Washoe Lake State Park Activation — 18-19 June 2022

The vehicle is my 4Runner positioned to get a little shelter from the wind on a cold Saturday afternoon.

After returning from a fast trip to Summit Lake for field work, I wanted some recreational outdoor time for the weekend. The Girl and I like Washoe Lake State Park, in particular the west side that is undeveloped and less used. There is a great place to setup a radio station and activate the park for Parks on the Air. Plus we can walk the west shoreline without encountering a lot of other people.

Saturday was cold and cloudy for the middle of June. Nonplussed, after working a good part of the morning, I put a few things into the rig and The Girl and I headed north for some outdoor time. On the way out of town, I stopped at McDonald’s for a fish sandwich and then at C-A-L Ranch to pick up a few tent stakes. I am moving away from the plastic stakes, which break easily in the desert, to the aluminum stakes that are more hardy.

It is a short trip to the lake and we were there in short order. I parked the rig in the lee of a sand dune on the west side. The Girl and I got out and went for a 20-minute walk. That allows her to burn off some energy and provides me the opportunity to move my blood around.

On return to the rig, I affixed a new antenna to the 7m SOTAbeams mast and then deployed the guy lines for the mast. I would normally strap the mast to a support, but at the lake site none was available.

The new antenna is a 40m off-center fed dipole. I checked it with the antenna analyzer at is is resonant on 40m, 20m, 15m, and 10m. So it is a four-band antenna and those are four useful bands. And, for those bands, no additional matching transformation is needed.

I used the Discovery TX-500 and the PA-500 radio and amplifier for the activation. There was no heard activity on 40m and 10m was not open, so I tried 15m. After spotting myself and calling for five minutes, nothing was heard. So I re-spotted myself on 20m and started calling.

That resulted in a number of calling stations. I worked them as they came in, sometimes singletons and sometimes in groups of two or three. I had my activation by about 1630h local time and took more calls until about 1645h, logging 16 stations. The 20m band was quite noisy, popping and sizzling with sunspot activity. QSB (fading) was moderate with some of the weaker stations requiring a few repetitions to make the exchange.

When I quit, I was cold. The wind had stolen my heat. I retrieved the packable anorak from the rig and put it over my hoodie. I then tore down the station and stowed everything. Then I got The Girl out for another walk and we called it a day.

On the way home I stopped at Francisco’s Mexican Restaurant, a favorite place, and bought Tacos de Asada. It was a lovely, spicy meal, and the hot chow did me good.

This was my station for the Sunday afternoon activation of Washoe Lake SP.

Sunday morning I had in mind to return to Washoe Lake SP and do some testing of another old antenna, the Wolf River Coils vertical. Because of the way I operate, it does not get a lot of use. I typically change frequencies often, hunting other stations. But for running a frequency, the use of a resonant antenna is more efficient. Plus the antenna is simply and quickly setup and tuned. And, because I intended to activate the park, a single band would be fine for this mode of operation.

So, again we drove up to the park and to the operating point. There I found a man, Nelton, who had bogged his pickup truck in a mud hole. It was not buried, but he could not get enough traction to roll out. We attempted to pull it out with what he had for a tow strap (not much), but it was not strong enough for even the slightest pressure. As I prepared to help dig him out his son arrived in his pickup with a tow strap. So, off The Girl and I went to continue our day.

I picked my spot, on a mudflat where I expected good ground conductivity (but did not get stuck). I parked the rig, got The Girl out, and we walked. She played, threatened to run out into the lake (too muddy), and then threatened to roll in a dead carp (no go). On the way back she chased me and we played a little.

This perspective provides a little better view of the WRC antenna as deployed Sunday afternoon. I stake it down to keep it from tipping over in the wind. It is also set for the 20m band and no coil is needed. The coil is bypassed and the whip shortened a couple of feet for resonance on 20m.
Back at the rig, I let her lay out in the sun while I setup my table and chair, then got out the equipment. The antenna came first and took only a few minutes to assemble. Then came the power supply — a Bioenno battery, Genasun charge controller, and 30w PowerFilm solar panel. With the battery charging, I assembled the station. I used the Elecraft KX3 transceiver with the Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier. I then adjusted the antenna for resonance on the 40m band and returned to the operating position.

I turned on the radio and listened on 7.2835MHz for the 40m Noontime Net. It was not quite 1300h local and I heard nothing. I checked the Internet for solar conditions and it looked like we had a bit of X-ray influx that disturbed the Ionosphere and frequencies below 14MHz were blacked out. So I returned to the antenna and adjusted it for the 20m band. I got a good match on 20m.

The Elecraft KX3 station setup to activate Washoe Lake SP Sunday afternoon. The antenna in the background is the Wolf River Coils vertical.
Back to radio (only 15ft away from the antenna) I turned it on, switched to the 20m band, and listened. I saw a station spotted activating phone on 20m, so I found the frequency and listened for an opportunity to call. I made my first park-to-park contact.

I chased a few more activators and then decided I was having no fun with phone. So I found an unused frequency in the CW portion of the band and spotted myself on the POTA website. I adjusted my logging software (HAMRS on my iPhone) for the new frequency and started calling.

Again I worked a steady stream of stations who returned my general call. A few were calling pretty slowly (10-12wpm), so I slowed down. The lazy way is to keep the keyer set at your speed and add spacing between characters. The good operator approach is to turn down the keyer speed to match the other station. With the Elecraft radios, that is easy to do. So, that is what I did.

