Hike with A Purpose, Discover Great New Places

by Gary Hawkins, September 18, 2017

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I'm a Ham Radio operator (callsign K6YOA).  In 2013, long before Xaria came along, another Ham Radio buddy introduced me to Summits On The Air (SOTA).

Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with Xaria's Teardrop Travel Blog? Well, SOTA requires you summit designated mountain peaks, and then contact other Ham's to exchange specific information. If you meet the information exchange criteria, then you collect points for that peak, as does the person you are working. The challenge as the operator (me in this case) is that I can only activate and get points for a particular peak once in any calendar year. Hence to do well in the SOTA program, I need to hike many different SOTA peaks, meaning lots of research regarding summits, trails, and campgrounds. In fact, this is how I located most of the campgrounds we now stay at, and the areas we visit.

So what I'm saying, is that SOTA gave me a purpose to my hiking. No longer could I just hike my favorite trails (something I think most of us are guilty of); now I have to find different ones.  In doing so, I found many new favorites I'd missed out on for the previous fifteen years of living and hiking in Southern California. In addition to the Cleveland National Forest, Anza Borrego Desert and San Bernadino National Forest, I also started venturing to Joshua Tree National Park, Angeles National Forest, and Los Padres National Forest. Even in the areas I'd visited before, I discovered plenty of new trails.

Of course, you don't need to participate in SOTA to gain a purpose to your hiking. Many great programs encourage you to explore more broadly.  Some examples in Southern California include:

    • The 52 Hike Challenge;
    • Mission Trails 5 Peak Challenge;
    • Pacific Crest Trail Desert Day Hike;
    • The Six Pack of Peaks Challenge;
    • The SOCAL Triple Crown.

I'm sure similar hiking challenges exist for almost any area in the country.  Alternatively, just tell yourself I'm only going to hike any given trail once per year and stick to it.

If you live or are visiting Southern California, there are many great resources available. You can't go wrong by starting out with the books Afoot & Afield in San Diego County and Afoot & Afield in Riverside County - both are published by Wilderness Press. Also, there are some well-researched online resources including the 100 Peaks, peakbagger.com, and Modern Hiker.

Below are photos from some of my favorite Southern California hikes:

Approaching the summit of Mount Baden-Powell

Approaching the Summit of Mount Baden-Powell, Angeles National Park

Stonewall Peak, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

SOTA Activation from Stonewall Peak, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Approaching the Summit of Corte Madera Mountain, Cleveland National Forest

Approaching the Summit of Corte Madera Mountain, Cleveland National Forest

Pinyon Ridge Anza-Borrego State Park

My Favorite Desert Hike - Pinyon Ridge, Anza-Borrego State Park

Epic Joshua Tree National Park

Xaria and I Take a Stroll in Joshua Tree National Park

More details of the SOTA program can be found at SOTA UK.

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