Backpacking In The High Sierras

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The story below was written by Irene Olberz, who founded Sport Chalet with her husband Norbert in 1959. Read more about The Sport Chalet Story.

I first wrote about this adventure a few years ago.  The first trip to the High Sierras was with our 14 year old son Eric.  I tried to learn as much as possible about the John Muir Trail, freeze dried food, getting fit enough, trying to know all about high altitude sickness, the bears getting quite close to people camping out and reading about it.  The 3 of us were looking forward to those 6 days in the California Mountains.  Father and son were fishing the first time together in one of the mountain lakes.

Too bad we got lost on the first day.  After hiking all day, we actually arrived back at the starting point.  We were disappointed but did not get discouraged.  At one of the mountain lakes, where we camped out, Eric and I were bitten by a lot of mosquitoes, even after we used  a repellent and wore a jacket.  Somehow they did not bother Norbert.  This was a wonderful experience for our family.

Another time my brother and sister-in-law came from Germany to join us.  I had been organizing our equipment like sleeping bags, tents, mats, freeze dried food, and cooking gear.  I also bought a bottle of aspirin, since we were afraid to get altitude sick and needed medication.  We all wore sturdy hiking boots we had got at Sport Chalet.  The store Norbert and I had bought in 1959.  It was a wonderful adventure, but we actually got sick after all.  The aspirin did not help.  We were disappointed that we were not allowed to start a campfire, because at night we always reached the 10,000 foot altitude.

We got lost once and had to go cross country for a couple of hours.  We used our compass and checked the sun’s position.  In the afternoon we reached a dried out waterfall and pitched our tents on the flat top.  In the morning my brother and my husband climbed up a steep bank close by and actually found the John Muir Trail when they reached the top. It seemed so easy finding our trail in the morning.  My sister-in-law drove us a little bit crazy.  She wore the wrong socks.  In fact they were thick ski socks.  Norbert had warned her, but she did not listen.  When we found our camp site, she took her boots and socks off.  There were several blisters on her feet and some of them were bleeding.  We silently said, “Norbert told you so.  Now it is too late.”  She was angry but did not say a word.  Manfred went to a nearby creek and caught a bucket full of fish.  But we already had eaten our freeze dried food and were not hungry.  In the morning they were spoiled.

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