Richardson East Benchmark – W6/NC-407

Activation Date: 28 July 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 1.9 miles
Elev. gain: 590 feet Time: 40 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 40m/20m (cw)
Antenna(s): QRPGuys Tri-band Vertical
Cell Service: Good (T-Mobile)
Parking: Spencer Ave Park & Ride
Trailhead: Morning Sun Trail – across the street
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Morning Sun, Alta Trails. Dirt road to summit.
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: None – bring your own RF Noise: Moderate

As you’ll see in this report, the featured photo is not from this trip. It’s from the first time I went – early last year. This year, I did this summit as a quick little activation prior to our SF Bay Area SOTA meet-up.  Jeff, AA6XA (see his blog), had the idea of starting up a quarterly meet-up for Bay Area SOTA people.  We change locations each time, since the Bay Area is pretty big, and we’d like to be able to activate different summits in the various areas.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do a summit after the brunch, so I picked this one to do on the way to our meeting.

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Mount Scott – W7O/CS-003

Activation Date: 24 July 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 4.5 miles
Elev. gain: 1,205 feet Time: 2 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 40m/20m (cw)
Antenna(s): Linked EFHW 40/30/20m
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: Mount Scott Trailhead
Trailhead: Mount Scott
Fees/Permits: Crater Lake National Park – $25/car for 7 days in the park
Route: Mount Scott Trail
Dogs: No Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Short trees RF Noise: Low

I’ve wanted to visit Crater Lake National Park for a long time. Having planned my visit to Washington state as a road trip, I planned a two-night stay in the park on the way back.  The original plan was for me and my two sons to camp (my wife had to be at work), but we ended up adding my brother-in-law and one of my nephews to the mix, too!  Despite nearby wildfires creating a lot of smoke in the area, we went ahead and did this summit hike up the volcano known as Mount Scott — the highest point in Crater Lake National Park.

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Green Mountain – W7W/RS-074

Activation Date: 22 July 2018
Transport: Drive-Up / Short Hike Distance: 0.5 miles
Elev. gain: 120 feet Time: 12 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B, FT-817 Band(s): 40m/20m (cw/ssb)
Antenna(s): Linked EFHW 40/30/20m
Cell Service: Moderate (T-Mobile)
Parking: Summit Lot, via Green Mountain Summer Road
Trailhead: Vista Trail
Fees/Permits: Discover Pass ($11.50 daily, $35 annual)
Route: Walk up the Vista Trail
Dogs: Yes Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Lots of trees, fence RF Noise: Low

I was up in my home state of Washington (not DC) for a family wedding and wanted to squeeze in a little bit of SOTA fun.  This summit fit the bill, and also looked like it’d be really enjoyable, with a good view.  Too bad I injured my knee just a few days before the trip!  But not to worry: it turns out this summit has a drive-up option if you don’t mind a few miles of dirt road.

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Mount Umunhum – W6/CC-052 – 2018

Activation Date: 16 July 2018
Transport: Drive-Up / Walk Distance: 159 stairs
Elev. gain: 100 feet Time: 10 minutes
Rig(s): VX-2R, GD-77 Band(s): 2m/70cm (fm/dmr)
Antenna(s): 12.5″ whip
Cell Service: Moderate (T-Mobile)
ParkingSummit Lot
TrailheadN/A
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Walk up the stairs
Dogs: No! Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Couple of short trees RF Noise: Med-High

Mount Umunhum is very close to me “as the bird flies,” but it takes almost an hour to get there.  Nonetheless, with the family out of town I decided to do this drive-up summit after work one day.  It may be an hour drive each way, but there’s just a few minutes of walking up some stairs to get to the top. Last time I activated it, it was in the fog. This time I was able to see a lot more!

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Chabot 2 Benchmark, W6/NC-432 – 2018

Activation Date: 8 July 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 1.8 miles
Elev. gain: 300 feet Time: 40 minutes
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 40/20m (cw)
Antenna(s): End-Fed Half-Wave
Cell Service: Excellent (T-Mobile)
ParkingSmall lot at trailhead, or side of road
Trailhead: Fairmont Ridge Staging Area
Fees/Permits: None
RouteFairmont Ridge, stay right of eucalyptus trees
Dogs: Yes (off-leash OK) Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Lots of trees and fences RF Noise: Low

Named “Chabot 2 Benchmark” for SOTA, this is actually “Fairmont Ridge.” I’m sure there’s a benchmark with that name somewhere inside the fenced area, but I haven’t been there.  This is one of the easiest local peaks and this year I’d been saving activating it for when Austin, K6ABM aka “DietSOTA” and I were able to meet up.  We finally made it happen!

