Tag Archives: Scott Lithgow (KN3A)

The QRP Labs QCX-mini CW Transceiver

by Scott (KN3A)

I have been a fan of QRP operating since I got licensed in 1983. The sticker in the picture is a joke a good friend who is not into CW or QRP, so I include it in my field pictures.

My interest in ham radio had reached a point I was getting away from the hobby. In 2020, I learned about Parks on the Air (POTA) and Summits on the Air (SOTA). I got hooked on activating parks and summits, and now I mostly do QRP CW, much like Thomas Witherspoon, K4SWL does.

Over the past year, I’ve been refining my antennas and radios in the field. I have different radios and antennas for different reasons, and to just mix it up a bit. Occasionally, I will take my IC-7100 or IC-7300 out into the field with my Bioenno 20aH battery, if I’m not planning to hike or go far from the parking lot, or if the bands are just not cooperating.

Back in November 2020 I had my left knee replaced so I had lots of down time and made an important purchase for field activities – an IC-705. It is fantastic and does everything I want it to do without a lot of wires. I’ve also owned and sold within the past 18 months a Yaesu FT-891 (which I sold when I got the IC-705) and had both the Xiegu G90 and X5105.  I would expect one day to get another FT-891 as it has amazing filtering and pulls in weak CW signals better than any radio I’ve owned. The G90 and X5105 are okay, however I was not impressed with the G90 from the start for out in the field. There were just too many wires in order to set up and use with my portable laptop computer if I was taking that along.

The X5105, which I had high expectations for, disappointed me in the fact that storing and using CW memory keying is not user friendly. The nice thing about that radio is, no microphone, no problem, I had some success using the 5105 and got great audio reports.

I’ve been looking ahead to my projected retirement and hopes of through hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2026. Although the IC-705 is an excellent field radio, all mode, VHF/UHF/D-Star/HF/6 meters, I already know for a 7 month hike from Georgia to Maine, it will just be too bulky in my backpack. I have heard really good things about the QCX-mini, however I’m an appliance operator and not good with kit building and soldering.

I saw there are options to purchase an assembled QCX-mini, so I decided to check out a 40 meter radio. It took about 2-1/2 weeks before it arrived at my QTH on Saturday afternoon. I hooked it up to one of my HF antennas in my yard  used for my IC-7300 that was resonant on 40 meters. I had to use my Heil headset in order to hear the audio, plugged into the 3.5 mm jack. I used my CWMorse paddle and tuned around the band. I called CQ several times before finally I heard WA0USA in Palm Beach, FL calling CQ. I called him and got a 579 report and he was a solid 599. We chatted for about 10 minutes, and he was running a kW while I was using 5 watts. It felt good to know that I was being heard.

Sunday morning I had time to go activate a local park (K-1418) before some afternoon commitments. I had also recently purchased a link dipole for 20/30/40 meters off eBay from N9SAB. I had tested this antenna out a couple of times last week, so I wanted to pair it with the QCX-mini. I went with little expectations about the little mini, so I also packed my IC 705 just in case I needed it to complete my 10 contacts to have a successful activation. To my surprise, I spotted myself on the POTA page, and in 45 minutes I had a total of 26 QSOs in my HAMRS log! It was amazing and I think I found the perfect combination for true lightweight, portable operations.

I was so impressed with this activation that last night I ordered the 20 meter QCX-mini! These can be ordered from qrp-labs.com and they have a lot of other kits available as well. The kit itself is $55, and I opted to have it assembled ($45) and purchased the enclosure ($20).

This little radio is very user-friendly. I was able to easily access the menus, customize it to my liking, including the paddle, preset frequencies, several stored CW memories, and was on the air calling CQ Saturday evening without seeking out the instructions.

I had mentioned previously about my disappointment with the Xiegu X5105 and not being able to easily store and recall memories. Not a problem at all with this little radio. I enabled the decoder feature just to test it out, and it decodes better than the G90 or X5105, including very weak signals. The size is a fraction of the size of the X5105 and total weight for everything, including the Bioenno 12v 3aH battery is less than 2 pounds and it all stores very nice.

