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It was almost a year to the day when I last trod the slopes of McKee. Last year it was with Ralph and my son who challenged the bike trails to reach the summit, today only Ralph joined in the adventure. We usually start our climb at the highest point the roads will allow us, it is a popular spot for the mountain bikers as well as their trucks which were parked alongside of the road having disgorged their contents. But I am too far along in the story, so back to the beginning.
Hiking summits for the summits-on-the-air program is a lot of fun and it gets me out of the house. I would normally have already activated a number of summits in the Victoria area which are low and free of snow during the winter, alas this year with the virus lurking around every corner, my wife was not willing to venture afield so those early easy summits were not done. This left me with only a few of similar height in the area. We did the other, Grant hill, a couple of weeks back and today it was McKee’s turn. I suppose we could do Burnaby mountain next but that seems so uneventful as the summit is surrounded by apartment buildings.
The main problem is with the driving to the trailhead, Ralph and I need to go in separate cars, at least until the vaccine has taken effect. This limits our choices as most hills require use of my 4x4 truck and so Ralph can’t go. In a few weeks we should both be vaccinated and then able to travel together again. So nice.
For today, we met at my house a bit before 10am and set off for coffee and then the summit, the drive was smooth and soon we were at the trailhead looking for a parking spot, there were two gaps conveniently located near the top and so we pulled in and claimed them. A few minutes to gear up and we were off for the trails. We chatted with one group as we started in and then jumped out of the way of another pair as they came soaring down the trail towards us. Fortunately, that was the only pair to want to be in the same place at the same time with us. There were a number of bikers standing around chatting or making their way up slope.
We reached the old road and then had an easier time gaining elevation as we meandered our way upwards. Just before the open field near the summit we came by a tree that had broken off in the wind and was cut up next to the path, it was a good-sized tree! The hike across the open field was quick and then into the bush at the summit. We arrived to find the small bench unoccupied and so we claimed it for the morning and began setting up our equipment. I was on the air fairly soon and placed my first call, it was immediately responded to by club member Ken! It was good hearing him so soon. After around 45 minutes I had 10 contacts in my log and felt I had achieved what was needed. Ralph was just starting as he had some issues getting his home-brew wire antenna over the brambles and in the air. I had to help him at one point.
While operating a number of groups of hikers and bikers came and went. Several groups stopped to ask about the radios, I gave a more detailed explanation about propagation and skip zones to one group comprised of men and pre-teen sons. They were quite amazed to learn of the distances one can reach. Ralph was successful reaching 11 CW contacts scattered across the continent, I had 10 local with one in the states. So not overly distant today but it was enough. So, having achieved our numbers and finished eating lunch we started to pack up the gear and start down. During our descent, we were watching the elevation to determine how far the activation zone extends as we would like to operate in the open field if possible next time. One big change we noticed was that peviously the summit was bothered by the radio tower only a few yards from the bench but today the tower was removed and no longer an issue. The area should not be as challenging as it had been. On the way down while I was checking my phone for elevation as I walked, I slipped on the wet grass at the top of the field and landed on the grass. Fortunately, it was quite soft so though wet I was not hurt. The rest of the way down went smoothly until we were half way through the bike trails. Soon we were passed by one pair, with whom we chatted with at the summit. Then we heard a crash and some loud talking. The one biker had taken a jump, undershot and landed in a hole and then flipped over. He was laughing about it when we reached him. It was actually a good thing he wiped out there as the route he was following was unfinished and just a couple of dozen meters ahead the path ended with a large tree across the route! His ending was likely softer than it could have been.
The rest of the descent went smoothly, with us having to dodge just a couple of sets of cyclists who were sailing down slope behind us. The hike is not hard but one does have to keep a close eye out for fast moving bikers! The drive back home was quiet and not overly busy so we made good time and were soon back where we belong. Now to plan my next adventure.