Monday, January 21, 2019

W6/NC-350 Loma Alta January VHF Contest

I did pretty well in the 2018 contest from Loma Alta, so I decided to head up again for this year's contest. The peak is in CM88qa, very close to the south border of the grid. This year I had my transverter for 222MHz, so I was all mode there. I also made an extended double zepp for 6m, to go with the one I have for 2m.
View down Lucas Valley.
It had been rainy all week, but thankfully the storm blew out on Friday. It was cloudy and overcast, but the rain held off while I was on the summit. I parked at the Big Rock trailhead. It was a quick hike up despite the heavy pack. Nothing like 100' of coax to slow you down.
A brief break in the clouds mid afternoon.
I set up in the same place as last year. I think I've finally figured out the best way to set up the pole with all the yagis. I have to stake it out while its empty, then take it down, add the antennas, then put it back up. The other pole I just strapped to the fence and strung out the zepps.
My portable antenna farm.
I had some time before the contest, so I put up my MFJ whip and worked some of the regular chasers on 20. Later in the afternoon I did some more CW on 30 using the 6m antenna. The tuner in the KX3 will match anything. I had a brief scare when it looked like my big battery wasn't providing any power. I quickly found I had connected the voltage-reducing diodes the wrong way.
So much stuff.
I also forgot to bring a pen or pencil, so I had to do all the logging on my phone. This was annoying, but didn't stop my fun. As expected, I got lots of contacts on 2m. This seems to be the money band. I was surprised how many contacts I got on 222. In the past I've gotten two or three. Over half my contacts on 222 were mults, and nearly half on 6m were.
Looking up the tower.
There were a few people I could hear in the central valley, and I got three grids there. K6MYC in DM06 worked hard to get me on three bands, but I was too weak for him to hear me on 432. WE6C was up in CM99, but he only had 2 meters. It would have been nice to get more mults from him.
Some birds checking out the end of my 6m EDZ. Mt Tam was in the clouds all day.
Shortly before I had to pack up there was an opening on 6. All of a sudden I could hear some stations in the LA area, then XE2JS started booming in. I tried to work him, but he couldn't get my complete call. I looked it up, he was about 1100 miles away in DL68.
Sunset over the Marin hills.
 The hike down was pretty dark, but it was easy to follow the wide fire road back to the car. I was able to make it back without needing my headlamp.
The lights come on in San Rafael.
For the next contest there are some changes I hope to have done. I want separate antennas for 144 and 432. I also need some antenna switches to switch the IF signal between transverters. I'm also hoping to have a 1296 setup, and maybe even something on 902. I also think I should find an antenna for 223 and 446 vertical polarization. Maybe a tri-band j-pole will work? Maybe a dual band antenna will be enough since 222 is not very popular. A stretch goal is to have a setup to run FT8 and MSK144. I think I could get a lot more mults on 6 if I had FT8 running in the background.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

W1/CR-009 Mt Watatic

After hiking up Temple Mountain I drove around to the sound end of the Wapack Trail to hike Mt Watatic. There were a bunch of cars parked along the side of the road, but there were still a few spots free in the dirt lot. It seems like it is a popular spot for hiking.
The marsh wasn't totally frozen yet.
From the parking lot the trail is initially flat, passing through some marshy area on bog bridges. They were mostly frozen, but there was still some running water and I was glad to have the bridges. At the trail junction turn right to stay on the Wapack Trail. This will take you right to the summit.
Viewpoint on the way up.
About 2/3 of the way up the trail passes a small viewpoint. The summit is fairly open, with decent views in all directions. On clear days Boston is visible in the distance. It was cold and windy when I was on top, and the city was definitely not visible. After tagging the summit I descended a short distance to some bushes to setup out of the wind.
Summit cairn.
On the air I had no trouble getting enough stations to fill the log. I tried to get a summit to summit with K6ARK in California, but he couldn't hear me. I had sweat a bit on the way up, so sitting in the breeze got cold quickly. I made very good time on the way down, trying to warm up again.
The tread was not well defined on parts of the trail.
This was the 126th and final summit I had done in 2018. This was a record year for me, getting 5 more summits than in 2017. However I got fewer points in 2018 than 2017, likely due to more 1-point summits. I finished the year with 706 points. If I can keep up the same rate, I should get Mountain Goat in 2019!

Trailhead: Trailhead on MA 119. It was well signed.
Website: SOTA Site.
Route: Take the Wapack Trail north to the summit. Possible to make a loop using the Midstate Trail.
Red Tape: None. 

