Ugh, what happened to 2020? (and looking forward)

Activation of Mt Whitney (W6/SN-001) on Dec 5, 2020

Well shoot, I did not do very much blogging last year. So, I think for most of us 2020 started with high hopes, and then the ‘Rona happened. The big highlights of last year were I still kept marching forward on a few of my classes for the Wilderness Ed program, was certified as an LNT trainer and spent some time backpacking. Yes I still did plenty of SOTA too, quite a few Uniques and FAs. Picked up 3 new Associations (W5T, W7Y and W7W), I activated the tallest peak in the lower 48 in December, which in and of itself was a pretty fun feat, but very last minute (W6/SN-001); it was also my 200th activation. That was a happy accident to say the least and was not the least bit planned. I wound up just shy of 300 points, a very middle of the road year for me. Even with CV-19 I still managed at least one activation in every Month, but reality is we were pretty busy with Search and Rescue with lots of new people trying out the backcountry for the very first time in March and April. At the end of May I left the job I was at and decided to take a sabbatical for the summer. I could no longer deal with the toxicity of the company I was working for at the time, and Covid was only making those people that much crazier, so I felt it was time to take a break and reassess the direction I wanted to go in.. One thing was for sure is that I was done with large company corporate America. That said while I was off for those 4 months I spent some time doing out of county Search and Rescue support (mutual aid), and spent a lot of time camping and out and about.

The country pretty much went on lockdown after the wife and I did a trip down to El Paso to take our son his truck, and visit him. I still swear he brought ‘Rona home with him on his December block leave in 2019. While there I did an activation of South Franklin Mountain. It was kinda humorous at the time, but I watched all kinds of folks slipping and falling on the switchback cuts, while folks were actively asking me “why you taking the long route?” I do not like to fall, and I hate slippage :P.

Camp setup for the night on a week long overlanding trip in Nevada

I had also been planning since October of 2019 to go and hike/SOTA activate the West Highland Way in Scotland. I had a really solid plan/map/spreadsheet and was really looking forward to that. For those not aware, the WHW starts in the suburbs of Glasgow and heads north up thru the Highlands to Fort William up by Ben Nevis (GM/WS-001) Once we got into April though it was obvious that was not going to happen. I am still going to do the West Highland Way, just not sure if it is going to be 2022, or 2023. I have plans to do a much longer long trail in the very near future but I will need to save a bookoo dinero to pull that one off. Around April time and realizing the world was going to be on hella lockdown, I decided to give glamping a try and used some of the refunds on our planned travel to pickup an RTT for the Tacoma. All in all I did spend more than a months worth of nights in the thing, but only a few of those it actually made a difference. After looking back at the number of nights I spent in the tent, only about 3-4 of those nights the tent made a positive impact on my sleeping, and those were mostly SAR related.. That said the RTT is already up for sale.

Left to Right: Myself (N6JFD), Mark (M0NOM), Paul (HB9DST), and another Paul (W6PNG/M0SNA)

Wow, I just realized i never actually finished the write up I did for the Lake District Weekend in May of 2019 (two years later :D). I only bring it up because one of the coolest things I had experience to date occurred. I had the highest number of S2S ever on a single summit, and all of them were 2M, and on one summit, 4 of us ended up on top of the same summit at the same time. This picture was later included in the UKs version of QST. Much like Ham14er in Colorado, the Lake District Weekend is a lot of fun, and can be done mostly 2m only and there is a lot of S2S to be had. I managed to finish the trifecta of UK high points on this trip. I’d already done Ben Nevis (2018), and on this trip I managed Scaffel Pike and Snowdonia over in Wales. Maybe one of these years I should try for the Three Peaks Challenge with SOTA as part of the mission (because just doing those three peaks is not hard enough :P).