After fishing the 20m hole dry, I switched to the 17m band. That required a trip to the antenna, with the analyzer, and an adjustment of the radiator length (a telescoping stainless steel whip). That took only a few minutes and then I was back at the station.

The 17m band generated quite a few calls in response to my general call and spot. I worked those stations one by one.

Once I start working a station, particularly one that is weak to me, I ignore other callers as I send the part of the call I heard and request a fill. It usually does not take long for the other caller(s) to figure out I will work the current station before I accept another call and they shut up. After I work the station and send TU (thank you) and 73 (best wishes), I send “DE AG7TX POTA AR” (which means AG7TX is calling POTA and standing by) and wait. If I hear nothing, then I start the general call again, “CQ CQ CQ POTA DE AG7TX AG7TX POTA AR” and listen for a few seconds.

When 17m went dry, I switched to 15m after seeing a couple of spots for the 12m band on the POTA website. Again I adjusted the antenna and returned to my station to call. After a few attempts, I heard nothing. About that time a text message from my buddy Dick came in that he had not noticed me on the park. I responded that I would return to 20m to take his call.

Which I then did.

After I re-spotted myself on the POTA website and started calling, Dick came in LOUD. I worked him and put him in my log. I then worked several more stations, including several in California.

I almost never hear California station on 20m. I think those I worked were far enough south that I was in the first “skip” zone for the 20m band. In any event, I was happy to work them.

When no more calls came, I signed off “QRT DE AG7TX SK” and listened for a moment. I often pick up a straggler or two after signing off. If I am called, I answer. But, hearing nothing, I turned off the radio and put away the station.

I got The Girl out and we went for another walk. She was very playful, attacking my boots and zooming around. She again threatened to run into the muddy water and roll on the dead fish. I laughed and called her in, which resulted in more attacks on my (new) boots.

Back at the rig, we hopped inside and warmed up a bit. It was a cool June day in western Nevada. As we headed home, I reflected on my weekend. I was satisfied that I made progress on several tasks, including some work. I decided to order a pizza for supper (and several more meals). It was a good day and a good weekend. I am grateful.

Again, I learned things over the weekend.

  • Always take an extra cover in the rig. I do get cold.
  • Put the makings for a hot drink (coffee, tea, cocoa) in the rig and the material to heat water and make a hot drink.
  • Put a couple of dehydrated meals in the rig and the material to make hot water to rehydrate the food. Hot chow is a good thing when cold.
  • I am not certain that a band-limited antenna is right for me. It probably depends on the particular operation and whether (or not) there is a contest ongoing.
  • In light of the above, it makes sense to have access to a couple of antennas in the rig. This is not generally an issue for me.
  • I need to study the tools available for measuring and predicting propagation. I am learning, but I think there is more to learn and some additional tools that will inform when a particular band (or bands) is open.
  • There is no reason to waste time calling on a closed band. Over the last few outings, I tried 15m several times without success. Although I was experimenting (testing), my time would be better spent working bands where I can make contacts.
  • The WRC antenna is a solid performer when running a frequency. It is not band agile and is not appropriate for that application. But for a POTA (or SOTA) activator who will run a frequency, it is easily tunable to the desired band/frequency and is reasonably efficient.
  • I want to experiment with the WRC antenna some more. It would be very interesting to take it to the coast and operate from the beach. Hmmm… a camping trip???
  • My Morse Code skills are improving.
  • I am easily frustrated operating phone, particularly when trying to call an activator.

Over the weekend, I logged 62 contacts at Washoe Lake State Park. Again, it was a good weekend.

This is a map of the contacts made for the weekend activation of Washoe Lake SP.

Weekend Radio Play

Before going for a big roll in the grass, Sera posed for me sniffing at the flowers.

Late last week I decided that I wanted some time outdoors and wanted some radio play. The previous weekend I was recovering from travel and testimony and just did not feel like doing much. This weekend I did not want to stay indoors all weekend.

The gang decided to activate Fairview Peak (W7N/PC-032) again this year. What a gorgeous day to be on the mountain!
So I sent an email to the usual suspects who like to spend time outdoors and like radio. I thought that an Summits On the Air (SOTA) activation of Fairview Peak (W7N/PC-032) would be fun. It is a familiar place (we activated it last year, I think), is high enough to be cool on a hot day, and is not too far from home. Of our group, I had three takers. So it was a go.

We drove out Saturday morning, then worked our way up the steep trail to the activation zone. I setup the radio while the others setup shade and a table to work from. I used the KX3 with the KXPA100 for this outing. I knew that the phone operators would need more power to get out. I also setup the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 in the vertical configuration. I put out a couple of solar panels to keep the battery topped off.

We were ready to go before my scheduled time, so I chased another operator activating a summit on phone and logged him. Then I handed off the mike to another operator.

After an hour or so the other two operators almost had their quota. It takes four contacts to make a SOTA activation. Both operators had three contacts and a couple of summit-to-summit contacts as well. Those count extra because one receives both points as an activator and as a hunter. They were ready for a break, so I sat at the radio, listened on 15m, and then spotted myself on the SOTA website.

I was running CW Mode (Morse Code) and started sending my CQ so chasers would see/hear my signal. It did not take long until I had my first contact. I continued to work stations and also chased a few other SOTA activators during my turn.

