Looking north from the summit of Harvey Peak to the austere Clayton Valley.
21 MAY 2022 W7N/EM-019
I wasn’t sure what mountain I was going to try Sunday morning. Both Harvey Peak and Magruder Mountain has looked especially appealing from Palmetto Mountain. The prize when to Harvey Peak as it was closer and also the highest in the Palmetto Mountains.
There appeared to be maze of roads that lead to the approach of Harvey. In fact, it looked like the intrepid might even drive to the summit. I wasn’t interested in that as I really wanted a hike. I found a good road that got pretty close and Whitedog and I set off. The road we took was in very good shape. Most of the roads in the area seemed to have been scraped or graded relatively recently as of this trip. I’m sure a flash flood could change all that pretty quick and such a downpour can happen in any monsoon season. The road got a bit steep in places, but nothing that a front wheel drive car with modest clearance couldn’t handle.
The hike was another extremely enjoyable and easy hike. Route finding is very easy through mostly open terrain. There is a use trail/elk/cattle path most of the way. The hike was 3/4 of a mile with 450 feet of elevation gain.
Cell coverage again was surprisingly good along with APRS coverage from Palmetto Mountain next door.
I had 19 contacts including 3 summit-to-summits. I was happy to get David in Arizona on Wing Mountain an surprised to get a station on Mount Dana in the Sierra. I also contacted some random 4×4 guys in Death Valley on 2m along with Randy KW6RZ in the town of Goldfield Nevada. 2m seems surprisingly active in the area. I’ll bet CB 11m would be as well.
Here’s the video of the entire weekend. Hopefully this expresses my love for places in the middle of nowhere:
On the way back home I took a long alternate route out past the semi-ghost town of Lida, Nevada. I say “semi” because there does seem to be a prosperous native American community amidst the abandon parts of the old mining town.
After visiting Lida, I drove back through Beatty, Nevada and the ubiquitous wild burros there and through the stunning Death Valley and Panamint Valley and then through Trona and China Lake. It was a long day of driving but well worth the astounding vistas.
The Sierra Nevada crest from Palmetto Mountain. Split Mt. is the prominent peak in the center. The Palisades to the right.
21 MAY 2022 W7N/EM-031
This activation was the result of a long-standing idea I’ve had to activate the sparsely populated grid DM17. I’ve been thinking about this for years, studying maps and satellite images to find a good place to set up a 100 watts digital station.
The answer to that one can be found in the "Gridpedion" backstory told here
I left Topanga Canyon early Friday morning without my nephew. Originally R had hoped to come along as a videographer/photographer and all around good company. But the powers at the California State Colleges intervened and R was obligated to finish teaching duties beyond the end of the quarter. So it was just me heading off into some brutal headwinds up highway 395 and the Owens Valley. In all my years of Sierra Nevada trips I had never seen the wind blowing like this. There were whitecaps on Little Lake! The dust was so thick in the air that it looked foggy. I had heard that dust in the air had become a big problem due largely to Los Angeles sucking the Owens Valley dry and I had seen some dusty, hazy days up there, but nothing like this. Ever.
At this point I was starting to think that I would need to abandon my dream of so many years. As I was doing this alone, I was already prepared to turn back if anything rose above even a modest threat.
The headwinds knocked my gas mileage down from Whitedog’s usual 20 mpg on the highway to around 12 mpg.
But fortune smiled upon me because after I gassed up in Big Pine and made it over Westgard Pass in the White Mountains, the winds abated. This was all now new country for me… new dots on the map, as I sometimes say. Dropping down into the austere Deep Springs Valley the landscape became wildly ‘basin and range.”
Just before Lida Summit, I kicked Whitedog into 4WD and turned off highway 266 to an unmarked dirt road. Going by the maps I figured that I might actually be able to drive to the summit of Palmetto Mountain to the communications facility up there. The road was in excellent shape – recently scraped – and stayed on Bureau of Land Management land the entire way.
However at the apparently defunct Nevada Silver State Mine there was a locked gate and a private property sign. This is not private property, but this happens. The area is a maze of dirt roads so I looked for a way around the mine on another road that goes by Excelsior Springs and joins back up with the service road to Palmetto Mountain. However this road became very rough and I had already made the decision to let discretion be the better part of valor. I turned around.
Finding another road further to the north I found that while this road would not take me to the summit, it did get me up on a saddle and it looked like an easy hike from there. This ended up being a really good solution because camping on the summit as I had planned would’ve exposed, unbeautful and uncomfortable, whereas the camp I ended up in was excellent with a great eastern horizon for my grid activation.
I often think of the digital modes as a dance. Being in a rare grid is like being the prettiest girl at that dance. I had so much fun working the pile-up. Remarkably everything went smoothly. I think the shakedown trip the week before to Frazier Mountain really helped with that. I worked 18 different stations on PSK. On FT8 I worked almost 100 all over the US, Australia, Indonesia, China, Japan, Italy, Germany, Panama, Chile, Venezuela, and the Republic of Korea. I worked the radio as long as I could keep my eyes open after such a long day.
That night was pretty cold. The water in my teapot froze overnight. The hike from my trailhead camp as a delightful 1.5 miles with about 850 feet of ascent. Surprisingly I had cell coverage from Verizon almost the entire trip. Also APRS coverage is great in the area due to a 2m repeater on Palmetto Mountain. From camp it was a cross country jaunt through pretty open and easy terrain for about a mile before joining the access road to the summit.
