High Sierra Trail, part 5

This week we continue my journey on the High Sierra Trail. We left off at our campsite at Wallace Creek on the fourth night. In this episode, we cover day 5, from there to Guitar Lake.

Day 5 started on a cold morning. My group, including me, was eager to warm up by getting on the trail. This short section of a few miles was the only part of the High Sierra Trail to fall along both the John Muir Trail (JMT) and Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Despite the early hour, we crossed paths with several groups of hikers doing one trail or the other, usually the PCT. As usual, they were all friendly, but since we were traveling in opposite directions, no conversations lasted very long.


If I may go off on a tangent, I’d like to give high marks to the signage on the High Sierra Trail. As I recall, every junction I took was well marked with signs, like the one above. Good signage on trails should never be counted on or taken for granted.

This section on the PCT was pleasantly fairly level and well forested. The picture above of Tina is a typical example of this stretch of the trail.

After a few miles on the PCT, it was time to leave it as we headed in the direction of Guitar Lake. However, we would still see many more PCT hikers, as many evidently camped near the Crabtree Wilderness Ranger to make a side trip out of summiting Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states.

mountain lake

This stretch of the trail was very scenic as we passed my mountain lakes, like the one pictured above, which I think is Timberline Lake. Note, at this point, the trees start to get shorter and more spaced apart, meaning we are about to climb above the tree-line for a second time this trip.

guitar lake

We continued to climb past the tree line until we came to our destination for day 5, Guitar Lake. In the picture above you see our camp along the neck of the guitar.

Let me stop and say loud and clear that we should not have been camping on grass nor so close to the lake. Our only excuse is that when we arrived it was very cold and windy. We needed dirt to stake down the tents, or at least that’s what we thought at the time. However, in retrospect, that is a bad excuse. We could have weighted down the tents with rocks.

As it was getting dark, two rangers came by and took us to task for this violation of the rules. They were absolutely right. We were guilty as charged and I felt terrible about it and still do to this day. The rangers were within their rights to cite us, but the one in charge kindly let us off with a stern lecture.


We were told to fluff up the grass before we left and apologize to it, which I certainly did. In addition, I left the message you see in the picture above.

Overall, day 5 was probably the easiest of the six. Both the milage and elevation gain were less than average. We had a lot of spare time at Guitar Lake, which we enjoyed by walking around, logic puzzles, and playing cards.

I had difficulty sleeping that night and spent the waking time staring at a beautiful clear starry sky. At about 2AM a gorgeous full moon rose over the ridgeline. With my eyes accustomed to the darkness, the bright light of the moon peaking over the mountains was brilliant. It reminded me of the sun peeking out behind the moon, marking the end of totality of a total solar eclipse.

Next time, we will wrap up the six-part series on the High Sierra Trail, with our sixth and last day on the trail.