These quick videos were taken this evening before storms hit; that’s why you will hear lawnmowers in the background. I wanted to first show a demo of the receive decoder and how well it decodes even weaker signals:

My biggest complaint about the X5105 was how the memory was next to impossible to use. I do a quick demo how to access a stored message and send it over the air. I also have it set to repeat every 6 seconds:

I did make a couple of changes to the radio setup. I did not like having to use the headset, so I went on Amazon and purchased a mini portable 3 watt mobile phone speaker line-in speaker with 3.5mm audio interface (affiliate link). That cost under $15 and works extremely well. It has a built in charger that plugs into a micro-USB to charge the battery when not in use. I also have a cell phone holder that fits perfectly on my Neewer stand I purchased several months ago for my IC 705, and it sits nice and firm on the table. I may not take that to the field if I’m doing a lot of hiking.

Here are some other details about the QCX-mini from their website:

The Optional enclosure is black anodized extruded aluminium, very sturdy and elegant. The enclosure size is 95 x 63 x 25mm without protrusions. The top and side panels are drilled and cut to match the QCX-mini with laser-etched lettering. The enclosure includes four self-adhesive feet.

Special portable-friendly features:

  • Small size: 95 x 63 x 25mm enclosure (plus protusions)
  • Low current consumption (for example 58mA receive current, with 12V supply and display backlight off)
  • Low weight, 202 grams
  • Sturdy extruded aluminium enclousre
  • All-metal BNC short connector, bolted to enclosure

List of features: 

  • Easy to build, two-board design, board with main circuit and connectors, display panel board with LCD; all-controls board-mounted on a press-out sub-board. No wiring, all controls and connectors are board-mounted
  • Professional quality double-sided, through-hole plated, silk-screen printed PCBs
  • Choice of single band, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20 or 17m
  • Approximately 3-5W CW output (depending on supply voltage)
  • 7-14V recommended supply voltage
  • Class E power amplifier, transistors run cool…
  • 7-element Low Pass Filter ensures regulatory compliance
  • CW envelope shaping to remove key clicks
  • High performance receiver with at least 50dB of unwanted sideband cancellation
  • 200Hz CW filter with no ringing
  • Si5351A Synthesized VFO with rotary encoder tuning
  • 16 x 2 yellow/green LCD screen
  • Iambic keyer or straight key option included in the firmware
  • Simple Digital Signal Processing assisted CW decoder, displayed real-time on-screen
  • On-screen S-meter
  • On-screen real time clock (not battery backed up)
  • Full or semi QSK operation using fast solid-state transmit/receive switching
  • Frequency presets, VFO A/B Split operation, RIT, configurable CW Offset
  • Configurable sidetone frequency and volume
  • Connectors: 2.1mm power barrel connector, 3.5mm keyer jack, 3.5mm stereo earphone jack, 3.5mm stereo jack for PTT, 3.5mm stereo jack for CAT control,  BNC RF output
  • Built-in test signal generator and alignment tools to complete simple set-up adjustments
  • Built-in test equipment: voltmeter, RF power meter, frequency counter, signal generator
  • Beacon mode, supporting automatic CW, FSKCW or WSPR operation
  • GPS interface for reference frequency calibration and time-keeping (for WSPR beacon)
  • CAT control interface
  • Optional 50W PA kit
  • Optional aluminium extruded cut/drilled/laser-etched black anodized enclosure

Just a quick note on the link dipole. It is well made and I had a 1:1 SWR on the CW part of the band, which is perfect. I did put the IC 705 to work when I attempted to work a couple of SSB stations on POTA, and at 7.235 the SWR was only about 1.3:1, so minimal loss. Check out the N9SAB antennas on his eBay site. His shipping is very quick. I took a picture of the balun with the included choke in the package I purchased, and the second picture is the link between the 20 and 40 meters. It works great.

