W4C/WM-042, Whiteside Mountain

Drive Guide - Whiteside Mtn FROM Yellow Mtn Gap

  • Duration: 0:20, 6 miles
  • Google Maps URL: http://goo.gl/maps/TBNCn
  • Seasonal/Limited Access:
  • Directions:
    • Head out (east) on dirt Ponderock Dr
    • R onto paved Ponderock Dr / Ponderosa / Jodytown Dr and go 1.4
    • R on Yellow Mtn Rd and go 400’
    • R on NC-1144 / Norton Rd and go 2.0
    • R on US-64 W and go 1.4
    • L on Whiteside Mtn Rd and go 1.0
    • Bear L on Deville Dr and go 0.1
    • Parking lot - $2 parking fee
  • Food: None

Drive Guide - Whiteside Mtn FROM Cole Gap

  • Duration: 0:15, 6 miles
  • Google Maps URL: http://goo.gl/maps/azU1v
  • Seasonal/Limited Access:
  • Directions:
    • S/W on Buck Creek Rd (as you exit the trail, turn L on the road) and go 2.2
    • L on US-64 E and go 2.8
    • R on Whiteside Mtn Rd and go 1.0
    • Bear L on Deville Dr and go 0.1
    • Parking lot - $2 parking fee
  • Food: None

Drive Guide - back to Highlands NC (where you briefly get 3G cell)

  • Bear R ond Whiteside Mtn Rd out of the lot and go 1
  • L on US-64 W and go 5.5

Trail Guide

  • Duration:
    • Up via flat route: 1.2 miles, 500’ climb, 0:50 hurrying, but tired.
    • Down via flat route: 0:30 running
  • Navigation
    • Head up the stairs near the sign-board
    • At the top of the stairs, turn L
    • After about 200’, there are some stairs on the R. You can take the stairs for the steep route, or continue on the road for the shallow, longer climb. I took the road both ways.
  • Trailhead altitude: ???
  • Summit altitude: ???
  • GPS tracks/waypoints:
    • Trailhead: 35.08044,-83.14419
    • Summit: 35.0813,-83.138

Summit Guide

  • Hang antenna from tree: Yes
  • Space to guy mast: Yes
  • Cell coverage: VZN fail; AT&T fail; APRS sent but unreliable ACK
  • Unique features: Nice views.

See Also

  • http://www.hikewnc.info/besthikes/nantahala-ranger-district/whiteside-mountain
  • http://www.hikewnc.info/trails/nantahala-ranger-district/whiteside-mountain

W4C Beginner Summits

These are summits I recommend for beginners (or just when you want a low-effort activation) in North Carolina.

Beginner Summits

Getting started is sometimes the hardest part. I’m collecting lists of beginner / low-effort SOTA summits here. Whether you are a tyro or just looking for an easy activation, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re looking at a summit and wondering whether it is easy, look to see how many times it has been activated. If it has been activated more times than nearby summits with similar points, it is probably easy. If it has been activated once or twice by a crazy man, it may be only marginally do-able!

Note: My definition of a beginner summit is that it should:

  • Be reachable in most weather by a 2WD passenger sedan
  • Have a hike of a 1.5 miles or less on an apparent trail
  • Have no bushwhacking
  • Have no complicating factors on the summit.
  • Be on public land or have documented all-ham permission from the land owner.
  • Have well-documented drive/hike information.
  • Pass the ‘red face’ test – Would you send a first-timer up this hill?
  • Have some characteristic(s) which justify sending a beginner (e.g. particularly easy, something to see, all paved roads to the trailhead, VHF activity nearby, etc.)

This is a list of lists page. Click on any of the links below to find lists of beginner summits by association.

Beginner Summits Near Atlanta

I’d like to try a SOTA activation; can I start with an easy hill?   This month’s column will cover some north Georgia summits which are particularly suitable for tyro activators or for an experienced activator who is looking for a relatively easy activation.

I make it a point to identify summits with restrooms; this is important if you take your family along for the activation. (One ham’s XYL sheltered in a privy while he activated in sub-zero weather!)

  • W4G/HC-003, Stone Mountain

    Stone Mountain is near Atlanta. If you don’t want to walk up, you can ride the tram to the top. Due to terrain, it is a great location for a magnetic loop or other tripod-based antenna. There is a tree in the activation zone, if you want to throw a wire into it, and you can always bungee a mast to a fence.

