ATGP and POTA Activation at Gambrill State Park

Ahh, yes, July. It bees are in the air. Storms are rumbling all around. And the sweet smell of packets are flying from mountain peak to mountain peak all along the Appalachian Trail.

Of course I’m talking about the annual Appalachian Trail Golden Packet (ATGP) event held at the request of Bob Bruninga, WB4APR/SK. This is the first ATGP since his death earlier this year and he was missed. His memorial service was happening at the same time as the ATGP so we were sort of doing Bob’s work at the same time others were remembering him elsewhere.

The Event

This year we manned MDMTNS-7 which is at Gambrill State Park near Frederick, Maryland. Previous years we’ve done Apple Orchard Mountain in Virginia which is a lot different than this location. At Apple Orchard, everything you need to activate must be hiked up to the summit. The views are absolutely worth the hike but it’s gotten old over the years.

At Gambrill State Park, we activated near the south edge of the ridge. The hardest part for us was walking from the car to the covered picnic table; big difference. We could have camped nearby but the timing of several other events just didn’t make that possible. It’s only a two-hour drive from the house so it wasn’t so bad to just get up in the morning and go. The car was pretty much packed the night before so beside leaving the Kenwood D-74 at home, everything we needed made the trip.

Setup

Eric WG3K and Harlan KC3UJB set up the VHF/UHF antenna for APRS.

We arrived promptly at 10:00. Setup included four three-foot mast pipes and a high-gain mobile antenna suitable for VHF and UHF, a Kenwood D700A for the digipeater, and a deep-cycle battery to power the system. I also brought my Elecraft KX3 and end-fed long wire antenna to keep myself occupied since this was going to be a lot of automated work during the next few hours. My biggest job until the end of the event would be changing baud rates and checking to see who I was hearing.

Operations

Turns out, the first station I started hearing was Hawksbill (HWKSBL-6) but only very weakly. It was enough to decode their signal but I noted that I was not hearing myself being digipeated when I transmitted my beacon. Clearly this was going to be a problem.

It was well after 11:00 before I heard GDHILL-8 join the net. His signal was around an S5 and packets were easily decoded from his station. I was also noticing that he was digipeating my station so I had hopes that the northern stations would also be able to hear me as well.