Summit Activated - W4G/HC-007, Grassy Mountain, Georgia

Perfect weather, beautiful site, intermediate-level hike. Lotsa driving on dirt roads.

Competing for bandwidth with the ARRL’s Sweepstakes contest was brutal. I briefly found an unused frequency, but I wasn’t able to hold it for long. After a few minutes, there was a contester who couldn’t hear my 5 watts. One of my contacts announced that the frequency IS in use (thanks!), but I don’t think the contester heard him either.

17 meters was also pretty busy, but made a good alternate.


  • 5 QSO at 5 watts on 17 meters - 18.1385 MHz SSB
  • 5 QSO at 5 watts on 20 meters - 14.285 MHz SSB

Thank you chasers!


  • Elecraft KX3


  • Easy site for antennas.
    • Throw wires in a tree - use low trees around the clearing.
    • Tie a wire to the tower.
    • There aren’t any really tall trees.
    • Big clear area at the end of the road. Warning: You may need to pound stakes with a rock. The roadbed is dense.
  • Antennas I used:
    • 20 meters - EFHW on 31’ Jackite with EARCHI 20 meter matchbox. Guyed it in the roadbed.
    • 17 meters - W3EDP - run through the trees. Twin-lead followed by single strand of speaker wire. I used my mast poles to push it into the trees.

I’d like to further refine my antenna arsenal for better 17 meter coverage. I used a W3EDP for 17 meters, and this is suboptimal. Maybe next time I’ll carry EFHW wires for 20 and 17, and just drop and re-raise my mast in between.

I erected my Jackite in the clearing, away from my W3EDP. I wanted to experiment with both antennas. For non-experimenting use, I could have simply leaned my Jackite into a tree. (That’s what I did with the mast supporting my W3EDP.)

Cell Phone Coverage

  • Intermittent cell coverage is available at the fire tower, using my iPhone 3gs. Sometimes I got 3 bars; sometimes I got “No Signal.” I did manage to SOTA-spot via SMS. Coverage seemed best at WNW in the parking circle, facing NW. Sit. Be patient.
  • Cell towers exist in Eton, perhaps because of the large carpet mills.
  • There’s a cell tower along the brief stretch of Crandal Ellijay road you’ll drive.

Getting There - Driving

  • Reset your odometer at each turn.
  • Note: Another valid route, about as good is and it has lots in common with routes to some other hills I’ve done. (“Familiar” is good.)
  • Driving north on 411 from McDonald’s in Chattsworth, GA. ** Total drive time from here to trailhead parking is about 60 minutes. You can do it in 5 minutes less if you drive too fast on dirt roads. It will take much longer if you get behind a drives-slow-on-dirt-roads driver.
  • 5.9 miles, turn right on Grassy St (just past the Eton Post Office).
  • 0.4 miles, turn right on Crandall Ellijay Rd
  • 300 ft, turn left on Mill Creek Rd.
    • Google Maps makes it look like there are two Mill Creek Roads (as of November 2012). There aren’t. The first one on Google is the real one.
    • Mill Creek Rd turns to dirt after a few tenths of a mile. As of November 2012, it is a good condition dirt road, about 1.5 lanes wide.
    • At 6.4 miles, stay left. (Right goes to a campground.)
    • Mill Creek Rd becomes known as FS-630.
  • 8.6 miles, acute right onto FS-17 at 34.89911, -84.64720
    • Google calls it W. Cowpen Rd.
    • Google shows a T intersection (3-way). It is really a 4-way.
    • Dirt road going up-hill. About 1 lane wide. There’s a gate. It was open for me in mid-November.
  • 3.2 miles, turn right onto FS-68. (Google calls it Conasauga Lake Rd)
  • You’ll come to a T, with overflow camping to your left. Go right, toward the campground.
  • Don’t park in the campground.
  • Continue past the campground entrance a bit and take the marked right turn toward the picnic/boat-launch areas. Picnic is the preferred parking area for day use. There’s a gate. It was closed in mid-November.
  • Continue a bit and turn right, to the boat launch ramp.
  • Park in the small lot, just before the ramp. GPS coordinates: 34.86002, -84.65275
  • Walk the circum-lake trail counter-clockwise about 0.1 mile until you reach the dam. The trail description begins from the dam.

Total drive time from Perimeter Mall in Atlanta was 2:40. That’s a “best case” drive time.

Google Maps makes it look like you can drive up to the fire tower. The road is gated. Only Forest Service trucks get to drive there.

Getting There - Hiking

The trail notes begin from the dam, at Lake Conasauga. There’s a trail around the lake. You want to start your hike proceeding counter-clockwise, from mid-dam.

The hike took 1:20 going in and 47 minutes coming back. I was moving as fast as I could in both directions. (I was running late because the drive takes longer than Google estimates.)

  • At the end of the dam, turn right on trail 99.
  • Follow the trail. After a bit, it will head downhill. You’ll find yourself wondering, “How will I make it to a fire tower by traveling downhill.” It is a good trail, but in Fall, it can be a little indistinct, due to heavy leaf cover.
  • You’ll come to a T, with a huge trail map sign. (You enter the T from the base.)
  • Turn right. Almost immediately, you’ll cross a beaver dam.
  • Immediately after crossing the dam, take the trail to your left.
  • When Songbird and the Fire Tower trails split, take the right fork. It has a metal post with “99” on it.
  • When you pass a large boulder on your right, in a small valley, look right. The trail makes a 90 degree right turn here. Hikers sometimes miss this turn. When I hiked it in November 2012, the Blaze Fairy had tagged occasional trees with small, bright green, metal tags. This turn is marked, but vandals sometimes remove blazes.
  • After a long, up-hill slog, you’ll join the grassy dirt road, running up the ridge to the fire tower.
  • There’s a big clearing at the fire tower. It is a short, wide tower.

GPS Waypoints

  • Lake Conasauga Dam: 34.86156, -84.65124
  • Trailhead – FS trail 99: 34.86163, -84.65147 –Elevation: 3154
  • T with huge trail sign: 34.86377, -84.65566 –Elevation: 3119
    • Turn right.
  • Beaver Dam: 34.86408, -84.65605
  • Songbird/Tower Trail Split: 34.86362, -84.65814 – Elevation: 3184
    • Take right fork.
  • Trail turns 90 degrees right: 34.86591, -84.66333 – Elevation: 3317
    • Trail gets steep after a few hundred feet.
  • Trail joins road: 34.86708, -84.66740 – Elevation: 3614
    • Steepness ends.
  • Fire Tower clearing: 34.86185, -84.67004 – Elevation: 3692

GPX trace for the hike