This past week I had picked up a new hand held VHF/UHF Yaesu VX-8R radio.
I always carry a VHF/UHF radio on my hikes, as it is what is used for local contacts and reaching repeaters. Great to have in case of an emergency. This radio also has a really cool feature called APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) which you can send text, emails, position info, weather data and much more digitally across radio networks. When I am on summits I sometimes use my cell phone to SPOT (Post my frequency and location). Chasers (People who collect point by making contacts with summit activators like me) watch a web-site so they can know who is on the air and where. This really speeds things up and sends lots of people to your frequency to make lots of contacts. Believe it or not there are actually mountain tops with little to no cell coverage. This makes getting a SPOT out difficult or impossible. The new radio I mentioned earlier has the ability to go across a vast radio network that works many times in areas that cell phones do not. I can key in my location and frequency to the radio and have it post to APRS SOTA which relays this information to the internet and will post my spot. Really cool and nerdy right? Heck yeah! Any way, as you might imagine, there is a learning curve involved with this and some registrations you must also complete. I had tried and failed to get the radio to post my spot yesterday on Buckeye Knob. This week I am heading to Vermont to activate Mount Mansfield. The last thing I want to do is get there and not be able to put a spot out, so I have to get this working ahead of time. It’s a beautiful Sunday for a hike. I had been to church and had asked my daughter if she would like to hike Stone Mountain with me so I could do an official test and get the radio dialed in. She of course said yes and we were off!
Everyday when I was a teenager I would spend my days at Lake Lanier and my nights at Stone Mountain watching the laser show. In my 20’s I would hike Stone Mountain every week night with my ole pal JD WA4EE. Later when I was engaged to Lynn, she and I would meet there to hike the mountain and eat dinner together. At the time she lived in South Atlanta, so this was a good in between spot. Needless to say, lots of good memories at this mountain. It was great to get to go back there with my daughter. The weather was perfect. The climb was about what I had remembered and was very steep in spots. Much more people there than on a typical activation.
I had bought a so-called high gain antenna for the radio. It turned out to be a dud, but I somehow managed to get the minimum 4 required contacts to get the points for the activation. My APRS to SOTA set up worked flawlessly and I was ready to head to Vermont!
Climbing the mountain, getting my radio tested and having Izzy drive me there and back was the perfect ending to a great weekend. Tomorrow Izzy, my mom and I leave for Vermont to visit one of the all around greatest guys I have ever known, my cousin Johnny Bramblett and his lovely wife Mari. We are very excited to get to see them and to get in some incredible hiking with Ham Radio!
Enjoy the pics from Stone Mountain here: Stone Mountain pics