|Activation Date: 30 September 2017|
|Transport: Hike||Distance: 1.8 miles|
|Elev. gain: 300 feet||Time: 40 minutes|
|Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R||Band(s): 2m, 70cm FM|
|Antenna(s): 12.5-inch flex whip|
|Cell Service: Excellent (T-Mobile)|
|Parking: Small lot at trailhead, or side of road|
|Trailhead: Fairmont Ridge Staging Area|
|Route: Fairmont Ridge, stay right of eucalyptus trees|
|Dogs: Yes (off-leash area)||Toilet: No|
Well, it finally happened: I forgot a critical component of my system. I hiked up to the activation zone, got my antenna nicely set up in a tall tree, hooked everything up and went to turn on the radio—no power!
I had recently taken the internal battery out of my rig. I don’t know why—maybe I wanted to give it a break? Anyway, I’ve also been using it in my car, as my mobile VHF/UHF rig. I had it plugged into the car on the way to this hike, and totally forgot to grab the connector when I got out of the car. This is an easy, pretty fast hike, but I still decided not to go back and get the connector. This would be a VHF/UHF-only activation.
If you drive here, park in the small lot on Fairmont, if you can. Otherwise, park on Fairmont Drive. When I was here, there were a lot of no-parking signs up, but I think they weren’t applicable on the weekend, and they seemed to be temporary. There’s room for about 8-10 vehicles in the small lot at the trailhead.
I got my dog, Tashi, out of the car and put her on a leash. There are signs making it clear dogs should be on their leashes in the parking area, and just beyond. I grabbed my backpack with (almost) all of my radio gear and started up the hill. About 100 feet past the gate, there’s a sign designating the “off-leash” area, which I took advantage of. Not long after that, about 5-6 other dogs showed up and made their introductions with Tashi. They all seemed to be friendly enough, so onward we hiked.
I think most of the dog owners visiting here are in for more of a casual stroll. I hustled up the hill. Tashi and I were alone pretty quickly. After the initial steep-ish climb, we were rewarded with nice views of Lake Chabot.
It isn’t long before you’re at the spot where you should go to the right of the eucalyptus trees. I actually missed it on this trip, since I got distracted talking to someone on one of the local repeaters. It’s definitely not hard to find if you’re paying attention.
Having missed the turn to go right of the eucalyptus trees, it wasn’t long before I found myself at the top (or at least as far as you can go). I realized at this point that I had forgotten to go to the right of the trees, so I found a little path that would take me where I needed to go. So, if you miss the turn, you can also get to the correct spot from where the big fence is.
If you end up here, simply turn right and follow a small path that goes between the big fence and the small barbed-wire cattle fence up the hill.
Having made it to the other side of the trees, I enjoyed the view of the lake for a few seconds, then promptly started spotting branches for my antenna.
There are lots of options for antenna setup here. No need to get too particular! I found a fairly high branch that would allow me to set up a sloper pointing east and got the wire where I wanted it after two throws.
Having gotten my sloper all set up and the rig nicely situated, I pressed the power button on my FT-817. Nothing. I thought to myself, “oh! The power connector.” I reached into the bag to grab the battery and power connector. That’s when I realized I had brought the battery, but not the power connector, which I had left in the car. I normally run an internal WindCamp lithium-ion battery in the FT-817, but I had taken it out to run off of my external battery for a while. I briefly considered just going back to get the power connector, since it’s such a short hike. I could leave my antenna wire up for a little while (it wasn’t in anyone’s way) and just come back and plug in. Even though I wasn’t particularly short on time, I still didn’t want to waste 30 minutes getting the connector if I didn’t have to, so I decided to walk over to the other side of the trees and give VHF/UHF a try with my little Yaesu VX-2R handheld.
It took some work, but I made some contacts! Amazingly, self-spotting netted me zero contacts, as far as I could tell. Most of the contacts I had were from getting on local repeaters and asking people to come have a simplex QSO. A couple were just random listeners. It was successful though!
Next time, I’ll use my checklist to make sure I have everything needed. And I’ll put that internal battery back in my rig!
I took a side trail for part of the trip back to the car, since the paved road is boring. Since the weather was nice and cool, this was a very nice hike. Both Tashi and I really enjoyed the little morning hike!