Monday, January 15, 2018

W6/NC-399 Coyote Peak

This was my second time up to Coyote Peak. I took the same route up as last time. However, at the top, I setup on the other summit, just to the east. I got the idea after watching KE6MT's video report, when he mentioned trying to set up farther east to help with propagation.
Interesting rock on the way up. Looks like it eroded after a storm.
The east peak is a few feet lower, but still in the activation zone. I setup my doublet using one of the bushes on top for support. I sat on the ground in front of a rock, which made a decent chair.
Mt Hamilton with Mt Isabel to the right. Mt Misery is directly in front of Mt Hamilton, but very hard to see from this angle.
I was not in a hurry, so I spent over two hours on the summit. I made contacts on most of the bands I tried. I also spent some time on SSB, something I rarely do. This peak is in a good place for VHF, and I did make three contacts on 6 meters. Surprisingly, I didn't get anyone on 2 meters, but there was some intereference from the nearby tower. 220 didn't have anyone listening, but I did manage one contact on 440.
My setup. Coyote Peak summit behind the tower. Loma Prieta on the left, Mt Um between my pole and the tower.
Towards the end of my time up on the summit, the temperature started to drop and the wind picked up. Since I had been up there so long, I finished up my conversation and packed up. The hike down seemed steeper than it had on the way up.

Trailhead: Pueblo Day Use Area. There are a number of small parking lots along the road. I parked at the one where the road makes a U-turn, across the street from the Hidden Springs Trail.
Website: SOTA Site
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map
Route: Hidden Springs Trail is the shortest, other trails also go to the summit. Also possible to start at the base of the mountain.
Red Tape: Don't cut switchbacks. Don't ignore signs saying the area is closed.
Other: Bring a pair of binoculars for the summit, if it is a clear day.
Looking south, through some power lines. El Toro on the left, Twin Peaks on the right.

W6/NC-288 Scarper Peak

Scarper Peak, or Scarpet Peak in some sources, is a prominent mountain in the Santa Cruz Mountains along the peninsula. It is also one of three SOTA peaks in San Mateo County, the other two being San Bruno Mountain and Sierra Morena. The peak is in the Rancho Corral de Tierra section of the Golder Gate National Recreation Area. As far as I can tell, the best trailhead is at the top of Coral Reef Ave. There is space here for a number of cars, and street parking if the area is full.
Almost immediately the trail starts climbing up a ridge. The maps show a number of trails, but there are no signs or names that I saw. I took the trail that goes up the closest ridge to the trailhead. The trail climbs up, steeply in sections, and joins with another trail higher on the ridge. The new trail continues up the same ridge.
First view of the air force station, the harbor, and Mavericks Beach.
The trail reaches a paved road, where I turned left and continued up the hill. There was a gate just after the intersection on the road, but it looks like it hasn't been used in a long time, and some serious work would be required for it to close again. The pavement ends, and it turns into a dirt road. The rest of the hike is much less steep than the first part.
The trail intersection is just beyond the sign.
Enjoy the ridge walk, with great views up and down the coast. Take the right path at the next two intersections. The second right is under some power lines, and it looks like it is possible to get to the summit via the left fork. From here you begin to hike in the trees and forest more, and there are not as many views. When I got close to the summit I could see the road above me after it had switched back, so I took a shortcut through the brush in one of the less steep sections.
FAA facility on the summit.
The summit is fenced off and has an active FAA station. I walked around part of the fence, and it doesn't seem like the area inside is any higher than at the border. I didn't see a good place to set up at the summit, so I hiked down a little ways. Following the road from the summit down, I took the first left onto a road that is being retaken by nature. Here there were a lot of trees with branches at an ideal height and position for holding an antenna.
Setup on the overgrown road. 
I got my line over a branch after a few tries, and set up. The branch I had chosen was almost too high, I only had an extra foot or two of feedline. Since I wasn't in a rush, I decided to start on 5 MHz and work my way up the bands. I made at least two contacts on each band, 60 through 12 meters. I tried calling on 6m ssb, but didn't get anyone. Surprisingly, I got one contact on 440 but none on 2 meters. After doing all the bands in CW, I decided to get some voice contacts. However, the wind was really blowing and I was getting cold, so after a few QSOs on 20 I packed up.
Cold and windy activation.
I retraced my steps on the way down. There was less wind on the other side of the peak, but I didn't take off all my warm gear until I had hiked over a mile. I passed a few people heading up, including a biker. The fire roads are probably great for biking. In one of the eucalyptus trees at the parking lot I saw a hawk. I tried to get a picture, but it took off right as I got the camera up. Back at the car I drove home, getting home. before the traffic got too bad.
Looking south on the way down. 
Trailhead: Top of Coral Reef Ave, in El Granada.
Website: SOTA Site. NPS Site. The NPS maps are terrible.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Take one of the trail up the ridge. At the paved road, head left and follow it as it becomes dirt. At the next two intersections, take the road to the right. Continue up to the summit.
Red Tape: None.

Monday, January 8, 2018


This unnamed peak makes a great add-on peak after Berryessa Peak, if you have any energy left after the hike up. The best trailhead is just up the hill from the Berryessa Peak Trailhead, at the top of the hill on the outside of the curve in the road. There is a gate and a pullout large enough for a few cars.
Near the trailhead, looking towards the lake.
There are no trails leading to the summit, but there are herd paths that you can easily follow up. The simplest route navigationally is to follow the ridge that starts right behind the gate. This is generally a good route. However, near the top there is some dense brush, around the 960' contour. At this point, take the herd path that heads to the south and climbs up the reentrant on that side. I did not do this on the way up, and enjoyed some difficult bushwhacking.
The ridge goes straight up here, but turn to the left (south) and go up over there to avoid the bushwhack.
The summit is surrounded by brush, but this is between waist and shoulder high and much easier to push through. The maps show the summit to be just outside the public land, but this is incorrect. It is possible to get to the summit without trespassing. After tagging the summit, I descended to a small clearing along the fence to set up my antenna. It was getting late, and I didn't want to be hiking off trail in the dark, so I did a quick activation.

