your body back to starting position.

Do it - Until you can't do any more, twice

Beginner: Start with negative chins. Stand on a chair to get your chin above the bar; lower on an 8-count.
Intermediate: Max out on chin-ups; switch to negative chins until your muscles quit.
Advanced: Do chin-ups with a weighted pack.

"The mountains are calling, and I must go." - John Muir

<![CDATA[Cycling Season]]>Mon, 21 Apr 2014 18:36:53 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/cycling-seasonAs activity levels increase with the temperatures, individuals need to be mindful of their bodies early season limitations.  And, whether you bike, hike or paddle, the first couple days on the trail or water can be the most painful.  Much like the previous post on paddling proficiency, today's post will look at some of the key ways to test your cycling fitness.  The article to follow was written by Lindsey Emery of Active.com and it addresses testing your core strength, hip mobility, and shoulder stiffness along with how to improve it.

Too many cyclists with bulging quads still struggle with a squishy core, wobbly hips, or stiff shoulders. On the bright side, fixing those issues will make you a more efficient rider, says Darcy Norman, a trainer with Athlete's Performance in Phoenix. Stand in front of a mirror or grab an observant friend and take these tests—the same ones Norman gave every member of team HTC-Highroad last year. If you fall short on any of them, do the corrective moves on non-ride days or as a warm-up on ride days. You'll come out pedaling stronger than ever.

Test Your: Hip and Quad Strength
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms in front of you. Lift your right foot a few inches and lower your body as far as you can into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your left knee. Return to start. Switch legs.  Your hip should not push out to the side.  Your knee should not collapse inward.

Improve It: Place a 6-inch-high stack of books on a chair. Repeat the test, lowering only until your butt reaches the books. Return to start. Do 15 with each leg. Over time, remove each book until you can squat correctly all the way to the chair.
Test Your: Hip Mobility
Lie face up on the floor and, one at a time, raise each leg toward the ceiling until it's perpendicular to the floor.  If neither leg rises more than 50 to 60 degrees, both hips are weak.  One leg goes higher? Then it's stronger and more mobile; you'll lack power on the opposite side.

Improve It: Lie on your back, arms out to the sides, and lift both legs perpendicular to the floor. Lower your left leg to the floor. (Prop your right leg on a stationary object, if needed.) Raise your left leg back to start. That's one rep. Do 10 on each side.

Test Your: Shoulder Mobility
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Extend your right arm overhead and bend your elbow to lower your right hand behind your upper back. Reach your left hand behind your back and try to touch the fingers of your right hand.  Can you get your fingers to within a hand's-length of each other?
Improve It: Lie on your left side, right knee crossed over the left, arms extended at shoulder level on the floor, hands together. Rotate your torso to center and your right arm out to the side. Bring your legs to center. Do 10 reps on each side.

Test Your: Rotational Stability
Start on all fours with your knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Slowly extend your right arm and right leg away from each other.  Can you stay in a straight line from head to toe, without wobbling?

Improve It: Start on all fours and extend your right arm in front of you. But this time extend your left leg behind you. Bring your right elbow and left knee in toward each other. Return to start. Do 15 reps on each side.

Test Your: Single-Leg Balance and Core Stability
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a broomstick horizontally over your shoulders, and step your right leg over an imaginary hurdle that's just lower than knee-height in front of you. Repeat with your left leg. You should be able to lift your knee straight up and over the imaginary hurdle. Your torso should not lean forward, back, or to either side.

Improve It: Stand in the middle of a resistance tube, feet hip-width apart, elbows bent, holding one end in each hand at shoulder height.  Press your arms overhead as you lift right knee to hip level; lower knee then arms to starting position. That's one rep. Do 15 with each leg.

Test Your: Total-Body Mobility and Stability
Use masking tape to mark a straight line on the floor. Stand with your feet together on the tape, holding a broomstick vertically behind your back, one hand holding it behind your head, the other grabbing it behind your hips. Lunge forward with your right foot directly in front of left on the tape, until your right knee is bent 90 degrees and your left knee nearly touches the floor. Repeat on the other side. Your torso should not lean in any direction. Your knee should not collapse inward or pushes out to the side.  The stick should stay in contact with your butt, back, and head at all times.

Improve It: Kneel on your right knee holding a, 8- to 10-pound dumbbell horizontally in both hands, arms extended in front of your chest. Keeping your arms straight and your torso facing forward, raise the weight up and to the left. Then, lower it diagonally across your body to your right hip. That's one rep. Do 10 on each side.

