Shenandoah Valley VA SOTA trip!

I know some are not able to go out and activate as they wish with the CV19 “lockdowns” around the world. I don’t post all the activations I’ve done in the past 9 months but this one was special. I thought I would share the Activation report of Peaks in the Shenandoah National Park. Virginia, USA

The closest SOTA points near me that could be considered mountains are in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has a travel ban for tourism currently so those are out of play for the near future. I started looking at places that could justify 2 full days
away from home with the maximum number of SOTA points collected. Shenandoah National Park has a road that runs 100+ miles along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, multiple peaks with relatively easy access. The park is 5 hour drive time away from my QTH.

I arrived early In the afternoon on a beautiful early winter day. 55 degrees and no wind. After packing up my gear I made the 20 minute hike up Compton Mountain. I turned my radio on and immediately heard 2 hams having a QSO on simplex. I waited, waited and 25-30 minutes later they were still in their QSO so I strung up my 70cm Antenna but had no response. I switched back to the Yagi and it was finally quiet. I accumulated 4 QSOs and packed up for the next mountain.

Compton Mountain activation zone.

North Marshall Mountain was a 10-15 minute drive south and I was soon on the summit after another 20 minute hike. The Metro areas of DC, Baltimore, Winchester are close VHF-wise from up high so I was able to activate quickly with my FT60R and Arrow Yagi.

North Marshall Mountain overlook.

Next up Hogback Mountain. 10 minutes driving time farther south, I parked at Hogback Mountain overlook.

I reached the summit after a short 10 minute hike. It was getting dark and after doing a spooky activation last month :flushed: in the dark I bought a couple lanterns to light up my station area. Several commercial antennas were on top and every once in a while a signal would block my reception but I was able to mitigate interference by pointing the Yagi in different directions. I do have a SOTAbeams 2m filter but the Yagi is doing a pretty good job of blocking RF and I didn’t hook it up.

Night Station on Hogback Mountain!

That concluded day one. I was tempted to try Pinnacle Mt. on the way to my hotel in Luray, VA but thought better of it. I’ve learned that even on seemingly “easy” hikes you can get lost very quickly in the dark.

Last month I was on a hill after dark. I was in Indiana. I remember thinking on my hike up (thank goodness no bears, wolves etc like out west.) After getting all set up and obtaining 2 QSOs I heard what I believe was wild dogs howling and getting progressively closer. Now that was a problem I hadn’t anticipated before! I quickly tore down my station and made a straight line down the hill cutting across 5-6 switchbacks. I ran too far (past the final switchback) and had a couple minutes of “lostness” feeling!

Anyway I hope this activation report provided a couple minute respite from the day. I’ll post day 2 of the adventure soon!




Thanks for sharing Erik

73 and stay safe.


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Good stuff Erik! I had given up on trying VHF activations around there, so I am happy to see that it is possible.

I also want to encourage you to move forward with CW. I am far from skilled in Morse but I find doing a SOTA activation easier than having a ragchew. It’s a lot of fun seeing the global reach of a small portable transceiver - if it’s daylight or not far after it in Europe when I do an activation on 20 meters in W4V/SH land, I always have at least one European station come back to me.

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Thanks for the kind words. I am currently learning Morse and had plans to do a activation CW Style by the end of the year but I am still woefully under prepared! I have a ways to go but I am climbing that mountain little by little each day.

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