When going to a new-to-me site, I typically do quite a bit of research in advance. With parks, I look up directions to the entrance, hiking trails, park boundaries, and try to sort out the best potential activation sites on a map. With a summit, it can be much more complicated, but reading previous activator notes really saves a lot of headache. That’s especially the case here in the States where many summits are on private/gated land and/or could require bushwhacking off trail with no mobile phone service.
Then again, returning to a site I’ve been to before is also quite nice. I know what to expect and that often opens up the door to more confidence with time planning, antenna choices, and what to pack in terms of gear.
On Friday, March 25, 2022, I re-visited a site I hadn’t been to in nearly a year: Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest.
What’s great about Rendezvous is that it’s both a POTA and SOTA site.
On top of that (no pun intended) the activation zone of SOTA summit 2543 (W4C/EM-082) is on a road where Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest (K-4859), and Rendezvous Mountain State Game Land (K-6941) overlap. One activation yields two parks and one summit!
Last year, it took a bit of research to make this discovery. I studied both the park and game land maps, then compared those with a Cal Topo map. If interested, check out that field report here.
I arrived on site around 12:45 local. The park was void of visitors–I almost felt like I’d arrived on a day when the gates should have been closed.
As I grabbed my SOTA backpack out of the back of the car, a ranger pulled up in his truck and asked if I was planning to hike. I told him about my plans and asked if it was okay that I hike the forest service road to the summit. He said, “Sure. But when you reach the prison crew doing brush cutting on the road, make sure one of the guards sees you before you attempt to pass them.”
I thanked him and double checked that it was actually not a problem to hike the road and he said, “Go for it!”
I also asked him why the park seemed partially closed, but the gates were open. He explained that the park is currently in a state of transition from an educational state forest to a state park. He said the process might take nearly a year and they’re transitioning everything now.
So when I re-visit the site in the future, it’ll likely be a different POTA park entity.
Prisoners with chainsaws. What could possibly go wrong, right?
When I found the crew and got one of the guard’s attention I told him that I was just hiking through. He asked, “Does anyone know you’re here?” I mentioned that the park ranger gave me the all clear and he seemed to be satisfied with that.
I had to wait a few minutes for a tree they’d been working on to fall across the road before passing.
I mentioned in the last field report that there’s only one spot on the road where you could take a wrong turn. It’s a very obvious split (see photo above). Just bear to the right.
The forest service road takes you past what would have been an old homestead. The daffodils give it away.
This is a super easy hike and very enjoyable. The elevation changes are moderate and the road is in great shape.
This was early spring, so not a lot of wildflowers popping up yet, but there were some beautiful mosses and lichens along the way.
During my hike, I received a text from my wife. She asked if I might head home early as a friend was planning to pop by for a visit that evening.
I looked at my watch and did a little math in my head. If I kept the activation under 30 minutes and hiked at a steady pace on the way back, I calculated that I could be back at the QTH by 17:30 local.
I confirmed with my wife I could probably make it in time. I then picked up my pace.
In truth, I had been planning a pretty laid-back activation and hoped to be on the air at least 60-90 minutes–especially since the drive to the park from my parents’ house (where I’d been for a few nights) was a good 1.5 hours.
I reached the activation spot in short order and wasted no time to deploy my speaker wire antenna.
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Moleskine Cahier Journal (affiliate link)
- Zebra Mechanical Pencil, Del Guard, 0.7mm (affiliate link)
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- 28.5 foot speaker wire antenna using one BNC Binding Post Adapter (affiliate link)
- Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera (affiliate link)
Setup with the KX2 and speaker wire antenna was quick and easy!
On The Air
I started calling CQ on 20 meters; my first contact was Michael (N7CCD) about 2013 miles/3239 km away in Washington state. A very promising start!
Next, I worked Christian (F4WBN) in Urcuit, France about 4106 miles/6607 km from the summit.
I continued to work stations for about 20 minutes. Twenty meters was productive, but I didn’t work a single station on seventeen meters.
All-in-all, I logged 12 stations with a total of three park-to-parks and one summit-to-summit!
I was very pleased with those results. If I had more time it would have been fun top play a little SSB, but it just wasn’t in the cards that day.
Here’s a screen shot of my logs via the POTA website:
Here’s what 5 watts into a speaker wire yielded in about 20 minutes on the air–keep in mind that, for some reason, the QSO map isn’t showing my contact with Christian (F4WBN) in France:
Here’s my real-time, real-life activation video. As always, these videos have no edits during the actual activation (and no ads):
Post activation, I packed up my gear and hit the trail hiking at a brisk pace.
As I approached the fire tower, I did have to wait once again for the prison crew guards to acknowledge me and pause the crew.
I believe my hike back to the car only took about 30 minutes at most.
Thanks so much for reading this field report!
Although I would have liked to spend more time on the air, this was a fun activation. It always blows my mind what can be achieved with five watts and some speaker wire!
After I uploaded my logs to the SOTA database, I noticed that my SOTA points are now 134. While I’m not a terribly awards-motivated guy, it would be fun someday to get “Mountain Goat” status with SOTA. Unless something really changes, I don’t see this happening for another 5 years or so at very best.
SOTA activation points only count once per year per unique summit. Meaning, I could activate the same summit three days in a row, but those points would only count for the first activation and only once per year toward SOTA Goat status. This certainly encourages motivated SOTA activators to explore new summits to earn SOTA Goat points.
Summits, in general, take much more time for me plot, plan, and activate. For example, from my home I can activate a park and be back home within one hour. To activate the closest summit to me (Lane Pinnacle) I need at least 4-5 hours set aside in my schedule. There are some easily accessible drive-up SOTA summits with cell phone tower clusters nearby, but they just don’t get me excited for some reason.
This summer, when my daughters are on break from school, I hope to hit a few extra summits as family outings. At least one of my daughters seems eager to bag a summit activation soon!
As always, I’d like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support. It makes videos and reports like this one possible.
Here’s wishing everyone good health and good propagation!
Cheers & 72,