Saturday, June 17, 2006

Hunter Mountain Fire Tower, Catskills, NY
June 17, 2006

John NU3E and I planned to hike into a fire tower located on Hunter Mtn about one mile south of the Hunter Ski Area in the Catskills of NY. The mountain is 4060’ and commands a 360-deg view of that area. The hike has about a 2200’ elevation gain over 2 miles so it’s a fairly “rigorous” hike. On the Friday before, the weatherman was predicting severe clear and temps in the mid-80s. Consequently we were expecting a good hike and an exemplary day for QRP radio operating, especially by using the 50’ tower for at least one end of the antenna! Of course, this outing like all the previous ones, will generate a lot of new stories! And we weren’t disappointed!!

John met me at my house where we parked his vehicle and carpooled the 90 miles north to the trailhead in the Catskills. John later described what happened first: “As we approached the NY Catskills the skies grew darker and darker. Then rain commenced and grew heavier and heavier. Hams on the local 2m repeaters began discussing the verystrange, unexpected weather. On the trail, hikers who had prepared for a hot, sunny day were soaking wet.” We couldn’t believe it! And of course I’ve been shrugging off my new moniker of “rain man” based on a similar occurrence a couple of weeks earlier on the AT in New Jersey!

Well, the climb up to the Fire Tower was really a nice hike. The trail was good although somewhat steep and there were only a “few showers” on the way up. By the time we reached the top, the rain showers were replaced by the sun and gusty wind but the temps were in the 70’s. What we didn’t bargain for was the insects! Thousands, it seemed, of swarming little gnats, impervious to 100% DEET, and hungry for human flesh. Nasty little biting buggers that draw little whelts and seemed to crawl up shirt sleeves…. But that was not the worst, however, since we were also plagued by big, HUGE, flies that swarmed around any food, sugar, sweat, anything!!

Since there was a decent wind, I climbed the tower and set up the K1 at the 20’ level or so. This tactic seemed to work for a couple of hours until the wind died down. John setup over near the edge of the heavy woods in the shade which seemed to work for a similar period. We persevered like real Polar Bears! We each struggled for QRP contacts….it seemed that the band conditions weren’t even cooperating!

John later wrote, “By about 4 PM the QRN was starting to become a factor. Also, the wind was subsiding, which increased the aggressiveness of the insects even more, so we decided to pack up and hike out. The descent, on a different trail, was even more "rigorous" than the ascent. It was a memorable adventure!”

Yes, that’s an understatement. I think the site would be a great October or November location but it is not really that accessible without some driving effort and considerable elevation gain but certainly a “vista” location. And at that time of the year, there wouldn’t be any predatory insects!! (That's my official forecast and I'm sticking to it!!!)

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