The Girl and I are hiking up near Spooner Summit a lot lately. It is cool up there. The lodgepole pines give a lot of shade and I love the sound of the wind in them. The risk of snakes is less than it is in the sageland. There are lots of things to photograph and the offering changes often with the change in light.
The area was burned a few years ago. Many of the trees are undamaged. But there are plenty of downed trees that can be interesting (both for The Girl and for me). There are also lots and exposed rocks that provide interesting textures.
It will take me a while to exhaust the area of photographic subjects.
On this particular day, The Girl and I hiked our regular trail from the staging area. She sniffed about looking for critters while I explored visually. I found this downed tree and like the texture and play of light across the surface. I made the capture. Post-processing was light with a little change in contrast and a little boost to the color.
When we returned to the staging area, I setup a radio station and activated the park. The site is also a designated Parks on the Air site (actually it is a double — two parks). It was a good day. I am grateful. Life is good.
This week I was tasked with travel to Southern California for a field walk. The project is just getting started and doing a site visit is a critical part of forensic engineering.
On the way down, I stopped at K-0845, Manzanar National Historic Site. In 2014, Ki and I visited Manzanar on our way back from Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, where I had a project. It was in January, so the weather was good for a visit to Death Valley, which we did. On the way north we spent an hour or so at Manzanar, walking the site and taking in what we, as a country, did to our Japanese-American fellow citizens. It was wrong. The site feels wrong.
Be that as it may, Manzanar is also a designated Parks on the Air park. I wanted to activate it. And time spent outside the rig for a few minutes is always good on a long trip. Sera got out of the rig for a run around while I got out the station. It was hot enough and there was enough traffic that I put her back in the rig.
I setup my folding table and chair under the rear hatch. Sera found a spot in the back out of the sun. It did not take long to put out an antenna and get the station on the air. In less than an hour I made my activation running 15 watts. I put everything away, gave Sera a drink, got one myself, and we got back on the road.
We spent the night at a Best Western in Sherman Oaks. It was noisy with city energy and the neighbors had a small dog that barked. This irritated Sera… she growled and grumbled several times that night. I rested some, enough to be up early to deal with accumulated email and the market.
There is a Denny’s in the facility, so I got some coffee and breakfast. Of course, I took The Girl some of my bacon and sausage, plus a couple of scrambled eggs for her breakfast.
It took about 45 minutes to get to the site and a couple of hours to see what I needed to see. I visited with my clients a bit, then headed back home.
Wisely, I had a reservation for a hotel in Lone Pine, California. This is about halfway between the site and home. I knew I would not want to drive all the way home after spending the morning on the site. So I did the easy thing and stayed over.
I checked out early Friday morning, got Sera out for a little constitutional, and then bought a biscuit and a coffee from McD’s. I shared my biscuit with Sera and drove over to K-8300, Alabama Hills National Scenic Area, another designated park. I found a spot to setup the station, got Sera out for a bit. Again, there was a little too much traffic so she had to stay in the rig. But it was cool in the morning so it was not too bad.
Again, I had my quota after about 45 minutes. The 20-meter band was the go to band for this activation. I worked an Indonesian station and that surprised me. But DX is always welcome.
I put away the station and was able to make a meeting (virtual) using my iPhone at 1100h local. That did not last long, so Sera and I puttered a bit before heading north towards home.
At the north end of Independence, California (I think) is a BBQ place called the Copper Top. It was lunch time as we passed, so I turned back and bought a tri-tip sandwich. With pickles, onion (red onion), and a few jalapeños (and some sauce) it was good. But it was not as good a slow-cooked Texas brisket. I shared a bite of sandwich with Sera, of course.
Then it was time to slug out the home stretch. I was tired, of course. I stopped a few times to stretch, give Sera some water, and get her out of the rig. Still, it was a tough slog.
I learned a few things, of course.
I need to either add another set of blue Voile straps, or add a longer set of Voile straps to the antenna kit. The blue straps were not long enough to go around the 4×4 or 6×6 posts at the Alabama Hills site. I had to double the blue straps and then find a rock to keep the mast in place.
I really think it would be better to log on the computer than my iPhone, particularly for POTA activations. The larger screen of the computer is simply easier to see.
In addition, I was checking the Reverse Beacon Network for my spots. RBN is a great way for CW and digital operators to determine whether their signal is getting out to the spotter stations. The spotter stations decode the signals they hear and post the calling stations callsign, mode, signal strength, and speed to the webpage. If I am spotted, then I know the station is working because other stations are receiving my transmissions. It would be a lot easier to have multiple browser tabs open on the computer than it is to flip back and forth between tabs on my iPhone.
