Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mount Roosevelt and Black Mountain

After a successful outing yesterday, I headed out today to Mount Roosevelt and Black Mountain.  Both are located near the town of Crab Orchard Tennessee.  Both are located near I40, and both are easy summits.  Mount Roosevelt is 621m  4 pointer.  The area is known for fall migration of sonbirds, raptors, and butterflies.  I arrived on the summit of  Mount Roosevelt shortly before 0900 local time.  On the summit I found a very well populated antenna farm.

 The summit has several nice picnic tables to set up on.  And as you see, even on a cloudy/foggy day, the view is very pretty.   I made my several contacts, but did notice a lot of noise.  I think it was atmospheric noise due to the incoming storms.  40m seemed a bit long this morning, but I was able to make a few local contacts on 80m. 
I packed up my gear, and my reworked antenna, and headed to my next peak.
Thirty minutes after leaving I arrived on Black Mountain.  Black mountain is part of the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park, the state's only linear park.  It runs over 300 miles and cuts through 11 Tennessee counties from the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park on the Tennessee-Virginia-Kentucky border to Signal Point near Chattanooga. At 862m, Black Mountain is worth 6 SOTA points.  

I was surprised by Black Mountain.  It is a very pretty area.  I parked and began hiking the loop trail.  I stopped on the South Lookout and took some stunning photographs.
 I arrived on the summit and found another FAA Radar dome.  This is the second I have activated in the past two weeks.  It's amazing how much FAA hardware is in this area.
I decided to setup just to the west of the radar dome near the large boulder farm.  I took a few more great pictures.  As I said this is a great summit to activate.

I set up, and again the bands were not kind to me.  QSB was rampant, and I apologize to those I was unable to work.  But I was able to make my contacts and activate the summit.

I recommend each of these summits. Mount Roosevelt is a handicap friendly summit with some nice views.  Black Mountain has a nice short hike, and some great views.  All in all today was a great day.  Days like this are why I find SOTA so intoxicating.  

I wont have the opportunity to activate in the next few week, working way too much overtime.  But I will be on the trail again as soon as possible.  

Thanks again to all the chasers!!!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monte Sano and the Huntsville Hamfest

What a great weekend!  I had the opportunity to travel to the Huntsville Hamfest, and spent the night on Monte Sano.  Huntsville was my first large scale hamfest.  I soaked it all in, met several new friends, and even won a door prize!
After paying my entry fee I was greeted at the door by N1XIO.  He had a real nice backpack rig setup, so I had to take his picture.

 As I walked in I was surprised how many people and vendors were present.
 The place was packed with Ham's, and full of all sorts of possible new toys.

Ohhhh yea!  The Elecraft Booth
 I checked out the new PX3.  It looks real nice.  I am waiting to see what software Elecraft rolls out in the near future before I pull the trigger.  Boy was it pretty.
A friend for Kimber!
Huntsville also had some great QRP based forums this year.  Jim Stafford, W4QO gave a great QRP presentation.  John Henry, KI4JPL & Glen Popiel, KW5GP provided some great information on Arduino, and how it was utilized to transform a Ten-Tec model 506 Rebel into a JT-64 machine.  Very cool.  The Arduino information is defiantly worth a second look. Buddipole  also presented information on some different Buddipole configurations.

During the forums I won a great door prize.  

80 Meter QRP Transceiver Kit - Model 1380

 Thank you to the guys at Ten-Tec for donating this sweet door prize.  It will be my first kit build!  I guess I need to brush up on my soldering skills!

Saturday night I headed out to Monte Sano for the evening events!

I ate some BBQ, mingled, and met some new friends.  

It was a fun night on the mountain.  After the festivities I set out in the dark and activated Monte Sano!  Afterwards I crept back to my campsite, and passed out in the back of my Jeep.  What a great weekend.  I didn't even spend too much.  Just purchased some 26g Wireman antenna wire to redo my SOTA antenna.  Pics in the future!

I would like to say thanks to Steve WG0AT, John W9FHA, Gary W0MNA, Martha W0ERI, and everyone else I had the privilege of meeting.  It was a great learning experience to meet such knowledgeable hams, and share their stories.  Also thank you Craig, NM4T, for putting together a great event on Monte Sano.

The Huntsville Hamfest was a great event.  I recommend it to anyone next year!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Max Patch and Snowbird

Its been a few days since my Max Patch/Snowbird activation, and I finally have the opportunity to do the write up.   Max Patch is one of my favorite local activations.  It is an iconic peak along the Appalachian Trail, and you will frequently see thru hikers passing thru.  Today was a perfect day for an activation here. 
 During my last trip up Max Patch there was considerable erosion on the main trail up the summit.  It seems that they are finally rectifying the problem.  The center trail up the mountain is permanently closed, and is starting to return to a natural state.  Today I headed to the summit via the left trail.  In the future I will take this trail to the summit.  Although it is a tad longer than the old trail, it is a shallower climb.  It also has some great views from the back side of the mountain. 

 I set up on the summit, and enjoyed a beautiful morning activation.  I made my contacts, not as many as usual, but I was a bit on the early side.  I will have to remember the guys on the west coast might not be out of bed if I get to the summit too early. 

 Today I brought along my new Maxpedition Monsoon.  On the side belt I have my camera, and lens bag attached.

As you can see there is ample room in the inner pocket for my KX3 and battery.  This little pack is proving to be my go to bag for short day expeditions.

