Tag Archives: SOTA

N3HXZ: SOTA and POTA in the San Juan Islands!

Many thanks to Dale (N3HXZ) who shares the following guest post:


SOTA and POTA in the San Juan Islands

by Dale Ostergaard (N3HXZ)

My wife and I like to take educational tour vacations from time to time. The outfit we mostly use is Road Scholar.

The tours are geared around education and immersion in local cultures and experiences. In addition, you meet a lot of like-minded people on the tour and make new friends.  Last summer we wanted to take a vacation to the pacific northwest. We had never been there and came across a tour through the San Juan Islands. The islands are located north of Seattle and east of Vancouver. Touring the islands is made easy on a guided tour as they arrange for all transportation between islands and on land.

Washington State has an excellent network of ferries serving the island which makes for easy connections to the islands.

After we booked the vacation I began wondering if there were SOTA and POTA opportunities on the islands. I quickly looked up sites on the SOTA Goat app and the POTA website.  Low and behold there was a treasure trove of parks and summits!

SOTA Map
POTA Map

Realizing the opportunity, I cross checked our itinerary with the parks and summits. The difficulty of course is that when you are on a guided tour, you have very little flexibility in the schedule, let alone transportation to go off on your own. After researching, I found 4 opportunities that included 3 parks and 1 summit. The parks were K-0061 San Juan National Historic Park, K-3223 Lime Kiln Point State Park, both on the island of San Juan, and K-3232 Moran State Park and summit W7W/RS-065 Mount Constitution on Orcas Island. The Summit lies inside the park so I had the opportunity to grab both with 1 activation. Continue reading N3HXZ: SOTA and POTA in the San Juan Islands!

K4RLC’s December 2022 Adventure at Stone Mountain State Park

Many thanks to Bob (K4RLC) who shares the following POTA field report from December 2022:


K4RLC’s December 2022 Adventure: Stone Mountain State Park North Carolina

by Bob (K4RLC)

As 2022 was coming to an end, I wanted one last Summits on the Air/Parks on the Air (SOTA/POTA) activation. Stone Mountain North Carolina is around 3 hours away in Northwestern North Carolina, near the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a huge state park of over 14,000 acres and some wilderness areas.

A little background about this year might be helpful.

Earlier last year, both Alanna K4AAC and I were diagnosed with COVID, which turned into long serious COVID, lasting almost 3 months of acute illness, followed by several months of recovery. We are both healthcare professionals, and were vaxed and boosted and being very cautious, so it’s somewhat of a mystery what happened. One of us does have multiple medical risk factors which may have added to the complexity.

Nevertheless, we did what a lot of Americans did last winter and spring, with buying RVs and campers, and bought a Winnebago Solis camper van.

The Solis is Winnebago’s smallest van, built on a Dodge Pro Master commercial chassis. What appealed to me is that you can be completely self-sufficient, boon-docking with it. It has a 140 Watt solar panel on the roof which charges two 100 amp hour AGM batteries.

Off the grid, this powers a small refrigerator, house LED lights, water pump,  and a ceiling fan.

The Solis also has a 20-gallon propane tank, which runs a two-burner stove and a really nice furnace for cold nights. It sleeps two comfortably with a Murphy bed. Also has a sitting area with a table for dining, which can be used as a desk or an operating position for the radio.

Since getting the Solis, we have really enjoyed making trips to the beaches and mountains of Virginia,  North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition to enjoying exciting POTA/SOTA activations, we have been replenished by nature’s beauty and feeling safe in the fresh air.

Returning to my Stone Mountain adventure, I guess not many people camp in the middle of the week in December in the mountains. Initially, I was the only person in the large campgrounds. Eventually, a couple with their dog and a trailer set up at the far end. We never had any contact. It was really eerie, especially with the pea soup fog that hung around.

The most prominent feature of Stone Mountain State Park is Stone Mountain itself.

