SOTA W2/GC-077: Bear Mountain

I found myself up in New York on the occasion of QRP TTF day and asked Tom, N2YTF for some suggestions about peaks in the area that would be relatively quick activations and/or provide some cover for expected rainy weather. He gave me a great list, which I’ll be working through on subsequent visits to the area.

The most proximal was Hook Mountain, which is accessible right off route 9W just across the Hudson River from where I was staying. Tom did warn of ticks on that hike, but it looked like an easy walk. However, Bear Mountain was also tempting: a bit further to the north but essentially a drive-up peak topped by a large parking lot surrounded by trees. I decided to put Bear Mountain in the log first and figured that I’d then have more time for Hook Mountain.

As W2SE mentioned in his review of Bear Mountain, activators should check ahead of time that the road to the top, Perkins Memorial Drive, is open. I did call the park to check, but it being Saturday morning, no one was there and I went right to a voice navigation system that failed to mention status of that road — which of course I found chained off when I got there. So, this is the story of activating the peak by way of the Appalachian Trail.

Perkins Memorial Drive was closed by a gate at its intersection with Seven Lakes Drive. Specifically, it was closed to cars — a few mountain bikers had a great time on the road in the absence of cars. In principle, I could have walked up the road, but it would have been a long walk as the road wraps completely around the mountain on its way to the top. Instead, I drove just a bit beyond the branch point along Seven Lakes Drive and came to a parking lot on the left (south) side at 41.304118N, 74.015977W.

The parking lot is seen just a bit west on 4 WD Road. The road is well paved to the parking lot, so does not require an off road vehicle.

The AT crosses Seven Lakes Drive a few meters to the SE of the parking lot.

The parking lot, looking southward.

The initial portion of the trail wanders back and forth a little as it gains height above the parking lot and then turns northward, with some ups and downs.

The AT across the road from the parking lot, looking northward.

Eventually, the trail crosses Perkins Memorial Drive. On the other side of the Drive, the trail is paved and runs in a hairpin around the mountain.

Highlighted path up the AT from parking lot to summit.

At the bend, a series of stone stairs lead upward; this is the steepest part of the path.

Stairs (left) at the bend.

The trail wraps around the mountain a bit to a bald spot on which sits a wooden bench. On a clear day, it must have a great view, but it was drizzling and foggy when I got there, so there wasn’t much to see. Of note, the trail branches here and I turned from the white-blazed AT to the blue-blazed route to the summit.

Note the intersection of white and blue trail here.
Dedication on the bench.

The blue trail terminates at the edge of the parking lot on top of the mountain and I found myself looking at the Tower.

Weather was worse up there, with fairly steady rain and visibility was on the order of 30 meters, so I did not explore around up there extensively, but checked that I was in the activation zone by altitude and threw a rope into one of the trees at the edge of the parking lot and hauled up my 40/20/10 end-fed antenna.

After hunkering down behind a boulder at the edge of the parking lot for some cover against the wind and rain, I set up my radio inside its carry bag and started calling CQ on 20m. HF conditions were excellent on that band, and I worked stations from the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and England as well as all over the USA, for a total of 18 contacts, plus five summit-to-summit QSOs on that band. I worked another five stations on 40m, but that band was relatively quiet.

I attempted calling CQ on 28.060 and I saw that the call was picked up by the reverse beacon network, but I had no replies, so I reeled in the end-fed antenna and hauled up a roll-up wire j-pole antenna.

When I called on 70cm, I got an almost immediate reply from N2YTF, who worked me with an HT from his living room in Tarrytown, NY. Sticking the antenna out the window improved things greatly, however.

I then called on 2m and worked Tony, WV2C, from Long Island, 65 km away based on grids. Tom very helpfully informed me that my audio was low and indeed, my mic gain was inexplicably turned almost all the way down. I hadn’t used the radio on FM for a long time, so I had no idea. Fixing the gain greatly improved my signal and we were able to carry on our QSO at full quieting.

Having fixed this problem, I went back to 70cm, where I worked Malcolm, NM9J in Cortland Manor, NY. He mentioned to me that his radio club had intended to activate Bear Mountain for QRP TTF day (as they had in the past for FD), but called the event due to weather.

Some company along the trail.

The rain let up with the last QSO, and the walk down the mountain was not surprisingly much easier than the way up.

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