Another day off work means another SOTA activation. I had Josephine Peak on my radar because there is a fire road all the way to the top, which means I could ride a bike up to the summit. I made it a bit over a mile up the road before I needed to stop and walk. After that it was intermittent riding/ pushing. There are several switchbacks which make the grade a bit easier, but these obviously add quite a bit of distance to the route – something I didn’t think about when starting this activation. At the top of the summit there is evidence of a fire lookout tower, and a small shelter for radio equipment. I made a surprising amount of contacts on 2M given it was a Tuesday; 20M and 40M felt quiet but I still managed a few contacts on each. It got cold and dark quickly, so I tore the station down and headed to my car which was parked on highway 2. The downhill ride was fast; I was on both brakes hard the entire way to maintain a reasonable speed. Overall, this was a fun activation.
The cabin on Burke was full of killer bees which made it risky to clean up the property. I contacted the High Desert Bee Keeping Society asking if anyone wanted to take the mean bees, but they informed me Landers bees were extremely aggressive, and they should be exterminated. At first, I thought it would be easy enough to buy a $30 Amazon prime bee suit and spray the hives down with bug spray, and call it a day. Kel wouldn’t let me do that so we called a local pest control company. After the first treatment, the bees seemed more pissed off than before. A second treatment didn’t take them out either. Finally, after the third visit, the pest control company said they just need to remove the hive (something I wanted to do to save money) because there were still pissed off bees everywhere. I happily obliged. The pest control company ripped out the wall from the inside of the cabin and the hive was bigger than I imagined! Photos below.
Kel and I hiked up W6/CT-146, Hoyt Mountain. This is worth 4 points for SOTA folks. Parking is just off Highway 2, at Grizzly Flat Trailhead. Once you’re there, follow the big fire road. Stay to the right at the split by the old water tank base. Eventually, the road kinda just stops under the high tension power lines at the top. It took a bit of time to find, but here is a narrow, somewhat overgrown trail right in the middle of the hill which goes up to the summit. Further up, the trail gets better and more defined. This bit was somewhat challenging for me, and presents you with a few false summits.
I started out working 2M FM thinking someone could spot me on SOTAWatch. To my surprise, I could only get a single station! I’m generally able to get tons of 2M contacts, but this was a holiday weekend so….. I setup my HF station – Yaesu 817 into a resonant vertical antenna cut for 20M, supported by a squid pole. While doing this, I figured out how to self spot using the APRS-> SOTA gateway. After getting a message back from the system informing me I was spotted, I started calling out on 14.340Mhz, where I was immediately picked up by W0MNA in Kansas, followed by ZL2IFB in New Zealand, my first QRP/ SOTA DX station. 🙂 I made several more contacts, noticed the time and started packing down the station when I found the radio was configured to transmit at 2.5 watts. No wonder I was getting 44~47 signal reports. The hike down is the reverse of the way up. Overall, this is a fun hike.
I picked up a $6 Pixie kit on eBay, which included shipping from China and nice case for the finished radio. The kit didn’t come with any kind of instructions, so I needed to find a schematic that matched the PCB. Over all, it was a fun build, and one I would recommend to a new ham, or anyone wanting to get into kit building.
I broke the LCD screen on my favorite radio. Luckily, a new display was $0.97 from Yaesu in California. A bit of exploratory disassembly and fiddling with zebra stripes, and the display is back to normal!
November 10th, 2019. This was a quick activation. I cycled up to the top, made 10 contacts, and was back at the starting point within an hour. Getting to the actual summit is impossible as there is a fence to keep folks out of the antenna area. I didn’t bother setting up the HF station, so I just worked local 146.520 Mhz, 2M FM using the Yaesu 817. RF levels felt high, as my HT was struggling to pull signals from the Mount Wilson repeater which is line of sight to this point. Furthest contact goes to WB2WIK, who was near the Ventura County line.
November 9th, 2019 – This was the second summit of the day with Lars, KJ6CBE. The hike up, and down from this point was uncomfortable for me with loose sand and rocks most of the way. The trail starts very steep, then follows the ridge line (also steep) up to a false summit where it flattens out for a bit. Continue along the trail to reach the real summit. I worked 40M, and 20M SSB. Lars worked 2M FM. The radial system on my vertical antenna broke, leaving me with higher SWR than I wanted on 20M. Still made a contact to the east coast. Not bad for 5W at solar minimum.
November 9th, 2019. I like this summit. I’ve been up to this location before, not knowing about SOTA. It’s a pretty easy hike with rewarding views. The original fire lookout tower was destroyed in the 2009 Station Fire. 10 years later, they are constructing a new lookout. Lars, KJ6CBE worked 146.520 FM and I worked 20M SSB. My furthest QSO was W4KRN in Virginia. Thanks!