The plan for Winter Field Day 2021 started late in the fall of 2020. My friends and I drove out to the potential site and spent a few days camping there over the Thanksgiving holiday. We cleaned up the old tank and they played on the dirt bikes while I played with The Girl and a little radio.
But project work got busy so I could not leave Friday to camp and enjoy the weekend. My friends went out Friday, setup camp, and threw a couple of tarps over the tank to keep any weather out and some heat in.
I received a call yesterday morning that the generator they were using to power the stations was generating so much interference that it was affecting operations. So I decided to load up my smaller generator (a Honda) and drive it out there. The outing would do me and The Girl some good and I thought I might play a little radio before returning home.
It took me an hour to collect things and run an errand, but we headed out by about 1030h. The drive was a bit more than an hour. The trail was mostly snow-covered or damp sand/gravel. There were a couple of places that were slimy, but the 4Runner had no trouble traversing them.
Camp was a muddy mess, though. There was enough sun to melt the snow and the surface freezing, so they were left with sandy mud. The Girl did not mind and took off to check all her favorite sagebrush clumps for critters.
With one eye on The Girl, we got my generator running and providing power for the equipment. I learned that my friend’s radio was having an audio issue and not working reliably. This is odd for an Icon 7000. It had been a solid performer for the last couple of years we have been operating portable.
I offered to leave my Elecraft KX2, but he declined. He encouraged me to setup my rig, though, and make a few contacts. So I setup the rig and used his antenna (a very quick setup). I heard a number of loud stations calling and answered a few calls. I worked stations in California, Nebraska, Illinois, Florida, and Texas before deciding it was time to pack up and head home. I wanted to be off the trail before dark.
So I broke down and stowed my radio equipment, called in The Girl (who was very happy), and we said our goodbyes. She was not too muddy with just a little bit on her feet and a few splashes on her tummy. She mostly snuggled next to me on the way home, as she usually does. Most of the sand had fallen off her by the time we arrived home, just after dusk.
It was an easy unload, then supper for both of us and some rest. I watched a little Netflix while I ate some supper and she laid on her mat next to me, lightly begging for a bite of pizza. After supper and my show, I stayed on the sofa awhile longer, simply enjoying the quiet and the company of my dog.
I made about a dozen contacts over the couple of hours I worked the bands. Most of them were on the 20m band, which was nicely open yesterday.
Today I need to get a little work done, as well as take care of both of us. I am hoping for a little sun later today so we can enjoy that on our walk.
Late last week, The Girl and I got away a little late for our daily walk. Work kept me busy much of the morning. Yet I wanted a walk and The Girl was insisting on a walk and I knew that cold weather was on the way. So I put us into the rig and we headed out to our favorite area, the Carson River at Silver Saddle Ranch.
There was almost no one on the trail that day. I guess the cooler temperatures and the wind were keeping them away. As we approached the trail, I could see that much of the fall color was gone. There were still a few stragglers, hanging on to their leaves while others had given up and dropped theirs. The riparian area is taking on the colors of winter — more browns and grays, more earthy looking, more like waiting for the winter snow.
Yet we had a good walk. There were periods of sun and shade as the clouds blew in, foreboding the coming colder temperatures and the prospect for rain or snow. When the sun shone, it was plenty warm and I was tempted the shed my outer layer. But then a cloud would obscure the sun and I felt chilled. I elected to keep the outer layer on.
The Girl ran from place to place, hunting lizards. “They’ve all bunkered in,” I told her. But she hunted anyway, enjoying the activity as much as the prospect of jumping something to chase.
We jumped a brace of mallards from the Mexican Ditch and she started off in chase. “Come-on back; you can’t catch those…” I called. She broke off her chase, and returned, bright-eyed and wolfy-looking.
Near the Mexican Dam, we paused for a moment for me to look out over the river. She stepped up onto the spoil berm and I noticed. She stayed long enough for me to make the capture. We walked on a few more steps to within spitting-distance of the dam, then turned and headed back.
I was struck by the quality of the light and the mix of clouds and blue sky. So I paused to make another capture, which went to my Instagram account.
