Shootout near Paramount Ranch on Triunfo Peak (W6/SC-219) in Santa Monica NRA (RC17)

NPOTA Entity: Santa Monica National Recreation Area  RC17

SOTA summit: W6/SC-219

Activation Date: Jan 26, 2016

Portable operation: Yes

Hike in: Yes

Solo hike: Yes

ATT Coverage: Excellent

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016

Malibu is pitch black at six in the morning. I’m straining my eyes for signs of a barista and possibly a movie star enjoying a morning latte. But its dark and Malibu doesn’t seem to be an early riser and so its no movie star and no coffee for me.

Habitation finally runs out and the moon has momentarily overcome darkness, casting light across the Pacific and I’m reminded that Highway 1 offers beautiful views to the west that will have to wait until later when the sun has been called upon to fully banish darkness.

I turn east onto a mountain road that is named after LA’s favorite son. It zigzags through the mountains, hugging every bend and collecting contour lines so typical of a 1920s road that is Mulholland Highway.  A bend reveals a beautiful home and maybe I’ve found my movie star but the fortress like walls make it clear I’m not welcome. I see into the San Fernando Valley with all its lights running into a backdrop of the San Gabriel mountains whose peaks are highlighted by dawns early light.

Stepping out of the car I’m buffeted by a wind rushing off the Pacific. Its not quite what I expected and I bundle up in a down parka. The fire road has long disintegrated into a walking trail flanked on both sides by shrubs that arc above me almost making a canopy that shrouds any view. As I crest the summit all is revealed. Its beautiful and once again this is the reward of everything to this point. The Channel Islands National Park stands out on the horizon and beckons to be visited.

Just at sunrise looking west


Channel Islands National Park on horizon

I’ve brought my AlexLoop along today to test ahead of some urban activations that might not welcome tens of feet of metal protruding skyward or across a well manicured lawn. I’ve struggled to believe that a three foot loop could really allow me to chat with someone hundreds let alone thousands of miles away but I remind myself that radios are magic.  Earlier in December Gary, W0MNA and I reaffirmed this magic as my 12 watts made it from Laguna Beach to Kansas on 20m. Despite being like a donut with not much in the middle, the AlexLoop behaves decidedly like a sail when confronted with today’s Pacific wind and gracefully turns to face south instead of east as I had commanded it rendering it somewhat useless to reach the vast majority of hams I hoped wanted to talk to me. In frustration, I fully extend the rather “slippery” mast that encouraged the graceful but unwanted turns and string out my End Fed. Thirty five plus contacts later, the chasers had abated somewhat as had the Pacific wind. Remembering my urban plight, the AlexLoop is deployed again and now the shootout can start. Sixty five plus contacts later and to my chagrinned delight the AlexLoop clearly performs. To boot, the AlexLoop can lay claim to my first intra park contact as Don, NK6A was activating another SOTA summit within the Santa Monica NRA.

Having finally broken the 100 contact ceiling, I’m touring more of the Santa Monica NRA searching for Paramount Ranch. I pass horse ranches, small vineyards and many houses that all paint a picture of the varied development over the last 100 years.

I’m a sucker for Westerns; the movies, the scenery and of course the stories. I can almost hear the theme to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly as I enter Paramount Ranch, a studio built western town that has been used since the mid 1920s. It’s mid week and oddly eerie as I’m the only one in town. No sheriff, no undertaker, no cow hands and no damsel in destress to be rescued. Still its fun to walk along the wooden boardwalk, turn the street and see the saloon in the distance and stand at a train station that has no tracks and probably never saw a real train. But this is Hollywood and so I simply imagine the shoot out playing out the ending I want.


Paramount Ranch – a western movie set
Paramount Ranch

It seems everyone lays claim to upholding law and order in the Santa Monica NRA as the inter agency visitor center is home to NP staff, State staff and if you dig deep enough somewhere in all of this are the LA Sheriffs.


I bought another Deneen mug to celebrate my visit and keep my Mojave one company.

Deneen Pottery mug – part of a NP series


I first met Terry, K6MA at Pacificon. He is very active with LA ARES emergency communications and so I took the opportunity to stop by his home perched on the edge of the Santa Monica mountains and get the low down on go boxes and other goodies tucked inside his Aladin’s cave. Both being from England and being into radio made for an enjoyable visit.

The Golden Gate and Santa Monica Mountain NRAs are similar in that they both protect significant open space that abut California’s two mega centers; Greater LA with 15 million plus and SF Bay Area with 6+ million. We all benefit from space that hasn’t fallen to cookie cutter housing development or housing for the super elite. I’m glad I have visited both in the last month and equally glad that the National Parks (NPOTA) on the Air program is introducing me to so much of what the USA has to offer.


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  1. Another great adventure recorded !
    Although I live in the Santa Monica Mountains I have never visited Paramount Ranch, mainly because I did not know it was there. It was good to know that the Alex Loop worked and that it can be turned by the wind. Looking forward to your next adventure Paul.


  2. Paul, very nice! You’re a magnificent writer. What software did you use to capture the map points and how did it convert it into the topography map? I’m going to be out your way on a whirlwind trip with my daughter stopping at Yosemite, Death Valley and Joshua Tree NPs. I plan to activate all three as part of the NPOTA event.


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