“It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.”
That’s what my grandpa used to say and he was right. It was certainly the theme on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, when I decided to activate Crowders Mountain (W4C/WP-011).
If memory serves, it was about 80F/27C that day–pretty reasonable for late spring in the Piedmont of North Carolina. But the humidity was quite high. I’m no meteorologist, but I’m guessing it was 7,400%. (That number may be a bit of an exaggeration.)
Still, I was eager to fit in a decent hike and I knew Crowders would be fun and easy in the sense that I wouldn’t need to carry a map or do bushwhacking to get to the summit. In fact, Crowders Mountain is possibly one of the busiest parks I ever visit; being so close to Shelby, Gastonia, and Charlotte, it can get crowded especially on weekends.
The amazing thing about Crowders Mountain State Park, to the amateur radio operator, is that it contains not one but two SOTA summits! And, of course, the park can be activated during the SOTA activation. Earlier this year, I activated The Pinnacle–it was amazing fun–and now I was ready to activate Crowders Mountain as well.
I arrived at the park visitor’s center around 11:30 AM local time and hit the trail.
I opted to take the longer trail to the summit which is about 6 miles round trip. There’s a shorter path to the summit via the Linwood Access, but I wanted a bit more trail time despite the humidity.
The hike was amazing and the trail very, very well-worn and marked.
The hike was overall what I would call moderate and very gentle. In fact, at about 2/3 into the trail, I was curious when I’d truly start gaining a bit of elevation. Turns out: all near the very end!
The final portion of the hike was pretty steep–mostly steps up to the summit. The humidity was thick enough, I took my time going up the steps.
In the end, you will put in a bit of effort to bag this one point SOTA summit if it’s hot and humid.
Crowders Mountain (W4C/WP-011)
Having been on the summit of The Pinnacle earlier this year, there was no mistaking the summit of Crowders Mountain, since it, too, has ominous warning signs!
I’m sure the sign is in response to people acting foolishly. Crowders Mountain is not a treacherous place, but like many summits, there’re ample opportunities to fall to your death, I reckon.
I’ve heard that even the summits of Crowders Mountain can get quite busy–this is why I chose a Tuesday to do the activation. Even then, I’m guessing there were anywhere from 8-12 other hikers on the summit with me at various times during the activation that day.
I was banking on the fact that Crowders Mountain had trees, so I only packed my short PackTenna random wire–no self-supporting vertical of any sort.
After a quick site search, I found an ideal spot to play radio just beneath the radio/TV towers on the summit.
Deploying the PackTenna was incredibly easy with my arborist throw line. I meant to make a video showing the antenna deployment, but was distracted by some curious hikers who asked a load of questions as I launched the line. Somehow, I managed to snag the perfect tree branch despite an audience and a mild case of performance anxiety!
Next, I set up the Discovery TX-500 transceiver and paired it with my Elecraft T1 ATU since random wire antennas require matching and the TX-500 has no internal ATU.
I’ll admit here that each time I use the Elecraft T1 it reinforces why I like this ATU so much: it’s incredibly compact, runs for ages on a 9V cell, pairs with all of my transceivers, and it has a very wide matching range (although, in this case, the 9:1 UNUN doesn’t need a wide range ATU). The T1 gets the job done each and every time.
As with many of my activations, I made a real-time, real-life video and didn’t edit out a thing. If I had any self-respect, I would have edited out all of my keying errors that day, because I made numerous ones. (For the record, I blame the humidity!) 🙂
Joking aside, I’m not ashamed of my keying mistakes. We all make them. No one is a perfect CW operator and, trust me, the op at the other end can sympathize. If I let my sloppy fist sessions prevent me from operating, I’d never get on the air.
On The Air
I hopped on the 20 meter band in CW and wow! I made 30 contacts in 39 minutes.
Since I had cell phone service, I also decided to spot myself to the SOTA network and do a little SSB on the 17 meter band. I made four contacts in four minutes.
Of course, this was not only a summit activation, but also a park activation (K-2726), so logs were submitted to both programs.
Here’s a QSO Map of my contacts (click to enlarge):
In truth, I would have liked to hang around on the summit a bit longer and work more stations, but I needed to start my hike back to the car. I had a number of errands in the afternoon and also needed to be back in time for a live stream interview with Red Summit RF (click here to watch the archive of that show).
As I was packing up my radio gear, two young women stopped by and one asked, “Was that Morse Code we wear hearing earlier?” I confirmed this and she looked at her friend and said, “Yes, I knew it was!” I asked them if it was the first time they’d heard Morse Code “in the wild,” and they both nodded their heads. They then asked a load of questions that I was happy to answer.
One of our readers, Max (W4GZ), had asked that I contact him next time I activated Crowders Mountain State Park as it’s not too far from his QTH. I sent him a message earlier in the day and when I got back to the car, I found Max set up with his IC-705 and vertical antenna next to my parking spot.
Max had just started his own park activation.
It was great meeting you, Max!
Of course, I snapped a few photos on the summit and the trail, so here they are in no particular order:
Thank you reading this field report! I hope you have an opportunity to play a little radio in the great outdoors this week!
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