I mentioned my goal about hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2026. I’m sure there will be other multi band mini size radios available by then and I’m hopeful QCX will have one in 5 years for me to use. My goal is to activate summits along the way while taking breaks from the hiking, or at night before calling it an evening. Since I’ll be on the A.T. I’ll also have lots of opportunity to activate POTA as well. Most thru hikers are not hams and they are always concerned about no cell phone coverage. I won’t have that issue and I’m confident I’ll be able to be in touch with other hams throughout the journey.

Thank you once again Tom for allowing me to post on QRPer. I think I finally have a QRP radio that you have not tested or purchased yet. I hope your readers find this short article useful.

73

Scott – KN3A


Scott Lithgow (KN3A) is a regular contributor on QRPer.com. Click here to check out his previous posts.

DAY4: A SOTA Adventure To Remember (Conclusion)

I hope the first two parts of my SOTA journey with Mark, NK8Q, has been interesting reading. It is really tough to put into words what the trip meant to me. Back in November I had my left knee replaced, and was preparing myself to possibly not be able to enjoy the luxury of being able to walk, run, hike and backpack. I never would have dreamed by the time this SOTA journey started that I already would have walked a half marathon on the new knee, nor be able to hike up summits. I have been truly blessed to be able to continue to do the things I enjoy. SOTA and POTA over the past year has renewed my interest in the hobby.

After we left Stony Man Mountain, we headed to the campground we were staying at along Skyline Drive. We lucked out earlier in the day by randomly arriving around 11:45 a.m. at the campground and even though the sign said it was full, the park ranger said to wait 15 minutes because there could be some checkouts right at the cutoff. We waited it out and at noon the ranger confirmed we had a campsite! Perfect…after 2 days of staying in motels, I finally got to camp in my new tent.

Once settled in, I thought it would be a good evening to set up my antenna and operate a little “late shift” on POTA – Shenandoah National Park (K-0064). I was just a bit too far off the A.T. to make it a “twofer”.  This yielded 16 QSOs and then called it  a night.

The next morning was also the last day of our SOTA trip. I woke up after a pretty restless night due to the fact my old body cannot tolerate being so low to the ground. I believe the last time I slept in an actual tent was in 1981 in boot camp at Parris Island. I am now a hammock camper and it sure feels much better on the back. So, back to the story. After breakfast we packed up and drove to the first of two SOTA summits before heading home.

The first was Pinnacle Overlook (W4V/SH-005). The climb took an unexpected wrong turn from the parking lot but quickly rectified. The hike to the summit was fairly steep, but there was beautiful flowers and rock formations and the summit was aptly named The Pinnacle. What a beautiful view of the Shenandoah National Forest.

We saw several thru hikers on our hike both up and back down the mountain after the activation. Several were interested in our ham radio operations. I found a perfect spot to operate from right along the Appalachian Trail and off to my left I could look over and see the view. I had 20 QSO’s and the bands were in decent shape.

It was time to head back down to the parking lot and continue our journey to the next stop, Hog Back Overlook (W4V/SH-007). There wasn’t much of a view once we climbed to the top of Hog Back, but met more through hikers, including one lady who was wearing a hat from Boston Marathon. Her trail name was GiGi, which is her Grandma name, which is also my wife’s Grandma name. She decided at age 65 she was going to hike the entire A.T. and had already run the Boston Marathon, so this was a bucket list item for her. I told her hiking the entire A.T. is my goal in 2026 when I’m retired and was nice to know there are hikers in our age group that are still able to accomplish these things. We gave her some trail magic, and Mark and I continued on our way to the top of the summit. There wasn’t much besides an old building which may have been a ham radio shack at one time, and some towers but not much of a view. We did a fairly quick activation and I had 12 QSO’s before packing it up. (I almost thought I heard the sound of banjos playing up there.)

We made a couple of other stops along the Skyline Drive, one was for the tunnel that was built along the route, and another stop to see the scenery from the outlook. It was time for me to start heading back to Lancaster County, which was about a 4 to 5 hour drive and Mark had two other summits he wanted to visit. What I did not expect to see at the one stop to look at the views was a lady who was sitting along the rock fence painting. I asked her if I could take a picture of her holding the picture she was painting and she gladly agreed. It took her about an hour to paint it and was finishing up when I arrived. After I left I regretted not thinking to ask her if I could have purchased the picture!