The Girl rushed me on, “There are lizards to hunt…” she seemed to say.
We had a good walk back to the rig. She was ready to hop in and head home, as was I. I came away with two good captures, plenty of fresh air and exercise, and a tired dog. It was a good day.
Last weekend I really wanted to get out and play some radio. But, I also wanted to get my 4Runner cleaned up after a full summer of desert running (and the ensuing layers of dust) before the fall snows/rains come.
So, Saturday I worked some in the garage, at least enough to create a staging area for the radio equipment carried in the 4Runner. In the process, I opened a couple of the remaining cartons from my move to the duplex. I found my Garmin Montana 650t, which I planned to sell but now think might be a good GPS receiver to keep for trail driving.
I set the GPS unit and dash mount aside. I would deal with that later.
The Girl played around in the front and back yards while I unloaded the gear from the 4Runner and staged it on and around a folding table. With the 4Runner empty, I closed up the house, put The Girl in the rig, and we drove down to Minden to let Melvin’s do their thing. When I pulled into the queue, the operator gave me my ticket and said “That’s a lot of dust. I don’t know if we can get it all.”
“I will pay extra…”
“We’re just so busy…” He was right — I was probably sixth or seventh in the line.
“That’s OK, I’ll take what I can get. I’ve been in the desert a lot.” I left the keys on the dash and The Girl and I went into the shop to pay our bill. Whatever I got for my 25 bucks would be so much better than what I had.
Next for the 4Runner is getting the replacement tire in the shop and on the ground. (That was a left-over from the Bald Mountain activation. I broke a sidewall on a tire coming down the trail.) I am looking into a roof rack and air bags for the rear axle and the passenger’s seat has a parting seam in the leather that needs attention.
We waited outside (what a beautiful afternoon) for the rig to be washed. I listened to the local repeaters while folks chatted about small matters. There is a jammer in range of the Carson Valley repeater who was interfering with a couple of local hams. So they switched to another repeater that has coverage. I switched too so I could follow the conversation.
There was also some chatter on the CARLA network. A group of California hams assembled a complicated but useful network of repeaters that will cover most of the state and a lot of Nevada and Oregon. I monitor that network regularly as well.
The rig clean, The Girl and I visited Ronnie McD’s place and headed north toward home. She was antsy, but settled as I shared my fries with her. We pulled into the Koontz Avenue access to the Prison Hill Recreational Area and parked. I finished my late lunch (sharing of course) and then we got out for a walk.
It was a good day.
Sunday was rather a repeat of Saturday, except that I worked on some battery packs for my portable operations. I am reorganizing my portable radio kits and had some new materials in hand. I used some velcro to attach a power distribution box and a solar charge controller to the new 6Ah LFP battery. The velcro will permit (difficult) removal of the attached pieces if I decide that I do not like the setup. I also attached a distribution box to the 15Ah LFP battery, which is used when I want to run a 100w radio. The 6Ah battery will power my radios (and maybe a computer) with up to about 35w of power (or barefoot if I do not want to run power).
That only leaves the little 3Ah LFP battery to work with. I will probably add a charge controller and power distribution box to that pack as well. Or I might leave off the distribution box because I’ll likely be running on a barefoot radio.
I also got the Montana 650t updated and put onto a charger to see if the LiON battery is still serviceable. The unit has been in storage for several years so I am not sure about the battery.
The Girl was pestering, so I loaded her into the rig and we headed off to get in a walk. At the upper Silver Saddle Ranch staging area, I let her out, donned my EDC pack, and we headed down the trail. She ran herself hot and returned to me several times asking for a drink. But I knew that we would be at the Mexican Ditch in a few minutes and would not be on the trail that long before returning to the rig, where I can a water bottle for her.
She jumped into the ditch, of course, cooling herself and getting a drink. Then, as usual, she trotted past me and shook, giving me a shower as well. I always thank her for the shower and then we walked on.
At the ranch compound, I put her on-lead because there were a bunch of horse trailers parked in the lot. She is not sure about horses and I do not want an incident. But we saw no horses, yet the leash time was good because it gave us some practice working on-lead.
