Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland
Close to Washington, DC is a small mountain named Sugarloaf Mountain. Sugarloaf while only worth 1 point and doesn’t qualify for winter bonus points, it is still a fun local mountain to climb even in the winter.
Due to the close proximity to large population centers, this summit gets tons of traffic and can be challenging to find a quiet spot to activate.
County: Montgomery Count
Weather: Partly cloudy, 32 degrees
On a Scale of 1 to 5
One of the major issues with this site is parking. In the summer, the gate is open on Comus road and you can drive up to several parking lots on the mountain (one way only). In the winter after snowfall, they close the gate. Now as as SOTA operater and hiker that suites me just fine. However, the issue is there is parking for about 10-12 cars max. As a result, you need to get their early in the morning to get parking. If the lot is full, there really isn’t any other parking available that I know of.
We arrived around 10am (late for us) and got one of the last remaining spots. Note, you cannot park in front of the gate. As you hike in, the organization that owns the mountain asks for a $5 donation, so be sure to bring the correct change.
On the Air:
My wife and I hiked up the snow covered mountain road to the orange trail which was a steep but brief hike up to the summit. At the summit I quickly set up my Arrow antenna which was pretty easy due to my modification of the elements that allow me to get on the air in less than 30 seconds. A video on this system will be out before the end of this year (2020).
I dialed up 146.520, the national simplex calling frequency and found it in use so I dropped down in frequency and tried calling with zero luck. Moved back to the x.520 and the guys on the frequency were nice enough to let me quickly make my contacts.
The summit has very little clear openings and a lot of trees, however I have found in the past at other SOTA locations that it is still possible to get a signal out even when it doesn’t seem possible.
At this point my hands were pretty numb thanks to my aluminum antenna mast so I quickly tried 2m SSB since I recently installed a 2m SSB module in my KX3. Unfortunately for me, I was getting zero RF output even when adjusting the power setting.
With that and “the look” from my wife it was time to head back down.
We quickly deseced down the red trail to the summit road and as we got back to our car, it was typical Maryland mayhem. A car was waiting for someone to leave and as a result had positioned themselves in the middle of the road waiting. Take a look at the satellite picture of the road intersection above. Multiple roads converge on this area and this dude was blocking everyone. I need to find an alternative trailhead for this summit as I hate dealing with entitled day hiker assholes.
If your going to activate this summit, do it in the winter or during a storm to avoid the crowds. Otherwise this place is too overrun with people to be enjoyable. Can’t say I didn’t warn you.
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