I arrived home around 5:30 pm on that Sunday evening and was completely exhausted. Mark sent me a text and told me at his next summit he was on the trail and saw GiGi again.

Thankfully, I had taken Monday off for a vacation day because I was exhausted from all the traveling Mark and I had done in 4 days. In addition to the driving, we did a lot of walking to the summits and operating. It was an experience neither of us will ever forget. We are already starting to plot our plans for next year for another adventure.

I’d like to thank Mark for putting this trip together and plotting out which Summits to do on each day and the best way to navigate to each destination. The hikers on the trail were all wonderful, and some of them asked questions about what we were doing, especially when we had our fishing poles at the summit with no trees. I used the HAMRS program for the 4 days, and other than some operator error, the program worked flawlessly. I especially would like to thank Thomas Witherspoon for allowing me to share my story on QRPer. Tom is an awesome ham and we share many of the same interests for POTA or SOTA, and we both enjoy antenna experimenting and our passion for QRP operating. Thank you again Thomas for the opportunity to share my experience, and I hope you enjoyed my SOTA experience.

73 Scott Lithgow
KN3A

A Xiegu X5105 Field Test by KN3A

I told Thomas I would do my own field test of the Xiegu X5105 doing a couple of Parks on the Air activations and what I thought of the radio.

I have had several radios I’ve used on POTA and SOTA activations over the past year and without a doubt my favorite radio for out in the field is my ICOM IC-705. It has everything I want in a portable radio, however I’m also enjoying it alongside my ICOM IC-7300 in the shack. Therefore I’ve looked at other portable radios for field use.

My latest acquisition was a used Xiegu X5105 that I purchased used on QRZ. The radio works fine and for the most part the menu system with it is very easy to understand. As Thomas has pointed out, the CW memory is absolutely insane to use. It just makes no sense to me why with the 10 memory slots that it’s really impractical to use more than the memory in Slot 1, which for me is the CQ POTA.  I would never even have known how to set it up in the first place without instructions to Tom that was shared in Tom’s post regarding the X5105.

I got the radio on June 3, played around with it in the shack to get familiar with it and programmed in the memories. I went to K-5481 (Wm. Penn State Forest), which has several parts scattered around eastern Pennsylvania. It has a very small 10 acre tract in the Cornwall mountains between Lancaster and Lebanon County, which is also at a SOTA summit. I used my Sotabeams EMCOMM III antenna and turned on the radio to start calling CQ POTA. For the life of me I could not get the CQ message to send, so I gave up on that and used my CW Morse paddle and did it the old fashioned way. I also spotted myself on the cluster and made 3 QSO’s on 40 meters fairly quickly. I had success on 30 and 17 meters as well. In total, there were 10 QSO’s made in about 45 minutes.

Other than my disappointment not being able to easily send the CQ from memory, overall I was pleased with the activation. When I got home I investigated again how to send CW. I also learned how to use the DSP to make it more narrow on CW, which I was thankful for. I then started to see if I could go hands free using my Heil headset that I was able to use when I had the G90. Unfortunately that did not work at all using the AD-1-iCM adapter as it would not transmit with the foot pedal. I did use the Heil headset in the side jack and put the radio in headset mode. I was disappointed to find that I had to increase the volume up the whole way to be able to hear CW loud enough for my old ears. When I unplugged the headset suddenly the radio RX was very loud. (If anyone can offer a solution, please let me know).

Today I took it to my local POTA park near my house, K-1418 (Samuel Lewis State Park). I used the same Sotabeams antenna and was on the air in no time. Band conditions were not so good and I ended up with 18 QSO in just over an hour. It was nice having the CQ function working, however I am used to the interval where it would automatically send every 7 seconds like the IC 705 does. Not a big deal, I just had to press the PTT button on the top.

