This is the post excerpt.

I started with SOTA In November 2016, and I am having a great time.  Many thanks to the chasers who slow down and repeat CW so that I can copy.

After every SOTA activation trip I evaluate what worked and what didn’t; how was the equipment and antennas – do I need to make any changes; did I take the correct supplies, maps, tool, etc.  After every summit there is something to learn.

I started SOTA with  Boefeng dual band HT and added a Yaesu FT-817ND.  I have now upgraded to a Kenwood TH-817D and a KX3.  I use an EFLW with an UNUN for HF and as needed an Arrow 2M Backpack yagi.  Recently I have experimented with a MFJ telescoping tapped HF antenna that I now mount to a camera tripod,

Looking forward to meeting SOTA GOATS and SLOTHS on the air.

Joe – AA0BV

Signal Peak W6/NS-179

Ed – W1EJ and I activated Signal Peak W6/NS-179 today.  For me this was quite an adventure.  From Sonoma County the drive is approximately 360 miles round trip.  We left at 6:00 AM (Local) and arrived home at 3:30 PM (Local). Traveling from wherever you are take I-80 to Cisco Grove.  There is a gas station at this exit and we always fill the tank before heading into the mountains.

On this map the name shown is “Red Mountain” but is you zoom in on a digital topo map you will see that Signal Peak is adjacent.

Ed was driving his 4WD Jeep but the first section of the mountain road could probably be accomplished in a high clearance 2WD vehicle.

I 80 to Fordyce Lake Road

Elevation and distance I 80 to Fordyce Lake Road

The next section of the road (?) from Fordyce Lake Road to the Signal Peak Summit requires a 4WD vehicle with a skillful 4WD driver.  If you are new driver I suggest you practice on other summits!

GAIA Signal PeakSignal Peak distance and Elevation

This portion of the drive is 1.8 miles with 715′ ascent – this road is VERY rough and once you get half way there is no place to turn around and np place for vehicles to pass one-another.  And as you can see from the slope for much of this drive you are on the edge of a very steep slope!

For the purists who like to hike there is a trail.  1750′ ascent in 1.8 miles – about an 18% gradient – that seems quite steep to this old man!

Signal Peak TrailSignal Peak Trail elevation and distance

The views from this summit are worth the effort. First a view of I-80.


Then a view of Snow Mountain W6/NS-171 and Devils Peak W6/NS-197 in front of KU6J Memorial Peak W6/NS-204.


This was my operating position and in front a small bit of snow with my antenna mast attached to a tree.

On the way down we got a great view looking up toward Signal Peak.


The thin line below the towers is the road!

My many thanks to Ed W1EJ for driving us to this summit.  He is a skillful driver.  If I go back I will likely hike the last two miles.  And many thanks to the chasers today; you are always appreciated!



Brushy Mountain W6/NC-003

Three hundred eighty-eight miles, ten hours (portal to portal) and six points.

This was my first trip to Brushy Mountain.  It has been officially activated three prior times and I understand that this summit is used as a Field Day site every year.

This is a very accessible summit.  My route was eastward from Sonoma County across Hwy 12 and I80 to I505; then north on I5 to Willows.  Exit at Hwy 162 (there is a Walmart at this exit); then follow Hwy 162 westward until it becomes FH7.

Brushy Mountain

Note that FH7 is not maintained during the Winter and closes because of snow.

The paved road ends about 9 miles before the summit, but the unpaved portion of FH7 is a wide, well traveled dirt road.

Brushy Mtn

At County 312 turn left and follow it to the summit.  County 312 is an excellent dirt road and since it has less travel it is actually smoother than FH7.  The summit is a bald spot surrounded by pine trees with expansive views.  After parking I moved away from my car and set up an end fed with an unun on a 30′ push up pole as a sloper.

There are several additional summits nearby including: Black Butte W6/CC-006 6 points – 4 miles north — Anthony Peak W6/CC-010 6 points – 14 miles northwest — West Log Spring Ridge W6/NC-446 6 points – 12 miles north.  All these summits are accessed by travel along FH7.

Hwy 162 becomes FH7 going west you cross the Mendocino Pass (the turn off for Anthony Peak) and if you continue westward FH7 turns back into Hwy 162 passes through Covelo and many miles later connects to Hwy 101 north of Willits.

So with more energy and a much longer day I could have 4 summits and 24 points; but today,  three hundred eighty-eight miles, ten hours (portal to portal) and six points was sufficient for this old man!