The no trespassing sign made a good place to wedge in my pole.
Despite not spending much time on any band, I made contacts on all three bands I tried. I then packed up, and mostly retraced my steps back to the car, avoiding the difficult bushwhack I had done on the way up. I hadn't moved my car from the first trailhead, so I had a quarter mile roadwalk to get back to the car.
Roadwalk back to the Berryessa Peak Trailhead.
Trailhead: Berryessa Peak Trailhead. Not marked on the road, but Google knows where it is.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Cross the fence, and follow the ridge up to the summit. There are herd paths that can be followed. At the dense brush, go to the south around it. There is no way to avoid the dense brush at the summit.
Red Tape: None.
Berryessa Peak summit hidden in the clouds.

W6/NC-118 Berryessa Peak

Berryessa Peak is the highest peak in the Lake Berryessa region. It is at the north end of the lake, on the east side. The trail to the top is somewhat long (7.25 mi, 3200'), but it is not a difficult hike. The trailhead is along Berryessa Knoxville Road, and is not marked. There is a gate with some small signs on the other side that confirm you are in the right place. Parking is on the side of the road.
Parking and the start of the trail.
The first few miles are in some valleys. It appears this route was chosen because it is the best route that stays on the state and BLM land. The trail was well marked and maintained, with periodic wooden posts marked "BPT" at intersections or difficult areas. At a spur to the main ridge, the trail switchbacks a few times, then climbs directly up the crest of the spur. Near the top, there is a fence crossing with a stile over it.
Fence stile crossing.
At this point the trail begins a long sidehill traverse just below the top of the ridge. Along this section, the trail passes through easments granted by the ranch owners, so stay on the trail. Other hikers have complained that this section is not very nice, since it is not on the top of the ridge. I think that it was pretty because the central valley is not particularly picturesque, and is usually covered in haze anyway. The view from the Napa side of the ridge is of almost totally undeveloped land.
Plaque along the way.
This section also shows how much work was put into building the trail. Making such a long section of sidehill trail on such a steep hill is not easy to construct or maintain. The trail descends into a small gap at the end of the sidehill section, which was quite damp after the recent rains. There were some steep sections with loose dirt in this area as well.
View down to Lake Berryessa.
On the other side it climbs steeply up to the summit ridge, with an occasional switchback. Here you will finally get some views to the east. After traversing a few bumps along the ridge, it descends a short distance to the tower access road, which it follows the last mile to the summit.
First view of the summit, from the sidehill traverse.
There are some open areas at the actual summit, and I found a bush to hold up my pole, and a flat area to sit in. I strung up the dipole, and got on the air. I operated in the usual order, 30, 20, and 40, and made contacts on each, including two summit-to-summits. I then tried VHF, and made one contact on both 440 and 220. Since I got a new phone over Christmas, I wanted to try out some of the features, so I took a bunch of pictures, including a photo sphere which I added to Google Maps.
Lake Berryessa.
 By the time I was done playing radio and taking pictures, the wind had picked up and I was getting cold. It also looked like some clouds were rolling in from the south, so I started the hike back down. By the time I got back to the fence stile, the peak was enveloped in clouds. I'm glad I got up to the top early enough to get some good views. Back at the trailhead I didn't stop at my car. Instead I walked up the road to go activate Peak 1140.

Trailhead: Berryessa Peak Trailhead. Not marked on the road, but Google knows where it is.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Follow the Berryessa Peak Trail to the summit. Except for the intersection with the access road, junctions and major turns are all marked.
Red Tape: None. Stay on the trail while passing through the easments.
Setup on the summit.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

W3/PH-003 Topton Mountain North

Topton Mountain is an easy hike. The parking area is a small pullout along Woodside Ave, south of Topton. From here there is only one trail that leads into the woods. Take it. After about a quarter mile it turns and starts to head uphill.
On the way up.
Since this is watershed land, there are some small structures that cover wells and other infrastructure. The wide road will end, but there is a faint trail that climbs up the hill to the horse pasture. I had no trouble following it, but I am used to following very faint trails. At the fence on top, turn left and walk around the pasture. On the top side there is a foot trail that follows the power lines up the hill some more.
Power lines. Horse pasture behind me, summit to the right.
Since all the leaves were off the trees, it looked like it would be easy to bushwhack up to the summit. So, at the first pylon I turned and entered the woods. The forest was open, and it was easy to walk up towards the summit. I did find a road running through the woods along the crest of the ridge, which I followed for a short distance. Glenn, AB3TQ had said in his report that there were signs saying not to get close to the towers, so I stopped a short distance away. I turned around, and found some rocks to set up on.
Me, with my operating rock after packing up.
Compared to the summits I had done earlier, Broad Mountain and Smiths Gap Mountain, it felt warm. I started calling CQ on 17 meters, and got four contacts. A few minutes of calling on 30 got four more. Finally I got a summit-to-summit with another W3 station on 60 meters. It seemed like the sun was setting, and it was getting colder, so I packed up and retraced my steps to the car, and drove down to my family's house near Philadelphia.
Well cover.

Trailhead: Woodside Road, south of Topton. See AB3TQ's trip report for coordinates.
Website: SOTA Site.
Maps: AA6XA SOTA Hikes map.
Route: Take the roads and trails up to the power line clearing and horse pasture. Turn left, and go up the hill. Find a good place, and bushwhack the rest of the way to the summit.
Red Tape: None. The top might be private property, but I didn't see any signs on the route I took.