Category Archives: wardriving

Summiting Woodchute Mountain 28APR18

7840-7880′ elevation – clean prominence: 2900′ – isolation: 25.7 mi

GPS log available at peakbagger link above.

Woodchute (I keep thinking woodchuck, as in “how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood”) is more of a hummock than a peak; it’s forested with pine and there’s no obvious summit. And when you’re there, it’s hard to tell. As I was wandering around the overgrown forest, GPS in hand, looking for a high reading, I found a very mature tree which had apparently been struck by lightning at one time. This made me think I was at the summit, and subsequently I did find a cairn with glass-jar-enclosed peak register.

The trailhead is an easy access dirt road off the end of the paved forest road that leads northwest from SR-89A at its saddle atop the Black Hills.  Less than 0.3 miles in, there’s a left turn and a paved leading to dirt road to the “Woodchute Trailhead”, complete with toilet. But wait! There’s more! If the gate is open, continue on the dirt road that heads kind of northwest from the so-called trailhead. At least when I drove it, it was nearly a freeway in fine condition for any kind of vehicle. About a 3 minute drive later, there’s another trailhead for Woodchute. Park here to start your adventure.

After the trail register stop (in the rectangle just left of center), pass through the step-over latched-shut gate (the rectangle to the far left of center; latch it closed after you pass). 

The trail is well used and obvious in this portion.

Views of Mingus Mountain (shy of Woodchute by only one contour line), SR-89A headed down to Jerome, and the orange cliffs of Sedona in the distance.

The trail is more or less a ridgewalk for the first mile or two, with an opportunity to get to peak 7396 via a short trail diverging to the east.

After passing the Woodchute Wilderness sign (sun on the wrong side, couldn’t get a good picture), a little ways further there’s this sign. Continue following the TR-102 route up to the right and east of the fenceline. The steepest pitch is about there, from the 7400 to the 7600 contour.

Once above the 7600 contour, it’s time to leave the trail to find the summit. McEntee went up the “ridgeline”, while McClellan took a slightly more flat route. I ended up in between those two.

An interesting thing I found – what looks like a small aircraft plexiglass windshield. Maybe 3/16″ thick, smooth on all edges (no breaks or cracks). No aircraft, however.

Finally, I find the rock cairn and peak register.

Meandering east, downslope, I regain the TR-102 trail and begin the return to the truck.

Along the way I grab a shot of the volcanic peaks from Bill Williams on the west to Elden on the east.

After signing out at the trail register, I head down to Chino Valley to Insurgent Brewing to try their beers!

While cellular coverage can be hit-and-miss on the trail, the repeaters on Mingus Mountain are full-scale whether on 2 m or 440. As well, Elden, Bill Williams, and Mt Union all provide fine coverage.


Pinal Mountain (and summiting Signal Peak) 15APR18

Drove up to Pinal this morning to swap out some equipment. Getting to/from Pinal from the highway isn’t difficult, just 18 miles, with 12 of them on a really great-condition (at least until the rains come) dirt road.

Once I was finished with my other hobby, I started down the road and parked at the Signal Peak turnoff (651B). As I’d never been to Signal, and I’d never used the mobile PeakBagger app to record a hike, I was able to do both and learn a thing or two or three new things.

The first thing I learned was that Signal was less than 300′ minimum prominence, and that’s what I’d set my PeakBagger filter for, so Signal didn’t show up until I dialed that down to 250′.

7812′ elevation – clean prominence: 252′ – isolation: 1.1 mi

GPS log available at peakbagger link above.

Time-lapse video of trip from US 60 to Pinal and back

Signal Peak benchmark directly under fire lookout tower.

Looking NW toward fire lookout tower and cabin.


Summiting White Tank East (radio site visit) 14APR18

For the White Tank peaks, I’m lazy. I can get the key and drive. This morning I went up to check on the radio site on the east ridge where I have an ADS-B receiver and a railroad data receiver setup. The Windows PC there had apparently died a while back, the ADS-B link failed at the beginning of April, so it was time to fix things.

Time-lapse video of the drive between I-10 Verrado offramp to and from the peak

The cool thing about the White Tank road is it goes through the old Caterpillar proving grounds, where they pitted Caterpillar bulldozers against the mountain. And the White Tank road was part of the testing arena.

Verrado’s north end currently ends at the golf course; the tower road is the wide diagonal that heads northwest into the narrows up-canyon.

