Welcome to The Hapless Hiker Blog


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.

I am also a participant in a five year Knee Cartilage Regeneration Study whereas I was able to regrow missing cartilage in my knee in lieu of a knee replacement.

I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures!

See you on the trail!


Advice for an 11 year old Boy Scout – I mean you Jonathan!

Dear Jonathan,

Are you excited about your backpacking trip to Springer Mountain? I think that is so cool! I wish I was going. I am actually working for a store now that sells outdoor equipment. Quite a change from a chef, but I love it! I wanted to give you some advice that you might be able to use for your trip, but like all advice you can take it with a grain of salt (ask your mom what that means) or leave it. So here it goes…

You should ALWAYS carry your 10 essentials with you whenever you go hiking. Whether you are only going on a dayhike, a one day backpacking trip like you are going on this month, or an extended trip. I have used my 10 essentials on many a day hike – usually not for me, but for others who were unprepared. Do not depend on your scout leaders to provide them for you. Having your own is “essential” so here is the list…

  1. Map and Compass. A map and compass is only good if you know how to use it. Have you been learning about navigation? If not make sure you ask your scout leader on the hike to show you where you are starting and where you plan to camp on a map. Ask him what direction you will be traveling in. Some people like to bring a GPS, but batteries can die, and then you are out of luck if you don’t have any extras. Learning to use a map and compass could save your life if you are lost in the woods.
  2. Sunglasses and Sunscreen. Sun protection is important. Did you know they make clothes now that have sun protection built in them? If you see a shirt that says UPF 15, that means it will only allow 1/15th of UV radiation to pass through it. Have you learned about ultraviolet rays and the sun in school yet? Your sunscreen should be at least SPF 30. SPF is the abbreviation for sun protection factor. That refers to the sunscreens ability to absorb UVB rays (the rays that cause sunburn). UVB is the abbreviation for Ultra Violet B. Can you guess what UVA stands for? Okay enough of the science lesson! I can’t help it, it is the teacher in me. I would also advise getting Chap Stick. You can attach it to your sternum strap so it is easily accessible.
  3. Extra Clothing. Always have an extra set of clothing with you, at the very least – as in a day hike – an extra set of socks. Merino wool is a good material for hiking socks. Do not wear cotton socks. Do not wear cotton clothes. Cotton kills. What does that mean? Cotton does not dry quickly like synthetics. Therefore you are more likely to get hypothermia. Do you know what hypothermia is? I am sure you covered it in scouting first aid. Hypothermia is when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat. Can you guess what hyperthermia is? You will want a jacket since it looks like the weather could dip into the 50°’s (for sure the 60°’s). Try to find a jacket that’s outer shell is rainproof, or carry a rain poncho as well. After you have been hiking during the day, your clothes will get sweaty and wet. Change into dry clothes at the campsite and hang up your dirty clothes. The next day put your dirty clothes back on and put your clean pair back in your pack.
  4. Headlamp/Flashlight. I would suggest a headlamp here. The reason being is so you can have your hands free while you rummage through your pack at night, or if you have to get up and use the restroom in the dark you will be able to have both hands free. Also a headlamp is an excellent way to hunt wolf spiders at night. Ask your leaders if they know how to do this. If they don’t – learn how to before your trip, and teach the other scouts. It is pretty cool. Speaking of pretty cool, have you ever seen how when you chew on Wint-O-Green lifesavers in the dark green sparks fly out of your mouth and your cheeks glow? If not let me know, and I’ll explain to you how to do it. Also maybe your scoutmaster can download the SkyView app onto his smartphone so y’all can learn about constellations while you are there. Am I getting carried away? I’m sorry I just get so excited about backpacking. I love it! P.S. Make sure you bring extra batteries and a bulb if your headlamp needs one.
  5. First-aid Supplies. Usually my first-aid kit comes out at every hike. Whether it is for me, or most often in my case, for someone else. Even if your scoutmaster has one, you should have your own. If you have to take medicine you will want that in your kit. You will want something for blisters in there like moleskin – or the new thing is Blist-O-Ban. You will want something for poison ivy, and tweezers for ticks. Of course you will want Band-Aids. I like the ones that already have Neosporin on them so that is one less thing I have to carry. You also want to make sure you carry hand sanitizer with you. I also carry soap with me. The soap and sanitizer are not part of the first-aid kit, but it is a good practice. You can get a first-aid kit already put together for a few dollars, but I make my own and keep it in a miniature backpack. J If you need a full list of items let me know and I will send it to you.
