Activation Report: W7O/CE-219 – Cline Buttes, OR | February 2023

This was my first mountain bike activation of the year. Tim [N7KOM] and another friend joined me for a ride/joint activation of Cline Butte after my last failed attempt in November of 2022. I wanted to do some exploring of a new trail system based out of the Cascade View Trail head that opened in the spring of 2022 and try to connect that system to the Cline Buttes trail via some old double track that looked passable on the map. I used OnX Backcountry app to build a route and we headed out.

OnX Offroad Planned Route

After making a wrong turn and correcting, we made it to the abandoned double track and began grinding through the soft sand. Fortunately another intrepid rider must have had the same idea and we were able to build upon the track already laid down in the soft earth and stayed aboard our bikes as long as we could, eventually forced to dismount and push up the steepest section of about 1/4 mile nearly straight up the hill. I opted to push through the brush, making impromptu switchbacks up the steep hill. We crested that last bit of shale and basalt onto the final road climb up to the summit.

Actual track from Garmin Connect

We quickly got started setting up, Tim with his Elecraft KX2 and AX1 had his 4 contacts before I could get myself spotted. I continually struggle with the MFA tokens when logging in from Sota Goat and was unable to get the timing of copying and pasting the token from my MFA app. Tim offered to spot me so I could get on with it. We had a non-ham along and the wind was picking up so I was trying to be sensitive to how long we were on the air. I’m a lot slower at setup than Tim, so once I got the Penntek 35R on the air and spotted I quickly had a pileup to work through.

One thing I keep forgetting about the Penntek is that the audio out jack is mono only, and I have a stereo headset so I can only hear in one ear. With wind picking up and other hikers walking around, I had some troubles. Those patient enough with my bad copy all got in the log. I’ve made a mental note that I need to apply the modification to the output audio jack before my next outing so I can hear in both ears.

After about 20 mins, the wind was starting to penetrate my thin shell, and my wool base layer was soaked from the work of the climb so once I had 6 in the log, I tore down and we discussed how to get back to the vehicles. There was a lot of unexpected mud and ice on the trails on our way out and trying to be a good steward, I suggested we take a less muddy route back. Unfortunately, a lot of the property surrounding the Buttes is private land so we chose to descend along the Cline Buttes XC trail to a point were we could access the Eagle Crest subdivision and wound our way back on paved paths and roads.

Our last stop was at one of the local brew pubs in Redmond, appropriately name Wild Ride Brewing, for a cold beer and some warm fish and chips. While the thermometer said it was 50 degrees, the chill we developed on the summit took a while to relent.

Cline Buttes is a moderate hike/ride, depending on your approach. The traditional mtb route is to start off the quarry road on the east side and climb the Cline Butte XC Trail around the west side interconnecting with FAA access road to the summit. There is a short cut near the summit that keeps you on the west side of the butte and drops you out right at several big rocks that are in the AZ and can provide some wind protection. 2M can work well but having had one failed activation for lack of 2M contacts, I highly suggest bringing and HF rig as well.

Activation Report: W7O/CE-213 – Awbrey Butte,OR | February 2023

Awbrey Butte Summit
Green: AX, Magenta: Trail, Blue: Fence line

After a little encouragement from Tim, N7KOM, I decide to try Awbrey Butte, which is arguably the easiest SOTA in the Bend Area. The AZ is only 3.1 miles from my QTH and is accessible from 2 Bend City Parks, Sylvan and Summit.  The is notoriously noisy with RFI from the commercial installations in the AZ and higher bands (6M, 2M, 70cm) will likely require a band pass filter to be successful.

From Sylvan Park, it’s about 0.25 miles to the spot where I setup. Having never been up there in the 25 years I have lived in Bend, I decided to take my mast as a precautionary measure. I certainly could have thrown a line in a tree, there are many small ponderosas. There are also plenty of lava rock piles available to hold up a mast. I made quick work of the walk up once I had my bearings and setup behind a lava rock ledge to hide myself from the trail that circumnavigates the summit. 

