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.