While Verrado continues to inch its way up the lower portions of the road, it’s unlikely it’ll ever get up this far. This what I call “the bowl”, where Caterpillar dozers not only moved millions of tons of rock back and forth for test and fun, but also cut the 20%-grade, ~0.6 mile long ramp that climbs north out of the bowl and then descends into the White Tank park boundaries.

On this fine day, there’s plenty of people walking the ramp. It’s windy as heck out, and the temperatures are in the mid-50’s, but the sun is warm.

Hauled out the dead PC. Am rebuilding it now to put back on the hill in the next week or two.


Summiting Mazatzal Peak 08APR18

7903′ elevation – clean prominence: 3943′ – isolation: 27.2 mi

GPS log available at peakbagger link above.

Time-lapse video of trip from Scottsdale to Barnhardt trailhead and back

No comms sites on this peak, but Ord, Pinal, Towers, Greens, White Tank and many more sites were reachable on my FT-60. Handy in case of trouble.

Holy quercus turbinella and manzanita, Batman!

After reviewing my mashup of Arizona 2000′ Prominence and 25 Miles Isolation, and seeing the remaining southwestern Arizona peaks I was not going to get to this spring as it’s gotten too bloody hot already, it looked like Mazatzal Peak might be the next candidate. With a 4100′ trailhead only 75 miles from the house, this 7903′ peak was the next closest on my list.

Friday the 6th I set the alarm for 0345, but somewhere before 0345 I must have deactivated the alarm so I awakened at 0700. Thought about it for a bit, and decided instead to not hike. Later on, I’d live to appreciate that decision.

Saturday afternoon I again set the alarm for 0345, and I was up at 0345 Sunday morning, wondering if I really wanted to get out of bed. Nonetheless, by 0415 I had already collected the first of two supertankers of diet Mountain Dew at the local Circle K, and was headed east on Shea through Fountain Hills and then up AZ-87 to the Mazatzal Wilderness just west of Rye.

I thought I’d carefully researched the challenge of the climb up Mazatzal; I read the postings of Casserly, Gaudet, Kassan, McCann, Nuernberger, Poulin, Rankine, and Sexauer. Some were pretty sparse with description. I downloaded into both the phone and the Garmin the GPS logs of Kassan, Poulin, Rankine and McEntee. It was especially good that McEntee had summited the peak only 4 days before me.

On the drive, I hydrated like hell, with about 3 l of diet Mountain Dew, a half gallon of water, all after 4 bags of instant breakfast oatmeal. My (kook) theory is, the oatmeal slows the intestines down and lets the liquid absorb…

Arrived at Barnhardt trailhead around 0620. Interestingly, it was partly cloudy, smelled humid, and the sun was hidden behind low clouds. The tops of the nearby peaks were shrouded. Temperature around 62° F. Dead calm. Watch the video to see how the weather changed over the day.

My plan was to go in via the Barnhardt, climb the broad ridge followed by Rankine and McEntee, and then decide which way to come down. I had Kassan’s ascent route in the GPS, but I’d be following it backward, and he’d mentioned a severe lack of cairns on the cliff section.

On trail at 0634, 28 minutes after sunrise.

Barnhardt trail wilderness boundary marker.

The Barnhardt was a cakewalk, relatively speaking. Good footing, generally easy grade, and I was in the shadows until the combination of sun position and a break in clouds at 0740.

Almost exactly 2 hours into the walk, I arrived at the point where both Rankine and McEntee left the trail and headed up the side of the mountain. While McEntee had chosen the “creekbed” for his climb, Rankine more or less chose the hump of a ridge immediately west.  I didn’t want to boulder-hop the drainage, I chose the Rankine  path.

From this point, I couldn’t find so much as a goat trail while snagging myself on straggly pine-like bushes/trees, whacked in the face with branches, assaulted by thorny shrubberies, until I got about 500′ south and 200′ higher.

At the above vantage point, if one looks really carefully, the cut containing the Barnhardt trail is visible far below.However, in the foreground, one can see dense copses of burned stumps and grey sticks.

While the slope above was reasonably clear of obstacles, the nasty patchy clumps of what could charitably be described as centimetric extemely pointy thorns, supported by leafless, tall, grey-skinned branches and trunks, would prove to be painful and not without a little blood lost.