Test Your: Strength and Coordination Between Your Shoulders, Back, and Hips
Lie facedown on the floor, with palms under shoulders, elbows bent by sides. Push your body up in one solid movement until you're in a pushup position. You should be able to raise your body in one unit and not roll up or sway from side to side.

Improve It: Start in a plank position with your forearms on the floor, elbows under shoulders, back flat. Brace your core by contracting your abs. Hold for 30 seconds, then lower to the floor. Rotate to the left, resting your weight on your right elbow and forearm, with hips and legs stacked. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

"There's a certain amount of  freedom involved in cycling: you're self-propelled and decide exactly where to  go. If you see something that catches your eye to the left, you can veer off  there, which isn't so easy in a car, and you can't cover as much ground walking." - David Byrne]]>
<![CDATA[Paddling Proficiency]]>Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:27:56 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/paddling-proficiencyPicture
Paddle season is upon us, even though last nights four plus inches of snow may make you think twice.  The rivers are open and running high, and the areas whitewater rafting businesses are now in full swing.   Unfortunately, the start of paddle season often coincides with the start of shoulder pain.  I personally have shoulder soreness after the first couple of long paddles and the following shoulder tips are a great reminder at the beginning of the season to help minimize shoulder injuries and overall discomfort.  

While I typically research and research and research some more to create a blog in my own words, the following article hits all of the ideas that I have tested and know to be true myself, and it comes from a legitimate source (Canoe & Kayak Magazine).  Kim Becker has a B.S. in human physiology, she is a full time exercise specialist, and most impressively a world class professional whitewater kayaker. 
Paddlers are pre-disposed to shoulder injuries. Whether upside down, paddling forward, or bracing, there is a significant amount of torque on the shoulder joint at any one time. With this in mind, it is important to consider shoulder anatomy when paddling.

The shoulder joint is what is known as a ball-and-socket joint in which the ball of the humerus sits in a socket created by the glenoid fossa of the scapula—so where the arm fits into the shoulder. The shoulder blade is the location of various muscle attachments: your rotator cuff muscles, deltoid and
teres minor and major muscles. Beyond the shoulder blade, there are many muscles, including the biceps brachii and triceps that attach to the humerus and affect overall shoulder strength. These muscles collectively give strength and stability to the shoulder joint.

With proper body mechanics paddlers can avoid shoulder injury. Here are five savvy shoulder tips to hone the paddle stroke and reduce shoulder injuries.

Hold your paddle properly
When holding your paddle, place your hands shoulder width apart on the paddle shaft. While maintaining a firm grip on your paddle shaft, avoid “clenching” your paddle. “Clenching” can lead to inefficient paddle strokes, tendonitis, and further injury.

The Paddler’s Box
The paddler’s box may be traced from the paddle, up both arms to the shoulders and across the chest. The paddler’s box moves with you as you rotate your torso, and it is generally important to stay within the box as you paddle. Be wary of movements where you extend your arms above or to the right, left, or forward out of the paddler’s box, such as high bracing. These movements put your shoulders in compromising positions, leaving them open to injury, and should generally be avoided.

Maintain Proper Posture in your Paddler’s Box
Throughout your paddle stroke, try to maintain a vertical posture. Sit up tall, keep your shoulders down and back, and keep your head stable, resisting the bobble-head temptation. Proper posture will allow you to stay centered in your kayak as well as allow maximum torso rotation through proper body mechanics. Proper body mechanics means more efficient strokes and less stress on the shoulders.

Use your Torso
When paddling, keep your arms in a slightly bent position, and focus on generating power using your upper back and torso rather than your arms. To do this, rotate your torso right and left as you paddle, initiating each movement at the shoulder blades.

Visualize each arm to be a link between your back and paddle. Focus on pinching your shoulder blades together as if you were squeezing an orange between them, then initiating your stroke as you allow your torso to rotate. Be sure to keep your hands in line with your shoulders, and well within your “Paddler’s Box” as you do so. Visualize always keeping the center of the paddle shaft in line with the center of your chest or PFD zipper. Using this technique, at the end of the day, your upper back and torso should feel the work, not your arms.

Helpful hint:  If I’m looking for full power, I tap my feet with each stroke. Right foot on the gas pedal with I take a stroke on the right, and vice-versa.

