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M Trouble in Paradise: Altitude Illness in SEKI

by Kevin Sawchuk

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Article Summary:

The adventure started out well enough, four excited people out for an eighty-mile, four-day trip in Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park (SEKI). All of us had prior backpacking experience and were in good shape from running ultra-marathons. Our loop was to include dramatic high mountain cross country on the first northerly miles of the unofficial "Timberline Route." It would join and head south on the John Muir Trail with a final night's camp at Rae Lakes. On the final day we would cross Glen Pass and return to King's Canyon down Bubb's Creek. I was especially looking forward to the Rae Lakes camp. When I ran through Rae Lakes a month earlier, I enjoyed brief glimpses of evening colors on the steep headwall called the "Painted Lady" and was refreshed by the tranquil, moist, and cool evening air. But to finish the John Muir Trail in four days, I had to run on into the darkness of Wood's Creek and missed being part of that stillness and beauty. On this trip I promised to fully surrender to the evening I had missed at Rae Lakes. It was a promise I would not be able to keep.


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