VWS Field Day 2017

Photo of VWS field day site including multiple operating positions.
Antennas set up at VWS Field Day 2017: the mobile-mounted VHF station (left) and multiband hexbeam HF station (right).

Over the summer, I managed to get back to Virginia just in time for ARRL Field Day with the Vienna Wireless Society. The trip itself wore me down – I had just spent a few weeks in the US, returned to Madagacar for a week (just long enough to get back on local time), and then back to the US for Field Day. However, because my brain was still on East Africa Time, I was unusually perky for the midnight to 8 am shift on 80m.

Our best year yet

Our numbers were just compiled and reviewed at the last club meeting; a really polished analysis is available online.  This year we did much better than last year; this year’s score of 12,302 points blew past the club’s 2009 all time record of 10,958 as a class 4A station. We essentially doubled the QSO count from the prior year, with all four stations pulling hard through the night to keep up the rate.

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SOTA W3/PT-001: Mt Davis

A view downward through trees of the activation site.
View from the top of the observation tower. My daughter waits patiently below for me to finish securing the antenna support line to the tower.

My final SOTA stop on the way back to Washington, DC from Indiana was at Mount Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania. Arriving towards the end of the day, I did not take advantage of any of the hiking trails from around the mountain, but followed signs directly to the parking area. A path leads around to a metal observation tower and a path continues past the tower to a sort of rock garden with some informational plaques. Not far from the tower’s base, there are some large boulders, where I set up the radio.

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SOTA W3/PT-004: Sugerloaf Knob East

An aerial view of the route back to Washington DC from Indiana, with sites identified by markers.
Sites that looked like quick side trips along the way back to Washington, DC from Indiana.

Yes, yet another Sugarloaf. I guess sugarloafs were very popular for long time and people saw them wherever they looked. I activated this Sugarloaf on the way back to Washington, DC from Indiana. This and several other SOTA summits are clustered near the Ohiopyle State Park. I have camped and white water rafted there a couple times in the past, but due to time constraints, I didn’t have much time to hang out in the park proper on this trip.

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SOTA W8O/NE-001: Noblet Benchmark

A map with sites identified near interstates 79 and 90.
Some SOTA sites along routes between Pittsburgh and Chicago.

On the way back towards Washington, DC from Indiana, I passed again through Ohio, this time to the south of the outbound route. I had targeted two SOTA peaks near Ashland, Ohio: W8O/NE-001 (Noblet Benchmark) and W8O/NE-003 (the Ashland County High Point). I did get to both sites, but only activated the former one. Both are discussed, below.

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SOTA W8O/NE-007: Summit County HP

A map with sites identified near interstates 79 and 90.
Some SOTA sites along routes between Pittsburgh and Chicago.

West of Pittsburgh in the direction of Chicago, the SOTA summits are few and far between, and what summits there are subtle, more like slowly graded hills than mountains. However, the Summit County HP, while not a eagle’s nest view, was my favorite summit from this trip.

I felt like I knew this town before I got there from looking at aerial photos and even “driving” some of it using Google Street View. The summit area is wide and flat, so there were a lot of options about where to pitch the antenna: the actual county high point, which is marked along the main road? In the trees behind the cemetery near a commercial antenna? In the parking lot of the Sikh Temple? Or in a park.

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SOTA W3/SV-019: Emmaville Mtn North

Continuing with activations on the way out to Indiana from Washington, DC, the next stop was Emmaville Mountain North, SOTA W3/SV019. The peak is on public property that can be accessed by following Bark Road. When I exited Interstate 70, my phone’s GPS initially wanted me to take Bark Road southwards and wrap all the way around. That didn’t make sense, since going the other way was shorter, so I ignored my cell phone GPS and went up the shortest way. Continue reading “SOTA W3/SV-019: Emmaville Mtn North”

SOTA W3/WE-011: Fairview Mountain

I drove out from around the Washington, DC area to see friends in Valpariso, Indiana this summer and plotted an optimal (and optimistic) course to take me by SOTA summits on the way. There are plenty between Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, PA, but a lot fewer west of Pittsburgh. For optimal coverage, I chose slightly different outbound (Interstate 70) and return (Interstate 76) routes and looked principally at summits within 20 and ideally 10 km of my route, favoring those that would afford quick access.

The outbound route, with “green” peaks labeled.

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SOTA W2/NJ-006: Bald Hill

Google map with highlighted path to the summitThe path to the summit is less complicated than it looks. Drive along Mountain Road until you can’t drive any more, then follow the power lines. Mountain Road starts paved, but transitions to gravel and potholes after a while. I stopped driving when I saw some fairly large boulders in the road, and wasn’t sure of axle clearance. I backed off a bit, pulled the car off to the side, and walked the rest of the way.

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SOTA: W2/NJ-011: Pimple Hill

A paved driveway descends to Triple Crown Road.
Looking down the driveway from the tower.

This summit is surrounded by private homes, and I had to circle around it a couple times before I found what I was looking for: a small service road that leads between houses up to a blue water tower and neighboring outbuilding. The road and tower are obvious on aerial photos, but the road could be mistaken for a driveway from along Triple Crown Drive, as even the tower is not visible from that road.

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SOTA W3/CR-001: Piney Mountain

A yellow and brown turtle on a rock
A turtle, who was sunning himself on a rock at the edge of the woods bordering the slope.

This summit is about an hour north of the Washington, DC area (outside rush hour periods). As mentioned by other reviewers on the SOTA site and clearly visible on GoogleMaps, it is about one mountain away from Camp David, but I can’t say that this had any bearing on the activation.

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