Meeting for a quick and early breakfast at McDonald's in Colonial Heights on Saturday, May 27, were SOTA activators Justin, KO4DCD, Dennis, N4DD, Matt, KQ4CCP, and Ron, NR3E. Also joining us was John, KJ4ZFK, to see us off and wish us a safe trip. After eating, we went to nearby Ingles Market and were met by Seth, N4XTT. We were on the road by 8:30 a.m., headed to Rattlesnake Gap, south of Greeneville, TN, on the state line with North Carolina.
The trip to the trailhead at the gap took about two hours and fifteen minutes. Once there, we grabbed packs, put on our boots, and started the hike, accompanied by Tucson the SOTA dog. On the agenda were two summits for the day, Walnut Mountain and Bluff Mountain. The hike to Walnut was about a mile and three tenths with a 610 foot elevation gain. We arrived at the Walnut Mountain shelter and were set up by noon, right on schedule.
Dennis had his Yaesu FT-818 with an end fed antenna, Justin was using his Icom 705 with an end fed antenna. Justin and Dennis found an area on the bald part of the mountain for their activation, the only place near the summit with a view. Matt set up his Xiegu X6100 with an end fed antenna and also threw up a Slim Jim for some two meter work. Ron and Seth shared Ron's Elecraft KX2 with an end fed antenna. Matt, Ron, and Seth's area of setup was in the forest with no view to speak of, other than the trees. We spent about an hour and a half there; band conditions were up and down and the CW portions were extremely busy due to a contest. But everyone made enough contacts to get our points so we packed up to continue our hike on to Bluff Mountain, another 2.45 miles further down the Appalachian Trail.
That portion of the hike, being longer, naturally took a little longer but we arrived at Brushy Mountain and got set up and on the air by 3:00, about an hour ahead of our planned time. The trail had almost a mile downhill section (which we knew would be uphill on the way back), and then almost two miles of uphill. This summit was also in the forest with no great views, although there were some good views on the way.
Everyone set up the same equipment as before and within a couple of hundred yards of the summit. The highlight of the day was that on this second activation Matt earned his first 100 points and first certificate as a SOTA activator. Congratulations Matt!
We spent two hours on this summit then packed up and headed back towards our vehicles shortly after 5:00 p.m. Matt, obviously excited about his first 100 points, led the way and set a fast pace. The rest of us had to practically run to keep up with him.
The weather for the day was good for hiking. The high for the day was about 60 degrees with overcast skies and light winds. It felt good hiking without a coat, but it also felt good having one on when we stopped to activate. Rain was on the way and we got back to the trailhead and vehicles about 6:45, just as the rain started. It was almost 9:00 p.m when we got back to Kingsport, after driving all the way from the mountains in the rain. The day was long but rewarding. In the end, we made 100 contacts with 83 being CW and 17 voice.
The next club SOTA trip will be on June 17th to Unaka Mountain, a hike of about a mile with a gentle 615 foot elevation gain. More information about that trip will be posted later.