KH6/MA-001 – Red Hill (Haleakala)

In July, I had the fortune to visit Hawaii, starting at Maui and moving on to Honolulu, Oahu for the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference, where I was presenting a paper. While on Maui, I visited and activated the great shield volcano Haleakala, which comprises over three-quarters of the entire island. It’s an enjoyable, winding ride up to the visitor center and eventually the Red Hill summit at 10,023 feet, upon which there is a small observation room. From here are beautiful views of the Hawaiian islands and the massive, sloping sides of the great volcano. The last eruption of the volcano was approximately during the 17th century, when a small eruption created the lava fields surrounding the La Perouse Bay on the southwest part of the island, which we hiked along later in the week to visit the Hanomanioa Light signal along the coast.

Reports were coming back around S2-S3, which makes sense for transmitting QRP far from the West Coast, and I was there for about 90 minutes for the entire activation, hanging out near the observation building on Red Hill. I had 4 QSOs on 20m, then moved to 17m for the last two contacts.

Thanks to all the chasers, as always!


As a bonus, here are some pictures of the lava fields around the La Perouse Bay:


W6/NC-268 Rocky Ridge

On April 9, 2018, I went to Las Trampas Regional Wilderness for a quick and simple activation, using just an HT and whip antenna. I started at Bollinger Canyon Staging Trail, and climbed the ~1000 feet to the summit on a paved trail for most of the way.

It’s the low-key sort of activation that’s really only possible in the Bay Area with its large and supportive ham community, and I’m going to miss that when I leave.

Thanks to the chasers: K6FRC, KM6MRU, N6YJZ, K6WIS.

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!

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).

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!

Henry-1 High Altitude Balloon Launch

The East Bay amateur radio club worked with the UC Berkeley ham radio club on a high altitude balloon launch. The balloon went up on March 18, starting on Memorial Glade on the UC Berkeley campus. The payload included a bio-aerosol collection module, a Geiger counter, and a cross-band repeater. I was lucky enough to grab a seat in one of the chase cars despite not having worked on any of the modules that went up with the balloon.

I managed a QSO with W7IV in San Luis Obispo county when the balloon had reached an altitude 30000 feet. After about two hours of flight time, the balloon reached its maximum altitude of 107553 feet just south of Sacramento where it popped and the parachute deployed. Then, the winds pushed the payload to some woods to the east of Folsom Lake where the group retrieved it (with the permission of the property owners).


Here’s a video of the entire flight, assembled by KJ6DZB:

W6/CC-035 Mount Konocti

We were camping at Clear Lake State park for Memorial Day weekend to check out the lake and the surrounding region. Mount Konocti is visible from nearly any point in the region around the lake and has special significance for the indigenous Pomo people. The trailhead is in the Mount Knocti County Park, which opened this peak to the public in 2011.

The hike up to Wright Peak was three miles each way and was exposed to the sun for most of the way. The first 600 yards of the trail is narrow and goes through some privately owned orchards. We were glad that we started at 8am since the trail is on the west side of the mountain and was therefore shaded most of the way up in the morning. We saw a rattlesnake slide into the grass just off the trail near the summit and there were many lizards darting across the trail so watch your step!

We were the first ones on Wright Peak that morning and I had an easy time with the activation on 2m thanks to the active (and very helpful) ham community in Lake County. I even managed to get a S2S with KK6YYD on Wallace Peak near Lake Tahoe. When it came time to set up the HF antenna, I got the fiberglass pole up and guyed before I realized that I forgot to bring coax with me this time! Whoops… one still learns even after doing 25+ of these trips…

Thanks to all the chasers for this all-VHF activation: KK6TDG, KK6YYD, KK6TNH, K6ZYU, and N1PPP!