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The author backpacking along Lake Chelan in the North Cascades, Stehekin, Washington, in 2018.

This story is part of Fix’s Outdoors Issue, which explores how we build connections to nature, why those connections matter, and how equitable access to outside spaces is a vital climate solution.

“If at any point you need to bail, I’m right behind you,” said Luci. 

We were the caboose of a six-person hiking group, hoping to reach the 9,500-foot summit of Gran Sasso — one of the tallest peaks in Italy’s Apennine Mountains, two hours east of Rome — by sunrise. The moon was full. Stars filled the endless navy sky. My gaze drifted from my boots in the dewy grass up thousands of feet to the mountains’ dry, jagged peaks. I nervously shuffled one foot in front of the other — this was the farthest and steepest hike I had ever gone on. A familiar coat of fear settled at the back of my lungs.

I live with a rare, chronic illness called granulomatosis with polyangiitis: When flaring, my immune system becomes overactive and attacks my vascular system. My blood cells aren’t able to get the oxygen they need, which can lead to organ failure. I have lowered heart function, a transplanted kidney, limited hip mobility, and a medica... Read more

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