Jerry is happily married to his wife Alyssa and has three children. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a current law enforcement officer in Southern California. He enjoys spending time going to church with his family, photography, and hiking with ham radio or SOTA.
I have had numerous requests on how to make the now infamous “HQD” speaker wire antenna. Here is the video showing you the build design, the components, and some shots of it deployed in the field on at SOTA – Summits On The Air activation. If you doubt how well this little antenna works, then I challenge you to build one for yourself and then let me know. It’s super cheap, super easy to make, and works great for QRP portable ham radio operations in the field.
This activation had two planned goals: First was a quick activation in order to return home for other commitments. Second was to test the “HQD” speaker wire antenna head to head for understanding the directivity. Click here for a video on how to make the “HQD” speaker wire antenna and here for how to deploy it.
Kevin (W6RIP) and I ran our KX2’s at 10 watts and we both used the “HQD” speaker wire antenna as it’s now known. The difference between our two stations was the orientation in how we setup the antennas. One station ran the legs East to West while the other ran North to South. Our thinking was to verify if we would see a greater response from the broadside of the antenna as they were setup in an inverted “v” configuration.
The results between the orientation surprised us a bit. For the most part, both stations were able to work the exact same stations across the US and with very close signal reports. In our opinion, the antenna is pretty much omni-directional. Watch Kevin’s video here to hear and see how he was able to capture a large part of the 20m test on video.
Now the trail info:
1- Parking & Road Info – This trail is accessible from the paved Lone Pine Canyon Road. Unless there is snow on this road, it’s wide open to any vehicle. The parking spot is across the road from the main gate which can’t be missed. See the included map below for specific coordinates.
2- Trail Conditions – This is a very well marked trail and NO bushwhacking. You pretty much just follow the path UP, and then UP some more. It is a pretty steep trail so bring trekking poles to save your knees. There is no shade along the way nor water so plan accordingly. Once at the summit there are some large trees that can be used for shade and hanging wires.
3- VHF vs HF – This summit offers both options. For your VHF work you can get into the Inland Empire and the High Desert easily. There is ample room for multiple HF stations so bring your friends.
4- APRS & Cell spotting – Both can be done with ease from this summit.
5- Extra Info – I’d suggest doing this in the cooler part of the year due to exposure to the sun and wind. There is a very nice bench I used toward the east side of the summit or you can setup under the large pine trees. Pack a lunch, and make this an enjoyable day or it can be a quickie. Also, consider doing this one during the winter bonus season for a 9 point total. If you’re feeling really ambitious, then bring a tent and spend the night. I bet the views are awesome!
A fun day for sure with Hailee, Tahyo, and Kevin (W6RIP) as we hiked Cahuilla Mountain. Tried a few new things, some worked some didn’t. I already know the audio was waaay to hot on some clips and that issue has been rectified. Either way, here is the trail report:
1 – Parking / Road Conditions – The forest road to the wide turnout was easily passed with 4-wheel drive or high clearance.
It had rained heavily the night prior and there was some mud, but the sandy type road made it reasonable. The trailhead is marked by a wide turnout and the trail head has a tubed gate entryway. Parking was easy and should not require the National Forest Adventure Pass due to a lack of facilities, but you never know how the USFS will choose to enforce what rules when.
2- Trail Conditions – The entire trail is well groomed and easy to navigate all the way to the summit. I would equate it to many sections of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and has some nice scenic views along the way. Here’s the track file for your reference.
3 – VHF v HF – Our primary focus was HF, but we did accommodate Jeff – K6QCB in Rancho Cucamonga by putting my slim-jim j-pole on the HT and worked him with ease.
Providing you spot accordingly and potentially bring a portable handheld beam or other better VHF antenna, you most likely could do this with a HT only on VHF. Our primary focus was HF despite the challenge of working around a crowded band due to a 20m DX contest.
Here’s the GAIA mapping info for you to reference.
4 – APRS / Cell Spotting – I’m on Sprint and I had decent service along the trail and at the summit.
I was able to spot via the SOTA Goat app and my APRS beacon, as shown, was making it into a Digipeater with no problem along the route.
There seems to be a dead spot for APRS coverage when traversing the trail along the west side of Cahuilla up to the summit, but it wasn’t an issue. I would comfortable say you can spot in either manner, APRS2SOTA or via cell phone.
5 – Other info – I initially followed the Waze app to Cahuilla Mountain. This worked to get you in the area, but you need to stay on Cary Road which turns into Tripp Flatts Road where you will access the marked forest road. Bring water because there is none along the way and sunblock is always a good idea. There are trees to hang wires from if you choose to leave the fishing pole at home.
I’ll be honest, I got banged up on this hike. I swapped out my boots because I was expecting snow, used a different pair of socks (big mistake) and did not have micro-spikes. The hike was a lot further than estimated and after 9 miles RT along trail packed with snow and ice I suffered some injuries.
I ended up with blisters on both heels, and in an effort to find a better route with less bushwhacking to the summit I went down the snow covered north face only to slide uncontrollably on my butt between 20-50 yards numerous times. At one point I grabbed a 4″ diameter tree with my right arm to stop myself and racked my arm up pretty good. So once I was off the north face and back on the PCT I limped my butt home.