After an hour or so I had a dozen contacts, more than enough for my activation. I handed over the radio to another operator so she could finish her quota.

Both other operators made their activation of Fairview Peak. It is more difficult when running phone than running code. It is one of the primary reasons I elected to learn Morse Code.

We were both glad to be outdoors on a cool June morning. I stopped to make a few images and Sera posed for me.

Sunday morning I decided I wanted to be outside. The weather was to be cooler, if more windy. I thought about doing another summit, but decided that the wind would be worse at elevation. Therefore I elected to do a park activation.

The Girl and I had breakfast, I finished cleaning up the dishes, and I put a load of laundry in. I grabbed the Discovery TX-500 transceiver and PA500 amplifier and carried them out to the rig. The Girl and I headed out and I noticed the wind was already up. I knew it was going to be windy at the lake.

I decided to activation Washoe Lake State Park again. I intended to do some testing of a new off-center fed dipole, but decided that it was too windy. So I used the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 in vertical configuration again. It is one of my go-to antennas.

We walked before the wind rose. Sera had a blast and could not resist rolling in the grass.
Before setting up the station, The Girl and I had a nice walk along the shore of Washoe Lake. There were lots of pretty flowers. A very pretty Girl posed for me in the flowers, and then went on a crazy roll to demonstrate she is no lady.

On return to the rig, I put down her mat so she could be comfortable while I deployed the station. I put up the antenna near the water and brought the coaxial cable back to my table. I got out the Discovery TX-500 and the PA500 and assembled them. I also put out a solar panel to keep the 4.5Ah Bioenno battery charged.

I staked the solar panel down. The wind was rising! After getting everything assembled (a few minutes), I put The Girl in the rig as it was just too windy.

I checked in to the 40m Noon Net (7.2835MHz) to confirm the station was working. Then I chased a few POTA activators on phone. When I tried CW mode, the monitor level from the TX-500 was too low for me to hear my sidetone. That meant I could not be sure I was sending correctly, having no audible feedback.

So, after futzing with that for awhile, I put the TX-500 away and got out the Elecraft KX2. I know this radio and was able to run my frequency easily. I completed my quota with a couple of stations to spare.

I was freakin’ miserable. The wind was strong enough to make me cold, even in the lee behind my rig. I was sandblasted. I was worried the antenna might fail. My hands were cold so sending was difficult.

When other operators stopped answering my call, I paused for a few minutes to see if there would be any stragglers. Then I posted myself QRT (done) and started putting away my station. Again, this took only a few minutes.

I then got The Girl out of the rig for a final walk (very short) and made an image of the lake shore. The wind was strong enough that the lake retreated from the western shore by about ten feet. That meant there was enough setup of the lake surface to lower it on my side by three or four inches. (It would be three or four inches higher on the lee side of the lake as well.)

I knew that this is an observable physical phenomena. It is one reason why dams have freeboard required (extra height from the nominal water surface elevation to the dam crest). Winds can push the water around and by more than one might think. This was a perfect example, in real life, of something I have known was possible my entire professional career.

How cool is that?

In any event, I came away with a few lessons:

  • Setting up and operating in marginal conditions is an important part of training for operations when conditions are poor.
  • I have a guying kit for the MPAS 2.0 vertical. I should get it out and test it. It would have been a good addition to Sunday’s deployment.
  • Be prepared to stake things down. I staked the solar panel Sunday. If I had not, then it would have blown away.
  • Even if the weather looks good, always have a cover to keep warm. It is possible to get cold even when the temperature is 70°F.
  • I must figure out how to adjust the monitor volume on the TX-500. If I cannot hear the sidetone, I cannot reliably send code.
  • Always have an alternative setup planned. Redundancy is the key to making an operation work. In this case, it was having an alternative antenna (the vertical) and a backup radio (the KX2).
  • It would be good to have the ability to make hot drinks and hot chow in the rig. If I (or someone else) gets cold, then hot chow will help get me warm again. I have a spare campstove and kettle. I just need to put them into the rig.
  • Always have a few spare parts at hand. I needed an coaxial cable adapter and had to scrounge one from another radio kit. I should assemble a small kit of adapters and jumpers.

I suppose there are more lessons learned this couple of trips. I need to start a new list in my notebook.

In the end, it was a very good weekend. I spent time outdoors. I spent time with The Girl. We spent time with friends. I operated the radio.

Life is good.

Sunday afternoon, the wind blew Washoe Lake to the northeast. This left about ten feet of the lake bed exposed. I expect the setup was about three or four inches and demonstrates the impact of wind shear on a lake surface.

Reno QRP Net AAR — 09 June 2022

This is my Elecraft KX1 shack-in-a-box that I often take to the field. It has almost everything in the box to make a radio station — the radio, battery, key, headphones, and antenna. All that I need is a way to elevate the antenna (a mast or tree).

After a long dry spell, I am back at the weblog. The reason for my absence is simple — there was so much work to prepare for my testimony in Austin, Texas that by the end of the day there was little energy to write.

I had things to write about. I spent some of my time in the field running the radio (Parks On the Air activations, mostly) and enjoying time with The Girl. But there just was not enough energy left in the tank at the end of the day.

My testimony was completed last week. I returned home Friday morning, quite early. After retrieving The Girl from her trainer’s, we got in some exercise and then I came home and crashed. I am getting better and attending to my other project work now. I am spending time with my Girl and even doing a little radio play.

