Many thanks to Jonathan (KM4CFT) who shares the following guest field report:
A Relaxing Labor Day SOTA Activation
by Jonathan Kayne (KM4CFT)
September 4, 2023
Days off from work can be a really great thing. And for someone who spends most of his time indoors at a computer, I try to find plenty of excuses to go outside and get some fresh air. Labor Day is one of those days I get off from work, so I decided I would do a SOTA activation, but I wasn’t entirely sure where.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there to help with planning a SOTA activation, namely sotl.as, which shows all the summits on a map along with additional information about the summit.
I wasn’t entirely sure which one to pick, so I just searched around and came across Evergreen Mountain, which has the reference designator W0C/FR-076. Doing some research showed that it was about a 2-3 mile hike to the summit from the parking lot, which was perfect. The air around Denver, CO can be somewhat thin and these hikes can be strenuous if you aren’t used to it. I have been living in the Denver area for 2 years and I still am not used to it!
After a small amount of planning, I pack my radio and antenna into a bag along with the usual hiking gear and drive to the base of the mountain. There were a lot of cars already parked there, so I had to park on the side of the road. It seems other people had the same idea that I did!
The trail to the summit of Evergreen mountain was comparatively easy due to the trail being designed for mountain biking. Mountains in Colorado tend to be incredibly steep, which can make them quite the workout, even if the hike is short. This trail consisted of plenty of switchbacks, which made the hike incredibly easy, trading steepness for distance. This was a massive bonus from my perspective!
As you might have guessed, Evergreen Mountain (and the town) get their name from the impressive number of evergreen trees in the area. As you drive towards the town, it almost becomes exclusively pine trees everywhere!
I made it to the summit loop trail, and advanced to the last little bit before the summit. Right before the true summit there is a tenth-mile little trail that leads to a scenic overlook. I, of course, had to go and take a look.
I went back and made it to the summit. The top of the mountain was pretty flat so I just went to what I thought was the summit and set up my station there. Searching around showed that I was well within the activation zone. The area had some nice rocks to sit on as well as trees for me to lash my crappie pole to with para-cord.
- Elecraft KX2
- Tufteln 28.5’ Speaker Wire Antenna
- ICOM ID-52A with SignalStuff SignalStick Antenna
- N6TAX Labs 2m/70cm slim jim antenna
- BaMaKey TP-III Iambic Paddle
- Homemade metal magnetic leg mount for paddle
- Some Para-cord
- Goture Goldite 7.2m fishing pole
With SOTA, I have the opportunity to use my VHF/UHF equipment to make some QSOs. I find it quite rare for me to do simplex communication on VHF or UHF these days as I almost exclusively operate on HF. Also, I like to try to operate in the parts of the bands with the lowest license requirement so that the less experienced hams have an opportunity to work me. With this, I can give our technicians a chance to chase SOTA!
So, the first thing I do is deploy my N6TAX Labs Slim-Jim Antenna. My fishing pole has a 1 inch piece of cord on the end that you are supposed to secure your fishing line to. Most hams simply discard this section, but I tie an overhand knot on it and have a small loop of thin braided cord on all my antennas. I can form a lark’s head knot with this loop and secure it to the pole. That overhand knot prevents it from sliding off. I show this in a previous blog post if you want to see.
I went and bought myself an ICOM ID-52A. I probably could have just waited for the ID-50A to start shipping but I was impatient. I also fitted my ID-52 with a SMA to BNC adapter and 3D printed a spacer since the adapter didn’t screw all the way down. The very small number of HTs I own (a Baofeng, a DMR radio, and this one) have all been fitted with these adapters so that all my antennas can be used interchangeably between all my gear, such as the Yaesu FT-818nd and my ICOM IC-705. I also put SignalSticks on them, since they give decent gain, look sleek, and support HamStudy which is how Zach (KM4BLG) and I studied for our license.
Getting my activation was incredibly easy with that Slim-Jim and the ID-52A. The quality of the audio was a lot more pleasant to listen to as well. Something I hope is that this handheld will get me back into VHF and UHF, and I think the nice audio will help a lot!
After getting half a dozen FM QSOs, I lowered my fishing pole and switched to my HF setup. For SOTA, I like to take my Elecraft KX2 since I can pretty much pack everything except for the fishing pole in a single case. The antenna I use with my KX2 is a 28.5’ speaker wire antenna made by Tufteln. The KX2 is the only radio I really use that has a built-in ATU so its a perfect combo!
My preferred CW paddle is the BaMaKey TP-III since it is small and rugged. The folks on the POTA discord server did a group buy so I got to customize my paddle to be fully gray instead of the usual red and gray combo offered. I am not a big fan of tomato red, so this was awesome.
For the mount, I asked my dad, who is a blacksmith, to machine me a piece of sheet metal that I could mount the paddle to. I use a velcro strap off amazon to strap it to my leg. It works perfectly for SOTA and non-table POTA activations!
It’s always a fun time to get outside and enjoy the views that are around you. I can say that this one was a lot of fun to do!
72 from Jonathan, KM4CFT
[Note from K4SWL: Be sure to check out Jonathan’s YouTube channel where he has a number of field activation videos and other interesting projects!]