    This is a very reachable trailhead. There are paved roads all the way to the trailhead. You can get there via MARTA or Uber, if you’re determined.

    There are lots of tourists on top, but with some care, you can pick a spot that is not too busy. If you can, take a partner. He/she can answer questions from gawkers while you’re on the air. Remember that you are an ambassador for SOTA, and that you will provide the first impression of SOTA to many onlookers.

    There are restrooms on the summit.

    Technicians: You should have plenty of VHF activity, given the proximity to Atlanta. Remember that you cannot make contacts via repeater for SOTA, but you can call up the repeater and ask hams to meet you on simplex for SOTA credit.

  • W4G/HC-005, Springer Mountain

    Springer Mountain is famous for being the start of the Appalachian Trail. While it would be a long walk from Amicalola Falls State Park, there is a “back route” to the summit which is about a mile. Since it is on the Appalachian Trail, the trail is well marked.

    There is a privy in the camping area, just prior to the summit.

    The road to the “back route” trailhead is dirt and some of it is bumpy. It is drivable in most weather in a passenger sedan.

  • W4G/HC-036 Pine Mountain

    This Pine Mountain is near Atlanta, with a modest hike. It is very close to I-75, so it isn’t hard to find. The trailhead is reachable via paved roads; the parking lot is gravel.

    Its chief selling point is that it is convenient to Atlanta and that the summit isn’t overrun with tourists, like Stone Mountain. There are trees in the activation zone, so that makes “wire in a tree” antennas feasible.

    Technicians: You should have plenty of VHF activity, given the proximity to Atlanta. Remember that you cannot make contacts via repeater for SOTA, but you can call up the repeater and ask hams to meet you on simplex for SOTA credit.

  • W4G/HC-043 Vineyard Mountain

    Its chief selling point is that it is convenient to Atlanta and that the summit isn’t overrun with tourists, like Stone Mountain. There are trees in the activation zone, so that makes “wire in a tree” antennas feasible.

    The trailhead is accessible via paved roads. It is in a recreation area, so there should be restrooms somewhere nearby, but I’ve never found them.

    Technicians: You should have plenty of VHF activity, given the proximity to Atlanta. Remember that you cannot make contacts via repeater for SOTA, but you can call up the repeater and ask hams to meet you on simplex for SOTA credit.

  • W4G/NG-001 Brasstown Bald

    Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia. There is a visitor center on top and an observation deck. The parking lot is reachable via paved road and there is a shuttle van from the lot to the summit.

    There are restrooms on the summit and at the parking lot.

    You could use an HT from the observation deck, but I wouldn’t recommend trying HF from the deck. Someone is bound to object to your antenna. There is a trail from the parking lot to the summit. 20 feet before this trail reaches the summit, there is a small, grassy lawn to the right (as you ascend). You can guy a mast here, or throw a wire into the trees along the side of the lawn.

    There are lots of tourists on top. If you can, take a partner. He/she can answer questions from gawkers while you’re on the air. Remember that you are an ambassador for SOTA, and that you will provide the first impression of SOTA to many onlookers.

    The shuttle and the center are run by a contractor (Cradle of Forestry). Its personnel were inquisitive when I was last there. They wanted to be sure I was amateur and not commercial, but they weren’t a problem. Please be nice to them so they’ll be nice to future hams.

  • W4G/NG-020, Wildcat Mountain

    Wildcat Mountain is one of the non-urban summits nearest to Atlanta. It is good for 8 points, and there’s a nice view near the summit. The trailhead is accessible via paved road.

    With a modest drive and a modest hike, you can activate this one and get back to Atlanta is a half-day outing. The trail is easy to follow, but parts are steep.

  • W4G/NG-022, Black Mountain

    Black Mountain is a modest drive from Dahlonega. The ’trail’ is a gravel road that’s easy to follow. There’s a fire tower on top, with a small grassy area that makes a good activation spot.

    Do NOT believe Google Maps about the location of the trailhead. Google Maps mistakes a power line for a dirt road. For the real trailhead, see my trail guide at the link for Black Mountain (above).

    There is a privy at the trailhead.

    Note that when the wind shifts, there’s a loose antenna on the tower that moves. It creaks loudly. This can be startling if you think you’re the only person on the summit and then you hear a loud creak.

    There’s a good barbecue place in Dahlonega, for your post-activation meal.