Other than that, the trail is pretty well marked up to the point where you access the summit itself and you follow the PCT for a ways as well. Cell phone was pretty spotty as was VHF. Still a great hike and I’d do it again one day in the summer.
In this video we traverse an easy walk up a wide dirt road toward the summit. You start by crossing the gate seen in the video because of the quarry but after that it’s a short and easy hike to the summit. There are trees along the way obviously but limited shade for the most part. The snow covering wasn’t an issue and the cell coverage was great.
For fun we had a little Yaesu FT-817ND vs Elecraft KX2 competition that just happened. In all honesty it was more of an antenna issue, but it was fun having the setup that worked.
We started this hike when it was 14 degrees Fahrenheit outside and that’s COLD for us So Cal boys. This was a unique hike for a variety of reasons to include meeting Kevin (W6RIP) for the first time and making contact with Tony (Check out his YouTube channel @K9ARV_Radio). Both Kevin and I made the QRP to QRP contact from here in So Cal to Tony in Florida! Pretty epic considering all the talk about poor sun spot cycle and band conditions!
Here is my five point trail report:
1- Parking / Road Conditions – The road to where I parked was a well maintained forest service road that is easy to find and use. The hop from 2N09 into the Holcomb Valley was smooth with some mud from the melting snow. There were several large puddles on the smaller forest road past the Wilbur Grave site and up to the area where I chose to park. 4WD not necessary unless more snow or rain causing slippery muddy trails, but I always prefer to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Either way, if you can only go so far then you can walk the rest of the way so you can leave your vehicle along the forest road in many areas that fit your comfort level.
2- Trail Conditions – On the way up we didn’t really find the trail we just kind of traversed “smartly” through the area semi-cross country. Once at the summit we saw the rock cairns and followed those down so the route on the west track in the map below marks the trail. When we went the patchy snow somewhat covered the trail and you had to really keep your eye out for the rock cairns on the way down to stay on the trail. If you lost the trail then it’s pretty easy to find your way out as long as you go downhill and left, or south to southwest.
3- VHF v HF – VHF was pretty tough here even with the roll up j-pole. I elected to operate on 20m only but was able to get a spot out on APRS2SOTA. Providing you had a crowd at the read to work you, or could drag some people from a repeater in the Big Bear or High Desert area over to simplex I’d strongly suggest being ready to operate on HF.
4- APRS & Cell- I was able to spot via cell phone wit Sprint, use Twitter to message Tony in FL, and get text messages I didn’t really want while on the peak. APRS also worked fine here.
5- Extra Info – This hike was along a semi-shady canyon up to the summit that had plenty of trees to use for antenna supports. The summit itself is kind of small but well within the activation zone are areas to setup. I’d use caution in the summer for snakes due to the rocky area and of course this is cougar country. Bears are known to be in the area but if you’re into SOTA then you should know some basic wildlife safety. The noise of your radio and you setting up will probably run all wildlife out of the area for a month so enjoy.
This was a peaceful and pleasant hike that started along the forest route 3N12 then on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) on foot before a short cross country hike. I had the summit all to myself and there was a small area that would be an outstanding place to spend the night. Here’s my five-point trail report to help you enjoy this hike/activation:
1 – Parking & Road Conditions – I elected to grab the bonus points for this activation so I choose to tackle this summit in the winter (January 2018). The weekend prior to my hike we had snow fall in the Big Bear range and there was a nice amount of patchy snow left to enjoy. I will add having a 4X4 truck was comforting because the snow had been melting and the re-freezing through the night causing snow. If the road is done without inclement weather then with great care you can reach the trail head on 3N12 with a high clearance 2WD car. I entered the area from Fawnskin at the 3N14 Forest Road then at the t-intersection with 3N12 I followed it up to where the PCT intersects with the road. There is a large enough parking area as can be seen from my video. Park there and hit the PCT.
2- Trail Conditions – The trail starts on the heavily used PCT until you either find the ridgeline trail up to the summit or utilize the route seen in my video. Once you leave the PCT you are going cross country but there isn’t really any bushwhacking. Use your navigation skills and equipment to get to the summit and enjoy. Plenty of shade along the way and on the summit.
3 – VHF & HF – I was able to make contacts on VHF and if I really was patient and tried I’m sure I could make a VHF only activation. I had purposefully wanted to work 20m as my standard band and to test my new home brew antenna. Both worked really well and there were plenty of trees if you wanted to hang a wire and leave your push up pole at home.
4 – APRS & Cell – I had cell service with Sprint at the summit and had no issues with APRS. Both were working just fine for me.
5 – Extra Info – This is a fairly short hike but a very pleasant one. I’d plan to spend some time there just hanging out but know the views from the summit are not that great due to the flat shape of the summit that is heavily covered in trees blocking panoramic views in most directions.
