SOTA: Some New Jersey Summits

 

Screen capture from Google Maps with a pin marking each SOTA site. Routes between these sites are highlighted.
Google Map of all the SOTA sites in New Jersey and one possible route between them.

Every year, I spend a lot of time driving through New Jersey, but this year I thought I would stop there (being originally from New York, this takes some willpower).

As usual, I spent a while mapping out the sites before the trip. For the sake of efficiency, I divided them into three categories based on my expectation of easy access.

Best laid plans

My plan was to string as many SOTA sites as I could together in each pass on the way back and forth between Washington, DC and New York. As often happens, I had to modify the plan substantially as the weekend unwound — due to changes in travel plans, I had to abort one day of activation. In the end, I activated two peaks: W2/NJ-001, New Jersey Highpoint, and W2/NJ-003, Kittatinny Mountain. In this post, I’ll talk about these peaks, as well as the others that remain on my to-do list.

SOTA W2/NJ-001: NJ Highpoint

The obelisk at Highpoint. I think this one is an okay exception to taking vertical photos with a cell phone.

Like all the SOTA peaks in New Jersey, this is a one point peak, but it is definitively, the highest point in the state. A stone obelisk marks the top of the hill, and there are paved paths and natural trails around the obelisk. A large parking lot is located not far away, so this is essentially a drive-up peak.

Walking around the obelisk, it was tempting to use one of the flagpoles around the structure to haul up my end-fed antenna; however, I thought there were too many people around for that to be a viable approach. All of the trees around the obelisk grow up from the hillside, so their tops are not much above ground level at the obelisk. On a weekend day, there were a lot of visitors milling around the obelisk, most of them taking selfies, so I was not keen to set up right there.  Also, I would have needed some kind of self-supporting antenna, like a buddy pole or loop, but did not have one along.

Instead, I went to the other end of the parking lot and looked for a  nice place along the path to chuck the end-fed antenna into the trees, aiming to hang it parallel to the ridge, north-south, to try to get westward afternoon propagation. A few pine trees rise above the others, and I managed to find a spot just off the path. The CQ WPX CW contest was in full swing, so I had to flee the usual 20m QRP frequency. I didn’t hear any RTTY going on, so I picked a frequency a bit above 14.080 Mhz, which seemed to work. I had set a pre-activation alert, and the RBN hole picked me up immediately. On 40m, at least at that time of day, the contest was not as much an issue, and I was able to find a reasonably quiet area around 7.040 Mhz. Most of the contacts were to CO, AZ, and NM including two S2S: one with NS7P on w7o/CC-011, and the other with WW7D on w7w/KG-123. Their signal levels were quiet, but very readable.

SOTA W2/NJ-003: Kittatinny Mt.

I knew from previous post reports and online maps, that  the Adirondack Trail runs just north of the Crater Lake and passes near the summit of Kittatinny Mountain. There is a parking lot right next to the Lake, and from there, side trails lead up to the main Adirondack Trail.

A map of Crater Lake and surrounding roads and trails.
A helpful map in the parking lot at Crater Lake.

However, I noticed a closed access road next to the parking lot, which turned out to be a more direct approach to the summit. The start of the road is blocked by a metal gate, but this poses no problem for hikers.

The gate consists of a low metal pole across a gravel road.
The gate found near end of the parking lot near the Lake. The path leads north from here.

The dirt and gravel road dips and rises a couple times and then turns to the right, eastward. At that point, it runs parallel to the Adirondack Trail. When I got near the peak, it became apparent that this road much have been built to afford access to a hilltop antenna facility.

A commercial antenna installation with microwave dishes mounted on a tall mast. There is a small structure at the base of the antenna.
This antenna is at the peak. For most of the hike, I had no cell phone access on the T-mobile network, but I had a few bars near the antenna. I think it was more a matter of being at the top of the hill.

Just before reaching that facility, a side path leads north, and just a few steps along that path, there is a clearing to the left. Unfortunately, power lines parallel the access road, so this clearing is not too far from them. I chose to throw my end-fed antenna into trees to the north, at right angles to the power lines.

There is some background noise on both HF and VHF here, but not strong enough to really interfere with CW signals. I worked another nine contacts here, balanced between 20m and 40m.

Other W2/NJ Association Peaks

As for the other SOTA peaks in NJ, here are my thoughts based on mapping and reports. I am hoping to whittle away at them on future visits.

