SOTA Activation Report: W4G/NG-001, Brasstown Bald

Trip of 2013.03.30

  • Succeeded: Yes
  • First-activation: No

See my trip planning guide at: SOTA Guide: W4G/NG-001, Brasstown Bald


I set off for Brasstown Bald with my 9 year-old son. I’d been looking for an easy summit to bring him along for his first SOTA experience, and Brasstown Bald has a paved trail from the parking lot to the summit. (He’s a talker – not a hiker.)

We scouted access to the Poplar Stump Gap Rd trailhead for Horsetrough Mountain along the way. There are some significant challenges to reaching that trailhead. That trip will be near the limit of what I can accomplish in a single day, so we took advantage of today’s easy trip to discover some closed gates.

Once we reached the parking lot for Brasstown Bald, we learned that they’re now charging $5 per adult admission and shuttle fee, even if you’re walking up to the summit! We walked up. (What is it about a child which compels him to sit on every bench along a trail?)

I set up near the building, on the highest ground I could find. I managed to self-spot via SMS by running around to the observation deck, and then running back to my rig to call CQ.

I was operating on 17 meters due to the CQ WPX contest. I heard from 3 SOTA chasers pretty quickly, then nothing. So I moved to another free spot on the band, thinking that maybe there was someone else on ‘my’ frequency who I couldn’t hear.

After another sprint, spot, sprint, I got back to my rig to hear S9+ noise. Something in the museum cranked musta started up. Maybe someone turned on a bad fluorescent light. The noise didn’t go away, so we relocated to a small clearing near the end of the trail to the summit.

I spotted again (complete with a sprint back to the observation deck), and called and called, but no joy. I suspect that the clearing, on a slope off the side of the summit, was steering my signal to the south. (I was getting great reception of a multi-lingual operator in St. Martin.) I was acutely aware that my kid was getting bored, and I was concerned that I would fail to get my points.

We had planned to try for an S2S with wGOAT, but with the noise and some delays on Steve’s end, and the limited attention span of a 9 year-old, that was clearly falling apart.

At this point, my son said to me, “Dad, do you actually think this in fun?” I’m thinking that not only have I missed my points, I’ve spoiled a perfectly good afternoon with my boy.

Finally, I switched over to 20 meters, made a QSO with a contester to snag my points, and we headed down the hill for cheeseburgers and ice cream.

In the end, it turned out to be a successful trip. I did get my points. Later, when we were home, my son said he was happy to have had a good day. I asked him about his, “Do you actually think this is fun?” remark, and he explained that he was fine with the afternoon, and that he had been expressing concern about me because I was clearly stressed.

Going forward, I’m going to re-think my approach to contests. I’ve been considering them an impediment to SOTA. I’m thinking that maybe a better approach would be to climb the hill and just work the contest for a while. If all the other hams are playing contest, why fight it? THEY certainly won’t care that I’m on a summit. I’ll need to enter the contest and submit my log to the contest, in order to ensure they get their credit for the QSOs, but that’s a small price to pay in order to make an activation successful when I can’t make contact with SOTA chasers.

Thank you to today’s chasers:

  • N6KZ - First time I heard from him.
  • K8TE - First time I heard from him.
  • W0MNA - Hooray for dependable W0MNA!

… and thanks to the contester, who couldn’t care less that one of his contacts was on a mountain. ;-)