  6. Waterproof Matches/Lighter/Candles. I always carry two ways to start a fire. One is waterproof matches IN A WATERPROOF container. (Make sure you include the lightening strip from the match box in the container as well.) Two is a lighter. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE EITHER WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION ON YOUR TRIP. (Unless you are separated from the group, night falls, and a zombie apocalypse is at hand. Then you are going to die anyway so feel free to use them. ;-) Your mom just may cross that last line out! Also bring a fire starter. The best one I found is to heat some Vaseline in a microwave-safe container until just melted. Drop 6 – 10 cotton balls in the bowl to saturate them. (Saturate means thoroughly soak.) After the Vaseline cools down stick a few of those in an empty film canister if you have one. If not you can buy containers of about the same size at REI, or some other outdoor retailer. Put that under your kindling when starting a fire and voila! Have you already learned how to start a fire?
  7. Repair Kit and Tools. Have your parents get you a multi-tool. Tell them to get you a good one, not one made in China. It didn’t work out so well for Aron Ralston. My granddaughter picked out a Leatherman tool, but I’m a Gerber Girl. I like the Gerber Compact Sport. Buy one, and have your dad show you how to use it and explain knife safety to you. It will most likely be put away, and only brought out when you are using it for camping just so you know. I would also suggest wrapping duct tape around your water bottle in case you need to repair something. Hey 139 episodes of MacGyver cannot be wrong! (You will probably have to have your parents explain who Aron Ralston and MacGyver are.)
  8. Extra Food. Always pack an extra day’s worth of food. Could be as simple as a granola bar, GoPicnic meal, and whatever else you may like. It doesn’t have to be heavy.
  9. Extra Water. You will want at least one water bottle. I like a liter Nalgene bottle with measurements on the side. A collapsible water bottle. I use a 2 liter Platypus Hoser Hydration System. I have not, nor has anyone else I know, used a CamelBak without having it leak or break at some point. Also have with you a way to purify water. If you are not allergic to iodine you can buy iodine tablets for less than 7 bucks from REI. I f you can’t stomach the taste you can add crystal light to your bottle to mask the flavor. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES DRINK WATER FROM A STREAM JUST BECAUSE IT LOOKS CLEAR (unless of course you like gut wrenching stomach pain, and debilitating diarrhea for days on end – yeah I said it!) I always carry two ways to purify water. You can build up to that.
  10. Emergency Shelter. If you are bringing a tent then you won’t have to bring this. Since your scoutmaster is bringing the tent I say you should bring one. You can get an emergency blanket for less than 2 bucks at an outdoor retailer, or just pack a heavy duty black trash bag. (If you use the reflective blanket for warmth, have the shiny side facing towards you to reflect your body heat back to you.)

You will also want to bring bug spray. Deep Woods Off is the best, but it has DEET. Do you know what DEET is?

It is also good to attach a whistle to your backpack. As far as a way to signal if you need help, a signal mirror is only a few bucks from REI. A CD does not work nearly as well (about 25% as effective) so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Now your mom asked me about a backpack. My granddaughter bought the green Deuter backpack for herself and she loves it. I would not get anything less than a ————–* (sorry – my cat stepped on the keyboard!) As I was saying… I would not get anything less than a 40 liter pack. Typically 50 liters is on the low end of the scale for a weekend trip, but if you are just going overnight 40 liters is fine. Have an employee at REI fit you for a backpack. They will instruct you on the proper way to put one on (hip belt, shoulder straps, load lifters, then sternum strap). Your fully loaded backpack should not weigh more than 10% – 15% of your body weight so pick your gear wisely. The backpack you chose weighs 2lbs 14oz. That is almost 3 pounds. You will find every ounce counts. I just gave you the list of the 10 Essentials every hiker should carry. That’s not including your bowl (don’t need anything else to eat off of), spork (highly recommend it), sleeping bag, etc.

