This is a fun area to cycle; not too steep and the fire roads are in nice shape. Started out on 6N53 which is paved. Eventually you will come to a split in the road, where commercial towers sit. For W6/CT-263, stay to the right down the dirt road, 6N53b. Eventually you will find a Eagle Scout project/ picnic area on the right hand side, which is the trail down to the scout camp. Form here, you can sorta make out an old 2 track trail which goes up the hill. I pushed the bike up this part until it was flat/ hard enough to continue cycling. Using my GPS, I found the summit and setup my station. Worked 20M, and 40M, then 70cm SSB.
After all the chasers were gone, I decided to cycle over to W6/SC-076, Whitaker Peak. Go back to the transmission tower and take 6N53a all the way to another tower installation. From here, you need to sneak around the fence and traverse down the ridge over to the summit. Sadly, the tower site was extremely busy with workers, and I couldn’t get the bicycle past all their idling trucks. Additionally, there wasn’t anywhere to really hide my bike. Sadly, I turned around and went back to the car.
I’ve summited Whitaker Peak before, but didn’t activate it because my battery was dead when I got there. Doh! I did have a working pen and signed the summit log, which was pretty empty. Maybe I’ll actually get to activate it on my third attempt, which likely won’t involve a bicycle that I need to hide in the bush.
This was my second activation of Mt. Lawlor. The first time I didn’t take any photos/ video and I wish I had, because the summit and firebreak has been cleared. Tracks from a large machine can be seen at the top; I have no idea how they got it up there. Helicopter? You can get up to Lawlor several ways – I parked at Red Box Picnic area and hiked to the firebreak, then, straight up to the summit. You can bypass the insanely steep hike by going around to Strawberry Saddle and hiking the ridge up, which requires a bit of scrambling over rocks. Worked 20M, 40M SSB, and 2M AM (yes, AM). Brought a new (to me) HT which added 23cm to my quiver of bands. Tried to QSO with K6LDQ on 23cm – he could hear me, but I couldn’t hear him. Maybe next time!
This winter has been warm and dry, and the snowpack low. Bonuses are still on the table so I figured it would be a good time to get some extra points. Start at the Icehouse Canyon Trailhead, just off Mt. Baldy road. You will need a forest pass to park. I decided to hike the long way up via Chapman Trail, which adds another 2.5 miles and makes the hike a loop. At the summit I worked 20M, 40M, 70cm SSB, and 2M FM. I went on a weekday so there was little traffic trail. If you go on a weekend make sure to show up early to get a parking space, and be prepared for crowds, as this is a popular area to hike.
I was planing on activating Libre Mountain when I left my house in the morning, however, I got a bit lost and ended up on Bald Mountain instead! This summit would be considered a drive up, but the road to the top has deep potholes making it extremely risky to drive my tiny car all the way. I ended up parking at the bottom of Misty Ridge Drive and hiking the remainder of the way, which was very enjoyable. At the top you will be greeted with a tower site; half of the installation is decommissioned, so I set my station up next to the fence, furthest away form the active site. APRS was available here, so a packet containing my spot was sent. Worked 20M and 40M SSB, then got brave and sent a spot for 30M CW. One station came back to me but I couldn’t get one character in the call. Sadly, they gave up on me after I sent a ? for the third time. Too embarrassed to continue, I went QRT. Near the summit there is an old ranch – some old farming equipment, a rusty French car, and a small collapsing cabin. I wonder who, when, why the owner of this equipment abandoned it?
Kel, Ebun, and myself camped out in the Mojave National Preserve in February to do some hiking. I’ve always wanted to climb Kelso Dunes, and as it turns out, it’s also a SOTA summit! These dunes are neat because there are several endemic species of insects. In addition, the sand makes a very low frequency booming sound when you walk over it. The trailhead is easy to find, three miles down a graded dirt road that intersects with Kelbaker Road. The first mile of trail is pretty flat, with increasing grade for the last half mile or so. At the top, I was able to sink my antenna mast directly into the sand, firmly securing if from wind gusts. I self spotted on APRS so the chasers could find me, made two S2S contacts on 40M, didn’t bother trying any UHF/ VHF.
