SOTA Bald Hill W2/NJ-006 (11 Aug 2013)

Bald Hill (or Mountain) is a summit in the far north of New Jersey, just a mile or so from the New York state line. Scott, WB2REI and I set up two stations (both using the callsign K3EL), for a first SOTA activation of this summit. Although there’s not been much SOTA activity from here, there is plenty of other RF floating around…

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We chose locations for our stations a couple of hundred yards away from the radio tower, on a trail running to the south from the summit. There was no rf interference from the summit tower on the amateur bands – the audible noise from the roaring fans of the HVAC systems in the radio room at the base of the tower was more troubling.

Scott was using his K2 with a LNR Precision 40/20/10 m “trail-friendly” end-fed wire. There are clearings off the track with some conveniently-placed trees and Scott made full use of his abilities with a throwing line (note the collapsible nylon bucket – no tangles as the line heads up in the air). Once up in the trees, wire was pretty much horizontal, one end of the was close to 40 feet up, the other around 30. Got out pretty well.

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My antenna was a 31 foot vertical supported by a dxwires pole, with a dozen radials and a tuner at the base, with a KX3 running 5 – 10 W. This time, I used a piglet and iPad to log. Luxury! Still had a pad and paper in the pack, though, just in case. compressed-0418-2

We compared RBN spots afterwards, and just based on the spots it looks like the station running the 31 ft vertical was getting out better. The number of spots was dissimilar, about 25 for the station with the horizontal end-fed, about 70 for the station running the 31 foot vertical. The latter had many more EU spots, but perhaps that was because I spent more time on 17 m which was pretty open across the pond. This was a bit of a contrast to our last trip, to W2/NJ-010, when we used similar setups. On that occasion, the end-fed wire (approx horizontal, at about 25 feet)  resulted in about 120 out of 160 RBN spots (although 40 of these were from one station which was reporting spots every minute!). Stil, also on that occasion the vertical seemed to be better for DX; all EU spots were for the station running the vertical, none on the horizontal end-fed. However, most of these were on 17 or 15, bands which were not used on the end-fed horizontal wire. Overall, it’s difficult to say one of the antennas strongly outperformed the other. The greater number of DX spots on both of our recent SOTA trips seems to give the 31-foot vertical (w/12 radials) the edge. On the other hand, the vertical is heavier (the pole alone is nearly three pounds) and even with 22-gauge wire the radials add a couple of pounds. Then there’s the tuner at the base, another couple of pounds (LDG Z11pro with batteries).

Bald Hill does not seem to be a popular hiking destination (there are no really good views), although there are a few trip reports describing visits at peakbagger.com and a description and pictures at the NJ1K website. We accessed the peak via Mountain Road. Shortly after the junction with Stag Hill Road, the blacktop ends; there are a few spots to pull off and park near the junction of Mountain Road and Stag Hill road. Mountain Road becomes an increasingly rough dirt road suitable only for high-clearance 4×4 vehicles. Power lines (for the radio tower) lead all the way to the summit. Following these, you cross a utility easement and follow the track which leads to several ruined farm buildings (a local hang-out, judging from the hundreds of beer cans and bottles – we arrived early on a Sunday morning and smoke was still rising from the remains of the previous night’s bonfire). At the ruins, the power lines and the track turn sharp right to head steeply up to the top. We saw no-one in the morning. Coming back in the afternoon it was much busier with several high-speed dirt bikes and ATVs.

There is a cross and well-maintained memorial near the ruins. I wasn’t aware of for whom or why this memorial was there, but a little research upon returning revealed this interesting article in the New Yorker.

Next planned activation somewhere in NJ – NA SOTA weekend 7/8 Sept.

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