I never tried using the radio on SSB before so I called unsuccessfully on 20 meters and went to 40 where KM4JEG called me and gave me a 55. Sadly, I had to take my headset off because when I keyed the mic I was hearing my distorted voice through the headset. So, headset was removed. I didn’t expect that was going to happen, so now on SSB, I’m not able to use the headset, at least on TX.

The Good:

I really like the internal battery in the radio. I did not have to bring the Bioenno 12v 3aH battery along. The internal battery works great!

It is very portable. I watched a YouTube video, and unfortunately I cannot find who it was, but they had an Osprey UltraLight Roll Organizer which I purchased on Amazon. This is perfect for storing the X5105 and the few accessories it needs, in my car so I’m always going to have a portable radio available when I travel.

The ATU is great on the radio. I can tune all the bands I want to work with the Sotabeams antenna. This also saves having an extra wire and external ATU like I would have to use on the IC 705 with this type of antenna.

The radio is nice and portable and will store nice in my car when not in use and will be ready to go.

The Bad:

The CW presets are almost worthless and not easy to get to. Once I found how to send from the memories, it only really makes sense to use one of the memory slots. I wouldn’t easily be able to switch to a 73 menu shortcut, then go back to the CQ memory.

With the headset plugged in, when I was transmitting CW, I could hear some distortion while it was sending, however it was not too bad, but something I’m not used to hearing.

The Ugly:

The headset for SSB could not be used at all due to the distorted noise it made. Also, the volume for the headset and the volume through the radio are night and day. As I mentioned before, when I unhooked the headset and the audio came out of the radio again, I had to quickly adjust the volume down.

My Opinion:

Overall, my opinion of the radio is this: For the price and the features it has, I would say it’s a good field radio, as it is easy to store in the car, it has the built in ATU if being used on a random wire antenna, and for 5 watts, people had no problems hearing me, even with poor band conditions and QSB. I hope this radio grows on me, and in the back of my mind don’t find myself thinking during the activation, gee I miss my IC-705 out here.

I know comparing the X5105 to the IC-705 is like comparing apples to oranges. Each radio has it’s good and bad. For the price difference, the Xiegu definitely is worth the price. I would never use it as a first HF radio in the hamshack if I were a new ham. This radio is also not going to be used by me on digital modes. If I want to do digital or work a contest while doing a POTA, then there is no doubt the 705 is coming along for the activation. The Xiegu will be used by me when I want to use a random wire antenna since it has the built in ATU, along with the fact it will be light in the backpack if I am hiking to a summit, and the IC 705 will be used with one of my end-fed half wave antennas or the Hustler vertical array so I don’t need the mAT-705 which I’ll use in the hamshack. I’m trying my best to get away from wires all over the place when I  activate, so the laptop computer is staying home. I really like the HAMRS logging program, which I highly recommend, on my Android Samsung S-20.

If anyone who reads this who has some insight into some of the issues I mention, please reply so I have a better understanding of this radio.

73!
Scott KN3A

Scott Lithgow (KN3A) is a contributor on QRPer.com. Click here to check out his previous posts.

Days 2 – 3: A SOTA Adventure To Remember (Part 2)

I would like to thank everyone for their positive and kind comments from my first part of the SOTA adventure with NK8Q. I have a slight correction to make, Cole Mountain was the first summit we did on Day 2. As you can see below in the pictures, there were no trees to hang our EFHW antennas, so we brought along our fishing poles. This generated a lot of interest from the A.T. thru hikers asking what we were doing. On particular hiker told us he’s seen others doing SOTA at summits throughout his journey from Georgia until that day. This was a fairly steep climb to get to, but the scenery was fantastic and well worth the walk. We offered trail magic to several of the hikers and we had very good conversation with them all.

Heading back down from the summit are a couple of other views we saw. There were some trees outside of the activation zone.

We packed up and started heading down the mountain to the parking lot around noon with the next destination Rocky Mountain (W4V/BR-001).