There is a small group of operators in Reno that are strictly QRP (low power) CW Mode (Morse Code) operators. They are a club of sorts, but really an anti-club because they do not have a formal structure. Now that the pandemic is less of a concern, monthly meetings for breakfast and chat are happening again. Every ten days or so there is an net (which is ham-speak for a group chat on the air). The net provides an opportunity to run the radio, practice Morse Code, and check in with friends.

The net protocol is simple:

  • Net control issues a general call (CQ) announcing the net.
  • Net control calls for station check-ins.
  • Net control acknowledges each station and asks for a repeat of the call sign if it was not copied the first time.
  • Net control calls each station in turn for the exchange.
  • Net control calls for any late check-ins and then works any that respond.
  • Net control closes the net.

The exchange is simple as well. It is operator name, signal report, location, rig, antenna, and power. The speed is slow speed, with net control calling at ten words per minute (that’s quite slow) and responding to calling stations at their speed.

I drove up Goni Road about 0900h (net meets at 1000h local in the summer), turned west on a trail, and parked the rig on an open spot off the trail. The antenna was a length of wire (25f) thrown over the top of the sagebrush (the Sagebrush Antenna) and a second length of wire about the same length thrown on the ground. The wires were directly connected to the radio. I used my Elecraft KX1 radio for this outing, which contains an excellent antenna matching unit and makes about four watts on the 40-meter band.

I readily heard net control call from his location at Hidden Valley Park on the eastern side of Reno. I listened as the other stations called and he acknowledged them and made his list. When the check-ins slowed, I sent my call, identified myself as a portable station (AG7TX/P) and was acknowledged.

I then listened as each station sent their information. I copied some of it, but not all of it. This is a mode that I am not used to. Most of my operations are contest-like, being SOTA, POTA, QSO parties, and contests. So it is excellent practice for me to listen to this code and work at catching the words.

My turn came and I sent my exchange, fumbling a bit with the KX1 key. I do not usually use the factory key for the KX1 and its touch is different than my usual keys. But I got my exchange sent and was acknowledged.

The 4Runner is visible in the lower right quarter of this image.
Net control closed the net. I put away my station (which took only a few minutes). Then I got The Girl out for a hike. We were both ready and I wanted to get it done before the heat came. So, up the hill we went.

This hill is straight up. There are no flat spots. So I climbed until I needed to pause and catch my breath. Then I climbed again until I needed to catch my breath. You can induct…

It was a good climb and good for my legs. At the top we paused to walk around a bit and for me to drink a little water to wet my throat. While there, I admired the view of Washoe Lake with Slide Mountain in the background.

This is the wonderful view from a hilltop south from Washoe Lake.

After my rest, we headed back down the hill. It was a great workout for my old legs, which had been cooped up too much over the last ten days. I was pretty spent when we reached the bottom of the hill and turned toward the 4Runner.

There I paused to send a text message to friends along with a couple of photographs. My ham buddies like to see the countryside here.

It was a good outing and a good net. Life is good.

After the net, I paused for a selfie with my radio and The Girl in the background.

Nightingale Trip

The view from my hilltop.

My friend emailed early yesterday (Saturday) indicating they were headed out to Nightingale to ride the desert race trail and spend some time outdoors. He invited us along.

The Girl and I had a recheck appointment at her vet about 1100h, so I knew I would be late getting out there. On the way down to the vet, I decided it would be a good day to get out and get away from the house. I figured I could stop at the Maverick on the way back towards Carson City, pick up a snack, and then head out towards Lovelock and the Nightingale exit.

The Girl was more interested in hunting for critters. It was windy.
The vet check went well — Sera’s toe is healing well and the infection is under control. Her nail is growing out and the new tissue is healthy.

That out of the way, we headed north from the vet. I stopped at the Minden Maverick, picked up a wrap and some chips, and we headed north. On the way, I called for my friend on the SNARS Mount Rose repeater. After a couple of calls, another friend answered and we chatted a couple minutes. They were tied up with chores and could not join us. That was too bad as they are both fun.

I made one wrong turn on the way north on the trail from the Nightingale exit but that was quickly rectified and I arrived at camp. I had a nice visit with the female half of my friends and soon the male half arrived. We chatted and shared a meal and then headed northwest from the staging area to a site they wanted to show me.

One of my friends riding to the next hilltop to check the view.

It was not a long trail drive and the trails are in excellent shape. We arrived at the hill top and my friend asked if I was going to run the radio. The wind was already up and I was cold, even with the moderate temperature (70F). I hunted around from a windbreak, but the shape of the hilltop was such that there was not break.

I decided to get out the triple mag-mount and try a hamstick. They headed off to ride and said “We’ll meet you at camp in a bit.” That was good enough for me.

Is this Indian Paintbrush? I don’t know, but they were very pretty on the hillside.
After setting up the antenna, I got the Elecraft KX2 out of its bag and also one of my American Morse Equipment keys. There were a few Parks on the Air (POTA) activators working 20m so I thought I might be able to work them. I could hear a couple of them, but they were not very strong. I checked the solar weather conditions, but there was not a lot of geomagnetic activity and the sun was not producing a lot of X-rays. The base noise level was a little elevated, but that did not explain why the stations were weak.

I was probably in the wrong location for skip to be working for me. So, after calling a few minutes, I decided to just enjoy the day, get out with The Girl, and move around a little.

