SOTA Activation: W3/PD-006 and W3/PD-007

sugarloaf I was back in the US for a few weeks and squeezed in a SOTA activation right before heading back to Mada. I had tried earlier in the week for a summit close to work, W3/CR-003, Sugarloaf Mountain, but I had to abort that attempt. It had been hot and humid all week, with constant sun. I drove out to Sugarloaf right after work, and with the long days thought I’d have time to climb, set up and operate before it got dark. However, the closer I got to the mountain, the darker the sky grew.

The moment I stepped out into the parking lot, I was hit by a tiny drop of water. More followed – a downpour. In the car, I looked at local weather radar on my cell phone, and cloud cover was patchy, lots of small storms moving west to east, right in line with my location. A couple times, it started to clear, but only briefly. I waited as long as I could, until I judged that there would not be enough light to activate the peak and of course as I drove out of the parking lot, the sun poked through. However, a bit further down the road, there was another cloud burst and with some distance between me and the mountain, I could see that more weather was headed that way, so I think it was a good decision. 

A little rain is not enough to put me off a peak, particularly a small one, but this was a peak I had worked before (that time, there had been a hail storm) and since I came from work, I was more or less dressed for the office, although I did have hiking shoes on.

That night, I did some analysis since I thought I would have some time on Sunday, July 10. I pulled up a map of NPOTA and SOTA sites in the area and tried to see if there were any intersections. The most promising location with multiple peaks was near the corner where PA, MD, and WV all meet, north and west of Gettysburg, PA.

The selling point for Snowy Mountain (W3/PD-006) and Methodist Hill (W3/PD-007) is that the two sites are a short drive from each other and the Appalachian Trail (NPOTA designator TR-01) runs through both. From maps, it wasn’t clear if there was a location that would satisfy both NPOTA and SOTA criteria, so I figured that I would take a look.

GoogleMaps did a fine job of navigating me to the peaks (although T-mobil service drops out in the area, no big surprise). I went to Snowy Mountain first, and drove to the top of Forest Road. There is a fire trail with a yellow metal gate off to the side, and I parked near it. The gate was closed so I walked around it and continued up the trail, past another similar gate, and finally came to a point where the trail bifurcated. I took the left path, which pitched upwards towards a fire tower and commercial antenna site that can be seen on aerial maps.

Unfortunately, the fire tower is off limits to the public and is behind a locked fence, but there are plenty of trees near it. The Appalachian Trail runs to the North of the tower site, and there was a path that ran NE from the commercial radio site into the woods, but the land slopes off rapidly. I was convinced that even if I bushwhacked my way to the trail, I would be out of the vertical activation zone for the SOTA site, so I returned to the fire tower area.

geoditicI set up my antenna almost immediately above the National Geodetic Survey marker at the peak and got to work with the FT-817. I believe one sunspot cluster had appeared a couple days earlier after a period with no spots, and solar flux was low, but I gave 10m a try — I heard no activity at all. Twenty meters was much better and yielded 15 contacts, 3 of them sideband. I landed three more contacts on 40m and then tried 2m and 70cm. I heard nothing on simplex, but tuning around did hear loud output from several repeaters.

After giving UHF/VHF a try, I walked back and then drove to Methodist Hill, following GPS directions. I located what I thought was the summit, but could not figure out how to pick up the trail. So, here too I decided to activate just SOTA and drove downhill to a parking area, hiked back up, and threw the antenna into some trees on the side of the road. I didn’t get the antenna as high as I would have liked, but still managed nine contacts on 20m and one on 40m, all of them CW.

I had one Summit-to-Summit contact from Snowy Mountain with KX0R, who was on W0C/FR-142, Raspberry Mountain in Colorado. Although I did not manage to activate either peak as a NPOTA site, I did have a SOTA-NPOTA contact with WD8RIF, who was operating from TR-04, which I believe is the North Country Scenic Trail. My “DX” for the outing was VE2CSM in Québec, although contacts to Arizona were further as the bird flies.

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