Running through the Range of Light
Mountain runners and elite roadies explore trails from Mammoth to Bishop
Hit the trails around the town of Mammoth Lakes, California, and you might get passed by some of America's top distance ...
Photo by Patitucciphoto
Hit the trails around the town of Mammoth Lakes, California, and you might get passed by some of America's top distance runners. Olympians Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi and their teammates on the Mammoth Track Club spend roughly half their summer training on trails and dirt roads that ring multiple lakes, craters and rugged peaks in the area.
And when the white stuff blankets Mammoth, these pros head to the drier neighboring town of Bishop, about 40 miles south and join it's growing community of diehard trail runners.
Yosemite National Park to the northwest and Mount Whitney to the south may be more famous, but this region in between, known as the Eastern Sierra, crests like a great wave of chiseled granite across the high desert landscape of the Owens Valley.
The dull-brown valley floor spreads out in a windswept expanse, sprouting shrubs like a stubbly beard, until it hits the edge of the Sierra Nevada range. The Sierra escarpment juts up some 10,000 feet, riddled with countless canyons and peaks. A parallel range, the Inyo-White Mountains, rims the valley's east side.
In Bishop, trail runners get gear and guidance at Sage To Summit on Main Street. "Bishop is a fastpacking and mountain-running mecca," says Howie Schwartz, who co-owns the store with his wife, Karen. "You have 14,000-foot peaks on both sides with a 4000-foot valley floor, so year round you can run through varied climate zones and ecosystems—from high desert sage to riparian forest, to sub-alpine aspen groves, to craggy alpine ridgelines."
Numerous trails in the region cut west over the Sierra Crest and intersect with the John Muir Trail, which runs 211 miles from Mount Whitney to Yosemite Valley. "There's a lifetime's worth of trails and dirt roads to explore here," says Bishop resident and accomplished trail runner Jeff Kozak, who also works at Sage To Summit.