Look where you want to go
Just like driving, skiing, or mountain biking, look where you want to go and your kayak will naturally follow. You’ll notice paddle strokes will be more fluid, and movements will be easier.

Now it’s time to practice, practice, practice!

"Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath." - Michael Caine

<![CDATA[Midwest Migration]]>Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:48:01 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/midwest-migrationPicture
Over the past few weeks, we have seen a large number of seasonal birds travelling back to our area.  The American Robin was one of the first to return three weeks ago, bringing hope to many that our long winter was coming to an end; after three more snows on its tail of course.  The Canada Goose has also returned.  I wouldn't typically say they are back because small populations typically remained during the winter months, but this year's cold temperatures and lack of open water seemed to push them all farther south.  A number of Waterfowl have also made their journey back, as well as multiple reports of Tundra Swans in the Green Bay region.  And, my favorite sound of spring, the rattling "kar-r-r-r- o-o-o" sound of the Sandhill Crane, signifies the homecoming for these tall wading birds. 

The next few weeks should bring considerable volumes of birds through our area, creating a multitude of sights and sounds.   According to the Nature Conservancy, the three must-see migrations for Wisconsin are Waterfowl, Waders, and Songbirds.  So, where is the best place to view the migration?   Even though you can likely find a number of good observation areas close to home, but you may want to check out these locations for prime viewing. 

Wisconsin's Green Bay is one of the world's largest freshwater estuaries and critical habitat for many waterfowl species including many diving ducks like Scaups and Redheads.  And, the coastline from the city of Green Bay to Oconto contains a number of State Wildlife Areas, State Natural Areas, and Waterfowl Preserves for you to enjoy some bird watching.  If you venture a little farther up the Door County peninsula, the Mink River Estuary and Rowley's Bay offer excellent habitat for a wide variety of waterfowl that can be viewed from land or canoe.  For those in western Wisconsin, your great resource is the Mississippi River.  The backwaters of the countries greatest river near La Crosse provide habitat for 75,000 to 100,000, or nearly one-third, of North America's Canvasback population during the spring months. 

If its wading birds that you are looking for, you can venture away from the major water bodies and closer to the marshlands of interior Wisconsin.  The Necedah Wildlife Refuge is home to main wading species, but most notably, the Whooping Crane.  They were reintroduced here in 2001 as part of a national effort to increase their critically low populations, and the birds now return here every year in April and May.  The Horicon Marsh area in Dodge and Fond du Lac counties is the largest cattail marsh in the United States and is home to more than 300 bird species throughout the year.  And, for those in my neighborhood, the George Mead Wildlife Area is second only to the Horicon Marsh in quantity of bird species.

And finally, the birds that often get the most attention in our backyards and feeders, the songbird.  These bird's appearances often correspond to the increase in insect population.  This often occurs later in spring, but some species like the eastern meadowlark can be found earlier in grasslands of Southwestern Wisconsin.  If you are looking for one particular area to view the songbird migration, try Wyalusing State Park in may, at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers or any other area near a larger river that is densely forested.   

As we begin to warm up and the ice starts to break up, I hope you take some time to enjoy the sights and sounds of our feathered friends this spring. 

"Be as a bird perched on a frail  branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same,  knowing she has wings." - Victor Hugo.

* Checkout the Nature Conservancy at Nature.Org for more information on bird migration and many other related topics.

<![CDATA[Backcountry Nutrition]]>Mon, 31 Mar 2014 18:03:02 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/backcountry-nutritionPicture
I have been finding it difficult lately to address relevant topics for my blog while attempting to keep my small readership entertained.   But when my brother/most frequent backcountry travel companion had the idea to test a variety of homemade protein/energy bar recipes, it seemed like the right topic for this time of year.  With the days getting longer and the snow melting, most backpackers and backcountry paddlers are gearing up for their adventure travel season.  So, what better time to perfect your backcountry menu.  The recipes we tested were chosen because they appeared delicious and the list of ingredients addressed the 4 components of nutrition required to be an effective backcountry bar; Protein, Carbs, Omega 3's, and Antioxidants.    

Protein:  Just because you're not weight lifting doesn't mean the muscles don't need to be fed. Sometimes we focus way too much on the carbohydrates, and we forget what's responsible for not only maintenance and repair, but nearly every chemical reaction that takes place in the body.

