Three Men, One Dog, One Mountain

I shot this image from the portable operating station for the Mount Davidson SOTA activation. The view was spectacular.

A few weeks ago, my friend and amateur operator suggested we do another Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation. He had chosen a mountain not far from Carson City.

Yesterday, Older Son and I had just started our walk with The Girl out at the Mexican Ditch Trail on Silver Saddle Ranch. I had a handheld radio with me (of course) and called another friend to see if he was walking his dog.

My SOTA-hunting friend responded to my call and we chatted about a group meeting he had been to when he asked if I was interested in the SOTA activation we discussed a few weeks ago.

“When would you like to do that?”

“How about today?”

I looked at Older Son, he nodded. “We just started walking The Girl. We’ll go pick up a sandwich, load up some radio equipment, and give you a heads-up.” We shortened our walk a little because I knew there would be plenty of exercise for everyone. On the way home, we stopped at Subway for a couple of sandwiches, then went home, ate, and gathered up my radio gear.

We met where the pavement ends on Goni Road. After a pause for an introduction and rough plan, we headed out with our friend in the lead. The first part of the road is well-maintained. But it turned to a trail after a mile or so.

The trail varied in condition but was not technically difficult, with the exception of one short segment. Just before we reached the aspen grove, there was a snowbank. At this time of year, the snow is very dense. I had some trepidation about it, watching the Scout cross gingerly. So, I headed down the trail and crossed the snow crabwise with little traction to steer or slow. I knew there was nothing to be gained by hitting the brakes except to exacerbate the slippage and find myself stuck sideways off the trail — or worse.

After traversing the snow, I knew there would be no going back that way for my 4Runner. Our friend called on the radio “We’ll find another way back. We have options.”

We crossed the intersection of Jumbo and Ophir Grades and he told us how the Bonanza writers got much of the history of the area right. Before long we started up the last bit of grade, which had a couple of rough places but nothing the 4Runner could not handle.

There is a turn-around/staging area a couple hundred yards from the summit of Mount Davidson. We pulled up there.

Older Son and I are setting up my portable vertical antenna for the Mount Davidson SOTA activation.
“Should we just haul gear up or go scout first?” he asked.

“I’m always in favor of scouting so there is a plan,” I suggested. So, we added a layer of clothing because the wind was fast and cold and started up the slope.

It is not a particularly difficult hike, but there is some elevation gain and many sharp rocks to deal with. I worried a little about The Girl, because she is sometimes not the brightest bulb in the box and could fall on some of the steeper sections. But she proved to be mostly careful and does have full-time four-wheel drive. She needed a little encouragement/help at a couple of locations and I kept an eye on her the remainder of time lest she wander off and fall.

The summit of Mount Davidson is interesting. There are remnants of a couple of antennas up there, perhaps from either temporary installations or old repeater locations. But of significant interest is an old flagpole that was first installed in the late 1800s. At some point, the pole bent about 10-15 feet above the base and was repaired by placing a second pole (or the remnants of the first) adjacent to the base and tying them together. There are many names and dates embossed on the steel of the flagpole. We spent a few minutes looking at that and then planning our station.

We then humped it back down the hill, retrieved the appropriate equipment from the rigs, and hauled it all back up the hill. Older Son and I began assembling my antenna (a vertical all-band base-loaded whip with a lot of ground radials) while the third component of our little company assembled the station.

The Girl stayed on overwatch and made sure no gnarly squirrels or other riffraff ambushed the company.

We tuned up the antenna for the 40-meter band and gathered around the radio. Fortunately, I brought log materials and Older Son brought water, so we were ready to go.

This is the operating point for the Mount Davidson SOTA activation. The Mount Davidson repeater is in the background.
As we prepared to begin operations, Older Son pulled a packet of Lorna Doones from his kit. Before he could get the wrapper opened, The Girl was sitting in front of him in her please sit, looking at him, and humming. We know what that means, “I can has cookie???”

Of course. We all shared some of the cookies.

Our leader called CQ-SOTA several times and got an answer from a British Columbia station. I had log duty and made the log entry. He called several more times and then offered me a shift on the radio.

The Girl came back in from perimeter duty and sat next to us, shivering a little. Older Son called her over to snuggle and warm up. We had some sun and shelter from the wind, so it was cool but not cold.