Richard East Benchmark – W6/NC-407 Two Routes

Richardson East Benchmark is the high point above Sausalito, CA.  There are two easy to find routes.

This route begins at the Monte Mar Exit from Hwy 101 – also known as the Spenser park and ride.  You can actually take a bus to this exit and climb to the summit.  On the west side of the park and ride you will find steps leading up.  These steps are the beginning of the trail to the summit.  I have not counted the steps but they rise approximately 400′ and connect with the Alta Trail.  When you arrive at the Alta Trail turn left (south) and follow to the Bay Ridge Trail; turn right (west) and with approximately 200′ of altitude you will arrive at the summit. This route has 615′ of ascent over 4950′ of distance – approximately a 12% grade.

Monte Mar exit

An alternate route begins at the Rodeo Exit from Hwy 101.  There is room to park 3-4 cars.  This is better that trying to find a parking place at the Spencer park and ride lot – I have never been able to arrive early enough to find a convenient spot and on one occasion I drove around in circles for 45 minutes before someone got off the bus and drove away.

After parking at the Rodeo Exit follow the signs to the Alta Trail.  The trail is a fire road, easy walking.  The total ascent is 811′ with a distance of 2 miles, approximately an 8% grade.

Rodeo Exit

I have taken both routes and my new favorite is the trailhead at the Rodeo Exit.

Rodeo Exit – 2 miles – 811′ ascent – fire road – easy parking

Monte Mar Exit/Spencer Park and Ride – 1 mile – 615′ ascent – 400′ of steps and switchbacks – crazy parking – but you could take a bus!

Final advice – lots of RF on this summit – after tagging the summit I recommend you back down away from the fences for better reception and safer conditions.

Sorry but no pictures – I often find this summit is shrouded in fog.  Today we walked in sunshine until the final 200′ of ascent and when we arrived at the activation zone we were in fog that lasted until we completed the activation.  On the one sunny activation day the views were terrific, from the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco, Tiburon, and the East Bay.


Angel Island – Mount Caroline Livermore – W6/CC-075

This is where you start your trip to Angel Island.  The first ferry in the morning leaves Tiburon at 10:00 AM.  The ferry crosses the Racoon Channel and finishes at the dock at Ayala Cove.  The channel is named for the ship “Racoon” which was the first ship to transit the channel.


When you leave the dock look to the front left and you will see the beginning of the North Ridge Trail.  You follow the path a short distance and arrive at stairs.  Climb the stairs to the Perimeter Road then cross the road to continue on the North Ridge Trail.

Follow the trail through the switchbacks to the summit.  Good views along the trail including a great view of San Francisco.


When you arrive at the Sunset Trail you are almost at the summit.  Follow the sign, on the right, to the summit.  There is a picnic table that makes a great operating position.

Angel Island

Angel is the island, but the summit is Mount Caroline Livermore, 787 feet tall and since you started at sea level you climbed all 787 feet.

You could return by the North Ridge Trail, or when descending from the summit you arrive at the Sunset Trail and turn right – then follow the trail around the mountain, then down the switchbacks and back to Ayala Cove.

Different views when following the Sunset Trail including a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge.


The last ferry returning to Tiburon is at 3:30 PM, so you have plenty of time at the summit and no need to hurry on the trail.

Locals already know this, but the “Golden Gate” is the channel from San Francisco Bay out to the Pacific Ocean.  The “Golden Gate Bridge” was named for the channel.  And by the way the bridge is not golden – it is actually a rusty red!



Miami Mountain – Spring Activation

Traveled to Miami Mountain on 02 April 2018 with W1EJ.  Located near Mariposa, CA this is a 4 point summit just off of Hwy 49.

Miami APRS

Coming from the SF Bay area we took Hwy 140 to Mariposa then south on Hwy 49 about 17 miles to Miami Mountain Road.

Maimi GAIA

Miami Mountain Road begins with a paved portion. The above map is a snip from GAIA – Hwy 49 is identified as “Boot Jack Road” on the above snip.


GAIA provides a lot clearer track of the ascent than APRS using a Kenwood TH-D72A.  There was some shade along the road, but this would be a hot hike in the summer!  In the above snip you can see the clear opening at the summit. There are great 360 degree views – it is easy to see why this was selected as a fire lookout.

