As I noted last week, I participated in the W4G SOTA campout at Lake Winfield-Scott Campground in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in north Georgia.
In short? It was amazing!
I thought I’d share a few photos and memories…
Campsite and friends
These SOTA campouts typically involve an announcement via the W4 SOTA group then we all make individual reservations at the chosen campground. Since we’re not reserving the whole campground as a block, we tend to share our individual camping sites with others who might not have been able to reserve a spot.
At Lake Windfield Scott campground, the SOTA group did reserve one large group campsite, but only a couple months ago it was canceled by the park service due to a trail maintenance group that needed it.
Typically, I camp with my friend Monty, but he had other family plans that weekend.
As you can see in the photo above, both of our tents fit on the tent pad with absolutely no extra room to spare. 🙂
It was such a pleasure getting to know Joshua. What a kindred spirit and super nice fellow.
We ended up doing all of our SOTA activations together as you will see in upcoming activation videos and field reports.
Joshua is as pack and organization obsessed as I am. A proper pack nerd! I really enjoyed checking out his bags, cases and all of the brilliant accessories that are a part of his field kits.
He brought both an IC-705 and TX-500 along for the ride. He logs in the field using the HAMRS app (same one I do) but on an iPad Mini (see photo above) and I must admit that the size of the iPad mini is nearly ideal–much better than a phone for logging.
He also used the SDR-Control app to connect wirelessly with his IC-705 and operate digital modes.
We activated a total of three summits during the weekend (Big Cedar, Black Mountain, and Yonah Mountain). It would have been easy to activate six or more if that was the goal–the area is chock full of accessible summits.
We both decided that our goal on this camping trip was to have some serious radio fun and not be concerned with accumulating as many SOTA points as humanly possible.
Joshua and I spaced our stations as far apart as we could on each summit and really had no major interference from each other. He mostly worked SSB on each summit and I focused on CW. I believe he primarily used his TX-500 on each summit (but perhaps he can tell us in his own report? Hint, hint!).
S2S VHF Time!
If you’ve been following my activations for long, you’ll know that I do very, very little VHF.
Frankly (and don’t tell anyone) I often forget to even check for VHF contacts during my SOTA outings.
During SOTA campout weekends? You really have no need for an HF radio. You can easily–and I do mean effortlessly–grab 8 to15 Summit-To-Summit contacts on the 2 meter band with an HT.
After each HF activation, Joshua and I would check the SOTA 2 meter simplex frequency and it was a proper party line with multiple S2S QSOs all happening in short order.
My FT-60R got a better workout than it normally does and, from now on, I’m always going to spot myself VHF on summits after an HF activation.
I should add here that if you’re a Technician licensee, a regional SOTA campout is the perfect way to dip your feet in the world of Summits On The Air.
All you need to bring is your camping/hiking gear and an HT.
All but one of our SOTA activations was also a POTA park (indeed, multiples at some).
Early mornings and late afternoon/evenings, we also operated from the campsite which was within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (K-4473).
I brought my Venus SW-3B along for the ride and really enjoyed putting it on the air again from the campsite. That radio is truly an exceptional value and effective CW rig.
Of course, I had to give my MTR-3B a little air time as well.
Our campsite antenna was one of Joshua’s Tufteln 40 meter End-Fed Half Waves. It performed brilliantly!
W4T at Don Carter State Park (K-2171)
Friday evening, during an activation of Desoto Falls National Recreation Area (K-7473), Joshua ran into two other local POTA activators who informed us that the Lanierland ARC and Hall ARES groups were hosting a special event station and POTA gathering at Don Carter State Park (K-2171). This special event was to celebrate the autumn Support Your Parks Weekend.
Joshua and I both decided to ditch the idea of a morning summit activation and, instead, head to Don Carter State Park. The icing on the cake was we heard they would have free Barbecue!
This was the first real POTA event/gathering I’ve ever attended. It was a lot of fun.
Not only did I get to meet a few readers and even Patreon Supporters (thank you so much!) but I was invited to play CW as W4T on a brand new Yaesu FT-710!
The funny part? I was running QRO.
As in 250 watts QRO.
I actually told the FT-710 owner that I didn’t need an amp, but he liked the idea of running QRO.
This is the first time I think I’ve ever operated at a park with more than 15 or 20 watts in CW.
Afterwards, one of the attendees asked if I noticed a difference between running 5 watts and 250 watts.
In truth, I did not. The signal footprint was identical to my QRP activations.
I did take advantage of one thing while operating QRO, though: W4T created a bit of a pileup. When running QRP, I wait for the pileup to calm after my CQ so that the station I’m replying to can hear me over the other signals. Running QRO, I transmitted the call I wished to work right on top of the pileup and the receiving station heard me each time. This did cut down on the amount of time it took for each exchange.
