On Saturday, March 4, 2023, a group of eleven fine looking radio operators and one non ham (more on her later), met at Bob Evan's restaurant north of Johnson City at 9:00 for breakfast. Our large crowd no doubt kept the restaurant staff busy, but there were no complaints from us as the service and food were both good. We finished eating by 10:30 and seven of us headed to Grindstone Knob, W4T/SU-038, in the Shady Valley area for an activation.
We took three cars and there was ample parking at the trailhead for us. Our group consisted of Rick, W4BXL, on his very first SOTA trip, Matt, KQ4CCP, Justin, KO4DCD, Dennis, N4DD, Dennis's twelve year old granddaughter Norah, Tim, KJ4ZFJ, and Ron, NR3E. The hike up the trail went as expected; it was about a half mile with a moderate elevation gain. We were expecting a wet and muddy trail due to the recent rains, but it was actually mostly dry. There were a few limbs down from the wind, but nothing that impeded our hike.
The trail actually goes through the activation zone near the summit, but there is only room for about one station in that area. So we bushwhacked off the trail for a couple of hundred yards to the summit proper. It had a big almost flat activation zone with plenty of room for us to spread out.
Tim, with his almost new Xiegu radio and an end fed antenna, set up on a cushion with his back to a tree, and proceeded to call on SSB. Dennis and his granddaughter set up a distance away using his Yaesu FT-817 and an end fed antenna. Dennis, being a CW guy, didn't even bring a microphone. Justin, with his almost new Icom 705 slung an end fed antenna up in a tree no less than 60 feet high. He said he missed a lower limb but his weight carried on up higher, which turned out to be a good thing. He worked both CW and SSB. Matt and Rick set up their HTs and a Slim Jim antenna near the summit marker and starting calling on two meter FM. Ron set up his Elecraft KX2 into and end fed antenna, sat on a downed tree trunk, and started on CW.
After Justin made several contacts, he recruited Dennis's granddaughter, Nora, over to his station, set her up on 40 meter SSB, and handed her the mic. (Remember that grandpa Dennis did not have a mic with him.) Nora made five contacts with her farthest to Pennsylvania. She really enjoyed it and it appears that she may be a budding ham. Way to go, Nora!
Two meter contacts were rough for Matt and Rick. Their equipment was all good, but it seemed that there were very few chasers listening to two meters. It took them almost two hours to get their required four contacts. It was Rick's first activation but in the end he got the points. On HF, Tim also reported issues on the SSB portions of the bands. This was the weekend for the ARRL Worldwide DX contest so the bands were jam packed with signals, making it hard to break through the QRM. The CW portions of the bands were not so crowded so there were no issues making contacts by that mode.
At about 4:00, everyone packed up and headed back to the trail for our hike down. When we got to the trail, Norah checked her pocket and could not find her cell phone. She realized it must have slipped out of her jacket somewhere between the summit and where we picked up the trail. Dennis, Norah, and Justin headed back to the summit, retracing her path, with the hopes of finding it. Everyone else searched the trail and the nearby ground. After a bit, Dennis, Norah, and Justin came back to the rest of the group, but the phone had not been found. Finally, Dennis found a spot that had some phone service and got a call out to Norah's mom who sent a "where's my phone" signal. Soon we heard the phone dinging just off the trail and found it not twenty feet away. A tense moment ended on a good note; Norah was happy again and said the next time she goes on a hike she is getting cargo pants and will put her phone in the pocket with a flap on it.
The weather was good for our trip with temperatures in the low 50s with sunny skies and mild to moderate winds. No one got cold and the sun felt good. The summit activation zone was open with no undergrowth or briars so it was almost a perfect day.
The next club trip will be to Holston High Point, a ten point drive up summit, on April 1, 2023. More information will come at a later time.