The Rockingham Four: W4V/HB-002, 003, 004, & 006.

W4V/HB-002W4V/HB-003W4V/HB-004, and W4V/HB-006 are four ten-point summits in proximity to one another in the George Washington National Forest (Rockingham Co., Virginia). Time elapsed between the first activation’s QRV and the fourth’s QRT was about 24 hours, I camped overnight in the backcountry between the first and second activations.

General notes:

  • There was no cell coverage in the forest or in the sparsely populated farm country outside the forest (ATT).
  • The forest roads were of mixed quality: the road to Reddish Knob (HB-002) was paved to the top, the roads to Little Bald Knob TH were rough but traversible (HB-004), and the road to Flagpole Knob (HB-003) was even rougher but manageable until the last half mile, which I ended up taking by foot to the summit. The TH for High Knob is directly off US-33.
  • My equipment for all activations was:
    • Youkits HB-1B and
    • Linked Dipole

 

W4V/HB-002, Reddish Knob (10)

Date: 2017 08 02 (Wed.), ca 22.00Z
Difficulty: drive-on summit
Trailhead: drive-on summit
Cell (TH/Summit): -/-

Equipment: HB-1B; linked dipole
Log: 12 qso’s
Bands/modes: 20m and 40m; cw

Driving instructions: West of Harrisonburg, Virginia, enter the GW Nat’l Forest, on VA-257, at Briery Branch. In the forest, the route changes to 924. At Briery Branch Gap (N38.48180° W79.22117°), keep sharply to the left onto Forest Road 85. A spur to left after one mile puts you on the access road to the summit. At the top of the summit is a parking lot. The roads are all paved, but steep and narrow as one nears the summit.

Notes: The summit is entirely exposed. In clear weather, such as today, the views are stunning. There was a steady stream of visitors to see the sun set while I was activating. I got a lot of questions about what I was doing, and folks responded very positively.

I had set up camp before the activation about a mile further along FR-85 beyond the Reddish Knob turn-off: I wanted to know where “home” would be before I started the activation and knew I would need tree cover from threatening thunderstorms and winds (there was thunder and lightening but no rain for several hours through the night). I also wanted to make the morning be able to start that much more easily by being closer to the HB-004 TH.

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The view from Reddish Knob. The white buildings (and dish antennas) in the distance made up the NSA’s now defunct Shady Grove listening station.

W4V/HB-004, Little Bald Knob (10)

Date: 2017 08 03 (Thurs.), ca 13.00Z
Difficulty: long but not steep
TH1:  N38.45202° W79.25166°. TH2: N38.41934° W79.25007°
Hiking time (ascent only): 75 minutes.
Cell (TH/Summit): -/-

Equipment: HB-1B; linked dipole
Log: 14 qso’s
Bands: 20m and 40m; cw

Driving instructions: From Briery Branch Gap (N38.48180° W79.22117°) turn left onto FR-85. Pass by the Reddish Knob turn-off. Turn left onto FR-427, marked as the route to Little Bald Knob. There are two possible THs. A first gate on FR-427 is opened for hunting season (TH1); a second gate is always closed to motor vehicles (TH2). At the time of my August activation the gate at TH1 was closed.

FR-85 beyond the Reddish Knob turn-off changes from paved to gravel. There were potholes that required careful avoidance. Seasonal conditions would much affect the quality of this road. FR-427 is similar. Beyond TH1, FR-427 is a sometime gravel, sometime dirt road, with numerous pull offs for hunters’ vehicles. Beyond TH2 the road becomes a trail. It is only occasionally marked, but possible to follow. But there was evidence of its use by hikers, horses, and mountain bicycles.

Notes: The summit itself is covered with thick vegetation. Stringing up a center- or end-fed wire or laying radials is a challenge.

This northerly approach is nearly 4.5 miles long with 700′ of elevation gain. The descent is not much shorter than the ascent because of the constant ups and downs of the trail. There are approaches from other directions on maintained trails.

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Wildflowers on the way to W4V/HB-004: Columbine and Black-Eyed Susan

W4V/HB-003: Flagpole Knob

Date: 2017 08 03 (Thurs.), ca 16.00Z
Difficulty: drive-on summit
Cell (TH/Summit): -/-

Equipment: HB-1B; linked dipole
Log: 17 qso’s
Bands: 20m and 40m; cw

Driving instructions: From Briery Branch Gap take FR-85 to the NW (opposite direction to Reddish Knob). FR-85 north of Briery Branch Gap becomes less and less maintained the further along one travels. Potholes increase in diameter and depth, as do the puddles of water.

Notes: This was a rough drive. I was driving an SUV with 4WD but am not a confident 4WD driver. Preferring to err on the side of caution, on hitting a washed out part of the road, I stopped driving about ten minutes short of the summit and walked the rest of the way into the AZ.

 

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On the way to W4V/HB-003: this far and no farther.

 

W4V/HB-006, High Knob (10)

Date: 2017 08 03 (Thurs.), ca 18.00Z
Difficulty: easy/moderate 1.5 miles, 2000′
TH: N38.57995° W79.16893°
Hiking time (ascent only): 30 minutes.
Cell (TH/Summit): -/-

Equipment: HB-1B; linked dipole
Log: 30 qso’s
Bands: 20m and 40m; cw

Driving: There is a parking lot at the trailhead with access from US-33.

Notes: The hike is short but steep in parts (without ever requiring a scramble). It was hot and the end of the day; so the ascent felt a little longer and steeper than it was. I bumped into five hiking groups (mostly families) along the way or at the summit, and on a weekday; so weekends might be quite crowded. There was a marker at the top that was convenient to hitch my mast to, and plenty of space to spread out the doublet. The tower at the top could serve as a prop for antennas too, but you’d have to reckon with other visitors. Again, I got lots of questions about what I was doing, and plenty of friendly encouragement.

 

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The lookout tower on W4V/HB-006
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