Miami gate

We drove up Miami Mountain Road to the locked gate. Then carefully turned around and went back down until we found the nearest spot we could park off the road – this was about a 5 minute walk from the locked gate.

Miami trail

The maintained fire road is an improved dirt road that extends all the way to the summit.

Miami lookout

The final turn toward the summit provides a good view of the fire lookout. I set up on one side of the summit and W1EJ on the other.  Plenty of places to fasten my PackTenna pole and operate – could easily fit several operators. W1EJ and I both use end fed antennas with ununs – W1EJ used a KX2 and I used my KX3.

Miami Marker

Before leaving I got a picture of the summit sign showing the elevation.

From this summit we operated 2M FM into Fresno, and HF around the country; great band conditions and a perfect spring day for an activation.

San Pedro Mountain W6/NC-410

San Pedro Mountain is an 1100′ tall summit in San Rafael, Marin County, California.  Take Hwy 101 to N. San Pedro Drive and go east.  About 0.5 miles past a 7-11 (good place to stop for snacks/water) turn right onto Sunny Oaks, and follow Sunny Oaks until it turns into Bay Hill.  Stay on Bay Hill until you get to the locked gate.  There is room to park one vehicle (maybe two if they are small).


There is room to turn your car around so it is facing downhill and if you get very close to the fence your car can be all the way off the road.

The trail is the paved fire road and goes to within 20′ of the summit.  The last 20′ is a dirt road.  Plenty of room to set up at the summit – bring friends!

San Pedro Gaia Snip

Along the trail/fire road there are views of several local SOTA summits.


Including, Big Rock Ridge – W6/NC-304 – note the tower in the AZ


Including  Burdell Mountain – W6/NC-353 – note the large white building below the summit is the Buck Institute (I think they do research on aging – an appropriate topic for many SOTA activators and chasers) – access is thru Olompoli Park or a better route is from San Marin Drive!


Including Mount Tamalpais W6/CC-063 – note the peak that appears tallest is not the actual summit – suggest you check the summit reports – mostly a drive up with a bit a final scramble thru Manzinita.

Including, several others including Loma Alta W6/NC-350, not pictured but the trail head is shared with the Big Rock Ridge trailhead – take Lucas Valley Road to the big rock.  One trail goes south, the other goes north!


You could get to San Pedro Mountain from China Camp – and at least two other ways. I prefer the paved fire road but I have tried another trail – longer but mostly a single track.


You get to the second gate at 1000′ this was the first time I found it unlocked.  From here there is about 0.25 miles relatively flat and you go past a Cold War era missile site.  A good number of the local summits are at sites where missiles protected San Francisco. After the flat stretch you descend about 100′ then make the final climb to the summit.

gaia 2

The final 20′ of elevation is up the dirt road 100 yards to a clearing.  Trees all around and low brush in the center.  You can find a view of San Francisco from the summit but most of the good views are along the trail.

This was my 4th activation of this summit.  It is just the right distance from home and just the right size.  I have never had good luck with VHF/UHF but I see no reason why this could not be activated with an HT and a roll-up j-pole.  I used a packtenna pole with a 30 foot wire and my KX3 – worked New Hampshire and the Solomon Islands! This might be a good summit to take a new activator. I had AT&T service at the top and along the trail so I was able to spot using SOTA Goat. I used GAIA for tracks.

Elk Mountain W6/NC-037

I traveled to Elk Mountain in the Mendocino National Forest on January 29, 2018.  About a 2 hour drive from my QTH to the trailhead then a modest hike to the summit.  I stopped at the USFS office in Upper Lake, CA for information and additional maps (You can never have too many maps!) and I was told that there had been snow as low as 2500′ earlier this month.

Elk Mountain GAIA Map

The hike is 0.66 miles with an elevation gain of about 400′.  This map (using GAIA) shows the summit at 4180′ but my GPS indicated 4191′; SOTA Goat indicates the summit is 4189′. I took my time going up and down.  This trail is a fire road with generally good footing.

view from elk

This view from the summit looks toward the northeast. I believe the summit in the distance is East Snow Mountain (W6/NC-001). The fire road at the summit is wider than the ascent.  The fire road on the ascent is muddy and wet even after two days without rain.

sota flag

When I finished making HF contacts I put up my j-pole with the SOTA flag at the top. I disconnected my HT so I could step back to get the picture.  This view is looking south from the summit. My final contact introduced himself as a ham living below the summit.  I kept an lookout and spotted his 2 M Yagi and stopped and had a brief visit.

