Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pt. 1380 (W6/NC-380) SOTA Activation

On Tuesday 25 February 2014 I took full advantage of the fact that I am leaving my job and thus have nothing to do. In fact my whole mission is trying to get back in shape and healthy to report to my next duty station up in Joint Base Lewis / McChord, WA. What better way to do that then head off for a hike in the mountains...with a little SOTA of course. My total trip was a easy 7 miles. There is no view off of the summit on this one but the views in the forest are amazing. It is basically in the coastal forests with a lot of vegetation and fog. There was no hard climbs but just a couple steady ones then travel along the ridge the whole way. The trail starts at an elevation of 256ft and gradually climbs to 1,380 ft. When you get to the summit you have to be careful or you are likely to walk right by it. With all the vegetation you do not get the feeling that you are on a summit. In fact it is so thick with ferns and vines that you would need a machete to get to the summit; I did not go all the way as the trail was in the Activation Zone. The trail was a great example of the Northern California coastal forests. I was able to hear chasers very well but my reports were generally low. I think that this is because my antenna was oriented North / South because of the terrain available. I only made 12 contacts CW on 30m and 20m. I don't think that band conditions were that good today. I packed up after about 30 min of operating and ran back down the trail to the truck. I apologize for not staying on the summit longer but I had to get back to work and at least earn my pay check for the day. After all you all are paying me! Though you did undercut me a little on my 5 deployments so I am just making up a little time.

Route: 
- North on HWY 101 across the golden gate bridge.
- CA-1 North to Olema Bolinas Rd. (25 mi)
- Turn L. onto Olema Bolinas Rd (1.2 mi)
- Turn L. to stay on Olema bolinas rd for about 1/2 mile
- Turn R. on Mesa Rd. and go approx 3.6 Miles - Watch for a gate with a TH sign for Ridge Trail on your right. If you make it to the Bird Sanctuary turn around you have gone to far. Find parking on the side of the road. I was concerned about parking but after I parked the Ranger passed me and waved.

Cell Signal: 
Full digital signal. Was able to send and receive SOTA goat spots.



 Radio working conditions: 


 No issues. Nice and quiet on the bands. The big issue that I had was that I was only able to set up right on the trail. At this point in the trail it is going North / South. There is absolutely no way to get your wire to go East / West on the summit because of the thick vegetation. This may explain the low QSO count.



 The photo to the Right is the tree that I hung my antenna off of. As you can see the vegetation on the sides of the trail is thick and cannot be breached. I was forced to run my wire down the trail which is a North / South orientation.



This is a good representation of the trail all the way down the ridge.
Trail Conditions: 
Very nice trail all the way to the top. I wore running shoes and had no issues. Very easy to follow all the way to the summit and further on down the ridge.
Weather: 
Foggy and about 45 degrees. It started to rain but I am not sure if it was really rain or if it was just the fog falling off of the trees. I did not want to stay long as it started to get chilly sitting still.



Fees:
None



Setup: 
PFR3 with 1800 m/ah LiPo - http://www.qrpkits.com/pfr3.html
Contacts:
I did not have a lot of contacts today but it was a short trip. I only did 30 and 20m and did both bands until the chasers stopped. 
Band Conditions may have had a little with the low QSO count.


I ran into about 100 of these little lizards on the trail. I had to watch out or I would have stepped on a few of them. They are pretty slow moving also.

This is that trail that I used.
This is another option coming from HWY 101




Pretty interesting antenna farm right on the coast

Check out this antenna!