Today I decided to attempt two summits.  After wrapping up on Max Patch I headed out to Snowbird Mountain.  As you can see below Snowbird's summit is visible from Max Patch.
 And a view of Max Patch From Snowbird.

 So, on to Snowbird.  During my trip planning I read the access road to the summit is a very steep gravel road.  The warnings were spot on when they stated the road way is so steep front wheel drive vehicles will have a real tough time.  If you look real close you can see my Jeep Patriot pulled into the weeds along the trail.  It may not look steep but it is!
 The road way is steep and loose.  So K9 Kimber and I decided to walk the final mile and a half to the summit.  And so the "SUCKFEST" begins.  It was a very tough, hot, tiring climb.  I was ill prepared for the "walk" up this gravel road, and ended up donating half my water to my K9 partner.
I also saw two small rattlesnake sunning themselves on the road.  I didn't take pictures because I had to toss them over the side of the roadway with my antenna pole so Kimber didn't get too close.  So if you head up the mountain on foot beware of snakes.
 We finally made the summit and setup near the FAA equipment.  I had considerable trouble with noise on this summit, and barely made my contacts.  I had to tear down my antenna and move to the edge of the activation zone.  While on the summit there were tons of bugs!  Kimber was rolling in the dust to keep them off.  Wish I could have done the same.  This summit sucked.  I may do it in the future, but not without a 4 wheel drive. 

 Or one of these....  I am considering buying one for me and Kendall.  The perfect SOTA Assault Vehicle!!!!!!!

Thanks again for reading.  I am headed out today to the Huntsville Hamfest.  I will take some pics, and try to activate the summit on Monte Sano.  From what I understand there will be several SOTA activators and chasers there.  I am excited to get the opportunity to meet them in person!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Two States Two Summits

Woke up early today and headed out toward Virginia.  My first stop was High Knob.   W4V/GC-001. High Knob rises 4223 feet in Wise County Virginia.  Upon my arrival I met with one of the construction supervisors responsible for the renovation of the summit area.  He informed me his crew would begin stripping the parking lot in the next hour.  I asked where I could park.  He was super cool and said I could park anywhere.  If he needed me to move he would come and get me.  Very nice guy.  He said he has seen several activators over the past year, and was always impressed by the professionalism.  Great job representing Summits on The Air!!!!

The old fire tower was destroyed by arson on Halloween in 2007.  The new tower may not be a historical landmark, but the workers did an excellent job rebuilding the summit.  The new lookout tower looks great, and offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.  
 The new tower has a great spot for setting up an antenna.

 Above you can see my rig setup on the summit.  Alongside my Elecraft KX3 you can see my new pack, a Maxpedition Monsoon.  

I have my Eberlestock Battleship pack for distance and winter activations.  

An Eberlestock X3 Lo Drag pack for those light fast overnight trips.  

What I was lacking was a smaller grab and go bag that was big enough for the essentials.  I tried the Monsoon, and loved it.  I will be working on a gear review in the next few days for my new Grab and Go SOTA Pack!

After finishing on High Knob I packed up and headed toward Kentucky, and Black Mountain.  Black Mountain W4K/EC-001 has a summit elevation of 4,145 feet, and is deep in the heart of coal country.  Below is one of several mines I passed on my way to the summit.  At one point I got turned around and had to ask directions from  some mine employees.  I got one of those, "you caent git there from here"  looks.  But they warmed up fast and gave me great directions to the summit.

 Near the summit is a very large FAA radar dome.  Veryyyy coool! 
 On the summit is a plaque dedicated to William Risden.  Also very cool.  I set up and again made some great contacts.  I had no luck on 20m which surprised me.  Most of my contacts today were on 40m, strange.
Today was a fun day.  I bagged my first summits in both Virginia and Kentucky.  Both summits are easy to activate, and are very handicap accessible.   I will have to head back next year.  I think I may try and activate in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky all in one day!  

Thanks to all the chasers today!


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Huckleberry and Waucheesi

It has been far too long since my last SOTA Summit.  With the new house, and new K9, my life has been hectic!  But it has been worth it.  Check out a few pics of Kimber and I during training!  Kimber is a dual purpose canine.  She can find drugs, track bad guys, and then apprehend them. 

 Its been a while, but I am back with a vengeance.

I headed out to Huckleberry Knob to start off the weekend.  I decided since Huckleberry is an easy summit it would be a great start for Kimber.  The hiking will also help Kimber keep up her cardio.  It is great for her tracking! 

It was a great day for SOTA, and I had no problems making my contacts.  While I was busy on the radio Kimber checked out the summit, and to my surprise found a tennis ball.  

The next day I decided to try a new summit Waucheesi Mountain.  W6UB activated it for the first time in 2013.  It is a drive up summit if you have a high clearance vehicle like an SUV or Truck.  I think the road had recently been graded, and may be passable by a cautious driver in a car. But I wouldnt want to drive a new Caddy to the summit.  The toughest part is the 1.6 miles on Lookout Tower Road.  I took a few pics on the way up.

Once at the top the activation is straight forward.  This summit could be handicap accessible, as long as the individual has a vehicle to get up the gravel road.

I think Kimber enjoys SOTA!

The roads leading to Waucheesi Mt are beautiful, and full of sites for fishing, camping, and sightseeing.  The Cherokee Forest is just as beautiful as the Smokies, but not as crowded.  Check out this awesome waterfall.

It was a great two days.  Thanks to all the contacts, and I hope to hit a few more in the next few days.  I may have a new gear review in the next few days.  Stay tuned for further.

Thanks everyone!