Archives For Ham Radio

Some things just aren’t meant to be… like my second non-activation of Pine Log Mountain in a month.

Saturday I was on Pine Log Mountain, again, participating in the Simulated Emergency Test (SET).  Since you need permission and a key to be on the mountain, I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and get them both done while I was on summit.

Well, that was the plan anyway.

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CQ CQ SOTA Chasers,

I will be operating on Pine Log Mountain, W4G/HC-025 as part of the Cherokee County ARES Simulated Emergency Test (SET).  Before carrying out my assignment for the SET beginning at 12:30z, I hope to be on mountain early enough to setup and activate it for Summits On The Air.

I will be attempting to activate the mountain, again, at approximately 11:30z. My intentions are to work 40m SSB, 20m SSB and possibly even 2m FM if time allows.

I will self-spot via SOTA Goat or SMS, depending on cell/data availability (I don’t recall what it was the last time I was up there).

Hopefully the spot I choose to set up shack will be free from any RFI.  (Don’t want a repeat of Sweat Mountain.)

Hope to hear you on the air!


Saturday, September 13th: Every once in a while a blind hog finds an acorn and such was the case with Brushy Face.  Brushy Face has been inactive as long as I’ve been involved in Summits On The Air and as such it was one of those summits that I secretly hoped no one would attempt and I would one day be able to claim it as first-activator.

Brushy Face presents a challenge in that the summit is on private property.  In fact, someone’s home sits right atop of the summit:

Screenshot from 2014-09-14 00:09:05

When I had originally scouted Brushy Face, I was new to SOTA and unfamiliar with a lot of the rules and regulations regarding activating a summit.  I thought my only alternative would be to knock on someone’s door and ask if they’d mind if I erected an antenna in their driveway for a few minutes.  In fact, there are ways that this summit could be activated so long as I was within 80 vertical feet of the summit, which is what I did.

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This past weekend was the North America SOTA Weekend, where SOTA enthusiasts across the country were expected to be on summits, radios in hand, talking to one-another. I was enjoying a three-day weekend with the family in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where I was sure to make several summits. In fact, I only made two.

This was not one of them.

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This past weekend was the North America SOTA Weekend, where SOTA enthusiasts across the country were expected to be on summits, radios in hand, talking to one-another.  I was enjoying a three-day weekend with the family in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where I was sure to make several summits.  In fact, I only made two.

This was not one of them.

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Ham Radio Jerks

September 16, 2014 — 7 Comments

I’ve only been a licensed ham radio operator for two years.  During that time, I’m certain I’ve made my share of mistakes when it comes to accepted operating procedure.  But never during that time have I ever been a jerk to anyone on air.

Before I had any exposure to the hobby, I had this romantic idea that the hobby was full of old men talking late into the night with other old men around the world.  I’m thinking “old man” in the sense of that friendly Grandfatherly type.  However, it never occurred to me that some of those old men are that of the curmudgeon type.

Early on, I discovered that the sort of people that pursue ham radio as a hobby aren’t any different than the sort of people you know from just about any other facet of life.  To say it a different way, there’s always a bad apple in every bushel.  Such was a brief reminder I had while on Whiteside Mountain last week.

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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

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Pine Log Mountain is only accessible via the Lake Arrowhead community, which is a gated community manned by a guard shack.  It’s also accessible via vehicle, if you have business to be on the mountain and sign out the gate key from the guard shack.  After seeing it first-hand, I’d recommend that route as it’s mostly “paved” with very large granite gravel.  The kind that twists ankles.

Knowing all that, I figured my best bet would be to wait until one of the local country groups was headed up top to conduct some repeater maintenance and offer any assistance in exchange for being the first to activate the mountain.  On Sunday I joined a small crew from CARS and Cherokee County ARES to perform some much-needed landscaping around the county repeater towers on top of Pine Log Mountain.

The plan was that we would collect enough volunteers to tackle both Pine Log and Mount Oglethorpe simultaneously.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough persons or hardware to split the difference and tackle both mountains at the same time.

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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. 🙂

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Courtesy of the WA7BNM Contest Calendar, I knew a week in advance there would be a VHF Contest this past weekend.  I’ve participated in a few VHF contests in the past with a minutia of success, so I thought I’d give this one a go.

The weekend called for rain, so given my past experience with rain, I wasn’t sure if I’d have an opportunity to hook up the antenna(s) or not.  Saturday was mostly rain and when it wasn’t raining, I was busy with other activities that kept me out of the shack.

While overcast, the weather on Sunday was much better with a very low chance of rain and otherwise cool breeze blowing outside.  I had some free time while the baby slept, so I thought I’d tune up the radio to see if there was any activity on the 6 meter band.  I didn’t hear much so I left it to work on some other things.

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