NPOTA Entity: MN50
SOTA summit: W6/NE-194
Activation Date: April 17th, 2016
Portable operation: Yes using A123 batteries
Radio: Elecraft KX3 operating at 12-15 watts
Antenna: AlexLoop magnetic loop 20m and LNR End Fed on 40m
Bands used: 40m and 20m
Furthest QSO: ~2,700 miles with K1Ro, New Hampshire using SSB at 15 watts
Hike in: Yes
Solo operation: No, with Ron Adams (W6PZA)
ATT Coverage: Spotty on Schonchin, great at Tule Lake
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016
The caves were a surprise. Formed eons ago from lava tunnels, I almost expected to see a Spice Worm from planet Dune awaiting me at the end of the tunnel. The surface of the cave is damp and in places water drips down onto me. The tunnel narrows and my stoop has almost become a crawl and I witness first hand what is almost the work of an artist and spatular to shape the tunnel sides.
I’m glad to be above ground again and further convinced I have no troll or elf DNA in me as daylight is quite welcome and very reassuring.
The immediate horizon is dotted and punctuated with what look like very uniform conical hills. The term “cinder cone” is an odd one but that is what these are. A symmetrical pile of volcanic mater (Scoria) one of which is our destination. The paved road gives way to a well maintained dirt road and we head to the trail head at the back of our cinder cone; Schonchin Butte named after a long deceased Modoc Indian chief. The mile of walking over 500 feet of ascent delivers us to a beautiful fire lookout tower that becomes home to Ron’s portable station.
With almost 10,000 ft of prominence, Mount Shasta, one of California’s few 14’ers, dominates the western view and it captures my eye every time I look up from my log book. There is so much snow on it and it seems to cover every inch of it. The ground around me is very reddish in color. A few small shrubs and trees sparsely line the edges of the narrow ridge that I’ve setup my magloop station on. The wind has picked up and somehow persuaded my tripod ball head to yield and have the magloop almost lasso me only to be arrested by my left hand. Despite its empty donut shape the magloop is doing a good job pretending to be a sail and it and my wrist compete for authority. It seems the wind has the edge as I’m growing impatient of this unexpected intrusion into my activation as after many activations I’ve settled on efficiency that requires two hands dedicated 100% to operating and logging.
Leaving Schonchin and Captain Jacks 1872 Modoc War battlefields behind we stop and setup shop. To my happy surprise 15 watts on 40m is netting me crystal clear QSOs up into Washington and down to San Diego. Its Rookie contest weekend which adds to the available chasers. I’m always thankful of fellow hams willingness to spot on my behalf and help maintain a call flow or drum up more.
We drive north in search of dinner and it seems the only real options this Sunday evening are in Oregon. Pulling into the gas station in Merrill, OR, Ron asks if I know that you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon. I laugh convinced he’s pulling my leg but he seems adamant of this. Still not sure of this I linger around the rear of my car and moments later its all proven true, you can’t pump you own gas in Oregon. Wow, this is not California, the gas is cheaper and on a hot or rainy day you get to sit in the comfort of my car. I’m coming back to Oregon!