We haven’t been terribly active on the air of late. Only one activation since August, so we (KK7HJL and I) decided to take a couple hours on Thanksgiving Eve to hike up Lava Butte to activate. While the park is “closed” they do leave the gate to the parking lot open to allow folks to walk up the road to the top for some epic view of the Central Oregon mountains.
November has been pretty cold, and we had a couple of good snowstorms early in the month, leaving the road a mix of compacted snow and ice in areas that don’t see much sun. On this particular day, the outside air temp was hovering around 50 degrees so the top layer of the white snow was fairly easy to walk on, and any areas of the road exposed to the sun were dry or nearly so. The walk from the parking lot took about 60 minutes and we had the place to ourselves when we reached the top, though we didn’t expect to see many people, there was only 1 car in the lot when we arrived.
Since I had already activated Lava Butte back in April, I was mostly along for morale support for Randi and to test my rusty CW skills. I recently received the Penntek 35 radio I built back from the kit manufacturer after experiencing an audio chip failure. John WA3RNC, very graciously asked me to send the radio to him to troubleshot and fix it at no cost. I had taken it out a couple of other times but didn’t make any contacts so I was anxious to see if I could do better from a summit.
I had intended to try 40,20 and 17 meters so I started on by setting up my K6ARK End Fed Half Wave on 40. I called QRL and heard a very faint, slightly off-frequency response, but was unable to make it out on the summit. Later, K7ATN emailed to let me know that he had heard my QRL and responded with ‘SOTA?’. I had to listen to the recording several times, but I was able to make that out eventually. Regardless, I began calling CQ and worked 7 or 8 stations. I struggled with WB6POT but he patiently kept with me, turns out B and 6 are difficult for me to distinguish.
Meanwhile, Randi – KK7HJL, began calling CQ on 2M. She did the entire activation on her own, didn’t ask for any prompts and made 6 contacts around Central Oregon. She said she was in search of that RF High she learned about after our recent activation on Catalina Island in late October.
Since my copy skills weren’t great I decided to shut it down and tear down instead of trying 20 or 17M. Again, this was about getting her out more than my needing to collect contacts. Also, the tourists had started to arrive and we didn’t want to be annoying anyone. We managed to tear down and bug out after only a 30 minute activation, which left us plenty of time to grab a beer at the Boneyard Pub back in Bend on our way back to the QTH. We lucked out and found an unoccupied couch to sit and enjoy our delicious malt beverages while watching a replay of the USA vs Canada women’s hockey match from the previous weekend.
Lava Butte National Volcanic Monument is a pretty easy SOTA/POTA site. During the “season” there is a charge to park in the lot but once they close the monument for the winter, it’s free parking. Access is easy from US 97 Southbound about 4 miles south of Bend. The Northbound 97 exit is closed in the winter. The hike up is about 1.5 miles of pavement and there are plenty of places to setup to activate once on top. Eventually there will be a paved path from the south end of Bend up to Lava Butte, making it a very easy bicycle ride or walk from town but until then you either have to drive or take the Deschutes River Trail like Tim – N7KOM and I did back in April. This would be a great first SOTA activation destination as the views are top notch and one can easily get 2M contacts from Bend and LaPine.