Sleeping Bag. It looks like it may get in the high 50°’s in the evening so you would want a sleeping bag with at least a 55° temperature rating. If you want a sleeping bag you can use all year round, get one with a rating of 10° to 35°. Go to REI. Have someone help “fit” the sleeping bag to you. If it is too big it won’t keep you warm, and there is nothing worse than shivering all night because you are cold. One time I went hiking in the Grand Canyon and my sleeping bag was rated to 32°. The temperature outside dropped to 7°. I wore all my clothes, my gloves, and my hat to bed and I was STILL cold. Don’t go to bed cold. Do a few jumping jacks to warm yourself up before you jump in your bag. By the way, goose-down is the best insulation for a sleeping bag. The problem is once it gets wet, it stays wet. I would suggest a sleeping bag with PrimaLoft insulation. If you can’t find that, some other synthetic insulation.

I hope this advice helps you a little. I’m sure your scoutmaster will provide a list of what he expects you to bring. If you weigh 100 pounds Jonathan, make sure your loaded pack does not weigh more than 10 – 15 pounds. You will be miserable. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

FMNP – Coastal Systems Module Day 5

Today we discussed invertebrates. I love that my instructors pass around 3D representations of what we are studying.

Variable Worm Rock
Quahog Clam

Apparently scientists accidentally killed the oldest living one! Here’s a story in USA Today about it… http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/11/15/newser-worlds-oldest-animal/3574863/

Lightning Whelk Egg Case
Lightning Whelk Shell. Next to it are the baby whelks found in the egg case.
Stiff Pen Shell
Sea Star
Sea Urchin
Sea Urchin underside
Blue Crab. Adult males have blue tip claws. Adult females have red tip claws.
Male blue crab. You can tell by it’s abdomen.
Stone Crab Claw

Watch this video on harvesting stone crab claws. I don’t know how I feel about this…

Hermit Crab
Atlantic Horseshoe Crab

Did you know the wild population is caught for their blue blood for use in the medical field? I found this YouTube video that explains it. They drain 30% of their blood, then let them go.

They are more closely related to spiders than crabs.
Common Mantis Shrimp

You want to see a cool picture of one? Check out this article…


Spiny Lobster

The second half of class final projects were presented. My group (there were three of us) gave our presentation on Ft. De Soto in Pinellas County. My portion of the report was on the effects Tropical Storm Debby had on the park. It was considered the worst storm to hit Fort De Soto since Hurricane Elena (1985). 630,000 cubic yards of sand was pulled from the shore (enough sand to fill 100,000 dump trucks). One of my classmates followed my presentation by talking about the effort that has been made to restore the affected beaches. After all the presentations were completed I graduated from the Coastal Systems Module!

More importantly, since this was my last module, I am finally a Florida Master Naturalist!


•6 foot storm surge
•10 – 14 inches of rain
•15 mile an hour winds
•Beach receded 2 feet above the high tide line.
•630,000 cubic yards of sand was pulled from the shore (enough sand to fill 100,000 dump trucks.
•Dune line receded 20 – 30 feet.