San Gabriel Peak was a great hike for many reasons. First, after three years of being chased by Jeff Widen (K6QCB) and Charles (KM6CEM) we finally had a chance to meet up and do an activation together. For our first outing together we elected to pick off a couple peaks that were close to one another and not far from Charles’ QTH. We were blessed with excellent weather, great conversation with one another and QSO’s with many SOTA chasers across the area and US. The following is my five-point trail report:
1- Parking & Road Conditions – The road to the parking area is paved. So long as the road is not covered in snow then any passenger car will suffice. As seen in the video, the parking area at Eaton Saddle is rather large and very well marked. You really can’t miss this one.
2- Trail Conditions – The first part is a closed forest road and has a nice easy grade. There is a cool tunnel to make fun sounds in and some shade along the way. Once you get to the first junction then you veer to the trail on the right and up. From there it becomes a single track trail that is easily navigable. You could easily do this one at night with just a little skill and a good headlamp. At the second junction you again go right and up to the summit. Once at the summit you have stellar views and a nice bench to sit on.
3- VHF v HF – Charles and Jeff both grabbed enough VHF contacts to make it work and I had some great pile ups on 20m. The peak itself isn’t that large but a push up pole for HF wires can be done as I did. With the volume of VHF traffic we have in So Cal it’s easy to get your contacts on 146.520 FM or just hop on a local repeater and ask people to QSY to simplex to make your 4 contacts.
4- APRS & Cell – I was able to use my cell phone and APRS to spot. APRS was better of course and my carrier is currently Sprint. I was able to get my spots out on the SOTAGOAT app.
5- Extra info – There is no shade on the summit nor water along the trail so plan accordingly. If you must activate this peak in the summer then I suggest doing a very early morning or even a night hike but watch for snakes and other wildlife.
This peak is a lot harder than one might expect. The trail from the forest road is fairly obscure and you follow a boulder waterfall all the way up to the top. There are a few open spots but quickly return to following a rock cairn marked path along the boulders. Trail report below:
1- Parking & Road Info – From Highway 173 behind Lake Arrowhead you will go west on 2N33 until you hit the split where 2N34 goes toward the south. Stay to the right, cross the gate seen in the video and park. You can make this drive in a high clearance 2WD vehicle unless there is snow or other inclement weather. No need for the Forest Adventure Pass here, but it’s worth having one anyway.
2- Trail Conditions – It’s a boulder hopping and tight brushy canyon hike. The “trail” is marked mostly with numerous rock cairns so I highly suggest ensuring you are off this trail/summit well before dark. I’d also encourage you to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt to protect yourself from the brush, rocks, cactus, and sun exposure. Leave your trekking poles at home because you’ll need your hands to boulder hop and consider gloves as the rocks are abrasive. If you have bad ankles or knees be sure to put some thought into your ability to pull this one off because you are stepping up and down through the waterfall.
3- VHF v HF – I was short on time and used VHF only. My signal improved considerably with the slim jim roll up j-pole though I do believe I was audible into the high desert good enough. There is a way to setup HF if you like but I’d keep it a fairly short run if using a wire antenna.
4- APRS & Cell service worked just fine. I was happy how fast the spot went through on my cell phone using Sprint and the SOTA Goat app. APRS hit plenty of repeaters in the area to relay the signal.
5- Extra Info – Plan accordingly! This is a short hike at .75 miles ish, but it has it’s challenges. Not much to speak of for shade and I would NOT do this in the summer or on a hot day. I can just imaging this is rattlesnake city so be careful where you place your hands and feet when that season is in effect.
Cleghorn Mountain (W6/CT-112) is located just the the east of Interstate 15 and Highway 138 within the Cajon Pass of Southern California. The summit itself rests along the Ridgeline that traverses east to west and is classified as a chaparral environment. For the 4WD enthusiast this would be a great place to play for a day trip from the Inland Empire and High Desert areas. The views are excellent, there is nearby camping along Silverwood Lake and in the valley below, and there are nearby services if desired. The below is my five-point trail report for accessing the summit for a ham radio SOTA (Summits On The Air) activation:
1- Parking & Road Conditions – I accessed the mountain from the eastern forest road 2N47 which is classified as a moderately difficult 4WD trail. The first part is fairly tame and the hard parts are mostly concentrated on the numerous off shoots that have obstacles most stock 4WD or 2WD vehicles won’t be able to conquer. There are plenty of wide spots along the road should you need to park and walk the remaining distance to the peak. YMMV
2- Trail Conditions – The “trail” is really a road in this case but note that there is NO shade or water along the route. The road had many high and low points but mostly is a gentle climb toward the top of the Ridgeline where the summit will be found.
3- VHF v HF needs – I was able to work the summit on VHF only utilizing my roll up slim Jim type j-pole antenna. If there were more active hams in the high desert I think the activation would have been much easier on VHF only. For HF you will need some form of a push up pole for a wire antenna or other option as there are no trees on the peak.
4- APRS & Cell Coverage – The cell coverage and APRS proved to be excellent! My cell spots went through almost instantly and my location was pinging on APRS perfectly.
5- I’d suggest ensuring. you have ample water and sunblock for this trail if you choose to walk most of it like I did. Additionally, I know this area can get really warm in the summer so I suggest a late fall through early spring activation season, unless you like dying of heat strokes and rattlesnakes. All that being said, it was a pleasant and peaceful activation on a Friday morning.