Sitton Peak Overnight

As I finished my water and put on my hiking boots, I looked at the thermometer on the car. It read 84°F. It was going to be a warm one hiking to the campsite this afternoon. Rather than hiking Sitton Peak as a day hike again, I had the idea of doing it as a short backpacking trip. The last time I had hiked the peak, I was specifically keeping an eye out for a possible campsite. Turns out, about 0.9 miles before the summit, there is a clear and wide area to set up camp. I had gotten my Wilderness Permit from the Ranger station a few days before, so I was able to legally spend the night in the San Mateo Wilderness. With 3.5 liters of water in my pack, I carefully and quickly crossed the highway. In some ways, this is the scariest part of the entire hike. I snapped a photo at the trailhead and then signed the trail register. With the warm temperatures, I focused on keeping a reasonable pace. I had a lot more weight on my back than when I usually do this hike. 

As I came to the boundary with the San Mateo Wilderness, a small stream was still gently flowing. I was also enjoying all the wildflowers that were still blooming along the trail’s edge. That made the climb a bit more enjoyable. Once I reached the junction with Bear Ridge Trail and the Bear Canyon Trail, I knew I had earned a break. I had covered about 2.1 miles in just about 1:15. I sat under the shade of a nice oak tree and drank some water. I still had another 1.9 miles to cover, so I put my pack back on and set off. The trail was a touch overgrown, so I was glad I was wearing long pants. Once I reached the Four Corners, I looked for another spot for a short break. After a few minutes along the trail toward the summit, I found an acceptable spot for another break. The campsite wasn’t too much further, but I now needed to make a decision about setting up. One option was to simply unload my gear, and set up camp after I returned from the summit, or the other option was to properly set up camp first. I decided to do the latter. As I approached the saddle, I knew the site was just off to my left. I followed the use trail back just a few yards behind some bushes to the location I had scouted before and quickly set up camp. I am currently using the Gossamer Gear The One as my tent. For those who don’t know, this tent uses your trekking poles as part of the support structure. I was certainly going to need those trekking poles for my climb to the summit. I carefully removed them, letting the tent collapse. The test would be reinserting them after I got back. With a much lighter pack, I set off toward the summit.

Water was still seeping out at a few spots, even this late in the season. This was probably part of the reason I was wearing my bug net, and overgrowth at times was pretty significant. Nothing that truly blocked my path, but I certainly needed to take some care with my footing. At the turn-off, I began the steep climb to the top of the peak. The hike had taken a touch more out of me than I had hoped, so I just took my time. Once I reached the top, the soft evening sun lit up one of the summit signs that was perched on the register can. I dropped my pack and soaked in the view. The sun sat over the west, sinking slowly. I snapped a few photos before enjoying a summit beer and some snacks. While I had my headlamp in my pack, I had no desire to descend that steep 0.4 miles back to the main trail in the dark, so I left before the sun dipped beyond the horizon. A quarter moon was up, offering a touch of light, as the sun’s light faded. I reached my campsite just before I needed to switch on my headlamp. I changed out of my very damp hiking shirt and began making dinner. The bugs were still out, so I retreated to my tent to enjoy my dinner. After dinner, I finished getting ready for bed. I settled in, enjoying listening to Sir Patrick Stewart’s autobiography for a bit, before going to sleep.

I woke a bit before dawn when nature began calling. Since the forecast was going to be another warm one, I opted to pack up and hike the 3.9 miles back to the car. I really didn’t feel like making any coffee, so I just nibbled on my Nutri-Grain bar while I packed up. My tent had some condensation, so I was going to need to dry it out before I truly put it away. I caught the sunrise coming over the hills to the east and made sure I snapped a few photos for Ted as I cruised back along the trail. At Four Corners, I debated taking the Bear Ridge Trail back instead of the Bear Canyon Trail, but I left my wallet in the car and was a touch nervous about that. The cooler air that had settled along the Bear Canyon Trail was welcome, as I could feel the day warming up. I finally started to pass folks making an early morning attempt at the summit. Finally, the end of the trail came into view, and after carefully crossing Ortega Highway, I walked to my car, hoping that my wallet was still inside. Thankfully, it was! I changed out of my gear into something a bit drier and cleaner and began the drive home. All in all, this was a great overnight trip, and one I would do again, just when it is a bit cooler. One piece of gear I might bring next time is a chair. My only option at the campsite was my small seating pad, and that was it. 

I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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