It is known as a “Dome Monadnock,” as it is a large dome of granite/quartz still standing from the Devonian Age about 400 million years ago, while the earth around it has eroded over thousands of years. (Stone Mountain Georgia is the same geologic feature). Continue reading K4RLC’s December 2022 Adventure at Stone Mountain State Park

Deck Rail SOTA on Mount Pisgah and Improvising my Wire Antenna Deployment!

On the morning of Tuesday, June 27, 2023, a rare occasion happened in my otherwise hectic summer schedule: both a weather window and a wide activation window opened!

As the French say, “Il faut en profiter!

I always try to take advantage of any opportunities like this.

That morning, I checked in with my daughter, Geneva (K4TLI), to see if she might wish to do a SOTA activation. She was game, so I told her to grab her backpack.

My other daughter was at a one-week writer’s camp at UNC Asheville and my wife had other plans for the day, so it was also a great opportunity for some father/daughter time.

Oh, and another member of the family saw the hiking boots come out and immediately stopped what she was doing (tearing up a plush toy) to join us.

Hazel never, ever passes up a hike–! She gets more excited than anyone else in the family.

Mount Pisgah (W4C/CM-011)

We arrived at the trailhead of Mount Pisgah around 9:45 AM local.

Hazel, quite literally, bounced out of the car and towards the trailhead. She, no doubt, remembered the last time we played SOTA on Mount Pisgah.

There were much fewer hikers parked at the trailhead than I expected–then again, it was a Tuesday morning.

About thirty minutes into our hike we passed a couple who mentioned they’d spotted bears on the trail closer to the summit.

Not terribly surprising because (like my QTH) Pisgah is very much in bear territory. Since bears at this particular part of the parkway are used to human activity (and tourists feeding them), I pack bear spray. Those are the worst bears.

Black bears, in general, are fearful of humans and usually bolt the other way when they see you.  Bears used to being fed by tourists are not and are known to get aggressive. I don’t take my chances.

The hike to the summit of Pisgah is actually quite moderate. The first half of it is very relaxed with little elevation change. It’s the second half of the hike that packs it in! Continue reading Deck Rail SOTA on Mount Pisgah and Improvising my Wire Antenna Deployment!

Backcountry Drive and Beautiful Views: SOTA and POTA QRP combo on Dogback Mountain!

In the latter part of the morning on Thursday, June 15, 2023, I hopped in my car and started the drive back to my QTH after spending a couple of days helping my parents in Catawba County, NC.

I had a window of about three hours where I knew I could fit in a POTA activation or two.

I’m quite familiar with POTA landscape along this particular corridor of western North Carolina, so I starting considering my options. I could have easily hit South Mountains State Park, Lake James State Park, and/or Table Rock Fish Hatchery, but what I really wanted to do was a little SOTA (Summits On The Air).

The problem, that particular day, was that the AQI (Air Quality Index) wasn’t great–not ideal for a strenuous hike, so I quickly dismissed that idea. The skies, in fact, were a bit hazy from the forest fire smoke blowing down from northern Canada.

Then it dawned on my that I could drive to the summit of Dogback Mountain (W4C/EM-066) and perform not only a SOTA activation, but a POTA two-fer as well since the activation zone is also in Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Lands (K-6937).

In truth, I don’t do a lot of drive-up summit activations because, typically, when I want to do SOTA, I also want to hike. But drive-up summits are ideal on days like this when either weather is questionable, or the AQI is high.

The drive

If you live near western North Carolina, Dogback Mountain is a must. It’s one of the few sites I go to that I enjoy the drive as much as the activation.

As I mentioned in my previous Dogback field report, the road to the summit is a Forest Service road that has a very backcountry feel to it. It’s not maintained regularly, so you can expect washboarding, deep ruts, large exposed stones, deep potholes and wide mud holes.

This isn’t a road I’d recommend for someone driving a sedan or minivan (that said, many years ago I did take a minivan up this road–made for a dodgy drive). Your vehicle would benefit from some proper ground clearance and, ideally, all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

Frankly, I absolutely love driving this road because it’s passable most of the year, offers up amazing views, and has a number of dispersed camping spots (or POTA activation sites–!) along the way.

I drive backcountry roads routinely, so this is pure fun for me.