We drove almost 3 hours to get to this drive-up summit. The “S” turns and elevation changes were worth it though as there was so many spectacular views of the mountains. The last 4 or 5 miles was up a very steep gravel road that had me white knuckling until we got to the top. This was a site with several towers for different things and not a lot of view. I was able to get 10 QSO’s at the summit. I recall it was getting very warm that afternoon and I was not looking forward to the drive back down the mountain on the access road. I figured out how to do the manual shifting in my Tucson and Mark followed me down the hill. It was a non-issue and then we had a long drive to where we thought we would be able to camp on Skyline Drive.

I got my 4 SOTA QSO’s, time to relax.

When we finally got back onto paved roads and eventually into cell phone coverage briefly; we were hoping to find a place to get ice for the coolers and maybe a place to eat. Well, we found a gas station in the middle of nowhere with ice and a little store and they happened to be selling their own fried chicken and fries. When we got to the south end of Skyline Drive entrance, the sign showed all of the campgrounds were full. Since it was already getting dark, we made the decision to get on I-81 and head north and found a Super 8 Motel in Newmarket, VA for the night with the plan to get back to Skyline Drive at the Thornton Gap entrance. We got up early and looked for a gas station and a place to eat. Conveniently, Dunkin Donuts has a gas station as well (we didn’t realize that until after we got gas) but had a good breakfast sandwich each and I got a large coffee. I believe Mark is only the second person I’ve ever known who does not drink coffee. I believe my large cup was consumed before we got to Skyline Drive that morning, which I believe was about 18 miles.

First Summit of the day was Hazeltop Mountain (W4V/SH-004), which was south on Skyline Drive. The scenic outlooks were beautiful on the way to the summit.

Once we reached the summit, there was not much to see. I set up a few yards off the A.T. and made 15 contacts. The band conditions were pretty decent. This was my set up at this location.

Next stop – Hawksbill Mountain (W4V/SH-001).  It was just after 12 noon when we got to the parking area, and there was a good mile or so of steep uphill climbing. The reward at the top was worth the climb! I got another 20 QSO’s in the logbook at this summit.

This dial pointed to the many summits within view of Upper Hawksbill.

Final summit for the day was Stony Man Mountain (W4V/SH-002). This was another steep climb, but the reward was also a beautiful view.  I made 8 QSO’s and Mark and I shared the antenna and radio due to the limited space and all the people walking around at the summit.

I will continue with Part 3 of our journey to the Summits in Virginia in the next post. I hope I have half the writing skills that Tom Witherspoon has and that I was able to hold your interest in the SOTA journey that Mark and I did. I will wrap up the story with a Part 3. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Scott Lithgow
KN3A

Scott Lithgow (KN3A) is a contributor on QRPer.com. Click here to check out his previous posts.

Day 1: A SOTA Adventure To Remember (Part 1)

First of all, thank you so much Thomas Witherspoon (K4SWL) for allowing me the space to tell my recent story from my trip to Virginia. I hope you find it interesting. I certainly do not have Tom’s writing skills so I’ll do my best.

A quick introduction. I was licensed in 1983, call KA3LUW, as a Novice mostly a CW operator. I upgraded in 1992 to Extra with the 20 WPM code. I was mostly interested in DX and around 1996 went through some life changes and became inactive for several years until about 2003 when my Dad (N3FWI – now SK) gave me his Kenwood TS 450 to sell. I put up a temporary antenna and discovered PSK31. That actually got me back into ham radio as Dad let me keep the radio. At that point I changed my Extra call from WY3X to KN3A. Over the years my interest is still chasing DX and contesting. In 2015, I was chasing the W1AW year long event for the ARRL Centennial so I could confirm as many states on as many bands and modes as possible. When 2016 started, my ham friend, Mark, K3MRK told me I should get involved with NPOTA (National Parks on the Air) which was also celebrating their 100th anniversary. I was just so burned out from ARRL the prior year that I did not get involved. My interest in the hobby also started to wane as well, as I got into fitness due to health issues.

