Monday, August 21, 2017

W6/NC-430 Little Mountain

Little Mountain is a small peak looking over Novato. This was the third peak of the day for me, after Burdell Mountain and Peak 1575. The trailhead is at Ohair park, along Sutro Ave. There is no parking lot, just pull off the pavement. From here, head up the trail that heads into the park.
Little Mountain trailhead on Sutro Ave.
At the first junction, head left. This was signed as a trail easement. There was a lot of poison oak along the sides of the trail, so watch out or wear pants. At a metal bar you can take a shortcut, following a very faint use trail up to a second bar at the trail. Continue uphill until you break out of the trees. Just after this point, turn right and follow the unmaintained trail to the summit. This trail goes along the crest of the ridge, following the vegetation boundary, staying out of the trees.
Small tree swing.
There were a few steep sections, but overall, an easy hike. At the top there are two peaks. The western one is a little bit higher, but both are in the activation zone. There are no trees, so bring an antenna support. I hiked over to the higher peak, and got set up. There was a fair amount of wind, but the guys for my mast held with no problems.
Ready to go.
Little Mountain looks over Novato, and the views were great, all the way to the Diablo range. There was excellent cell coverage, 4G, on top. I put out a spot for 30 meters, and made my contacts. I then spent another 90 minutes calling on other bands and modes, but no one answered. I did manage a summit to summit with a very weak station on the east coast. After I got tired of calling without getting a response, I packed up and headed down. The trip back was easy, only a few steep sections that required care while descending. I got back to my car for the long drive back home.
Looking down to Novato.

Trailhead: Ohair Park, Sutro Ave.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Go up the trail. Take the left fork onto the trail easement. After breaking out of the forest, follow the trail along the ridge to the summit.
Red Tape: None.
"You are a rainbow of possibilities"

W6/NC-354

This nameless peak is at the top of the Indian Tree Open Space Preserve near Novato. I came here after climbing Burdell Mountain. As far as I can tell, the only access is from the north, on Vineyard Road. The trailhead is at the height of land on the road, where the pavement ends. There is parking on the south side of the road, on the dirt section.
Big Trees Trailhead.
From here, take the Big Trees Trail to the ridge. This is also the route the Bay Area Ridge Trail takes, so you can follow the blue arrows. The trail climbs at a rather shallow grade with many, many switchbacks. It passes through various ecosystems, from open grassland to redwood groves.
On the way up.
There are a few openings on the climb with views to the north, but for the most part it is in the cool forest. At the top, turn right and follow the fire road up. There is a gate at the edge of the open space, then a barbed wire fence separating the road from the summit. I setup along the fence for convenience. The fence is about 10 feet above the bottom of the activation zone, so no worries there. I had intermittent cell service, but enough to get out a spot. This got me six contacts on 30 meters. I tried 17 for a while, but didn't have any luck.
QRV just below the summit.
 After packing up I crawled under the fence to tag the true summit. The top is totally open, and has a decent sized flat area that could be used to operate from. It is probably a good area for VHF.
Looking toward Mt Tam
 The hike back down was pleasant, there were no steep or loose sections that required slowing down. I did stop at a view point to take a look at the next mountain on the list for the day, Little Mountain.


Trailhead: Height of land, Vineyard Road. Labeled as Big Trees on Google Maps
Website: SOTA SiteMarin Open Spaces website.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map. See open space website above.
Route: Take the Big Trees Trail to the top. Turn right on the Indian Tree Fire Road, and follow this up to the high point. The summit is above you on the left.
Red Tape: None.

Little Mountain.

W6/NC-353 Burdell Mountain

Burdell Mountain is a prominent peak in northern Marin county. There are a number of possible approaches to the top. There is a trail that starta at Olompali State Historic Park on the north side of the mountain, or a few trailheads on the south side, in Novato. I chose to start at the trailhead at the top of San Andreas Drive, because, as far as I could tell, it was at the highest elevation. I think the hardest part of hiking is gaining elevation, and I had two more summits (Peak 1575 and Little Mountain) planned for today, so I decided to try and minimize the total climb.
San Andreas Dr trailhead.
I got to the start fairly early, and there were already a number of cars parked there. I started out up the Middle Burdell Fire Road, which is the route the Bay Area Ridge Trail takes. There were a bunch of joggers and dog walkers out in the cool morning. I took this trail up through some open meadows.
On the way up. Still below the clouds.
The morning clouds hung around until I was packing up after the activation. The Bay Area Ridge Trail turned off onto the Deer Camp Fire Road. At the intersection with the Cobblestone Fire Road, I took the new trail up. The area is signed very well, and the trails are very easy to follow. Just below the summit ridge there is a flat area, with a big tower of to the left. Across the paved tower access road there is a use trail that runs up the last 50 feet to the summit ridge.
Plateau below the summit. Tower to the left.
Running along the ridge is a stone wall of the type you'd expect to find in New England. There is a gap in the wall, and a herd path running along the ridge on the other side of the wall. It was totally socked in when I reached the summit, so I turned left and walked along until I found a good area to set up in.
Summit Ridge and stone wall.
There was a fence marking the boundary of some private property, so I lashed my pole to this and got on the air. I set out an alert for 30 meters and quickly got six contacts. I had a new, large battery with me, so I got on 17 meter SSB, where I made four contacts, one of them to NH. VHF netted two on 2 meters and one on 70 cm.
Operating position. Private property on the other side.
By this time the sun had burned off the clouds, and it was getting warm, so I packed up and headed down. There were some great views to the east, over the flat area west of the Napa River, and to the south once I got farther down the mountain. At the bottom I left and headed over to the trailhead for Peak 1575, on the other side of town.
Mt Tam in the distance, Big Rock Ridge on the right with the towers. Peak 1575 to the right of the frame.