W1/HA-181 Temple Mountain

It was the last day of the year, and there was time to get in two more peaks. I wanted to get Temple Mountain and Mt Watatic because they were the last two peaks on the Wapack trail I hadn't done yet. The other peaks are Pack Monadnock and North Pack Monadnock. The easiest access to Temple Mountain seemed to be from the large parking lot on 101, across from the Pack Monadnock road.
Plenty of parking, and Pack Monadnock wasn't in the clouds yet.
I took the short trail over to the Wapack Trail, then started heading south. The first part of the hike is up the access road for the communication tower on the side of the mountain. This section was very icy, and I was grateful to have the microspikes with me. At the tower the trail turns into a single track trail and heads into the woods.
In the cold woods.
It was a very gray day. The forecast was for rain and snow in the evening, and the clouds were getting ready. The maps I had looked at before I left showed the trail going around the side of the peak, meaning a bushwhack would be required. Lucky for me, they were wrong and the Wapack Trail goes directly over the summit. There was a small sign and small rocky clearing at the top. No views.
A rather underwhelming peak.
There was enough space for me to put up the pole and wire without it getting tangled in the trees, which made my life easier. My verizon phone had good service. On the air I started on 20 meters, quickly getting a bunch of European DX in the log, including my first German station. After a few minutes on 40 I started getting cold, so I packed up and retraced my steps.
The top of Pack Monadnock in the clouds as I descend down the sheets of ice.
 The walk back was quick, and back at the car I turned on the heat and drove down to the trailhead for Mt Watatic.

Trailhead: Temple Mountain Reservation parking lot, at the height of land on 101. 
Website: SOTA Site.
Route: Take the Wapack Trail south to the summit.
Red Tape: None. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

W1/MV-004 Joe English Hill

After getting North Uncanoonuc we drove over to the end of Summit Drive in New Boston, the starting point for Joe English Hill. There is a small cul-de-sac at the end, and we parked across from the driveway.
Small beaver pond at the start.
The road was very icy, but there were enough rocks sticking through we didn't need the micro spikes. The road goes up the hill, then turns to the right. At this turn, step off the road into the stream bed clearing and follow it up. It turned back into a road after a short distance.
Turn left at the intersection. At this point we started seeing a lot more abandoned equipment and junk. The road got a bit steeper, and much icier. When it got too much, we just stepped into the woods and followed the road through the trees. Where the summit flattens out we got back on the trail and followed it to the high point.
First view, near the summit.
There is no marker or view at the high point, but after exploring down a few trail we found some stone benches, where we stopped and I got setup. There were decent views, but lots of trees. I started on 20, and soon had a large pileup. I tried to work through it quickly, but everyone had zero beat me very well which made it hard to pick out calls.
Some mountain. Monadnock maybe?
After I had worked everyone, I was going to go do 40, but people were getting cold, so I packed up. We took the same route down, more or less. We found a trail, and started following it, but it was heading in the wrong direction, so we cut back through the woods to the road we took up. With the micro spikes on it was easy to get back to the car.
Nothing like hiking on a sheet of ice.
Trailhead: End of Summit Drive, New Boston.
Website: SOTA Site.
Route: Follow the road across the pond. Where it turns, go up the stream bed, straight uphill. Follow the road and trails up to the top.
Red Tape: This is private land, but is not signed and appears to be friendly to hikers. The cliff side of the mountain is on an Air Force Base, so don't trespass there.

W1/MV-003 North Uncanoonuc

My parents wanted to come out an a hike, and my Mom said she hadn't been to this peak or Joe English Hill, so we decided to head out. I chose the White Dot Trail, because it seemed like it would be the easiest. There is a small pullout on Mountain Road with enough space for 3 cars. We got the last spot, then crossed the road and headed up.
Start of the trail.
True to the name, it is blazed with white dots. Many are old can ends painted white and nailed to trees. This trail is the most direct way up to the summit. We made good time, taking about 30 minutes to get to the top. There wasn't much ice on the way up, which was nice.
Open forest most of the way up.
The top is fairly open, with some ledges to the east. There were great views of the other Uncanoonuc, and we could see downtown Manchester. I setup at the top of the ledge so I wouldn't block the view and got on the air. It was nice and warm, the warmest summit I've been on this week.
South Uncanoonuc. Manchester is to the left.
Twenty meters was open to Europe, and I got Czech and Irish stations. I filled the rest of the log with the usual chasers. After working everyone on 40, my Mom said she was starting to get cold, so I packed up and we headed down. Back at the car we drove over to the base of Joe English Hill.
Summit sign.
Trailhead: White Dot Trail, on Mountain Road.
Website: SOTA SiteTrail map, downloadable pdf too.
Route: White Dot Trail, or one of the other ones.
Red Tape: None.