Thanks again to all of the Chasers!!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Brushy Peak (W6/NC-338) SOTA Activation

On Thursday 20 February Peyton, Brookelyn, and I headed out for a hike and a SOTA. I chose Brushy Peak because it was an unactivated peak that was not to far from home and it did not look to hard for the kids. The parking lot is big and has plenty of room. We started off and decided to do a loop. It was nice day with a little breeze. There is a service road that leads all the way except the last 1/2 mile or so that you head up to the summit. Near the summit there is a fence that blocks the path and has a sign that says "Resource Protection Area KEEP OUT."  I quickly looked at my phone and noticed that I was not in the AZ yet. We followed the fence line up hill and were able to get into the activation zone. When I was up as far as I could go I was at 1667 ft. and the summit is at 1702 ft. I was just 35 vertical feet short of the actual summit, well within the 80 ft rule. (When I got to the bottom I found a number, 925-960-2400, that said that you can get access to the summit by reservation only. I called them and they seemed very willing to give access.) I hung the wire antenna off the tree and started to call CQ.  I did a quick activation as my daughter had that look like she wanted to get going, and then we headed back down towards the truck. This was a nice easy hike with plenty to see. In the summer I can see that it would be very hot out there.
Route: 

HWY 101 South, CA-237 E. Take I-880 N and I-680 N to CA-84 E/Vallecitos Rd in Sunol
Take the California 84 E exit from I-680 N, Follow I-680 N. to I-580 E. 
Drive 4.2 Miles and Exit on Vasco Road.

Follow signs to Brushy Peak Regional Preserve.

Cell Signal: 
Full digital signal. Was able to send and receive SOTA goat spots.

Radio working conditions: 

Great conditions no issues. Did not get any contacts on 20m?
Trail Condition: 
Great Trail. Service Road except for the last 1/4 mile. A couple short semi-steep climbs.

Weather: 
About 60 degrees and breezy.

Fees:
None

Website(s):


Setup: 
PFR3 with 1800 m/ah LiPo- http://www.qrpkits.com/pfr3.html

Contacts:
Not a lot of contacts. I did try 20m for a bit with no chasers heard. Time to pack up and head to the truck. When you do SOTA with kids you can't spend a lot of time on the summit!
The rocks were a hit with the kids. There are a lot of rocks around the loop.

View looking West down into Livermore, CA.












Thanks to all the Chasers.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cerro San Luis Obispo (W6/SC-357) SOTA Activation

On Monday 17 Feb. Del and I were getting ready for the three hour trip back up to the bay area and back to our real life! I saw that Cerro San Luis Obispo (W6/SC-357) had not been activated and was a fairly easy hike to the summit. Del was still pretty sore from our hike on Saturday but was up for this one!

Route: 
Once you are in San Luis Obispo this one is hard to miss. The parking area is right off of the Marsh street exit of HWY 101.

Cell Signal: 
Full digital signal.

Radio working conditions: 
No issues. Nice and quiet on the bands

Trail Condition: 
Very nice trail all the way to the top.

Weather: 
Great day at about 55 degrees. A nice breeze!

Fees: 
None 

EveryTrail Route: 
http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=2669698


Setup: 
PFR3 with internal AA batteries - http://www.qrpkits.com/pfr3.html
Note: the AA batteries lasted me on all three activations without a charge. I was impressed.

Lambda Antenna - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXo0XucRpt0&list=FLuy-J6QwwXmIdgM0-I2ue7w&index=1

AME Porta Paddle II - http://www.americanmorse.com/portapaddle.htm

Contacts:
16 contacts on 3 bands. Not to bad for a Monday. Even though it was a holiday I am sure that some chasers were at work. Thanks Wendell from chasing me from Montana! It always makes me feel a little bit at home to get a contact from there!

Charlie's sleeping spot in the back seat. We had all our bags a gear in there and he was sleeping on top of it all.

An amazing view to the West.





This is a view of Bishop Peak (W6/SC-339) We may do this one if we are ever in the area again. You can see the trail all the way to the top and there were plenty of people going up it.

Del and Charlie on the top of Cerro San Luis Obispo. You can see Bishop Peak and the rest of the sisters in the back and all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

A shot of my operating position. I decided to wear the running shoes and give my feet a bit of a break. This was not the best decision as the trail was a bit rocky and uneven.