I gave her a bowl of water back at the rig and put her inside. I retrieved the KX1 go-box from the rig, threw a wire over the sage and bitter brush, and thew a counterpoise wire out on the ground. I sat on an old cottonwood stump, put the KX1 on my knee, and started chasing POTA (Parks on the Air) and SOTA (Summits on the Air) stations.
The Elecraft KX1 is a code-only radio, so I was using my newly acquired Morse Code skill. I worked five stations, including a park in Alabama being activated by one of CW Academy instructors, Ken K4EES with only about 3w of power. It is amazing what can be done with a little wire and a radio.
I thought about chasing a few more, but decided it was a good day. So I packed up my gear, got The Girl out for one last short outing, and we headed home. I made some early supper and fed her, then settled in to update my log and relax before the week started. It was a good day and a good weekend.
Saturday was both the 2020 Hawaii and Ohio QSO Parties. After our morning walk, The Girl and I rested a bit. After waking, I decided to go out to one of my perches in the Pine Nut Mountains. I wanted to play radio a little and be outdoors.
Lately I have eschewed outdoor activities beyond those necessary. The California fires are impacting our air quality and I really do not want to breathe a lot of smoke. But Friday and Saturday were a little better and I was tired of being indoors. So we headed out mid-afternoon on Saturday for some additional outside time.
I set up my vertical antenna and the Elecraft KX2 with my miniPacker HF linear amplifier behind the radio. That gives me about 35w out output, which should be enough for either phone or code operations if propagation is decent.
I know the antenna well enough that I can set it for the 20m and 40m bands without an antenna analyzer. I used one, of course, but I was close enough just “eyeballing” it.
I got The Girl settled on her mat next to my operating position and started listening to the 20m band. I quickly worked three loud Ohio stations. Then I heard a weaker, but readily heard station activating a park (POTA — Parks on the Air), so called him. We made the exchange although he gave me a signal report of only 22 (that’s weak and difficult to copy), but he got the information correct so I put him in my log.
I heard a few Ohio stations calling in Morse code, but none of them could hear me. But I heard HI3T calling and giving signal reports, but not identifying as one of the QSOP stations. When I checked QRZ (online database) on my iPhone, I learned this was a Dominican Republic station. He was working stations very quickly.
During a lull in the action, I sent my callsign. I was stepped on by a stronger station. I waited a few moments and sent my callsign again, during another lull. He returned my call with a signal report of 5NN (best possible signal and probably not a true sigreport). I responded with TU and 5NN (thank you and my real signal report) and he moved on to the next station.
I puttered around the bands for a little longer. I heard no Hawaii stations calling and could not work any of the others stations I could hear. So I packed up the station and The Girl and I made a walk around the knoll.
She glided from sagebrush to sagebrush, sniffing and hunting for lizards. I looked over the Carson City valley and the Prison Hill complex, thinking about the California fires and the smoke we suffered from. Fire is a natural part of the desert ecosystem. Regular burning reduces the fuel load and results in less serious fires (from an ecological perspective). Over the last century, we interfered with that natural cycle. Now wildfires have access to greater fuel loads and are very serious.
Last weekend I watched the Loyalton Fire sending smoke into the sky. This week and this weekend Carson City suffered a lot of smoke. I will be happy to see it go. But I will also be happy to know that the fires are under control and extinguished because I read the heartache they cause for those affected by them.
I have been looking through my image archive the last few weeks. In the process, I found a few nice captures that I want to share over the coming few weeks. Many of them were shot with a little Olympus E-M10 micro-4/3s body I bought, thinking I wanted a really small, capable camera. I have adapters for a variety of legacy lenses, which often produce surprisingly good results.
On this day, we were walking down by the Carson River. It was in the fall or winter months, but no snow. Ki found a bit of cottonwood deadfall and decided to destroy it.
I had the Olympus fitted with a 25mm f/1.4 or f/1.6 Wollensak lens that was probably built in the 1950s for a 16mm movie camera. It is not as sharp as modern lenses, but there is a quality to the image that I really like.
I really love the subject, though. She was a hoot to have in the field and we loved our outings.
