The vision of Benton MacKaye in 1921 for a Trail linking the East Coast was wonderfully celebrated on Saturday, October 2, 2021, with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail ham radio on-the-air event. This was not a contest, there were no awards and it was not organized by any national organization, but it attracted hundreds of eager participants.
This event drew hams from SOTA, POTA and WWFF. We had more than 50 activator stations spread across 11 states working HF and VHF frequencies, with CW, DIGI, SSB and FM modes, both QRO and QRP power levels. In addition to many AT-to-AT contacts, there were more than 400 other chasers from 40 states and provinces, plus at least 20 EU chasers. There was some light rain in GA and NC and it was chilly in VT, but otherwise the weather cooperated. Band conditions on 20M, 18M and 15M proved good for distant summits and DX.
At this writing, more than 37 SOTA operators and more than 12 POTA operators are known to have participated. Chasers reported some pileups on the popular bands. Some SOTA ops also plan to submit POTA logs for K-4556.
First station on air was likely special call N4C (ops David, ND1J, Howard, WB4GUD) at 1226Z from the Rock Gap trailhead near Franklin, NC. These POTA guys were running battery power to an IC-7100 at 100W SSB and 30W FT8 with Wolf River coils antenna. They logged 150 QSOs, with 20 p2p (park-to-park) contacts but were often busy off-the-air meeting other local hams and hikers coming to the popular AT trailhead.
Next to be spotted was Dave, K2CZH, at 1231Z on SOTA peak W2/NJ-001 High Point, NJ, running HF SSB 60-17M who logged 48 QSOs with 11 s2s (summit-to-summit). A few minutes later 1241Z Dean, K2JB, was spotted on W4T/SU-035 in Tennessee working HF CW. He had camped out overnight on the summit of Snowbird Mountain near the FAA VOR station and managed 67 QSO’s with 24 s2s contacts. This is part of his quest to achieve the SOTA 4X Mountain Goat Award later this month.
In addition to AT-to-AT contacts, many of the SOTA stations were also busy making s2s contacts with activators in the W7A Arizona s2s Madness SOTA event and elsewhere in NA. On Saturday there were more than 80 SOTA summits on the air in North America! There were also plenty of POTA park-to-park contacts with at least 20 other POTA parks active during the day.
At the end of the day, one of the last stations to QRT was likely Pat, NE2P, on SOTA W4C/CM-036 (Max Patch) who was spotted making final calls on 30M CW at 2311Z after hiking to THREE (3) AT summits (Hall, Snowbird, Max Patch) in one day and logging 37 QSOs including 7 s2s on 20M CW.
At least six (6) SOTA operators hiked to multiple peaks for AT-on-the-air. Four (4) SOTA operators camped on or near the summits the night before to get an early start. POTA operators also hiked to some AT peaks on Saturday or were located at AT trailheads. Many of the POTA operators will be submitting logs for two-fer parks or three-fer parks, being along the national scenic Trail and also within the boundaries of other POTA parks for double credits.
POTA officials have indicated that AT contacts logged during this event will likely count toward any possible future National Trail awards.
Skip, K4EAK, and Ed, KO4SRJ, ran a POTA Trailhead station in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in GA, logging 28 QSOs HF SSB, including 24 p2p. This was the first-ever HF contacts for Ed, KO4SRJ, a newly-licensed General. Congrats, Ed!
Bob, AC1Z, was on SOTA W4V/BR-009, Big Flat, in Virginia where he logged 104 HF CW and SSB QSOs using his KX2 with an outstanding 53 s2s (summit-to-summit) contacts for the day!
The most contacts logged by one station during the event was likely Chris, AF2V, running a POTA trailhead station at Bromley Mountain, VT, with 205 QSOs on HF SSB, including 7 AT contacts and a total of 33 p2p (park-to-park) contacts. He was closely followed by Conrad, WS4S, running a POTA trailhead station near I-40 crossing in Tennessee who logged 202 SSB and CW QSOs.
Meanwhile, AJ, AJ2I, was running QRP SSB from SOTA summit W1/GM-221 in Vermont with no cell service for spotting and no space to erect his antenna. He got his 5 QSOs and otherwise had a good time.
The southerly terminus of the Appalachian Trail is Springer Mountain, GA, (W4G/HC-005) where Richard, N1RBD, settled into his new camp chair to log 69 QSOs on HF CW and VHF FM, including 22 s2s and 16 p2p contacts. Did a great job as the anchor station for the event.
Unfortunately, we did not have any Maine stations participating so the northerly terminus was not represented.
There was a remarkable amount of VHF activity along the Trail in GA, NC, TN and VA on FM and SSB.
There was also lots of international participation. Spanish station EA2IF, Guru, contacted nine (9) SOTA summits along the AT on Saturday using 20/18M CW. Other DX chasers came from SP, F, G, HB9, SA, OE, DJ, S7 and PA. Likely the furthest DX portable-to-portable s2s was Heinz, OE5EEP/p on an Austrian EU summit who contacted SOTA stations Pat, KI4SVM, in North Carolina, and Frandy, N1FJ, in Vermont. Heinz also commented that it was tough to break stateside pileups.
