avoid the bummer life

outlive the bastards.

Arizona SOTA* & Frank Lloyd Wright

While visiting family in Arizona, I couldn’t help but to have a go at my first SOTA activation. My old stomping grounds of South Mountain Park, where I grew up hiking, mountain biking, and later trail running, seemed like an apropriate range. I found a peak on SOTLAS that wasn’t familiar to me but had plenty of 2 meter activations and devised a rough plan.

With my new callsign in place, K2VFZ, I created a SOTA Alert the day prior for 146.58 @ 10am. My mother dropped me off at the trailhead at 6am and I was off to get in the majority of the elevation gain before the desert heat spiced up. Reaching the AZ at about 8:45am, there was plenty of time to monkey with the radios. I started without a spot, just calling out on 146.52 using a Signal Stick (I could see the city of Phoenix at nearly 180-degree field) and heard… nothing.

Switching antennas, I unfortunately didn’t have any mast (ordered but not in poss.) or tree at my disposal so I draped the 2m slim jim over the edge of the rock/cliff where I was positioned. Subsequent calls returned nothing and I decided to make a spot for the x.58 and tried again, and again, with no luck.

Throwing ideas at the wall, I pulled out the HF radio (which I had never used) and plugged in the 10/20 end-fed antenna that I (again) draped over the edge of the cliff. After creating another spot on 28.470 ssb I called out several more CQs with no responses.

Admittedly, I was a little surprised that I didn’t have a single contact on 2m. This was my very first time, though, and I’m about as new to this as it gets; chalked it up to a learning experience enveloped with a nice hike.


Notes & Lessons Learned:

As mentioned, I’m not really sure why I never made a contact on VHF.

  • Admittedly, the j-pole cliff hang wasn’t great.
    • That needed to be somehow erected, though at that location there weren’t many options.
  • The Signal Stick antenna should’ve been enough. Maybe?
    • I had line-of-site to much of the city of Phoenix. But I didn’t hear anything (even when calling for a radio check on 146.52).

My HF antenna “setup” was just an absolute disaster.

  • Draping it over the cliff is not getting it up in the air.
    • Ordred a SOTABeams Carbon 6 mast and have also put together a tree-hanging kit as a backup.
  • The 1 meter legnth of RG316 coax is not enough of a ground/counterpoise.
    • Not even sure that’s the right explaination, but I’ve gathered that was suboptimal. I have since ordered a 25 ft length of LMR195 coax.
  • Matching unit just laying on the rock next to me should’ve been (vertically) suspended.
    • I’ll probably us my camera tripod or perhaps trekking pole to accomplish this next time.
  • Still unsure about the need to trim/modify the antenna wire to achieve 10 meter tuning.
    • The X5105 has, from what I gather, an exceptional built-in tuner… so I don’t think I need to do anything to the wire as long as I tune after setup. Maybe I should’ve gotten the random wire antenna?


8.21 miles

Taliensen West

Frank Lloyd Wright, though a Wisconsin native, loved, lived-in, and gifted Arizona many years and contributions of his incredible architecture. Myself, as the son of a structural engineer and an Arizon State University alum, I feel very familiar with FLW and his achievements. We were privelidged to tour his Talisien West home-slash-studio