This was the first mountain I ever activated for the SOTA program in 2008. In Feb. 2009 I returned with Gerd and this past Saturday I returned with Dave, W2VV.
W2VV had never activated South Beacon so when our schedules opened up for this past Saturday, we started making plans for an activation.
Unfortunately as the days went by the temperature forecast for the hike kept on climbing; the originally forecast 60+F climbed into the 70s and finally settled at a whopping 85 F. This for the hike that had me sweating bullets with Gerd in February’s 40F.
I was a little concerned about the high forecast temperature, but after warning Dave that we could only attempt the hike if we took it at a very slow pace we decided to go for it.
Dave took the train an hour from Brooklyn to meet me near my home in Tarrytown, and then I drove us to Beacon, NY about an hour north of my home.
We found the Mt. Beacon parking lot 99% full, and were a bit concerned that there would be large crowds at the peak. I turned on my APRS beacon (TH-d7ag) and away we went.
I brought along 4.5L of cooled and frozen water & some nuts, along with a new LiFePO4 pack I am working on as well as my K3, FT-817, Arrow Antenna, 12 foot painter pole mast, pac-12 antenna & brand new SOTA flag!
Dave had an even heavier pack with his FT-857, 2 NiMH batteries, buddipole + 21 foot mast + tripod, antenna analyzer + netbook, water & sandwiches.
The normally 1.9 or 2 hour hike stretched out to 3 hours plus as we really suffered through the first steep hour of the climb. While others were hiking up and down in biker shorts without shirts, Dave and I wore shorts, t-shirts and heavy packs. We made plenty of water/rest/sunscreen stops. In the first hour we climbed about 1000 feet vertically and .6 of a mile horizontally, and I drank 1.5L+ of electrolyte enhanced water. During the rest of the hike I drank just about all of the 4.5L I brought along. Looking back I was impressed that I could complete this hike at all in these conditions, and I think my performance is a tribute to the good health effects of regular SOTA hikes. I could not have achieved this a year ago.
Once we reached the ruins of the Casino and Beaconcrest Hotel the trail leveled off a bit. With South Beacon’s fire tower visible in the distance and the trail leveling off, we were reinvigorated and a fresh breeze started to pick up.
Dave and I took time to inspect the different aged car wrecks along the hike to the tower, and I believe Dave successfully identified one as a Volkswagen, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Type_3 .
Other wrecks seemed to date from the 1990s.
On the way up we passed several hikers on the way down who had mixed reports as to whether the fire tower was open or closed, and I was concerned that after all this work I would not be able to setup ontop of the fire tower with its fantastic VHF operating location.
Once at the peak, we were relieved to find the tower open and few people at the summit. I believe most visitors that day had only hiked to the lower North Beacon Mountain.
Once on top of the fire tower, Dave set up his buddipole on his 21 foot mast, and I put the SOTA flag on top of my 12 foot painter’s pole with 2m 3el Arrow beam on top. I found what used to be the remnants of the fire tower’s roof on the ground as it had finally completely blown off.
We experienced growing noise on HF, topping out at s9++ that even my K3 with its fantastic NR and NB struggled with. Noise on 2m was not too bad, but there was almost no 2m propagation on VHF. We did manage a few SSB EU 20m contacts and even a couple CW contacts.
The wind picked up to violent levels while we were on the tower, and for a short time I considered leaving the tower but the wind never got to the point where I felt truly threatened. We had some great views of circling vultures and hawks from the fire tower.
As the sun set, Dave and I packed up and made the much easier hike down the mountain and returned by flashlight. My flashlight batteries died suddenly without warning (as LED lights can), but I try to operate most of my equipment from AA cells so that I always have spares and I just took extra cells from unused equipment in my pack to get my light on again. Flashlights are important on South Beacon as the trail is uneven and rocky at points.
After the hike we toured the nearby Retro Arcade Museum http://www.retroarcademuseum.com/
and had dinner in Beacon. I then drove Dave to Manhattan and got home at a late 3 AM…
A fun but exhausting day. Pictures and videos soon to follow on the SOTA areas on flikr and youtube.