On December 16, we (KK6STE and I) drove down to Tiburon to take the ferry to Angel Island for a SOTA activation on Mount Caroline Livermore (W6-CC-076) tackling the nearby Tiburon Peninsula high point afterwards (W6/NC-435). We found $5/day parking near Tiburon’s main street across from a Woodlands Market, about a five minute walk from the ferry station. Paying for parking is a bit old-school: you have to stuff a fiver into an envelope and drop it into a box, so be prepared with cash! The ferry costs $15 per adult (cash only, again!!) and is the only way onto the island (unless you decide to kayak). It’s a short ride, about 15 minutes to cross the short Raccoon Straight. We took the 10:00 am ferry and decided to be sure to make it back for the 1:20 pm return trip (the last trip leaves the island at 3:20 in December).
We took the North Ridge Trail to the summit and meandered down the Sunset Trail for our return path, which seems to be the most commonly suggested route. There were a good number of hikers on the path since it was a beautiful, clear day. The trail resembled more of a staircase than a hike for the first bit. One half of a couple in front of us groaned as he turned to face us, complaining “she wants to run” as his partner was jogging up the staircase. I recommended that he go catch up while we went with the rational decision of walking up the staircase. After 100 steps or so, we reached the perimeter road, across which the actual trail starts a gentle ascent to the summit at 788 feet. The round trip was roughly 4.5 miles and there were spectacular views of the bay all along.
At the very top are a couple of picnic benches. If you continue past the summit down the trail, you will reach a dead-end with some more benches. I decided to keep things low-key today given the number of other hikers, so I kept with the 5W HT with a simple whip antenna and had a large number of contacts from all around the bay. It was interesting to see the bay from the center looking out, as opposed to looking in at it from its perimeter. From this perspective, you can see all the bridges that cross the bay circling around you, as well as the mountains that surround the area (including Mt. Tam, Mt. Diablo, Mt. Saint Helena, et al.).
Here, I got to make contact with a number of hams that are active in Bay Area SOTA, including Rex KE6MT, Alex KK6ZLY, and El K6EL. All told, I was able to get nine contacts in twenty-five minutes on 2m simplex, thanks to Rex’s spot: AA1FD, KE6MT, W5GCL, K6EL, KK6ZXH, KK6ZLY, KM6KGI, K6ZTF, and WU1Q. Having saltwater 360 degrees around me seemed to help a lot!
We got back down to the visitor center with time to spare, so we took a look and learned a bit more about the history of Angel Island. There are buildings around from when it served as a port of entry for immigrants to the western US, and people were kept in quarantine for as long as six weeks to make sure they weren’t harboring disease. Once modern medicine introduced better screening techniques, the island was used primarily for military purposes, including a Nike missile defense site. By the 1960s, the entire island was a state park led by efforts by the Marin County conservationist Caroline Livermore (the island mount’s namesake).
After getting back to Tiburon, we took the 6-minute drive up to the highest point on Tiburon, another SOTA destination. The actual peak is in somebody’s yard in a quiet neighborhood, but there’s a small bench within the activation zone that other hams have operated on in past activations. I sat on this bench and enjoyed the view of SF from here and decided to keep my activation low-key (HT only, no big wire antennas or multi-element monstrosities) out of respect to the residents. At times, a number of people walked by, but they didn’t seem bothered by me operating at the bench at all. In any case, my self-imposed limitations led to a frustrating 50 minutes during which I only made 3 QSOs: AA1FD in the South Bay, AG6QR crossing the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, and KD6GGJ in El Cerrito. I tried in vain with KK6VQK for quite a while to make a simplex contact after he came back to my call on the N6NFI repeater, despite his patient attempts to catch me and AA1FD’s help as a relay. After trying fifteen more minutes for the last contact, we decided to leave. Alas, I won’t get that single SOTA point the summit offered, but it was still nice to get a few contacts from up there.
After the day’s activations, I have earned 50 SOTA points as an activator. As always, thanks to all the chasers!