That said, it kind of only reinforced my believe that CW ops need no more than 5 watts for POTA and SOTA activations if the goal is simply to validate an activation and work a heaping load of stations.
It was quite the honor to not only be a W4T op, but to also use the new FT-710 (nice rig!).
Many thanks to the clubs and volunteers who made this Support Your Parks event so a success!
Coast-to-Coast, Summit-to-Summit, KX1-to-KX1
Several months ago, my friend Ara (N6ARA) and I hatched a plan: make a summit-to-summit contact with our Elecraft KX1s. Both of us love these little rigs and after Ara acquired one earlier this year, we knew we needed to try an S2S.
The Elecraft KX1 only has an output power of about 3.5 watts (more or less depending antenna, match and radio configuration).
Ara is located in southern California–on the other side of the US from me–so we knew this would be an ambitious goal.
The W4G SOTA campout happened to coincide with an opening in Ara’s schedule, so we made a plan to attempt the summit-to-summit on Saturday, October 15, 2022 around 19:30 UTC.
Ara was on Cerro Noroeste (W6/SC-001) and Joshua and I chose Yonah Mountain (W4G/NG-048) which was a convenient drive from the W4T POTA event we attended around noon.
I thought Yonah Mountain would be a short, easy hike, but in the end it was nearly 2 miles to the summit and quite steep in parts. Having gotten a good deal of hiking in the previous day to two summits, I wasn’t operating on all cylinders that Saturday afternoon and the ascent was slower than I would have liked.
I we didn’t reach the summit until around 20:00 UTC.
I deployed my station on the west side of the summit, perhaps 8 meters below the true summit and well within the activation zone. My thinking was that if I set up my 20M EFHW as a vertical, the bit of mountain top behind me might help reflect more of my signal west. At least, it was a working theory.
I knew that even if propagation was favorable, this would be weak signal work, so instead of calling CQ SOTA and trying to hear each other through a pile-up, we met on a frequency and called each other.
I almost fell out of my chair when I heard Ara’s 229 signal popping through the ether. I replied to him and he heard me as well.
I was so excited, I forgot to note Ara’s summit number.
It’s so much fun to set a goal like this, cross your fingers, and then accomplish that goal. What fun!
I was in such a hurry to hop on the air, I didn’t set up my camera to record this, but I did make an audio recording at the last minute using my Sony digital recorder. I may post that audio activation sometime.
Again, Ara, thanks for waiting on me to hit the summit and making this KX1-2-KX1 a reality!
FYI: the total distance summit-to-summit was 3236.00 km or 2010.76 miles. Not bad for 3ish watts and a wire!
New CW ops
I was very lucky during this radio-active weekend to work so many POTA/SOTA family members on the air.
I was especially lucky that at least two of them were brand new CW operators!
I was so pleased to hear my good friend Vince (VE6LK) call me while I was activating Black Mountain (WG4/NG-022).
Vince only recently started doing a little CW during his POTA activations. When I copied his callsign, I almost fell out of my chair!
Turns out, he was running only about 10 watts with a KX3 from his home in Alberta. That’s some reasonable low-power DX!
Such a pleasure to work you Vince! You’re doing a great job with CW!
After the Black Mountain activation, Joshua and I decided to stop by Desoto Falls for a quick POTA activation. I’m so glad I did.
I was using the Penntek TR-45L (I recorded this for a future field report) connected to two 28′ lengths of wire. The same setup used in a previous TR-45L field report.
30 meters was really hopping that late afternoon. In the midst of a steady pileup I heard the call KO4QCC. I replied and as I copied his report, It dawned on me that this was my friend Brooks (KO4QCC).
You might recall that I posted a field report and video of Brooks’ first POTA activation several months ago. Since then, Brooks and I have been in regular contact and he has been studying CW.
It was such a surprise to hear his callsign and when I realized it was him, I did a little happy dance!
Thank you SO much, Brooks, for hunting me. After I get my new QSL cards printed (I’ve got a backlog of several months) you’ll be getting one back!
Very nice fist and you’re doing a superb job with your CW!
The W4G SOTA campout group organized a Saturday evening potluck starting around 18:30 at one of the larger campsites. Joshua and I were running a bit behind after the Yonah Mountain activation–it didn’t help timing that we also made a detour to purchase a huge container of vanilla ice cream to accompany Dean’s (K2JB) dutch-oven cherry crisp that evening. We knew it might be a challenge to keep the ice cream frozen for a couple of hours, but with a fresh bag of ice, we did!
The food and the fellowship were simply outstanding. I met so many old friends and made so many new ones. In addition, I got to put faces with so many familiar callsigns.
FYI: Dean’s cherry crisp paired with the vanilla ice cream was sublime! All of the food was amazing.
I honestly believe ham radio operators involved with park and summit activations are some of the nicest people on the planet.
I’m already looking forward to the next SOTA campout.
Thanks for reading this report!