W6/NC-035 Mount Isabel

On December 3, I drove down to San Jose to check out Mount Isabel, which lies on formerly private ranch land recently acquired by Santa Clara County. I was hoping to be first up this peak for a SOTA activation, but AA6XA beat me to the punch. His notes helped me find the route up the peak, but I still managed to get a bit lost on the hike.

I parked in Joseph D. Grant State Park at the Twin Gates parking lot, on SR-130 about a mile west of the CalFire Smith Creek Fire Station and started on the Bonhoff Trail. In hindsight, it would have been best to park in the pullover just across the bridge from the fire station, since this short segment within the state park was a little hillier than expected and added about 2.4 miles to the round trip.

Once I made it to the fire station, I crossed Smith Creek and followed it east along the fence once I made it to the fire station, but I believe I might have missed when the trail to Mount Isabel got started. About a mile along the fence, I decided to just climb up the hill to the north and get a better view of what was coming. I was a bit surprised to see a large wild pig about 300 feet up the hill, who thankfully decided to cede the high ground and run away from me. Once at the top, I was able to catch the main trail ahead of me. I followed it eventually took me back down to the creek (d’oh!) and then to the climb up Mount Isabel. Along the way up, I saw another wild pig, a number of deer, and many groups of California quails.

Part of the way up, the trail starts to follow a barbed wire fence with the summit in view down the line. At some point, the barbed wire is stretched apart to make it easy to pass to the other side to make the final approach along the ridge to the peak.

The summit had plenty of trees and bushes to hang wires up on, and there are some good views of the University of California’s Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton to the north. I chatted a bit with W6KF on 2m on my FT60 with a whip antenna (he was about 50 miles away) and then tossed a wire up into a dead tree for 20m CW on the KX2. AB9CA caught me early on and spotted me, so I soon had plenty of contacts.

On the way back, I followed the trail all the way to SR-130, where it met a bit down the road from the fire station, so I had to amble down a steep hillside to make it back. This would be another good starting point for the trail. All my detours ate up enough time that I didn’t have quite enough daylight to make it out to the nearby Copernicus Peak at the Lick Observatory (another SOTA peak and the tallest point in Santa Clara county), but I will return!

The one-way path took 5.14 miles and nearly 2500 feet of elevation to get to the 4230 foot peak. I’ve attached a GPS map of my course, along with a dotted blue line to denote the recommended path that sticks to the creek until the path crosses it. I’ve also used a blue X to mark the point where the trail meets SR-130 and would be a good place to park and follow a trail the entire way rather than following the creek.

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My GPS track on the way up. You can see where I left the creek to try to find the trail, and how I followed the trail back to the creek. The dotted blue line is a suggested alternate route. The blue X shows where I left the trail, having followed it all the way back rather than follow the creek back to my starting point.

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On my way back, I followed the trail past the creek along this path that is clearly visible from a satellite image. The blue line traces over this path and would be a reasonable way to tackle this summit.

Thanks to all the chasers for making this a successful outing (and to AA6XA for blazing the SOTA trail)!

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W6/SC-369 Temple Hill or “Top of the World”

Over Thanksgiving weekend (November 26), I checked out this easy drive-on peak near Laguna Beach that’s well-known to the people of Orange County. There were a lot of folks there to watch the sunset, and it was a truly spectacular sight with the low-rolling fog and clouds. A few people were flying drones around to film the scenery.

I used a small bush near the top to hold up my antenna and got to work. The bands were packed due to the CQWW CW contest, so I just picked off a few contest stations on 20m while watching the sun set.

Thanks to all the (contest) chasers: N7DR, JH4UYB, BY3M, and KH7B.

W6/NC-331 Pine Mountain

On September 24, I went to this Marin County peak with Marc KM6JKX. Evidently, the sport of mountain biking started on Pine Mountain with a race organized in 1976. It’s worth mentioning that the Marin Museum of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame is located nearby in Fairfax, CA. We didn’t have time to stop by on this trip, but it should be of interest to those into cycling history.

It was 2.4 miles one way along the Pine Mountain Fire Trail. There was a great breeze all the way up, along with wonderful vistas typical of Marin County. The excellent pictures from this hike are courtesy of Marc, including a particularly nice shot of a turkey vulture that was circling around the trail for a good part of the hike.

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Marc worked 2m and I stuck with my standard of 20m CW. Thanks to all the chasers: WW7D, N2ESE, K6EL, W2SE, and W9MRH!

