SOTA Bald Mountain W1/GM-167, 12th October 2014

My XYL and I have been visiting the Green Mountains for years, but it’s only recently that we’ve come to SOTA, hence I didn’t realize how many of the W1/GM summits have never been activated. If the numbers on SOTAwatch are accurate, less than 50 of the 253 GM summits have been SOTA’d! Having had a fine time at Antone Mountain on Saturday, what could we do on Sunday? Well, with all those summits begging for an activation, more SOTA, of course! There are probably access issues for many peaks which explains why they haven’t been activated, but after a little consultation with SOTA maps, the adventure radio maps and the Green Mountain Club’s “Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont” we found a few unactivated SOTA summits with good trails. Bald Mountain was chosen as the day’s target. Now comes the “mea culpa” – during the activation I was giving out W1/GM-055 as the summit reference. That is a Bald Mountain, about 10 miles south-west of Rutland, but its not the Bald Mountain which we activated, (W1/GM-167) in the Aitken State Forest, a couple of miles to the east of Rutland. Apologies to all chasers for the confusion caused. Just to add to the potential for mix-ups, there are another two SOTA summits named Bald Mountain and one Bald Hill in the W1/GM area, as well as many other Balds which don’t count for SOTA. Bald Mountain W1/GM-167 is not particularly aptly-named, since although there are a couple of excellent viewpoints the summit is mostly well-wooded, and not bald at all. Perhaps it was balder back in the day?

The start of the Bald Mountain trail.

The start of the Bald Mountain trail.

Bald Mountain is a relatively low summit (2090 feet) on a chain of hills just to the east of Rutland which separate the Otter Creek valley from the higher Green Mountain peaks of Killington and Pico. There is a loop trail which traverses the north and south summits of Bald Mountain, offering shorter or longer loop options (map). The trail is clearly signed at junctions, and there are fading blue paint blazes along the way (less faded in one direction than the other – perhaps they didn’t tell the last lad they sent up the hill with the pot of paint to color both sides of the trees?). There’s a short connecting section of trail from the road to the start of the loop, with sections of puncheon and boulders to step across – looks like it can get wet at times. After about 10 min, there’s an obvious fork in the trail with a big sign to indicate the beginning of the loop. We took the circuit clockwise, the most direct route to the higher northern summit. From this point, it’s a moderately steep trail, easy to follow, through an open hardwood forest.There are several viewpoints along the loop, offering vistas of the central Green Mountains, of the valley, and of Rutland.

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K3EL at one of the clearings offering a view of Pico Peak.

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Fiberglass mast propped up between the tree branches.

One of the viewpoints is near the summit. Close by is an enticing boulder offering comfortable seating to operate from, and thus our site was chosen. Equipment was the same as for Saturday’s activation of Antone Mountain. Once more, the trees provided a convenient support for the pole, and so we were able to dispense with guy ropes. At the summit the trees are quite low, and so the antenna mast protruded well above the topmost branches. There was a good Verizon cell signal at this site, so easy to see if you’re spotted on SOTAwatch – it was impressive to see how quickly an RBN spot appeared after calling CQ.

 

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The operating rock, Bald Mt.

Once the radio was set up, we donned our extra layers. The temperature was only in the 40s and we expected to be sat around for an hour or more – having hauled the radio gear up the hill, I don’t want to just have the minimum four QSOs to make an “official” activation, I want to stay long enough to make a QSO with anyone who wants one. First QSO was with DL6AP at 1542, and both 17 m and 15 m were hopping, with about 2/3 of the contacts with EU. After that, it was time for lunch. 40 m then provided some more local Qs, then up to 20 before finishing up on 15 m, last contact being with I6FPN at 1709. Out of 62 contacts, 25 were with North America, the rest with EU. This was a record number of contacts for one of my SOTA activations, and we also had bight sunshine, a good flat rock for a seat, and a view of the mountains from our summit location. What more could you ask for?

Fungi at the base of the trail.

Fungi at the base of the trail.

Bald Mt. was a pretty busy summit. We arrived around 10 am, at which time the parking spaces across from the gate to the trail were empty. When we returned mid-afternoon there were several cars, and we met quite a few walkers during the day. One commented that “it’s only locals that come up here”, he was clearly surprised to find two tourists from NJ on his mountain. We didn’t meet much wildlife. Perhaps all the activity on the trail scared them off. Lots of attractive mushrooms near the bottom of the trail, though.

Thanks to all the “chasers”, who make SOTA such an entertaining activity!

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