Ponderosa for wire hangin’

Using a pile of lava rock to stabilize the mast, which I stuck down a crack in the pile, I hoisted my K6ARK EFHW in the 40M, inverted V configuration into the air. I brought the Icom IC-705 since its internal battery would be plenty of power for the short activation I had planned to do and the short hike didn’t necessitate the lightest setup. I originally planned to work 10-40 but realized I left my gloves on the table in my haste to get out while the relatively warm air was still available. After a quick tune up of the antenna on 7.061MHz I hit the key memory and started calling CQ whilst posting a spot via SOTA Goat app. Tim also “spottted” me on the SOTA-NA #general slack channel and the replies came crashing in all at once. First time I have experienced a pile up on my first CQ call! 

Big towers

Operating Position behind the Lava

Over the next 20 minutes I worked 10 stations along the west coast, MT and UT. My fingers started stiffening and my keying was degrading so I made a final CQ before calling QRT. This was exactly what I had wanted to accomplish, a solid CW practice session on a real activation. 

Signs, Signs, Everywhere is Signs

Now that I have done this summit I am kicking myself for not getting up there sooner. Its a pretty spot and I saw no one at all up there while activating. I’ve heard others say that RFI can be a problem at times, even on the lower bands, but I was getting solid 57/59 signal reports from almost everyone on the west coast. The worst report I got was from the UT contact, there was definitely some QSB happening and I had to ask for the callsign with numerous repeats. 

One thing of note that I would be remiss not to share, while the trail is obviously heavily used, there are a couple of disarming No Trespassing signs. They seem to be targeted at vagrants who might be camping on the summit, however I didn’t see any evidence of such. Others have reported that the neighbors are just trying to keep the teenage partying to a minimum. It is not clear exactly where the property boundaries are or who owns what but it something worth calling out.

Awbrey Butte is a very easy walk up and would be a great ride along activation for someone you are might be trying to get interested in SOTA. The drawback is the RFI on higher bands.

Activation Report: W7O/CE-188 – Lava Butte, OR | January 2023

Lava Butte Summit

For the February Polar Bear /  FYOB combined event, Tim N7KOM, and I wanted to get out and do another joint activation. Since we both had limited time a quick approach summit would give us the best opportunity to make the most of the day so we choose to return to Lava Butte. We activate Lava Butte together back in April of 2022 on our first meeting and outing. He documented the adventure in this youtube video.

Tim picked me up and we drove the short 10 minutes from my house to the base of the butte, pulling off US 97 just at the base of the access road, saving us about 1/4 mile of walking on pavement. We made quick work of the 1.2M paved walk to the top. Upon arrival at the summit we decided that I would take up a working position on the deck of the fire lookout, while Tim setup his station at the base of the lookout. He would setup his K6ARK EFHW in an inverted L configuration, whilst I setup my same antenna in Inverted V, but first we did a quick 2M call on 146.58 and each had our required 4 contacts in less than 10 minutes.

N7KOM Working 2M FM

We decided that I would start on 10M and he on 40M working around each other in case of interference. 10 and 15 meters were both ripe with contacts as soon as I spotted myself. I wanted to do the entire activation CW but being a bit rusty, I turned my WPM down to 13.  Having only worked 10M voice and never worked 15M in the field, I was surprised by who I was hearing. NC, AL, ME, TN, MS and one VK5 station… that’s Australia!!! Needless to say it was a busy 45 minutes on the higher bands. I attempted to work 17M but with Tim on 20, there was enough interference that I decided to jump down to 40M and work the locals. I worked an S2S with WU7H, WW7D and got N7LFO plus a couple of Canadian stations. 

W7MTB Working 15M Pileup

Tim brought a small cup of Sake along to take the bite out of the cold. While it was 43 F, there was a brisk breeze out of the SE, and it was hitting me directly on the side as I had to change my position when I extended my wire to 40M. I could tell I was getting brain fried after an hour of operating and decided it was time to call QRT, drink the sake and begin tearing down. 

ICOM IC-705 and Sake, the Japanese know what’s Up

Tim was in the middle of a huge pileup so I took shelter behind the lookout to let him work through the herd. He wanted to work S2S with WU7H and WW7D on 30m but had to wait for their pileups to cool down first. Once he got them both in the log he packed his Elecraft KX2, K6ARK paddles and EFHW up and we trotted down the hill for an after action beer and burger at The Brown Owl in what is now called the Box Factory plaza in the Old Mill of Bend. 

