Trip to the Top of Missouri

By David Bixler, W0CH
Special to The ARS Sojourner
Ever since the Adventure Radio Society announced the "Top of the World Challenge", I have been thinking about activating the highest point in my home state of Missouri. While this journey pales in comparison to others published in the Sojourner, it was my pleasure to be the first ARS member to activate Missouri's high point.

Taum Sauk Mountain with an elevation of 1,772 feet above sea level is located in the eastern part of the state in the St. Francois Mountain range on the Ozark Plateau. The mountains in this area, among the oldest in America, were created by volcanic activity around 1.5 billion years ago. Traces of ancient volcanic calderas can still be found today. Over the eons, erosion has worn these mountains down considerably from their ancient grandeur.

When I found that I was to attend a meeting in a nearby city only about 40 miles from Taum Sauk Mountain, a plan was quickly developed to include an afternoon on the mountain in the itinerary. Taum Sauk is about 290 road miles from my home in Seneca, in the southwest corner of the state.

My wife Nancy (N0FNZ) and I left home early on Monday, July 23rd for the trip across the state. After a lunch break at Pilot Knob, we soon found Highway CC which is the road leading into Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. Going up the mountain, the pavement extends about 3 miles before the road surface changes to gravel. Climbing for one more mile, we found a parking area at the trailhead for the high point trail.

The high point trail, 1060 feet in length, is paved in concrete and is wheelchair accessible. The trail leads gently upward through the forest to the highpoint marker. The top of the mountain is relatively flat and is totally covered with forest, making scenic vista photography impossible. The actual highpoint is marked with a pink granite boulder and a marble tablet inscribed with the elevation.

As we arrived at the high point a bit past four PM local time, loud rumbling of thunder was heard. After waiting a few minutes for the rumbling to pass, I quickly deployed my favorite trail friendly antenna, a half wave vertical for 20 meters. A spot in the forest about 30 feet from the high point marker was selected for the station.

Easy to erect with only one slingshot line over a branch, the 33 foot vertical wire works well on both 20 and 40 meters. I deployed three 16 foot and two 33 foot radial wires on the ground. A simple homemade tuner matched the end fed wire to the radio. The rig for this trip was an Elecraft K1 with the internal battery option. The backup rig, which was not used, was a Wilderness SST for 20 meters.

After an unsuccessful attempt at a 40 meter schedule with WD0DDU in Joplin, I started operation just above 14060 at 5 PM. The band did not sound very active and many CQ's went unanswered. In one hour and 15 minutes, only four contacts were worked on 20. The greatest distance worked was WD3P in Maryland. It was a pleasure to help Larry with his QRPp county hunter award by giving him Iron County, Missouri for a new county. Also worked was KD5IVP in Texas and two Oklahoma stations, K5KW and K5AAR.

During the last 45 minutes, I shifted to 40 meters, which sounded much more active. Two nice contacts were easily made with KB9WWU near Chicago and KB8FE in Ohio. Thunder was again heard just before 7 PM and we decided to leave the mountaintop.

While there were only six contacts made from the high point, five were with QRP stations and the sixth was running only 25 watts from a 5th floor apartment with a jury rig antenna. I am wondering if the thick forest on the mountain may have attenuated my signal.

I would like to commend the state of Missouri for the excellent condition and ease of access at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. This is one high point that any amateur can access and enjoy the thrills of operating from the Top of Missouri!


David Bixler, W0CH, is an active QRP operator and a faithful participant in ARS events.