On Monday, March 8, 2021, I had a very rare opportunity: nearly a full day to play radio!
I debated where to go the night before and I had a lot of ideas. Do a multi-park run? Activate some new-to-me parks a little further afield? Hit a SOTA summit?
While it was very appealing to plan a multi-park run for POTA/WWFF, I really wanted to stretch my legs and activate a summit. The weather was glorious and it dawned upon me that we’ll soon be entering the season of afternoon thunderstorms which will, no doubt, have a negative impact on my summit plans for the next few months since afternoons are typically when I have time to do activations.
After examining the map, I decided to go to Elk Knob State Park. The summit of Elk Knob is a SOTA site and the park is in both the POTA and WWFF programs.
Last year, I activated Elk Knob State Park and really enjoyed the experience.
The round trip hike to the summit (adding in a little trail loop around the park) would amount to about 4 total miles and an elevation increase of roughly 1,000 feet.
Monday morning, I left the QTH around 9:00 and arrived at the park around 11:15–it was a proper scenic drive.
The 1.9 mile hike to the summit took me about 45 minutes. The path was amazingly well maintained: 4′ wide with crushed stone most of the way.
One of the nicest trails I’ve been on in ages–Elk Knob State Park is quickly becoming one of my favorite NC State Parks.
There aren’t any antenna-friendly trees on the summit, so I was happy that I packed the Chameleon MPAS 2.0.
At first, I planned to only bring the top section of the MPAS 2.0 vertical to save space, but the hike was so short, I brought the lower aluminum sections as well. I’m glad I did.
Deployment of the MPAS 2.0 was quick and I the Elecraft KX2‘s internal ATU found a match on 20 meters very quickly.
Elk Knob (W4C/EM-005)
I spotted myself using the SOTA Goat app and received quite a 20 meter CW pileup! As you’ll see in my video below, it was testing the limits of my CW skills for sure.
With 5 watts, I quickly worked stations to my east in France, Spain, and Germany, and to my west all over the west coast of North America. It was a hoot!
I eventually moved to 40 meters and operated a bit, but 40 was suffering from poor propagation so stations that are normally quite strong, were weak that day.
I needed four stations for a valid SOTA activation and 10 stations for a valid park activation. I logged a total of 38 stations in 56 minutes. 75% of those contacts were on 20 meters.
Here’s one of my real-time, real-life videos of the entire activation (less a small amount I removed while eating a quick bite):
When people tell me running QRP is like “trying to play radio with both hands tied behind your back” I’ll show them this video. 🙂
While the hike, the weather, and the signals were all in my favor, I’ll admit I wasn’t on my “A Game” that day. We all have days like this where we struggle to copy, to keep up with the flow of contacts, and to send correctly.
In recent weeks, I’ve gotten a number of emails from readers and viewers who said they had a less-than-smooth SOTA or POTA activation and felt a wee bit embarrassed on the air when they struggled copying.
But you know what?
This is all about having radio fun in the field, enjoying a hike, taking in the views, and soaking up the beautiful weather! It’s not a contest and we have nothing to prove to anyone.
I can also promise you that any chaser/hunter who has ever activated a field site will completely understand if they have to send their call a couple extra times or if they (heaven forbid!) have to re-send their call after you incorrectly copy a character.
This is totally normal.
Be easy on yourself and enjoy the ride. Even on days when I don’t feel like I’m 100% in the groove, I find doing a summit or park activation clears my mind and resets my soul.
My policy? When a mistake is made laugh it off and move on!
Here are a few extra photos from the Elk Knob hike:
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