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W6/NC-353, Burdell Mountain – 2018

Activation Date: 17 June 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 4.8 miles
Elev. gain: 1225 feet Hiking Time: 2.5 hours
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 20m, 40m (cw + ssb), 2m fm
Antenna(s): End-Fed Half-Wave with QRPGuys Tuner
Cell Service: Moderate (T-Mobile)
ParkingSan Andreas Drive
Trailhead: San Andreas Drive
Fees/Permits: None
RouteMiddle Burdell, Cobblestone fire roads
Dogs: Yes – off-leash on fire roads Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Some trees RF Noise: Low

I did this summit late last year as my first morse code activation. Last time it was a combo POTA/SOTA activation. This time would be only SOTA.  And it was a heck of a lot warmer too!

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W6/SC-261, Pinyon Peak – Success!

Activation Date: 28 May 2018
Transport: Hike/Run Distance: 7.8 miles
Elev. gain: 2,200 feet Time: 2.25 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B Band(s): 30m (cw)
Antenna(s): QRPGuys Tri-Band Vertical
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: Free
TrailheadCarmel Valley Ranch, Oak Pl Ln
Fees/Permits: None
RouteHuff n’ Puff, Snively’s Ridge trails
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Bring your own RF Noise: Low (HF), Very high (VHF)

Almost exactly a year after first attempting this summit, I came back. This time, I had an HF radio with me, so the excessive VHF RF and isolation on the summit would not be an issue.  Last time, I ran with one friend. This time, I brought along 3! And more dogs, too!  So I’d have less time for the activation as a result. Oh, and it was hotter, as well!  In the time since I’d last attempted the activation, my SOTA friend Jeff AA6XA had managed to get out there and get first activation on this somewhat obscure peak. Now it would be my turn!

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HF Ham Radio on a Budget: QRP Labs, QRPGuys, CW Academy

When I started my amateur radio life as KK6VSI in August of 2015, I wish I could have had the information I’m about to lay out here.  Of course, most of the equipment didn’t yet exist.  So another way of looking at it is that my entry into amateur radio was perfectly timed for a modern Golden Age of Ham Radio.  Part of this Golden Age means you can get a QRP Labs QCX or BITX40, and a QRPGuys Antenna, plus a few other components, and you’re on the air!  Stick with me here, and we’ll get to the details.

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CW Academy Level 2: Listen, listen, listen!

I haven’t written a post in a while, so I figured I’d write a quick update on my progress with learning Morse code for CW operation. I’d completed CW Academy Level 1 at the end of October 2017 and I’ve been doing CW SOTA activations since. CW Academy Level 1 got me from sort of knowing the characters to actually being able to use Morse code to communicate.  I still wasn’t comfortable actually having a conversation, but simple contacts were actually possible and, dare I say it, enjoyable! I had initially gone ahead and signed up for the very next Level 2 class (running Jan-Feb 2018), but soon decided I wasn’t quite ready for it.  I requested to bumped to the next one (running Apr-May 2018).

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Laguna Mountain, W6/CC-029

Activation Date: 21 April 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 8 miles
Elev. gain: 2300 feet Hiking Time: 4 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B, VX-2R Band(s): 20m, 40m (cw)
Antenna(s): End-Fed Half-Wave with QRPGuys Tuner
Cell Service: Very marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: Laguna Mountain Campground
Trailhead: Laguna Mountain Rd
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Laguna Mountain Road, followed by use trails
Dogs: Yes Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Some trees RF Noise: Very Low

This summit hadn’t yet been on the air, and I’ve been wanting to activate it for quite a while. I made this summit quite a bit harder than it needed to be. It’s an 8-mile round-trip if you’re just going to the summit and back. However, I was here to do some backpacking with my older son, Miles, so I had a 50-pound pack on. Also, I decided to take a shortcut that ended up making things harder. And we had a rattlesnake encounter! Still, we had a good time overall and got it done.

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