Sunday, January 28, 2018

2018-01-28 Activating W6/SC-445

Another surprise today.  This hike was much harder than I thought it would be... very hard.  The plan was to do an easy hike up to W6/SC-445 - 1715, located near the Pala casino north of Escondido, CA, about 40 minutes from my house.  The satellite recon showed a road all the way up to it and I didn’t pay attention to the story the topo was telling me.  If there is a road, then it can’t be too difficult since they need to get trucks up there right?.  WOW, was I wrong.  It was about as steep as the final climb up to Laguna Benchmark SOTA that Mike and I did a couple of weeks ago but longer.  It was very steep starting 100 feet from the car and the first climb was about .8 miles.  There were two more very steep sections. The road hasn’t been used in ages.

This was a mandatory hiking pole climb.  With about 32 lbs of gear and water on my back, I would have had turned around without poles.  For the hike down, I would have fallen on my butt a few times on the steep loose dirt. 

2018-01-27, Activating W6/SD-026

Today’s SOTA mission was to a mountain in the Lagunas, W6/SD-026 - 5764.  This trip had a bit of a surprise.  Not like a couple of days ago when I scored a QSO with a guy in New Zealand.  Today’s surprise is just seeing unexpected vistas. There is a shocking view from a lookout going up the Sunrise Highway that looks out onto the desert, down several thousand feet.  I enjoy the Lagunas because it’s nice getting up in the pines, cool air, and not seeing a sole on the hike.  It’s not all pine but it’s a hell of a lot nicer than the pure rock piles around my house.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

2018-01-25 Iron Mtn. Morning

I really needed some exercise and I thought I would hit the local hill for a 5 mile hike and fire up the radio.  I’ve been up to Iron Mountain (W6/SC-214 - Iron Mountain) a few times and it’s a long haul over solid trail and rock.  It’s not the most scenic walk, but it has a nice view of San Diego.  I launched early so I could get into work.  The sunrise was really pretty this morning and I wished I had fired up earlier to watch it from the top of the hill.  It took me 1:20 to summit so that would mean launching at 5.  OK, seeing the sunrise from the car was fine. 

I was looking forward to testing out hands free with a cheap headset I picked up.  Going hands free will reduce the goofing around with the mic as I try to log people’s call signs down in my log. When it’s windy, it will help even more. I didn’t expect much after setting up,.but I got a surprise with the package today.  I was able to work a guy in New Zealand.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2018-01-20 Activating Los Pinos Mountain

Today’s activation of Los Pinos Mountain (W6/SC-048 - Los Pinos Mountain) was supposed to be easy.  So easy in fact, I was planning on driving over to Iron Mountain to activate that one and get a good hike in.  Actually it was easy but it was cold and windy with snow.  I got a late start this morning which turned out to be fortunate luck.  I knew there was a forecast for rain in the AM so I wasn’t in a hurry.  Turns out there was rain, hail, and snow.  Yes snow.  It was also windy, and it was cold as hell.  With a temp of 35 (possibly lower), and wind at 20 mph, the wind-chill factor brings it to 24F.  Although really not that cold, when you are from San Diego, it’s cold.  Given the wind, it made for a difficult time holding onto the logbook and talking.  I’ve really got to get my headphones with VOX working. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Chameleon MPAS Practical Testing

Note: Updated 4/18/2020, see summary.
Today (1/19/2018) was a simple trek to a peak near my house that I use as a proving ground to test new configurations and get a little exercise.  W6/SC-338 is only a 4 mi round trip from the base so it’s quick and easy and is a representative test area for my SOTA missions.  Today’s primary objective was to do some practical testing of the CHA MPAS with spike and additional MIL mast. I’m getting ready to use it this weekend and really would like to know if it’s going to work.  The secondary objective was to test to see if I’ve worked out the bugs for the automated APRS beaconing, and if I could post a SOTA spot with APRS (I’ve done a dry run at home but this will be a first live-fire).

