Friday, September 12th: The family has a place up in Highlands North Carolina so we make an effort to spend a couple-three weekends a year up there. I’m particularly fond of the area because it reminds me so much of time spent with my Grandparents who used to own a place near Boone. Of course, there’s a lot of good hiking in this area of Western North Carolina and that suits a young SOTA kid (as in baby goat) such as myself.
One such hike that has become a staple of our visits to Highlands has been Whiteside Mountain. As far as SOTA designated summits are concerned, I can’t think of an easier 8pt summit. And I can say that with confidence after hiking up it with a 40-pound pack containing baby, radio gear and water. Wife, baby AND dog accompanied me for this expedition.
Since it was Friday, there wasn’t as much foot traffic on the mountain as there usually is on the weekend. But there was at least a dozen folks on ropes at the top rappelling on the mountain. I had heard Whiteside was big with climbers, but I’d never had the occasion to see any until today. I imagine that had to do with their ropes crossing the trail at the top and the popularity of the mountain on the weekends
Getting There – Driving
You’re gonna have to use your GPS. I’m too lazy to type up directions for this summit.
A note about parking: It’s $2 to park. Whiteside Mountain is a popular destination so there’s always cars in the lot. On the weekends the lot may be full — so the earlier you arrive the more likely you are to find parking. I’ve seen people park along the road outside the park but I’m certain the neighbors frown on such activity.
The parking lot contains bear-resistant trash cans and restrooms. However, I can’t vouch for the quality of either one. 🙂
Getting There – Hiking
The trail from the parking area begins where the pay-box and information bulletin is. The trail up the mountain is well-marked and it’d take a great deal of effort to get lost. The trail is actually a loop approximately two miles in length. If you hike clockwise, it’s a moderate hike up and a more strenuous hike down. If you hike counter-clockwise, it’s a more strenuous hike up and an easy hike down. If you’re feeling lazy, you can take the old Jeep trail (counter-clockwise) up AND down and avoid the steps/steep areas of the mountain.
It’s also worth noting that the less strenuous way up/down the mountain is also the longest path up/down. If you take the more strenuous section, it’s shorter (in distance) to the summit — maybe not shorter on time. 🙂
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 ridge along the face of the mountain has a well-maintained wire fence along the sections of bare rock and not many obstacles preventing you from slipping over the side. There are great views to the East along these sections.
I’ve never seen any wildlife of the animal kind, but I’ve seen all manners of insects. Bees and Yellow Jackets are pretty prevalent on the mountain so if you’re allergic to either one, take note.
NorCal Doublet made from 22ga speaker wire, suspended from a ~31′ Jackite fiberglass pole in an inverted-V formation.
I didn’t have any (Verizon) data coverage here, so I spotted myself using SMS. I heard a couple of the regulars in there but since it was Friday morning I didn’t expect to have many chasers. I operated for less than 15 minutes as the weather crept up on us quickly from the West and we were soon covered by menacing rain clouds overhead. I hadn’t heard any thunder but I neither wanted to take any chances with lighting or rain since the entire family was exposed to the elements.
I started on 40m where I made 3 QSOs before things got quiet and I moved to 20m for the remaining 3 QSOs. Thanks to everyone that paid attention to the Alert I posted only about an hour before arriving at the summit.
This was our second family SOTA expedition. The good news is, I still get to activate summits. The bad news is, I have to do it in half the time. (Baby, wife or both aren’t nearly as patient as I am.) Several hikers passed while I was operating and most of them seemed to care less what I was doing. Either this has become a frequent activity in North Carolina, or they’re more interested in the baby and/or the dog. Probably the latter.
I believe it was on Whiteside last year that I had another operator take over a frequency I was calling CQ on. It happened here again, only since I hadn’t spotted myself yet, I just moved. However, this is the first time I’ve ever talked to a JERK on-air. I won’t even give him the decency of calling him a LID. But that’s a post for a different blog.
Thanks again to my wife who occasionally puts up with my SOTA antics and all my chasers to helped me earn another 8 points!