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Before You Go to the Mountains


Some of the world's most beautiful scenery is found at high altitudes, such as California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, where the altitude can top 10,000 feet. If you're planning a trip to high places, this checklist will help you keep comfortable and safe.

Learn About Altitude Sickness

When the body can't adjust to abrupt changes in altitude, altitude sickness can set in, resulting in breathing problems and fluid accumulation. This isn't just a problem for people climbing the really tall mountains. It can occur as low as 6,500 feet and symptoms can start any time within the first three days after an altitude change. Altitude sickness is potentially fatal and you should know its symptoms and what to do if you feel affected.

Combat the Dryness

You'll find the air much drier in the mountains than at sea level. Take these along to stay comfortable:

Saline Nasal Spray: Dry nasal membranes are not only uncomfortable, but they can also cause nose bleeds. A few spritzes of this over-the-counter remedy can help a lot.

Extra-Strength Moisturizers Bring lots of your regular stuff, or get something extra-strength and don't forget your lips.

Artificial Tears: Tuck a few packets of artificial tears in your bag or pocket.

Water Bottle Carrier: Buy the water once you get there, but a carrier helps. Reduce waste by bringing your own bottle, too.

Protect Against the Sun

High SPF Sunscreen: The sun will be bright in the desert, and at higher elevations there's less air to absorb it. Whatever you normally use, bring something stronger.

Hat with a Wide Brim: A baseball cap will shade your face, but not your neck. You'll be better off in a hat with a brim all around so it protects your neck, too.

Sunglasses: It's easy to leave them at home, especially if you leave at night, so find a way to remember them or pack a spare pair.

Motion Sickness

If you're driving to high elevations, you'll probably be going on winding roads. If you're susceptible to motion sickness, taking the wheel will likely solve the problem. However, if that's not an option, bring along your favorite remedies.

Driving in Winter

Under some conditions, tire chains (also called "tire traction devices") are required. You're most likely to need them on I-80 between Sacramento and Reno and on US Hwy 50 between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. They're also sometimes required on Hwy 58 between Bakersfield and Mojave, I-15 between Victorville and San Bernardino and I-5 between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.


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