FMNP – Coastal Systems Module Day 4

Today we went to Ft. De Soto Park. We found a Loggerhead Turtle nest.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle eggs

Marking the nest…

Sign used to mark the nest.
Coyote Tracks
Railroad Vine
Ghost Crab hole
Ghost Crab. They prey on turtle hatchlings.
Australian Pine. An invasive species.
Baby turtles can be trapped in their root system.
Horseshoe Crabs are more closely related to spiders.
Coin Vine seed
Shells from the top moving to the bottom left hand corner: Atlantic Slipper Snail, possibly a deformed Atlantic Slipper Snail?, Common Jingle, Yellow Prickly Cockle, and a Bay Scallop.
Top of photo: Atlantic Kitten Paw
Cross-barred Venus Clam
From top left clockwise to bottom right hand corner: Inside of Pen Shell, Atlantic Slipper Snail, Atlantic Slipper Snail, Atlantic Slipper Snail, piece of Sand Dollar, and a Cross-barred Venus Clam that looks like a Moon Snail drilled a hole in it.
Laughing Gull. There are no seagulls – only gulls.
Mantis Shrimp. Google an image of one. Their colors are amazing.
American Oystercatcher egg
Loggerhead Sea Turtle skull
Manatee skull
Black Skimmer egg
Scrimshaw on Sperm Whale teeth

Our "classroom" today

You Are the One Who Writes Your Own Story. Make It a Good One.

Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions? According to a Time article, apparently only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them. Most are abandoned within the first week. While I was looking for a clever saying to illustrate the futility of making resolutions, I came across this Brad Paisley quote: “Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” It really got me thinking. In 2012 I found myself jumping out of an airplane. In 2013 I went on a cattle drive. These are things I never imagined myself doing. It seems that with each year that passes life gets more and more interesting. It is not the planned events that usually make my year, but the unplanned ones that bring me the greatest joy. I am not talking about vacations, in most cases planning is essential to make travel arrangements, accommodations, etc. I am talking about spontaneous activities that only require a little gas money to lead you to a place of adventure. First time backpackers and/or paddlers are sometimes overcome with sticker shock when perusing the shelves of their local outdoor retailer, but when you purchase good gear you are opening up a whole new world you can explore on a moments notice. Your accommodations are carried on your back. Think of it this way – According to the NY Daily News the average cost of a hotel room is $172 a night. You can buy a Kelty Salida 2 person tent for $160. If you stay a second night in the hotel, that’s another $172. Not if you own a tent. True some places charge you fees for camping overnight, but the cost is usually very minimal. Here in Florida it costs $5 per person per night to stay at a primitive campsite at a state park. Once you own the basics (backpack, tent, sleeping bag, etc.) – your possibilities are endless.

If you have a boat you can take advantage of the waterways in your area. Where I live they are crystal clear. When I first moved here my hair stylist told me about the Wekiva River. One morning on a whim I decided to drive there. I didn’t have my kayak here at the time so I rented one when I got there. The flora and fauna was so amazing. I saw more alligators than anything. Then there were all the variety of birds like the Limpkin and Little Blue Heron. There were beautiful white spider lilies on the shoreline. I even saw a turtle doing a superman pose! That was a first!

If you have a bike you can check out what trails are in your area. I loved going to the Comite River Bike Trail in Baton Rouge. I lived there for years before I ever even knew it existed! Here they have the Cross Seminole Trail so I can travel from Oviedo to Winter Springs virtually traffic free.

Make your New Year’s resolution one you will enjoy. Get out more. Take the road less traveled. Write your book while you’re doing it. Start your first page today, and make 2014 a good one!

When the Owl Calls…

Yesterday morning when the grandkids woke up, we gathered around the CD player and listened to animal sounds. My daughter had gotten me A Guide to Wildlife Sounds by Lang Elliott for Christmas that included an audio guide. A friend told me that Elliott has done many bird song CD’s, and true to form there were several avian calls on this disc as well. One particular call the kids loved was from the barred owl. They kept saying, “Who cooks for you!” over and over again. My granddaughter joked that “Who cooks for you-all” is the call of a Louisianan owl. All that talk about cooking made us hungry so we went to brunch. After filling up on Belgium waffles, we decided to work it off by going on a hike at the Little Big Econ State Forest along the Econlockhatchee River. As we were hiking we heard a very distinct barred owl hoot, but accompanying it was a bird sound we hadn’t heard before. It sounded like the owl was arguing with another bird. I looked it up, and found out that both sounds came from barred owls. It’s called caterwauling. The term, appropriately enough, means “to have a noisy argument.” Here is a link to a site where you can hear the sound I heard. Listen to Pair Caterwauling. It was a special treat that what the grandkids had just learned that morning from a CD, they were able to listen to in the wild that afternoon. I love those little moments of serendipity! Besides learning a new owl call, I learned about air plants from my daughter. I in turn identified the spores she found on the underside of fern leaves. We got caught in a heavy rain shower on our hike out and my son-in-law (who had just hiked the AT with me last month, where we also were caught in rain) said we probably shouldn’t hike together anymore – so that’s what he learned! All in all we hiked about six miles. Rain or shine, we always have a great time together, and I was sad to see them leave at the end of the day.

