Returning to the Sierra
It turns out you can go home again. And it can be even better than remembered – especially when you return to California to trail run in the Sierra Nevada.
I grew up in California and spent almost 20 years in the Eastern Sierra, ten of those living in Bishop. These are the mountains where I learned to climb, ski, run, and be a photographer. I never imagined leaving them. But at some point the desire to see other places became too strong. I moved to the Italian Dolomites for five years before settling in the Swiss Alps for another nine. All this time plus extensive travel in the Himalaya, Kyrgyzstan, and the Andes has provided me with an appreciation for different mountain ranges of the world.
In the winter of 2020/2021, I spent 6 weeks back in the Sierra for a climbing and running project for Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line. Those weeks reminded me that my heart is in the Sierra. I had to return.
Sierra Trail Running Guide
The idea to do a trail running guide to the High Sierra came to me on the same trip. It is much needed, and it’s the perfect reason to stay in California for chunks of time.
Best of all, we’d get to run all over the Sierra in both well-remembered areas and on new trails, and cross country routes, needing some exploration.
I was worried that going back would be impossible, that I would only be let down, frustrated at all the change and increasing crowds I kept hearing about. I had too much to compare it all to and would be wearing rose colored glasses from the past.
Instead, we slotted right back into our old home like we’d never left.
I was reminded of all that I miss about the US as an expat living in Switzerland. The incredible friendliness of people we met along the way, sunny days, the warm high country, and the unrivaled closeness of the Bishop community. Among those friendly encounters were a whole lot more runners we met in the high country. Apparently it’s not just the Alps that are seeing a boom in trail running.
This is the second guidebook we’ve done on trail running, the first being a guide to running in the Swiss Alps. Our team is the usual cast of characters, plus one. Janine is determining all the runs, Kim is managing the content, I’m in charge of burritos and slicing limes to put in the Negra Modelos, and Bishop local Hjördis Rickert, is writing. We’re all running every step of every route, we’re all photographers and we’re all beyond stoked at what we’re discovering.
If you’d like to get to know the mountains you love, I highly recommend doing a guidebook. You’ll be forced to go places you never considered, and you’ll come to intimately know every little corner of what you thought you knew. But if you have zero interest in producing a guidebook, you may be interested in using ours once it’s published by the very good folks at Wolverine Publishing.
The Sierra Nevada is undoubtedly one of the great trail running ranges. Perfect weather, relatively easy access, year round fun, increasing numbers of taco trucks, and loads of trails all make for a dream running destination. But, knowing which trails are great and which trails are rocky minefields is critical. We plan to help with that. But hang tight, there’s work to be done.
In case I haven’t sold the Sierra enough, here is a gallery from our summer. We’re just getting started.
By Dan Patitucci
A HUGE thanks to the brands that are helping make all of this happen: Patagonia, La Sportiva, MSR/Cascade Designs, Trail Butter, CLIF Bar, Drymax Socks, Black Sheep Coffee, and Oofos.