Carbohydrates:  It is common for athletes to refuel after a strength or endurance workout only with protein. However, without a source of carbohydrates post-workout, your body will not be able to produce insulin, the hormone that drives muscle building. Carbohydrates also help to replace muscle and liver glycogen to refuel your energy stores. The current recommendation is a ratio of 2:1 carbohydrate to protein following strength workouts and 4:1 after endurance workouts.

Omega 3's:  Redness, pain, heat and swelling are the four symptoms of chronic inflammation, the root cause of disease. Over-exercising can take its toll on not just the muscles and joints, but the organs of the immune system, and when combined with stress, chronic illness and poor eating habits, you're left with a large recipe for inflammation. Because the typical American diet contains pro-inflammatory foods high in omega-6 fats, the body needs the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats to
maintain a sweet balance. Because the body doesn't make them on its own, these fats are considered essential, which means we must get them on our plate. 

Antioxidants:  Antioxidant rich foods help reduce inflammation and decrease muscle soreness and also aids athletic performance and comes highly recommended for recovery foods.

Alright, enough about the details, lets get to the food. 

Coconut Chocolate Energy Truffle Bites

Recipe Link: http://dailyburn.com/life/recipes/coconut-chocolate-truffle-recipe/

The true definition of "good things come to those who wait", the 5 hour prep time generated the highest taste score of the recipes tested.  The recipe link above gives a nutritional  breakdown, however, based on the  information we had, the values looked a little more like this.   

One half batch created 20 bites - each bite averaging 117 calories with 2.3g of Protein, 6.4g of Fat, 12.4g of Carbohydrates and 3.6g of Fiber.  The Carb : Protein ratio was more than 5 to 1, meaning it was a little deficient in necessary protein levels, but that may be supplemented with a protein powder addition to the recipe.  

Sesame Date Bites

Recipe Link: http://www.backcountry.com/explore/6-next-level-backcountry-snacks

Be advised, in the quick 15 minutes of production, I botched the recipe by adding the sesame seeds to the processed mixture instead of rolling them in the seeds afterward.  Therefore, they appear a little different than the link picture.  I have made similar bites before, and they were excellent, but this time they only garnered a second to last place taste score.  Nutritionally speaking, these bites hit a homerun.  It addressed all 4 components and had a Carb : Protein ratio of 1.22 making it more protein dense than a Clif Builder Bar.  A batch created about 20 bites at 72 calories, 4.4g of Protein, 4.2g of Fat, 5.4g of Carbs, and 1.3g of Fiber per bite. 

Ginger Vanilla Protein Crunch Bars

Recipe Link: http://spabettie.com/2012/09/24/ginger-vanilla-protein-crunch-bars/

This recipe was kind of a wild card for me.  It used a number of ingredients that I was unfamiliar with, and along I am a fan of ginger, I wasn't sure how it would present itself in this bar.  A very close third in tasting and second in nutrition along with its relatively painless preparation put this wild card on top of my list to make again.

The 9x9 pan can be divided into whatever size bar you would like, but for purposes of nutritional values, I went with a 3x3 bar.  These bars contained 272 calories, 11.5g of Protein, 11.9g of Fat, 30.1g of Carbs, and 3.7g of Fiber. 

Raw Banana Bread Breakfast Bars

Recipe Link: http://www.thesweetlifeonline.com/2013/01/03/raw-banana-bread-breakfast-bar/

These no bake, minimal ingredient bars were easy to make, with the only difficult part of the process was due to a lack of a rolling pin in our kitchen.  On a side note, if you find yourself in need of a rolling pin, but don't have one, a wine bottle works great.  Unfortunately, these bars scored the lowest among our tasters.  We found the banana flavor to be minimal.  This can easily be remedied by ensuring you use the ripest and freshest bananas.  We would suggest trying a fresh banana instead of dehydrating them, as we found the need to add moisture to the mix as well.

The nutrition values also landed it at the bottom of the list.  The 9x12 sheet cut into 12 pieces yielded 189 calories, 2.8g of Protein, 14g of Fat, 16.2g of Carbs, and 3.2g of Fiber per piece.  This had the worst carb to protein ratio at more then 5.8 and it had the highest fat content among the 5 bars tested.

Blackforest Cake Bars

Recipe Link: http://www.backcountry.com/explore/6-next-level-backcountry-snacks

For those with a sweet tooth, the name itself makes this recipe worth trying.  Even though this bar required baking, the total preparation time was well worth the outcome.  Second place in tasting and third in nutrition and preparation, these bars were the most all around good bar addressing all areas of testing adequately.