This summit is a popular drive up, where you can earn 4 SOTA points for walking across a small field. I always figured I would activate this one again on some kinda field day with bulky QRO equipment, but cycling up 3n17 would be way more fun. Turns out, part of the way up is a popular mountain bike trail, called “The Beast“, where you climb up a fire road, then turn off onto a downhill single track back to the start. Hell yea! For this activation, I only brought an FM HT, two beers, water, and some snacks. Joining me was Ebun and Tim. The assent isn’t anything unusual – just a normal, steep, exposed fire road. About 5 miles up to the summit you will run into the single track that goes back down. Of course, we’re going all the way to the top, so another 3-ish miles further. At the summit I had no issues making contacts on 2M and 70cm FM. Excited to ride the single track down, I chugged one beer and headed to the single track. At this point I didn’t take any photos because it was way too much fun to stop. I can’t wait to do this again, and I’ll likely ride “The Beast” again soon.
Ebun and I activated Jupiter Mountain earlier in the day, and because the weather was so nice, it made since to keep hiking. I suggested Tule Ridge, because it looked easy on the map. This was completely wrong. Summiting Tule Ridge is difficult and uncomfortably steep. Going up was hard and required the use of two hands on the ground in the steepest spots. Going down was almost harder. I was fooled early on thinking the hike would get easier because of recent dirt bike tracks on the trail, but whoever left them was obviously some kinda dirt bike god. We finally got to the summit 20 minutes before 00:00z, where it was cold and very windy, Normally I would wait until the next ‘day’ to start an activation, but I felt we were at risk of loosing daylight so the station was setup as quickly as possible, and APRS spots for 40M were sent. 5 contacts were made before 00:00, and two additional contacts were made after. The radio was packed up quickly once again and we headed back to the trailhead as quickly, and safely as possible, with about 20 minutes of daylight to spare. I can’t wait to do this one again in the future, hopefully with more time.
With the forest directly above Los Angeles still mostly shutdown due to fire, I’ve been focusing my efforts to the western part of the San Gabriel Mountains above Santa Clarita, hopefully doing as much exploring and SOTA activating I can in the area before it gets brutally hot in the summer. There are two trailheads for Jupiter Mountain; The first trail is a steep firebreak which leads directly to the summit, where you will find a small bench. The second trail is a narrow single track, which is longer, but not quite as steep. These two trails together make a nice loop. Ebun, my hiking pal and I chose to ascend the steep firebreak, then go down the narrow single track, which seems to be the most popular route when referencing SoCal hiking blogs. We encountered a pair of jeeps driving to the top, so you could also drive up the firebreak to the summit in a 4×4 with low gears. I packed a G90 radio, which I acquired second hand, and haven’t used on a SOTA trip before. Additionally, I haven’t really used it at home either so I had a bit of a learning curve to operate the radio. Using APRS, I spotted myself on 20M SSB, then 40M SSB, where I made a bunch of QSOs. Once all the chasers were worked, Ebun and I hiked down to the starting point.
I activated Warm Springs Mountain on Winter Field Day. My original plan was to cycle up to my favorite local park and work on my terrible CW skills, but my pal Tim just took delivery of a new custom built Crust frame and wanted to ride up some hills. I can’t say no to a bike ride, so I packed up my new seat bag with 5 ice cold beers, put the radios in the pannier, and headed up to the summit. It’s roughly 6~7% grade and 6.5 miles to the top on an exposed fire road. At the top I was surprised to find a weather station, an old lookout platform, a small radio shelter with a short tower. We got there roughly 30 minutes before 00:00z, so time was spent on top of the tower enjoying cold beer. I setup the station and immediately heard stations wall to wall on SSB. Once a clear frequency was found, I self spotted via APRS, however the reply I got said the summit was invalid. Luckily I had a phone with data, so I was able to confirm on the SOTA site that I was indeed on a summit. Self spotting through the web gui didn’t work either, so I called on 2M to a local chaser requesting a spot – who couldn’t spot either! Turns out the W6 database was getting updated, so nobody could send spots out! I worked as many stations as I could on 20M (three, but hands were too frozen to write so I missed one in my log) which was difficult due to several stations running kilowatts. I made a few more on 2M, enough to qualify the peak. The ride down was fast and quite enjoyable. Looking forward to activating this one again!
I activated this summit in January, just before a storm system was coming into Southern California to dump snow on higher elevation peaks. To take advantage of extra winter bonus points, I set out early from my home and quickly bagged Table Mountain, a very easy summit before heading over to the Circle Mountain trailhead. Once there, the trail was well defined and easy to follow. At the top, I setup next to the summit marker and spotted myself. My wife hiked around the large flat summit while I operated on 20M/ 40M bands. Quickly, the temperature dropped and we noticed frozen rain falling from the sky. I quickly packed up the station and headed down to the car.