Over looking San Luis Obispo.



Charlie found a place to lay down. Also, it seems that you can not go anywhere without someone spray painting something these days.

I used the pole for my antenna. Not a lot of height on this one but it seemed to work. I need to get a pole for getting my antenna a little higher in the air. The main element did go off the side of the rocks which gave it some height off the ground below.


At least he is not trying to roll on a dead animal which is normally the case!

Del and I had to get one more Selfie with Bishop peak in the background before heading back down the hill.

Thanks again for everyone that was patient with me on my rookie CW skills. On thing that I have found is that if I just trust myself it is a lot easier. When I start over thinking things I have to refer to my cheat sheet a lot more. See everyone on the next one.

Cone Peak (W6/CC-023) SOTA Activation

On 15 Feb. I woke up early after camping out on the coast ridge road. We got a little bit of rain during the night but nothing to worry about. Del and Charlie decided to sleep in and take a break from Junipero Serra yesterday. They both did amazing and pushed themselves hard. They had a much deserved break. During the stay at the truck Del was able to see a Bald Eagle and a Grey Fox that walked right by the truck. The fox did not even know that she was there so it presented a good up close view. This was the second fox we saw up there as we saw one the night before on the drive up. We had parked about 1/2 mile up hill from the trailhead so I walked down the road. When I got to the TH I ran into the guy that I had saw on Junipero Serra the day prior. He had made it the 40 miles and two peaks in 24 hours! He told me that he had gotton to the point early in the morning where he could not drink any water anymore. I offered to give him a ride down to his car on the coast. He said that he may take me up on it but he was gone when I returned to the TH. I assume he made the 11 mile hike down. Cone peak was a great time. I spent a couple hours up there and had great sunny weather and some amazing coastal views.

Route: 
From Mountain View, CA take 101S to Jolon Road, just north of King City. Follow Jolon road for about 20 miles and turn right towards Fort Hunter Ligget. Follow map and everytrail from here. Cone Peak road is accessible by any vehicle with a little bit of clearance. I would call the ranger district in advance to make sure that the gate is opened. In the past I have been through the area and the gate has been closed and locked. If you have to start from the gate it adds an extra 12 miles to the round trip hike.

Cell Signal: 
Only analog signal for text at the top. I had to rely on SMS for spotting. It worked great!

Radio working conditions: 
No issues. Nice and quiet on the bands

Trail Condition: 
Very nice trail all the way to the top. Some switchbacks closer to the top.

Weather: 
Great day at about 55 degrees. A nice breeze!

Fees: 
None 

EveryTrail Route: 
http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=2669737


Setup: 
PFR3 with internal AA batteries - http://www.qrpkits.com/pfr3.html
Note: the AA batteries lasted me on all three activations without a charge. I was impressed.

Lambda Antenna - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXo0XucRpt0&list=FLuy-J6QwwXmIdgM0-I2ue7w&index=1

AME Porta Paddle II - http://www.americanmorse.com/portapaddle.htm

Contacts:
21 Contacst on 20m, 30m, and 40m. I stayed for about 1 hour. I hope that I did not leave any chasers hanging. I am sure that my wire antenna is not the best but it is light and seems to work fairly well for me. 

This was the sunrise from the truck when I woke up.





This is a view of Pt. 3761 (W6/SC-107). This looks like a tough climb with no trail to the top.  Maybe someday.


The trail was good and well defined all the way to the summit.






I read in a different blog that there is a pine tree on Cone peak that is only found native in this area. This is the only pine tree that I saw so I figure it must be the one.


Looking across at Junipero Serra.

The tower at the top. There was two different groups that camped on the summit. Del and I have a plan to backpack up from the coast and stay the night here one day.

A view looking south down the pacific coast.
Panoramic view from North East down to the South.


Panoramic view from the West to the North East
Thanks again to all the chasers! It is amazing how much fun this hobby is.