SOTA Activation: W3/PT-001, W3/PT-004, W3/WE-001, W3/WE-002. But not W3/PT-006

Driving back from Indianapolis to DC, I decided to break up the travel with an overnight in Wheeling, West Virginia and then to take advantage of the second day to activate a set of summits that do not require extensive hiking. The route zig-zagged across what would have been the straight shot home, adding about 80 miles to a 300 mile trip. It allowed me to activate four summits. With a little better prep, I might have been able to activate a fifth.

In addition to the planning hiccough at PT-006, I had a paddle problem. It begins with my being a southpaw. My new travel paddles – the BaMaKey described in my previous post – are not easily rewirable for a lefty, and the HB-1B’s internal keyer doesn’t allow for this kind of reprogramming. So I had whipped together a small extension cord that reverses the wiring … which I forgot to bring along. As a result I had to paddle in reverse. Argh. I had to slow down my sending, and I know I made plenty of errors, especially at the first summit. It made me wish I’d learned to paddle with my right hand or the other-way-around with my left. Ah, well: a twist to a fun day of activating!


Summit: W3/PT-006 (Devies Mtn North) – 8 points
Date: 2016 08 02 (Tues.), ca 13.00Z
Weather: sunny, muggy, and 80s
Difficulty: not reached/not activated
Hazards: n/a
Equipment:  n/a
Log:  n/a
Bands:  n/a

The first stop was the failed stop. The summit has only been activated twice so far. Wind turbines crown it. Private property surrounds it. A paved road gives access to the turbines, as indicated on online maps. This lane, however, is gated and marked no-trespassing. Security cameras cover the lane. There is a small power company office at the entrance to the access road. Workers there would not permit me to drive or walk up along it.

Backtracking to the state highway that runs along the eastern side of the summit (Skyline Drive), I looked for trails or roads. There is what looks like a fire road. It was also gated. Having been shooed off by the power workers from the first road, I decided against following this one even by foot.

In a subsequent email exchange with a previous activator, he indicated that the fire road had not been gated shut when he was there, and that the private property postings run the length of the road on both sides but do not apply to it until a certain point within the activation zone. I don’t regret my caution. I think it’s good to be careful when it comes to property rights. At the next opportunity, however, I’ll take the fire road.


Summit: W3/PT-004 (Sugarloaf Knob East) – 8 points
Date: 2016 08 02 (Tues.), ca 14.00Z
Weather: sunny, muggy, and 80s/90s
Difficulty: Easy, 25 mins up.
Hazards: None
Equipment: HB-1B; EF-W3EDP; LDG Z-100+; telescoping pole
Log: 11 qso’s
Bands: 20m, 40m; cw

IMG_1653
On the way to Sugarloaf Knob East – The Overlook

PT-004 is not that far away from PT-006. The last stretch requires taking unpaved fire roads. There are actually two entrance points from the paved highway, whose roads converge a few hundred yards in. The longer of these is in better condition. A quarter mile in, there is a clearing and a small parking lot. One can park there and hike for 20 to 30 minutes to the summit or continue driving to a point closer to the summit. The road after this observation point is in rough condition. Less than ideal road conditions (because of weather) would necessitate 4-wheel drive; a car with a low chassis would not do well either.

IMG_1652
Warning on Sugarloaf Knob East

A sign at the observation point warns of timber rattlesnakes. I’ve seen rattlers while hiking in the Alleghenies over the years. So the warning is well placed. They are a very unaggressive snake, but hikers need to know the basics.


Summit: W3/WE-001 (Marsh Hill) – 10 points
Date: 2016 08 02 (Tues.), ca 16.00Z
Weather: sunny, muggy, and 80s/90s
Difficulty: Easy+, 10 mins up.
Hazards: None
Equipment: HB-1B; EF-W3EDP; LDG Z-100+; telescoping pole
Log: 9 qso’s
Bands: 20m, 40m; cw

Marsh Hill is part of the Wisp ski resort. There are parking lots at the bottom and top. From the bottom, one can ride the chair up. Or you can, as I did, park up top and hike to the center of the activation zone. To avoid the folks up top for the water park, I hiked a bit into the woods.


Summit: W3/PT-001 (Mt Davis) – 10 points
Date: 2016 08 02 (Tues.), ca 18.00Z
Weather: sunny, muggy, and 80s/90s
Difficulty: Easy+, 5 mins up.
Hazards: None
Equipment: HB-1B; EF-W3EDP; LDG Z-100+; telescoping pole
Log: 11 qso’s
Bands: 20m, 40m; cw

IMG_1666
Overlook on the way up to Mt Davis

Mt Davis is the highest point in Pennsylvania. It’s surrounded by state forest. There’s a fire tower at the summit, and a parking lot a five-minute walk away. There were lots of visitors – adults and children – while I was there. I enjoy fielding their questions, but the crowds necessitate extra care on our part in setting up equipment, especially the antenna, so that the crowds don’t disturb the equipment, the the equipment the crowds.

IMG_1658
Looking down from the fire tower on Mt Davis

I attached the far end of my EF-W3EDP to a point on the fire tower about 40′ up. 60′ of antenna then ran from there nearly horizontally to the tip of my telescoping pole, and then the rest of it ran down the pole to my rig. My best inverted-L of the day.


Summit: W3/WE-002 (Dans Mtn North) – 8 points
Date: 2016 08 02 (Tues.)
Weather: sunny, muggy, and 80s
Difficulty: Easy, 5 mins up.
Hazards: None
Equipment: HB-1B; EF-W3EDP; LDG Z-100+; telescoping pole
Log: 18 qso’s
Bands: 20m, 40m; cw

Dans Mtn North is about a fifteen minute detour south of I-68 around Frostburg. The route is paved all the way up. The last 60′ to the top of the ridge are via metal stairs. Technically, however, the road itself is in the activation zone.

The location is popular with hikers and other visitors. So antenna set up must be made with all due caution. The ridge is several hundred yards long, and there are radio/TV/microwave towers close to it, the fences surrounding which can be used to attached ends of antennae well away from the crowds.

IMG_1667
HB-1B with BaMaKey, LDG transmatch, EF-W3EDP (300-ohm twinlead with homebrew 4:1 balun), and sota log on Dans Mtn North.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Hi David,

    Great blog. Looks like the SOTA bug has struck!

    I am planning a trip between DC and Indiana, and while plotting my SOTA-optimized routes back and forth, I came across your blog. The cluster of SOTA sites you mention in this post looks particularly appetizing and doable.

    I am currently based overseas, but consider DC to be home. In addition to the road trip, while I’m in the US over the next few weeks, I am planning to attend field day with my home club, the Vienna Wireless Society. If you have some time on field day weekend, please consider yourself invited to drop by Burke Lake Park (just a bit south of Fairfax along Chain Bridge Road). We should have two CW stations going, and operators are always welcomed.

    Regarding operating on campus, I was an undergrad in the late 80’s and did my pediatric residency in the 90’s. I haven’t checked in recent years, but at one time, there was a yagi on top of Darnall Hall, and I believe there was a MARS station was in basement of St. Mary’s, so there is some precedent for a fixed station on campus.

    73,

    Jack
    5R8SV / AI4SV

    Like

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