Hi! I’m Katherine Gividen, publisher of the book The Hapless Hiker presents Think Inside the Box [Kindle Edition]. Think Inside the Box is a book of recipes, ideas and product information for backpackers who want to use convenience foods readily available at the supermarket. The recipes do not require canned goods or fresh ingredients, and are designed for cooking on a lightweight stove.
I LOVE the outdoors. Although I am The Hapless Hiker, I also enjoy mountain biking, paddling, climbing, and other outdoor sports. I’ve taught Backpacking 101 at Louisiana State University, and was president of the Louisiana Hiking Club for several years. I am constantly learning, as you will be able to see by the progression of my blog.
ZEAL Optics has introduced ACE biodegradable sunglasses with plant based (castor oil) lenses and frames made from 100% cotton. So now when I lose my sunglasses while hiking or paddling (which will inevitably happen), I can feel some comfort in knowing they won’t have as big as a negative impact on the environment.
Yesterday when I talked about the free giveaways I received at the Get Out More Tour, I forgot to mention the Sawyer MAXI-DEET insect repellant. It’s made for areas with “extreme bug density”. It does mention on the back “DO NOT apply on or near…synthetic fabrics (other than nylon) [or] plastics (such as eyeglasses and watch crystals),” so just be careful with that if you use it.
Sawyer also makes Picaridin Insect Repellent. It’s similar to DEET, but it won’t harm your gear. Another alternative is to use Permethrin spray. You just spray it on your clothing, equipment, etc., and it lasts up to six washings. According to Sawyer, their Permethrin products “kill ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, mites and more than 55 other kinds of insects on contact.” I could have definitely used this when I was at Lake Fausse Pointe State Park in Louisiana!
Sawyer is based in Safety Harbor, Florida. Since their products are about protecting people from bugs and bad water, I think that is quite fitting. We’ve talked about the bug protection; now let’s talk about the water. Last year I won the Sawyer Squeeze Filter System at an adventure race I competed in. The box top read “1 MILLION GALLONS GUARANTEED.” I thought it was cool because you just fill one of the pouches with water, attach the filter, squeeze, and VOILA! you have filtered water.
I saw the Propster’s at their tour stop in New Orleans in October 2012, and told them I liked the filter, but I wish the pouches were larger. Sheri told me about the Sawyer Inline Hydration Pack Adapter. You screw the adapters in each end of the filter, then cut the hose to your hydration pack, and insert the filter inline. When you are out hiking, you fill your hydration pack with whatever water is available, and as you drink it pulls the water through the filter. What a game changer!
I went hiking on the AT a few weeks ago, and tried out my new system. The first day it took a little getting used to because you have to draw hard to get the water through the filter, but by day two I had gotten used to it. Occasionally I heard a little hissing which I thought was because I didn’t shove it in the tubing tight enough. I also didn’t cut the tube cleanly, so it was a little ragged instead of flush.
Last night, I told Randy about my experience, and he told me a butane lighter would take care of my ragged edges, and also that heating the hose makes it easier to slip the adapter on snugly. He also showed me the Sawyer Fast Fill Hydration Pack Adapter. I hate taking my empty bladder out of my pack, and after filling it with water trying to shove it back in the hydration compartment. You put this adapter inline, and you use the quick disconnect to attach your filter to the tubing, squeeze, and you have fresh water without ever having to remove the bladder from your pack. (I would just have to purchase a pouch the same size as my Platypus.)
One of the coolest things I saw last night, as if all this wasn’t cool enough, is the Sawyer MINI Water Filter. It only weighs 2 ounces, and can filter 100,000 gallons of water! When I am kayaking I can drink the water out of the river with a straw attached to the filter! What will they think of next?
Tonight I went to Backpacker Magazine’s Get Out More Tour stop at Bill Jackson’s in Pinellas Park, Florida. I try to attend the seminar every year. It’s always great to see what new gear Sheri and Randy Propster have to show us. Two things that stand out in my mind are the Sawyer Mini Filter and ZEAL Optics biodegradable sunglasses. (I’ll talk more about these items in the next couple of days.) Even though I have attended this event for several years now, I always walk away with new ideas.
They always give away great door prizes. I was hoping I would get the Solarmonkey Adventurer portable charger, but I went home without winning anything. I am not too disappointed for two reasons: I have always won great door prizes in the past so I can’t complain, and they always have sweet giveaways, so you never leave empty handed. They gave all the attendees a cool thing called a UVmonkey. It checks UV levels so that you know when you can charge your solar devices – or when to use that sunscreen! I received a sample of MiraZyme. It uses naturally occurring enzymes and microbes to remove odors from your outdoor gear. I will probably use it on my old Teva’s since they are my only piece of outdoor gear I consider smelly. Other freebies: Clif Shot Bloks (they have a new flavor – Chocolate Cherry), and chocolate peanut MOJO bars, and also Sturdiwheat pancake mix. What’s great about the Sturdiwheat pack is that it makes 8-10 medium pancakes, so there is enough for more than one breakfast on the trail. Plus I can doctor it up and make gourmet pancakes! I also got a carabiner (never can have enough of those!), and a spork. And being that I am a bit of a gear geek, I actually got excited about the Primaloft (a microfiber thermal insulation material) sample we were given; you can actually feel it getting warmer just by holding it in your hand. Pretty cool. I received one at a previous workshop, and I have used it in several presentations over the years.
