As most of you probably know, Karen puts her heart, soul, and 7 day work week into her business. This combined with the fact that she only has one employee, and a crew of contractors to look after leads her to sometimes yells out via Facebook "Karen Schwartz needs mountain time!!"
I, on the other hand, have a blessed life where I work three days a week in the Sierra Mountain Guides office and spend the rest of my time either guiding in the mountains or playing in the mountains. So when I noticed that Karen and I both had a weekend without available husbands, I jumped on the opportunity to go running with a real runner!
We talked about doing Agassiz or some other mountain adventure but decided in the end on a run. Karen's husband Howie had once run from South Lake to Big Pine and at 14 miles mostly down hill it sounded just right for the day. Plus we could take the bhay-bhee (Wheeler).
After begging a ride and stashing a bike in the North Fork, we headed out. Karen had said we would be running along the "pipeline" and I imagined a trail where you could see the pipeline in the distance. But for the first 2 miles or so we were running ON the pipeline! Nothing will test you agility more than starting an early morning run on a slippery pipeline trying to keep up with Karen while a little dog jumps on and off the pipe around and between your legs!
The run is awesome to say the least. After the pipeline you enter a beautiful basin with lakes and trees where we stopped for a water fill up. A long uphill trail leads to this crazy open plateau which is a cross between Eastside desert and Alaskan tundra. From there the trail heads down hill where more beautiful lakes and groves of trees exist. Just when you are feeling like you are in the middle of nowhere though is about where people with ATV's and 4WD trucks start feeling in the middle of nowhere too. So we said 'Hi' as we jogged through their decked out camps and pointed them in the direction of deer (I have no problem with hunting for the record but is it deer season already?). Despite the regular camps, roads, and fences we saw very little trash and the area manages to remain very beautiful despite the apparent high level of use. I was happy to see that most people are caring for this place by keeping it clean.
At this point we got a little lost. I was glad we printed out a small map so we could keep track of the main drainages and other features since roads and trails and cow trails went everywhere. With our combined map reading/ route finding skills we did manage to make our way back to a trail which carried us up and over a couple of bumps and then down into the Big Pine drainage. The view of the Palisades is unreal at this point. It will be a fine day when Slide Peak errodes away allowing us to see the Palisade Crest as well as all the 14ers and temple crag.
When we got to the trailhead Karen rumaged around in the bushes and pulled out her beautiful and expensive red bike which was unlocked over night (the eastside really is a magical place- knock on wood) and headed down the road to her house to grab a car. I stripped down and gritted my teeth against the cold water in an effort to preserve my legs for guiding the next day.
Despite the backcountry roads, the brutal sideache I got on the way down Big Pine Creek, and well, those were really the only negatives. We had a great day and highly recommend this trip to anyone! Thanks for reading!
Sierra Mountain Guides