Dogback Mountain (W4C/EM-066)

The summit of Dogback Mountain is pretty much right on the forest service road. There are two pull-off parking areas on either side of the summit and both are well within the activation zone. In theory, you could set up your portable station along the road and do the SOTA activation there.

Note: Unlike POTA, the SOTA program does not allow mobile activations. If you activate a drive-up summit, you still need to set up a portable station that in no way uses your vehicle for support. 

I parked my car (turned on my video camera for the activation video below) then walked the very short path to the true summit. Continue reading Backcountry Drive and Beautiful Views: SOTA and POTA QRP combo on Dogback Mountain!

The Beauty and the Boring: Two SOTA Summits in Southern Germany

Kreuzschnabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
by Thomas (DM1TBE)

As you probably know, SOTA, unlike POTA, provides little to no motivation to activate a place more than once during a calendar year. However, I still activate nearby summits multiple times because I enjoy the location and the activity, even though the activations, or better the points are greyed out.

Therefore, as the calendar year progresses, the travel time to reach a SOTA mountain keeps increasing. When the travel time exceeds one hour one-way, I typically try to schedule two activations on the same day. This is what I did last weekend.

SUMMIT IPF

My first summit was called Ipf (DM/BW-131). The Ipf is a treeless free standing mountain with an elevation of 668 metres / 2,192 ft. At its peak, there is a prehistoric hill fort.

Reconstruction by Geak, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The flattened top of about 180 m / 590 ft shows evidence of settlement and fortification spanning almost a thousand years from 1200 BC – 300 BC. During its existence, the “princely seat” served as an important regional center of power and aristocratic residence with trade connections to Greece and Italy.

The oval summit plateau was once surrounded by a perimeter wall, which supported a wooden-reinforced wall about 5 m / 16ft wide. There is an information center at the foot of the mountain, where a part of the wall has been reconstructed.

On the flat eastern side, there is an additional intermediate wall trench that extends about 150 m / 490 ft from the main wall. Approximately 60 m / 197 ft to the east, a third fortified line features a wooden-reinforced stone wall. Below the summit plateau by 50-60 m / 164-197 ft, a fourth wall surrounds the south, east, and north sides, shielded by steep slopes on the west. This wall, along with a trench, extends northward to the mountain’s base, safeguarding three preserved well shafts. The ancient castle entrance led from the southeast to the elevated plateau. The old path remains the easiest route, providing scenic views of the trench system. Continue reading The Beauty and the Boring: Two SOTA Summits in Southern Germany

Guest Post: A most enjoyable weekend of SOTA and POTA in the Italian Alps!

Many thanks to Simone (IU3QEZ) who shares the following guest post:


An enjoyable  weekend

by Simone (IU3QEZ)

I’m part of a Club that promotes QRP activities in the mountains (Mountain QRP Club), in a minimalistic way – small power, small battery, small radio, simple DIY antennas and a lot of friendship.

So what’s better than a full outdoor weekend? Easy peasy, 10 friends together in the Italian alps – Monte Grappa, 1775 meters elevation.

Cars were well packed with QRP gear, tents and sleeping bags. Our place of choice was the nearby area with a mountain hut. We asked for permission to place our tents nearby so even those who are not used to sleeping in tents could participate.

Before starting radio operations we had breakfast. Local salami, cheese and, why not, a  sip of good wine.

You can see here that Riccardo (IU3GKJ) is ready and strengthened from a good breakfast! It’s radio time.

We started with the activation of I-1484 “Massiccio del Grappa”.

To avoid interfering with one another we spread out along  the radio spectrum: from HF to VHF/UHF, magic band included, each of us managed to get contacts on almost every band. Almost everybody was close to getting the 10 QSOs on 10 different bands required by POTA N1CC in just one day. Continue reading Guest Post: A most enjoyable weekend of SOTA and POTA in the Italian Alps!

