13 August 2016

Fun Up North - Beacon Hill SOTA Activation

During the hot summers in Tucson, my YL and I love to head up to the cool mountain air in Flagstaff.  We were there for the weekend of August 13-14 and I thought it might be a good opportunity for me to do a short SOTA activation.  I spent some time reviewing options on the SOTA Mapping Project site and was not surprised to learn that there are many, many peaks in the Flagstaff area.  A bit more research led me to contact Pete, WA7JTM.  I did not realize it at the time, but Pete is the W7A Association Manager for the SOTA program, and was most helpful.  I asked Pete if he had a recommendation for a fairly easy summit, and he recommended I give W7A/CS-038, Beacon Hill, a try.

Since this was primarily a trip with my YL, and I knew we would be doing a lot of running, I didn't want a challenging or lengthy hike.  In fact, in the morning before the activation, we ran for over 2 hours on Lake Mary Road, so my legs were already a bit tired for the day.  Beacon Hill turned out to be a perfect choice, requiring only about half an hour's drive to the base of the hill.  The hill was located behind the now-closed Mountain Ranch Resort.

I parked on the dirt road behind the resort, and gathered my gear.  I had a daypack for the radio gear, and the Buddipole was in its own bag.  Maybe a lot to carry on a hike, but I wasn't expecting it to take very long to reach the summit.

There is no trail that I am aware of, so I basically just bushwhacked my way up.  Although it was off-trail, it really wasn't too difficult, but at points the underbrush was thick, at other points the grade became steep with slippery terrain.  As I neared the top, I found some thin animal paths.  It was an enjoyable hike and I was happy to be in the cool air rather than the 100+ temps in Tucson!

Upon reaching the summit, which is at 7,547 feet elevation, I relaxed a bit and set up my Buddipole.  It was breezy so I guyed it, but was able to extend the mast fairly high.  While the Buddipole is not the best in terms of portability, it does do a nice job once it's up there.

Plus, it looks kinda cool (in my biased opinion).

I was excited to test out the station setup that I have been working on for portable packing operations.  I've put an Elecraft KX2 on a bamboo carving board, along with a Begali Traveler paddle.  This is definitely a QRP setup but it's very nice to be able to operate the KX2 off a small internal battery pack as opposed to a heavier battery that a larger rig might require.  The Begali paddle is heavy for hiking with, but it's so much higher in quality that I'm willing to carry it.

I'm always changing things around, that's one of the fun things about ham radio, so I'm sure this setup will be different at some point.  But it really performed well for me on this trip!  Using just 5 watts, I was able to work stations all across the country and even into Canada.  My favorite QSO of the day, however, was with an Arizona station - imagine my surprise to hear WA7JTM in the pileup calling me!  It was really nice to give him a contact for his chaser log after his help in choosing the site.

I didn't have a lot of time on the hill, as my YL had stayed back at the hotel and we wanted to do some other things later in the day.  My final QSO tally was 14 stations in the log (10 CW and 4 SSB), including one Summit-to-Summit QSO with W0C/PR-009, which earned me 10 points towards my Activator total.

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