An Inspired Cactus Paulus

NPOTA Entity: NP32

SOTA summit: W6/SD-037

Activation Date: March 14th, 2016

Portable operation: Yes

Radio: Elecraft KX3 operating at 12-15 watts

Antenna: AlexLoop magnetic loop 40-10m

Bands used: 40m, 20m, 15m (12 watts)

Furthest QSO: 5,589 miles with JH1RFZ in Tokyo, Japan using SSB at 12 watts

Hike in: Yes

Solo operation: Yes

ATT Coverage: Great

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 8.54.54 PM
Red teardrop is Inspiration Benchmark in Joshua Tree

Failure is not an option. It sounds like something out of a Bourne movie and that is how my Jan 8th attempt had ended. El Nino had delivered snow to Joshua Tree National Park and while it wasn’t much it had disguised the terrain leaving me to guess what was or wasn’t underfoot. Compounded by a little mishap in not loading the proposed route into my Garmin GPS, had me heading out Jan 8th into this little winter wonderland. Despite getting close, very close, caution was the better part of me and I decided the disguised snow covered terrain could all to easily trip me up and so failure was the outcome. I am not Jason Bourne today.

Looking west from Inspiration Benchmark

Segway forward to March 14th, the snow has gone, a use trail seems all to easy to follow and I meander across my lunar landscape determine to reach my goal. I skirt around a “hillock” that previously I decided to scale, I headed north faithfully following my planned GPS route and having left the sightseers at Keys Point eventually arrived at my peak intact, feeling chuffed and enjoying a beautiful afternoon.

Many have gone to great lengths to ensure I know I’m at my destination. The US Dept of Interior has placed a very nice shinny inscribed disc on the ground that states Inspiration. I feel inspired. A peak bagger with a sense of style has left a brand new log book. Maybe its an unwanted Christmas gift that has been “re-gifted” to this mountain. I feel inspired in style. For once I sign the book with a sense of future interest.

A very stylish logbook left by a peak bagger
A very precise disc left my the US Govt

I have my new combo Gitzo tripod and AlexLoop up in no time and am thankful for all the tips I received on how to marry these two from fellow SOTA-ites. I bag about 40 QSOs up and down the west coast, into the middle of the US and out to the east coast. Their is something magical about ham radio when you hear a call sign you don’t readily recognize. JH1RFZ was booming in from Tokyo and by my reckoning had managed to traverse 5,589 miles of tranquil Pacific. He’s heard my CQ and by a simple case of logic my 12 watts has made it 5,589 miles Tokyo. Pretty good for a phone/SSB connection!

AlexLoop atop my Gitzo tripod

Having wrapped up and stowed my gear ready for the descent I peruse and survey the landscape. Joshua trees, boulders, blue sky, scrub and the usual stuff you would expect in a southwest desert. It was thin and narrow and sat inches above a boulder and really quite easy to miss but somehow it beckoned, maybe realizing it had never been discovered and may never. Cactus Metalicus stood stridden and proud as did I. Clearly I had discovered something unique and I could see the forthcoming article in Nature magazine and the accolades associated with this discovery imagining it to be soon named Catus Paulus (after me in case you are wondering).

Cactus Paulus?

And so I headed off down the trail back to my Jeep, very proud of my discovery (and oh yes, my activation).

Failure wasn’t an option today.





  1. Looks like an antenna to me! You should have loaded it, perhaps with a counterpoise also, since the KX3 tuner will work the magic. Now that would be a story…..


  2. Paul I am not sure you were in the activation zone until I saw your Antenna tripod centering photo! Nice use of the marker.

    I am with Guy you should have loaded up the Cacti-Paulus and made a Q.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.