Recent SOTA Activations

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mount Bielawski (W6/NC-155) SOTA Activation

Date: 8/24/2013    Summit: W6/SC-155 (Mount Bielawski)

Rig: Yaesu FT857d 30 watts into an MP-Superantenna (6 - 1/4 wave counter poises, 12ft MFJ Telescoping Whip), 

Route: From Mountain View 85 South, to Saratoga Ave, State Route 9, Turn Left on CA-35. Park at the Castle Rock state park. Follow the Road down and take Bielawski Rd. This follows the hill around and is in the Activation area.

This SOTA Activation is another close one that I had not done yet. I still like these as I can get up there and back home by lunch and then spend the rest of the day with the family. It is hard to do a lot of big summits as they are about 3 hours drive away and end up taking a whole day to accomplish. It is not all about the points but just getting out there and having fun. I like how quiet the radio is when I am out away from the city and all the noise that comes with that. It is amazing to me that I can hear a station that does not even move the meter on my FT857d and we can have a intelligible conversation. I walked the Bielawski Rd around and then found a good place to start heading up the Mountain. As I started to head up through the brush for the last 50 ft or so there was a dog that started to bark from the house that was over the hill. I could tell that he was barking at me and I decided that I had ascended enough as I was definitely in the activation zone. I thought even though I am on public property I am sure that the dog does not care where I am and he sounded a bit uninviting.  It was clear that I was in his territory even if it is public. Not to many pictures from this one as there was not anything to see as the trees where pretty thick. 

I was happy to see these signs as I turned off of Highway 35. There is a gate that someone has made a great attempt at looking like a private driveway but when you walk about 50 ft down the road you encounter these signs that clearly make it a road in Castle Rock State Park. California seems dog friendly when you are in the city but most trails dogs are not allowed. 

This is a view of the summit from Bielawski Road. I made my way up into the trees just below the towers that you can see at the summit and set up there. The dog discourage me from approaching the summit. The other side of the summit was private property but I was not about to see if the dog knew his boundaries!

Here is my log: 

QSO: 14228 SS 2013-08-24 1749 KF7PXT        59         KH6J          59          
QSO: 14270 SS 2013-08-24 1746 KF7PXT        59         KH6LC         59          
QSO: 14347 SS 2013-08-24 1731 KF7PXT        22         K3XD          22          
QSO: 14347 SS 2013-08-24 1727 KF7PXT        22         K1JD          22          
QSO: 14347 SS 2013-08-24 1726 KF7PXT        44         KE5AKL        33          
QSO: 72850 SS 2013-08-24 1644 KF7PXT        33         NS7P          33          
QSO: 14347 SS 2013-08-24 1639 KF7PXT        59         N6FBA         59          
QSO: 14347 SS 2013-08-24 1639 KF7PXT        58         K7JFD         44          
QSO: 14347 SS 2013-08-24 1638 KF7PXT        55         W7RV          53          
QSO: 14347 SS 2013-08-24 1636 KF7PXT        59         N7AMA         59          
QSO: 14347 SS 2013-08-24 1634 KF7PXT        56         KI6EAB        59          
QSO: 14347 SS 2013-08-24 1631 KF7PXT        55         N5XL          33          
QSO: 14340 SS 2013-08-24 1623 KF7PXT        22         W7DDM         55          

The upcoming weeks have a few unactivated summits planned. I have four that are to the south of me but I am waiting for a little better weather. These are in an area with limited shade and outside of San Francisco Bay where the temperature gets into the 90's regularly. I am currently collecting all the bonus points with easy summits so that I can earn them later on the harder ones when it is a little cooler! One of the summits is about 18 miles round trip and I need cooler weather for that. Also, on 7 October I am scheduled for back surgery which will likely take me out of SOTA activations for a month or two. I guess that I will be a better chaser during this time. 

Again, Thanks for all the chasers and fellow activators that make this so much fun!

Mount Vaca (W6/NC-151) SOTA Activation

Date: 8/22/2013    Summit: W6/NC-151 Mount Vaca

Rig: Yaesu FT857d 30 watts into an MP-Superantenna (6 - 1/4 wave counter poises, 12ft MFJ Telescoping Whip), 

Route: This route is an easy on that any GPS will lead you to. The road up the Canyon is narrow at times and changes from Paved to Gravel to paved. There are some steep parts but no need for 4wd. Most cars would make it up there. 