In October I wrote a little blurb about Neva Warren, the 15 year old who just solo thru-hiked the AT. She was actually my inspiration to hit the Georgia trail earlier this month. Well, lo and behold, she sat down next to me at the presentation. Sheri asked me if I knew who it was, and I instantly recognized her. How cool is that? Apparently her family lives in the area. Her mother and I talked quite a bit afterwards. I really enjoyed our conversation. She said Neva’s next Herculean feat may involve sailing. The way this family encourages their daughter to follow her dreams is nothing short of amazing. They not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk – and that is truly special.
One last thing…I was a little depressed after I stepped off the trail in Georgia because my knees hurt. Well Randy said that knee pain was the number one complaint of thru-hikers, so I felt I was in good company and didn’t feel so bad after that.
Be Smart Get Prepared First Aid Kit (The kit I have has been discontinued, but you can buy the cute little backpack it came in for $1.75.) Here is what was in it originally…
10 Adhesive Bandages .75in x 3in
10 Adhesive Bandages .38in x 1.5in
3 Burn Cream Packets
3 Hand Sanitizer Packets
3 Hydrocortisone Packets
3 Insect Protection Cream
1 Lip Balm Packet
3 Sunscreen Lotion Packets
9 Antiseptic Towelettes
3 Poison Ivy Cleansers
3 Sting Relief Pads
I have personalized the contents over the years.
Scripto Lighter (I use a Scripto because it is what fits in my SOTO Pocket Torch, which I also carried.)
So I usually don’t watch horror films, or go to haunted houses, but a haunted forest? Well, that sounded kind of fun, and scary! The Forest of Fear is located at the Horsepower Ranch in Geneva, Florida. Cristina, a coworker of mine, picked me up and we used my GPS to find the place. The drive to the ranch was an adventure within itself – going down dark country roads, passing deer crossing signs, the occasional car coming at you from either the front or behind with their high beams on. Yes, it was a little stressful. Then my GPS led us down a very dark dirt road. A dark road with signs that had things like, “No Trespassing” and “No Outlet” written on them. And then we came to the end of the – did I say dark? – road. Cristina told me to call the ranch and I did. The woman on the other end of the line told me that others had had the same problem we did. Their GPS had led them down this very same road erroneously. I saw on 20/20 earlier this year a story about a woman whose GPS had led her into the desert. She and her two companions were lucky. They were eventually rescued. Others were not so lucky, and this phenomenon has a name - Death by GPS. I wasn’t afraid of the heat killing us – it was 80 degrees – or being lost for that matter because there was only one way we could go out – it was what I COULDN’T see that scared me. We had just passed signs for the Geneva Wilderness Area (180 acres), and the Little Big Econ State Forest (5,048 acres). I told my companion that I was visualizing the girl from the Blair Witch Project in my head. You know the scene. She’s crying with tears and snot running down her face…
Cristina tells me, “You know the filmmakers were from UCF?” “Uh, are you kidding me?”, I say, “They didn’t film it here in this forest did they?” She tells me that no they did not film it here because they wanted the location to be authentic. Her latest revelation doesn’t make the woods around me any less scary. Funny, I love the outdoors, but in the dark your imagination is amplified. Many years ago a friend and I decided one weekend to canoe down the Black Creek River in inclement weather. We saw NO ONE as we traveled downstream. The thunder was rumbling, the sky was turning darker by the minute, and we were second guessing our decision. We eventually decided we had traveled too far to turn around and go back. That evening, after we had set up camp, we were sitting around a fire in the rain when we heard branches breaking. Someone, or something was coming towards us. I don’t remember how the decision came about, but it was decided that I was going to circle around where we thought the noise was coming from, and see if I could find out who was stalking us. In my mind I thought it was one of the guys from the canoe shuttle place. Only they knew we were on the river that night. What if it was a bear? I grabbed my trusty Gerber tool, and slowly made my way up to the Black Creek Trail, which had been heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. I tried to make as little noise as possible while maneuvering myself around the downed trees in the blackness. My senses were heightened, my heart was pumping loudly in my chest, and I was overcome by an abject fear that threatened to consume me, when I saw it. There it was in front of me. Moving slowly towards me, and unaware of my presence – breaking fallen branches as it uprooted dirt in the leaf covered forest floor – an armadillo. Not a 500 pound bear. Not a 250 pound man. A – couldn’t weigh more than 10 or 15 pounds - armadillo. Since typically humans are not on their menu, I figured I was safe – and foolish for that matter. There was no point of keeping up my stealth act, so after calling out to my companion my discovery, I noisily trudged through the undergrowth back to our campsite. We had had our excitement for the evening and decided to go to our respective tents and call it a night. An advertised haunted forest though? That’s another story.
