Spring 2009 Issue

The Appalachian Trail
Golden Packet APRS Event


From KI4SGU’s announcement in the February 2009 “VHF Plus” column in CQ magazine about
a 2-meter simplex group focused on the Appalachian Trail came a query from WB4APR concerning the possibility of traversing the trail with a single packet. Here are the exciting results of their dialog.

By Jorge de la Torre, KI4SGU,
with Bob Bruninga, WB4APR

 

Growing up in the ’70s I would often pass time in the long hot Louisiana summers reading radio and electronics magazines, mixed with a steady supply of National Geographic and Boys Life. As a young Cuban immigrant living on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, there was little I could do to equal those adventures and exploits, either in money or access to faraway mountains or glaciers.

Now, however, I still often dream the dream of exploring new and exotic DX destinations, but I’m now fully integrated into American culture with all the normal pressures of mortgage, family, and job, all of which keep me firmly planted in antenna-restricted suburbia.

Occasionally, while waiting in the infamous Atlanta commuter traffic, I entertain myself by planning radio adventures for my fellow commuters and myself, albeit with nearby radio contacts, or working LX (see sidebar), as the group calls it. During one such planning QSO, the idea of activating the whole of the Appalachian Trail, all 2100 miles of it, with radios started to formulate in my head.

After doing a little internet research, I learned that the trail had originally been the vision of another urban dreamer, Benton MacKaye, in 1921. He imagined a trail that would offer the urban dweller an escape. The Appalachian Trail opened as a continuous trail in 1937. It was designated as the first National Scenic Trail by the National Trails System Act of 1968. I also learned in my research that many other amateur radio operators enjoyed the trail and worked simplex and repeaters along its length. Most notably on the repeater efforts is Beau Bushor, N1MJD. His list is available at <http:// www.fred.net/kathy/at/hamguide.html>. To date, however, no one had ever passed traffic for the entire length of the Appalachian Trail.

In my further internet searches I did find amateur radio operators on mountains—lots of them. They all seemed to have a real interest in the hobby. I learned about two similar groups out west, “Operation On-Target” (http://www. ontargetbsa.org/) and the Colorado-14er Ham Event (http://www.14er.org/). Yet these events are held out in the Rockies, with the staggering height of those peaks, giving them the advantage of commanding overlooks. Nevertheless, I don’t live out west. I live with the gentler and more modest peaks of the Smoky Mountains and the Appalachians. Still, I wondered if it would be possible to communicate more than just a few dozen miles with an HT.

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