This SOTA Activation was a last minute plan. I had to go to Travis Air Force Base for a medical appointment. As I was there I pulled out my phone and started messing with my SOTA Goat App in the event that I got out of the appointment with time to spare. I noticed that Mt. Vaca was close and that you could drive all the way to the top according to the last activator. After the appointment the Doc wanted me to get my x-rays uploaded at radiology. The technician told me that it was going to take about 2 hours to do this. In my mind I am thinking just enough time for a SOTA activation! I jumped in the truck and headed up. The road is narrow but no problem in making it most of the way to the top. About 1/2 mile short of the summit I found a place to pull the truck over and grabbed my bag to walk the rest of the way up to the summit. I did not see any other people up there but there is a lot of sign of teenage partying and 4 wheel drive trails. There is not much of a view from the top but there is some spots on the road up that there is some decent views. I did not stay to long as it was bare and hot up at the top. 

Not Much of a View looking up towards the summit. During the QSO with Elliot (K6EL) he mentioned that he periodically sees a lot of sand blowing off of the summit when it gets windy. I can see how this could be a miserable summit to be on if it was a windy day.

This must be a great location for the bay area. Lots of antennas. Did not seem to give me much RF trouble.

A nice looking lake to the North. I will have to see if there is a good route to this. I did see a lot of trails heading down the ridges to the lake but probably to narrow and steep for the 3/4 ton Dodge.

A Doe and two fawns on the way down the Canyon

Here is my log:

QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1907 KF7PXT        59         K6EL          59          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1903 KF7PXT        59         WB5USB        57          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1856 KF7PXT        57         WB5USB        53          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1849 KF7PXT        33         N4EX          33          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1848 KF7PXT        44         W5QC          44          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1847 KF7PXT        33         NS7P          22          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1846 KF7PXT        57         N6KZ          59          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1846 KF7PXT        45         AE4FZ         33          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1844 KF7PXT        55         W0MNA         55          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1844 KF7PXT        55         W0ERI         55          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1843 KF7PXT        55         WA2USA        45          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1843 KF7PXT        58         AB7YL         56          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1842 KF7PXT        56         W7RV          54          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1842 KF7PXT        56         N7AMA         56          
QSO: 14345 SS 2013-08-22 1842 KF7PXT        58         K7JFD         55          

Thanks as always to all the Chasers. I look forward to hearing you all on another summit.

Friday, August 23, 2013

El Sereno (W6/NC-191) SOTA Activation

I took the whole family out to this one as it was not just a SOTA but also Geo Caching which the kids enjoy. It was a great trip with the family.

Date: 8/18/2013    Summit: W6/NC-191 El Sereno

Rig: Yaesu FT857d 30 watts into an MP-Superantenna (6 - 1/4 wave counter poises, 12ft MFJ Telescoping Whip), 

Route: From Mountain view I headed South on CA85, CA17 South, At about the 5 mile mark take the Bear Creek exit and make a 180 degree turn onto Montevino Rd. Follow Montevina Road all the way up to the gate and then follow the road in. Turn Left at the T intersection and for a total walking distance of about .6 miles. If you go just beyond the summit there is a nice shade tree off to the left side of the road. 

This SOTA activation was another trip with the whole family. Even Kimber the 8 month old was enjoying this one in her backpack. The weather was very hot at about 90 degrees when we got back to the Van. Watch out for the poison oak at the summit. On the way to the summit and after the summit we also got in a little Geo Cacheing.

The first Geo Cache we came upon.

This was a geo cahce on the way up the road to the trail head.

Benchmark at the last geo cache site.

The proof in the Picture

All in all a great activation and fun with the family. Look for us all on other summits. Listen for the kids and the XYL to be calling CQ. They are all working on their licenses but this will take some time.

My Log:


Thanks to all the chasers that make this so much fun for my family and I!!

San Bruno (W6/CC-072) SOTA Activation

Peyton and I went out for this SOTA activation. It was a nice easy one as are most of the ones that I do these days. I figure that I should get the bonus points on the easy ones and then do the harder ones when the weather cools down a little bit!

