Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Activation Report: SOTA W6/CV-017

My first SOTA activation was a success, although I can't say it went off without a hitch.

Pt. 968  is located in Lagoon Valley Regional Park in Vacaville, California. It gets its name from its elevation, 968 feet above sea level. The hike from the trailhead to the summit is approximately 1.6 miles (2.55 km). I found the grade pretty grueling at places, especially during my first trip up (more on that later). There was lots of wildlife along the way, including a close encounter with a turkey; that helped make the hike a little more pleasurable.

I reached the summit at approximately the scheduled time (11:00 a.m.). I shot a few photos while I caught my breath and mentally prepared myself for my first CQs. When I opened my pack to assemble my radio (a Wouxun KG-UV5D handheld), I discovered a problem that would prevent me from being able to make any contacts.

I headed back down the hill, determined that my first activation would happen today. When I got back to my car, I posted a new alert with a scheduled time of 1:00 p.m. I then started back up the hill, this time with the antenna that I had left on the car seat. Fortunately for me, the hike up the hill was easier the second time around. Upon my return to the summit I rested for a little while and had a long drink of water.

At approximately 12:35, I spotted myself on SOTAwatch to announce that I was ready. My plan was to work 2 meters (146.520 MHz) for a while, then switch over 6 meters (52.525 MHz) on the slim chance that I might find someone monitoring that band. I put out my first CQ at 12:40; almost immediately, Dave, WB6DTB responded--he was in Oakley, to the southeast.

It was over an hour before I made my next successful simplex contact. In retrospect, Tuesday in the early afternoon is not an ideal time for contacts because many people tend to be at work (it happens to be one of my days off). After many unsuccessful calls, I decided to switch to 146.550 and try my luck there--I've occasionally seen it listed on SOTA alerts for US activators. I eventually connected with Craig, AG6EL, in Pine Grove. This fairly long-distance contact worked because it was line-of-sight across the Sacramento Valley to the Sierra Nevada mountains on the other side; Pine Grove is at approximately 2500 feet elevation.

The actual distances involved are included in the next post.

After another half an hour of fruitless calling, I decided to try of the local repeaters and see if I could drum up a few people willing to switch over for simplex contacts. I came upon an acquaintance, Al, KM6AAI, who was willing to go over to 146.55. When I got there, there was a mini pileup of Al and two other operators waiting for me. After KM6AAI, I worked John, K5JCH in Placerville and Dave, W6DWO (Grass Valley) in quick succession. Placerville and Grass Valley are also at fairly high elevations in the Sierra Nevada.

Having spent almost two hours on (and made two trip up to) the summit, and with five contacts logged, I called it a day and headed home. I had no luck on 6 meters, which was not a surprise. I wish it was more active around here.

Below are some photos that I shot during my first trek up in the morning.

A view of the summit from below while hiking up.

 A look back at Lagoon Valley while hiking up.

Looking easterly toward Vacaville while hiking up.

One the many butterflies on the summit.

Looking east, with the state prison and part of Vacaville below.

Looking south. In the distance, beyond the dip in the hill at the center,US Air Force C-5 Galaxies and C-17 Globemaster IIs are visible on the tarmac at Travis AFB.

Looking southwest toward the city of Fairfield.

Looking west, with Lagoon Valley at the center. The starting point for the hike was near the trees at the bottom right corner of the lake.

A view of Vacaville, looking north.


  1. Steve, Congratulations on your first SOTA activation. As for the antenna well we all make mistakes and get it right next time. Plenty of stories in VK of activators forgetting the radio, power cables and HF antennas. One guy left the radio sitting on the kitchen bench! :) Well done, looks like the SOTA bug has taken hold.
    Andrew (VK1AD)

    1. It's comforting to know it's not just me.

  2. Nice story Steve and I really like your photos. Yes most of us have forgotten something. I try to take much more than I need so I can make up for some forgotten items. I'm one of the other Vk Andrews. We hunt in packs. ;)
    73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

    1. Thanks for the comment and encouragement. It's nice to meet you, VK Andrew "#2."

  3. Congrats! On my first activation I logged contacts in PST, not realizing 3 were on one side of the UTC timeline and 3 on the other! Then quit, thinking I had bagged six. Luckily when I checked the recording I found I made the 4th QSO right at 23:59! It's always something. Good to make a list of what works and what doesn't every time (he says to himself.)

    PS I was listening today on 6, 2 and 70 cm for your Sulphur Springs Mountain activation. Saw your updates but didn't hear anyone. If/when you get a portable beam (Elk or Arrows are great) point it north!

    1. Thanks for listening. I logged seven contacts, including one on 6 meters (my first). I'm not sure how far north you are, but I did talk to a guy somewhere northeast of Chico. I'm stopped for lunch on my way home from work from the activation as I write this: