SOTA Activation Report: W4G/NG-003, Hightower Bald

Trip of 2013.04.20

  • Succeeded: Yes
  • First-activation: Yes

See my trip planning guide at: SOTA Guide: W4G/NG-003, Hightower Bald


Hightower Bald (HTB) is activated and I’ll be stiff for a few days. ;-)

The weather was beautiful – High of about 60, a mild breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. I had hoped to make a joint activation of HTB with KI4SVM but he had to cancel.

The first part of the trek is hiking up a dirt road. I’ve been contemblating 4WD Forester or a CRV for driving to SOTA trails. I’m reevaluating, in light of this “road.” It has erosion gullies that are nearly knee deep, and I’d want a 4WD with big tires to drive it. Since I drive a compact car, I hiked this part.

Part 2 is the Appalachian Trail – always easy to follow. I am grateful to the volunteers who maintain it.

Part 3 was bushwhack. I left the AT near an unnamed gap just south of Bly Gap, which I christened “Gap Obvious” (because it is). Up Rich Knob, down to Hightower Gap; up unnamed hill, down to unnamed gap; up the ridge to HTB. A faint trail on parts of the ridge speeds this part of the trek. That’s good because I wasted a lot of time trying to skirt the summit of Rich Knob, and trying to regain the ridge line when I tried to skirt the dense brush on the final ascent of HTB.

Propagation was good. HTB has an unusually sharp peak for a Georgia summit, which helped. I made 21 contacts. I’m logging only 20, because I never did figure out an unusual phonetic substitution used by one contact (N8?Y). There may have been other chasers. I heard some faint calls right at my noise floor. If you called and I didn’t get you, I apologize for my ineptness. With more practice, I’ll either get better at operating weak signals.

I used a carbon fiber mast, partially extended to about 18’. My antenna was an end-fed 33’ wire in an inverted V. I used an EARCHI 20m matchbox. I used a 30’ counterpoise at about 4’ AGL. This should be unnecessary for 20m; I find that it helps with SWR for 40m. I should run 20m without it, and then remove the matchbox and connect the counterpoise and the antenna directly to my KX3. That would be a more ‘normal’ setup. I didn’t do that because I wanted to switch bands quickly. I don’t want my 40m activators to wander off to do something else while I mess with my antenna. (I use LMR-200 feed line, to minimize SWR-related loss between the transformer and my rig’s ATU.)

When I left the summit, my GPS briefly wigged out, and I made an unplanned side trip to Montgomery Corner (34.9867, -83.6199). I’m sure there’s an interesting story about why the state line makes this funny corner and I know that some people visit it intentionally. (It was an unremarkable sight, IMHO.)

I’m glad I got the GPS straightened out before going too far into North Carolina. From the GPS trace of my route, there’s an obvious point where I made a gradual turn 90 degrees left. I kept thinking that my shadow wasn’t where it should be. (When bushwhacking, I mostly navigate with reference to my shadow. e.g. ‘Follow my shadow’ or ‘keep my shadow off my right shoulder.’)

If my GPS is dead, I can use the GPS in my iPhone as backup, or use a topo and compass if I go for a swim and ruin my electronics, but I have to know my GPS is borked in order to make the switch. In this case, the GPS somehow tied its you-are-here to its cursor, so wherever I put the cursor, it said I was going straight that way. It wasn’t until I knew I had NOT been traveling in a perfectly straight line that I figured out the problem.

In planning the trip, I’d said that this it was at my absolute limit for a one day activation. That was accurate. I’d have been in trouble if I had to do another half mile. My last mile out was much slower than my first mile in. The total distance was OK, but bushwhacking straight up Rich Knob is a killer.

It was a good trip and I feel like I accomplished something. I’m sorta sorry to see the last of the un-activated Georgia 10-pointers get activated. Trying to get to them before someone else did has really motivated me to get off my duff and on the trail.

Thank you chasers!

  • NS7P
  • VE2JCW
  • K0NO
  • N1EU
  • VE1WT
  • VA6FUN
  • W0MNA
  • AE5KA
  • K0YO
  • KJ4ZGV
  • N4LA
  • W4ZV
  • K4PIC
  • AA4AI
  • WX4ET
  • K2UFT
  • KC3RT
  • W4MPS
  • N4EMG
  • N8QY
  • W4WNT