Date: 8/17/2013    Summit: W6/CC-072 San Bruno Mountain

Rig: Yaesu FT857d 30 watts into an MP-Superantenna (6 - 1/4 wave counter poises, 12ft MFJ Telescoping Whip), 

Route: Guadalupe Canyon Pkwy to park entrance. Paid $6 fee at the gate and then went under the underpass and parked in lot. Hiked following Eucalyptus loop trail, Dairy Ravine Trail, and Ridge Trail. On the way down we used Summit Loop Trail all the way back down to the South and around back to the trailhead. 

This was a quick one with not a lot of pictures. The summit was fairly windy and cloudy and did not give much of a view. This was also the noisyest summit that I have done and most of my contacts were very tough and way down in the noise. Most of the time I was getting very good reports in response to my poor reports out. I think that this was a combination of factors, mostly being all of the RF from the antennas on top. I was also having trouble receiving 2m with my arrow antenna on my HT. K6EL later told me by email that he could here me calling and that I was not able to hear him. This was also the say of the solar storm but this should have been after I was off the summit. A strange day! I appreciate everyone that was patient with me. 

Peyton at the Trailhead

The best view that I was able to see. This was down from the summit. Then the clouds came in and I decided to get a picture before there was nothing else to see!


We set up the Antenna and supported it by piling rocks on the base. The wind was bending the whip over pretty good. All in all it was a successful activation.



Peyton and I decided to take the long way down and got some pictures as the weather started to clear up again. All and all it was a fun activation. Peyton is still enjoying getting up early with dad and heading up to the summits.

Thanks to all the Chasers that are so loyal and patient with me while up on the summit.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sierra Morena (W6/NC-209) Activation

Today I took the whole family out to Activate Sierra Morena. I picked this one as I noticed from Elliot's (K6EL) post on the SOTA website that this was a very easy approach. I basically followed his directions exactly but instead of coming from the North I was coming up from the South.

Route: I followed Page Mill road to the West and then headed North on Skyline Boulevard (CA-35). We parked at Skeggs Point and then headed North on the road for about 100 yards. We followed the paved approach up the hill to the antennas and then followed an old road to the top of the summit. The antenna's are well within the activation area but I wanted to get out of the trail area.

Equipment: Yaesu FT857d MP1 Super Antenna. (I use 6 radials with a MFJ 12ft telescoping whip)

Thiis was a fairly easy and straight forward activation and I will include my log and a few pictures with explanations below. Elliot said that the summit was "Easy Peasy" on the SOTA website. I will expand and as my Daughter Lily would say "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy."

This is a picture of the family and I just off of the Summit.

Baby Kimber was left out of the first one so we had to make sure that she was in a picture.

A good picture of Kimber, along for the ride.

My wife Delma and I. She helped me carry some of the gear up the trail.

The kids after it was all done at the trail head.

It was a great day out with the wife and kids. The worst part for them was trying to keep the "stickers" off of them. Thanks again to all my Chasers. I was checking today and I realized that Phil NS7P has chased me on every one of my summits! Thanks Phil. Gary, W0MNA and Martha, W0ERI are one behind. I guess that I missed you all on one of my summits!

My log:

QSO: 14652 FM 2013-08-10 2218 KF7PXT        59         K6EL          59          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2214 KF7PXT        57         AC0A          57          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2212 KF7PXT        59         KG6HXN        59          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2210 KF7PXT        22         KK1W          53          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2207 KF7PXT        55         WB5USB        44          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2204 KF7PXT        55         KF7AHD        57          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2202 KF7PXT        56         W7GST         57          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2200 KF7PXT        59         N4MJ          59          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2159 KF7PXT        33         KL7RMS        55          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2158 KF7PXT        56         N7UN          44          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2157 KF7PXT        56         K5RWP         22          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2157 KF7PXT        59         K3EL          44          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2156 KF7PXT        22         AD4RE         22          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2155 KF7PXT        44         VE1WT         44          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2155 KF7PXT        58         K6EL          59+         
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2154 KF7PXT        59         W0ERI         57          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2154 KF7PXT        59         NS7P          59          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2153 KF7PXT        55         N5JKY         56          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2153 KF7PXT        55         AK4VU         57          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2152 KF7PXT        55         AE4FZ         33          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2151 KF7PXT        58         W0MNA         58          
QSO: 14342 SS 2013-08-10 2151 KF7PXT        55         N1EU          57               

EveryTrail Link with tracks and Pictures:

Ch-Paa-Qn Peak (W6/LM-053) SOTA Activation

Peyton, Lily and I woke  up early to head out to this one. When we left I was not completely sure that we were going to do Ch-Paa-Qn. There were two other peaks in the area that may have been Easier. Mount Edith was definitely easier as I had been up there before and the was an un-named summit that looked fairly easy.  Charlie (the dog) was to tired to make the trip today and he went back in his bed when I tried to bring him. I guess that he was worn out from the last two days.  

