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butler butte, wa | october 2022

K7WXW's picture
Voice Cellular Coverage: 
No service at all
Data Cellular Coverage: 
Spotty, may not work at all
Cellular Provider: 
APRS Coverage: 
Good digi echos

Summary - Butler Butte is part of a three summit group on Weyerhauser land that is about two hourse from SE Portland. Getting to the summit requires a short hike from a logging road. The summit is small, densely forested and without views. Don't count on two meters to make your four QSOs, cell phone service is marginal at best, and APRS pings get picked up. It can be done as part of a three or four summit day if you plan carefully.

A Weyerhauser recreational permit ( is required for access. The company is actively logging in the area and Weyerhauser trucks and equipment *always* have the right-of-way. This can mean a long, scary reverse on one lane roads with few turnouts and significant exposure. Logging-truck-free weekends are probably the best time to visit.

Long Version -  Butler Butte one of three four-point summits approximately 15 miles west of Mount Saint Helens in the 160,000 acre tract of land owned by Weyerhauser. A recreational access permit, which comes with a gate key, is required. The drive from SE Portland to the gate at the end of Kalama River Road took 70 minutes (early on a Saturday morning). From the gate to the summit trailhead is another forty minutes. The Weyerhauser maintained roads are generally in very good condition, though roads in areas not being logged are often rougher.

I made my way to Butler Butte after summiting 3387, returning to the junction where the access road for Butler, 3387, and Elk meet, and driving a further fifteen minutes or so to an abandoned service road (10T 539080E 5107697N) that leads to the summit. The trail is easy to follow and ends with a low effort bushwhack.  The summit itself is small, dense with trees and brush, and without a view. Find a branch from which to hang a wire is easy, getting that wire back to your operating position through all the other branches? Not so easy. A vertical might be a good choice for this spot.

There were other local SOTA ops out, so I made a couple of two meter contacts but you will need more than a whip if you really want to work VHF. Getting a workable HF antenna up was a chore and I ended up using a mast after losing a weight and some lines in a tangle of branches. I made CW contacts on 40, 30, and 20 meters and APRS picked up my HT pings. I did not try APRS messaging. Cell phone service (ATT) was mostly non-existent. I was able to self-spot and get alerts twice over the course of forty-five minutes but I wouldn't count on that being possible.  

The hike was nice but I didn't much like the operating position so after I worked my way through the bands, I broke down my gear and hiked back to the truck. Last stop of the day: Elk Mountain (W7W/LC-053).