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I enjoy operating from mountain peaks as part of the Summits On The Air (SOTA) program. Below are photos of a SOTA activation atop Cheaha Mountain in Alabama on March 16, 2018. Cheaha is the highest point in Alabama at 2,407 feet above sea level. My SOTA rig consists of a Yaesu FT-891, powered by a Bioenno BLF-1206A battery. I use a SOTA BEAMS 20-40-60 meter linked dipole antenna. For lighter loadouts, I use a LNR Precision MTR4B V2 "Mountain Topper" QRP CW transceiver with a portable EFHW antenna from NY4GEFHW.com. I power the MTR4B V2 with a 3,000 maH LiPo battery. There is a series of videos on my N4HNH Rafio YouTube channel that focus on my SOTA gear.
I want to thank all of you who have chased me on the summits. Activations would be impossible without other amateur radio operators chasing us. As I like to say, without chasers it's just a nice hike.
The photo below is from the camping area at Cheaha Mountain State Park, South of Oxford, Alabama..
The photo below is the view looking South from Tray Mountain, Georgia, in January of 2019. That is ice in the tree tops.
The photos below are from a SOTA activation atop Brasstown Bald (4,784 feet ASL) in North Georgia, on February 27, 2018. I activated with both HF and VHF.
I made it to 1,000 SOTA activator points on October 4, 2019, atop the summit of Max Patch in North Carolina, allowing me to "join the herd" of SOTA mountain goats. Each summit is worth between 1 and 10 points, assuming that we log the required minimum number of simplex contacts. So it takes miles and miles of hiking to reach 1,000 points. For me it took from January 20, 2018 until October 4, 2019.
My shack consists of a Yaesu FTdx5000MP Limited, a Heil PR-781 microphone, an Elecraft KPA-1500 legal limit solid-state amplifier, and an Ameritron AL-80B 1KW desktop amplifier, as my backup. The AL-80B was my primary amplifier for 21 years. It still has the original Eimac 3-500Z tube. My backup transceiver is a Yaesu FTdx10. Both transceivers have been featured on my YouTube channel, N4HNH Radio.
My antenna system consists of a Fritzel model FD-4 off-center-fed dipole at 50 feet, a Cushcraft R-5 vertical at 25 feet, a ZS6BKW computer-optimized G5RV at 45 feet, and a 160m doublet at 45 feet. The ZS6BKW and the 160m doublet are both tuned automatically, with the ATU that is built into my Elecraft KPA-1500 amplifier. The 160m doublet happens to be resonant on 17 meters. It was resonant between 17 and 20 meters, so I trimmed some excess ladder line to settle it at 1.1:1 in the middle of the 17m band. I use a model 4116T, 4:1 BalUn, from Balun Designs, for the 160m doublet. The ZS6BKW is resonant on 12, 17, 20, and 40 meters. It also works well in the FM portion of the 10-meter band, without needing the tuner. With the tuner, I am able to operate the SSB portion of 10m, plus 15, 30, 60, and 80 meters.
I have a YouTube channel dedicated to helping amateur radio operators who might be interested in learning how to get the most from their station. I have found that many operators aren't fully aware of the capabilities of the radio, antenna, microphone, etc. that they already own. You can find my YouTube channel by searching YouTube for N4HNH Radio.
I enjoy mobile operation from a Yaesu FT-890/AT (circa 1991) feeding Ham Stick antennas. My favorite bands are 40m and 17m. I use 10m, 40m, and 75m Lakeview Ham Sticks, plus a 60m MFJ version of the Ham Stick. The 10m Ham Stick will operate 10m through 20m using the rig's auto-tuner. I use an ICOM ID-880H dual-band D-STAR capable mobile rig for 2m and 70cm. My mobile VHF/UHF antenna is a Diamond NR770HBNMO fold-over antenna. It is an incredible performer. It creates its own counterpoise, so it can be mounted where the RF ground is limited or questionable. Most of my ham gear was purchased at HRO in Atlanta. Thanks Mark, David, Ken, Ray, James, and Koz!
Update: I finally retired the FT-890 and replaced it with a Yaesu FT-891. I decided it was time to go up one digit (Hi-Hi!). Well, the FT-891 takes up less space. I had to purchase the FC-50 auto-tuner, so the Hamsticks can be tweaked to cover the band edges.
At age 14, I started installing and repairing radios at a CB radio shop in Garden City, Georgia, called Bumble Bee Electronics. Mr. Floyd Mathews (the Bumble Bee) took me under his wing. He was almost like another father to me. The photo below shows me operating my Johnson Messenger 250 CB radio in the mid 1970s.
Years later, after time in college, I took advantage of an opportunity to work on Motorola radios for a living, specializing in pagers and Handie-Talkies. This is where I first encountered Hams. In fact, I was surrounded by Hams; some who would become my "Elmers".
In 1981, while returning from a service call for a Motorola customer, I was involved in a serious auto accident that left me hospitalized for quite some time. During this time W4MMQ, Ed Bigbie, brought me an Ameco study guide to read while recovering in the burn ward at the hospital. Mr. Bigbie was my boss. His grandson, Marc Bigbie, now holds the callsign W4MMQ. I studied the rules and priniciples of Ham Radio using the books provided by Mr. Bigbie and, after the hospital stay, I returned to work, and committed myself to obtaining an Amateur Radio license.
I started taking the Amateur Radio exams in 1982. A fellow Motorola technician, WD4AFY, Andy Blackburn (became SK on 8-31-2020), administered my Novice exam. Another Motorola technician, KK5M, Bill Kennedy, loaned me a Hallicrafters SR-150 to use to get proficient with CW. I made many CW contacts on the 15, 20, and 40 meter bands, using home brew 15m dipoles (oriented North/South and East/West), and homebrew verticals, for 20 and 40 meters. The radials for those antennas are still buried in the yard where I grew up.
I currently hold an Amateur Extra Class license, lifetime FCC General Radiotelephone Operator License. I am also certified by the National Association of Radio and Telecommunications Engineers and the National Association of Business and Educational Radio.
Me at my work bench in 1982. I specialized in Motorola handie-talkies and pagers.
In 1983 I left the radio industry to tour as a professional bass player. Playing bass began as a second hobby in 1979. I maintained 2-meter communications from the tour bus, using a Motorola 5/8 wave mobile antenna mounted atop the tour bus. The bus roof provided a great ground plane and the range was incredible, even with only 25W of power from my Azden PCS-3000 2 meter radio.
In 1988 I accepted a job in Atlanta, Georgia working as a field engineer for a German-owned industrial machine builder. I had repaired some radios for the CEO when he ran a different company in the past and he was impressed with my work. The CEO took the helm of another company that had encountered a rash of circuit board failures in the control system of their machinery and he asked if I would be interested in changing fields. This was a big change from the Motorola days, where I worked with HTs at 15VDC or less. These machines operated on 240-480VAC. I jumped in with both feet and quickly became chief engineer, designing a new electrical control system that was implemented worldwide.
While working in the controls industry I deployed an Electrical Computer-aided Design and Engineering Software called Wiring Diagram. It was later purchased by Autodesk and renamed, AutoCAD Electrical. This quickly led to a relationship with the developer of the software. Today I am a private consultant, influencing the development and direction of the software while also providing custom training and implementation support for new customers, or advanced training for existing customers who wish to take their skills to the next level and beyond.
Thank you for visiting my page! 73, de N4HNH
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