A hiss and a rattle on my way to Pt 9060

NPOTA Entity: N/A

SOTA summit: Pt 9060  W6/ND-015 

Activation Date: August 5, 2016

Portable operation: Yes

Radio: Elecraft KX2 operating at 10 watts

Antenna: LNR Trail Friendly end fed 40-10m

Bands used: 20m and 40m

Furthest QSO: ~2,400 to George N1GB using SSB at 10 watts

Hike in: Yes, ~3.5 miles round trip and 900 ft ascent from Bodie SHP

Solo operation: Yes

Recommend: Somewhat

ATT Coverage: Great

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016

The 4×4 trail is really like two parallel foot paths separate by a few inches of grass. I’d planned to drive it but an inconvenient locked gate had me hiking a mile or so on from Bodie. I’m not sure which I heard first, the hiss or the rattle but either and both are unmistakable warnings. Glancing over my shoulder I see a rather irate rattlesnake that was far from small with its head and tail pointed at me. “Whoops” or something equally benign fell from my lips and I keep moving with pronounced vim and vigor. It’s only a matter of seconds before I comprehend that I had walked right by and within inches of a rattlesnake. How could I have missed it, am I blind, am I euphoric from my most recent activation or is it just good or bad luck? What if I had been on the other of the two paths and trod on the snake?

My interest in continuing along the trail and then cross country up a mountain side through scrub and sage has diminished dramatically.  However, beating a retreat means circumnavigating the rather irate snake and so I continue on my mission with a new frame of mind. Clearly where you find one rattler there must be more; ten, fifty, hundreds lurking behind each blade of grass or shade of sage. Cataloging everything I know about rattlers which probably should be more, the one item that seems most applicable is to pound the ground heavily with my poles and boots; snakes feel your impending arrival from vibrations. Crossing the threshold from the trail and into the scrub has me doubled down on pounding and inspecting every prospective spot that a boot and a foot will land. Over time I arrive at my peak and get a real sense of the Bald Mountain fire across the other side of Mono Lake. It is a ways off but none the less looks rather real and my plans to activate a peak within a stones through of it the next day have been consigned to history.

Looking south across Mono Lake toward the Bald Mountain fire from Pt 9060

My station is up and propagation is actually pretty good and I work 20 or so chasers over 20-30 minutes. I realize I’m not cherishing the thought of leaving my mountain bastion that I have both enjoyed and determined to be somewhat snake free. Leave I must and pounding down the mountain side my poles disturb the slumber of crickets who in their haste to escape sound momentarily like the rattle from a tail. The paranoia is complete.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 9.27.07 PM
Purple trail from Red Cloud Mine to Pt 9060. ~3.5 miles r/t and 900 ft ascent
Looking across Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie is probably the most complete ghost town in the US. It has tens if not a hundred plus deserted structures. Its gold zenith was around 1880 and from then it diminished gradually until its last resident left in the 1960s. Much of the town was lost to a fire but it is still a fascinating place to visit. A church, a schoolhouse, an undertaker, houses upon houses only rivalled by outhouses upon outhouses. All frozen in time with furniture, tins, beds, faded wall paper, books and so on. Maybe this is Detroit’s destiny. If it weren’t for the tourists it would feel spooky, somewhat Chernobyl like in that all the inhabitants seem to have left in a hurry.

Church, residences etc
House and outhouse
Coffin at the undertaker
Pantry/kitchen of abandoned Bodie home
I wonder if this was William Morris wallpaper..probably not
Stamping mill to crush gold bearing rock

If interested in reading what life was like in Bodie and its history which I presume is reflective of life in the west in general then I recommend this book….

Great read!!



  1. Paul,
    If you go to Pacificon this year I will educate you on rattlesnakes. Glad you did not step on one as that would have been really bad.
    Great photos of Bodie, where I have never been to, and the mountains.
    Terry K6MA


  2. Fantastic photos Paul. Some photographers succumb to the temptation to overuse HDR and other techniques when taking shots of places like Bodie, but I much prefer a more straightforward processing treatment, with the creative input being in terms of the framing, composition and light. I’m sitting here drawing up a partial schematic for my current project, and you are giving me a wonderful glimpse of a world not too far from my window. Thank you!



  3. Fun read! It reminds me of when I lived in Twentynine Palms. Its amazing how many places are just abandoned, as if the people threw up their hands in frustration from the heat and left on the next train/ wagon. I wish I would have been into SOTA back on those days.


  4. Great Story as always Paul! I too will be at PacifiCon and will take the rattler advise. Paul and do alot of SoCal SOTAs and them worms are all over this place. 72 Scott AK6Q


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