While I called CQ-SOTA, he logged into the SOTA website and “spotted” us. That means he logged an entry that we were working the Mount Davidson SOTA site so other operators could find us. I then proceeded to make five contacts, some of them contacts I had made before, some of them new contacts. I needed four contacts to log the activation (and get the points).

I handed the microphone back to our leader and took up my position with the log.

Not long after he took up operations, The Girl sat on a flat spot and looked at Older Son and I. I know my dog. She was sending a definite message. She said “I’m done now. The perimeter is patrolled and there is nothing to do. I’m ready to go home. Why are we still here? Don’t you understand, I’m done — I’m ready to go home. Take me home.”

He made another contact before the battery went dry. He and Older Son started over the hill to retrieve my battery. I stayed on the summit with The Girl and the gear. It was not long before their voices grew louder. I knew they were returning.

“We’re losing daylight,” our leader said, “I hate to give up, but we better tear down and pack out.”

On the way down from Mount Davidson, we paused at potential operating area to look back where we had been. The staging area is to the left of the rocky outcrop and we operated from near the peak.
On the way down from Mount Davidson, we paused at potential operating area to look back where we had been. The staging area is to the left of the rocky outcrop and we operated from near the peak.[/caption]It did not take long to pack up the gear and haul it down to the staging area. It was portable operations, after all. I have enough repetitions with my gear that I know what order to do things and how to pack it up. Before long we were headed back down the trail. At the Jumbo-Ophir junction, we turned east toward Virginia City on the Ophir Grade.

We chatted over the radio now and again as out leader pointed out various sights along the way. At the bottom of the hill we pulled up. “I’m whooped,” he said, “coffee will have to be another time.”

We said our goodbyes, he teased me about “stealing the glory” on this one, and we headed down the hill.

I still wanted coffee and pie, so Older Son and I drove through Carson City to Bodine’s Casino and hit the restaurant there. I like it because the coffee is good and they have a wonderful berry cobbler. I was also hungry, so I ordered off the plate menu (and bargain) and gobbled my food. It was a lot of work in the cool air to set up and run that SOTA activation.

Filled with warm food, coffee, water, and cobbler, Older Son and I headed home to pack it in. We got home about 2200h. It was a good day.

American Kestrel

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest raptor in North America.

I am still waiting for my amateur radio operator’s license to be issued. My name is similar to one on an “alert list” so the automatic system pulled my application and put it in queue for review by a real person. The estimated time is weeks. To say that I am a little bummed by this outcome would be an understatement.

But I have plenty to do. I am working on my station and there is a lot to do to set up an HF station. I have equipment, but antennas are an issue. I built a simple 40m dipole and erected it in my backyard. The matching transformer arrived last week (I will learn to build them as well), so I need to attach it to the mast and then tune the antenna to resonate at the middle of the 40m band.

In the meantime, I just put up a random wire antenna, stapled to the top of the fence along my backyard. I ran the feed line into my workroom and attached it to my transceiver last night. Reception is better than with the previous instance and I can hear traffic on the 80m and 40m bands. The bands are not open much right now because we are at sunspot minimum and so there is not much energy to drive the ionosphere, which is where much of the long-distance propagation occurs.

Morse code and the digital modes are going to be the mechanic for making contacts until the Sun becomes more active. I decided to make a real effort to learn Morse code while I wait for my license. I also will work on my portable station so I can operate away from town and all the noise here. I have plenty of access to quiet areas with elevation so low-power operation is viable. Besides that, I will get away from the house, be outside, and can camp a little. Both The Girl and I will like that.

There is plenty of other work to do, too. I have a bunch of images to review and process. The little raptor above was one of my recent captures. He/she flew up near me and posed prettily while I ran the camera. The Carson River floodplain was where I saw my first Kestrel and I see them often. They are furtive, though, and do not often provide me much time to capture an image.

I am enjoying the better weather lately. The Girl and I are walking the Carson River daily and the trees are about to leaf out. I hear blackbirds calling, woodpeckers drumming, and the geese are still honking. The river is up a little as the snow begins to melt and it looks like there will be abundant water this year. I heard one of the ARES members talking about releases from Lake Lahontan in anticipation of snowmelt and they are spilling excess water into the desert down near Fallon.

The Girl just wandered in. She is looking for breakfast and an outing. I need to retrieve the Fuji’s batteries from the charger and prepare it for another wander. I want a bite, too, but do not feel like cooking this morning. Subway has some decent breakfast sandwiches, so I think I will wander over there and pick up something. Then we can drive out to river, enjoy some sunshine, and spend some time outdoors. Perhaps Mother Nature will bring me a treat.