Last Saturday was the North American SSB QSO Party for 2020. The objective of a QSO party is to make contacts. The exchanges are generally short and simple, in this case first name and state or province. Those stations outside North American gave name and “DX”.
I readied almost everything Friday evening, but was slow getting moving Saturday morning. I can tell fall is coming — my fall allergies are beginning to act up. So I was slow and didn’t leave as early as I intended.
I stopped at McDonald’s after placing an order through their iPhone application. I checked in at the curb and waited. Nothing happened. So I walked inside and asked about my order. No order. But the manager gathered my order together, replacing the water with an orange juice. I returned to the vehicle to head north to Reno, shaking my head.
The Girl perked up as I got into the car. Food! I could hear her thinking. You WILL share that with me, won’t you. It was not a question; it was a statement of fact.
When I crested the pass into Washoe Valley, I called my friends through the 2-meter repeater network to let them know I was on the way. As I left Washoe Valley and dropped into Truckee Meadows, I could see a lot of smoke on the horizon, past Peavine Mountain.
I switched my radio to the Peavine repeater and called again. My friend Mike returned the call and I asked about the smoke.
“It’s on the other side of the Peterson Range,” came the reply.
As I climbed out of Reno toward Lemmon Valley, the smoke began to concern me. I have a little asthma and am sensitive to smoke. But I drove on, hopeful that it would not blow toward the operating area.
I pulled in to my friends’ place and what a gorgeous place they have. Sharen is an animal lover and has a few dogs and a few horses on the place. It is plenty big enough. She met me at the house and guided me up to the operating position. Greg was mostly set up and Mike had a place picked out for me.
I really had not intended to run the radio this time. After the last couple of outings, we have not had enough separation between radios and they interfered with each other. But this time I was more than 500 feet from the others, so there might be a little increase in the noise floor, but I could operate.
So I pulled the rig up close to a juniper tree and set up my station. I had a simple setup, as usual. I used the Elecraft KX2 radio, the miniPackerHF — a small 35w amplifier, the battery, charge controller, and a solar panel, and paper and pen to log any contacts I made.
I could tell right away that I would need more shade, so I stretched a small tarp between the back of the 4Runner and the juniper tree.
It was still hot.
I chased a few stations who were calling CQ for contacts. I probably made ten contacts or so, plus I spotted a VE station activating a SOTA peak. That was a fun contact and one that I always enjoy. After an hour and change, the wind shifted slightly and I smelled smoke.
I stepped around the 4Runner to check and could see smoke drifting through the valley in the Lee of the Peterson Range. I watched for a few minutes, hearing the sounds of HF radio in the background. I did not like the way things looked. I was not concerned about the fire (yet), but did not want to get a bunch of smoke in my lungs.
So I shut down the radio, packed everything up, and drove over to where the others were operating.
Mike was at the radio, so I sat down. I had about decided to head home when lunch break was called. We walked down the hill the their house and enjoyed the cool air inside while we had a sandwich and chatted. Mike and Sharen were concerned about the fire, but not overly concerned yet. The Girl and the other dogs packed right up and played and wandered the place while we recovered from the heat.
The wind shifted a little more to the south so the smoke mostly cleared and I elected to stay and visit and let The Girl wander over the place. Mike and Sharen’s place is completed fenced because of their dogs, so The Girl had free roam. I kept an eye on her anyway because I do not like her to be out of sight. But I was confident she would not go too far.
The fire generated enough heat to cause pyrocumulus clouds to form. We have been having some monsoonal flows as well and a few popup thundershowers formed. The clouds gave us a break from the heat, although the additional lightning was some cause for concern — not only for the radio but for additional fires.
About 1700h Greg called an ending to the day. We broke down his station. I worked on the antenna while he worked on the radio end of the station. I remembered I had a spare shirt (and socks) in my pack, so I took off my sweaty old t-shirt and replaced it with something clean. I was thankful for a dry shirt. With the station put away, we drove down the hill and shared a meal of Papa Murphy’s Pizza and some wine.
I did not realize how tired until about 2100h. I was really tired. But I was not too tired (nor had I too much wine) to drive home. I turned on the air conditioner to cool the 4Runner and paused at the gate to visit with Mike a minute. We could see flames cresting the Peterson Range. Now it was time to be a little concerned.
In the end, it was a good day. My station performed well, although I did not have enough power to break some of the pile-ups. That is portable operations, though. I enjoyed the fellowship of friends and the breaking of bread as a community.
As I write this, the fire still rages. It has not affected Mike and Sharen, yet, and I pray it does not. I also pray for others who are dealing with the effects of the fire.
While I was looking at this image of The Girl, an old (old) song came to mind — The Look of Love. The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and recorded by Dusty Springfield. My goodness that takes me back in time (to like 1967).
After walkies one morning, we both plopped onto the bed to rest for a few moments. Well, The Girl would take an extended nap while I rested a few moments and then rose to take on the remainder of my day.
While we were there, I petted her, of course. Like Ki, Sera loves to have her side stroked. She will scoot about until stretched out long. Sometimes she will stretch her rear legs way out behind her, flexing those hip muscles (which are very strong). She makes me laugh.
This day, though, she rolled over onto my hand. I scratched her neck a little and she gave me this look. Fortunately I had my iPhone in hand and was able to make the capture.
These are the times when I am reminded that dogs are not dumb animals; they have emotions of their own, whether they are similar to ours or not I cannot know. But this look is clearly love. She enjoys our time together and our interactions.
So do I.
I am grateful for The Girl and what she adds to my life. Like Ki and I, Sera and I are rarely apart. I might leave her for an hour while I go to the grocery store. But that is only until her training is complete and then she will go with me everywhere, just like Ki did.
Last Saturday the group drove the long trail out to McTarnahan Hill, SOTA W7N/TR-042. Our original plan did not look feasible but all of us wanted to go outside and play radio somewhere. So out to the Pine Nut Mountains we went.
I was much better prepared for this outing. I bought ice and a sandwich on Friday. I loaded the cooler with ice and had everything else ready to go. On Saturday morning, all I had to do was prepare myself. This time I even packed a little food for The Girl.
We met the others at KG7D’s place, visited a moment, then headed out. We paused at the east end of Johnson Lane and for the first time I aired down the tires to 25psi. The idea was to make my ride a little more compliant by using the tires.
The trail was not bad. It took us awhile to get out there. By my estimate, the trail was about 13.5 miles to the operating point. This one was pretty easy, not requiring much hike at all.
While the others selected their operating point and scouted for antenna placement, I moved off 50 feet and began setting up my station. For this outing I used the Elecraft KX2, the minipackHF linear amplifier (to get me 35w), and the Wolf River Coils vertical antenna. I did not think stringing out the wire dipole would work as easily.
Power was provided by a couple of Bioenno 28w panels to a Genasun GV-5 charge controller and a 15Ah Bioenno LFP battery. The battery was topped off by the time I assembled the other components of the station. My setup time was about 20 minutes.
I checked on the others and they were still setting up. I checked on The Girl and she was busy hunting lizards and chipmunks. So I prepared my notebook for logging and sat down at the radio.
“Is the frequency in use?” … “Is the frequency in use, AG7TX” … “Is the frequency in use, Alpha Golf Seven Tango Xray?”
“Nothing heard! CQ SOTA CQ SOTA, this is AG7TX calling CQ for Summits on the Air,” began my call on the 40m band. While listening between calls, I spotted myself on the SOTAWatch website.
Then I had a call from a nice operator. We chatted a couple of minutes before I excused myself to work a few more station. I called again and then I pileup of several stations. I worked them one by one, making notes as I went of callsign, time, signal reports, and any information I got from the other operator.
After a few minutes the calls stopped, so I switched over to 20m and started over. After I spotted myself, I took another seven or eight calls, some from as far away as Indiana.
I checked on The Girl periodically to be sure she was still in sight. She was.
“CQ Summits on the Air, CQ SOTA, AG7TX calling CQ SOTA hello 20 meters and listening…” went my call. “OK, last call, last call… AG7TX calling CQ SOTA and listening…” I paused for a few seconds. “OK, nothing heard. Thanks for the calls and AG7TX is clear.”
I turned off the radio and went over to my friends. I had been operating about a half hour and had 15 contacts in my log. They were just about ready to start, so I brought over my table and chair and sat under the EZUp with them.
About that time The Girl wandered over to ask for water. As I gave her a drink, I noticed some blood on her tummy and leg. On inspection, I found she had cut the inside of the left rear leg, probably jumping around on the rocks or in the pine trees.
It was a nasty little laceration, about 25mm long, but without heavy bleeding. It had wept a little but was open enough that a butterfly suture was not going to close the wound.
Mike said “that’s going to need a stitch.” That was my thought also.
So I headed back to my rig to pack my equipment and head to the vet’s office. Once the equipment was packed (about 15 minutes), I called the vet’s office to let them know I was coming.
“You going to come back out after the vet?” Greg asked.
“Probably not — it’s a long way out and back and I’ll probably just go to the house and get a shower.”
“You’re still welcome for supper, if you’re up to it.”
“We’ll see how Sera does.”
It took more than an hour to get to the clinic. There we got checked in and the tech took Sera’s vitals and looked at her wound.
“Yep, that’s going to need stitches,” she said.
“I knew it would.”
Soon the vet came in and checked Sera carefully. “She’s a little fluffy around the chest,” he said. “You need to keep an eye on her food.”
I’m still laughing about my “fluffy” dog and teasing her. But I did cut back her ration just a little. Hmmm… maybe I am too fluffy and need to cut back my ration. Nah…
They kept her to put her in the queue for the sutures and sent me home. I went home and got a shower. Then I drove over to Greg’s to share supper with friends.
It turns out they had trouble making their quota of contacts. Apparently the ground plane of Greg’s antenna was not installed. Therefore the vertical antenna had nothing to work against and did not produce a good signal. But they were able to get their contacts with the 2m handheld with a little help from friends recruited through the repeater system.
While we were finishing supper, the vet called and told me Sera was ready to be released. So I said my goodbyes and headed south to Gardnerville to retrieve her. The vet met me at the door, then handed Sera off to me. “You can call in and settle up tomorrow. We have a lot of very sick dogs tonight and everyone is really busy.”
This is not my first rodeo with a damaged doggo. I knew she would need to restrict her activity a bit and to be on watch for licking or pulling at her sutures. But I also know just how tough these animals are and that she would be fine and pushing at me to be active in a day or two. I cannot remember now many times Ki cut herself in the field. I know we had many, many trips to the vet for sutures, notwithstanding all the skin excisions she had because of her skin cancer.
The Girl will be fine. As I write this, she is snoozing on the bed. We have been walking in town so she is not tempted to run through the sagebrush. In a few more days we will be back to our normal trail out by the river. I would much rather walk out there.
This capture is another from that series I made in January 2018 at the Station 51 park. DiL, Older Son, Ki, and I were at the park for an outing. Ki loved that park and loved the play and friends we met there.
The weather was cool, but not cold. But it was cold enough to make her very playful. She loved Older Son and the way he interacted with her. They were playing, which gave me the opportunity to run the camera.
In this case it was a Sony A7R with a wonderful legacy Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 zoom lens. As I have written many times, this lens far outperformed its price point and is still a good lens.
There is something more cinematic or flavorful about the best of the vintage lenses. There was a warmth to the images made with them, in many respects superior to the more sterile images from the highly refined lenses made today. The newest generation of lenses might be sharper and have fewer optical issues. But in that continued search for the perfect optic, it seems that something was lost and that quantity is in the image quality. I find it difficult to describe, but I can see it in many images.
This capture of my son and my dog is one of those images.
When Ki died earlier this year, I was heartbroken. We had been together for so long. I really was not ready to say “goodbye” — but then it was not up to me. I still miss her and I think I always will.
It is not the same, but it is similar to the way I miss Wife. She is gone now more than seven-years ago. While the pain of her departure has waned, I still miss Wife. I wonder what our life would be together now, in the current circumstances.
But that is not something I can know. I can wonder all I want; but I cannot know. I do know that I miss her, and I miss Ki, The Girl.
But I certainly have a lot of great memories and a few good photographs.