I plan on visiting Louisiana in January, so I am already planning our next adventure! In the meantime I will study my animal calls. Who knows what else we may hear lurking in the woods? Maybe an alligator!


Backpacker Get Out More Women’s Tour

Having been an informal ambassador for the Get Out More Tour for the last 5 years, it will be nice to finally make it official. When I first saw Sheri and Randy in 2009, I was doing a cooking demo at the Backpacker in Baton Rouge. As Rob Reiner’s mother said in When Harry Met Sally, I thought, “I’ll have what [they're] having.” I was hooked. They inspired me to Get Out More, and encourage others to do so as well. I used their 2010 Power Point presentation as a resource when I taught Backpacking 101 to members of the Louisiana Hiking Club in 2011, and again in 2012 when I taught a backpacking course at Louisiana State University. I have advertised upcoming tours in the Louisiana Trail Blazer, the newsletter for the LHC, and on my Facebook page, not to mention word of mouth. I have blogged about their tour stops. Over the years, I have gone out and purchased gear that was spotlighted on the tour like the Nikon CoolPix P6000, Brunton Flex stove, and the SOTO pocket torch; I then promoted the gear I purchased both in print [i.e. the newsletter (Nikon article here), and my backpacking cookbook] and in various demos I have done. I consider myself a confident and competent public speaker. I was president of the LHC, and had to preside at all the meetings. I have done backpacking and/or cooking demonstrations for LSU, the LHC, the Bayou Haystackers Paddling Club, the Boy Scouts, the Backpacker Wilderness Outfitter’s (both their Baton Rouge and Lafayette locations), Pack & Paddle, and even in a nursing home and assisted living facility!
My greatest pleasure in life is being in the outdoors and being active, and I enjoy telling others what I have experienced, seen and done – as anyone who has followed my Facebook page can attest! I am section hiking the AT, I have hiked the Bright Angel Trail, North Kaibab Trail, and Hermit Trail in the Grand Canyon. In 2007, I took my whole family and their significant others on their first backpacking trip to the Havasupai Indian Reservation. I started a blog a year before our trip, and every week I highlighted a piece of gear or a skill they should be working on to prepare. I’ve hiked in the Smoky Mountains – I love the Alum Cave Trail – as well as numerous other trails in the U.S. I also like to rock climb, paddle, and mountain bike.
I love learning, and then sharing what I’ve learned with others. One thing I have looked forward to every year for the last 10 years is the Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshop. It is a weekend event sponsored by the LDWF where women are taught outdoor skills in a series of seminars. I love the camaraderie that the women at this event share, and look forward to sharing that same camaraderie with women all over the U.S., as I travel as an ambassador for the Backpacker Get Out More Women’s Tour in 2014 and beyond!

Moonrise Kingdom Weekend

I loved the movie Moonrise Kingdom, so much so that I decided I wanted to host a Moonrise Kingdom weekend. I picked the dates I wanted to have it, and my daughter informed me that two of her friends had birthdays around that time. I also found out later that a friend of mine was having a birthday that weekend as well. That cemented it: let the celebration begin!

We invited friends and family alike, and I reserved the Group Camp at Chicot State Park. The camp has a dining hall/kitchen, 5 cabins, and 1 dormitory and can sleep up to 112 people. It also had an amphitheater perfect for an outdoor screening of the movie. There was an electrical outlet available, so that made things a lot easier.

