This was the first of a series of summits I am hoping to activate within Shenandoah National Park, and proved to be very straightforward. The only twist was avoiding operating next to the government installation at the end of a road leading to the summit. Instead, I operated just a little to the side, but still on the summit.
When I arrived at the Front Royal entrance, I purchased a season pass for $55. This is a good deal considering that I’ll be back a few times this year. I won’t have a chance to travel much in the US over the next year, or I would have considered purchasing a pass valid at all national parks. The pass covers a carload of visitors, so if I bring other people with me, they effectively get in for free (but may have to carry my battery!)
I parked at the Dickey Hill Visitor Center, which has a large parking lot and bathrooms. Just south of the center is a large picnic area with water fountains. A path runs from the visitor center, through the picnic area, and down towards Skyline Drive. A fire road continues just to the other side of Skyline drive and almost immediately, the trail head takes off up hill on the right side.
The hike is moderately steep, but not too long. When I reached the summit, I scrambled up the rocks just short of the VORTAC site and chucked my end-fed antenna into the trees. The trees are not very tall, but were adequate for the purposes; you don’t need to bring a pole. My operating site was just a couple meters from the summit’s geodetic survey marker.
Operating conditions were excellent on 20m, and I worked stations in Sweden in Spain in addition to domestic contacts. 40m was less productive in the middle of the day. I tried 10m, but it was dead. As far as I can tell, there was no interference from the adjacent VORTAC site.