When I got my MPAS unit from DX Engineering, I took it out to a hilltop park to do some initial testing because I was too lazy to hike to the mountain and I wanted to see what the performance was on a tripod.  I’m not going to hump the tripod to the top of a mountain.  I published my experience and an extensive number of SWR readings HERE.  That test gave me a basis for an analytic view but as we all know, the numbers are just half of the equation. No matter how good the modeling on the computer, you gotta get out there and see if the thing works.  On the initial test, I was able to get a couple of QSOs with it so I got a some testing but not nearly enough practical tests to be statistically valid to my liking.  I was able to skip into Puerto Rico and Nevada with it so it wasn’t totally lame.  I have full confidence with my dipole from Packtenna in an inverted V and that is my standard by which I measure everything else.  I needed to do some real testing with the MPAS on the mountain like I would on a new activation.  More testing was needed before I was willing to chance blowing an activation after climbing up to a peak I don’t want to return to.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

2018-01-13 Laguna Benchmark, W6/SD-009

Today’s expedition took me to Laguna Benchmark (W6/SD-009 - Laguna Benchmark).  It was a beautiful day to be out hiking and I had spent a lot of time planning.  Michael West, a friend of mine (no, not the “Burn Notice” Michael), joined me as we are both trying to get ready for a Grand Canyon hike. 

As soon at Mike got to the house, we loaded up the dogs, including his dog, Chula.  Chula absolutely hates a ride in the car.  If we walk up to the car after a hike or at the house, the dog runs the other way because she knows what’s coming.  It’s probably the permanent mental damage done during the first car ride the dog took, a long, hot drive that included endless barfing.  Ummm. Let’s move on, shall we. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018-01-06 SOTA Activation of Sheephead Mountain

Today’s destination was Sheephead Mountain (W6/SD-020 - Sheephead Mountain).  This is my first SOTA for 2018!!!  This was a difficult activation hiking wise for me but doable and I could do it again.  I was the first to activate this SOTA location, making 2 for my total first time activations.  I received an email last night from Adam, KJ6HOT saying that we was thinking about doing this location but after seeing my alert on the SOTA site (you post alerts for when you will activate so that “SOTA Chasers” can get points too), he decided to do another site. 

Learning from my recent experience of trying to get to Poser Mtn, and Chaquito, I spent more time researching this before setting out. was a huge help.  Someone else had recorded their track and published it to Alltrails, giving me something to start with.  (I did the same for others plus I wanted to publish here).  I used technology to its fullest and leveraged satellite imagery, Google maps, etc to verify that there were roads, and trails and how to get there.  I have some topo maps but I’m not sure they cover that area and in today’s world, you can print what you need (or download to the phone).  You can see the trail via the satellite image so I felt better about not having to bushwhack for most of the trip.  However, the last .2 miles looked like it left the main trail or dirt road.  The satellite image showed a possible trail so I had hope.  This hike had been done before so I felt I would attempt it.  One curious thing is that the ascent looked like it attacked the steepest part. The person had dropped a way-point where their track left the road, so I measured and it was .2 miles.  Off I go with lots of gear (too much) and hope for a good activation. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Test of Chameleon CHA MPAS Antenna

I recently picked up a Chameleon CHA MPAS antenna with the Mil Extension (CHA MIL EXT), and their ground spike for portable & SOTA work.  The primary reason is that sometimes, the summit is going to be too busy with people to setup my dipole rig.  Cowles mtn is a good example.  Another reason is that I may want the option of setting up faster (5 minutes) rather than goofing around with the dipole.  Mountain tops here don’t have trees so my dipole setup is a mast, guys, and an inverted V config.

I wanted to do a quick setup and function test before my next hike to my main test area (Black Mtn.) or the next SOTA mountain that I want to check off.  My initial testing was at a park on the top of a hill (Hilltop Park) in San Diego.   I setup at two different areas and used a Rigexpert 600 antenna analyzer to gather the data.  I mainly focused on 20 & 40 meter bands and I wanted to know how tunable the antenna was and if I could get out.  The bands weren’t busy and I was wondering if the antenna was going to work at all.  My opinion changed when I had a quick QSO with a guy in Puerto Rico, Vancouver, and another in Nevada.  I guess it’s working.