The Dark Sky 50 ultramarathon is generally held the first weekend in May in and around the Big South Fork park. The race traditionally begins at Pickett State Park and runs through the Big South Fork park along hiking and equestrian trails. We were asked by the race coordinators and the National Park Service if we could help provide communications support since cell phones did not work at most of the aid stations. Our first event was in 2017 which really tested our skills as radio operators under actual field conditions.
We generally staff Pickett State Park as our communications center where our net control resides. The runners pass our first aid station which is Divide Road on their way to Long Branch. In the past we have not been able to staff the Long Branch aid station due to the remoteness of it. As the runners turn south they head down to Station Camp which is along the river on the John Muir trail. This is a hike in aid station for us as well as Charit Creek which is the next stop on the course. From Charit Creek it is less than 3 miles up to Gobblers Knob which the runners start to arrive around noon. The next aid station is less than 3 miles which is Rock Creek. This is also a cut off location for the runners who will not finish in the allotted time.
Aid stations that have amateur radio operators should be in radio contact by the assigned times on the map. This will allow for the aid station workers to communicate with the race director in the event if something is missing or additional supplies is requested. Runners should be expected within an hour of so of that time.
- The race begins at 06:00 central tine.
- Aid Station 1: Picket State Park (Mile 2.7) We will staff the aid station for comm starting at 08:00 allowing for the teams to do an informal talk-in as they position themselves for the race.
- Aid Station 2: Rock Creek 1 (Mile 8.9) No radio staffing until later as the runners return past here.
- Aid Station 3: Divide Road (Mile 13.6) This is our first aid station where radio communications will be provided. Comm is to be setup by 09:00 with first runner expected around 09:00 and the last around 10:00. The aid station is located where the John Muir/Shelowette Trails cross Divide Road. It is basically a wide spot in the road.
- Aid Station 4: Longbranch Trail (Mile 21.3) It would be nice to be able to cover this location with a team of radio operators but due to remoteness we have not. It is not known how difficult the hike in would be. In 2021 the aid station was relocated to the Terry Cemetery trail head location which allowed the use of an HT with a external antenna.
- Aid Station 5: Station Camp (Mile 27.1) This is a radio location that requires hiking in with comm setup by 10:00. The hour or so hike begins at the end of Duncan Hollow Road and proceeds straight down to the river. Hiking out may take 2 plus hours as you will be tired.
- Aid Station 6: Charit Creek Lodge 1 (Mile 31.1) This is a radio location that requires hiking in. Comm is to be setup by 10:30. About a 1.5 mile hike down and 14 or so switch backs for an easier climb back out. Restrooms’ are available here.
- Aid Station 7: Charit Creek Lodge 2 (Mile 35) See above
- Aid Station 8: Gobbler’s Knob (Mile 37.8) This location may be serviced with a mobile unit. There is plenty of parking at the parking lot at the trail head. Comm setup by 11:30 and in 2017 the first runner arrived about 13:20. There is a 18:00 cut off time for this aid station.
- Aid Station 9: Rock Creek 2 (Mile 40.6) This location may be serviced with a mobile unit. Comm setup by 12:00 and in 2017 the first runner arrived at 13:48.
- Aid Station 10: Thompson Overlook (Mile 44.8) Not staffed by radio operators.
- The first runner back to Picket in 2017 arrived about 15:00 in 2019 is what about 14:00 a much faster pace.