The most active STATE was likely GA, with fifteen (15) activators on seven (7) SOTA summits, one (1) POTA peak and at least one (1) POTA trailhead. Scott, WB8ICQ, reported hiking the AT in Georgia to Big Cedar (W4G/NG-023) and meeting two other ham activators, then hiking to Sassafras (W4G/NG-040) and meeting two other ham activators on the summit. Next STATES in order of participation ranking were NC, TN and VA.
Jean, AE1JS, and Mark, AE1MS, hiked two SOTA summits in GA (Round Top and Double Spring Knob) for the event, worked 40/60M SSB, 2M FM logging a total of 70 QSOs with 24 s2s between them.
Frandy, N1FJ and Jim, KK1W, activated Stratton Mountain (VT) for SOTA and POTA. They logged 40 QSOs with 6 s2s.
Mike, KB7THL, activated Michaux State Forest in PA (POTA K-5471) with 157 QSOs on 20/40 SSB with 8 p2p.
Aaron, N4ARY, and Kody, KO4AXV, camped overnight at Coopers Gap, GA, before taking the longer route up Gooch Mountain (W4G/NG-041). They worked 20M CW and VHF for more than 30 QSOs.
Scott, WB8ICQ, hiked two SOTA summits on the AT that day, made 48 QSOs on 20/30/40 CW and VHF FM with a total 21 s2s contacts logged in the “write in the rain” book.
Joe, KI4ASK, Mary Catherine, KI4HHI, Kevin, KN4PKS and xyl Kayleigh hiked from Unicoi Gap to Rocky Mountain (W4G/NG-011) then to Tray Mountain (W4G/NG-005) and back. They participated in AT ontheair and also ARES SET exercise, operating 40M SSB and 2M FM. It was KN4PKS first SOTA hike which earned him two 10-pointers and lots of s2s points.
Jonathan, W4UYE, also started at Unicoi Gap and chose to climb Blue Mountain (W4G/NG-010). He reported lots of VHF FM activity on the way up and down and worked 20/40M SSB in addition to VHF for a total of more than 25 contacts, many AT-to-AT.
Scott, KN3A, hiked the AT in Swatara SP PA (POTA K-1426) to find an empty mountain campsite where he setup his QRP IC-705 with Sotabeams Bandhopper in a tree. That was good for 21 QSOs CW and SSB with 10 p2p and bonus DJ5AV for DX.
Eric, VA2EO, was on a Canadian SOTA summit (VE2/QC-062) and chased 9 AT stations for s2s contacts.
Kody, KC3OLZ, was chasing from WPA with 100W and having trouble breaking the pileups.
Yusef, KO4KHO, and his hiking buddy Joe hiked to Preachers Rock in GA to activate POTA K-4556. He filled his logbook with HF SSB and VHF FM contacts.
Chip, K2KJD and Clyde, W1PTS, represented Adventure Team FOG (fat old guys) on Sassafras Mountain for SOTA W4G/NG-040, working CW, SSB and FM.
Michael, KC1OCA, activated a POTA Trailhead in Berkshire, MA, running SSB, FT8 and VHF FM for a total of 73 QSOs, including 3 AT-AT and a total of 15 p2p.
Mindy, KM1NDY, and Marc, AA1F, got a late start climbing Mt. Everett, MA (W1/MB-002) but made combined 35 QSOs on 40/20 SSB.
Nathan, K1MAZ, activated the Trail (K-4556) from near Bennington, VT, for 31 QSOs including 1 p2p.
Newly-licensed hams Jack, KO4QXW, and granddaughter Kaylee, KO4QXV, stopped by to visit N4C at Rock Gap trailhead and sample POTA operating.
Scott, N3SW, was on the summit of Flag Ridge (W3/PD-006) in Pennsylvania running QRP CW on 40/30M using KX2 with Black Widow vertical. He logged 59 QSOs including 7 s2s.
Pat, KI4SVM, activated Standing Indian (W4G/WM-014) in North Carolina on CW,SSB, FM. He logged 107 QSOs with 45 s2s including 13 AT-AT, plus an s2s with OE5EEP/p before rain ended the day.
Ken, W2SCT, activated POTA K-2010 (Bear Mountain State Park, NY) near the original section of Appalachian Trail. He made 92 QSOs SSB, CW with 3 p2p, and also a QRP contact with K0KLB in Iowa, who was using his silo for an antenna. See the YouTube video.
Mike, WB2FUV, was on West Mountain (W2/GC-054) in Harriman State Park (K-2069) NY running QRP CW and 2M SSB for a total of 76 contacts, including 22 s2s contacts and 9 EU DX.
Others Spotted on AT:. Others spotted on the bands along the Appalachian Trail during the event included:
AG4VA (VA), K4AAE/P (VA), KE4SJM (GA), NR3E (KY), KC3SSO (VA), KC1DFX (NH), K1LIZ (KY), N3LRG (PA), W4GO (VA), K04HMB (VA), KI4POT (VA), N3HXZ (VA), KO4LIT (GA), NG2E (VA), N1BD (GA), K4RXL (VA), KB9CNN (PA), KI4RAH (TN), KD4BOB (NC) and KO4SRJ (GA).
Thanks to everyone for making this event a great success !!
Stay well & 73!