Trailhead: Top of San Andreas Drive. Other trailheads also possible.
Website: SOTA Site. Marin Open Spaces website.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map. See open space website above.
Route: Take the Middle Burdell Fire Road and Cobblestone Fire Road to the intersection with the paved Mt Burdell Fire Road. Across the road is a use trail that leads to the summit. There is a gap in the stone wall, and you can walk along the summit ridge in both directions.
Red Tape: None.
Looking east from the summit.

Monday, August 7, 2017

W6/CC-063 Mt Tamalpais

East Peak from West Peak.
After a discussion on the SOTA reflector about the correct summit of Mt Tam, I decided to go up and check it out. There are three summits on the ridge, East, Middle, and West. East and West are about the same height, close enough that different sources have different elevations. The correct SOTA peak is the West one, with the old military installation and current FAA radar on top.
Trailhead at Rock Springs.
I decided to start at the Rock Springs area. I hiked up past the amphitheater and up the Mountain Top Trail. This took me to the old military installation. All that is left is the foundations, but there are great views from this area. Crossing the area, I continued up the main road to the unofficial summit trail.
That's Barnabe Mountain, center right, and Point Reyes to the left. The ocean is covered in fog, of course.
At the high point of the road, there are pullouts on each side, and a trail that leads up to the summit.
From studying maps and aerial imagery I thought I would have to operate very close to the road, but it turns out that the trail runs up to the fence that surrounds the summit. Probably created from all the people who like to collect county high points. I walked along the fence to the east side of the summit, to try and get some help for my antenna, and found a flat area to setup. I had a good view to East Peak, and it looked like it was at the same elevation as where I was. Maybe someone with some surveying equipment could determine which peak is actually higher.
FAA radar dome at the top. This is about where the use trail reaches the fence.
There were some bushes that I was able to strap my pole to, and I was quickly on HF. I made a number of contacts on 30 and 20, including a summit-to-summit. I then got out the HT to see if I could make some contacts on 222 and 440. There was a contest going on, so I figured that people would be willing to work me even with a small antenna.
If only that table was on the other side of the fence.
I made three contacts on 70 cm and two on 1.25 meters, and one on 2 meters. The last one on 440 was with someone down near Fresno. He must have had a big yagi and some power. The hike down was quick, as hiking downhill usually is.

Trailhead: Rock Springs. Also can start at pullout near top for drive up experience, or farther down, such as at Pantoll or Stinson Beach for a strenuous hike.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map. I also took my Tom Harrison map.
Route: From Rock Spring, hike up past the amphitheater and take the Mountain Top Trail to the sub-peak. Make your way to the road, and hike up the road to the pullout near the summit, then follow the use trail to the fence. The road at the pullout is in the activation zone.
Red Tape: None. Don't try to cross the fence at the top.
West Point Inn, and the fog rolling through the Golden Gate.

W6/NC-380

This unnamed peak is at the south end of Point Reyes National Seashore, north of Bolinas. I hiked the peak from the southeast, starting at the Olema Valley trailhead on CA 1. There is a small pullout at the trailhead, and another small one just up the road, each with room for three or four cars. There is a big sign, so it was easy to find.
Trailhead.
 The trail descends slightly to a large meadow, which was cool and green. It was a nice change from yesterday's hot, dry hike in Pinnacles. After crossing the meadow an a small stream, the trail climbs up to the main ridge running through the park.
Meadow at the start of the hike.
I felt like I was back on the east coast, with the lush forest and thick understory. This area appears to be popular with equestrians, and I saw three near the summit. Once on the ridge, the trail climbs more gently, with a few dips.
Climbing up to the ridge.
The summit is blocked by a dense wall of plants. I tried pushing through to get to the high point, but gave up after 20 meters. It wasn't worth the effort. The trail runs through the activation zone, and is wide enough that I could set up on the side without blocking the path. I did, and spotted myself on 30. I had much better luck today, and even made two summit-to-summit contacts. Calling on 20 resulted in one contact. I didn't try VHF because I figured that the higher peaks to the East would block my signal.
Setup on the side of the trail.
I went down the way I came up, and quickly reached the bottom. I then headed back over to Mt Tam, to get the only two-pointer in Marin.

Trailhead: Olema Valley Trail on CA 1.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Olema Valley Trail to Teixiera Trail to Ridge Trail.
Red Tape: None. Watch out for horse droppings on the trail.
Some nice flowers on the way up.