Clouds Over Mt. Scott

 

On one of our hikes along the Riverview Park/Empire Ranch Trail, I paused to make a capture of Mt. Scott, to the north from Carson City. The camera I had with me was my iPhone XS Max and the scene begged for a black and white capture, so I used an application called MPro, which produces only black and white images.

It does a very good job with black and white and is my preferred camera application for monochrome captures. It offers a variety of filters that imitate the optical filters we used in the film days, and the yellow, orange, and red filters offer increased darkening of the sky. The application also stores the capture in a TIF file, which is lossless and about as close to a RAW capture as one can get.

The image has been laying about in my album for a week or two. A couple of mornings ago I was awake much too early and decided to play with some images. I am experimenting with another application called Pixaloop that is produced by the Enlight folks. It enables addition of motion to a still image to create something I have seen called a kinoptic or cinemagraphic image.

I do not know what made me think to make the clouds converge near the centerline of the image. But it seemed the right approach for this one.

Closing Out 2018

One of the tools I added to my kit this year is this beautiful Council Tool axe. It will serve me well and will be the last axe of this size that I need in my kit.

It is nearly the end of 2018. In fact, tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. The revelers will be out partying. Many of them only need an excuse to get out and party.

I will be home with The Girl. We are unlikely to party, although I might raise a glass towards central Missouri and toast Wife, who is missed. (In fact, any time I get a glass from the stock, I raise it to Wife, remembering her life, remembering that she was and is loved, remembering that she is missed, and celebrating her life.)

The Girl is improving. She still seems off, and her right side does not seem as strong or as coordinated as her left. Her right eye seems a little askew to me as well. That is, when she looks at me, in addition to the head tilt to the left her right eye seems to be looking a little to her right of me. I have also noticed that she can no longer catch tossed treats and has problems locating them on the floor, until she uses her doggie-sense to search them out.

But we are walking our normal routes again. We walked more than 3.5 miles this morning and will have walked another half-mile circuit by the time this posts. We also had a nice play this afternoon and a nap. We both like playtime and nap time and it makes life really, really good. I am so blessed to have this beautiful creature be part of my life and am deeply grateful for her companionship and unconditional love.

I continue to encourage her to do things. She is reluctant to jump to the bed now, but learned that she can jump up on the workout bench at the foot of the bed, then jump to the top. We play tug and chase and she is again teasing me with a toy. Her coordination seems to be improving when we play. I am hopeful that there is more recovery to come. At least I am encouraged and thankful that her attitude has not changed and that she is engaged and active.

Among a few other tools, I bought a very nice Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe for my kit. I have an old red-handle Ace Hardware hand axe that I bought about 40-years ago. But it needs a new handle and is nowhere near the quality of this Council Tool axe. This one will go to my kids and maybe their kids after I am gone.

It will be part of my bushcraft kit and will go into the rig when I am out as part of my get-home or emergency kit. I have a small pack shovel that stays in the rig along with some emergency supplies as well.

I put a coat of boiled linseed oil on the handle this afternoon. It will be absorbed by tomorrow and I will add another coat to the handle then. After that I will decide if another coat is needed or not. The handle should be in excellent condition for this dry climate after that.

I also treated the sheath and handle guard with neatsfoot oil this afternoon. The guard seemed a little dry to me. I suspect both of those pieces will need another coat of neatsfoot oil tomorrow.

As an interesting aside, the neatsfoot oil had solidified in the garage with the cold weather. I was a little surprised by that. But a short soak in a sink full of hot water liquified it and a good shake mixed everything back up.

It is time to put away the Christmas music for another year. I added a few new recordings to my collection and culled a few that no longer please me.

But now I need a quick shower and then to get The Girl out for our evening outing. She will then want to be fed (of course) and will then starting pestering for doggie crack until I give in and get her a treat. She no longer wants to wait until sometime between supper and bedtime for her treat; she wants it NOW! Heh…

PAUL Orienteering

This is an example of a technique for orienteering.
A few days ago a video rotated onto my YouTube feed. It was a sample of field exercises taught by the Pathfinder School. One that caught my attention was the Positive Azimuth Uniform Layout method for orienteering. When I saw them working out the solution back to camp on the ground, I immediately recognized a graphical solution to the coordinate problem that surveyors used to solve all the time (before GPS surveying).

