return to W6/SC-338, cross training, and critters

Not exactly an activation report, as I’ve already activated this year. (I will log this in the data base if any of the other ops request, though.) Excuse this sort of/sort of not activation report, but including a bit more about this particular summit.

There are many hills named “Black Mtn”. There are at least two in San Diego county alone, both in the SOTA program. SC-338 is in the backyard, so it’s a frequent one for a stroll, hike, or MTB. Last year, it proved to be a fun MTB activation with good tropo conditions for the 440 Spring Sprint: MTB activation, Spring VHF Sprint, and back on the wagon

This year, 3 weeks ago, I hiked (UK: walked) up for the 144 Spring Sprint which was logged as my annual SOTA activation. I went back this past Wednesday evening for the 440 Spring Sprint on hiking boots. Call it cross-training for MTB. :slight_smile:

WX was a bit cloudy and cool, quite comfortable. Lots of commercial gear at the destination makes for entertainment with the amateur gear sometimes. We often operated below the summit.

I chose to hike up the Black Widow trail for fun, but take it easy after dark by returning via the service road. The trail sees a lot of use and has been holding up well. Fun berms, good flow, chunk and single track goodness.

Lots of flowers in bloom. I only know the names of some, so won’t label. One of these will produce a pear, albeit prickly, later on this season. No ocotillo here (one of my favorites); you have to go east into the more serious desert for that.

There is a newly installed bench since last year which I took advantage of. It appears that other visitors have a bit of fun.

With the drizzly weather, there was no tropo enhancement. Still there were a number of stations on, some of which I was able to work. It was worth the evening stroll. I packed up after sunset and started back down the service road. I hadn’t gone but a few yards/meters before I spotted something. What is that!?!


Trash? No. Snake? Snake! Coiled up!?!? Looked cautiously and saw the head; not poisonous. And balled up, not coiled up like a rattler. Got in closer to look and get this zoomed in view. Note the 8+ inch (20+ cm) rodent tail. The miniature 'roo paw sticking out.

Whatever this non-venomous snake was, it was constricting a kangaroo rat it had caught not long ago. (Web page on the mini-'roo: SDNHM - Dipodomys merriami (Merriam's Kangaroo Rat))

At home, I used the always amazing California Herps website to identify the snake based on location, size & shape, and behavior. CA Herps is great, because unlike a field guide, it has a lot of example photos of every species. The variation in color and marking for a single species can make identification tough sometimes. (Take our local, non-mountain, kingsnake for example.) This one turned out to be a rosy boa. I hadn’t seen one with dark color like this before, so wasn’t able to figure it out in the field. Rosy Boa - Lichanura orcutti

But wait! There’s more! Nearing the trailhead, I noticed something bright off the side of the gravel road. What is that? Something reflecting? No. Some dim led garbage someone tossed? No. Something bioluminescent! Cool! Now, at this point, I didn’t know we had any land based biolum critters. (The ocean is a different story!) Plant based? I’d seen foxfire before. The color was similar and the size and brightness also similar to the lightning bugs (fireflies) I know from the midwest. This is what it looked like:

glowing mystery

And this is what it looked like when I got close and shone a light on it. Cool! Some sort of insect!

glow worm

Back at home, google suggests this is the California pink glowworm! I had no idea we had these here. Cool!

Fun stuff,



Great pics, Drew. Interesting critters.
Good call letters too!
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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Hi Andrew,

Hah! You are right! The DA suffix is a pileup-busting noise-penetrating machine! Better’n anything else on phone, cw, and ft8! :slight_smile:

Doug Adams wrote a book years ago that introduced me to the horrors (delights?) of the arachnids and herps of Austrailia. So, if I’d grown up there, I might have had a different reaction when I came across the boa; like turning and running the other direction. :slight_smile:

I hesitated a bit before sharing a photo with a colleague who had grown up in the land of the cobra. Then I showed it to him anyway. :slight_smile: “Is that venomous?” “Naw.” Like many, he was quite amused with the zoom in to the hapless kangaroo rat’s tail and hind paw.