Once again, I find myself in San Francisco for some meetings and have a down day to tackle a SOTA peak. In planning this trip, I noted that no matter how many SOTA peaks I activate near San Francisco, I can always find another one, and one hint is to look at the multiple sub-regions that overlap in this area. Today, I took one from the Coastal Ranges list — Mount Caroline Livermore on Angel Island, just off the coast of Tiburon, California. It’s a one-pointer, but definitely not a “drive up” site — you need to take a boat to get to the island, and there’s no way to the top except legs.
From San Francisco, Angel Island can be seen from the Fisherman’s Wharf area at the northern end of the city, and the island lies just distant to Alcatraz. As usual, I am staying at a hotel in the Union Square neighborhood, so I had to figure out how to get to the site on public transportation. Working backwards from getting to the island, at this time of year there is only one ferry service, Blue and Gold, which departs from Pier 41 several times daily, the first outbound ferry at 09:45. Since Fisherman’s Wharf is a big tourist area (less so in winter), there are plenty of ways to get there: I took the 8BX Muni bus which has a stop a few blocks away (two bucks fifty each way).
A couple days after activating OK/JC-038, my family spent a day in Kutna Hora, a town with a lot of history and great architecture. The nearby Sedlec Ossuary is also a tourist attraction. On the way back to Prague, we stopped by a tall hill that overlooks Miskovice, just outside Kutna Hora.
The grass-covered hill is topped with trees, and a road runs around it. At one end, there is an observation tower topped by microwave and other antennas. Unfortunately, this time of the year, it is not open to the public. You can reasonably park anywhere along the side of the road or right at the tower.
My family and spent the holidays in the Czech Republic this year. We enjoyed a few days in Prague, had a nice visit to Cesky Kromlov, and spent New Year’s in the Lipno ski area.
What better way to start the New Year than to activate a SOTA peak? OK/JC-038 (Okolí) was not too far away, and on Google Maps, it looks like roads approach reasonably near the peak. Going northwards from Lipno, we followed route 163 and then 162, but at one point a smaller, unnamed road branches off 162. I went right by it and had to turn around, because this road is unpaved and enters the woods. It was covered in light snow, the rental car was doing well with traction, and other tire marks made it obvious where the road was, so I drove in.
I had to slip a quick personal trip to the UK in my December schedule and noticed that the best round trip fare was on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. It is not the fastest way to go, with a stop in Mauritius and plane switch in Istanbul, but it is by far the least costly way to get to London, and quality was easily comparable to my usual carrier, Air France. In playing around with the ticketing website, I noticed that there was no additional airfare to lay over a couple days in Turkey. So I did.
I had planned an early start today, but not surprisingly didn’t feel functional until around noon (US election results kept me up all night).
It was flurrying when I went out – light, fluffy, flaky snow drifting down. A light frost formed on the recently fallen autumn leaves like a tapestry of magical fairy dust. And then I started to set up the antenna — instant conversion to driving, freezing rain. I pitched the end-fed into a tree, had a few quick contacts (Germany and Croatia), and got my drenched butt back to the hotel.
Yesterday, I had somewhat elaborate plans to activate a SOTA peak, either Tour de Gourze or Mont Pèlerin. Both would have required about an hour train ride along the Northern edge of Lake Geneva, but those plans got scuttled by a late start due to total lack of sleep last night and a bunch of teleconferences this afternoon. Still, happy to have a chance to get on the air at all from HB9. Now packing up for return to Madagascar.
FWIW, RF power levels today were about five orders of magnitude lower than anything discussed in the previous couple days at CERN.
I was back in the US for a few weeks and squeezed in a SOTA activation right before heading back to Mada. I had tried earlier in the week for a summit close to work, W3/CR-003, Sugarloaf Mountain, but I had to abort that attempt. It had been hot and humid all week, with constant sun. I drove out to Sugarloaf right after work, and with the long days thought I’d have time to climb, set up and operate before it got dark. However, the closer I got to the mountain, the darker the sky grew.