So, back to 2020 I took a week in May and overlanded from an area near Tonopah back towards the Ghost Town of Bodie, and activated quite a few first activations along the way. In the process almost stepped on a rattlesnake. This is the first time I’ve encountered snakes in this part of California, and my first time dealing with them in SOTA too. I finally finished off “the Sisters” which is nearby as well. The mountain range is called the Sweetwaters and it contains Mt Patterson (W6/ND-001) as well as East (W7N/TR-001), South (W6/ND-002) and Middle Sister (W6/ND-003). This is one of those interesting areas that a line of peaks that split regions/associations have differing bonus seasons. The W6/ND peaks all have a summer bonus, and W7N/TR has a winter bonus yet there is a mix of both on this same mountain range. Needless to say, it was not Bonus season when I finished this mini project off. Also nice to see that after I did the FA on South Sister in 2017 that Paul (W6PNG seen in the UK picture above) came and activated it this summer. Unfortunately that peak is in a bad location for me to chase short of getting in the car and heading to a nearby pass, so no complete as of yet. Also of note was an FA on Mt Dubois (W6/WH-001). This was an all off trail, LONG day extravaganza, and was my blown activation of the year. I managed 3 QSOs on 2m but because I was not able to get a spot out at all and I’d missed the RBN SOTAWATCH window for my alert no one knew to chase me up there, so no HF love. I’d started that walk in the dark and finished in the dark. Not the first time I’d be doing that this year :D. In October I activated W6/NS-099 Boulder peak off the PCT in between Sonora and Ebbett’s pass, but I accessed it from Highland Lakes. Still a lot of unique and FA peaks for me to go after in this zone in 2021 as well. It also would not be an exciting year if I did not get almost struck by lightning too. Well this has only happened on one occasion to date, on Dunderberg peak, but in this case it’s hard to tell if I was going to get struck or not. I was on Mt Gibbs (W6/SS-101) in Yosemite and it started snowing. I deployed into my Bothy Bag and was feeling a big static charge build up. There was thunder though and even after tearing down I was still “buzzing” while I was hiking off. That was fun b/c it was a summer time snow encounter. This was one peak that did not want to give up the activation easily. Adam (K6ARK) and I had tried to do this peak in 2018 as part of a two-fer with Dana Peak to the North. After we started hiking from Dana to Gibbs a huge storm built up so we had to bail.

So those are the big highlights worth calling out of 2020, so now to 2021. International travel is still a bust, so the West Highland way is still out but I need a backpacking trip in May. If you’ve been following me a while on here you know I love building maps and spreadsheets and doing SOTA projects. Well this years is going to be a dry run for a much larger project that I have planned in the next couple of years. I’m going to depart from Springer Mountain (after I activate it) in North Georgia and walk to the Southern end of the Smokies/Fontana Dam. There are a little more than 20 peaks on this stretch of the AT good for 202 points. Speaking of points I am also marching full speed towards Double Goat. In fact IF I have planned my points well and if I get everything I intend to get on my AT jaunt then I’ll be setup for Double Goat on W4C/EM-003 Hump Mountain a few days later. I’d originally intended for that peak to be my first MG, but time of year was wrong, so I opted for something local.

Also of note, I am going to try the video thing out this year too. That channel name is N6JFD Treks. A fun little play on words there. Not sure I’ll be any more active doing video because well, lets face it, editing videos takes longer than a SOTA activation, but if I want to find a way to increase interest in my AT project then I’ll need all the revenue income streams possible ;-). I am also playing with LoTW finally. I started playing with FLE (Fast Log Editor) as a way to prep log files for importing into SotaDB, and realized i could also fast upload into LoTW. I’d not uploaded anything since 2016, and it was pretty interesting that spot checking a few of my past activations I ended up with more then 100 confirmed QSLs . So going forward I will do all my SOTA logs into LoTW as well.

So I’ll leave you with a few other parting shots from the past couple of years and say 73s for now, feel free to just follow the video channel, although I’m sure if i have something more to say in text format, or have some fun pictures to show those will end up here.