Summits on the Air

My latest amateur radio interest is an activity known as Summits on the Air, or SOTA. It’s fairly simple — you drive or hike to a recognized summit and set up a portable radio station. You announce via the internet you are on the air, and people from around the country and world try to contact you.

This didn’t interest me much when I was in Illinois, but since moving to Arkansas I’ve realized there are multiple summits around me and it’s great fun to activate them. I activated my first summit, Magazine Mountain, on July 4, 2017. Since then I’ve activated 16 summits in Arkansas, with a couple of failed activations where the radio didn’t work, or I just couldn’t or wouldn’t make it to the top.

A typical summit for me — and they are all different — requires driving for an hour or two to get into the Ouachita or Ozark National Forest, some traversing National Forest Roads in my old pickup, a hike of a mile or two, usually on an old Jeep road that’s no longer open to traffic, and then operating for an hour or two from the summit.

I’ll start recording the summits on this blog, and give a little write up on each. Here’s a photo from one of my favorite summits so far, Huckleberry Knob. This was a two-mile hike, much of it uphill, but the top was worth it. Great views and I was able to make about 40 contacts.

I operate with a KX2, a small portable radio you see here. The blue square is my battery and I use the iPad for logging. You also see my paddle, which is used to send Morse code. All of my summit contacts so far have been on CW, or using Morse code.

I use either a portable vertical antenna, shown here, or a end-fed wire. It’s always amazing that this little setup can reach out around the country and world.

As I head West to start Mini Takes the States, I’ll be doing a few summits in Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. I’ll post updates on here. Stay tuned, as they say.