Levelland Mountain (W4G/NG-014) 08/20/2017

This hike is the opposite side of the road from the popular Blood Mountain side of Neel’s Gap. Parking at the Byron Reese parking area and hiking back up to Neel’s, then on to Levelland, you gain about 1,070′ in about 2.2 miles. Not too much memorable about this hike except that there aren’t many views in the summer. I have hiked this section several times in the fall and winter and the views then are much better. I did see a bearing tree marker and a property corner marker. We also found a salamander on the trail under a log. Elevation at the summit is about 3,900′. As for the radio activation, I was able to make 12 contacts fairly quickly. The pictures usually jog my memory a bit more and on this one I do not recall much more. It has been about 4 months, so details are a bit foggy. I hiked this section with a cousin of mine several years ago and camped on the trail. Lynn and I also hiked this section when we were engaged all the way to Cowrock mountain (I snuck in some photos from that trip about 22 years ago). Nice memories of those hikes. I have a few cool pics to post, which include pictures of the famous Mountain Crossing Walasi-Yi store/Hostel. I have some interesting facts about this site on my Blood Mountain hike. In the pics for this post look above the sign in the trees and you can see the boots that thru hikers have come back and thrown into the trees.

See pics here: Levelland Mountain Pics

Related previous posts from Blood Mountain hike: Blood Mountain


Wildcat Mountain (W4G/NG-020) 08/13/2017

Lynn and I decided to try and get in a late Sunday afternoon hike. We had been hoping to get one in and dodge the rain. We decided on Wildcat Mountain. You hop on the AT at Hogpen Gap from the Richard B Russell Scenic Parkway GA-348. Heading south on the AT you ascend pretty quickly from Hogpen. There are several side trails where people have shortcut the switchbacks. I hate it when people do this. The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club works hard to fight erosion and maintain a safe trail. These side tracks are dangerous, destructive and can even lead to someone getting lost. Enough of my soap box rant. Heading up the mountain there is an official side trail that runs 1.2 miles over to Whitley Gap shelter. The summit of Wildcat Mountain is about 1 mile in on this side trail. We saw quite a few interesting fungi along the way. There is a very nice collection of laurel and rhododendron along the trail. The summit is a mixture of rocky ledges and grassy areas. The views from here into the Ravencliff wilderness area are spectacular. We managed to get the hike in with only a few sprinkles. Not a bunch of contacts, just seven, but good enough to get the points for the activation.

Check our the pics here: Wildcat Mountain

Standing Indian Mountain (W4C/WM-014) 08/05/2017

What an awesome weekend for a hike. When we got to Deep Gap trail head it was 62ºF in August! A welcome relief to the hot summer days. Our hike to the summit would be 2.6 miles with around 1150′ elevation gain. The summit altitude is 5,499′
Traveling to the trail head from Blue Ridge was very scenic. Today I was accompanied by Lynn, Izzy and our two dogs, Sparkles & Annie. Lynn always makes sure you don’t go hungry when you hike with her. Today was no exception. We hiked to Standing Indian Shelter and took a nice break for lunch. We had sandwiches and veggies with hummus dip. Then it was time to hit the trail again. The trail was a nice steady climb, with only a few steep spots. One side of the mountain had been involved in a recent fire and you could really tell. There was an absolutely beautiful section that went through a canopy of rhododendron. Though it was damaged by the fire it was still a sight to see. I can’t imaging how breathtaking it must have been before the fires. Several overlooks along the way provided views along ridges that had been claimed by the fire. Fire can be destructive, but also healthy if managed. It clears lots of undergrowth to promote a healthy canopy of larger trees. Some areas around the country recover quicker than others from fire. I guess it all depends on how hot and uncontrolled the fires are. We took in the views in near perfect weather. The summit has a large grassy area and some great overlooks. We set up our hammocks. The girls relaxed while I made several radio contacts. Then we all kicked back for a bit in the hammocks. We packed up and headed back down. There were quite a few hikers and campers on the trail. At least one hiker was at the gap awaiting a shuttle when we returned to the Jeep. I am so blessed to live so close to these areas of adventure and vast scenery. God’s handiwork is truly amazing!

