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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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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Briones Hills, W6/NC-371

Activation Date: 11 March 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 4.8 miles
Elev. gain: 1600 feet Hiking Time: 2.5 hours
Rig(s): Yaesu FT-817ND, Radioddity GD-77 Band(s): 2m (fm), 30m (cw), 40/20m (ssb)
Antenna(s): QRPGuys Tri-Band Vertical
Cell Service: Acceptable (T-Mobile)
Parking: Reliez Valley Trail Head
Trailhead: Blue Oak Trail
Fees/Permits: None at this lot
Route: Blue Oak Trail, Blue Oak Shortcut, Spengler, Table Top
Dogs: Yes Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Some trees, short fence RF Noise: Low (HF & VHF)

It took me a while to write this one up! It’s been over a month since we did it. But here we go. I wanted a fun hike with my sons and the dogs, and Briones Hills seemed like just the ticket. Not too long, not too short, and with a nice bench at the top! The elevation was a little bit difficult for the boys, but everyone had a great time.

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Santa Rosalia Mountain, W6/CC-062 – 2018

Activation Date: 17 February 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 3.7 miles
Elev. gain: 650 feet Hiking Time: 1.2 hours
Rig(s): Yaesu FT-817ND Band(s): 30m (cw)
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave (40/30/20m)
Cell Service: None (T-Mobile)
Parking: Side of the road (be sure plenty of room)
Trailhead: Buzzard Lagoon Road
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Buzzard Lagoon Road to Aptos Creek Fire Road
Dogs: Probably  Toilet: No
Antenna Support: Lots of high trees RF Noise: Low (HF)

I did this summit last year, in August. It was hot but a fun trip anyway. This year, doing it in February, the weather was quite agreeable.   Last year, I brought my sons along for the trip but they would not be joining me this time around.  Things I was looking to improve this time included getting my antenna up even higher, and sloping east if possible.  The ARRL DX CW contest was going on, so I primarily planned to operate on 30 meters for SOTA, then see if I could pick up any new DX on the other bands.

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Black Mountain, W6/NC-150 with New Antenna!

Activation Date: 11 February 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 5 miles
Elev. gain: 900 feet Hiking Time: 1.75 hours
Rig(s): MTR-3B, GD-77 Band(s): 30m, 20m, 40m (cw), 2m (fm)
Antenna(s): QRPGuys Portable Vertical
Cell Service: Fair (T-Mobile)
Parking: Monte Bello Open Space Parking Lot
Trailhead: South end of parking lot
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Canyon Trail, Bella Vista Trail, Monte Bello Road
Dogs: No  Toilet: Yes, TH and near summit
Antenna Support: Rocks, low trees RF Noise: Medium-low (HF), Very High (VHF/UHF)

I recently put together a new antenna, the QRPGuys Portable Tri-band Vertical.  I’ll be writing another post about this antenna specifically, but it’s a new product based on Joe Everhart N2CX’s design, published in a recent QRP Quarterly.  It’s a quarter-wave vertical on 20 meters, and uses switched inductors to work 30 and 40 meters.  It’s pretty lightweight and compact, and seemed like it might work well on summits without space for a full-size antenna.

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Coyote Peak, W6/NC-399 and Winter Field Day 2018

Activation Date: 28 January 2018
Transport: Hike Distance: 2.4 miles
Elev. gain: 600 feet Hiking Time: 50 minutes
Rig(s): Yaesu FT-817ND Band(s): 40m, 20m
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave (HF)
Cell Service: Good (T-Mobile)
Parking: Pueblo Day Use Area
Trailhead: Mine Trail / Hidden Springs Trail
Fees/Permits: $6 parking – Santa Teresa County Park
Route: Hidden Springs Trail to Coyote Peak Trail
Dogs: Yes  Toilet: Yes
Antenna Support: Shrubs, rocks. No trees. RF Noise: Low-medium (HF), High (VHF)

I wanted to get out to an easy summit to operate Winter Field Day for a couple of hours. I ended up only getting about an hour, but it was a good hour! I’ve done this summit a few times, but this is the first time it’s in my blog. It’s a short, fairly easy hike, and not too far of a drive from my house.

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