I put away the radio and antenna (that did not take long), then started my tracker and we walked around the hilltop. She bounced from bush to bush, looking for critters. (It was too cold for them.) The wind was blowing pretty strongly. NOAA Weather Radio reported sustained winds of 20–25mph with gusts to 30mph in Carson City. Along the ridge I suspect it was greater. (That’s why my hat is blown back in the selfie above.)

We still had a good walk around the hill. I had worked my way downhill a ways so I would have a climb back to the rig. That was good for me. We clambered back into the rig and headed back down the trail to camp.

When we arrived, they were just about ready to go. We headed out and stopped in the Red’s Grill in Fernley for a bite of supper. The Girl and I then blasted on home, tired by satisfied.

It was a good day.

Another Nevada playa lake that might make a good campsite and operating point.

A Little Radio Play

 

After a long hiatus, I am getting back to my weblog again. Work kept me exceptionally busy over the last few months. Most of my energy went into project work and the writing associated therewith. There was little writing energy left over after all that. What little was left went into my journal, which is also suffering from neglect.

This is my Elecraft KX2 quick deployment station in place. The mast is a 10-m SOTAbeams telescopic mast affixed to the gate with Voile straps. The antenna is a 25-ft random wire. The key is an American Morse Equipment Porta Paddle 2. I used the KX2 internal battery for this operation.
Downtime was spent either building a couple of new antennas or in the field either as a Parks on the Air activator or chasing POTA and Summits on the Air (SOTA) stations.

I built (and revised) a 25-ft random wire for quick deployments. Wayne Burdick, the engineer behind the Elecraft radios, recommends such a wire for quick deployments with their radios.

It is a nonresonant antenna, meaning that is not tuned for any of the amateur radio bands. Therefore, a matching unit (sometimes called an Antenna Tuner — which it does not do, but instead transforms the impedance at the output of the matching unit to the impedance of the antenna or feedline). Burdick recommends using a BNC to binding post adapter directly to the radio. Then there is no feedline loss from the impedance mismatch and Elecraft ATUs can match a wide range of impedance presented to them.

A second wire called a counterpoise is attached to the ground side of the binding post adapter and thrown on the ground. This provides a ground connection that is necessary to complete the antenna. Both wires form the antenna and my last iteration was an adjustment to the counterpoise to use one wire instead of three (which were forever tangled).

I have not tested this configuration with an antenna analyzer. I will one day when I am in the field. But for now, in testing it on the air, it is working just fine.

The Elecraft KX2 deployed on a stump out at Silver Saddle Ranch. On the right side of the radio is a BNC/binding post adapter. Connected to the red post is the radiating element, about 25-ft of wire affixed to a 10-m SOTAbeams telescopic mast. Connected to the black post is another wire, about 25-ft long (or so) thrown on the ground to be the counterpoise.

This afternoon The Girl and I walked our normal route out at Silver Saddle Ranch. I have a bit of a slow day before things get busy again. I checked propagation and the ionosphere is quiet today (although I think there was an X-ray burst earlier in the day that caused a temporary radio blackout). I also noticed a handful of POTA activators were working. So I decided to give myself a few minutes of fun.

I spent a few minutes rearranging some of the radio kit in my 4Runner, then retrieved the 10-m SOTAbeams mast, the KX2, the Pelican case that contains the AME PP2 and Mini-B paddles, and a couple of Voile straps. I settled The Girl in the rig and walked the 10m to my operating point, the gate into the ranch road to the borrow pit and an old block of cottonwood stump.

It took me about ten minutes to deploy the mast, antenna, radio, and key. I used my iPhone to log with the HAMRS app. I spent a few minutes listening for the activators, then when there was a gap in the pileup, I sent my call.

In a bit more than a half-an-hour, I had four contacts in my log. By then it was 1530h local and I knew the kiddos would have all dispersed from school. So my route home would be clear.

It took me another ten minutes or so to tear down the station and pack things up. I paused for a few minutes to make a couple of photographs with my iPhone. I then carried the station back to the rig and we headed home.

This is all that is required for a working amateur radio station. There is transceiver (radio) with internal battery, a Morse key, an antenna, a BNC/binding post adapter to connect the antenna to the radio, and a mast to hold one end of the antenna aloft. It is a simple station. It will send traffic across the country and beyond.

It was a good day. Life is good. My dog and I are good together.

I have more to say and some lessons learned over the last few months activating parks for Parks on the Air. I also have more antenna builds to share as well as more stories and photographs.

The Sagebrush Antenna and Self Care

Everything that is needed to operate on four of the high frequency amateur radio bands is in or next to this box. There is a radio, the Sagebrush antenna, a battery, headphones, and a couple of Morse Code keys.

During the latter part of last year and well into January of this year, I was working very hard and burning a lot of energy. After completing a report and giving a deposition, I was quite tired and near burning out. That did not stop the pressure, though, as there are several active projects still needing attention and deliverables are coming due. There was little time for my radios and I had to cancel my planned trip to Quartzite, Arizona.

I am making progress on the work. This week I was relieved of one of the deliverables due the end of this month. I made significant progress on the other two deliverables. The pressure lightened substantially.

However, over the last few weeks I decided that I had no choice but to take time of some self care. I will not be productive if I burn out. I am close enough that I feel the pressure to chuck everything and go into hibernation mode.

As a result, I spent more time in the outdoors the last three weekends. The Girl and I are getting our miles in every day. I am taking a few minutes every day to meditate and pray. Although this week was an exception, I am getting a couple of strength training sessions in each week.