W2/NJ-002: Hamburg Mt Highpoint

Accessible, but will take some time. This one probably requires an about 800m bushwack in from Upper Sand Pond Rd. It does not look like there is a trail near the peak. It might also be possible to walk in from the east. Either way, the site appears to be in a wilderness area, so probably not a major problem with private property. This one goes on the to-do list for a day when I have time to take a look at approaches from multiple directions. I would probably do the “lower hanging fruit” peaks first, though.

W2/NJ-004: Pochuck Mountain

Not accessible. I have concerns that this will require ingress through private property. The logical way in would be to go as far south on Jenny Lane as possible, but the end of the land looks like a turnabout for the last house on the street. Not on my to-do list.

W2/NJ-005: Scott Mountain

Not easily accessible. SOTA mapping marks this peak at the corner of a bit of woods next to a farm field. On the woods side, access would mean parking on a private residential street and probably crossing private property. I’m a little more inclined to enter from the farm side, as I would in countries with more permissive Everyman laws, but here I would still seek permission of the farm owner to traverse the field. I’m in no hurry to do this one.

W2/NJ-006: Bald Mountain

Relatively easy access. There is a commercial tower near the peak and an access road that runs towards it. It looks like this would be a one kilometer hike in from Mountain Road, which itself might be a fairly rough road, so probably best in good weather and with a high-clearance vehicle. This goes on the conditions-permitting to-do list.

W2/NJ-007: Mount Mohepinoke

Not accessible. This site has been activated once by Chris, KQ2RP, in his effort to activate every SOTA site in New Jersey. I chatted with him by email during the planning phase for this trip, and he told me that the site is on private property behind a house. He lucked out the day he went and ran into the owner, and was able to obtain permission, but it sounded like the homeowner was nervous, and now that the peak is in the log, I would suggest leaving this one off the list, so as to not make the property owner uncomfortable. Not on my to-do list.

W2/NJ-008: High Mountain

Accessible, short walk to peak. What it lacks in naming creativity, it makes up in vista: the peak overlooks New York City. There are trails through this area, and plenty of parking opportunities. I would propose to park on Reservoir Drive near the intersection with Navajo Trail and take that trail south, then follow the easternmost trail along the river southwards. From the start of the trail, I measure 1.4 km to the peak, so not too far. This one goes on the to-do list.

W2/NJ-009: Palisades HP

Accessible, maybe too accessible. Other activators have claimed that this peak can be activated consistent with the NJ association rules from multiple locations including the parking lot of State Line Lookout in Cloister, Jersey. Looking at the aerial photo, it looks to me like the parking lot of the Alpine Restaurant Parking Lot is closer to the real site (385 US Route 9W, Alpine, NJ 07620). There are some trees in both locations, but a self-supporting antenna is probably a better bet: quick setup and teardown may be a better idea in a potentially busy parking area. The efficiency tradeoffs for these antennas could be balanced by the high density of hams within the NVIS footprint on 40m. Also, with a clear shot across the Hudson River, VHF/UHF could also yield a considerable number of contacts. I have some difficulty getting excited about such an urban activation, and I also have concerns about the need to walk in and out again to satisfy the SOTA rules. On the other hand, it’s on the way if I am heading to New York. Probably on the to-do list.

W2/NJ-010: Cushetunk Mountain

Accessible, requires a hike, requires entry fee, seasonally. In contrast to the Palisades HP, this one seems like a more typical SOTA peak. There are multiple activation reports on the SOTA website. The peak is located in the Round Valley Recreation Area, which is open year round, but charges admission during the summer. The hike to summit is about 11 km round trip, with a rise of 200m. This looks like an easy walk with nice scenery, and will go on the to-do list when I have a couple hours to devote to an activation. If I can do it before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, so much the better to avoid the higher out-of-state entry charge.

W2/NJ-011: Pimple Hills

Probably easily accessible. This one is in a residential area, but on the aerial photo, it looks like there is a water tower towards the top of the hill, and an access road that runs to the tower. The actual peak is a bit to the west of the tower, but anywhere in that area is probably within tolerance in terms of elevation. This is on the to-do list as an easy site.

W2/NJ-012: Stonetown Mt

Requires a hike in, but doable. This peak is also known as  Windbeam Mountain. It should be possible to pick up a trail from the end of Windbeam Lane to the north. That trail continues east, and then branches south to climb relatively steep north slope of mountain, up about 500 ft. A peakbagger topo-map is available online. This one goes on the to-do list.

So, for me, there are still a few easy peaks, and I can probably string them together to activate next time I pass through. A few others will require more time, so it is likely that I would need to set a time aside to activate one or two of them in a day.

 

 

 

 

 

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