Tim, N7KOM, working 20M Pileup

Later, after a nap and some down time with our doggos, I tallied my day: 4 2M FM, 5, 10M CW, 7 15M CW and 7 40M CW, for a total of 23 contacts; not too bad for a guy who spent the past six weeks studying for the Extra exam, not practicing copying CW.

Alternate Winter Parking

Lava Butte is an easy walk up in just about any season. It can be accessed via US 97 S, about 4 miles south of Bend, OR. There is a parking lot that is usually open all winter but unmaintained. Optionally, there is a pull out on the side of the highway I’ve circled on the map avoe. 

Activation Report: W7O/CN-074 – Round Butte, OR | January 2023

W7MTB on Round Butte

This SOTA summit is a paved drive up. Access is quite easy from Madras, to the East or Culver to the South. 

Madras to Round Butte

Hwy 97/Culver Junction to Round Butte

There is a large open area on the top of the butte to setup your gear. On the Saturday that I was there, I saw one pedestrian and one other car in the 3 hours I was there. There are some small juniper trees but I’d suggest bringing a mast of some kind. 

Working 17m CW from Round Butte

I worked several S2S on 2M with ops up on Frog Lake Buttes [W7O/CN-024], 4620 [ W7O/CN-090] 4925 [W7O/CN-086] then switched over to HF and worked scored another S2S from W6/SC-365 on CW. This was the first time I had deployed my newly build K6ARK End fed random wire tuned with the EmTech ZM-2

This would be an excellent introduction summit for new operators. I presents no physical challenge other than sitting in the cold and wind, but it has beautiful views and feels remote enough to be relaxing.


Activation Report: W7O/CE-223 – Juniper Butte

Juniper Butte from the South

This is a pretty easy hike, with some elevation gain. My watch clocked 1070 ft of gain in 2.6 miles from where we parked the truck. The primary access road is pretty good dirt that turns into a pretty ok jeep track. It would be possible to drive up the ok-ish jeep track to a point where there is a barbed wire fence gate and the road turns into a true jeep road. 

End of the drive up, time to walk

The barbed wire gate

This would save about 1.25 miles of walking but be prepared to back out if you were to run into another vehicle as there aren’t many options for pulling to the side. The hike was quite pleasant, with signs of deer and cow detritus. Views on a clear day of the entire Central Cascade Range from Mt Hood south to Mt Bachelor. There are 2 sections of steep, loose rock the didn’t appear to have had 4 wheels on it in a long time. There was evidence that a motorcycle made it at least half way to the summit. 

Getting a little tougher
Steep and Rocky

KK7HJL taking a breather

At about 2 miles, the trail tops out on the western high point, but this is not the AZ. The track splits and you’ll have to stay to the right and follow an old fence line for about 1/4 mile before the track pitches up a bit for another 1/4 mile to the summit and activation zone. There are lots of juniper trees to attach a mast to, some may be tall enough to pitch a line into. 
Track Captured on Garmin watch

We worked several Summit to Summits on 2M with some activators up in the Mt. Hood area, then turned on KK7HJL’s new AnyTone 6666, 10 M rig. Its a bit of an awkward rig to work in the field as its primarily designed as a mobile unit. The controls took a minute to figure out (I didn’t know what the “Clarifier” did but figured it to be some kind of band pass filter). Once I got the rig going and tweaked the “Clarifier” after my first QSO alerted me that I sounded off frequency, I turned it over to Randi [KK7HJL] to make her first HF contacts. We worked 5 stations in the middle of the country, Kentucky, Texas, Illinois, Oklahoma and Kansas, before the band started to deteriorate and we decided it was time for some food and beverage. 

KK7HJL working HF for the first time

On the way down we stopped to check out an interesting remembrance to someone called Erik McDaniel. Googling his name revealed that he died in a nasty car crash in 2021 at the age of 31. He was from Culver, the small berg just to the north of Juniper Butte.

Shrine to Erik McDaniel

The trip down took about the same 1:15 that the trip up took. We arrived at the truck and headed to Wild Ride Brewing in Redmond for some food and a beverage to toast a beautiful and interesting afternoon exploring an area of Central Oregon we probably would never have bother with thanks to our new ham radio hobby. 

