QRP on the GA AT

(pictures after text)

Well for months now a small group of NOGAites have been exchanging emails to keep up the anticipation of the Appalachian Trail - Car Camping trip to Hawk Mt., GA.

As you might expect the term "car camping" to me means that you basically drive as close as possible to the location that you plan to pitch your tents and make camp.

Scott, KD4MSR of Athens and one of our semi-remote NOGA members had made many trips to the Hawk Mt. sight in the past and assured us that it would be very suitable for our needs of camping and radio antenna logistics.

Pickett, AD4S and Sam, AE4GX had agreed to go up in one vehicle. Pickett supplied the sleeping tent and cooking gear and Sam supplied the operating lawn tent (the same one used for last years field day) and the operating table and chairs.

We met Scott KD4MSF and Robert, KE4OGD at about half way up the forest road to the site and chatted on a 2 mtr simplex frequency as we drove about previous trip war stories.

Well the site was better for camping and radio than expected so we quickly tried to get setup enough to be able to sleep and operate. There was a threat of rain later in the day and we wanted to be dry by that time if necessary. Mission  accomplished on both counts and the rain did come later in the evening and during the night. In fact, I think we had several inches of rain while there but were dry and warm during the rainy episodes.

We setup three antennas initially and a forth later.
1. W3EDP at about 40 ft up and running N-S with 17 ft counterpoise.
2. 44 ft Doublet (at 30 ft) with open wire feeders (using Popsicle stick w/ Velcro wire retainer) to an NC BLT.
3. Folded dipole (at 30 ft) using 300 ohm TV twin lead to HB 6 mtr BAL Tuner
4. Parking Lot Portable Vertical (PLPV) 1/4 wave vertical with 2 above ground radials.

All antennas worked well but the majority of time was spent on 20 mtrs with the K2 and K1 and the longwire.

The INDEX and the doublet were used on 30 mtrs, 15 mtrs and 10 mtrs.

The Folded dipole was used on 6 meters for our new world record GA Sierra QSO back to Norcross, GA with Sam, AE4GX, on the GA Sierra (at 600mW) and Jim, AD4J, on Icom706 in mobile in his front yard. We had a scheduled time slot but it was still close. The GA Sierra got a 339.

The first evening we were able to make limited number of contacts due to the rain and chance of lighting. We were on top of a 3000 ft Mt. so didn't want to take too many chances.

Saturday morning we tried to make our Schedule on 20 meters with our remote NOGAites Alex, VK2KET, but the IARU NOCALDX beacon in VK6-land was barely heard so we didn't make the Ga Sierra to GA Sierra QSO - "YET".

The bands on Saturday were OK but we wound up using our individual call signs rather than the club call sign most of the time.  We did work NoGaNaught, Dave K4LDI, who was holding down the fort at SciTrek.  We worked W4WOW with the NoGa call sign, NQ4RP.

A rigs performed well and the batteries held up without the help from solar power refueling. It was cloudy most of the day.

We started off Saturday with a BIG breakfast prepared by Scott KD4MSR.  Coffee, orange juice, eggs, bacon and pancakes A real feast. It got everyone going for the day. Thanks loads Scott. Scott even cooked biscuits using a cast iron Dutch oven on the open log fire we had that night.

We tried many combinations of rigs and antennas on Saturday. Sorry we weren't able to catch too many looking of AT contacts but we have a wide variety of QSOs in a ragchewing mode.

Robert KD4OGD  operated his TenTec Scout in CW and SSB modes on several bands. The Athens guys even checked into their BUBBA 10 mtr SSB net on 28.440 each night. Steve KT4Q used his Yaesu FT757GXII in his SUV with Sam AE4GX's PLPV and managed to pull in many DX contacts. Steve is a contester so was happy with that mode of operating. David, KE4EOI, from Athens kept both 2 meters and 220 hot from the top of the mountain.

I think we operated on 40/30/20/15/10/6/ as well as 220 and 144 mHz at some point during the camp out.

The Hawk Mt. site originally at the AT itself come across the top of the Mt but in later years they have moved the AT path down a few hundred yards so the traveler's don't have such an up and down route. The US ARMY Rangers have a permanent camp nearby and use the adjacent open field as a helicopter assault point for their practice. We saw a lot of spent dummy ammo and explosives. I hear tails of AT travelers coming along during one of these events and I'm sure they get a big charge (no pun intended) out of this. We missed an actual event so just had to enjoy the space as a site at night for
star gazing. We managed to spot several satellites and a couple of meteors.  It was a little hazy but the experience was fun because Scott had some very nice astronomy binoculars to add to the enjoyment. My telescope wasn't helpful because the moon and planets were out of sight during the short time we gave watching a try.