Guest Post: “It Was Bound To Happen…”

Many thanks to Matt (W6CSN) who shares the following post  from his blog at W6CSN.Blog:


It Was Bound To Happen…

by Matt (W6CSN)

You’d be safe to guess that Mt. Davidson would have been my first SOTA activation seeing as it’s the closest SOTA summit to my home QTH. However, it actually took me a little while to get around to heading up W6/NC-423.

The trail begins near the corner of Dalewood and Lansdale.

Today was the day! I dropped my hiking buddy off at work at 8 AM then drove up Market Street, over Portola Drive and wound my way around Mt. Davidson, finding easy parking on Dalewood Way near Lansdale Ave.

The easy trail up Mt. Davidson.

From the trailhead near the bus stop, it a short and easy hike up to the activation zone. On this route you reach the east end of the summit, opposite the large cross, which is a well known landmark.

Except for the occasional exercise enthusiast, I had the place to myself this morning. Not wanting to lug the fiberglass mast up the hill, I deployed the Gabil Radio tripod and loading coil, using a 3 meter collapsible whip antenna. This is an easy setup and not too much of a compromise on 20 meters.

While I can do a lot of back and forth the get the loading coil set just right for a good match, I find it easier just to get the coil close enough and touch it up with a tuner for a low SWR reading.

I sent a spot via Sotamāt and started calling CQ SOTA on 14.058 using the QCX-Mini. My first call was from JG0AWE from Nagano City, Japan. This was followed quickly by several more stateside calls and I was able to gather the four QSOs needed within a span of five minutes.

QCX-Mini on 20 meters.

I continued working stations and chasing some Summit-to-Summit contacts for another half hour. It was at that point I noticed that I failed to throw the switch to the “Operate” position on the ZM-2 tuner. This whole time I had been operating in “Tune” mode with the 50 ohm absorptive bridge in circuit! It was almost like using a dummy load for an antenna!

Oops! I left the ZM-2 in the “tune” position!

Later, at home, I measured this tuner configuration with this radio using an actual 50 ohm load instead of an antenna and found that I was most likely operating with an effective power to the antenna of only 300 milliwatts!

Despite this extremely low power I was able, using CW, to complete the activation with no difficulty. This is a testament to the effectiveness of the CW mode, and not so much this operators skill.

Sutro Tower and Twin Peaks to the North.

After logging 10 contacts, I called it quits, packed up the station and headed back down for some breakfast. Next time I’ll try to remember to set the switch correctly after tuning up, but I make no promises. I’m guessing pretty much everybody that has a ZM-2 has at one point or other forgot to switch into “operate” mode, It was bound to happen.

POTA & SOTA at Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Alabama!

I had some big POTA plans for Alabama this summer.

After returning home from Hamvention, I had about three days to prepare my truck, our small travel trailer/caravan, and pack for one week of camping in Huntsville, Alabama.

We had a great excuse for hanging around Huntsville: my daughter was attending Advanced Space Academy (Space Camp) at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The drive to Huntsville is about five hours and we decided that it would fun to go camping with not a whole lot to do for a week. Proper relaxation!

I looked at the POTA map in advance and plotted out at least four or five parks I could activate without driving too far. I planned to fit in activations on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Thursday, we planned to spend the full day at the Space and Rocket Center and Friday was my daughter’s graduation.

My truck, though, had other plans!

About half way on our journey to Huntsville, my 1997 Dodge Ram 2500 started to have issues. Without going into too much detail here, there seemed to be a problem with the accelerator.

We drove to Huntsville on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, so not an ideal time to have mechanical issues. I limped to truck to Alabama and waited for a diesel shop in Huntsville to open on Tuesday morning.

In the meantime, I was able to hunt POTA and SOTA stations from our campsite which overlooked the Space Camp model rocket launching station. No kidding: we probably witnessed some 300 model rocket launches during the day that week and it was an absolute blast (pun intended).

I never got tired of seeing a full scale Saturn V model above the tree line on our evening walks!

Fortunately, the diesel shop was able to sort out the issue and fix it in one day–I was super pleased with that. However, that only left Wednesday to play POTA–we’d already plotted out a visit to Monte Sano State Park. That was fine by me because, turns out, almost the entirety of Monte Sano State Park is also within a SOTA activation zone! A SOTA/POTA two-fer! Continue reading POTA & SOTA at Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Alabama!