Looking at the top of the ridge, a pair of pine trees was beckoning. Between me and them were hundreds of downed trees in various stages of decomposition, with unknown peril in footing. And more of the grey-skinned needle trees.

Nearing the top of the ridge, the two pine trees lied to me that they were near the top of the mountain.

Nearly to the pine trees, the far left distance showed what looked to be Mazatzal, but it, too, was a lie.

By now, and around the 7000′ level, I was completely winded, getting a headache, and feeling a little queasy. Slowly it dawned on me that I hadn’t been above 1400′ AMSL for anything but short periods of time over the past 9 months.

The plateau beyond the pine trees was large and pretty much covered in all sorts of prickly vegetation, manzanita groves, more of the grey-skinned stuff, cacti, or more downed trees. Picking a route through the morass was daunting. Generally, I aimed slightly west of south to pick up the line that Rankine, McEntee and Poulin had used. The good thing about that path was that it was more often on hard rock, so there was less of the nasty shrubberies.

Finally, the prominence of Mazatzal was visible, What a massive pile of layered metamorphosed sedimentary rock, with red rhyolite atop, striking NNW/SSE and dipping steeply to the east.

By now it was around noon, and I was really flagging. I’d stayed hydrated, ate a Stinger gel pack or a Clif bar every hour or so, but the lack of trail and the altitude had really smacked me.

Finally at the summit. While only 3:28 elapsed moving time, it had taken me over 6 hours to get here. It was quite breezy, air temp in mid-60s, and all the clouds had burned away.

Found the peak register. Please, the next person summiting bring a fresh notebook. McEntee improvised with a couple of scraps of cardboard, on which I added my arrival.

The ammo box with peak register is about 15′ south of the benchmark itself. Inside the ammo can is a two-way FRS radio, some spare alkaline batteries, and a disposable lighter. Forgot to try the radio or lighter to see if either still worked.

Views, as others have pointed out, are great, and even on a somewhat windy and hazy day like mine, Pinal, The Flatiron, Four Peaks, the endless Mogollon rim, and the San Franciscos were plainly visible. Two panorama views are this one generally from south through west to north, and the second completing the circle.

Did not spend a lot of time atop the mountain. Already exhausted, I was glad that I’d started early, and that there were five more hours to sunset. After a bit of rumination, I chose to descend via the route that Kassan had taken in his assent; it was  only 4.9 miles to the  trailhead via the Shake Tree trail.

Jumpin’ bejeezus, the south side was tough. Manzanita forests, parsed only by repose-angle rivers of rockfall. Again, from Kassan’s assent notes, cliffs were avoidable; dropping the almost 2000′ to the Shake Tree required no dangerous exposures, no more than maybe a 6′ drop or ten, and sometimes even a cairn would show up, providing tantalizing evidence that other bipeds had been there.

I am really glad that I was wearing my standard hiking costume: long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and the broad-brimmed hat with neck drape.  And I checked every once in a while that I could get into one of the distant amateur radio repeaters in case something bad happen. And really weirdly, the AT&T coverage remained generally ok.

It took three hours to get down the 2000′. I was hammered. I was falling more than I was walking! The manzanita forests were dense, with painful scrub oak undergrowth. And hidden everywhere were cacti and yucca. Oh, and it definitely looked like there was poison oak.

The iPhone’s GPS didn’t have the necessary sensitivity to give me a position fix to know where I was relative to the Shake Tree, but I finally picked a wash to descend, knowing that I’d meet the trail eventually. At 1610, in the pine forest, I arrived at what appeared to be a real trail. The realization that I was on the Shake Tree came, when in a dense canopied area I saw what looked to be a trail, at the right elevation, and especially because someone had left atop a big rock a large plastic bag of Spitz sunflower seeds. I dumped the seeds on the ground, for the gentle woodland creatures, and put the empty bag in my trash pocket.

The rest of the return was on the Shake Tree, and while not as nice as the Barnhardt, it was way better than no trail at all. Made it back to the vehicle at 1812, for a total trip time of 11:43 and total elevation gain of 4840′.

My boots finally blew out on this hike, the tread had just about gone but the outer inner cloth of the left foot, just above the leather, got shredded. Was a combo of 150 – 200 miles on the boots over hard Arizona desert, and the manzanitas, thorns, and rocks on this trip. Have a brand new pair in the back of the truck just waiting to get dirty.

While I did it, and I returned to tell the tale, this is one of those hikes that will take a while before the pain fades and instead I remember fondly.

