The monthly club SOTA trip on November 18, 2023 was an adventure from start to finish. We met for breakfast at Cafe 93, south of Kingsport, and it appeared that not just everyone in Kingsport, but everyone in the southeast, showed up to eat. Larry Dale, John Williams, Bob Warden, Walter Beaton, and Lynn Anderson were already seated and waiting for us. Dennis Brickey, Rick Brooks, and I joined them. Soon, Dustin McClure and Gabby arrived but had to sit at a different table because of the crowd. Then Rick Curtis and his wife Susan arrived and they decided to wait in their car since they had already had breakfast.
But our waitress was good and we soon had our meals. After about an hour with plenty of good talk and good food, Rick Curtis and his wife, Rick Brooks, Dennis Brickey, Dustin McClure and Gabby, and myself headed off to Snowbird Mountain. But simplicity was not in our day.
We drove an hour and a half to the base of the mountain and started up. I noticed that the road was muddier than normal and it looked like a lot of traffic had been on it, which was most unusual. We went maybe a half mile and were met by two state forestry people. They advised us that the road was closed as they were using Snowbird Mountain for a staging area for nearby wildfires. They were running people and equipment up the mountain to fight fires just south of the summit. They also told us that the Appalachian Trail was closed all the way from Interstate 40 to Max Patch Mountain, a hiking distance of over fourteen miles. With no choice but to turn around, we headed to our backup summit of Hall Top.
The drive to Hall Top took over an hour with the final ascent up the mountain on a rough forestry road. There were some places with deep ruts and other places with jutting rocks, but we all made it to the top. It had been over two years since I had activated this summit and was pleasantly surprised by the improvements that had been made since my last visit. The forest service had pushed all the low growing undergrowth away from the summit, which made our operating area much bigger.
Shortly after arriving we started setting up. Dennis found a nice area off the summit a bit, spread out his tarp, and set up his station with a Yaesu FT-857 into an end fed antenna. He worked HF CW with that rig and also threw a Slim Jim up into a tree for some two meter activity. Rick Curtis set up near the base of the fire tower, using his Xiegu and an end fed half wave. Dustin had his Baeofeng handheld with him and did some two meter work near the base of the fire tower. Rick Brooks found another quiet place a bit off the summit and set up his station with a Xiegu 6100 and an end fed half wave. Ron walked down the road a piece to a slightly wide area and slung an end fed up into a tree and hooked his KX2 to it.
Of note for the day is that Dustin, after working two meters, walked down to Ron's station and with a little coaching (very little, mind you) made six CW contacts. His first contact was to WF4I in Asheville, NC on 60 meters and this was also his first SOTA activation. He had only made one CW contact before this and that was two years prior at Field Day in Kingsport. He did extremely well and with just a little practice can make an excellent CW operator. Way to go, Dustin!
The weather was nice for this time of year with a temperature around 50 degrees, mostly sunny skies, and light winds. After enjoying a long day, the group broke up and headed off the mountain to their homes. Some of us stopped at the cemetery near the summit, which had recently been cleaned up and improved. Most graves had only a simple rock headstone with no markings. The names of those buried there has been lost in time. May they rest in peace.
We made 105 contacts, 67 of which were CW, 38 phone, 3 DX with the longest to Argentina, and one summit to summit. The next club trip will be Saturday, December 9 to a summit yet to be determined. More information about that trip will follow by email and Facebook.