13 summits in 7 days


I finished my epic road trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway with successful activations of 13 summits in 7 days. This is by far my most ambitious SOTA trip to date. When you do that many summits in a few days, the details start to blur. So I'll try to document them here with the memories I have one week later.


Day 1

Wine Spring Bald -- W4C/WM-018

This was a summit I had driven by on multiple Mini rallies in North Carolina and made a good stop on my second day of driving to the BRP. It is nearly a drive up, with a half-mile hike up a road to get tothe top. This is right next to the Appalachian Trail which goes over the Wayah Bald a mile away. While hiking down the road I could hear people talking on the AT, which parallels the road. Photo is view from Wayah Bald.


Day 2

Waterrock Knob -- W4C/WM-010

After a cold night at a National Forest campground at 5,000 feet I got on the BRP and did this popular spot on the parkway. There is a well-maintained trail to the top with a good climb of about 400 feet. For most folks this the one peak they hike up on the BRP. It has great views and well worth the trip.

 Operating position on Waterrock

Steestachee Bald -- W4C/WM-010

After the well-maintained trail of the first summit of the day, this one was a total bushwhack. A bushwhack is climbing a hill with no trail to follow. I've bushwhacked quite a few Ozark summits, but this was a new challenge with about a 600 foot climb following an old fence line up the hill. About halfway up I was wondering about the wisdom of doing this, but kept going and was rewarded by being able to say I've bushwhacked an Appalachian summit. It was high enough and early enough in Spring that undergrowth wasn't bad. I was happy to have this one behind me.


Day 3

Richard Balsam -- W4C/WM-003

After a good night's rest in motel in Waynesville I got back on the BRP and stopped at Richard Balsam. This had a beautiful trail up from an overlook at the base of the mountain. Not a lot of views from the top, but a great trail and a beautiful morning. There is even a bench at the top to sit on next to the trail.


The trail up Richard Balsam

Green Knob -- W4C/CM-023

I passed a couple of summits on the way to the next -- I have to save some for next time. Green Knob was a longer hike up another well-maintained trail -- this one the Mountains to the Sea trail. Great views from the top. It was pleasant sitting on top playing radio and enjoying the view while listening to the occasional motorcycle passing by far below.



Lane Pinnacle -- W4C/CM-018

After spending the night at a National Forest campground near Brevard, NC, I bypassed Asheville and got back on the BRP. During my planning I had read that this was a very nice hike with great views. It was. This is a popular trail and I ran into a lot of groups hiking it to take in the vista at the top.



Mount Mitchell -- W4C/WM-001

Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Rockies at 6683 feet. This is a drive-up with a short hike to the observation area, so lots of tourists. I did find a spot in the woods to operate from, so it was an easy and successful activation for me. No pictures from here.


Green Knob -- W4c/CM-020

Yes, another Green Knob. This is home to an old fire tower and is accessed by a short climb from the BRP. By this time my legs were starting to tire, but I could tell that I was gaining strength with each activation. This made a three-activation day for me, but my operating was cut short due to a technical problem -- the battery on my phone died and I had paper to log contacts but no pencil. My only real glitch on the trip.


Day 5

Three Knobs -- W4c/CM-077

After a night in another National Forest Campground -- at this point I was getting good at setting up and tearing down camp – I ventured up Three Knobs. The guides said there was a faint trail up this summit, but I never could find it so bushwhacked up the ridge and eventually found the trail. I was rewarded with another spectacular view on a beautiful morning.




Roan High Knob -- W4T/SU-005

I veered off the BRP at this point and headed north to Roan High Knob on the NC/TN border. From the pass you can go east on the Appalachian Trail in NC or west on the AT in TN. I went west on a 1.5 mile, 700-foot climb to Roan High Knob. Lots of AT hikers at the top and I had a good time explaining what I was doing with a couple of them. They were amazed I could talk to Europe with my little radio and a piece of wire and no Internet.


Peak at Roan Knob

Day 6

Whitetop Mountain -- W4V/WV-002 

I slept well in a hotel in Johnson City, TN, and headed for the campout of fellow SOTA activators in Virginia the next morning. Along the way I stopped at Whitetop Mountain, my second drive-up on the trip. While it was 60 degrees when I left the interstate, it was 45, foggy, and windy when I reached the top of Whitetop. Being in the clouds, I missed out on the view but till had a good activation. After that, I want on to a campground east of Roanoke where I met up with about 20 other SOTA aficionados from across the East and one guy from California. I'd met most of them over the air before, but it was great to meet other folks with like interests. We spent the evening trading stores, despite the high winds.



Day 7

Apple Orchard Mountain -- W4V/RA-001

Saturday morning everyone was up early and making plans on what summits to activate. I teamed up with a fellow ham I'd met the day before and we headed out for two summits. Our first summit was Apple Orchard Mountain. It was about a 1.5 mile hike up the AT to a very pretty summit with great views. Somehow I forgot to take a picture, but this is a very pretty summit with great views in all directions.


Highcock Knob -- W4VRA-014

Our second summit was about 10 miles farther down the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a longer hike, but not a bad climb and back on the AT. By the time we got back down to the car it was 5 p.m. and time to head bck to the campground for a pot luck dinner and more stories around the campfire. After 12 summits in seven days, I was ready to be done. Sunday morning I got back on the Interstate for the two-day, 800-mile trip back to Little Rock.