We put up a six foot screen, and used a PPT projector hooked up to a laptop to project the movie and external speakers were hooked up for sound. We found a movie-style popcorn machine on Amazon to add to the experience! Canoes were reserved so the guests could paddle like Sam Shakusky.

I couldn’t resist, and had to buy a megaphone like Laura Bishop used in the movie. It was a BIG hit with the younger children!

The tables in the dining hall were covered with bright yellow tablecloths; I was inspired by the color scheme of the Billingsley’s kitchen.

Skotak: There’s a broken gumball machine right behind the snack tent.

The centerpieces were mason jars filled with orange and white gumballs, with small pinecones placed around the jars. One table had the popcorn machine, games, and a vintage looking record player from Urban Outfitters. I couldn’t find The “Yeh-Yeh” Girl From Paris! by Françoise Hardy on vinyl, so we just brought records from the sixties like the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), and My Fair Lady (1964). We also snuck in some albums from the 70’s like Bob Marley’s Survival.

Several tables were set up in the dining hall for crafts.

The Khaki Scout Raccoon Patch. I found this tutorial online. To make it easier for the participants I precut the pieces of felt, so all they had to do was glue the pieces together, and sew around the edges.

Sam: How’d you get here?
Suzy: They snuck me down the laundry chute and left a papier-mâché dummy in my bed.
Sam: Hmm… Diversion tactics. Good thinking.

Papier-mâché head. I brought newspapers, flour, balloons, and paint. I also printed out pictures of the birthday girls, and had a prize for whomever created the best likeness. The problem with this plan was that there wasn’t enough time for the papier-mâché to dry. Next time I’ll have the balloons covered with newspaper in advance, and just have participants paint the heads.

I actually made this head after the weekend, but wanted to post it to give you an idea as to what I was shooting for.

Scout Master Ward: Roosevelt, how’s that lanyard coming?
Roosevelt: Horrible

Lanyard Keychain. I purchased the CraftLace Mega Pack. One pack makes 20 lanyards.

Activities inspired by the movie.

Sam: So, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Suzy: I don’t know…I want go on adventures I think–not get stuck in one place. How about you?
Sam: Go on adventures too, not get stuck too.

Adventure Race. I had different color bandanas for each team. Each team consisted of two people. They had to hike, bike, and canoe to eleven check points and gather “tokens”. I purchased the tokens at the dollar store. I tried to get items they could use that weekend. The first token was a drawstring backpack so they would have something to put their other tokens in. Other items included a lighter, bubbles, kleenex, lip balm, glow sticks, Wet Ones, ear plugs (in case you shared a cabin with a snorer), hot chocolate, Band-Aids, and vanilla cream cookies.

Cousin Ben: He’s hot. Almost too hot. What’s in the can?
Skotak: Seventy-six dollars — but it’s mostly in nickels.
Cousin Ben: Give it to me.

The prize for the winning team was supposed to be seventy-six dollars in nickels in a vintage tennis can I found on eBay. However the banks were closed by the time I got to town on Friday so I didn’t have the nickels! Oh well, the best laid plans…

Nature Scavenger Hunt. Planned for the younger children to participate in when the older children were competing in the adventure race.

Everyone chipped in to make the weekend extra special. Elke Briuer gave a yoga class Saturday morning. Curt Auzenne made grilled cheese that afternoon for lunch just like Captain Sharp made for Sam in the movie. Justin Lemoine made Jambalaya in a huge pot outside that evening.

After we watched the movie everyone gathered around the campfire.

Sam: Why do you consider me your enemy?
Redford: Because your girlfriend stabbed me in the back with lefty scissors.

Prizes included lefty scissors and Tang. (Sam brought Tang on his adventure. You can see it on the ground next to the map he’s reading at the beginning of the film.)

I think everyone was happy with the way the weekend went.

They all talked excitedly about doing it again next year. I wonder what theme I will pick this time?