  • W4G/NG-027, Black Rock Mountain

    Black Rock Mountain (sometimes spelled Blackrock Mountain) is north of Clayton, Georgia. It is Georgia’s highest state park. The trailhead is accessible via paved roads. The trail is steep, but it is less than a mile to the activation zone.

    You can go all the way to the summit, but Tennessee Rock, shortly before the summit, is in the activation zone and it has a nicer view.

    The trail can be confusing. During peak tourist season, there is sometimes a park employee at the parking area, handing out trail maps. Take one! Also, see my trail guide at the Black Rock Mountain link (above).

    There are restrooms near the trailhead, but they’re a bit far to walk.

See you on the summits! 73 DE K4KPK / Kevin

Where can I find out more?

  • Official site: http://sotadata.org.uk/
  • Mailing list: https://groups.yahoo.com/groups/summits
  • K4KPK’s site: http://k4kpk.com/content/sota-menu
  • Email me (K4KPK). My email address is available via http://www.qrz.com/db/K4KPK.

Bio

K4KPK, Kevin Kleinfelter is Georgia’s first SOTA Mountain Goat. His first QSO was on a backpacking trip to a 5300’ summit with his 12 year-old son. He has completed more than 135 activations.

This story is Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Kleinfelter. A non-exclusive right to redistribute in electronic or printed form is granted to amateur radio clubs operating in the metro Atlanta area. All other rights reserved.

Car Washes in North Georgia

When I head out for SOTA and the trip includes dirt roads, I take my wife’s car, because it has higher ground clearance. I need a good car wash on the way home!

There are three primary arteries to north Georgia:

  • I-575
    • Canton GA - 301 Adams Jenkins Memorial Dr, Canton, GA 30115
  • GA-400
    • GA-141: Head west on GA-141 and it is on the right after a few hundred yards. It is called “Wave”, and it is next to the daycare.
  • GA-985
    • Clayton: Ingles, across from Chic-fil-a and next to BP, on East side of 441, just north of hwy 76West turn-off, has a very nice car wash at its gas station.
    • Gainesville: 3 miles off I-985 = 1238 Jesse Jewell Pkwy SW, Gainesville, GA. Exit on GA-60 North, turning L at end of ramp. Go L at Jesse Jewell Pky and “Extreme Car Wash” is on R in 0.6 miles.

SOTA Activation Recordings

When you’re getting started, it can be helpful to hear what an activation sounds like. I’ll collect some recordings on this page.

KX3 Volume Too Low

My KX3 volume is too low. When I crank up the volume to the max level, it is sometimes barely loud enough to hear. Here’s what’s been suggested (and I’m working on testing).

  • In the AGC menu adjust AGC THR (AGC threshold).
  • Tap the TUNE button.
  • Turn off NR.
  • Check RF gain. (Did that. It is at max = 0. Lower levels are negative.)
  • Turn preamp on.
  • Make sure you don’t have an antenna problem.
  • Swap between headphones and speaker. (I’ve been using headphones. The speaker will show me whether it is a problem with headphone sensitivity.)

Operating the MTR for Dummies

I have an assembled MTR 2 (Mountain Top’er from KD1JV). I’m trying to figure out how to operate it. Here are some notes. I’m going to learn just the minimal functions, get on the air with them, and add additional functions to my repertoire as I need them.

  • Turn it on:
    • Plug it in.
  • Change band:
    • Set all 3 switches to one side or the other.
    • Either power on OR tap one of the buttons.
  • Change keyer speed:
    • Hold Fn until “S” displayed.
    • Paddle-dit: Slower
    • Paddle-dah: Faster
  • Save current frequency and keyer speed as power-on speed:
    • Hold Fn until “P” displayed.
    • Push up-arrow
  • Tune up:
    • Tap/hold up-arrow
  • Tune down:
    • Tap/hold down-arrow

Things You Do Not Need

Some hams don’t partipate in SOTA out of a mistaken notion that they don’t have the necessary equipment/skill/physique. Let’s look at some things you do NOT need in order to participate in SOTA.

