Monday, July 24, 2017

W6/SS-388 Musick Mountain

Musick Mountain is an easily accessible peak above Shaver Lake in the central Sierra Nevada. When planning my trip I was very surprised that the peak had never been activated before. I climbed the day after competing in the Dinkey Creek NavX rogaine, so my legs were sore and tired. There is a fire road that leads to the top, which has an old fire lookout and lots of radio antennas. I parked at the first junction, about a quarter mile from Huntington Lake Road, but the road looks like it is passable in a sedan to the junction at the saddle. I parked on the side and headed up the road. This first section is a gentle grade, and well shaded.
Second junction. Road to the top on the right, around the locked gate.
At the next junction (with Fire Road 9S22), take the road to the right. It goes down a little and around a locked gate, then starts to climb steeply. Once you've climbed a bit, there are a few openings through the trees with views to the north. I could see Kaiser Peak, which I had climbed a few days prior. The road wraps around the summit. On top I climbed up the lookout tower, and got views of the region. The trapdoor to the platform was locked open, so no access problems.
Shaver Lake.
I setup my pole on the side of the road, and sat down in the shade of the tower. I had to move my operating position a few times as the shadow from the tower moved. I decided to start on 15 meters and work my way down the bands. I only made one contact one 15, and none on 17. 20 and 30 netted me the bulk of contacts. I called on 40, but didn't get any response.
Summit. Lookout tower out of the picture to the right.
 I figured that there would be good VHF/UHF from the summit since there were so many other antennas, however there was S9 noise on both the 144 and 222 MHz bands. I called for a while on 446, which was very quiet, and did get one contact eventually. As I was taking down the pole, the guy ropes slipped off the stakes that they were anchored to. I nearly lost one of my stakes, but managed to find it in the brush before I left. Hiking down was uneventful, retracing my steps. It had gotten much hotter than during my ascent. I'm glad I went up early.
I think Kaiser Peak is on the left. Sierra crest in the far background.

Trailhead: Fire Road 9S65. There was a sign on Huntington Lake Road pointing to Musick Mountain. The turnoff is about 1.5 miles north of CA168.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Road 9S65 to the top.
Red Tape: None.
I think that is a bear paw print. There were also lots of deer prints in the area.

W6/SS-245 Kaiser Peak

Kaiser Peak is the high point of the Kaiser Wilderness, just north of Huntington Lake. After leaving the Bay Area early Friday morning I got to the trailhead at the D&F Pack Station shortly before noon. There was a lot of smoke in the air from the Detwiler Fire burning near Yosemite. The trailhead parking is just down the road from the pack station. The area was small, with only enough room for five or six cars. The trail leaves from the top of the pack station. There is a board with information about the wilderness area at the trailhead.
First trail junction.
On the map the trail is called the Kaiser Loop Trail, but all the signs pointed to Kaiser Peak. The trail climbs steadily over its 4.5 mile distance. There are views of the Huntington Lake area once you climb out of the stream valley the trail starts in.
Lots of smoke.
Once I climbed up to around College Rock at 9000 feet I got above the smoke, and the views got much cleaner. It took me about an hour to climb to here. After the rock there is a short flat section where I passed the first snow field. Once I finally climbed onto the ridge, the views opened up and it was beautiful. Being above the trees reminded me of the ridges in New Hampshire that are above treeline.
Kaiser Peak by my head.
The ridge walk was nice, with a few snow fields that were easy to cross or avoid. The summit was bare, with a few flat areas. I setup my mag loop and KX3 and got on 20 meters. I had an intermittent 3G signal, enough I was able to get a few spots out. I quickly got five contacts on 20, then figured I try 17 to see if it was open. I only got one contact there. I had line of sight to the Central Valley, so I figured I could get lots of VHF contacts without spotting. I did, but the people who answered my CQs were very chatty, more than those in the Bay Area.
On the summit.
 By this point I had been on the summit for an hour, and above 10,000 feet for longer, and I was starting to get a headache. I figured it was due to the altitude or dehydration, so I did something about both. I packed up and headed down, drinking most of my remaining water. The hike down was easy, following the same trail as on the way up.
One of the lakes (Jewel Lake) north of the peak was still partially ice covered.
I got back to the car, and drove over to Tamarack Sno-park, where the NavX rogaine was starting the next day.

Trailhead: D&F Pack Station, Huntington Lake.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map. Tom Harrison make a nice map too.
Route: Kaiser Loop Trail.
Red Tape: None.

