Golden Gate Recreation Area just before dawn – activating NPOTA RC11

NPOTA Entity: RC11

Activation Date: Jan 2, 2016

Portable operation: Yes

Hike in: Yes

ATT Coverage: Goodish

Access: Park at 37.833849, -122.494465. Hike on Coastal Trail  ~1 mile roundtrip and ~400′ of ascent up to 930′, walk on exposed trail to summit.

The Golden Gate Recreation Area (RC11) wraps around San Francisco with sizable chunks north in Marin County, south in San Mateo County and a  slither along San Francisco’s Pacific Coast. It’s a popular spot with both tourists and Bay Area residents. So arriving at 6:30am almost an hour before sunrise in a small car park just below my destination, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to see a vehicle disgorge four occupants. However, I was surprised to see their flashlights light up my trail to Slackers Hill and I wondered if they were fellow NPOTA activators. Its slightly under 1/2 mile to the peak and probably 400 feet of ascent. I had picked this spot as it has great unobstructed radio take off and isn’t littered with someone’s commercial radio stuff!

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Slackers Hill – operating location just north of San Francisco

Wandering up the trail my flashlight danced across the rutted trail and flanking scrub. Its cold right now in the Bay Area and I look like the Michelin man with so many layers  aimed more at sitting almost motionless on the ground operating than jaunting up a trail with my ever familiar SOTA pack. This is all fine as I want to be warm.

I’ve been amazed at what my 12 watt SOTA station (KX3 & LNR Trail Friendly End Fed) has been able to do over the last 6 months of SOTA activations. I’m excited about the 2016 NPOTA event and as I wander I wonder what it would be like to deal with a pile up; trying hard to jot down call signs in a less than comfortable spot as the wind and the cold rustle through my operating position. My 20+ SOTA activations QSO rate have been at a somewhat leisurely pace so this would be a new experience. As the saying goes “builds backbone”!

Hiking in before dawn has its benefits as I was rewarded with a nice view of the Bay Area.

rc11 pre dawn
Pre-dawn view of Golden Gate bridge from Slackers Hill

Happy New Year greetings were exchanged with my fellow peak baggers and I was relieved to find they were photographers and not NPOTA activators. I’m more than happy to have fellow hams on the peak but I haven’t quite solved station interference issues yet.

My first attempt to get my 20 foot mast guyed down failed as the ground was really, as best I could tell, a thin layer of dirt on rock or something equally difficult for me to bore through in the dark. My second attempt faired better but the scrub, while great to tie the guys to, was also great at snaring them and the antenna as were my feet as I shuffled around in dawns early light.

Putting up and end fed requires a little thought about orientation and ultimately where your operating spot will be. When all was said and done I quite welcomed the opportunity to be submerged in scrub and to have it act as a wind break. However, before disappearing into my lair I enjoyed the colors cast across the sky over Mt Diablo far in the distance were I had been a few days early.

Looking east from my operating location on Slackers Hill


Its time! Game on, this is it…..the mother of all pile ups awaits. KB6CIO, 400 miles away, presumably in the toasty comfort of his home knew I was off tackling RC11 and with amazing timing texted me on my progress. This worked out great as he spotted me on but despite working other So Cal stations I couldn’t work him.

The mega pile-ups didn’t quite materialize but I did have a few bursts which I enjoyed.

I netted 47 QSOs across the US and up into Canada over 2.5 hours. Not bad for 12 watts into a less than optimal flimsy piece of wire!

LNR End Fed strung between a hiking pole and a 20ft mast

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  1. Looks great Paul. The early mornings here have been crisp, to say the least, so I applaud you for braving the elements! I have been on a couple of hikes in Marin in the last few weeks and plan more soon. We are blessed with such wonderful countryside here.




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