Last Wednesday (April 7, 2021), I managed to block out most of the day to play a little radio in the field. When I have opportunities like this, I usually take one of two approaches: either make a multi-park and/or summit run, or go further afield and activate a site or two on my bucket list.
I chose the latter.
Two of the very few sites from my 2020 Park Bucket List that I hadn’t managed to activate were Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest and Rendevous Mountain State Game Land. When I created my bucket list, both of these parks were very rare: one was an all-time new one, the other had only been activated once. In 2021, they were still rare but both had activations logged.
When two park entities are this close together, I will do my at-home research in advance and search for a spot where the boundaries of the two parks might overlap opening an opportunity for a one activation two-fer. Although there are exceptions (like Elk Knob) when a park and a game land share a common name, there’s a decent chance their boundaries overlap, possibly even in an accessible area.
Fortunately, I discovered last spring that Rendezvous Mountain did indeed have an accessible spot where both the game land and state educational forest meet. I pinpointed it on Google Maps and embedded the URL in my park bucket list spreadsheet:
I can’t overstate how important one of these lists is to an activator who loves exploring different sites. When the weather outside is horrible and activating isn’t a good option, spend your time indoors doing research for a day when you can hit the field!
Tuesday evening, I decided to finally hit this Rendezvous Mountain two-fer. Since the weather was forecast to be beautiful, I also wanted to fit in a proper hike, so I started searching for a nearby summit as well.
Turns out, there was a SOTA summit called “2543” (named after its height above sea level in feet) that was accessible from a Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest parking area. An easy four mile round-trip hike. Score!
Next, I found the 2543 summit on a topo map and compared it with the location I’d already plotted for my two-fer. Turns out, they were very close to each other–likely within 100 meters. I was able to confirm with confidence that the summit and game land could be activated at the same time. The state forest map was a little too vague to confirm its exact boundary.
Here’s the interesting part: the game land parking area I planned to use was within 50-100 meters of the SOTA summit. If I wanted to, I could easily turn this summit into a drive-up activation. But again, I wanted to hike, so I plotted a trip to the parking area of Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest.
My plan was to hike to the summit, activate it and the game land as at the same time, then hike back to the Rendezvous Mountain Educational Forest’s parking area, grab a picnic table and activate the state forest separately.
I arrived on site around 11:30 and spent a few minutes confirming that I was hitting the correct trail (as there are multiple trails in this forest).
Turns out, it couldn’t be easier to find the summit trail (should you decide to make this same activation): simply drive to the last parking area in Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest, and continue walking up the road past the metal gate. This road will take you past the visitor’s center, turn into a gravel road, then pass the fire tower road on your right.
Simply continue following the main road for two miles. There are a few branches on this road and I did take one thinking I was sticking to the main road, but quickly discovered it was a dead end and had to back-track. In general, follow the most traveled road and you’ll be fine.
The summit is fairly nondescript since it’s lower in altitude and covered in trees. Look for a short spur road, two miles in, near the game land gate (where you could park if you wanted to do a drive-up activation).
As I hiked to the site, I realized that the logging/access road is actually the boundary between the game land and the state forest. A promising sign!
When I arrived at the short spur road that ended on the summit of 2543, I was very pleased to discover that the game land/forest boundary followed the spur road and was all well within the SOTA activation zone! Brilliant!
Rendezvous Mountain State Game Land (K-6941), Educational State Forest (K-4859), and
SOTA Summit 2543 (W4C/EM-082)
The game land, state forest, and summit all met on an old road bed that was flanked by tall trees.
This meant that I could activate all three sites in one go and–since there’d be no need to activate the state forest separately–still have enough time to perhaps activate Kerr Scott Game Land later in the afternoon on my way home.
Point of clarification about park boundaries and “two-fers”
POTA is fairly clear about where park boundaries are in terms of counting a park in an activation, “The activator and all the equipment you use must be within the perimeters of the park, and on public property. […] If the park is part of a trail system or river, you need to be within 100 feet of the trail or river.”
In order to claim a two-fer, there needs to be park overlap. Technically, you can’t straddle a map line between two (non-river/trail) park sites and activate them as a two-fer because you and your equipment can’t be in both places at the same time if there’s no property overlap. In POTA, there is no buffer area around a park unless it’s a trail or river.
SOTA is specific and gives you a 25 vertical meter activation zone which forms a contour line around the true summit (not a secondary, nearly as high area). Little room for interpretation here.
For Rendezvous Mountain, I decided it was a POTA two-fer because I activated on a road that is also a marked and blazed trail used for recreation/access for both the game land and forest–and both of these areas are a part of the over-arching Rendezvous Mountain State Forest.
Had this been a boundary defined by an imaginary (surveyed) line without a common trail or road, there would have been no point of overlap, thus no two-fer.
This was actually the first time I had been in this particular situation. All of the other multiples I’d activated in the past had vast areas of geographic overlap.
Again, no one but the POTA activator actually knows the truth, and it would be incredibly rare that anyone would ever question you after your logs have been submitted. There is no POTA Police and it’s not even a contest–it’s a group activity. It’s all about following the rules to the best of your ability, exercising due diligence, and being honest with yourself.
Now where was I?
At the site, I used my new compact arborist throw line bag.
It worked even better than I had expected.
I was concerned that the line wouldn’t deploy as smoothly as the line does from my larger arborist storage cube, but it deployed perfectly!
On the air
I deployed my Vibroplex EFT-MTR end-fed antenna across the road bed and connected it to my Elecraft KX2 with attached KXPD2 paddles.
This made for a very compact and simple setup: in situations like this, I love the compact size of the KX2 since it can easily fit on my clipboard where I also log on paper.
I also brought along my Google Pixel 3 and made a video of the entire activation (see below).
Propagation was very unstable, but I hoped that this site would be rare enough to attract SOTA, POTA, and WWFF chasers thus helping me log my needed 4 for SOTA and 10 for POTA/WWFF.
I first hopped on 20 meters CW where I quickly worked seven stations in eight minutes–from Utah and Arizona, to France, Spain and Germany. An excellent start!
I then hopped on 30 meters (using the KX2’s ATU instead of removing the SMA cap on the EFT-MTR), and worked one station in Missouri.
Next, on 40 meters CW, I logged another six stations in six minutes.
I then connected the microphone and worked a Summit-To-Summit contact on 20 meters SSB. I was very pleased to put K4AAE/P in the logs because I had difficultly working other stations on 20M SSB.
Finally, I moved to 40 meters SSB and worked a total of four stations in five minutes.
All-in-all, a total of 19 contacts logged in a total of 45 minutes on the air. Not bad for QRP on a poor propagation day!
I made one of my real-time, real life videos of the entire activation. Check it out below or via my YouTube channel:
As I hiked back to the car, I took my time and enjoyed the weather, the hike, and the solitude. Here are a few extra photos from the camera roll:
Thank you for reading this field report!
If you ever pass by North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, I highly recommend this site. It’s very rare that you find a site that is a SOTA, POTA, and WWFF entity and that can be activated by a pleasant 4 mile RT hike, or as a drive-up.
I’ll plan to hit Rendezvous Mountain again next year!
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