After our daily walks, if the weather is nice (and it has been), I setup one of my portable radios. The last couple of weeks, I had the Elecraft K1 out a couple of times. I am learning to use that radio. It is not a difficult radio to use, but there are a few things to learn about its operation.

I learned that it is a very good radio. The receiver is excellent and the operating controls are well thought out and work well. It is a fun unit to operate.

An even smaller radio is my Elecraft KX1. My unit operates on four bands — 20m, 30m, 40m, and 80m. It has an internal matching unit. It will run on a set of internal batteries or an external power source. It has an excellent receiver with both RF and AF gain controls and an adjustable filter.

Some days I setup a telescopic fiberglass mast and run a wire from near the top to the radio. The wire antenna connects directly to the radio. A counterpoise is thrown on the ground to provide the required wire to match the radiator.

You’ll have to look really hard, but there is an antenna in the sagebrush. Can you see it?

Friday I decided to deploy the Sagebrush Antenna. This unique antenna comprises the wire radiator from my KX1 kit (shown above) thrown across the top of whatever sagebrush is nearby. This deployment had the distal end in a sagebrush about six feet off the ground. The near end was about five feet above the ground, with the last bit sloped down to the radio, which sat on my knee. I threw the other part of the antenna (the counterpoise) on the ground in front of me.

By the time we finished our walk most of the SOTA activators had retired. Those I listened for could not be heard at my location. I listened for the few POTA stations that were active and heard an operator in Arkansas calling. Once a few strong stations worked him, I put out my callsign. After a couple of attempts, he heard me and sent part of my callsign with a question mark (asking me to fill my call).

About the time I heard him complete my call, he faded into the noise. I continued to listen a bit more, heard his signal come up and fade away again, then decided I would either have to wait or give up. Given I needed to return home for a phone call, I gave up. (I hate to give up!)

As I put away the station, the phone rang. My buddy Dick said “You’re 5-4 or 5-5 here, what are you running????”

“I’m running the KX1 with 3 watts.”

“You’re kidding!!! You’re booming in here. Did you hear him answer?”

“Yes, but then he faded and I could not copy the exchange.”

“Aw man, you had him… what antenna are you running?”

“I’m running the Sagebrush Antenna.”

“What?”

“The Sagebrush Antenna… I threw a wire over the top of the sagebrush.”

“Oh man, a wire on the ground and 3 watts?!?!”

We chatted a bit while I put things away (not a long process and I was almost done when the phone rang), then continued on the way home. I knew I could have worked that Arkansas activator if I had waited for him to come back up out of the noise. But I wanted to make my call before I ended the day.

Perhaps you can see the Sagebrush Antenna now?
In the end, whether I made the contact or not does not matter. What matters is that I took some time for myself, to do something for myself that is fun and engaging, and to move away from work for awhile. I spent time with my dog, with my friends, and with my radios. This is helping me to reduce my burn out and keep me healthy and productive. And it is fun to deploy a simple, small, low-power radio, particularly when using an antenna as esoteric as the Sagebrush Antenna. Can you see it?

Weekend Radio

It was a good day to be outdoors. I did not mind sitting on the ground, although I was very stiff when I stood up.
The last few weekends I spent more time outside with The Girl. My weeks are mostly filled with work, either at the trading desk or at the engineering desk. We do get out everyday for some exercise, but there is always the pressure to return to the home office and get things done.

After working a slew of weekends the last quarter of 2021 and into January of 2022, I am at risk of burnout. So I am gave myself permission to take some time off on the weekends, work on some personal projects, and play. Weekend before last was a little Winter Field Day play. After passing the morning at the house waiting for the air to warm, we spent the afternoons in the hills out east of town. We had some great hikes out there, the old man huffing up the hills with The Girl looking over her shoulder or running back to encourage the old man to huff a little harder.

Then we returned to the rig where I put out an old furniture blanket for The Girl while I setup a radio and either chased SOTA and POTA activators or played search-and-pounce after the Winter Field Day runners.

Last weekend we had a friend accompany us on Saturday. She another ham who loves to hike and especially loves The Girl. The Girl begins wiggling before we even get close to our friend’s place. And then she will greet friend with more intense wiggles and lots of love. We drove out to my new favorite spot, parked the rig, and hiked out two more hills. The overlook from there is spectacular, with view of the Carson Range to the west, Carson Valley to the south, and Carson City to the northwest. We paused at the summit to look around, enjoy the view, and enjoy the sun on us.

We returned to the rig for water and a snack. Then I setup the Elecraft KX3 with a magnetic loop antenna. There were plenty of operators running for the three QSO parties in progress. But I did not want to work that hard, so I looked for POTA and SOTA activators. I saw their spots on my phone and listened for them on their spotted frequency. I logged four contacts Saturday. On completing each exchange, I offered our friend the key. But she declined, not feeling quite ready to take to the air.

We had a bit of an adventure on the way home, though. I violated the “first rule of the day” and went north, forgetting I was on the third peak and not the second. It was only about a hundred yards when I realized I was not on the trail I came up and that this one was steeper and more narrow than I preferred.

After a couple of failed attempts to back up the trail, I managed to get mostly turned around. But the ass-end of the rig was still too far off the trail to get squared away. So I stepped out to survey the situation, saw that I was still making progress, and returned to the cabin of the vehicle.

