Field Report: QRP SOTA and POTA on Big Cedar and Black Mountain in North Georgia

As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended the W4G SOTA Fall Campout in October and it was nothing short of amazing.

It was so great to spend an extended weekend camping, hiking, and hopping on the air with other SOTA activators.

I especially enjoyed getting to know Joshua (KO4AWH)–the fellow behind Tufteln products— over that weekend. He needed a campsite and since my buddy Monty had to pull out of the trip due family activities, I was happy to share the tent site with him.  It actually worked out quite well since we could then pair up and car pool to our SOTA and POTA activations.

What follows is a field report for two SOTA activations Joshua and I did back-to-back on Friday, October 14, 2022.

The trail head for both of these summits was only a few miles from our campsite at Lake Winfield Scott.


Note that I used the same gear during both SOTA activations all packed in my Spec-Ops Brand SOTA backpack.

Black Mountain and Big Cedar essentially share the same trailhead at the Woody Gap Recreational Area parking lot on Highway 60.

We were on site early enough to grab a parking space. Keep in mind that it was Friday during leaf season, so there were quite a few hikers on the trails that day! In fact, by midday, the parking lot was overflowing with cars.

Almost by flip of coin, we decided to hit Big Cedar Mountain first. Turns out, Joshua had actually hiked to this summit in the past and even met a SOTA activator en route (and I believe this might have been his inspiration to try Summits On The Air!).

Big Cedar Mountain (W4G/NG-023)

The 1.1 mile hike to the summit of Big Cedar Mountain was brilliant and the views were absolutely stunning.

We passed quite a few hikers on the Appalachian Trail and especially at some of the vistas like Preacher’s Rock (see below).

In the end, the hike felt pretty short, but it was a decent workout with 600′ of elevation gain.

The true summit was just a few feet off of the Appalachian Trail, so very easy to find (no bushwhacking involved).

Joshua’s TX-500 kit.
Joshua working contact after contact on VHF.

Joshua and I set up at a distance from each other and we transmitted on bands that weren’t harmonically related in an effort to decrease interference. It seemed to work very well, actually.

I was using my Elecraft KX2; Joshua used his Discovery TX-500.

I hopped on the air and–as expected during these SOTA gatherings–contacts were easy pickins’! In fact, as I mentioned in a previous post, there really was no need to even hop on HF; Joshua and I could have effortlessly made all of our SOTA contacts on VHF with a handy talkie.  There were other SOTA ops on many of the nearby summits.

Big Cedar Mountain QSO Map

Note that the VHF contacts are not going to be accurate on this map since the ops I worked were also on summits and not at their home QTH.

Here are my complete logs for Big Cedar:

Big Cedar Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from occasionally inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Hike to Black Mountain

Joshua and I spent a decent amount of time on the summit of Big Cedar. There were so many Summit-to-Summit VHF contacts rolling in that it was difficult to pack up and leave, frankly.

We did, though, and made our way back to the Woody Gap parking area where we ate a quick lunch then walked down the highway a short distance to the service road that lead to Black Mountain.

The hike up to Black Mountain was actually quite easy. The service road was well-maintained and wide. The elevation increase was steady, though, and I think both of us needed a short break or two on the way up. At least, I needed a breather or two.

This activation reminded me that I need to make more time to hike–lately, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to hike as much as I’d like. My whole plan with POTA and SOTA is that both of these activities give me a convenient excuse to hike and exercise. Lately, though, my schedule has been so tight, I haven’t fit in SOTA activations and a barely have time to hike during my POTA outings.

I need to fix that!

Black Mountain (W4G/NG-022)

The summit of Black Mountain is home to a fire tower that is covered in antennas. I climbed the tower and the views of North Georgia were stunning.

Once again, Joshua and I put a decent amount of distance between ourselves to keep interference at bay. It seemed to work once again.

Funny enough, no sooner had I set up my station but I noticed two other SOTA ops who set up between Joshua and me. All four of us were activating the same summit at the same time; this pretty much only happens during SOTA campouts!

I called CQ SOTA and the contacts started rolling in. I worked stations from Spain, Germany, France and across to the west coast in the US and Canada.

Unfortunately, I cannot easily produce a QSO Map only showing contacts from Black Mountain because my logs are also mixed in with other activations that same day from the same POTA entity. (Yes, both of these SOTA activations were also POTA activations).

That said, here’s a copy of my SOTA logs–note all of the contacts on the 15M band:

It was a special thrill to work my good friend, Vince (VE6LK), who had only recently taken his first CW POTA steps. Very proud of him!

Black Mountain Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation on Black Mountain:

Click here to view on YouTube.

More radio fun to come!

Joshua (KO4AWH) left; Thomas (K4SWL) right

After our activations on Black Mountain, Joshua and I decided to hit a POTA park before heading home. That article and video will be posted in my next field report!

What a blast it was to hit two summits in one day.

Thank you…

Thank you for joining me on these activations!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation videos as much as I enjoyed creating them. Honestly: the weather, the fellowship, the DX…it simply couldn’t have been better that fine day!

Of course, I’d also 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.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thank you so very much!

If you live in the States, here’s wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving week which will also hopefully be filled with radio activity! If you don’t live in the States? Please join us for Thanksgiving anyway!


Thomas (K4SWL)

5 thoughts on “Field Report: QRP SOTA and POTA on Big Cedar and Black Mountain in North Georgia”

  1. Thomas,
    Great stuff as always! One of my favorite field posts so far. Absolute pleasure to read. CW qrp and FM via HT is my favorite combo. Stocked rubber duckie?
    I don’t know if this is HAMRS app but When you enter the persons call sign while working S2S, do you enter their summit also? You probably already know, but this will allow grid data to populate and make your map accurate.
    Thanks for sharing your adventure!
    – Chris (KD2YDN)

    1. Hi, Chris,

      Thank you for your comment!

      So the antenna on my HT is one made by Comet and is dual band. It’s flexible and much longer than the stock rubber duck (need to dig to find the part number!).

      I never enter the S2S info into Hamrs, but that would be a good idea. I may try to do this moving forward. I could amend the entry prior to submitting. Thanks!


  2. An inspiration! I’m hoping to get out for Winter Field Day this coming January. I’ve got a QCX Mini for 80m that needs room to stretch its legs.

  3. Hi There,
    Great content! Inspirirng!

    Would you have adivce for cold wx activating? I’m looking to keep my hands warm, but still have the capacity for good CW keying via paddles. Currently I’m using fingerless gloves, but, soon it will be too cold for these.
    Thank you,

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