Route: I left from Missoula on I90 West and took exit 182 North and followed the signs to the historic Ranger Station. I should have stopped and got some pictures but I was focused on getting up to the trail head. When you get to the Ranger station stay straight and follow the signs to Edith Peak staying on Edith Peak road. After about 10 miles you will see a nice big parking area on the left. This parking area can easily hold 10-15 cars. The road up to the trail head is doable by almost any vehicle. I took a mini-van up there but you definitely would want to take it easy as there are some large rocks that could easily take out an oil pan. A vehicle with a little more clearance is definitely recommended.

Trail: The trail is very easy to follow until you get to the rocky peak and then it is a scramble for the last half mile to the summit. The pictures below show the trail throught the woods at the beginning and then the rock scramble looking towards the top of the summit.

I was using my FT857d on 30 watts with a SuperAntenna MP1. I have experimented with a dipole but just like to be able to tune the MP1 for all bands with a simple setup.


When I pulled into the trail-head we were the only car there. The temperature was about 50 degrees and the kids were begging me to put on their jackets. I refused to let them. It was not 5 minutes later that we were heading up the first incline that they would have been taking them off...and they agreed they were not cold anymore.

The trail is well marked. There are actually many ways up to the summit. We followed the trail 3 miles to the sign below and then followed the sign for the 1/2 mile hike up to the summit. When it comes to easiness this is the easiest route to stick to a trail and shorter distance up the rocks...but it is longer at about 3.5 miles. If you want to make it shorter hike in about 2.5 miles and then cut off the trail to the Right and start heading towards the summit. This will cut off about 1 mile but you are strickly cross country up to the top. Either way is not to bad. When I was there someone had stacked rocks at the good point to head of the trail to the North.

When we started heading up the summit at the sign above Lily started to get a little tired. With a little motivation to make it to the rocks she was having a blast getting up the rocks and her tiredness miraculously went away. They had a blast climbing up the rocks. I had to slow them down at times and tell them to be safe.

The pictures below are all from the summit or near the summit. The views are amazing to the North into the Mission Valley, S. East to the Missoula Valley, South into the Bitteroot and West to I90 Corridor.

View to the South into the Bitteroots.

Looking South East towards Missoula Valley

We happened upon the Geo Cache at the top which was cool because this is something that we enjoy doing with the kids. It is awesome to get them out in the woods and look for these.

Peyton and Lily Enjoyed talking on the radio at the top. I should have got a Picture of Lily on the Radio and some video but I did not think of it at the time. A special thanks to everyone that was patient with the kids on the air and worked with them while they were doing reports. This required a lot of patience with me trying to juggle getting them to talk loud enough, hold the PTT down, and listen and repeat what I was telling them. A special thanks to Randall ND0C who came back on and had a short conversation with Peyton. He was so happy that someone talked to him and told everyone about it when we returned home.

The log Book: 22 Contacts all on 20m with 3 S2S Contacts from NS7P, W1DMH, and N0BCB. I also talked to Oliver W6ODJ in the bay area california who was excited to hear what SOTA was all about. He said that he was to old to activate but may look into Chasing. I am not sure if AA4Q was on a summit or not. I thought I remember him saying that he was but did not have the information in my log.


On the descent down we took the shorter more direct approach to the trail. This required a lot more scrambling down the rocks and cross country movement but it took about a mile off of the trip back to the van. We ran into about 5 other groups of hikers on the way up and enjoyed about 70 degree weather and shade from the trees for the majority of the trip. Even at the summit it was not bad with a slight breeze to keep us cool from the open summit.

