Lots of activations, few posts

Well, so much for me getting active on the blog again.  Every week or so I think, "I should put something on the blog," yet don't do it. Now its June, and my last post was in February.  So I've got some catching up to do.

I have been busy and have quite a few new activations in, so it's been a productive spring.  I'll try to summarize.  In February I had about 240 activator points after a year and a half of activating. In Nune I have 350 points, so it's bee a productive spring.  I give a few of the high points, pardon the pun.

During the month of March I mainly activated some of the local (Arkansas) summits I had done the year before.  Under the rules of SOTA, you can activate a summit for points once a year.  So with the new year you have a clean slate.  So I went back to some nearby summits and had a good time doing it. 

In late April I took another trip to the Ouachita Mountains on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border.  There are a lot of summits in a short ar…

ARRL DX contest a success

Last weekend was the ARRL DX Contest.  As I'm not a big gun with a tower and a beam, I don't get real competitive on the DX contests. But I had some free time this weekend and operated mostly early morning (around sunrise) and late afternoon/early evening (around sunset.)  While 15 meters never really opened up here, I made a lot of contacts on 20 and da good number on 40 and 80.  I even managed to snag a couple of new countries, and several new ones on 80 meters.

I quit when I hit 300 contacts.  I had fun.  That's what counts.

Activating Petit Jean Mountain

On Monday we were having another 70-degree day so I hopped in the pickup to do another Summits On The Air activation in Arkansas.  My destination was Petit Jean Mountain, which is about 10 miles south of Mount Magazine and on the south side of the Petit Jean Valley.  This is not Petit Jean State Park, which is actually on Mud Mountain, which creates some confusion.

I had read the notes on the summit.  It sounded like there was good National Forest Road right to the summit, although the last mile might require hiking.  That's a common scenario here in Arkansas.  Many of the summits had fire towers on the top in the past, which have long been abandoned. But the roads often remain, either as trails or as rough roads that are probably above the capabilities of my Ford Ranger.

I left home around 8:30 with plans to do Petit Jean Montain, then may swing over to Mount Magazine for a two-summit day.  The National Forest Roads were good -- much better than they are down in the Oak Mountains…

First February SOTA activation

February is a good time for SOTA in Arkansas.  The leaves are off the trees, so you actually have some views from the summits, the chiggers and ticks are dormant, the poison ivy is gone for the winter and the temperatures are often in the 50s and 60s.

Yesterday, February 2, was a good example.  The high in the afternoon was 62, so it looked like a good day to head for the hills.

I did the two easiest and closest summits to my house -- Crystal Mountain (W5A/OA-008)  and Oak Mountain (W5A/OA-006).  They are a few miles apart on a well maintained -- for Arkansas -- National Forest Road and both require a quarter-mile hike or so. I had done both summits in 2017 and 2018, but decided to knock the pair of them out early this year. It was also good practice in doing multiple summits in a day. 

Crystal Mountain has a jeep road going up, and often has other people or Jeeps at the top.  After I got set up, a young family came hiking up.  I spoke to the father for a minute and explained what I w…

Maps to explain Summits on the Air

One of the things that makes Summits on the Air, or SOTA, possible is the background work that's been done by volunteers around the world.  Summits on the Air organizationis based out of the United Kingdom and has a very robust series of web sites that tell the operator anything they need to know, keep track of logs and standings and offer a glimpse into the world of SOTA.

SOTA has recently updated its mapping software, and I'm going to use a couple of maps, courtesy of SOTA, to answer the two most common questions I hear -- "Where are the summits," and "How far can you talk."

First the reach.  While I've reached Europe a few times from summits, on most activations I can work stations from coast to coast. The map below shows the stations I worked on November 18 from Petit Jean Mountain. The red dots are home stations or chasers.  There are three colored triangles on this map. One indicates my summit, and the other two are other activators I worked. That…

Wichita Mountains activation

I traveled to the Wichita Mountains in southwest Oklahoma this week on a summit activation trip.  As with most of my trips, my execution didn't live up to my planning. I had hoped to activate 4 summits in two days, but wound up activating two and wisely calling it quits.  I have to remember my legs are 65 years old take it easy on them.

As for the activations, the first on Wednesday was up Elk Mountain. It's a pretty 1.1 mile trail that's took me about an hour to climb. The only problem was the weather. I'd studied weather reports and Wednesday was supposed to be sunny and in the 50s -- perfect hiking weather.  When woke in Lawton, OK Wednesday morning there was very thick fog.  My plan was to do Elk Mountain in the morning and Mount Scott in the afternoon, then pick up a couple of nearby summits on Thursday and head home.

So I stuck to plan and was at base of Elk Mountain at 9 a.m. and in the fog.  I kept telling myself it would burn off by the time I got to the top. …

Some SOTA basics

For those who are wondering what Summits On the Air, or SOTA, works here's a quick summary.
SOTA got is start in the United Kingdom, and has been popular in Europe for years. It has gained popularity in the US the last few years.  The object is to make two-way communication with another amateur station that is being operated portable on a summit.  People activating from a summit are activators, those working them from home or other summits are chasers.

Summits are designated by location. Summits in Arkansas are W5A (US fifth call area and Arkansas) and a alphanumeric designation.   When I refer to summits I'm activating, I will give both the common name and the SOTA designation. Every summit is assigned a point value given that is awarded to chasers who work the station and to the activator. An activator has to make four contacts to count it as a an activation.  Lots of information is available at SOTA's web site, which is comprehensive and very well organized.

SOTA can be…