SOTA W3/WE-001: Marsh Hill

Marsh Hill is a very different kind of SOTA site than the ones I’ve been working recently in the Shenandoah Valley — it’s a ski resort. It is at the extreme western edge of my range, working from my house just north of Washington, DC, and it took about three hours to drive out there. When I got out there, I was amazed to see, in the third week of April with outside temperatures in the low 70s F (about 24 C) that there was still a little snow clinging to the slopes.

A view of the sport center parking lot, looking northward. I was up on the grassy hill to the right of center, above.

When I got to the top, it was like a ghost town – no people, no cars, no activity, nothing. So, I parked at the northern end of the parking lot and climbed a small grass hill, which put me effectively at the top of the mountain next to a pond.

My operating position; looking eastward.

The SOTA map shows the peak a bit further to the north, but as far as I could tell, it’s essentially flat up there, and the land right next to the parking lot is as good as anywhere. It being devoid of trees, though, I went with a portable loop antenna supported by a tripod.

Although the loop is down 1-2 S units relative to a dipole, it has the advantage of working multiple bands, so for a change I worked 30m in addition to my usual 40 and 20m. I did try calling on 17m, but had no replies.

I did notice a rising tone on 30m, which was quite strong, swept through my CW filter bandwidth and reoccurred a few times. I didn’t do a comprehensive search for all occurrences of this birdy, but I picked it up on 10.113, 145.1, and 445.6. I could not localize the direction of the source. I don’t know if this was something particular to the day I was there, or if this is usually present in the location. For HF operation, it didn’t matter much since I was able to just pick an unaffected frequency on each band.

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