I prefer a more leisurely activation, one where I have (and take) time to operate multiple modes and work through all the open bands to take the calls of the park hunters.
But, when traveling, it is also a good break to stop for an hour, make at least ten contacts, be out of the rig for awhile, and get Sera out too. This type of activation has a place as well as the more deliberate, longer activation.
In all, the radio play was a nice break from the drive. I gave a few hunters an opportunity to chase a couple more parks. And Sera got a chance to be out of the rig for a while too. It was good. Life is good.
I had not intended any radio play when I rose Sunday morning. But, after getting some work done and then getting The Girl out for a walk, I sat at my work table thinking about what I should do and what I wanted to do.
I have an antenna provided by a colleague in The Tech Prepper Discord channel. It is intended for NVIS (near vertical incident skywave) operations, which is a useful tool for regional communications. The ability of a station to reach others in a range from local to about 500 miles out (or so) is critical for emergency communications.
It turns out this is a useful range for park activations (and summits).
NVIS uses frequencies below about 10MHz, which includes the 30m, 40m, 60m, 80m, and 160m amateur radio bands. I often see other activators using 60m, which is in the 5MHz range and is often available during the daytime hours.
But… I really did not feel like working that hard. (That is, working at testing an antenna.) I have been so busy the last few months that I am a bit burned out. I had a lot of fun in Missouri with my family and working parks on my way out and on my way back. But, there was quite a bit of pressure to get back and get work done (another report).
The report is nearly done (review comments on Monday) and another project will be completed shortly thereafter. But the bottom line is that I am mentally fatigued and need to regroup and recharge.
Field Day will be the coming weekend (24–25 June) and there will be some camping. That will help. But the following week is travel to SoCal for another field walk, then reduce results from that and prepare for upcoming field work.
So, OK, enough whining. The bottom line is that I wanted to get outside (the weather is gorgeous), maybe play a little radio, and not do anything like work.
At that point, I found myself stuck in a mental loop. The question “What do I want to do?” was quickly followed by “What radio do I want to take?” I went round and round, mentally, and could not make a decision.
Eventually, and this took some time, I decided to use whatever was already in the rig. I got Sera and we headed out. I bought a sandwich to share with Sera on the way and we drove up to Washoe Lake State Park (K-2640).
I was astounded by the amount of water in Washoe Lake. I know we had a lot of snow over the winter (the melt is not yet done), but all of the areas I normally use were under water. I found a little bit of dry ground, set up the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 in its vertical configuration (thought about using a wire, decided to use the vertical), and setup the ELecraft KX3 with the KXPA100 amplifier.
The island in the water is usually dry and I often setup the station near it… not on this trip. Probably not on any trip in the near future either.
I talked to my buddy Dick a bit while getting equipment out of the 4Runner. But I had to end the call to work on the station. I forgot my earbuds.
The bands were a little noisy. The Sun is busy right now, although the geomagnetic field of the Earth is relatively quiet. I set the radio to calling CQ and spotted myself.
None of the higher bands produced any calls. I had only one on 15m. When I got to the 20m band, things perked up. I worked a couple of nice pile-ups and found I could still copy Morse Code. I struggled with my sending, though. My key kept slipping on the surface of my folding table.
I quit about 1630h local (before we turn over a new day on UTC). It did not take long to put away the station. I got Sera out to play a little. She wanted to get in the water, but I did not want to have a wet dog in the rig… nor did I feel like using the towel on her and getting her all rowdy. (Heh)
In the end, it was a good day. I left with 28 contacts (plenty for my activation), a good deal of Sun and fresh air, and a happy dog.
I did learn a few things, as usual:
I really need to have a plan for these outings.
My propensity to get caught in a mental loop will be averted if I make such a plan.
I need to plan for experimental time, such as testing of the antenna provided by a friend. This is more like work, but is necessary if I am to learn more about radio.
The back of my rig is now disorganized. I need to spend some time sorting out the gear in my 4Runner and using the space efficiently.
The top of my folding table is too slick for the Begali Traveller key. I need a pad of some kind in the kit for this key. I could have gotten out the N3ZN key and bracket for the KX3 and used it. (It will not move because it is attached to the radio.) But I was already in the thick of the activation when I noticed the key moving.
I encountered the usual number of LIDS who will call, send their exchange, and then assume I copied them and logged them. I do not log these callers.
I know I had one operator who had a similar call to another I was working. He/she will think I logged the contact; but I did not because I did not copy their call or their exchange.
It was still a good day, even with the mental loop that trapped me for a half-hour. I enjoyed the outdoors. Washoe Lake is beautiful with all the water. The weather is absolutely gorgeous this spring — it is hard to believe it is nearly summer. We are usually much warmer by now. But, I will take it! Life is good. I am grateful.