In May of 2021, I had started to get reinterested in ham radio. While playing with APRS, I learned about SOTA and realized there was one parcitcally in my backyard! Around the same time, I learned that there was an upcoming VHF contest. Since I didn’t have an HF radio, this seemed like the great combo!
The summit is only a little over 1000ft, making it a seemingly easy hike, or so I thought. I had done some planning, and looking at Google Maps, it estimated it to be 2 miles and ~1hr hike.
Unfortunately, I misread one of the trail markers (not the one shown) and ended up taking a longer route, which was ~3.5 miles and took me 2 hours. It was a pretty hot day and the trail was significantly more steep than I had anticipated. Talking to others that have that have done this hike, it would have been an even more steep hike on the planned trail.
Eventually, I did make it to the top of the trail. Thankfully the tower at the summit is an easy target to track and keep focused on.
Even though I can walk to the trail from my house, I might consider driving to the visitor center, and then hike up from there for my future activations. Based on the other people hiking to the summit, it seemed like a much easier method!
I had never done a VHF contest or SOTA, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect or how to properly prepare. Like most people doing something for the first time, I ended up overthinking and over preparing! My instinct was that my HT antenna wasn’t going to be sufficient to really make any distance. I then recalled that I had a spare mag-mount dual-band antenna that could be used. I also recalled legends of people using a cookie sheet with a mag-mount antenna, when trying to operate from apartments or HOA environments. I went over to my local Dollar Tree store and purchased a pizza cooking sheet. Somehow the round aspect of it seemed a little more appealing than a rectangle!?
Although it was a hot and difficult hike to the top, it was amazingly pleasant at the summit. There was a steady breeze, which made audio a little complicated, but made it a great place to sit for an hour.
Overall, I activated the SOTA and participated in a contest. This was a great experience to work on “mic fright”! I’m glad I did it and hope to make it to the top of the summit again. It is so close, I have not excuse for not doing it. I just hope it is a bit easier the next time.