We made our way back to the main road, and eventually found Horsepower Ranch. Cristina parked the car, and we walked past the horse pasture up the dirt driveway to the house. On our right was a large barn with a DJ playing tunes, and taking requests. There were tables for sitting, and drinks were available. They even had a shaved ice truck on the property. We went around to the left of the house, and waited in line to have our turn in the Forest of Fear. There was a pond on the property, and I could hear across its black waters the sound of a chainsaw. Cristina said she saw someone in dark clothes lurking around the bank. Our final stop before our journey was a horse barn. In the front of the barn was a table of photos. In one picture a woman stood with two severed heads dangling from her hands. My cell phone battery was blinking when I took the photograph below so it is not the best quality, plus add in the darkness of the barn, but you get the picture. (Note to self: If you are going into a scary forest at night, make sure you charge your phone’s battery first! Did the kids in the Blair Witch Project have a cell phone? I don’t remember.)
There were cobwebs strewn all over the barn, and strobe lights added to the eeriness. Our guide came and led us to the edge of the forest. Before we began our journey he let us know that this was the point of no return, and that if anyone wanted to go back, now was the time. A teenage girl, who while we were in line let it be known she could never be a Russian spy (I have no point of reference for this as I was not listening to her conversation too closely) recoiled from the entrance, and almost in tears said she could not go through with it. The United States and Russia both thank you for you service! Our guide led us into the forest and told us we needed to stay behind him, and in a tight knit group. He told us he would show us why when we came around the corner. On the forest floor to our right was a man splayed out with a saw blade in his back. Our guide let us know that this was a consequence of someone breaking away from the group. Just then the man jumped up, and began to chase us. We ran, and our guide told us to look up. There in the trees was a man hanging with an ax in one of his hands swinging at us. And so it went. Our “walk” lasted about 15 to 20 minutes. There was a bit of humor tossed in there as well. A very pregnant hillbilly drinking a beer, and smoking a cigarette. Now that is SCARY! Hasn’t she read the Surgeon General’s report? At the end there was a mousy introverted woman with her head bowed whispering, “He’s coming…” At which point a man with a chainsaw chased us out of the forest. The chainsaw flooded though, so we didn’t get the full effect!
Our guide told us that this was only the second time they had ever done this, and that next year it would be twice as long. He said that it was put together at the last minute because the person who was supposed to design it backed out. We found out later it was someone from Universal Studios. Maybe there was a conflict because the park has Halloween Horror Nights. I am rooting for Horsepower Ranch, and their Forest of Fear. I think the concept is pretty cool, and I intend to go back next year!
I first found out about Lightload Towels when I received a package as a freebie at a Backpacker Get Out More Tour stop. I took them on my Appalachian Trail hike a few years back, and was impressed with their softness and durability. I would use one as a washcloth, wring it out, then use it to dry off. I used another one to do dishes. They are very light. The video below says that four weigh the same as a bandana!
The Descent I usually don’t watch horror movies, but I like climbing so I have it in my library.
50 Hikes in Louisiana I had no idea there were so many hiking opportunities in Louisiana before I read this book. Now I consider it an indispensable guide to what the state has to offer.
The Great Outdoors Awh, I miss John Candy. He was so funny in this movie, especially the scene when the bear knocks down the front door.
Grizzly Man Tragic. Although studying wildlife in their natural surroundings appeals to me, I think I would study an animal that is a little less interested in having me for lunch.
Into the Wild I dreamed of (and even spoke with my guidance counselor about) living off the land when I graduated from high school, so this book had a particular fascination for me. The movie under the direction of Sean Penn was beautifully filmed, and it was nominated for several awards.
The Last Season This book, about the mystery behind the disappearance of ranger Randy Morgenson, kept me guessing until the end. I especially enjoyed reading about the inner workings of a backcountry ranger. Compelling.
Moonrise Kingdom I was obsessed with this movie so much I hosted a Moonrise Kingdom Weekend.
My Side of the Mountain The book that probably started it all for me. I read it as a child, and after that it seems all I could think about was following in Sam’s footsteps. When the movie came out in 1969, it cemented my resolve to be a naturalist.
The National Parks: America’s Best Idea Ken Burn’s did an amazing job on this documentary. I was especially interested in episode two, “The Last Refuge” (1890–1915), because it talked about Theodore Roosevelt’s contributions to the national parks.
Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon I foolishly read this before my first trek into the Grand Canyon. Until I did, I had no fear! It gives you a healthy respect for Mother Nature (even though some of the fatalities occurred after words along the lines of, “Hey, watch THIS!”)
So I just read about this girl hiking the trail. I am very excited for her. I wish I had done something like this when I was her age. I think it’s really cool her parents are supporting her. She plans on doing 12 Herculean tasks in her lifetime, and at the end of her thru-hike she will already have completed two. At 15 years old that is very impressive! I just want to say, “Rock on Neva! Rock on!”