After a couple more tries, I got close enough that I was able to back down the trail about 20 feet. I made a run at the snowfield and made it about halfway. I backed up and made another run and got about three-quarters of the way. The third attempt I made it 90 percent, but had enough traction to continue crawling until the right front hit soil and drug us out of the snow.

It was then easy going back to the correct trail. I was not looking forward to calling another friend for help and having to eat crow.

The Girl and I returned Sunday about noon for more outside time. I parked the rig and we got out to walk to the site of our previous day’s experience so I could make a couple of photographs. Then we turned south and climbed the same route as Saturday. A group of off-road bikers passed us on the way up to the summit in two parts. I saw the first group peel off the trail to some single-track and then turn back south. The second group stopped near where the first dropped over the edge of the ridge, but did not see where their compatriots had gone. One rider returned to our location and to the summit. He then turned around and coasted a bit, calling “Sorry buddy for driving past so many times. I lost the rest of the group.”

“No worries!” I called back. The Girl and I finished our ascent and paused at the top, as I like to do. I heard dirt bikes approach as we headed back down. We walked up to them paused on the slope, chatting. One called to The Girl “here buddy!” and she immediately responded.

I chatted with them a couple of minutes and then we parted ways, The Girl and I returning to the rig. There I setup my table and the KX3, but this time chose a different antenna I wanted to test. The Girl relaxed on her mat while I played a little radio. Again I was chasing SOTA and POTA activators, not wanting to work so hard working the QSO parties.

About mid-afternoon I put everything away, tired, a little cool, and ready to be home for the rest of the day. We crawled back down off the hill and toward the house, listening to some chatter on the local repeaters as we moved.

In the end, it was another good day. I came away with some contacts, knowledge of the antenna under testing, and a couple of nice images. Below is an example of why I love the west and why I love being in the mountains.

Life is good. I am grateful.

The view of Carson City from the third peak south from Sedge Road is startling. This is why I love living in the west.

Winter Field Day 2022

This was my OP for Winter Field Day 2022.

Work is keeping me busy these days. So, I was not able to make the usual excursion to a remote site in central Nevada. I also did not have time to make a plan for when, where, or how I was going to setup a portable station and operate, if even for a few hours.

Therefore, when Saturday morning arrived, I had only a notion that I would drive up to one of my usual operating points in the Pinion Hills/Pine Nut Mountains, setup one of my portable radios, choose an antenna, and see if I could hear any stations. I knew that The Girl and I both needed a walk/hike as well. So I thought that the higher location I often use would be a good place. There is not much traffic, I could setup just over the hilltop where I might have a little shelter from a northerly wind and get some sun exposure, and there is an old juniper stub that I can strap an antenna mast to.

So, I loaded a few things into the rig, got The Girl fed, added some water and a snack to the mix, and we headed out. As we turned up the road to the public lands, I noticed there was not a lot of activity in the area. That meant it would be quiet on the trail.

Just after arriving at the OP, The Girl and I took a hike along the perimeter and then up to the next hill off to the south. This was our view of Carson City and Slide Mountain.
The trip up to the OP was easy, as usual. The road has not changed much since the last time we were up here. I realized I should drive up here more often on the weekends because there are so many more people out at Silver Saddle Ranch, where we usually walk on the weekends. I prefer to encounter as few two- and four-legged others as I can. In part, that is because I am not very social and in part because there are so many with bad behaviors in the latter.

There are rarely others out in the area where I like to operate. It even occurred to me that if I had a hot-tent, I could camp at the next hill up. I am confident the 4Runner would make it up there with no problem. However, I am just as confident that I could not get the camper up there.

After parking the rig, The Girl and I got out for a hike to warm up and let her burn off some energy. I paused at the overlook to make an image of Carson City, with the Carson Range and Slide Mountain in the background. I love the view from this place. We turned south and climbed part of the hill while I chatted with Older Son. I saw tracks from what was probably a pickup truck on the trail. It was clear they were made when the soil was wet and the drive had slid off into the rut. I saw where the vehicle drug but did not high-center. It looks like it can get pretty sloppy on this trail if it is wet.

Fact noted…

Although the details of the station are not clear, this was my setup for Winter Field Day 2022.
On return to the rig, I started setting up the station. I decided to use a home-built doublet for the antenna. It is a non-resonant antenna that I feed with open wire (not coaxial cable). Older Son and I built this antenna a couple of years ago with some THHN wire I had in the garage and some electric fence standoffs I purchased.

I put a 4:1 BALUN at the end of the open feedline so I can reduce the impedance (by a factor of four) and run a short length of coax to the station. Deploying the antenna took me about 15 minutes.

I initially thought to use a new linear amplifier I bought for portable operations, but after fiddling with it for a few minutes, I realized I need more time with the equipment to become familiar with it. So I retrieved the other amplifier (the KXPA100 matched to my Elecraft KX3 transceiver) and used it for the deployment. I connected a Microsoft Surface Go 2 to the radio for logging. This little computer is nearly a perfect logging machine for these kinds of deployments. It is also easy to power from the station battery.

I briefly considered deploying a second antenna. But, I decided I would operate for only a couple of hours so elected to use just the doublet.

I sat down at the radio about a half-hour after starting the setup. I checked everything, entered the appropriate data into the logging software, confirmed the computer and radio were communicating, and then started listening for calling stations.

