Catalog - Memoirs


The idea for going on this adventure came from Hank, Jack and I having taken several two- and three-day hikes in the High Sierra in the past few years, crossing and re-crossing the John Muir Trail on our way to Shadow Lake, Purple Lake, Duck Lake, and others. Hank and I (mostly Hank) decided to go for the Big One this year (1959) while we still have health and strength. Jack was eager to go, too, as he had been on a week-long backpack trip with the Boy Scouts the year before to earn his Silver Moccasin badge. This was accomplished in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles, with his Dad as troop leader. He would now like to earn his John Muir Trail badge, which no one else in the troop has earned.

Hank started in January making out menus from information he had searched out concerning dried foods (mostly DriLite) and other dried nutritious foods. During the spring months, he planned out all the gear we would need, down to the last Band-Aid. Included were plenty of socks, both lightweight and heavier weight. We wore light socks under the heavy ones to prevent blisters--and it worked! The hardest part of choosing the food was trying to get a well-balanced menu that we could carry and cook easily, plus figuring out where to put the food caches so we wouldn’t run out of supplies. Everything was packed in three 5-gallon cans, each being a week’s supply, which we would leave at a pack station ahead of time. Hank bought two brand new Kelty Packs, a backpack with padded shoulders and a belt around the hips to ease the strain on shoulders. They were easy to use and held up very well. Jack used an older wood-frame pack.

I attended a gym three times a week for four months ahead of time to strengthen leg muscles and Achilles’ heel tendons, which had caused trouble on other hikes. My good neighbor and best buddy, Fern, also joined me for these sessions. At the crack of dawn, starting in April, we also went for daily walks around the neighborhood, taking in a few more blocks each week and getting home in time to fix breakfast and get the kids off to school.

By the first of July everything was pretty well under control: Hank had the meals all packed in layers in the cans, along with extra socks, film, and other necessities ready to drop off at pack stations on the way, to be picked up as we hiked south. He tried to cut down on the weight every way possible and even cut my pencil in half and cut part of the handles off our toothbrushes! Cooking utensils and clothing were carried in our backpacks (35 pounds for Hank, 25 for Margaret, and 20 for Jack). I was really worried about getting a shower, but Hank said, “Look at all these blue marks on the map near the trail. You can wash in any of them.” HA! It didn’t turn out that way. The lakes were either covered with ice or freezing cold, or the rivers were down a steep embankment, or there were groups of Boy Scouts walking through. But that’s getting ahead of our story . . .



The John Muir Trail from a woman’s point of view

– Margaret Olesen

Now Available

The story of one family’s month-long hike on the highest elevation, long-distance trail in the continental United States.

  1. Bullet Read Margaret’s journal of the four-week adventure.

  1. Bullet See what it was like to do a major hike back in 1959 without all the high tech equipment available today.

  1. Bullet View more than 60 of Margaret’s wonderful slides.

  1. Bullet Read Jack’s account of what it was like for a boy of 13.

Alec Noble was an observant child and used what he learned from others to become a success. At a young age he witnessed his parents’ struggle to make a living on the prairie of Alberta after leaving a relatively easy life in the Russian railroad town of Harbin, Manchuria. He worked hard on the farm when his father had to take a job in town to make ends meet. He watched his parents start over after losing the farm in the Depression. Moving from a Russian- and Chinese-speaking progressive city to a new land with a new language and a new alphabet and only a few families living on scattered farms was an adventure to a six-year-old. Walking miles to school through several feet of snow was not a cliché to Alec; it was his life for a number of years. When Alec moved from his one-room schoolhouse on the prairie to a high school in bustling Vancouver, he never really caught up. But that didn’t stop his forward momentum. He used his boundless energy, innate intelligence and optimism to climb to the top; spending his entire career with Canadian Pacific Rail and Air divisions. Alec’s life included many adventures: a crash landing on the beach of an Aleutian Island while serving as an aerial photographer in WWII; an earthquake in Mexico City; taking part in negotiations with OPEC during the 1970s fuel crisis. Alec enjoyed spending his off time with his wife and family, Springer Spaniels, and camping and fishing in beautiful British Columbia.

A fascinating and entertaining story of a young immigrant who worked his way up to the top at a world class airline.

See Free Reads to read an excerpt chapter from this book.

Full Color interior edition on Amazon

On Saturday, July 25, (a week before our departure) Hank, Chrissie (almost 8), and I... (Jack stayed home with Grandpa Olesen) headed for Florence Lake, on the western side of the Sierra. Here we made arrangements to have a food cache (one 5-gallon can) taken across the lake and left at a pack station. We just HOPED it would be there when we came to pick it up two weeks later!

The following account is taken from notes made in a small notebook, scribbled at rest stops on the long, long trail or by the campfire at night.

Chrissie, being too young to make the trip, stayed with relatives while Hank, Jack and I hiked the John Muir Trail.

– Margaret Olesen

Kindle ebook