Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Music and Mountains

This past Monday was Memorial Day in the US. A day to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Freedom and our Country. I am grateful for the dedication and patriotism of these Americans.

Memorial Day Weekend is therefore a Holiday weekend that finds many of us enjoying a three day weekend. The weekend was busy and memorable one for me. The weekend began with a 300 mile drive to play a show with my band, The No Refund Band, at a venue in Crystal Beach, TX. Crystal Beach is on the Bolivar Peninsula, east of Galveston Island on the Texas Coast. We had a great show there. (You can check out my band at )

The next morning (Sunday), my XYL Cris and I got in the Jeep and headed to the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma. This would be a 430 mile drive with the purpose of getting as many SOTA points as possible. The drive from Houston was very nice. North of Houston you take Hwy. 19 which goes through the piney woods of east Texas. Of course Texas is a big state and on this highway alone I went through Palestine, Athens, Canton and Paris. The road is nice and the speed limit is 70 - 75 mph and the traffic was light. As long drives go, this one wasn't bad.

The Ouachita Mountains cover southeastern Oklahoma and west central Arkansas. Along with the Ozark Mountains, the Ouachita Mountains form the U.S Interior Highlands, one of the major mountainous regions between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. It is a beautiful area that is very green and lush with mountains and valleys that induce tranquility.

From a SOTA perspective I had done my research to find the most efficient route to accumulate the most points in relatively short amount of time. I had to be backon Tuesday for work, so I would have 24 hours get as many points as possible.

Sycamore Lookout W5O/OU-005 (8 pts)*

We arrived 20:15 UTC. The summit has easy access from the highway and I was QRV by 20:35. I set up next to the commercial antenna's with no RF issues. The bands were not in good shape and the WPX contest was in full swing. I made 10 QSO's in 25 minutes on 17 and 40 meters and decided to move on to the next one.

Peak 2210 W5O/OU-006 (8pts)*

This summit is just up the road a few miles and the highway is in the activation zone. I did ascend about 50 feet vertically to the summit. I set up just below the summit ridge. Unfortunately, the cell service was spotty and I wasn't able to spot myself. For some reason I wasn't picked up by the RBN network either. Consequently I called CQ for 10 minutes on 17m with no responses. I finally had cell service long enough to get a call off to Fred, KT5X, to ask him to spot me. It still took me 10 minutes after the spot to get my 4 QSO's. Conditions were not good.

Winding Stair Mountain W5O/OU-002 (10 pts)*

Winding Stair Mountain is a nice hike. The trail head is across the road from the Campground and the hike is about 3 miles roundtrip. We encountered a troop of Boy Scouts training for their upcoming 68 mile trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Conditions were only marginally better, I made 11 QSO's in 25 minutes.

After this summit we made out way to the Green Country Inn in Heavener, Oklahoma where we had a room. The hotel is a great place to stay if you find yourself in the area. The next morning began early to make sure we got to the summits we planned.

Lynn Mountain W5O/OU-001 (10 pts)*

Getting to this summit is best done with a 4WD vehicle. While a 2WD would make it most days, a 4WD is preferred. The road does enter the activation zone, but I took an ATV trail for the short walk to the summit. This summit is very green and overgrown so I operated from the trail. The weather was overcast and as I left the Jeep it started to rain. We were prepared with rain gear and umbrellas to provide a mini-shack on the summit. There was a light rain during the entire activation. Conditions were a little better and, since the WPX contest was over, 20m was available again. I was on the air at 1335 UTC, so I think I was a little early for propagation and some late rising operators. I made 12 QSO's on 20m and 40m.

Pigeon Benchmark W5O/OU-013 (10 pts)*

This summit is off the same road as Lynn Mountain. The hike to the activation zone is a 2 mile round trip. The trail to the summit is an overgrown ATV trail. The walking is easy with about a 220 foot elevation gain over the mile to the top. The grass on the trail is knee high and it was wet from the rain, so it was a very wet hike. Conditions were much better as I was QRV at 1510 and made 20 QSO's on 20 and 40 meters.

Rough Mountain W5O/OU-014 (8 pts) *

The road to this trail head requires a 4WD. The road crosses the Ouachita trail a about a mile in from Hwy. 259. This is nice 2.5 mile round trip hike with about 500 ft. elevation gain over the 1.25 miles to the summit. The trail is nice. I made 22 QSO's from here.

*Additional details on how to get to these summits can be found on the SotaWatch page for each summit

So there you have it, 54 SOTA points in 24 hours. We had a 500 mile drive home that we made in about 8 hours. So in total we traveled 1,200 plus miles to enjoy music and mountains to make memorable Memorial Day weekend.

A short highlight video can be found here:

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