Over the next couple of hours, I worked stations from California to Pennsylvania and Florida. I did not make a lot of contacts, probably about 15 of them. Most of the activity was on the 20m band, but I also worked a station on 15m and heard another who could not hear me. About 1530h local, the 40m band came alive, suddenly. That gave me the opportunity to work a few more stations.

Then I got cold as the sun faded toward the mountains. I knew it was time to tear down the station and head back to the house. I let The Girl out of the rig so she could sniff around a bit as I put away the equipment. We then did a short walk around the top of the hill before climbing back in the the rig (which was warmed up) and heading down the hill.

I learned a few things from this deployment, as I usually do.

  • It is possible to do a hasty deployment for a field activity without a lot of planning.
  • Such a deployment requires a decent go kit, preferably stored in the vehicle.
  • Never take unproven equipment to the field without a backup.
  • The backup plan has to be proven equipment or there is a risk of complete failure of the mission.
  • A hasty setup can yield a fair number of contacts. I would have had a lot more contacts if I had run a frequency instead of playing search and pounce. I just did not want to work that hard. I wanted a little radio fun for the weekend.
  • Part of the Winter Field Day experience is to get out of the house and operate portable in more difficult weather. It was not cold, but it was cool and I got cold by the end of the day.
  • A longer deployment would require additional personal equipment than I carried in the 4Runner. But I was fine for the afternoon.

In all, I had some fun, made some contacts, and practiced my Morse Code. All of my contacts were Morse Code. I had a microphone with me, but did not use it.

That was my Winter Field Day 2022 experience. It was good. And then, I was treated to a beautiful view of Carson City and the Carson Range on the way back home.

As we left the OP, the sun was setting over the Carson Range. This was our view of Carson City and Slide Mountain.

Sunday Operations

While hiking and operating a radio in the Pinion Hills east from Carson City, I came across a Gadsden Flag posted above Carson City.

After working Winter Field Day 2022 on Saturday (post to come), I decided to get out again Sunday for some outdoor time and maybe to run the radio a little.

Much of Sunday morning was spent working on a variety of chores. Besides, it was cold in the morning (maybe 18°F) and I did not want to get myself out in that, much less The Girl. Therefore, about noon we loaded up a couple of things and headed out east from Carson City.

As I expected, the Silver Saddle Ranch parking areas had many vehicles. I was right in my assessment that the open space areas would be busy. So we continued on east then turned east onto Brunswick Canyon Road and then south to where I like to operate portable in the Pinion Hills/Pine Nut Mountains.

I bypassed the first to locations I use to operate and continued south and up to a new location I scouted several times over the last couple of years. I was sure the 4Runner would have little trouble traversing the trail, now that the mud has dried. And, I was correct.

I parked the rig, got my sling pack out, and got The Girl out, who was quite excited. We hiked the trail south through a saddle, a hill, and another saddle to climb the next hill. I think that the 4Runner will traverse this trail, too. There were quad tracks and the trail was wide enough, mostly. There were a couple of icy patches that might be a challenge and a couple of steep sections that might also be a challenge.

I will walk it again another time. It also occurred to me that a quad might be in my future for such outings. I could even add a trailer to the quad to carry camping gear and supplies, should I elect to do some tent camping at these more remote areas.

It was a good hum up the trail to the top of the hill. I paused to drink a little water. The Girl ate snow. Then I made a few images and we headed back north to the rig.

What a gorgeous day it was! The air was cool, in the mid-40°F range. But there was plenty of sun to keep me warm.

Back at the rig I put out some water for The Girl and then setup my portable station. For this outing I used the Elecraft K1 and a random wire antenna strung from a 10m SOTAbeams Travel Mast. Deployment took only a few minutes. I also connected the PowerFilm 30w foldable solar panel to the battery to continue recharging it after using it for WFD.

I made two contacts, one SOTA activator and one POTA activator. I heard a Japan station calling, but decided I did not want a ragchew. So I just listened on the bands for a bit, soaking up some sun while The Girl also sunned herself on the mat I laid out for her.

As the sun fell towards the Carson Range, the breeze come up a little — enough to make me chilly. So, I decided to pack the station and walk a little more. The Girl jumped up to go hunt critters as we walked.

I found a Gadsden Flag on a short poles with a solar-powered lamp a dozens steps from the OP. I stopped to make a few more images and give The Girl a chance to play. Then we headed back down the hill toward home, a big drink of water, kibbles for The Girl and hot chow for me.

What a beautiful day and what a great day. I am grateful.

Monday Radio Play

I needed a little radio play on Monday, so I took the Elecraft K1 for a spin.

Not having enough radio play on Sunday, I took along my Elecraft K1 radio on our outing Monday. The weather was nicer than Sunday, plenty warm (warm enough for shirtsleeves).

Again, after our walk, I setup a random wire antenna affixed to the 10m mast. The K1 was easy to setup and I found a place to sit on the ground as my table and chair were not in the rig.

The radio matched the antenna readily and I started hunting for SOTA and POTA activators. I worked five stations over an hour and a half, one of them in Florida, all with seven watts of output.

The mental exercise of copying and sending Morse Code is good for me. It provides an excellent change of pace from my normal work, which is highly analytical.

In addition, I get out of the house with The Girl, we have a good time working (I work her when we walk), and I often talk to Older Son or a friend while I walk.

I still have a lot to learn about the K1. It is a capable radio. It is still possible to find one, but that factory stand is nearly unobtanium. I managed to snag a couple of them.