The approach is based on the conversion of bearing (or azimuth) and distance to northing and easting coordinates. When I learned to survey (with a 20-second transit, a 100-foot steel tape, a dumpy level, and a three-section level rod) this was how we did the calculations. Therefore, I wondered if I could use a slide rule to do the trigonometry, squares, and square roots required to obtain an arithmetic solution. The figure is the result of that with one error — I forgot to convert the angle (from the east-west axis) to a bearing (from the north-south axis). The error is corrected in the figure.

I also ran the solution with a hand calculator. (I used an HP-35s for the vector addition.) The calculations can be done with a pencil, piece of paper, and a slide rule. I used a Versalog 1461 (six-inch version of the Versalog slide rule). The solution is plenty good enough to return to camp.

That was fun.

It’s Cold and Gray

I so enjoy the fall colors. The air is turning brisk in the morning and the sun is dropping in the sky as we head toward the winter solstice. I love the fall season.

Only a few short weeks ago, I was walking in shirtsleeves along the Carson River in the midst of the fall season. Not long after this image was captured, the weather turned blustery and cool, a sure sign that winter was coming. And, not to disappoint, the windy days were followed by a distinct cooling and we moved into a late dry, cold fall. The temperatures fell into the ‘teens and the leaves quickly shed their remaining leaves, falling into their winter clothes.

It was not long before the first rains came. We do not have a lot of rain here on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. But, we have some. Soon, the rains were mixed with and then replaced by snow.

I do not mind the snow. Neither does The Girl. She is heavily muscled and the cold does not bother her so long as we are moving. I can layer up and the cold does not bother me (so long as we are moving).

Therefore, in the cold we move. I still love to walk along the Carson River. On some days the raptors are particularly active (gotta have food to generate heat) and they are beautiful in the colder light. They soar and call and sometimes I see them cup their wings on the hunt. I will always be amazed at those sights.

The Girl pulls me along, always searching the sage for something to chase. She also plays in the snow and sometimes will go into a zoomie, running like crazy with her legs splayed out and spinning about me. The snow often makes her playful and we play.

And then I will see an image like this one in my collection. There is a certain longing for the warmer days and the beautiful colors that have now gone as cold as the air. But it is alright — I know the season will turn yet again and bring warmer days and colors back to the land. I feel a certain rhythm to the change and it is something that resonates with the internal changes I experience with the seasons. It is good. Life is good.

I remain thankful.

The Hunt

This photograph was posted to my “Instagram account, but is worth a revisit.

I see this heron many times when walking the Carson River. He is always a welcome sight, the beauty and majesty of this bird are significant. But catching a photograph of him is difficult.

Earlier this year my Fujinon 100-400mm lens arrived. This lens is a beast, literally and figuratively. It is one of the heaviest lenses I own. It is also one of the best lenses I own.

I carry it often when walking along the river. It has the ability to bring me photographs I cannot capture without it. It is not a general purpose lens, but one very well suited for wildlife photography. I love to capture wildlife with the camera. Results like this one make the expense and effort worthwhile.

Fall Colors

The cottonwoods are donning their fall colors. I love walking along the Carson River, particularly in the fall.

The Girl and I always enjoy our walks. But when the fall comes, the weather cools and our walks get even better. She does not burn out as quickly and loves all the fall scents.

I love the way the light changes as the sun falls in the sky. The quality of the light is less harsh, even during the midday hours. As the leaves change, the light is filtered not by the green of summer foliage, but by the warmer colors of the change. The yellows and reds warm up the light and the change excites my eyes. I almost always carry a camera, but I am really motivated in the fall.

Yesterday morning did not disappoint me. As we walked one of our favorite trails along the Carson River, the late-morning sunlight filtered through the gorgeous yellows of the changing cottonwoods. I was happy that I carried the Fuji X-H1 with the Fuji 18-135mm lens with me. That camera is a game-changer for me. The lens is one that has been in my kit from early in my Fuji experience. It is one of the better walk-around lenses that I have used. It certainly did not disappoint me Sunday morning. I came home with at least a handful of keepers.

I think this one is one of them. It reminds me that the time moves on, the seasons change — those outdoors as well as those inside us. The last few weeks challenged me. A project I am working on is a significant technical challenge. The struggle is reverse engineering a hydrologic system to determine how what happened came to be. The time pressure to get through the analysis is a secondary challenge and can add significantly to the pressure.