The 9x9 pan was divided into 9 pieces again with values as follows: 291 calories, 9.3g of Protein, 19.8g of Fat, 23.8g of Carbs, 5.2g of Fiber.  With a carb to protein ratio of 2.5, this bar was ideal for muscle recovery with out the use of a protein powder.

Final Results

When looking at Preparation, Nutrition, Taste, and Cost we created a common denominator of 500 calories.  The list below is based on this common factor and allows us to compare a number of factors.
Coconut Chocolate Truffle Bites
Sesame Date Bites
Ginger Vanilla Crunch Bars
Raw Banana Bread Bars
Blackforest Cake Bars
Clif Builder Bar
Preparation is not an issue if you buy commercial produced bars, but a number of the tested bars and bites performed just as well or better in taste and nutrition, and at a more affordable price point, they are worth the extra effort to make at home.  The truffle bites, date bites, cake bars, and ginger bars were nearly identical in final tally, so the final decision is up to you.  Give them a try and add your favorite to your backcountry menu.

Photo credit and special thanks to my brother, Josh Kufahl, for the idea and taking the time to create these recipes with me. http://joshkufahl.com/index.html

Also, some of the information given was collected from active.com and outsideonline.com, both great sources of information. 
<![CDATA[Pushing the Limits]]>Mon, 24 Mar 2014 17:47:06 GMThttp://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/backcountry-blog/pushing-the-limitsThere's no dispute that fitness based competitions have been increasing at a rapid rate over the past 3-5 years.  In 2010, the obstacle course race, Warrior Dash, had 120,000 participants.  In just two short years, those numbers increased by 358% to over 550,000.  And with 50+ events on the schedule for this year, its anticipated to have more than 700,000 participants in 2014.  If you look at the big three of OCR; Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Warrior Dash, the participation levels are well over 1.5 million and some estimates show near two million.  The 24+ hour Adventure Race format has seen its numbers decline recently, however, the formats of shorter races have changed to make off-road racing a more accessible event.  Even U.S. Running events from 5k to Marathons have seen a 11.2% increase in just one years time.  With more than 15.5 million finishers at 26,370 events in the U.S. alone.  This surge begs the question, where does the growth of fitness based competition go next?  

While I don't claim to have the answer to the previous question, I do offer a potential solution.  I myself am a competitive person who enjoys the outdoor recreation disciplines of adventure racing (biking, paddling, running) and I often use those activities as my exercise and leisure routine.  Adventure races or Obstacle Course races have long been on my list of things to do, but I prefer to have my weekends for other activities and the travel that is often required makes the financial commitment significantly more than the $100-$200 entrance fee.  Knowing that I can't be the only one to feel this way and with the increase in fitness based challenges, as well as, a renewed focus on local resources, 3P has created the Pedal, Paddle, Pack Multi-Sport League for 2014.  

The 3P Multi-Sport League is an 8 Event league designed to provide a unique 2-person team competition in a simplified format of an adventure race.  The courses are shorter and offer challenges for all skill levels.  There is less gear required.  And, the event locations take advantage of the trails, parks, and waterways we have right here in Central Wisconsin.  Because the locations are right out our backdoor, this new league is held on weeknights (Tuesday evenings) starting in late May and ending in early August.  Each event will start at 6:00 pm or 6:30 pm depending on course length and available day light hours.  And, each event will have winning times around 1 1/2 to 2 hours and will consist of any or all of the following activities; biking, canoeing, and running, while offering a one of a kind league experience.

The teams of two (2) will be required to complete the course based on a course map with checkpoint placement and other league rules.  Each team will be awarded points based on their correct completion of the course.  At the end of the 8 event league season, the team with the most points will receive a 3 day / 2 night multi-sport wilderness trip for 4.  In addition to a final prize for the team with the most points at the end of the season, we hope to be able to award prizes for the teams with the best total Pedal, Paddle, and Pack times.  This will be dependent on sponsorships and overall participation. Dates, times, and included disciplines for the events can be found in the 3P League menu on our website.  http://www.pedalpaddlepack.com/general-information.html

If you have additional questions about the league concept, please feel free to send me an email at info@pedalpaddlepack.com.  We hope to see you on the trail pushing your limits with us this year.

"Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning." - Thomas Jefferson]]>