The moment I stepped out into the parking lot, I was hit by a tiny drop of water. More followed – a downpour. In the car, I looked at local weather radar on my cell phone, and cloud cover was patchy, lots of small storms moving west to east, right in line with my location. A couple times, it started to clear, but only briefly. I waited as long as I could, until I judged that there would not be enough light to activate the peak and of course as I drove out of the parking lot, the sun poked through. However, a bit further down the road, there was another cloud burst and with some distance between me and the mountain, I could see that more weather was headed that way, so I think it was a good decision. Continue reading “SOTA Activation: W3/PD-006 and W3/PD-007”
Last weekend was Memorial Day in the US, and I spent it with friends camping at Chain Of Lake State Park in Indiana. I lugged along my FT817 and VX8R and Ben (NN9S) also brought some ham equipment including his Arrow-II antenna. The camp site was a short walk from a large field, which afforded a good view of the sky, with a tree lines down around 10 degrees elevation from the far side of the field. We had some help from a couple hams-in-training interested in pinging the ISS with an APRS beacon and in having a voice QSO via Fox1A.
After winding up some narrow country lanes, this summit is behind a metal metal gate tied shut with rope. A rutted (and at the time muddy) dirt road leads back from the gate towards a cluster of commercial antennas that are on a bit of land only marginally higher than the flat plateau around it. I did walk to that site, but decided that I would do better to work from just across the road where I had parked.
I did not have a lot of time on the way back from Exeter towards London, so I thought I would try my luck on VHF before throwing the HF antenna up over a tree branch. I scrambled up a low wall, held the radio up, and made calls on 2m FM. I got two quick responses from stations about 25 km away and they also worked me on SSB. I continued calling on 2m until I landed my four stations required to make this an official activation. Towards the end, my arm was getting tired, so I rested the bottom of FT817 on my head to the amusement of passing drivers.
I swapped in the FT817’s 6m vertical antenna and tried calling for about 10 minutes, both voice and CW (try working CW with paddles magnetically mounted on the radio which is on top of your head — it is a challenge). No 6m contacts have been logged from the peak, so I was hopeful, but it wasn’t to be.
To be honest, we had hoped to visit the Dr. Who Experience while in Cardiff, but the only way I could make the travel schedule work put us there on a Tuesday, the one day of the week when the exhibition is closed. We had some time on our hands later that day because the next stop in Bristol was not that far away, so after steeping ourselves in a bit more Cardiff culture, we headed for the hills.
Garth Hill is the high point near Cardiff, and is accepted to be the subject of the movie “The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain“. Colm Meaney was in the movie, so even though we missed a Dr. Who connection, we managed to have a Star Trek connection. [Okay, for purposes of full geek disclosure, in fact, the movie does have a Doctor Who connection in the sense that it starred Hugh Grant, who played Dr. Who (briefly) in a parody sketch, the Curse of Fatal Death].
Last month, I spent about two weeks in the UK with my daughter Lara looking at universities. We put about 1800 miles on the rental car and visited schools in England, Scotland, and Wales. Originally, Scotland wasn’t on the itinerary due to time constraints, but we ended up not only visiting the University of Edinburgh, but activating a summit just north of Edinburgh in North Berwick.
Easter weekend was right in the middle of the trip, and I had picked that downtime to visit the Isle of Man. By that part of the itinerary, we had already gone north to U. Nottingham and then west to Bangor. Along the way, we routed through Macclesfield to visit SOTAbeams and picked up a ten meter fiberglass travel mast and some other kit.
From Bangor, it wasn’t too far to Liverpool to catch the ferry over the Isle of Man. Unfortunately, the ferry hit the pier in Douglas the night before our departure. When we got to the ferry terminal on Friday morning we were told that the ferry was temporarily out of commission. I spent the next half hour tapping away at my phone in the ferry terminal car park, calculating what other interest places we could reach and then booking a hotel in North Berwick. In the back of mind, I was hoping to get on the air as MM/AI4SV, but I didn’t have any SOTA peaks in mind.