SOTA Activation Report: W4G/HC-001 - Cowpen Mountain

Trip of 2013.03.08

  • Succeeded: Yes
  • First-activation: Yes

See my trip planning guide at


Yesterday was a very good day. I almost got my car stuck twice, the trail which some maps showed wasn’t there, I got sick and my hiking companion remained sick – but I talked with British Columbia to the northwest and with Spain and the Canary Islands to the east!

Cowpen Mountain is in the Cohutta Wilderness Area of north Georgia, on a gated dirt road. I learned this the hard way on my first attempt, so I subscribed to the Forest Service’s “Alerts For Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest” RSS feed. The feed confirmed that the gates were opened, as scheduled, on March 1. (I didn’t want to compete with the big contest on the weekend of March 2-3 so I didn’t go last weekend.) My boys had a school holiday on March 8, the weather forecast called for 0% chance of rain with a high of 50, so this looked like a perfect opportunity.

A few inches of snow remained on the ground from a mid-week snowfall. Nothing major – just enough for me to follow the footprints of another solo hiker in and out, without ever seeing him.

There’s a big trail from the trailhead to the ridge line, and some maps show a side trail from the main trail to the summit. If it’s there, it takes a better man than me to find it. The bushwhack wasn’t bad. It was a moderate grade with some briars under the trees for ‘spice.’

It shoulda been an easy hike up and an easy hike down. Coming down the mountain I got muscle aches and chills. My son, who was scheduled to come with me, had taken ill since the beginning of the week and it appears I came down with whatever-it-is on the hike down.

On the summit, I had a peculiar problem with my radio/antenna. I would dial-in 12 watts and the radio kept reducing power to 5 watts when I wasn’t looking. I’d call CQ a few times and observe SWR at 1-1 and power peaking at 10-12. A few minutes later, I’d look down and notice it was at 5 watts again. The reasons I know of for my KX3 to reduce power are high SWR or low battery voltage. I had a fresh 15V battery pack and SWR was 1-1 every time I looked.

I wonder if cell phone interference could cause this? I typically turn off my cell after I self-spot via SMS. This time I didn’t. Once in a while I did hear the cell phone’s GSM buzzing on my headphones. Perhaps this briefly altered SWR. I know it is a stretch, but I’m grasping at straws to explain the behavior. The only other explanation I’ve got is that this was my 13th summit, so my radio was bewitched. ;-)

There was something funky with cell signal too. Each time I pulled the phone out of my pocket, it showed 4 bars, but it would drop to 1 or none shortly afterward. The trick of holding the phone up high with the tips of my fingers did not recover service, but putting it back into my pocket did. I did this 4 times to confirm. The only way could get my self-spot out was to put the phone in my pocket.

There weren’t a lot of contacts, partly because it was a weekday and partly due to my antenna/radio problems, but I picked up my first contacts with British Columbia, Spain, and the Canary Islands!

Thank you chasers:

  • VE7CV
  • W0MNA (The day I don’t hear from W0MNA is the day I’ll send my radio for repair!)
  • W2MDW
  • EB2CZF
  • VE2JFM
  • EA8CER
  • KG3W
  • W4ZV
  • N4EX
  • AE4FZ
  • WH6LE

Trip of 2013.01.20

  • Succeeded: No
  • First-activation: N.A.

See my trip planning guide at: SOTA Guide - xxx/yy-000 - SummitName


  • Approach from the east: Found a seasonal gate closed on USFS-64 at 34.86457, -84.51989
  • Approach from the west: Found a seasonal gate closed on USFS-64 at 34.84140, -84.59441