In order to be an activator, you do NOT need

  • 10,000’ mountains. Even Mississippi has a SOTA summit. It is a lofty 730’ at the summit. Georgia has over 130 summits, with none reaching 4800’.
  • An SUV with 4-wheel drive. Many trailheads are accessible via paved highways. Others are accessible via roads in good condition. Some do require 4WD, but one hame made it to 74 different summits in the southeast in an ‘all-terrain’ Corolla.
  • Topographic maps, bushwhacking or mountain-climbing skill. There are detailed directions on how to reach many summits. Most of those summits are accessible via clear hiking trails. Some are reached 100% via roads. A few will require a bushwhack.
  • Hiking boots. Boots are nice for some trails. However, some ‘trails’ are paved and others are a short walk on an easy trail, and sneakers are plenty good. Some of the most remote summits in Georgia have been reached in nothing more than 5 year-old jogging shoes.
  • Good physical conditioning. If you’re thinking, “I really need to get in better shape before I try activating,” consider a drive-up or a nearly drive-up summit. If you can participate in Field Day, you’ve got the stamina to activate several summits in the southeast. There are summits you can activate even if you’re in a wheelchair! (Email me if you’re in this category and you want to know how.)
  • An expensive specialty radio. If you own a solid-state rig and you can carry it and a battery across a parking lot, you’ve got the radio you need. You can activate many summits with nothing more than an HT. If you’re a CW operator, you can activate with a “Tuna Tin” or other cheap kit. Shucks - you don’t even really need to own a radio. Email an activator and ask if you can tag along on an activation and use his radio.
  • An entire day. If you’re in the Atlanta area, there are at least 3 different summits which could be activated in a morning or an afternoon. (If you’ve got a whole summer day, you could go for the full set!)
  • CW skills. There are activators who reach Mountain Goat using SSB.
  • Fast CW skills. I struggle at 13 WPM. There are guys who go out at 10 WPM. You might put off a few chasers at 5 WPM, but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t get 4 chasers at 5 WPM if you have a strong signal.
  • Great operating skill. My first QSO was a SOTA activation. I can assure you (as can the chasers) that I was inept. (Shucks, I’m barely ‘ept’ now.)
  • A fancy antenna. If you have a tuner or an ATU, just throw 29’ of wire in a tree and lay out a similar counterpoise. One of the most popular SOTA antennas is an EFHW, such as the PAR Trail-friendly.
  • A General Class license. There are successful VHF activators.

In order to be a chaser, you do NOT need

  • A beam at 60’. OK. I’ll admit that this helps. However, you can be a successful chaser with an NVIS on 40 meters. With a better antenna, you can chase activators around the world. With a lesser antenna, you just stick to activators closer to home.
  • CW (or SSB). There are activators who work strictly CW, activators who work strictly USB, and there are activators who work both. You’ll have more opportunity if you can run both. You’ll even find a few activators who can work PSK31 or RTTY. (There are some CW-only activators, because the smallest radios are CW-only.)
  • Fast CW skills. A slow chaser will struggle more than a slow activator. If the activator calls CQ at 10 WPM, everyone answers at 10 WPM. If you’re a slow-CW chaser and you tune in to a 25 WPM activation, you’re not going to be able to tell who’s who. But… Pick up the activator’s call sign from SOTAWatch, and just wait until the beeping mostly stops, and send your call sign at your speed. Most activators will respond at your speed. (Some of them have keyers that make this tough, so you might get fast characters with BIG spacing.)
  • A General Class license or an HF rig. (See activator non-needs.) If you’re chasing VHF or 10 meters, be sure and contact the activator in advance, and ask him to work your band. If you have a VHF beam 30’ AGL in north Georgia, you could be a very popular chaser. There is a shortage of chasers working VHF in this area, and there are activators who would love to carry only an HT.
  • A ham license. What??!! It’s true. There is an SWL category in SOTA for non-hams.

No excuses! You have what you need to participate in SOTA.

See you on the summits! 73 DE K4KPK / Kevin

Where can I find out more?

  • Official site: http://sotadata.org.uk/
  • Mailing list: https://groups.yahoo.com/groups/summits
  • K4KPK’s site: http://k4kpk.com/content/sota-menu
  • Email me (K4KPK). My email address is available via http://www.qrz.com/db/K4KPK.

Bio

K4KPK, Kevin Kleinfelter is Georgia’s first SOTA Mountain Goat. His first QSO was on a backpacking trip to a 5300’ summit with his 12 year-old son. He has more than 125 activations in the southeast.

This story is Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Kleinfelter. A non-exclusive right to redistribute in electronic or printed form is granted to amateur radio clubs operating in the metro Atlanta area. All other rights reserved.