Enjoy the great pics of our fun trip: Standing Indian Mountain

Talona Mountain (W4G/HC-026) 08/04/2017

I had today off, which makes for a nice three-day weekend. After hiking Kennesaw yesterday and with plans to hike today and tomorrow, my SOTA points are adding up. I am trying to get some lower point value summits out of the way and saving this higher point value summits for the winter time bonus. On select summits I can get three additional points for winter time activations. Talona Mountain is a drive up summit in Ellijay, so this one is super easy. If you are ever in Ellijay and want to see some really incredible views, but don’t want to hike, then I highly recommend this summit. If you drive there, from Atlanta to Ellijay on 575/515, on the right just before getting into the town you will see two Apple Stores on the right, Panorama Orchards and Penland’s Apple House. In between these two is Talona Mountain Road. This is a paved road that goes all the way to the top. At the top are commercial radio towers. There is a giant cross at the top as well. You can see this and more in my link to the pics below. I have heard this is the broadcast tower site for a local Christian radio station and that they sometimes have a loudspeaker at the top so you can hear the broadcast. The day we went they did not have the speaker on. There is even a small observation deck you can set up a chair and have a picnic, or just hang out and enjoy the views. There are not any trees at the summit proper, so I had carried my telescopic mast to suspend the antenna from. It was a nice sunny day and a great day for operating ham radio. I made 9 contacts fairly quickly. I packed things up and headed out to see my in-laws. They have a summer home in Ellijay. In the winter they are in Florida. We headed over and enjoyed a home-grown tomato sandwich. Yummy!  We would later head to our cabin in Blue Ridge to get ready for a nice hike tomorrow.

The views at Talona were very good. Check out the pictures here: Talona Mountain Pics

Kennesaw Mountain (W4G/CE-001) 08/03/2017

I decided to get in some exercise and an activation on a week night after work.
There were a fair number of people there. So many that I had to park in the overflow parking lot.
This hiking very often is starting to pay off. I made it all the way to the top without even having to stop and catch my breath. The historical background of this site make it even more interesting. I saw several civil war cannons on the way to the summit.
I found two benchmarks at the top.
The views from the top are really nice as well. I made 10 contacts then headed down the mountain.  Great way to wrap up a workday at the office.

See pics here: Kennesaw Mountain Pics

Tooni Mountain (W4G/HC-015) 07/30/2017

It was nice to get back on the trail after a great trip to Vermont. Lynn was back on the trail with me as well. I have got her into listening to Pod Cast. She hangs out while I am making contacts and she listens to programs about investing. Thankfully she has a knack for investing and has something to keep her occupied while I activate.

We started the hike from the back side of the of the mountain close to the Toccoa River swinging bridge. The bridge is very nice. It was the first time Lynn had hiked to the bridge. Izzy and I had been together last year. We did make it there together last year via the river on a kayak float. We had lunch that day on the river bank right at the bridge.
Oh well, back to this trip… This was a short diversion, but very worth it to see the river. We back tracked a bit and caught the Benton Mackaye trail up Tooni mountain.

The band was in great shape. I made 20 contacts, some DX (Distant) contacts as well. On this trip I shed the table and chair for the Eno hammock. This worked pretty well. I am starting to fine tune what I carry and have lightened the load a bit. We saw some neat plants and fungi growing on trees. All in all a great day.

Click here for the pics: Tooni Mountain Pics

Vermont Epic Trip with Mount Mansfield Activation (W1/GM-001)

First of all, let me say how thankful I am for my sister, my niece Abbie and my wife Lynn. They watched after my grandmother while Mom, Izzy and I went to Vermont



I picked up mom to head for the airport. My adorable grandmother was up and ready to see us off.  We made it to the airport without issue and made it through security checkpoints with all of my radio gear.


Upon arrival at the Burlington airport, I knew the trip was going to be great when we got our rental car and the tag had HAM as part of the tag number!

I had been to Vermont once when I was about 13. I remembered the beautiful green mountains, Lake Champlain and all the beautiful scenery. We arrived at Johnny and Mari’s place and they were very happy to see us. Their home is a very nice New England home with  beautiful mountain views. Johnny has really taken great care of the place. He has some really large maple trees, which I am told are beautiful in the fall.

