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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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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W6/CC-072, San Bruno Mountain and KFF-1196, San Bruno Mountain State Park

Activation Date: 15 July 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: 4 miles
Elev. gain: 1,300ft Time: 1.6 hours
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, 12.5 inch flex whip
Cell Service: Solid (T-Mobile)
Parking: Free roadside or ball field
Trailhead: Hillside Blvd, near school
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Fire Road 2, Ridge Trail
Dogs: No  Toilet: No

I’ve had my eye on San Bruno Mountain since long before I was a ham. Having worked at San Francisco International Airport back in 2007-2009, I wondered what it would be like to hike to the top and watch the big planes take off (it’s 5 miles away). I also noted all of the big transmission towers on the top, and figured it was probably closed to public access. It took Summits on the Air to give me enough reason to actually go do it.

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W6/SC-155, Mount Bielawski

Activation Date: 4 July 2017
Transport: Hike Distance: <1 mile
Elev. gain: 175ft Time: <30 minutes
Rig(s): FT-817, VX-2R Band(s): 40m, 20m SSB
Antenna(s): End-fed half-wave, MFJ Long-ranger
Cell Service: Marginal (T-Mobile)
Parking: Free roadside, $8 in parking lot
Trailhead: Castle Rock State Park Main Entrance
Fees/Permits: None
Route: Castle Rock Trail
Dogs: No  Toilet: Yes

Mount Bielawski, also known as Mount McPherson, is located on private property. It’s probably possible to get permission to go to the summit proper, but for me it’s a good excuse to visit Castle Rock State Park—a beautiful park on the west side of the Santa Cruz mountains, and a very popular spot for rock climbers.

I had looked at various ways I might activate this summit—including the possibility of just hanging out on the road right below it. In the end, I decided it would be most enjoyable to hike up the Castle Rock Trail—a short trail that starts at the entrance to the state park and loops around right by the park’s namesake peak, Castle Rock.  Having looked at the contour map(s) for this area repeatedly, I decided that most of the ridge along the southeast little corner of the park was within the activation zone.  I wasn’t going to be completely certain until I saw for myself. Continue reading →