GPX File for download: Juniper Butte GPX

Activation Report: Hoodoo Butte W7O/CM-060

Hoodoo Butte AZ

KK7HJL and I had been wanting to get out and do more activations during our Holiday break from work responsibilities.The weather and social calendars colluded to prevent us from making it happen until the last day of our break. We won a pair of lift tickets to Hoodoo Ski area and decided to bring along our radio’s to see if we could activate the summit. This is one of the easiest “hikes” we have done, since it really only involved walking from the car to the bottom of the lift. To make it a bit more challenging, we did 4 quick runs on Ed’s chair before taking the Green Monster to the top. We were hoping the dense fog would lift as we could see the sun poking through but never got out of the cloud on the lower section of the mountain. After our 4th run we decided it was time so we skied to the bottom and boarded the chair for the long ride to the top. To our surprise about 300 ft below the summit the fog cleared and we were treated to a view of the full majesty of the Central Oregon Cascade Range. To the south we could see Mt. Bachelor, South, Middle and North Sisters. To the East, Black Butte and Mt. Washington. To the North, Mt Jefferson and Mt Hood peaking out. The summit was still, but that didn’t prevent my fingers from getting very cold in the 17 degree F temperature. 

KK7HJL with W7MTB Calling CQ


We decided to try to knock the activation out quickly on 2M, I didn’t really dress warm enough and my fingers, toes and legs were already cold and setting up the HF antenna didn’t sound fun. That didn’t go quite as easily as planned. First contact came quickly enough, but the next three took another 45 mins of calling CQ. Our first contact let us know that our signal strength was fading so I tried out the new 2M Band pass filter, only to get a weaker signal report so we went back to working without the filter. I expected we might get some QSO’s from the Eugene/Springfield/Salem area but heard nothing. After a while I asked our first contact if he could make a call out on the local repeaters. I wasn’t sure if we were getting into the primary repeater and the Mt. Bachelor repeaters are not usually linked to the system. He tried and reported he heard nothing, which was odd for our system. He made a second attempt and we got a call from the Black Butte Ranch area to complete our 4 QSO’s to activate. Hungry and cold we headed down the easiest trail to the lodge for some lunch and a beverage.

Mt. Washington from Hoodoo Summit

Things to know:

  • Hoodoo Butte can be very windy and cold on the top in the winter. We were expecting much higher winds but got pretty lucky. 

  • Ski patrol asked us who we worked for, which was funny and it took a minute to explain what we were up to but they seemed uninterested. 

  • The AZ is right at the top of the Green Monster and Hodag Lifts. Super duper easy to get to in the winter if the lift is running. 

  • There is a fence just behind the ski patrol office to which one could strap a mast should one choose to do so.

  • 2m is usually a LOT easier, everyone must have been hungover from their New Years UTC crossover activations the day prior.

  • Bring a second handheld. I couldn’t tell if we were getting into the repeater when I attempted to raise some interest to work us on simplex and having a second would have helped confirm.

  • If you’re going to ride the lifts, a fanny pack might be a better option than a full backpack. Taking it on and off every lift ride gets pretty annoying. 

  • Should go without saying, extra layers! This isn’t my first rodeo but it was my first day skiing this season with some new pants and gloves and I was under prepared for standing around in the cold.

Activation Report: W7O/CE-068 Pine Benchmark – Thanksgiving Day 2022


After a successful RF high experience on Lava Butte the day prior, the weather looked stable and warm so KK7HJL and I decided to bag another of our local summits. Pine Mountain is about 25 miles SE of Bend on US Highway 20, then another 5-6 miles on a good gravel road, though in the winter it is unmaintained so travel at your own risk. November saw some snow and considerable low temps so the road was packed snow and ice once we got into the shadier valley. We weren’t sure if we were going to make it but Sherman the Ram 1500 has 4 wheel drive and the warm temps made the pack snow soft enough to get traction.

The hike starts at around 3 miles from the forest boundary, and follows an old double track almost the whole way to the top. The double track ends at on of the local paragliding launches that Pine Mountain is famous for, but a very well established trail takes you the remaining .25 miles to the summit. 

We parked at a gate at the beginning of the double track that fortunately someone had driven since the last snowfall, so there was an easy track to follow. Most of the route was snow covered but it was warm and soft enough that I walked in my Danner 2650 trail shoes without issue. We had our SOTA pack along to wear them out so that we could enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner without interruption for a poop walk. 