At the bottom we picked about 1/2 gallon of Huckleberry's that ended up on ice cream for desert that night. As you can see  below the kids were exhausted from the hike and it was a quiet ride home.

The youngest kids (Brookelyn and Colton) were patiently waiting when we returned and happy to see us. Of course they wanted to know when they would be old enough to come with us.

Huckleberry Icecream. Amazing!

Thanks to all the chasers and activators that make this such an enjoyable hobby. My kids enjoyed talking to everyone on the radio and were so excited after they would make a contact. They are already talking about studying for their technician exam. 

See everyone on another summits soon!

Blue Mountain (W7M/LM-121) SOTA Activation

This was the 2nd of 3 activations during my Montana trip. On this one I took my Niece and Nephew with me and picked an easy summit to head up on.

Driving Directions: I went out west of Missoula on 3rd Street to North and across the bridge connecting with Blue Mountain Road and followed this all the way up to the locked gate.

We all Hiked up Blue Mountain (W7M/LM-121) on 8/3/2013.

I used my FT857d with MP1 SuperAntenna on 30w again.

This is another summit that I was keeping a close eye on the weather and hoping to not get wet. In the end we only got a few minutes with some hail and we were able to shield most of it under the tower.

Here is a picture of the kids and the Dog Charlie on the way up.

The kids at the top of the hill. The fire tower was not manned while we were there. I was surprised with all of the fire danger and lightening. Every other time I have been up here in the late summer the tower was manned.

Here are some Thimble Berry's that I could not keep the kids out of. Without the Berrys the trip would have been a lot quicker. There was also a lot of Huckleberrys up there but I failed to get a picture.

Here is the log from the trip:

20:49zN0PCL 14MHzSSB

At the end of the day this was a great activations and a chance to spend some time with my niece and nephew. They had a great time even if it was picking some Berry's. Peyton and Lily (my kids) had a great time calling CQ and each got a couple contacts. They were excited for the next days trip where I promised them that they could do some more talking on the radio.

For all of the pictures and the track check out my Everytrail link:

Friday, August 9, 2013

University Mountain (W7M/LM-145) SOTA Activation

This was my first Activation of my Montana Trip. I was going to make a Summit of Black Butte (W6/NE-131) on the way through northern California but the Smoke from the southern Oregon Fire was just to much for me to try it.

So I continued on my way to Montana and did the Summit of University Mountain (W7M/LM-145) on 8/2/2013. This was a 7.2 Mile hike.

I Parked in the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area on the South East side of Missoula at the Crazy Canyon trail head parking area. We then made our way to Crazy Canyon Road using trails. We then followed the road and Ridge Trail to the summit of University Mountain.

The beginning of the trail started out as a normal walking trail through fields and trees...the kids and I were still fresh here! The road that you see on the other side of the trail is crazy canyon road.

This is Crazy Canyon Road not far before it meets up with the trail that heads up the road...and also where the kids got slower!

Even our dog Charlie made the trip with us.

This is Where the kids decided that it was starting to get a little steep.

I started to get a little worried that the activation might get postponed because of rain. I kept an eye out for lightening and ear our for thunder but everything turned out well. The hill ended up being in a no rain zone and the clouds seemed to keep going around us...until the trip down.

My crazy kids attempt at a Lewis and Clark Pose. They were having a great time.

I was able to get the radio and equipment set up with no rain. I stuck to 20m except for my last contact with Phil NS7P on 40m. Phil and I understand that Montana and Oregon are just to close for 20m and I make a quick trip to 40 just to check for local chasers.

I was using a FT 857d with a MP1 SuperAntenna with 30w.

My log on the Summit was as follows:


After all contacts were complete we decide to start to make our way down the mountain and not push the issue with the rain any further. Within minutes of starting down the summit the rain started to sprinkle down on us. It was not until later and closer to the van that the rain really started to come down on us. The picture below was a quick break in the clouds on the way down.

A Picture of all of us down near the trail head.

At the end of the day we did not get to wet and managed to avoid most of the rain. The kids had a blast and were looking forward to the next 2 days of heading out to the summits and I looked forward to the weather which looked promising. 

Thanks to all the chasers that supported me up there and continue to make SOTA and enjoyable hobby. My kids are stoked and continue to be excited to go with dad to "talk on the Radio."

Here is the link to my Track and the rest of my pictures: