Today was yet another nice weather day here, so I set off in search of a SOTA summit to activate. My original plan was to activate W4C/CM-023 (Green Knob), but that end of the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed after last week’s storms left several trees and debris down on the road. The thought crossed my mind to park at the junction of US 276 and the BRP and walk the rest of the way, but I had already gotten a late start. I decided to save that for another day.
Big Knob is home to several vacation homes, as well as several transmitter sites at the summit. Obtaining permission is a must for accessing this summit, which I did ahead of time. Not having been there before, I turned to my GPS to navigate me there. BAD IDEA! After twisting and turning through miles of curvy back roads, I found myself on a little private drive on the back side of the mountain that didn’t seem to lead where I needed to go. So I turned around and pulled over to figure out where to go next. This time, instead of using in a specific address, I decided to use just the road itself as my destination. After all, the road dead-ends at the summit, so I could find my way from there. Once I got this new destination entered in, I realized that as the crow flies, I was only about a couple of miles off. Unfortunately, because of the terrain, I had a 25 minute drive to correct myself onto the right path. Once I finally got on the right road, it was smooth sailing from there. The road was in good shape, the gate opened right up (after I figured out which of the numerous locks was the correct one), and I proceeded to the summit.
Once I arrived at the summit, I was greeted by the pleasant site of patio furniture. This always makes for a more comfortable activation than sitting on the ground. I set up the vertical, and got on 20m CW. 20m was offering decent performance, and I quickly made 8 contacts; including one to Canada, and one to Germany. Not bad. I installed the loading coil on the vertical, tapped it for 40m, and started calling CQ. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck on 40. What few stations I heard were weak, and there was another station bleeding in from a nearby frequency. Knowing that rain was moving in, I decided to move on over to 60m to give the local guys a chance to chase me. Only picked up two more contacts there, but that’s not bad for a 20m antenna loaded for 60m. As the bands grew quiet, I plugged in the roll-up J-Pole, tuned to 146.52 and listened for any last callers while I packed up. I never heard any, and then returned to my truck; just in time for it to start raining.
Up until this activation, I had been running 15 WPM CW. As part of my continual effort to increase my CW aptitude, I decided to ramp up things to 17 WPM. While I had to ask for a couple of repeats, I was still able to keep up enough to be successful in making contacts. Overall, I would highly recommend this summit to anyone who can obtain permission. Nice operating conditions, and an easy drive up if you have access to open the gate.