I started the morning drive to Blue Ridge GA with a mandatory stop at “That Biscuit Place” in Cumming, GA for breakfast. Yummy!
This is an activation I was really looking forward to for a couple of reasons. First, it was an activation in the Cohutta Wilderness, which is very cool in of itself. I had also tried to do this one once before. I again went without first checking out the maps, rather I had trusted the written guide on the SOTA web-site because it sounded so easy. The problem came when I was trusting my GPS rather than checking Topo’s and trusting the guides. There are at least four different trail directions you could go on from the place you park, but only one leads to the summit. The GPS had the summit shown in the opposite direction than where the guide said to go. I followed the GPS, not to coordinates, but to the named summit. A mountain can be very large and cover a good bit of area, especially with a flat ridge and a false peak or two. As the name states, “Flat Top Mountain”, it has a large flat area near the top. The first time I had gone up I figured out what was going on, but my daughter was with me, had the wrong kind of shoes on and just wanted to call it, so I had to abandon the hopes for getting in the summit that day. The pics in the Dter Cemetery are from the first attempt with Izzy. The second reason I was looking forward to the summit was to try out my new Elecraft KX3 rig. It is a lot lighter than my Yaesu FT-857D, but only puts out 15 watts with an external battery as compared to 100 watts on the Yaesu. I really thought the difference in power was going to make it really difficult to get the summits activated. I had tested the rig at home calling people I could hear to get a test and had no issues, but would random people all over the country chasing me be able to hear me well enough to make a QSO? I would need to find out.
I went back to Flat Top determined to get it in the bag. The ride into the area has some great views along the ridges through the Northeast side of the Cohutta’s. Hurricane Irma had made it’s way through the area with lots of rain and high winds, so there were tree limbs and trees down everywhere. Most of the trees had been cleared on FS64. At Dyer Cemetery, which is a very old cemetery way out in the woods, you turn left on 64A and go straight up the mountain This is a very rough road, but no challenge at all for the Jeep Rubicon. On the final stretch up the mountain there was a huge tree across the trail, but it looked like I could get under it. I got to the right at the highest clearance point and squeezed under the tree. It was rubbing the top of the Jeep as I went under it. I am definitely going to get a chainsaw to keep in the Jeep. I was by myself on this hike. I went right up the correct trail, which of all the four looks the least like a trail. about halfway up the hill you join the Benton Mackaye trail. A little further up the trail and you arrive at the summit. There was an old concrete foundation where a house had once stood. Pretty cool that there were houses this far back in the woods. I set up on the foundation and got the antenna hoisted straight away. At the top there was almost no cell coverage. A trick Ryan taught me was to put your phone in airplane mode for about 30 seconds, then switch back to regular mode. At the higher elevations your phone tries to connect to more than one tower at the same time, so it gets confused and wont’t connect. When you come out of airplane mode it will likely sync with just one tower and give you a minute or two of service. I put out a spot and quickly worked 8 stations. Surprisingly I had no issues getting really good signal reports with just 15 watts! The receiver in the KX3 is really good and the filters are very effective. I picked up a plastic food storage container with an air-tight “O”-ring seal to keep the KX3 dry. It works perfectly, protects the rig in the pack and provides a nice base to set the rig on while operating. You can see a pic of the nice new rig in the link below and notice my new clipboard I customized for logging contacts. It is much lighter than the iPad, doesn’t require batteries, has a pencil holder, a watch set for UTC time and a pico-paddle minature set of iambic paddles for sending Morse code. The KX3 has iambic paddles, which work well, but I had already made this set up to work with my Yaesu FT-857D. Some operators like the Pico Paddles better than the KX3 paddles. These additions / changes have really lightened the load. On the way back out toward Epworth there’s a pull out with a big cliff. See the pic with my Jeep parked in front of the cliff. After this pic the rest are of from scouting another summit’s access and meeting back up with Izzy at the cabin. There are a few nice pics of her at one of our favorite spots, the Toccoa river rapids in Aska road.
Enjoy the pics here:Flat Top Mountain pics
Thanks for reading.