The hike was uneventful, though we noticed some signs of deer and cougar along the way. We made quick work of the walk and upon arriving at the summit, noticed the windsock standing out straight as an arrow. The wind took off both our hats and we made a run for the summit photo before descending back to the edge of the activation zone where there was a little shelter of rocks to block the wind. 

With the wind howling and our dogs getting anxious we decided to make quick work of the 2M activation. 

KC7UJO on 2M

  • N7KOM
  • KD6PLU
  • N5LR
  • K7CWQ
And that’s a wrap, all in about 5 minutes.
The hike down went quickly and without drama and we were back home in time for lunch and a nap before heading to our Thanksgiving dinner party.

View from Summit

Pine Benchmark is a pretty easy and straight forward activation. Park at the gate or just inside if the road is clear and follow the double track to the top. Be aware that the road is unmaintained in the winter and you may need 4 wheel drive or a snow machine/skis/snowshoes if you want to get those bonus points. And check the winds aloft! I had planned to setup and operate HF but due to the high winds chose to ditch that idea. Operators will often combine Pine Benchmark and Pine Mountain, W7O/CE-058 into a single day. We thought about it but after getting a good look at the ascent and the condition of the access road combined with the high summit winds the day we were there, we decided it would be ok to come back another time.

Activation Report: W7O/CE-188 – Lava Butte

 We haven’t been terribly active on the air of late. Only one activation since August, so we (KK7HJL and I) decided to take a couple hours on Thanksgiving Eve to hike up Lava Butte to activate. While the park is “closed” they do leave the gate to the parking lot open to allow folks to walk up the road to the top for some epic view of the Central Oregon mountains. 

November has been pretty cold, and we had a couple of good snowstorms early in the month, leaving the road a mix of compacted snow and ice in areas that don’t see much sun. On this particular day, the outside air temp was hovering around 50 degrees so the top layer of the white snow was fairly easy to walk on, and any areas of the road exposed to the sun were dry or nearly so. The walk from the parking lot took about 60 minutes and we had the place to ourselves when we reached the top, though we didn’t expect to see many people, there was only 1 car in the lot when we arrived. 

Since I had already activated Lava Butte back in April, I was mostly along for morale support for Randi and to test my rusty CW skills. I recently received the Penntek 35 radio I built back from the kit manufacturer after experiencing an audio chip failure. John WA3RNC, very graciously asked me to send the radio to him to troubleshot and fix it at no cost. I had taken it out a couple of other times but didn’t make any contacts so I was anxious to see if I could do better from a summit. 

I had intended to try 40,20 and 17 meters so I started on by setting up my K6ARK End Fed Half Wave on 40. I called QRL and heard a very faint, slightly off-frequency response, but was unable to make it out on the summit. Later, K7ATN emailed to let me know that he had heard my QRL and responded with ‘SOTA?’. I had to listen to the recording several times, but I was able to make that out eventually. Regardless, I began calling CQ and worked 7 or 8 stations. I struggled with WB6POT but he patiently kept with me, turns out B and 6 are difficult for me to distinguish. 

Meanwhile, Randi – KK7HJL, began calling CQ on 2M. She did the entire activation on her own, didn’t ask for any prompts and made 6 contacts around Central Oregon. She said she was in search of that RF High she learned about after our recent activation on Catalina Island in late October.

Since my copy skills weren’t great I decided to shut it down and tear down instead of trying 20 or 17M. Again, this was about getting her out more than my needing to collect contacts. Also, the tourists had started to arrive and we didn’t want to be annoying anyone. We managed to tear down and bug out after only a 30 minute activation, which left us plenty of time to grab a beer at the Boneyard Pub back in Bend on our way back to the QTH. We lucked out and found an unoccupied couch to sit and enjoy our delicious malt beverages while watching a replay of the USA vs Canada women’s hockey match from the previous weekend. 

