SOTA W6/NC-432 (Chabot 2 Benchmark)

radioSelfieI thought I would be lucky if I had time to activate one summit on my visit to San Francisco, but morning meetings left my afternoons free, so I activated Mt Davidson (NC-423) as planned but also worked in Richardson East Benchmark (NC-407). Yesterday, thanks to a monstrous amount of snow that shut down airports on the US east coast, I found myself with an extra day in San Francisco. After reviewing maps, reports from other activators and a quick look at weather, I chose to visit NC-432, Chabot 2 Benchmark (what does that mean, benchmark? Why are all these peaks called Benchmark? Is that a west coast thing?).

One of my main criteria for choosing this peak, like the others I visited on this trip, was that it would be accessible by public transportation: I took the BART underground from near my hotel (Powell Station), green line towards Daly City, stopping at Bay Fair. From the bus terminal at that station, I caught the 89 “counter-clockwise”. The bus runs only hourly on the weekends, so I had a bit of a wait. I took the bus to the Juvenile Justice Center, about ten minutes away. I suppose you could walk, but the route crosses a major interstate (580) and there’s more walking to come, so I thought it was worth the $2.10 fare.

From the Justice Center, walk out the exit and turn right on Fairmont Drive, then start walking up hill. The peak with its radio towers is off to the left, but a direct beeline approach is not suggested, as there is a fence and the hill is pretty steep. There are sidewalks on both sides of Fairmont, but at some point it is necessary to cross over the somewhat busy street.

Fire Lane. Not the entrance.
Fire Lane. Not the entrance.

There is a fire lane entrance, but it is locked and not inviting, so keep walking up and around the hill. Just after the road starts descending, there is a parking lot to the left, where that white car is:


The entrance to the Anthony Chabot Regional Park is right there at the parking lot.


There is a helpful sign about critters to avoid. Hopefully, visiting in winter lessens the chances of encountering some of them, e.g., the ticks. As for mountain lions, there is a sign on the swinging gate to the park to please close it so that grazing cattle do not escape. I hope that any mountain lion prowling the hill would realize that grazing cows would make a better meal than I would.


A paved road runs towards the summit and a dirt path more or less parallels the road. Either will get you towards the top.


When the radio antenna installation is in sight, there is a “Dip” sign. Here, I’d recommend walking to the right of the sign. There are paths that lead to the top of the hill or around the hill. From the top, you can see both the Lake Chabot to the East and the ocean to the west.


I didn’t see anything convenient to sit on, so I put my sweatshirt on the ground and sat on it. The 40/20/10 antenna was slung into a row of eucalyptus trees. The neighboring radio towers didn’t seem to interefere, and I had good cell phone reception.

Head straight up towards those pines.

Initially, I had an equipment failure, my palm paddles only ditted and didn’t dah. Back in New Jersey last week I had a problem with the end that plugs into the radio and had resoldered the 3.5mm plug. I’ve used these paddles for many years and have doctored both ends at various times. I’m not blaming the quality of the palm paddles – they are well-designed and manufactured, but the ends of the connecting wires are natural fatigue points. Repeatedly folding up the wire, set up and tear down take a toll over time. Despite this issue, the palm paddle is my preferred paddle and I use it both in the field and in the shack. I did order the new-improved palm paddle cord, which looks like an even sturdier design. Unfortunately, I shipped them to New York and had planned to pick them up on the flight back to Antananarivo.

Before I got to the point of cannibalizing the connector and sending code by tapping wires together, I got the plug sorted out and taped it up well enough to get through the session. I called CQ a while on 20m and then spotted myself. I got replies from VA and CA, but the pace was slow. I was worried both about the paddles giving out and about securing the four contacts necessary to validate a SOTA activation. Luckily, I connected with ten more contacts on 40m. Most of the 40m contacts were nearby, but a few reached the east coast.

As the sun went down, I yanked down the antenna and packed up. I did try calling CQ on 2m using an aftermarket HT antenna and did get a reply. Unfortunately, the signal was weak and I couldn’t pull out the call sign and I am not sure the other operator could copy me. I tried playing with the antenna orientation and my body position, but no dice. A small yagi would have probably helped.

Well, that’s it for Bay Area activations for this year… time to head back to the other side of the planet.



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