I had considered trying for another summit but decided to wait for a dryer day with longer daylight.

Many thanks to the chasers today, you are all greatly appreciated.

Fitch Mountain W6/NC-419

My goal today was to find a summit that was not a long drive, and was not anticipating rain. Fitch Mountain is only a 45 minute drive from my QTH; represents a 600′ ascent; and has a fire road for the trail to the summit.  The fire road drains well enough after the recent rains to provide good footing.

Point your GPS to Villa Chanticleer in Healdsburg, CA.  As you approach you will see a sign that says Parking/Playground that points to the left.


Follow that sign and you will see a fenced in dog park and a children’s playground with lots of parking.  Park close to the dog park.

IMG_1485 - Copy

There is a wide trail adjacent to the dog park.

IMG_1486 - Copy

A very short distance down that path there is a sign pointing to the downhill single track marked “Summit/Hilltop Road.”  Be careful this is a steep downhill single track that was quite wet today.  I took my time.


When you get to the channeled creek at the bottom there is a water tank and across the creek a fire road that leads uphill. The picture above is looking back across the creek toward the dog park.

Fitch mtn gaia

The trail is a well marked fire road that lead to the summit. GAIA recorded a 2.82 mile hike round trip with 621′ of ascent.  Using SOTA GOAT, I was able to post an alert at the trail head parking lot and I was able to self spot my VHF from the summit.

I set up for HF using my KX3, Packtenna pole, 33’end fed wire with an unun, and an outboard LiFo battery.


Significant QSB today.  I appreciate the chasers patience with my requests for repeats.

This trail and the summit are both shaded so there are lots of places for an antenna.  And with the shade this could be a very nice hike on a hot summer day.  There are “filtered” views along the trail and on the summit but this does not have expansive views.


W6/NC-407 A Foggy Activation

Richardson East Benchmark is located west of Sausalito, CA with the summit at 1,111 feet. The first challenge in activating this summit is finding a place to park at the trailhead.

Richardson East Benchmark

To get to the trailhead you take highway 101 and exit at the Monte Mar Drive Exit.  Southbound this exit leads directly to a commuter park-and-ride lot.  Coming north you take the exit to another park-and-rid lot.  It took me about 45 minutes of driving between these two lots to find a place to park – two hikers came off the trail and when they left I got my space!

IMG_1478[63175]Just across the street from the park-and-ride lot is where the trail begins with 24 steps up the hill.

There are 205 wooden steps along the first part of the trail as it zig zags up the hill.  I have been to this summit on blue sky days and these steps are always wet and look slippery.  I take my time going up and especially going down!


Many of the step portions of the trail are the switchbacks.


This is the final section of steps which take you to the Alta Trail.  Follow the Alta Trail to Wolfback Ridge Road.

IMG_1466You will know you are at Wolfback Ridge Road when you see the paved road. Adjacent to this intersection there is an condo complex served by a private road.  Going west up Wolfback Ridge Road takes you away from the condos.

There is a radio installation at the actual summit and I have walked around the fence that surrounds the site, but there are a nice spots along the road to the summit that are in the activation zone.

IMG_1469[63174]Here is the happy activator getting ready to go down the stairs.  Happy because of a successful activation.  I have heard that on a clear day the summit offers a great view; but during my 3 trips to this summit I have never seen a great view.  Mostly I have had fog.  Today was the foggiest yet.

For a quick hike to a summit this is great.  Another activator has pointed out that you can get to the trailhead by bus; which might be easier than finding a parking place.

Many thanks to the chasers today – I would have stayed longer but the fog got thick enough for me to decide to spare the radios from the damp.

W6/NC-542 – Point Reyes

My first activation for the year was a return trip to Point Reyes.  This summit is the westernmost summit in Marin County, CA.  Modest height of 187 meters. Point Reyes lighthouse is closed on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday so my trip on Tuesday made for a very quiet location.  When I arrived I was the first and only car in the parking lot.  A ranger came past while I was operating and one couple was walking in as I left.  An overcast day, but high clouds so I had a view of the breakers on the Point Reyes peninsula (about 17 miles long) and looking north the view was clear all the way to Mount St. Helena (W6/NC-030).


After activating Point Reyes I headed east and activated Point Reyes Hill (W6/CC-071)