Walk into the Alpine Shop in Kirkwood, and it's hard to believe you're stepping into a locally owned store. This former grocery seems just too big and polished to be some mom-and-pop operation. But then the story behind Alpine Shop is well-known to most outdoorsy types around here. What started out 40 years ago as a small pit stop for hikers and climbers has now expanded to four regional locations catering to all kinds of adventure seekers — skiers, snowboarders, canoers, bicyclists and trail runners (to name just a few). But what really sets Alpine Shop apart from other sporting-goods stores is its staff. These guys are real pros, offering in-store clinics on everything from bicycle repair to kayaking to nature photography. True, St. Louis is no Portland, and Missouri is no Colorado. But there's still plenty of great nature to explore and enjoy in the Heartland, and with Alpine Shop, there's no excuse not to seize it.