Monday, July 17, 2017

W6/NC-496 Burra Burra Peak

Burra Burra Peak was the second SOTA summit I activated this day, after the unnamed Point 1679. I had been cooling off in the visitors center, talking to the ranger. She said there was an old copper mine near the summit, and the entrance was still visible. She also told me how the peak got its name.
Back during the Civil War, the South controlled most of the copper mines, so the price for copper in the Union went way up. This meant that a lot of prospectors headed out to try and find more copper. After some prospectors found copper on the peak, the called the mine the New Burra Burra Mine, after the Burra Burra copper mine in Tennessee. After the war ended and copper prices went down, the mine was abandoned, but the name lives on.
Burra Burra Peak.
From the Dowdy Ranch visitors center, take the trail next to the center up to Kaiser Aetna Road. Cross the road and continue up the trail to the summit. This is a fairly short hike, about one mile. The summit is covered with shrubs, but there are some open areas to set up in. I lashed my pole to a shrub, and sat on a convenient rock. There was good cell service on the peak. I spotted myself and made a number of contacts on 30 and 20 meters. I had no luck on 40, and didn't even get any RBN spots. I managed to make one contact on 146 and 446 each. The CQ VHF contest was going on, but I didn't realize until afterwards that the rules forbid making contacts on 146.52.
View to the west.
On the way down I continued around and made a loop. I stopped by the old copper mine, which was easy to find. It had started to get cloudy, and some rain would have been nice, but none came.
Old copper mine entrance.
The entrance had collapsed, and is fenced off.
The mine entrance is under the tree.
There was a second entrance to the mine, but I did not find it. I got back to the parking lot at 4, just as the ranger was leaving. Since I was the only one there, she waited for me to leave so that she could lock the gates behind me, rather than having to come back this evening at the published closing time. The drive back down Kaiser Aetna Road was uneventful, and I made it back to CA 152 for the drive home.

Trailhead: Dowdy Ranch, Henry Coe SP.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Seven Oaks Trail to the Burra Burra Trail.
Red Tape: None. Dowdy Ranch is only open weekends during the dry season. Check the Henry Coe Website or call to make sure entrance is open.
One hot hiker.

W6/NC-517

This unnamed peak is one of two SOTA peaks near the Dowdy Ranch entrance of Henry Coe State Park, along with Burra Burra Peak. Kaiser Aetna Road, which leads to the trailhead, is gated and only open weekends in the summer. I arrived at the gate around 8:15, and it was open. The dirt road was well graded and my car had no problem driving to the ranch. I did see a coyote while driving in which was neat. At the visitors center I paid for parking, then set off. It was warmer than I would have preferred, but not too hot yet. Dowdy Ranch is at the same elevation as Peak 1679, so I had to go down about 950 feet, then climb back up. I took the Mack's Corral Trail to the bottom.
The peak, from just below the trailhead.
It took about 20 minutes to get to the dry stream bed at the bottom. Here I left the trail and began bushwhacking up the slope. There is an area of open forest that was easy to follow up to an old ranch road. The road then led up most of the way to the top. About a quarter mile from the top the road turns and goes down hill. Here, cross the old fence and bushwhack through the thick scrub to the top. There are some areas in this last section that look like there might have been a trail here, but overall it was very dense.
One of the denser sections near the summit.
I made it to the top and got set up. There are a few trees at the top and in the activation zone, but I just set up my pole and doublet. There was great cell service, so spotting was not an issue. I got on 30 meters and quickly made eight contacts. 20 and 40 meters were less productive, but I made a few more. I didn't expect much for VHF, but I tried calling anyways. No voice contacts from this peak, CW only. By this time it was getting hot in the shade, so I packed up and headed down the hill.
Antenna setup. Burra Burra Peak on the left. Dowdy Ranch was visible too.
It was a quick hike back to the river and Mack's Corral, but it was very hot for the climb up to the visitors center. I had brought two liters of water with me, and finished them both by the time I got back to the parking lot. I didn't have a thermometer, but it was probably at least 100 degrees. I had to stop a few times on the way up because I was getting so hot. At the top I stopped in the visitors center to cool off and have some lunch. I ended up taking a long lunch and talking with the ranger. Apparently there is an old mining claim on the mountain that can be seen if you know where to look.


Trailhead: Dowdy Ranch, Henry Coe SP.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Mack's Corral Trail to the bottom. Cross the stream and climb through the open forest to the old ranch roads. Follow roads up ridge to barbed wire fence. Cross fence and bushwhack up ridge to summit. Note that the ranch roads are not marked on most maps, but are easily visible on aerial imagery.
Red Tape: None. Dowdy Ranch is only open weekends during the dry season. Check the Henry Coe Website or call to make sure entrance is open.
The poison oak was the greenest thing around.

Monday, July 10, 2017

W6/NC-435 Tiburon Peninsula

This was the final peak of the day, after Pine Mountain and Bald Hill. The peak is in a residential neighborhood, and the summit is in someone's backyard. At the corner of Sugarloaf Drive and Place Moulin there is a small traffic island with a bench that you can operate from.
Operating position. The mag loop is on the right side of the bench.
Drive up to the top, and park on the side of the road. Others have recommended parking by the water tanks, but Street View shows the area closed by a fence. I parked in front of a hedge. There is not a lot of horizontal space, so bring a compact antenna if you're going to operate HF. I brought my mag loop. I set up on 30 meters and made three contacts. The fourth proved elusive though. I didn't get any RBN spots on 40 after calling for a while, so I switched to VHF and quickly got the final contact. I didn't bring my jacket, since it had been so hot on Pine Mountain and Bald Hill, so I was getting cold.
Traffic island from my car.
I packed up quickly and headed for home after three successful activations. This peak is not very interesting, and I would not recommend it except for completeness or an extra SOTA point. The view towards SF was good, but it is very narrow.

Trailhead: Corner of Sugarloaf Dr and Place Moulin.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: It should be obvious.
Red Tape: None. Lots of people walking around, but none talked to me.