Fast forward to 2020. Mark continued to praise the now POTA program and all the fun he was having with it. It seemed to be something I would also enjoy as I could walk, hike and exercise as well as discover portable operations. On March 14, 2020, Mark convinced me to do a POTA activation with him at the local Sam Lewis State Park (K-1418) near my QTH. It was very cold and windy but we had a successful activation and I was hooked. Since then I’ve done 75 activations from 9 unique parks in 3 states. To say I am hooked is an understatement!

I have another good friend Mark, NK8Q, who is an avid Summits on the Air activator and chaser (SOTA). Mark lives about 2.5 hours west of me, and last summer we met and activated two Summits together. The first was a drive up summit and the second one required a little bit of hiking to reach the summit. I like the idea of walking, hiking and backpacking so SOTA is also something I enjoyed doing last year.

Two years in a row K3MRK and I have tried to get to Dayton, only to have them cancel due to the pandemic. I had scheduled a week off of work and decided to keep the time off and contacted Mark – NK8Q about possibly doing a backpacking SOTA adventure.

We talked about different places we could go to activate, and ultimately we decided to do several 10 point summits along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive and along the Appalachian Trail. For me, this was going to be not only a SOTA activation, but in some instances the activation also counts for POTA.  We both left our homes early morning on May 20 and meet in Natural Bridge, VA and we would spend the next 4 days heading north, while activating different summits. We actually realized about 100 miles north of Natural Bridge that Mark and I were only about a mile apart heading south on I-81, so we took advantage of 146.52 simplex the rest of the way to our starting point and we used FM simplex driving from summit to summit.

We arrived at Natural Bridge just before 10:00 a.m. and Mark asked if I wanted to activate K-3972 (Natural Bridge National Park). Sure, why not, it would be fun to do a quick activation. We found a nice spot to set up the antenna and radio. My equipment for this journey was a Sotabeams Bandspringer Midi and my ICOM 705. I put 11 QSO’s into the log the short time we were there and was a nice warm-up for what was ahead.

After the quick POTA activation, we started heading to our first summit, which was Apple Orchard Mountain (W4V/RA-001). This was along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the views heading there were spectacular. Once at the summit we explored the area and then found our operating spots. I made 20 QSO’s and 3 S2S (summit to summit).

Second summit was Cole Mountain. The parking area was about 700 feet below the summit of 4,020 ft. Most of this climb was along a private road that goes up to several towers and they were cutting the grass. They waved as we walked up and were also very close to the Appalachian Trail (AT). Cole Mountain yielded 27 QSO’s in a very short period of time.

We hiked back to the parking lot and proceeded to our next summit of the day at Petites Gap Trailhead where we went to Highcock Knob (W4V/RA-014) where we hiked about 700 feet in just over a mile. This was a fairly rocky and difficult climb and being tired from other summits and the drive down first thing in the morning, it was nice to be the last summit of the day. The elevation at the peak is 3,073. Mark and I had some issues getting our antennas through the trees at this summit and wasted a lot of time. Once the issue was resolved, I made 8 QSO’s. Mark and I decided it was time to start heading back to the parking area and call it a day. Since we were on the Appalachian Trail, we met many thru hikers heading from Georgia to their final destinations in May. Every one of them were really nice and eager to find out what we were doing at the summits and we made sure we had “trail magic” as they call it on the A.T. We carried extra water and snacks, and they were always much appreciated by the hikers. Just before we got back to the car, we met up with a hiker from Minnesota who was hanging his bear bag in a tree and he was preparing to camp for the night. When Mark and I got back to the car I thought, here I am with a cooler full of ice cold beer, I bet this man would appreciate a beer or two. I went back and he couldn’t get to the car fast enough! If you are ever hiking on the A.T. make sure you bring some trail magic as well. In the picture below, Mark was using my rig and we were right at the summit.

We left and went looking for a place to camp for the night. There were no campsites available so we stayed in a very old motel that I was afraid was going to be full of bed bugs or something. We survived and day 2 of the SOTA adventure was ready to begin.

(Part 2 is next)

Scott Lithgow (KN3A) is a contributor on QRPer.com. Click here to check out his previous posts.