NJ doesn’t have a lot of SOTA summits – 12, to be exact. NJ-012 is Stonetown High Point (better known as Windbeam Mountain), a summit which I activated in 2013. It’s a steep hike, but a very pretty one. A fire burned here a few years ago, so much of the hike is through an open, regenerating forest with better views than the typical NJ hill. Because it’s a pleasant hike, we (my XYL and I) decided to go up there again this year. The weather was beautiful on Sunday, 28th September, and we arrived at the trail head around 9.30. Instead of parking near the playing fields on Mary Roth Drive, we stopped at a small roadside parking spot on Westbrook Rd., about 200 yds south of the junction with Stonetown Rd. The trail head is on the north side of the three-way junction. This makes for a significantly shorter hike than if you park at Mary Roth Drive, since you avoid the lengthy (but interesting) walk through a boulder field which parallels Stonetown Rd.
It was surprisingly warm, with the temperatures close to 90 in the afternoon. Still, we huffed and puffed our way up to the top. It was easy to find the same spot which we’d used to activate W2/NJ-012 last year, but we continued further north along the ridge to the very highest point of the hill, and set up on a rock outcrop about 100 feet to the east of the trail just where the ground starts sloping down. At this point the top of the ridge is quite flat, but only a couple of hundred feet wide. Close by are the remains of the concrete footers for the old Windbeam Mt. fire tower, constructed in 1920. The tower was moved in 1971, and is now located on Ramapo Mountain, a few miles away.
We erected a DXwire fiberglass “mini” mast to support a 33′ vertical, laid out the radials, set up the radio… and discovered that the powerpole to coaxial DC connector was nowhere to be found. We had a battery and a KX3, but no way to connect them! Much cussing didn’t help any electrons excite the radio, and so back down the hill we went. Consolation was sought at the ice-cream store in Wanaque, but we were too early, they didn’t open until 2 pm. The disaster was complete, and we returned to Princeton, hot, tired and without any QSOs.
Being of an ornery nature, plans were made to return the following weekend. Lesson learned, this time a more thorough inventory of equipment would be made when packing gear (coincidentally, a “perfect checklist” was just posted to the files section of the Yahoo SOTA group!). Sunday, 5th Oct. was forecast to be sunny but cold, and we arrived at the same parking spot at 8.45 am with the temperature hovering around 40 F rather than 80 F the week before. Gloves and woolen hats would have been welcome! The ground was well-covered with fallen leaves, occasionally making the path hard to discern, but there are good blazes in the trees. Anyway, we could remember the way from last week’s ascent… It took us a little over an hour to get from the trail head to the top of Windbeam Mt. There are good viewpoints at various spots on the way up – look out for the skyscrapers of Manhattan peaking over a ridge when you’re atop Little Windbeam.
Setup was the same as the previous week, with the vertical placed atop a rock outcrop, and a dozen radials draped over the ground. The 33 ft vertical was fed via a switchable direct feed (for 40 and 15 m) or a 4:1 unun (to tame the mismatch on the other bands), with 12 feet of RG8X coax to the KX3. This is a lighter setup compared to the base tuner which I’ve used previously, and seemed to work very well.
A CQ on 17 m CW quickly produced a caller from HB9, followed by EA and ON as well as several Stateside QSOs.
20 m produced another dozen or so contacts, 40 m not so many. 15 m was good for another dozen, with half being to EU including some very strong signals from Scandinavia, then back to 17 m to finish off the afternoon. Out of 46 QSOs, 13 were with EU stations, and nearly half of the RBN spots for this operation were from EU. Clearly conditions were good for DX, particularly on 15 and 17.
We saw our fair share of wildlife on these two trips up Windbeam Mt. On the first we met a black rat snake, some five or six feet long. On the second, we found this turtle close to the base of the old fire tower.There weren’t many fellow hikers on the trail, we saw about half a dozen each day.