But, I think I have the system mostly figured out. A change in the schedule is taking some of the pressure off. I was blessed this weekend to have a few hours to just breathe. That breath was a most welcome relief and a reminder that the seasons change. Projects come and go, like the seasons. But there is more to life than just the work and the time outdoors this weekend was another reminder of that. I am blessed to live where I do and I am thankful.

The Great Egret

This beautiful bird, the Great Egret (Ardea alba), is one of the birds I see regularly on my walks along the Carson River. I was able to capture this wonderful photograph one day.

Early this year, while Older Son was visiting and helping me around the house, we took The Girl out for a long walk along the Carson River. We staged from Riverview Park, which is at the end of Fifth Street on the east side of Carson City. The weather was a beautiful winter day. There was plenty of water in the river, although nowhere near flood stage. That meant all the wetlands were, well, wet. The wetland wildlife were out and active on that beautiful winter day.

We came across this beautiful Great Egret, (Ardea alba) working the ponds in one of the wetland areas. I had only my Olympus OM-D M10 and a Wollensak cine lens with me. The lens was long enough, but I couldn’t get the capture I wanted. I was left with, well, only feathers.

The Girl waited patiently while Older Son and I made our captures. When she detected that we were done, she started toward the water, accelerating as she got closer. The egret watched her from his watery perch. (I knew she wouldn’t get into the water.) When she got close to the water’s edge, she bounced and uttered a single “Woof!” The Egret calmly flew off a few yards, settled back down, ruffled his feathers, and continued fishing.

Since that time The Girl and I have seen this bird, or another like it, several times on the river, fishing. If I’m in a blind, then the bird goes on without noticing me. They have very sharp eyes, however, and will spot me (or The Girl).

A couple of weeks ago I had the Fuji X-H1 and the Fuji 100-400mm super telephoto zoom with me. The Egret was perched on Mexican Dam. The Great Blue Heron flew away as I approached the dam. The Egret watched me for a bit, permitted me to make a few captures, and then flew a few yards away to a sandbar. There it continued watching me. I made a few more captures but didn’t really like any of them.

I like birds quite a lot. They fascinate me. I like being along the river, too. The new equipment provides me some capability I did not have. It has opened some of the world for me to capture, like this Egret and the Heron.

No Perfect Solution

Although there are signs this hole was recently occupied, nobody was home.

I walk a lot. One of my preferred hikes is along the Carson River at the Silver Saddle Ranch from the River Park staging area up to Mexican Dam and return. There are a number of paths on Silver Saddle Ranch, but during the summer months, my preferred path is along the river. There The Girl has access to water for cooling off and drink. I like the green of the willows and cottonwoods and the sound of the birds.

Lately, I have been listening to music while walking. I gave up on my Bose QuietComfort 20s because I just cannot deal with wires. Because I carry a camera (actually two) and a bag, I am constantly fouling the wires of my headset. Then I jerk the plugs from my ears and get generally pissed off with the whole thing and lose the moment.

So I bought a set of the Bose QuietComfort 30s, which are wireless. They have a necklace that lies over the shoulders and provides the housing for the electronics and battery. They have the Bose sound, which I’m OK with. The noise cancellation is adjustable and effective. I can turn it off so I can hear what is going on around me. (I still like to hear the outdoors even if I am listening to music.) They do not hang up as badly as the wired units, although there remains some interference with the camera and bag straps.

They are not a perfect solution. I have to carry my iPhone in a case on my belt or in the camera bag. I cannot slip my iPhone into my back pocket. I have the occasional skip or drop. But, they are better than the wired units. They are a sufficient improvement that I think I’ll keep them and sell the 20s.

I think this is the general case: There are solutions to my problem (wanting decent quality sound, no wires) but there is not a perfect solution. It leads me to think about the pursuit of perfection, which is something that has been bouncing around inside my head for a bit now. There is an essay there that I hope to write sometime.

The image is one of my captures from the Carson River walks that I do. I was struck by the texture and contrast of the materials and the fact that no one was home. This might have been a nesting place earlier this year, but now it is empty. I am seeing other signs that fall is coming and soon winter. The leaves will be changing in a couple of weeks, I think. The weather is already changing.

The cycle repeats…