KM4CFT: A Relaxing Labor Day SOTA Activation

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, 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!

As I walked, I couldn’t help but notice all the fallen pine trees, which concerned me, but I quickly came across a sign explaining the reason.

I really got to enjoy walking through these trees, and listening to the wind howl through the mountains. It also had the benefit of keeping me nice and cool in the reasonable 83° temperature outside.

The trees also blocked the views of the mountains to some extent, but my research showed me that we get plenty of gorgeous views closer to the summit!

Right before the summit loop, I was rewarded with a small glimpse of the views that were to come!

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.

I unpacked my gear and started to set up. The gear I brought was as follows:

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.

So I have a bad habit of spending my spare cash on ham radios that I definitely don’t need, and this time I decided to finally upgrade my $35 baofeng that I bought when I got licensed in 2014.

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.

I sat down, loaded HAMRS on my phone, and got to making my contacts.

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!

Sitting down, I got a different view, which was nice.

After getting a handful of CW QSOs, I made an attempt on SSB without much success, then packed it up. The sound of the wind went quite well with the beeping of the CW tones on the radio.

I took an alternate path down to the parking lot and got some more photos along the way.

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!]

7 thoughts on “KM4CFT: A Relaxing Labor Day SOTA Activation”

  1. Great write-up and excellent scenery too!

    I’m curious about the fishing pole, from the Amazon link info it looks like it breaks into segments of approximately 30 inches length? So many of the poles are quite a bit shorter when deployed, this is a good length and an alternative to some of the portable masts on the market. Also, I may have missed it but what is the anchor for the ground part of the pole?

    Thanks again – David

    1. Hi David,
      Most hams end up having to discard that top most section of the pole, but I learned from a fisherman how you normally secure line to these poles and adapted my antennas to attach. If you search QRPer for my callsign you will find another guest post I did that shows how I attach my antennas to the pole. I have no clue why they show it like that in the picture but it’s a single pole that telescopes to 7.2 meters.
      As for how I mount the pole, in this case I just haphazardly lashed it to that dead tree in the picture with some Paracord. I also have a 3D printed guy ring (published on printables) for if I want to use tent pegs. The third method is with these rubber wire ties I found at home Depot. I forget their name but they are found near the carabineers.

      1. “Titanium spike” or paracord and a dead tree. Same result 🙂
        Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s what hams do.


  2. Thanks for sharing your great outdoors experience! Please keep it coming and the pictures are great. I need to do the same with my QRP Plus Plus. 73, Dick, K0RDS

  3. Thanks for the equipment rundown. I operate solely HF with a Rockmite 20. I hadn’t thought of taking a handheld, but that might be a lot of fun. The’keyer here is two video game switches mounted on an 8AA battery case that runs the rig.

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