Here's the story.
Left the hotel in Carlsbad in the morning and drove to Thomas Mountain. This peak can be done as largely a drive-up, or it can be climbed via the Ramona Trail. I drove up due to time constraints.
Getting there is easy. Get to the intersection of highway 74 and Forest Route 5S13. You'll see a nice sign directing you toward Thomas Mountain. Follow the signs to a dirt road, and follow it up. I've driven the road in my jeep in years past, and it was obviously just fine. This time I drove it with a rental car, and it did OK, but it required a some careful driving to ensure that the bottom of the vehicle didn't make contact with the ground in some rougher stretches of road.
Once you get to Thomas Mountain Campground, you should notice a dirt road heading up and to the left. This road leads to additional camp sites and the summit. I recommend parking you car here and hiking up in order to make the activation legal (as the final approach to the summit must be on foot).
It was a bit chilly at the top, perhaps 40 degrees Fahrenheit with a stiff wind from the north. After taking a quick survey of the summit for a location to set up and to sling my wire antenna, I got to operating. I found a large boulder near the summit which provided some shelter from the wind. I unpacked by backpack and started operating.
|My operating position near the boulder in the midst of setting up. It was much colder than it looks here.|
|Ice had formed on the pine trees on the summit, but it was warm enough and windy enough that these icicles would fall every so often. So watch your head. Also, one of the things I love about California peaks is how blue the sky can be.|
|Thomas Mountain Logbook. 21 QSOs in 70 minutes.|
Thomas Mountain really is a beautiful area. The crisp smells, the trees, and the views all mix to make just a lovely spot on the earth. I think it could actually make a really interesting Field Day site, too.
|View looking North. The mountain range in the distance is the San Jacinto range. Mt. San Jacinto and Tahquitz Peak are two 8-pointers there.|
|View looking south. This was the view that I was looking at as I was operating. The peak in the foreground is Cahuilla Mountain. The Palomar range is behind it.|
More about Thomas Mountain: It's named for one of the 49ers. More here. Also: APRS coverage is plentiful, as is AT&T 3G data services. A National Forest Adventure Pass or an Interagency Pass is required to park a vehicle on Thomas Mountain. The camp site at the summit is great too, with a fire pit, ample space for parking a vehicle, and plenty of room for tents.
After operating I packed up and headed back to the car for the drive toward Lookout Mountain (W6/CT-104).
I used the traditional Lookout Mountain approach, which is via the PCT. Simply park the car at the intersection of the PCT and highway 74, and start hiking south until you reach the first ridgeline. Turn east, and climb up. There is a well-defined trail, but it can be brushy at time. Anyways, following the trail, you now come across this sign:
|As a German once said: Scheisse!|
It was still a very good activation day, and a great way to spend a Veterans day. As a veteran myself, it's great to be able to experience such a beautiful country--a country that's worth fighting for.