Last updated on 2021-11-15
Nice landowner, but no SOTA visits
Here’s the summary: I talked to the very nice landowner and he respectfully requested that SOTA activators not visit his property. Upon further research, there are other possible ways, but they look to be very difficult!
After reading the prior SOTA posts from 2012, 2015, and 2018 I decided to give this a try. When you see only 2 activations for a peak near the Bay Area, there must be a reason. It was also on the way for the Ben Lomond peak (W6/NC-178) so I figured it was worth a short detour. It was these prior SOTA posts that made me encouraged to try:
- 2012: “There doesn’t seem to be a way to get within 80′ vertical and not ask for access”
- 2015: “I told him other ham’s might want to follow in my footsteps and he said that is fine as long as he is there and is asked“
- 2018: “There is a section of the road that is in the activation zone, and I parked and operated from here.“
Before you try the final drive up the mountain, you come to an automated gate at the Glenwood Drive / Weston Road intersection (the gate blocks Weston Road to the peak).
Right before the gate is a mailbox station with a “Door King Systems” call box where you are supposed to type in the landholder’s name and it will telephone them for you. These systems are designed to allow the landowner to “buzz” open the automated electric gate from that phone call if they choose. I had researched the public record land plot maps and knew the name of the landowner.
However, once at the Door King Systems (DKS) box, the screen read some crazy system error and after trying to reset it for a while it became clear that it was a dorked Door King. Luckily the gate was in the open position (likely because the DKS was busted). While the gate said no unauthorized visitors, I decided that without the DKS and given the 2015 post that permission could be implied if the owner was home.
The roadway was narrow and had plenty of traffic. Good thing I was going slow. As I turned onto the Jack Rabbit Ridge Road I had SOTA Goat watching my elevation against the activation zone. Eventually I got to the start of the landowner’s driveway and found that it was nowhere near the 82 feet required to activate at the bottom of the driveway. The driveway is steep and narrow. I decided to drive up to the home to see if I could find a valid spot to activate away from the home, or to ask permission from the owner. It turns out there is no good activation position away from the home that is within the activation zone. Upon arrival the owner came out of the home almost immediately and we started a discussion.
The owner was a very nice gentleman who was interested in SOTA. We talked for some time. I shared with him the 2015 post and he had no recollection of giving such a statement. He was generally familiar with ham radio and was very concerned with TV interference. I assured him our little 10 watt radios were not going to cause TV interference like he may have remembered from a different era. I showed him my Yaesu FT-2D and Elecraft KX2. He was about to give me permission, but he decided he didn’t want additional SOTA visitors. He hasn’t decided if he wants to sell the property or not, and wouldn’t want weekend SOTA jocks tying up very tight driving routes. I told him our code states that we respect landowners rights and that I would post this article to make sure his wishes are known and followed. I decided not to push for my own activation, though I think he would have granted it. I thanked him for his time and left on good terms in some very nice weather on top of a nice mountain.
At this point, I’ll likely watch the public records every few years to see if the ownership changes hands at which point there may be another opportunity!
Further Research: Other options, but long shots!
If you look closely at the public records parcel maps (I’ve greyed out property owner names to protect their online privacy) you can see the topo map shows that Gary’s property isn’t the only property within the activation zone! There are several other properties that would work, and one of them is the “City of Santa Cruz Open Space” district, plus some other landowners. One thing I’ve learned is that many city Open Space Districts have laws that prohibit off-trail hikes, or worse, no access at all to unprepared areas (due to liability and staffing). So this will require more research. Alternatively we would need to get permission from one of the other landowners in the region, which I think will be difficult considering the plots of land would put us right near their homes. People don’t like SOTA strangers walking around so close to their domiciles. I can understand!
Note that the topo lines in the image above are 40 feet. So anything within a bit less than 2 topo rings might qualify. That is a pretty wide region in the picture covering at least 5 homes including Gary’s.