Saturday we all, except Robert, took some time away from radio and did a little hiking. Scott and Steve did a half day hike down the trail and stopped by an ancient graveyard while Pickett and Sam did a shorter hike to the nearest on Trail permanent shelter. The one we saw was in great shape and could easily hold 20 or so hikers if need be. Nearby there was a water source (running stream about a mile away) and a permanent toilet (we didn't see it but assume it was the open type).

Night came quickly the second day and we prepared evening meals and got ready for a little more radio. We did take time out after dark for an astronomy field trip to see the heavens but all were tried and cold (due to a steady wind chill factor) so most turned in early that evening.

Sunday we were up at 7:30 AM for another breakfast round with Scott and as the morning moved on various camping members started packing for the return the "real" world.

Well in retrospect we didn't accomplish much in the way of AT QSOs to as many as we wanted to do but considering the weather and the side events we did OK.

I would plan another trip back sometime down the calendar and hopefully provide a better AT contact for more of you.

This trip taught us all more about what to do and not do on the next trip.

I, for one, want to pare down my QRP station to actually be something that could be backpackable on a normal AT hiker mode. Of course car camping let's you carry the kitchen sink if you want and we almost did. So I'm back to thinking about how to get to the Spartan Sprint carrying weight for all future trips. this will limit me in several ways but will force me to use what I can "carry" in the most efficient manner.

Sam, AE4GX

(click on the small pictures to get "the big picture"


Sam's SUV.  If we had one more thing, it would not have made the trip.

Sam, AE4GX and his dining fly. "No Instructions..??"

NoGa Base Camp.  The big cabin tent of Pickett, AD4S, was 33 years old but felt like the Hawk Mountain Hilton.

AD4S operating position.

Hawk Mountain Hilton.
You can see the mud splattered around the bottom from the torrential downpour on Friday afternoon.

HMH again..!

Sam, AE4GX, getting with it on Friday night.

Neat Index packaging.  Load and Go style.

Evening ambiance..!

Scott, KD4MSR, dxpedition organizer was good enough to do breakfast for everyone..!   eggs, bacon, pancakes, orange juice, coffee...  umm umm..!

Robert, KE4OGD, was a real operator.. both CW and phone, HF and VHF.. did not get distracted by trail hikes and the like..!

Steve, KT4Q, operated from his truck but stuck with it and came close to working all continents.

There was evidence of Army Ranger activity everywhere you looked.

Left over Ranger "flash/bang" device.

Another shot of NoGa Base Camp and the Hawk Mountain Hilton.

The original NoGa PiG sending Sam, AE4GX, a message about the chirp on his Index.

Sam, AE4GX, and the NoGa Pig.

Sam's 6 meter tuning unit.

Sam's Georgia Sierra.  Packaged in a "Curious George" lunch box.

Georgia Sierra band modules packed in a matching "Tonka Toy" lunch box.

K1 and K2 at AD4S operating position.

Robert, KE4OGD, encampment.

Robert making contacts.  He was busy making qso's the entire trip.

Robert and his TenTec Scout.

Sam, hiking to the AT shelter.  The flame azalea were in full bloom.

Flame Azalea.

Sam, AE4GX, and the official AT blaze.  These blazes are found on the entire 2000 + miles of the trail.  Side trails are in blue.

Sometimes there are even signs on the trail.

Meant to delete one of these but it's too late now.

Pickett, AD4S, in his matching rain jacket.  The jacket had a hood for the constant wind that was blowing at the top of the mountain.

Hawk Mountain AT shelter.

2 story shelter.  This one is fairly new and substantial.

Side view of shelter.  A lot of improvements have been made in the last decade or so.

Pickett, AD4S, wondering which sign to follow..!

Sean.  We met at the shelter at noon.  This was his second day on the trail.  Note the tennis shoes.. he said he was going the entire 2000 miles this trip.

Sam, AE4GX, getting ready to go star gazing on Saturday night.

Finally got it all together.  This was a hamfest find..!

Robert, KE4OGD, and his unique head qear warming near the fire on Saturday night.

Scott, KD4MSR, about to demonstrate his amazing culinary skills. David, KE4EOI, in the background.

No kidding..!  Biscuits in a Dutch oven.

Packing to go.  It was still a tight fit, even without all the fire wood.

NoGa PiG on the way home.

Could not have gotten a pair of hiking boots in the back of Sam;s SUV.
Robert, KE4OGD, took some good pictures and we will add those when we get them..!