Lava Butte National Volcanic Monument is a pretty easy SOTA/POTA site. During the “season” there is a charge to park in the lot but once they close the monument for the winter, it’s free parking. Access is easy from US 97 Southbound about 4 miles south of Bend. The Northbound 97 exit is closed in the winter. The hike up is about 1.5 miles of pavement and there are plenty of places to setup to activate once on top. Eventually there will be a paved path from the south end of Bend up to Lava Butte, making it a very easy bicycle ride or walk from town but until then you either have to drive or take the Deschutes River Trail like Tim – N7KOM and I did back in April. This would be a great first SOTA activation destination as the views are top notch and one can easily get 2M contacts from Bend and LaPine. 

PNW Campout Report

On the weekend of July 8-11, SOTA activators from California, Oregon and Washington gathered at Hyatt Lake campground in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument near Ashland, OR. Amy Hamptonstall (AG7GP) and her partner Robin (N7HAP) organized the gathering as a way for SOTA operators to get together and activate lots of summits with plenty of Summit to Summit opportunities. A total of 26 summits were activated over three days with 2 brand new operators getting their first QSO’s and first summits. 

One of the new operators, KK7HJL, is my YL, Randi. She decided to study for her tech license after going with me on several outings in Central Oregon as we pursue the Big Butte Challenge 2022, which has 4 SOTA summits. While its not a radio event per se, we have used it as a motivator to get out and activate some areas we would otherwise never visit.
Rye Spur

On our drive down to the campout we spent a night at Lake of the Woods  Aspen Point campground, which was conveniently on our route and situated a short distance to Rye Spur (W7O/CS-053). After a wonderful nights rest, we got up early to drive over to attempt the summit. The drive in took a bit due to all the brush and we took an early wrong turn. We ultimately found the parking area at the end of the road, what looks like a hunters camp, and leashed up the doggos to attempt the short 0.3 mile walk to the summit. There is not a trail to the top so its a bush wack. We tried heading straight up, but quickly hit walls of young evergreens and lots of ceanothus. We backtracked the few hundred yards and found a trail that led out the back of the camp area, that looked to head towards the Rye Spur trail that goes to the east of the summit, but unfortunately, the approach is much steeper from that side. It was difficult to move through the growth with the dogs on leashes and we didn’t trust them off leash in an area we aren’t familiar with so we had to throw in the towel in order to make it back to camp and depart by checkout time.

Upon arrival at the campout location we took our time setting up, it was quite a bit warmer than the previous day so we sat out a the picnic table in our site and had a cocktail. I setup the Buddipole and did some chasing but didn’t catch anything. We were camped next to K7MAS and his XYL. They courteously let us park the truck in part of their parking area since it wouldn’t fit int our site with the trailer. I had booked the site thinking I would be solo in our van, which would have fit swimmingly, but the trailer took up the whole area. K7MAS headed out to activate Table Mtn, a short drive from camp. We told him that Randi had just received her callsign assignment earlier that morning. I turned on the handheld and when he called CQ I answered and handed the HT to Randi. I coached her through the QSO and she did great.

That evening K7ATN made the rounds to check us in and let us know the loose plan for the weekend. Most of the clan were gathered in the A Loop sites, we were in B Loop. Amy had a whiteboard up for folks to use as a quick reference to see who was planning what the next couple of days. Since we had our dogs, we didn’t want to attempt anything that was going to require bush-wacking and Amy suggested we try Grizzly Peak, a popular day hike for folks from Ashland/Medford.

Lookout from the West side of Grizzly Peak
We slept really well and had a leisurely morning in camp. The drive to the parking area took about 45 mins. We got there just in time as 7 or 8 other vehicles rolled in behind us. We managed to find a spot in the shade to park the truck but it was pretty much the last spot in the lot, so folks just started parking on the road, this is definitely a popular trail and would probably be a better to get an earlier start that we had. Yamato, our 13 year old dachshund, was insistent about coming along for the day. Since we didn’t want to leave him alone in the truck, Randi unloaded her backpack and loaded him into it. While it wasn’t perfect, it worked really well for the 2 mile hike to the activation area. The trail is very well groomed but its no joke, it goes up quickly. We met lots of folks coming down but once we got near the top it thinned out. We found a nice spot in the shade in the AZ. We pulled out the handheld and heard W6DER calling CQ and I jumped right in. We traded off working one caller after another, it was very hectic on 146.58 with 25 activators all trying to talk to one another along with the chasers. We spent about 45 mins making contacts before the shade dissolved and the pups were getting restless so we packed up the kit and headed back down to the trail. On the return trip , we headed out towards the western side of the loop to get a great view of Ashland from above.

