Saddle Peak

Sunrise over the stratus of the marine layer covering the Los Angeles Basin

5 AUGUST 2020 W6/CT-274

After my first activation on the previous weekend, I was excited about the prospect of activating another mountain soon. Just up the hill from where we live is Saddle Peak so Wednesday before it was light I made my way up the mountain through a dense marine layer of fog. At times I could barely see past the hood of my car.

There were no cars at the roadhead and I had the quiet trail to myself. The hike is a short one: about .8 miles and 600′ of elevation gain. The Backbone Trail wends it’s way through sedimentary rock formations and a forest of Coast Live Oak. I heard the distinctive spiraling song of the Canyon Wren in the foggy dawn.

Soon I broke out of the fog and I was floating on a chaparral raft in a sea of fleecy white clouds. I made contact with 13 people, again all on 2m FM due to my limited gear. Among those contacts were several people I know including Scott – WA9STI – an experienced Mountain Goat who shared some invaluable tips and tricks with me on summit activation.

I also managed a QSO with another hiker over on Brown Mountain – Brian – WA6JFK. I first met Brian shakily calling CQ for the first time when I first got my license in 2002. He was my very first contact on amateur radio!

The waning gibbous moon setting over Saddle Peak just before dawn

More information about the Summits on the Air program.

Calabasas Peak

Sunrise on my SOTA career and the San Gabriel Mountains from Calabasas Peak

1 AUGUST 2020 W6/CT-214

I’d been hearing about the Summits on the Air for a while and when the buzz turned to the SOCAL SOTAFEST on the weekend of August 1st & 2nd 2020 I decided to give activation a try on a local peak here in Topanga. I’d hiked up Calabasas Peak many times starting in the ’70’s and knew that peak had a good shot at some decent 2 meter traffic.

Since the only really portable radios we own are dual band HTs – a pair of ICOM IC-T7H radios that my wife Cassie (KG6MZR) and I first bought when we got out tickets in 2002 – I was going to be limited to UHF/VHF FM.

There are a wide variety of routes up Calabasas Peak. I chose the fireroad that goes up from Stunt Road. Alternately you can go from the top of Old Topanga Road, up Red Rock Canyon off of Old Topanga or one of several trails off Mulholland Highway. The route I took is about 1.75 miles up and has 850′ of elevation gain.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic I wanted to get on the trail and do all of the uphill without a mask on. Calabasas Peak is quite popular. I started hiking about 5:30 am and was on the summit just after sunrise at 6:30 am without seeing any other hikers.

I made 19 contacts including 3 summit-to-summit contacts with Mt. Gleason, Strawberry Peak and Ladyface. My friend Sarah (N6OPE) was my fourth contact that made my first activation legal. I also made contact with Cassie (KG6MZS) from home in Topanga and my friend Bryce (K6TI) also in the canyon.

My first activation on Calabasas Peak with Oat Mountain in the background

More information about the Summits on the Air program.

Eric Fitzgerald

A wide range of things interest me. A generalist at heart, I am curious about so much of the world around us. John Muir said “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” One line of inquiry inevitably leads to another, and another… I’ll pursue one interest with enthusiasm and passion for a while, and then set it down and chase something else for a while. However, I will return to that first interest with a fresh vigor at some point.

They say that a jack-of-all-trades is master of none. I understand that I will never plumb the depths of a given field the way a disciplined specialist might.

However, as Lois Farrow (Ellen Burstyn) says to Darcy (Cybil Shepard) in The Last Picture Show:

“Just remember, beautiful, everything gets old if you do it often enough.:”