I originally had other plans for Saturday, but they fell through. Left with a wide-open Saturday, I planned a multi-activation SOTA expedition. I even had my eyes on a few local inactivated mountains. However, my wife commented that I had been out of the house the last four Saturdays in a row and wasn’t too keen on me skipping town for a fifth Saturday. Knowing she’d let me go but I’d suffer for it later, I did the only thing I knew to get what I wanted: I invited her (and the baby) along.
Surprisingly, she agreed.
While I would still be able to do a SOTA activation, that meant that I had to be choosy about where we went which coincidentally also meant no new summits and it wouldn’t be a multi-activation kind of day. The weather-guessers were saying it was expected to be the hottest day of summer, so I wanted to be especially sensitive in regards to taking the baby along.
I decided upon the next-nearest summit, Kennesaw Mountain, as it has plenty of shade all the way to the top along a well-traveled path. Plus, I was very familiar with the hike and knew I could survive the trip with boy the radio AND baby strapped to my back. Using my Father’s Day gift, an Osprey Poco Plus, I carried a well-behaved 14 month old, all my radio gear and a baby to the top of Kennesaw Mountain. It wasn’t as difficult as I expected but took longer than I expected to lug what I estimated was approximately 40 pounds to the top.
Sarah entertained the kiddo while I began erecting my antenna. I’d never seen so much foot traffic at the top of any mountain I’ve ever been on, so not surprisingly I was getting all sorts of long stares and questions about what I was doing. As I was stretching out my cordage for the antenna and raising my carbon fiber mast, I had three separate individuals ask me where I was going to go fishing. To their credit, the mast IS a fishing pole.
All fishing jokes aside, the most common question I got was how far away was I able to talk to other stations. Today it just happened to be Arizona or Colorado, but the onlookers appeared quite impressed with that sort of distance. I was just happy to talk to anyone, it didn’t matter how far away they were. 🙂
Getting There – Driving
Interstate 75 North out of Atlanta.
Exit Interstate 575 North.
Exit Canton Road Connector and go West towards Marietta.
Turn Right onto Cobb Parkway (North).
Turn Left onto Bells Ferry Road (West).
Turn Right onto Old Highway 41 (North).
Turn Left onto Stilesboro Road (West).
If park parking lot is full, you can get additional parking off of Old Highway 41. Go back to Old Highway 41, hang a Left and the overflow parking lot is about a half-mile on your Left. Follow the signs.
If you’re hiking during the week, you can drive nearly all the way to the top of Kennesaw Mountain and hike the rest of the way to the summit. The road is paved, so no 4WD or high-clearance vehicles required.
If you’re hiking during the weekend, the mountain drive is closed and you have a few options:
- You can take the hiking trail up the mountain.
- You can take the paved road (that’s closed to visitor traffic) up the mountain.
- You can pay a few dollars ($3?) and catch the bus to the parking lot on top of Kennesaw Mountain
Getting There – Hiking
Assuming that you’re making this hike during the weekend, you can utilize any one of the options above to get to the top. I’ve always hiked up the hiking trail. It’s a little more than 1 mile in length and not too strenuous. Well, assuming you aren’t carrying your kids to the top. 🙂
The trail starts just above the Visitor Center and it’s well marked. If you’re afraid of looking lost, just look for where everyone is entering/exiting the wood line above the Visitor Center.
The trail starts as a wide, well-beaten path until it intersects and old gravel road. From there you take the gravel road until it ends and the switchbacks with occasional large stones set as steps take over. I’d consider this the most strenuous section of the hike until you arrive at the parking lot. From there, it’s steps and a paved walkway all the way to the top.
There is plenty of room up top to operate from with plenty of trees on which to hang your antenna wires or fencing to strap your masts to. Be advised there is a LOT of foot traffic on this mountain (it’s popular with the locals!), so choose wisely. If you arrive early in the morning or late in the evening, shade isn’t an issue. If it’s high-noon, you’ll be exposed to the sun unless you step back into the woods on either side of the summit to be in the shade.
NorCal Doublet made from 22ga speaker wire, suspended from a ~20′ carbon fiber pole in an inverted-V formation.
I had solid 3G service via Verizon so I was able to self-spot using the SOTA Goat app. I called CQ for about 5 minutes before the regular chasers showed up. In other words, just long enough to wonder if I was going to successfully activate the mountain. 🙂 I worked 40m first, for about 15 minutes until traffic dropped off and switched to 20m. I worked 20m for another 15 minutes before going back to 40m to pick up a couple Summit-to-Summit QSOs with KI4SVM and N4EX.
40m seemed a little noisy. 20m was super-quiet although I received a couple comments about QRM (interference). I wanted to try a few other bands but I didn’t want to stretch my luck with the XYL, so after a couple Summit-to-Summits, I packed up and we retreated to the car.
In summary, this trip was all about firsts. This was the first time that I packed my radio equipment and a BABY to the top of a mountain. This was the first time we had hiked together as a family. This was the first time my wife had been up Kennesaw Mountain AND accompanied me on a SOTA activation. While I can’t say she’s any closer to becoming a ham or participating in SOTA, it was nice to have some company along for a change. As for my son; I’ll work on him after he learns the microphone isn’t something to eat. hihi