W6/NC-434 Bodega Hill

Stef and I were returning from a day trip to Santa Rosa (visiting Russian River Brewing Co. as we’ve done on other trips to Sonoma: W6/NC-379 Taylor Mountain) and decided to pass by the scenic Bodega Bay. There is a conveniently located drive-by SOTA along Bay Hill Road in the hills just east of Bodega Bay. The actual peak is just past a fence on somebody’s property, so we parked on the side of the road a few hundred feet away and set up near a pull-of in front of the fence. Ten minutes after setting up, I had the four requisite QSOs on 20m CW. Since I just had my end-fed wire in a bush a few feet off the ground, I didn’t get any other bites before we decided to pack up.

The road was narrow enough that two cars could barely pass each other, and Google Maps seemed to be routing folks along this road to avoid heavy traffic in downtown Bodega thanks to Labor Day weekend. Many drivers passed by with somewhat bewildered faces before focusing again on the road. I guess amateur radio isn’t a normal sight on a side road like this, especially on such a hot day.

 

Thanks to the chasers: W7RV, W7KKM, W0MNA, and K6MW!

East Bay Trails Challenge: Complete!

A nice thing about living in the Bay Area is that there are a bunch of free programs that try to get people out and hiking. Stef and I took on the 2017 East Bay Trails Challenge this years to see some of the regional parks we have not yet visited.

The hikes we did:

  • Feb 11: Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area (3.48 mi)
  • Feb 18: Point Pinole Regional Shoreline (4.13 mi)
  • Mar 11: Roberts Regional Recreation Area (1.22 mi)
  • Jun 18: Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shorelines (3.84 mi)
  • Jun 20: Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve (2.62 mi)

The incentive to do the award was a neat little lapel pin that features the California poppy. We saw a lot of these little orange flowers on our hikes!

 

W6/NC-410 San Pedro Mountain

Another sunny day in The Bay, another SOTA activation. This time we went out to Marin County for San Pedro Mountain (1099′ and 1 SOTA point), northeast of San Rafael. We drove out to the trailhead at the end of Knight Drive on the south central border of China Camp State Park as activators before us have done (K6JEL’s write up).

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The start is marked with a blue circle and the summit is marked with a blue X. The route that we took to the summit is highlighted in yellow. Map courtesy of Larkspur, CA City Hall’s webpage.

We started at noon, so the July sun was a beating down hard on us. We followed the Ridge Fire Trail, which for the first half mile is an exposed climb from an elevation of 200 feet to 600 feet that would have been much easier earlier in the day. After that, the trail is more even with a few more gradual climbs and one dip. Near the end of the trail we came to Bay Hills Drive and Henry Barbier Memorial Park (which are both unsigned). We crossed the road to another trail that starts about 100 feet to the right. This trail just took us along a ridge around the mountain, though it was shaded by tree cover and a welcome respite. We ended up taking a use-trail up to the summit and returned via Bay Hills drive on the way back, covering about 4 miles overall. We recommend just turning left at Bay Hills Dr to get to the summit.

At the flat summit, trees block most of the nicest views, we got our sightseeing done on the way up the trail. I got a couple of quick 2m contacts with the handheld and a whip (KI6UOC and N6SPP), then moved to a low end-fed for 20m CW for the rest (W6TDX, VE7HI, K3TCU, K6HPX, N9KW, KT5X, W5YA). Thanks to all the chasers!

W6/NC-432 Chabot 2 Benchmark

Today we went to Chabot Regional park to pick up an easy 1-pointer in the East Bay: Chabot 2 Benchmark. We parked in the Fairmont Ridge Staging Area, where parking was free. It was late afternoon and above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius or so) but mercifully the hike was only about a mile each way, and half of it was shaded by a row of eucalyptus trees. Near the top is a fence that blocks off a historic Nike missile site. This gate is just within the activation zone, but I followed a use trail just left of the fence to get a bit closer to the summit, although it seems the proper way to do this would be to peel to the right of the eucalyptus trees on the east side of the antennas and missile site.

I brought a log-periodic with me for this all-VHF activation, but I probably didn’t need it since most of my contacts were located about five miles away in Hayward. At this time of the afternoon people driving home from the day’s activities, so a lot of folks caught me on the road.

Thanks to all the chasers: WU1Q, KG6OMB, N6ACK, AI6F, KK6WBY!