Hiking the Black River Trail to prep for SOTA/ADK Firetower Challenge

It was 52 degrees here in Watertown, NY today.  For the middle of February, this is down right balmy. A great day to be outside.

I have been adding miles by walking the streets of Watertown multiple times a week, averaging about 12 miles a week.  I am now changing my training and looking to add miles, and to start carrying a backpack to add load for strength and endurance.

So with the beautiful weather, my wife and I decided to hike the Black River Trail in Black River NY.

The trail head starts on Woodard Road directly off of RT 3.  The trail follows the Black River for about 4 miles.  We have never been on this trail before so we did not know what to expect.

Once we got past the trail head we quickly realized that the trail had been walked on extensively during the day and the snow was slushy and really difficult to walk on.  We had to deal with this slush for about a mile.  Because not many people had gone past a mile, the trail quickly changed to deep, heavy, and wet snow.

Regardless of how difficult the trail was to walk, we saw some beautiful scenery which made it completely worth the trip.

The river had only a little ice on the banks and was absolutely beautiful.  We could hear the runoff from the hill flowing into the river.

About 2 miles on the trail, we stopped for a few minutes to take a rest.  Then decided to turn around and head back.

Carrying the 30lb back pack really made the hike a challenge.  Especially in the slush and the deep snow.

All in all the hike was an excellent workout.  We hope to add additional trails in the coming weeks hopefully with a little climbing.

Since the trail is a “there and back” trail, we did not walk the full length.  Next time we plan to hike the entire trail.



Delorme InReach SE – Activation Fail! – update

Very excited today to get the Delorme (now owned by Garmin) InReach SE.  The plan is to use this on my hikes for SOTA/ADK Fire Tower Challenge, track my progress, share my tracks, and have an way to make an emergency contact or SOS if the need arises.

Although there is a new version of the InReach coming out any day now called the SE +, I decided that I did not need the upgraded features of the new + model since I have also purchased a new GPS, which is on its way.

I just got home from my ARES/RACES Meeting and could not wait to open the package from Amazon that was waiting for me.

I unboxed the InReach SE and it looks great.  Read the instructions and turned the device on to start the activation.  I fill out the online form, pick the subscription, and then click the “Activate” button…..



Try looking at this screen for an hour!!  While standing outside in 15 degree weather at 10pm at night.  Did I have a clear view of the sky?  Absolutely!

As of 10:40 tonight.  I have decided to turn the device off via a soft boot and start again.



This is what I call the InReach Screen of Death.

My next step will be to call support and see what the problem is but it is getting late and it will probably have to wait until morning.

What a complete disappointment.  Hopefully the guys at Garmin or Delorme will get me up and running tomorrow.

Very disappointed.

UPDATE:  This morning I received a notification via email that my InReach support ticket had been resolved.  However, I never submitted any ticket.  This tells me that the Support Folks and Delorme/Garmin became aware of my problem and got to work fixing it.

Sure enough, I brought the SE outside, turned it on and within about 5 min the device was fully activated.  And it works like a charm.  I will plan to do a full review this weekend.

Thank you Delorme/Garmin!

New Radio for SOTA/ADK Fire Tower Challenge

My current HF is a fantastic radio!  My Kenwood TS-480SAT is extremely capable and has all the capabilites that I need.  I love the detachable head and the audio is warm and clear.  However, I do not believe that this radio will work for my planned ADK Fire Tower Challenge and SOTA activations this year.

Yaesu FT-817

So I started looking at a new radio for this use case.  Very quickly, I came upon the well known Yaesu FT-817ND.  This radio is a QRP, 5w radio that covers HF up 10 to 160m along with vhf and uhf bands, 2m and 70cm respectively.  It is extremely compact at 5.3″x 1.5″x6.5″ and only 2.6lbs.  This radio seems perfect for hiking/backpacking for SOTA and the ADK Fire Tower Challenge.  But….


With the 817ND being a 5 watt radio, this could be very limiting with QSO’s via SSB.  This leads me to wonder if I should consider Yaesu’s FT-857D or newer FT-891.


Here is an excellent introduction to the FT-891 from Universal Radio.

But from the conversation that I started on the SOTA group in Facebook, the consensus seems to be leaning towards running a full power radio on reduced power but not as low at a KX or FT-817ND.

Bottom line for now.  I need to do more research.  I also need to get a handle on the best modes for SOTA as this will also play a key decision in the type of radio I end up buying and using.