Summit Activated - W4G/NG-010, Blue Mountain, Georgia

A beautiful winter day in Georgia, an easy drive, and a well-maintained, easy to follow trail. It seems like maybe propagation was not a good as it has been recently, and, sure enough, when I returned home and checked online propagation predictions, they were calling it ‘fair’ (down from recent ‘good’) on 20 meters.

My eldest son came along on this trip. (He’s not a ham.) He is always a delight to have as a hiking companion and a SOTA buddy. He copies call signs and signal reports better than me. I was also joined by a new trail companion. I call him K4KPK/P. He’s a little confused abou how he came to be on top of Mt. KX3:

Here’s K4KPK/P in “antenna support configuration:”

A surprising number of hikers were out for a Georgia winter day. Four on our side of the highway, and a gaggle of Boy Scouts headed the other direction.

My QSOs were at 12 watts. I used 12 NiMh AA cells, which I had drained down to 15.2 volts prior to the trip. Upon my return home, the mailman brought my dummy AA cell, so next time I’ll go with 11 cells and a dummy, and I won’t have to pre-drain.

On the night before the trip, there were two other activators alerted for about the same time, so I moved my alert up by 15 minutes, to avoid competing for chasers. We hung around our summit for a little while after the activation, in hopes that one of them would spot and we could S2S. We got too cold before anyone went on the air. I think that S2S is going to be a warm weather sport for me.

In a first (for me), we encountered three people on the trail who knew at least a little about SOTA. One solo hiker is a ham with an Elecraft CW rig on order for SOTA, and a pair said something to the effect of, “Oh. We talked to someone on a mountain in Pennsylvania, who was doing what you’re doing. There was a terrible storm. He seemed very excited to be there.”


  • 6 QSO on 40 meters and 8 on 20 meters. 7.19265-ssb and 14.3448-ssb.
    • 40 meters
      • N4EX
      • W4ZV
      • K4PIC
      • N0ZH
      • WA2USA
      • K0LAF
    • 20 meters
      • N7UN
      • NS7P
      • N0ZH
      • W0MNA
      • KQ2RP
      • AA4AI
      • VA6FUN
      • KI0G

Thank you chasers! I am grateful that you were there when I called CQ.


  • 12:01 PM Eastern on 5 January, 2013


  • Elecraft KX3.


  • A fine site for all manner of antennas. The brush is not too dense under the trees, and there are trees of many sizes.
  • I was able to successfully slingshot a heavy monofilament fishing line into a tree; I used that to hoist up my 33 ft wire.
  • There’s also space to guy out a mast, if that’s your preference.
  • EARCHI 20m matchbox with an EFHW. I had zero trouble launching my antenna using fishing line on a spool, a 1 ounce egg sinker, and a slingshot. (Much better luck than last weekend.) I ended up stringing an inverted L.

Cell Phone Coverage

  • Marginally adequate cell coverage. SMS self-spot worked. Signal occasionally lost, but I was able to check SOTAwatch.

Getting There - Driving

  • Google Maps will get you there.
  • From Atlanta, you drive to Helen. You just keep driving on the main road through Helen until you get to Unicoi Gap. The gap is obviously a gap, there’s a half-acre parking lot on the right, and hiker-crossing signs are clearly visible.
  • There are no dirt roads involved in getting there. High ground clearance vehicle is NOT needed.
  • Do be careful crossing the gap. There is very little time between hearing a car and having it bear down upon you.
  • There are at least 3 good routes from Atlanta to Helen. Google knows all three and they differ by only a couple of minutes. Going up, we stayed on 985 as long as possible. We came back via Cleveland and GA-400. They were about the same duration.

Getting There - Hiking

  • The AT is easy to follow. From a navigation perspective, this is a piece of cake. Park on one side of the highway, take the obvious trail on the other side of the highway, and follow it until there is no more “up” to climb.
  • Some maps show about a 1.1 mile hike. Not a chance. My GPS says it was 1.6 miles. The maps don’t show some big switchbacks. It was about a 15% grade, so it was not a walk in the park.
  • Portions of the trail require hiker agility. There are sections of the trail composed almost entirely of large rocks. If you’re frail, this is not a good hike.

GPS Waypoints

  • GPS waypoints are not provided for this trip. The trail is 100% obvious and it is blazed. Just pay attention at the double-blazes which will ensure you don’t miss the switchbacks.
  • GPX trace for the hike


Time Log

  • 7:30 - Left Atlanta
  • 9:50 - Parked at trailhead. (We stopped for a McD breakfast.)
  • 9:55 - Hiking
  • 11:05 - at summit
  • 11:55 - ready to transmit
  • 12:00 - on the air
  • 12:20 - off the air
  • 12:40 - Done hanging around hoping for an S2S
  • 1:05 - packed and headed down the trail
  • 1:50 - Car
  • 4:05 - Atlanta. (We stopped for barbecue on the way home.)