Summiting Newman Peak 11MAR18

~4500′ elevation – clean prominence: 2500′ – isolation: 24.5 mi

GPS log available at peakbagger link above.

Time-lapse video of drive off pavement

Wireless communications site – off-grid

At the trailhead around 1000. Cloud cover promised a cool day for a hike.

Looking down the main canyon back toward the CAP Tucson extension (the curved line in the middle-foreground). Trailhead is just about where the canal touches the right canyon slope.

Now in the narrow slot that climbs abruptly out of the main canyon.

A handy, helpful bit of guidance for someone who’s vertical-orientation challenged.

Continuing up the slot, view is opening up as clouds break up. Can see at least 100 miles. Rock towers abound.

Atop slot, great views. The hogback-shaped peak in the distance is Table Top, which I’d summited the day before.

While it can’t be seen in this photo, my white truck is naked-eye visible at the trailhead, just to the right of the bridge over the canal.

There really is an end to this climb! Newman radio site in view from below.

Benchmark and peak register.


That little bump in the center middleground is Picacho Peak. Kinda small from here. Also, the trains were very hearable when they blew their horns.

In far left, Catalina Mountains and Mt Lemmon. In far far center, Baboquivari. A frickin’ gorgeous day for a climb.

More or less east from the site.


More towers. And remember to smile, ’cause you’re on camera!

Towers bristling with radomed-microwave dishes.

Another view.

Want to lease space at the site? Call the number.

This power pole is the top end of the line down the side of the mountain. Only single-phase power, anyone know what voltage level?

A shot of the hump at the southernmost part of the main Picacho range, with Picacho Peak in the left background and the freeway easily visible.

Final shot of radio stuff. I promise.

View to the NW, with the Sierra Estrella in the left background, and Camelback even visible (but not in this scaled-down photo).

End of the trip, just on the east side of the CAP Tucson extension. Not a single person seen. Very isolated. Back to vehicle around 1600, and out to pavement and I-10 about 45 minutes later.

Truck computer screen

Not sure I’ve posted a picture of this before, but my Tahoe has a nifty RAM-mount 8″ LCD touchpanel screen for my viewing pleasure. Of course, it only shows maps and navigational information while I’m driving.


It’s connected to a dual-core Atom running Windows 7 Pro, and a bunch of electronics monitoring the vehicle…  The touchpanel comes in handy but there’s times when a real input device (like a wireless mouse or wired keyboard) is absolutely mandatory.

Highly Portable Wardriving, Warcycling, and Warwalking Setup Update

Before I left on a trip this past week, I was able to shoehorn all the components (GPS receiver w/integrated antenna, dual-band Wi-Fi module with external antenna input, 4-port USB hub, TTL to serial to USB adapters) into a single plastic case. It’s not yet weatherproof, but at least it’s splash- and rain-resistant.


The original cable on the USB hub was only a meter, so I grabbed a 2 m cable from the box, whacked off the end, and replaced the shorter cable.

I used double-sticky foam squares to create an electronics sandwich, with the GPS antenna at the “top” of the stack, the Wi-Fi below, and the USB hub at the bottom. The cable passes through a silicone-sealed hole in the case, and I removed the SMA-RP female from the Wi-Fi dongle and replaced it with a short RG178 cable and bulkhead SMA-RP connector that pokes through the top of the case.


As one can see, the box is a cheap one from Radio Shack or similar, it’s some kind of ABS. The box’s lid, which would usually be on the top, is now the bottom of the assembly. I silicone-glued 3 NdFeB rectangular magnets to the inside of the lid, and put 4 rubber-bumper feet to reduce any potential surface marring. Next, I took the thing out for a drive on a local freeway to see if it’d blow off. It did. I adjusted things a bit by getting rid of the rubber bumper feet, and replacing them with electrical tape on the outside of the lid for more of an anti-skid, compliant surface than the bare plastic alone. The next drive, and subsequent ones this week, proved that the widget is now fairly stable even at “high” highway speeds. I thought about painting it white to reduce heat absorption, but that would make it have higher visibility and I’d prefer to stay low profile.

In taking it for a drive or two around the neighborhood, it matches my mobile setup almost exactly in reception, and takes all of 30 seconds to deploy when getting a rental car.

I’m wondering if I can somehow add a temperature sensor inside and read it via the USB. But that’s not so important.