This weekend trip was conceived and executed as a shake down run for my “gridpedition” to maidenhead grid DM17 in Nevada next weekend. This was a far different endeavor than my usual SOTA excursions mostly due to the fact that I wanted to bring along my Elecraft K3/100 and all the gear required to run a full soundcard digital station. This meant a lot more power than my little 3AH Bioenno LiPo battery could manage.
This was my third trip up Frazier Mountain and it is a pretty good place to do a big activation like this. On my last trip up here on November 25, 2020 I met Brian WA6JFK and Scott WA9STI. Scott had quite a bit of gear. He was running 100 watts from his KX3 and he also had 2.3 GHz gear.
This time around I brought two flooded lead-acid deep cycle marine batteries along with a 40AH Bioenno LiPo and a LOT of other gear. Pretty much everything I was going to take on the Nevada trip
I left on Friday afternoon from Topanga and, without any kind of campground reservation, was a bit nervous about finding a legitimate place to camp. I had seen that the Mount Pinos Campground campsites that could be reserved in advance were all filled. With only 5 other sites open for “day of” taking, I decided not to press my luck coming in late in the day, so I went over to the Chuchupate Campground on the road to Frazier Mountain.
To my very pleasant surprise I found that there was only one other party in this lovely campground. So I practically had the place to myself.
As expected, I forgot a few things. This wasn’t any big deal on this trip, but it would’ve been a big hassle way out in the Nevada wilderness the next weekend. One of the big kinks worked out of my system was powering the laptop. Because I was charging it on the Whitedog’s truckbed AC outlet, I didn’t want to run the truck that much. To prolong the battery life of the laptop I turned the screen brightness down. This made the screen very had to see — even in the shade. I’ve since figured out that the 40AH Bioenno LiPo will power an AC inverter very well. The Coleman inverter isn’t the cleanest and does create a lot of RF hash visible in the waterfall, but this is still a much better solution.
The propagation on HF was very strange with a lot of very steep and deep QSB. I did make a lot of contacts on FT8 – 30 in fact – including one to SA4BLM in Sweden. PSK-31 was not so bountiful. Only 3 contacts there and I had a lot of people from the PODX 070 Club looking for me. I hope next weekend is a lot better.
Because I operated off on on for over 7 hours, I had a lot of total contacts – 51 to be exact. I think that might be a record for me. I had a whopping 11 summit-to-summit exchanges.
A big, booming THANK YOU to all who chased. You all make this so much fun.
I also brought Chester the drone along and got some lovely aerial shots. Here is a little 2 minute video that points out some of the mountains surrounding Frazier Mountain over the derelict fire lookout tower:
Life always seems to find a way. Wildflowers ran riot on this trip after the Bobcat file closures have finally be lifted
7 MAY 2022 W6/CT-082
After chasing Lorene W6LOR the previous day from home, I was motivated to attempt this hike that has eluded me for so many years. Between the road closures of the Santa Clara Motorway and the closures due to the Bobcat fire, all my previous attempts had been rebuffed. Lorene spoke of what a pleasant hike it was and the abundant wildflowers. That was enough for me.
I also wanted to bring Chester along to see if I could manage a few shots for the upcoming SOTA movie. Chester is my new camera drone.
I left Topanga at 4:30 AM and got to the empty trailhead without any hitches by a little after 6:00 AM. The entire drive is paved and good for all vehickes, but the gate at Highway 2 is closed from November until May.
On the hike up I met another HPS person – John. He lapped me moving a torrid pace while I lackadaisically photographed the flowers and flew Chester. Lorene said the hike took them an hour and a half and I figured it would take me a lot longer, but that was about how long it ended up taking me too. It’s a 2.5 mile trip up with 1,400′ of elevation gain. There is an additional 400′ of gain on the return trip. The Hundred Peaks section has a very good route description that avoids a little distance an elevation gain that going all the way down to the end of the firebreak entails.
With KG6MZR in New Mexico, I decided to hang out a bit and not hurry back home. I had a fruitful activation with 7 summit-to-summit contacts. I got to work Jon NT6E (Formerly K6LDQ) with his new call. I guess he managed to finally “Keep 6 Loud Ducks Quiet” 🙂 I also managed to eke out a S2S with David N6AN over on Kagel Mounain with a whole lot of granite in the form of Pacifico Mountain in between us. Keith K9TPR came booming in from back home in Topanga on 40m.
Cell coverage from Verizon was solid.
While is was a little breezy on the summit, it wasn’t bad. I did get my first high wind warning from Chester. I guess the winds aloft were a little more intense. KN6CQX over on Mount Baden-Powell said as much.
Climbing the 3rd class crux section of 1,338′. This section is avoidable around to the left.
29 APRIL 2022 W6/SC-354
After flying a camera drone a few times I quickly became enamored with the idea of doing a SOTA movie. It also became apparent that I didn’t want shots of me hiking with the controller in my hands so I enlisted the help of my nephew, R. Fortunately R has a bit of drone flying experience and a good cinematic eye. This short hike seemed like a good place to practice.
Jupiter and Saturn were near conjunction in the pre-dawn sky on this clear morning.