That evening we gathered around the campfire and organized the next days summits. We decided to try Soda Mtn on recommendation from K7MAS. Mark suggested approaching via the Pacific Crest Trail instead of walking up the road, which was a much nicer hike and less sun exposed for the doggos. The hike up went smoothly, we took a break to chat up a couple of LASH (long ass section hikers) on the PCT. The last 1/2 mile gets pretty steep on the 2 track but it was fine and the 360 degrees views from the top made it all worth while.  

Activation Report: W6/CC-068 – Silver Peak

My wife, KK7HJL, is on a mission. She wants me to experience all the cool places she had lived before we met. To that end we have spent summers in Minnesota on her childhood lake, visited Leadville, CO and last Thanksgiving took our first trip to Catalina Island, off the Southern California coast. During our first visit we decided to do a backpacking trip on the Trans Catalina Trail, a 38.5 mile trail that traverses the island. I worked out a route so that we arrived in Avalon, the islands famous nightlife town, then walked our way to Two Harbors, a very small village where she had lived for 18 months after she first moved out west. Two Harbors is famous in the Sailing community and the subject of many songs from the yacht rock era. 

There are several SOTA summits on the Island, one of which was a planned rest stop along our route. I was only a very recently minted Tech/General and didn’t yet own an HF rig so I brought along my recently acquired Baofeng but I hadn’t really learned much about SOTA at that time and wasn’t sure how to do an activation. By the time we reached W6/CT-281, we were dirty and tired after a sleepless night prior due to a Santa Ana wind event and I wasn’t feeling up to fumbling through learning how to activate. The wind was blowing pretty strongly and there were other hikers wanting to sit in the limited shade provided by the small shelter so we moved on.

We finished the first 24 miles of the trail that afternoon just in time to get a shower and have some thanksgiving dinner at the Harbor Reef restaurant. The next morning our hiking companion had to depart on the morning ferry but before she boarded, we vowed to come back to finish the last 14 miles of the TCT. 

Fast forward 11 months and we were back on the Catalina Express from San Pedro to Two Harbors but this time our plan was to day hike the remaining 14 miles of the trail with the added bonus of a SOTA Activation on W6/CC-068, Silver Peak. 

This 1 point summit is definitely hard won. It took 6 miles and 2000 ft of elevation gain to reach the activation zone. The wind was howling in from the open ocean side of the Island and the cloud floor was dropping quickly. We hastily set up our stations and began calling CQ on 2M. Signal reports varied, but were mostly in the 5/5 and 5/7 range. It took us only 18 minutes to work 6 contacts each, including one summit to summit, just in time for the cloud deck to hit the ground.  

It was a very steep and loose 3 mile descent down Fenceline Rd to the West End Rd where we stopped and chatted with Ranger Laura while we ate some much needed lunch before the 7 mile slog back to Two Harbors. 

Getting to Catalina Island:

The Catalina Express ferry to Two Harbors leaves from the San Pedro Harbor Berth #95. Rates for the round trip crossing depend on the season.  The easiest way to visit is to stay at the Banning House Bed and Breakfast but if you are good to camp, the Two Harbors Campground is about a 1/2 mile walk from the Dock. You can have your gear hauled for $6 a bag, which is nice if you bring a large cooler or bag full of camping gear that you don’t want to carry up to the campground. There is water at camp, along with porta potties. For cooking you will want a stove, though the camps all have fire rings, they aren’t great to cook on. The only difficulty with bringing a stove is that fuel is not permitted on board the ferry, but most fuel types are available to purchase at the Two Harbors store. The store stocks everything you might need, if you are willing to pay the “island tax”. Beer/Wine/Booze, Pizza, Ice etc. are all available. The Harbor Reef restaurant/bar is also an option. They are open 7 days a week for all meals.

Two Harbors Campground

There are two SOTA summits reachable from Two Harbors as day hikes, Silver Peak (W6/CC-068) and 1236 (W6/CT-281). 1236 is the easier of the two day hikes, only about 5 miles round trip with ~ 1500 ft of ascent. Both are very exposed, so bring plenty of water and snacks. The shoulder seasons are the best times to do these hikes due to the lack of shade/water availability once on trail.