Monday, April 3, 2017

W6/SC-423

Since the rains stopped, it has been a beautiful spring in the area. I decided to take advantage of the weather and go to Pinnacles Nation Park and do some activations. My first stop was the never before activated peak W6/SC-423. The actual peak is outside of the park, but there is a sub-peak that is in the park and still within the activation zone.
I got to the entrance a few minutes early, and had to wait for them to open so I could buy a 12-month pass to the park. My goal is to activate all the peaks in the park this year. This unnamed peak is on the western edge of the park, so I used the trailhead on the west side of the park. I arrived early enough that I could park in the main lot instead of the overflow lot. Pinnacles is very popular in the spring, so get here early if you want a good parking spot. The North Wilderness trail leaves from the north end of the picnic area.
Trailhead to the left of the bathroom, with flush toilets.
The wildflowers were blooming, and the hike was very pretty, especially the grassy areas. The North Wilderness Trail follows a seasonal stream into the northern part of the park. As I was hiking, a coyote ran out onto the trail, but ran away before I could get a picture. After a while, the trail turns away from the stream, and climbs over some hills to a col where it makes a sharp turn.
Very green and pretty.
At this col I left the trail to bushwhack to the summit. There are a series of old trails, roads, and fence lines that make the trip easier. Most of the shrubs along the route are short, about human height, and sharp. They can be painful to push through, so finding old trails makes the hike much more pleasant and faster. My route generally followed the ridge, climbing over all the bumps along the way. There is one very well maintained fence along the old park border that needs to be crossed, however there is an easy to climb gate where the "trail" crosses it.
That roll of barbed wire was not attached. I could have taken it.
After about an hour of off trail hiking I made it to the summit. I looked around, and didn't find any boundary markers, so one could probably go to the true summit, but trespassing is not allowed in SOTA. There was a small clearing where I set up. I had 3G service, so I was able to spot myself. Both 20 and 30 meters were open, and I made a number of contacts to east coast stations, including NH and NC. I made 16 contacts total on the breezy summit. I didn't try VHF, as I haven't had much luck with it lately.
QRV. It was windy, but the pole didn't fall over.
The way back was easier, but I still missed some turns that were obscured by brush which slowed me down. There are also great views of the high peaks area, and North and South Chalone Peaks. North Chalone in particular stands out with a fire tower on top (and its the highest point in the park). When I got back to where I had left the trail I decided to take a different, off-trail, route back. This followed the stream more closely, and went through some very beautiful meadows.
Off trail and loving it.

Purple flowers in this meadow.
When I got back to the trailhead, there was a large group getting a talk from a ranger. They were all wearing matching shirts. I wonder what group they were part of. I did not see any other people once I got away from the trailhead area. This gave the hike a more remote feel.
These yellow flowers grew along long sections of trail.

Trailhead: West entrance of Pinnacles NP. Drive to the end of the road, and park. CA-146 is a narrow and windy road, not good for big vehicles.
Website: SOTA Site
Maps: I like the Tom Harrison maps. You can get a low quality (not good enough for off-trail travel) map for free at the entrance. caltopo.com also has a number of different layers of maps, useful for route planning. KB1KXL SOTA Hikes map
Route: Take the North Wilderness Trail, then bushwhack.
Red Tape: Probably none. Make sure there are no closures, etc. to protect the animals.

A nice looking tree along the route.

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