We headed off to eat at the Zen barn. This is very interesting place down the road from Johnny’s house. It is an old barn tastefully decorated with bovine artwork as you might imagine. The restaurant is a true Farm to Table eating establishment. Their burgers are delicious. They have a wide variety of drinks to chose from as well. IMG_20170719_200021501.jpgI had read in a guide to Vermont a top ten list. One of the top things the writer said you must do is try a Heady Topper. This is a world famous IPA that is kept cold from brewery until it is served. The Alchemist Brewery which makes the Heady Topper has grown considerably since it started. The brewmeister is a friend of Johnny’s and they have known each other since the start. When I saw they had these available I had to try one. You can only buy these in Vermont, so they are a rare treat and I must say they are very tasty! I don’t drink ofen, but when I do, it’s an IPA! This was one of the best. Later in the week Johnny and I made sure to tour the brewery. It is an impressive establishment.

Speaking of tours, no trip to Waterbury VT would be complete without a tour of the original Ben & Jerry’s factory. This was one of the main reasons Izzy went on the trip. She is a huge fan of their ice cream. The tour was great as was their free strawberry Cheesecake ice cream sample of the day!


One of my favorite parts of the trip as you might imagine, was climbing Mount Mansfield. Mount Mansfield is the tallest Mountain in Vermont. It is very different from GA summits. There are exposed cliffs, edges, spruce trees, bogs you have to cross with boardwalks and ski trails. The climb was no joke. Considerable elevation gain and some area you have to negotiate some large boulders. Although, we did see an Asian tourist in high heels??? Not sure how far she made it. Her companion was barefooted! Once on top I spoke with a trail ranger before setting up. This was to make sure I could place my antenna and guy ropes in areas that were not protected. He showed me the different arctic vegetation, mosses and lichen to steer clear of and wished me the best. I set up my portable 35′ fiberglass mast pole supporting my inverted V dipole. Johnny accompanied us part of the way and took some great pictures of us ascending a steep side of the mountain. You can see these on the link I will post below. If you zoom in you can see me and Izzy. I have on a red shirt. It was a little noisy, the bands were not good and I needed to get back to Johnny who was patiently waiting for us, so I kept it to the four minimum required contacts. Coming back down was fun. Johnny is the best host. He has climbed this mountain and many others in VT and is a very skilled triple black diamond downhill and cross country skier, so he knew all the details for getting us on and off the mountain. Stowe, VT, the ski town near Mt Mansfield, seems to stay crowded year round. On the way back we popped into the Alchemist brewery to sample their finest concoctions, which of course includes the Heady Topper. Very neat place.

We got to walk through Waterbury several evenings during our stay. Growing up in the South you don’t get to see many structures pre-dating the civil war. There are plenty in the North and all around Waterbury. We toured one of the oldest cemeteries in the area. Very historical.

Some other restaurants we visited on our trip were, The Reservoir, Blue Stone Pizza, The Prohibition Pig, The Black Back Pub and while we were in Quechee, we ate at Simon Pierce. These were all very good, but the best was likely Simon Pierce. Simon is a glass blower/artisan that fled the high cost of energy in Ireland and came to Quechee VT to set up his studio near the Quechee Gorge. He has his studio and restaurant at the site of an old Mill. He has converted this into a hydroelectric power generating station that powers much of the town. I have a picture or two in the link below of the studio and picture of signs with the more detailed historical facts. The food there was amazing. My mother was especially fond of the crab cakes. Quechee is a beautiful town. If you are in Vermont and have time, make this a must visit stop on your trip. Blue Stone Pizza has a very large blue stone for a large table top. They make a mean pizza. We did take out one night from there. Mari fixed me delicious breakfast’ during our stay. Her home smells really good too. She has oil diffusers around the place, which make the whole house smell fresh. Thieves was my favorite fragrance. Near our last night we crammed into the Black Back Pub and met up with Johnny’s daughter and my cousin, Meghan. It has been many, many years since we had seen her, so this was a special night to catch back up. The Black Back owners are also friends of Johnny’s. Johnny is able to tell you a little bit of history about just about everything in town.

This was a much needed get away for my mom. She and Johnny grew up next door to one another. Both are only children and are more like brother & sister or best friends than cousins. The distance keeps them from visiting as often as they would like, so it was a very special trip. Thanks to the Bramblett’s for making us feel at home. We love you guys!

Don’t forget to check out the pics: Epic VT Trip Pics