On Top of Germany: Activating the Highest Mountain with my KX3 and the PAC-12

by Thomas (DM1TBE)

During the past couple of months, I stumbled upon two or three documentaries about the mountain Zugspitze and the surrounding area. One day I thought, what it is that is preventing me from activating the Zugspitze (DL/WS-001) for the SOTA-program? The answer was rather short: a 3-hour drive. So, I waited for a good opportunity and accepted the challenge on a sunny and warm Saturday in June.

The Zugspitze, with an elevation of 2,962 m / 9,718 ft, is the highest peak in Germany and I think it is fair to say that it is also one of Europe’s highest mountains. Located in the Bavarian Alps near the German-Austrian border, the Zugspitze offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges and picturesque landscapes. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, attracting hikers, climbers, skiers, and snowboarders throughout the year. The Zugspitze is accessible via cogwheel train, cable car, and hiking trails. At the platforms on the summit, visitors can enjoy a range of facilities, including observation platforms, restaurants, a simple accommodation option, which specifically caters to hikers, and the international border between Austria and Germany across the platforms.

The lake in front of the mountain is called Eibsee. With its crystal-clear, but ice-cold waters, the lake is a popular destination for swimming, boating, and other water activities during the summer months.

Surrounded by majestic mountains and dense forests, like in a fairy tale, the Eibsee offers a picturesque and tranquil setting.

I started early in the morning on a nice Saturday. I must admit that a 3-hour drive for a SOTA summit might sound a bit extreme, but this is a special mountain for me, I have never been even close to such a high altitude – except in a plane. If you have ever been in the Alps, you probably remember the typical residential buildings that you see all around.

I arrived late in the morning at a parking place that is next to the cable car station.

Before going to the summit, I wanted to walk around the lake Eibsee. The hike around the lake is 7 km / 4.4 mi but took it longer than expected. The tour provides numerous opportunities to make incredible pictures.

Although I am a photographic noob and make pictures with the camera default settings, I quite like the results – all picture of this blog post are taken by me. Continue reading On Top of Germany: Activating the Highest Mountain with my KX3 and the PAC-12

Quick test of my new SOTAbeams Band Hopper III antenna at a POTA/SOTA location

by Thomas (DM1TBE)

Since I have seen the Band Hopper III antenna at the website of SOTAbeams, I have been thinking about it. Most of the time I have used end-fed half-wave (EFHW) antennas when operating portable – vertical attached to a fiberglass mast or in a sloper configuration with a tree.  Those EFHW antennas seemed to cause way less troubles than a dipole with its centerpiece and coax at the thin end of the fiberglass mast.  However, there was this “other” dipole from SOTAbeams. So I thought I could give it a try and ordered it.

Two days later -including customs procedure- the antenna arrived. The antenna is a linked dipole for the 20-, 30- and 40-meter band and weights less than 500 g / 18 oz. That includes the coax and guying material. I already had the Tactical Mini ultra, a 6 m / 19.6 ft fiberglass mast that is a perfect fit for the Band Hopper antenna.

The weather was fine, my manager at work was on vacation, so there was no reason for not leaving the home office early and go for a quick activation. I went to the SOTA location for Kaltes Feld (DM/BW-659), which is also POTA (DA-0410). I have been there a couple of times this year, but offering chaser points for both programs promised more QSOs, especially when conditions are difficult. The other advantage of this place is that you can drink cold beer if the antenna fails to work. 😉

You may, or more likely may not, remember this image from an activation report in March this year.

The place looks much more inviting now with kids playing, people enjoying barbecue and a cold beer, and operating a radio is much more pleasant.

Although I have been here a couple of times, I have never visited the ruins of Castle Granegg, just a mile away. While the SOTA activation zone is surrounded by trees, the walk to the castle satisfies with a nice viewpoint on the way. Continue reading Quick test of my new SOTAbeams Band Hopper III antenna at a POTA/SOTA location