I woke up that morning, drank a cup of coffee, looked outside and knew what would be in store the day: a SOTA activation!
My schedule was actually open that fine Tuesday because my daughters were on spring break from school, so the only problem was deciding which summit to activate. A good problem, in other words!
After staring at the SOTL.AS map for a while, I decided to activate Flat Top Mountain (W4C/EM-026) near Blowing Rock, North Carolina. One of the main reasons I chose Flat Top was because the roughly five mile round-trip hike is such a pleasant, casual one. My left ankle was recuperating from a bit of a strain, so I knew Flat Top’s flat, wide carriage trails would fulfill my need for exercise without straining my ankle (which, by the way, is doing much better now).
The drive to Flat Top is a beautiful one–a good third of it is on the Blue Ridge Parkway including the Linn Cove Viaduct which offers up stunning long-range views. I made my way to Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, at BRP milepost 294, where I parked the car and put on my hiking boots.
The park was pretty active for early April, no doubt because the weather was so stunning.
I checked out the beautiful Flat Top Manor to see if renovations had been completed.
Flat Top Manor was built by in 1901 by Moses Cone who was a very successful local textile entrepreneur, conservationist and philanthropist. It’s so fitting that this beautiful bit of architecture and these expansive grounds (which includes no less than two SOTA summits) are now protected by the National Park Service for all to enjoy.
I started my hike by following one of the carriage trails in front of the manor. It leads past a farm building, then crosses under the Blue Ridge Parkway two-lane road.
Again, this hike is such a pleasant one.
And the views along the way are spectacular!
This was also the first time I’d taken my new backpack, a Mystery Ranch Scree 32, on a SOTA outing.
It worked a charm! The suspension system makes it so that I forget I’m even carrying a backpack.
I was enjoying the hike so much, time passed too quickly!
In fact, if you watch my activation video below, you can enjoy a bit of that casual hike and some of the views.
I should add, it was nice seeing some little signs of spring along the way as well.
Before I knew it, I was standing on the summit of Flat Top next to the watch tower.
Before I set up, of course I had to take in the views from the tower (I also include this in my video):
From the tower, I picked out the spot where I’d set up; essentially, the same spot I chose last time I was here.
Speaking of which, it was time to get back on the ground and deploy an antenna!
My entire SOTA station–less my throw line on this particular occasion–fit in my Elecraft KX2 pack.
I also captured the antenna deployment in my activation video as well.
As you’ll see in the video, I did have to fumble with where to place my folding chair because the ground was so (unexpectedly) soft.
I always say that I include pretty much everything in my videos and this will certainly be proof of that–!
Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, and eBay links are affiliate links that support the QRPer.com at no cost to you.
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Elecraft ES60 Pack (Note that mine is a discontinued LowePro CS60 pack, the ES60 is identical and Elecraft branded)
- Packtenna 9:1 UNUN Random Wire Antenna
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Rite In The Rain Notepad
- Jovitec 2.0 mm Mechanical Pencil
- Tufteln N0RNM Folding Knee Board
- Mystery Ranch Scree 32 backpack
- Camera: original OSMO Action Camera (the OSMO 3 is the current version) with Sensyne Phone Tripod
On The Air
I made another decision on that morning: even though Flat Top Mountain is also a POTA and WWFF entity (the Blue Ridge Parkway K-3378/KFF-3378), I didn’t schedule or spot myself to those networks this particular time. Sounds crazy, but my reasoning was that I activate this particular park entity very regularity–almost weekly–but this summit maybe only once a year. I wanted SOTA chasers to have a chance to collect this summit. I worried that if I scheduled the activation with both POTA and WWFF, it might make it difficult for some of the weaker SOTA chasers to punch through any potential pileups. The POTA and WWFF communities are orders of magnitude larger than SOTA.
I then moved down to 12 meters where I worked S57S who I also worked on 10M.
Next, I moved to 15 meters where I worked eight more stations including S57S in Slovenia for the third time! A path was obviously open to the Balkans!
Next, I moved to the 17 meter band which was the most productive; I logged 16 chasers.
Finally, I decided to hit 10 meters one more time. I ended up adding three more stations for a grand total of 33 logged. Brilliant!
Here’s what this 5 watt activation into the PackTenna random wire looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click to enlarge).
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 inserting ads before and after my videos.
My goal that morning was to put a signal into Europe and see how those higher bands might perform. I was very pleased with the results having logged stations in: Slovenia, Spain, France, and Northern Ireland.
Also, anyone who worked me will also get POTA and WWFF credit.
I was also very pleased with my Mystery Ranch Scree 32 backpack. It was comfortable and seems to hold everything I need for a SOTA activation. I like the organization in the lid and the main compartment is pretty large.
I still love my Spec-Ops Brand Pack EDC and will continue to use it regularly, but when I know I’m going to have a longer and more technical hike, I will turn to the Scree 32 because its suspension system is superior.
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.
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.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me and here’s wishing you an amazing weekend!
Cheers & 72,