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.

Noblet Benchmark

Noblet Benchmark coincides exactly with Apple Hill Orchards, and is an ideal stop for a cross country drive. There is a large parking lot and a store on the east side of the street, and it looks like they have all sorts of products that would make this a great site to reprovision on the drive through. Unfortunately, on the day I visited, the store closed at 5 pm, and I arrived a bit later in the evening.

Photo of the parking lot and store at Apple Hill Orchards
Apple Hill Orchards. The bench I sat on would be just to the right of the photo.

There is a bench near the road and just to the side of the parking lot entrance, and I decided to work from there. I set up the P-loop antenna and worked five contacts on 30m and 40m. I was a little surprised not to hear anything on 20m that evening, so perhaps propagation was off.

There is a large radio mast behind the store, but I experienced no radio interference. I had no T-mobile cell phone coverage driving into the area for a considerable distance. Once I got to the site, I had poor reception with slow data (mostly edge, some 2G) about ten percent of the time, but enough to check the sotawatch site once. If you need to self-spot from this site, the SMS gateway would be a surer bet.

Ashland County Highpoint

As mentioned, it was getting late when I arrive at the orchards, and contacts did not come quickly. By the time I had driven to the vicinity of the Ashland County Highpoint, it was around 9 pm local time, and dark. The summit itself is just west route 511, which runs north-to-south through the area. I cruised along that route looking for a good point to activate, but was not keen on setting up at the side of the road.

In scoping out the area on aerial maps in advance, I had considered setting up in the cemetery located at 40.749627N, 82.315732W. I think this is still within the activation zone, but had a hard time telling from what I had to work with in terms of topo maps. I did drive up to the small, dark, unlit cemetery, and while there is no gate impeding access, there is a sign outside it that says no entry after 8 pm. I will say that it was the sign that kept me out, but the town’s name, Widowville, also may have put me off.

The view of the cemetery from the road. A metal fence runs in front of the cemetery, and there is a no trespasssing sign near the entrance. Behind the fence a few graves and some trees are visible.
Photo I found on the web, showing the cemetery in daylight.

I’m not averse to operating from a cemetery if I can do so unobtrusively, particularly in a large one with some foliage, but this was a small town cemetery, and even in daylight, setting up in this one would have looked odd and probably attracted unwanted attention. I think that if I were to be in the area again, I would just arrive earlier in the day and set up a self-supporting antenna at the side of the road along a farm property on route 511.

Up A River…

Not really related to the SOTA activation, but mentioned because it was fun, I overnighted at a hotel in Ashland and the next morning drove south about 15 miles and rented a canoe at Mohican Adventures. Their canoe livery offers pickup either 7 or 15 miles downstream. I went for the 7 mile route, which took about two hours with occasional paddling. There are campsites all along the course of the river and a road runs near the river at points, but it was still rustic and relaxing. If I pass through again (maybe to nab the Ashland County HP), I’ll try to set aside enough time for the 15 mile trip.

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