A few weeks ago (seems like forever now), after the Nevada QSO Party, I was not ready to settle down for very long. I started working up a new outing almost as soon as I had the camper unpacked and the laundry running. My friends suggested that I was not working hard enough, but I am not quite sure what they meant.
Given that everyone in our little group was tied up or busy doing other things, I planned a little outing to a SOTA summit south of Carson City near Lake Topaz in Douglas County. I posted an alert on SOTAWatch that I would be attempting an activation and emailed a few of my CWOps Academy friends to be on the lookout for me.
Saturday morning arrived and I loaded up the rig, put some dog food in a baggie (The Girl will not eat before an outing), and made sure we had plenty of water. The route was in the GPSr and I had everything needed. So, out the door we went.
I stopped at McDonald’s for a biscuit and a coffee. I ate on the way south, saving a bite of my biscuit for The Girl, who was watching me like Snoopy on his doghouse.
I did not miss the turnoff for the trail and it was a fairly easy trail drive to up near the summit. In the spirit of SOTA, I schlepped my radio equipment to my selected operating point and then paused to give The Girl a short walk around the summit to burn off some energy.
We found a CalTrans benchmark on the summit. I thought that was pretty cool. I never tire of finding the old benchmarks on top of mountains or near highways as I travel around.
The Girl settled down a little, so I put out her mat and assembled the station. I have put together the little Elecraft KX3 station so many times that I think I could do it blindfolded. I tested the setup and everything looked to be operating normally.
I did not connect the microphone to the radio. I determined that I would operate code only and do my best. I found a frequency on the 40m band that was quiet and asked a few times if it was in use. Nothing heard, so I took a deep breath, steeled myself, and posted my spot on SOTAWatch.
Then I began calling CQ (general call) SOTA (identifying myself as a SOTA activator), sent my callsign, and listened. It took only a few calls before a pileup of stations were returning my call. My hands shaking and my breath a little ragged, I responded to the fragments of callsigns I could pick out, sending the fragment plus a question mark indicating that the calling station should send their callsign again so I could copy it.
One by one I worked these stations, putting each one in my log (on my knee) with their signal report, my signal report, and the time. I heard a few S2S calls (summit-to-summit, cherished contacts for double points) and worked those stations the best I could. Some were just too weak for me to hear, but I worked everyone I could hear, including one of my CWA instructors.
I made a dozen or so contacts on 40m, more than enough to qualify my activation. As I fished out the hole, I called a couple more times “last call before I change bands” and listened. I cleared the frequency and moved to the 30m band.
Again I called CQ SOTA and listened. Several station returned my call, but not as many as on 40m. Many chasers had their contact for my activation and were looking for other activators. I worked another of my CWA instructors and that was a treat. With that hole fished out, I cleared the frequency and moved to 20m.
I worked a few more chasers on 20m, but I could tell that the herd was thinning. Then I heard a call that sounded like “EA2…” and listened a couple more times. The station was fading in and out of my noise floor and I had trouble getting a full callsign. I returned the call and we worked and worked until I got the callsign. I was reasonably sure I also copied the signal report.
At that point I decided to call it a day. I cleared the frequency, looked over my log, and shut everything down. The Girl was ready for some movement so we walked the area again a couple of times. I took her to the rig and got her some water. She was ready to go home. So I tore down the station, stowed my gear in the rig, and then did one last walk-around to be sure nothing was left behind. I paused one more time to take in the view, even with the smoke. I made sure I had captures of the area.
Then we returned to the rig and headed down the trail. I was tired, hot, and sweaty, but deeply gratified that I had completed my SOTA activation in CW mode only. It was good to be home, get a shower, enjoy a little cooler air in the house, and settle down for the remainder of the day. With a shower and some food, I was nearly done. But I worked on my log a little, played with The Girl a little, and then called it a day. It was a really good day.
I learned a few things as well:
I should tie my pen to the kneeboard. I kept dropping my pen in the dirt.
I got hot in the sun even if it was a little cool when we got to the OP. I should have setup the station in the shade even if I needed a cover to be warm. It was too much sun that day.
Headphones would probably make copying the calling stations a little easier. I do not like to be isolated from my surroundings, so perhaps just one phone or earbud would help without disconnecting me from my environment.
I should determine my own pace. Chasers will either wait to work me or they will not. I only need four contacts to make the activation. I can afford to slow down my pace a little so I can breathe and have fun. I had fun anyway, but I let myself get stressed.
I had plenty of power with the 15w that the KX3 makes. I might have worked a few more stations with a few more watts, but I made my activation and it was a lot easier without having an amplifier along too.
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.
I am in the migration process of my bullet journal. That means I am closing out the October pages of the journal and opening the November pages. The ink in use is a little slow in drying, so I thought I would work on a weblog entry before I continue working on November. Why, well last week I sat at my worktable one morning, reflecting on what I have been doing, what I am currently working on, and what I want to be working on. One of the latter is that I want to post something here more frequently than once every two months.
I know there are not a lot of readers of my words, but there are a few friends and family who enjoy the words and photographs. So I want to continue documenting this journey through life. My original reasons for keeping a weblog have not changed either.
I was graduated from my Intermediate Class in the CWOps Academy a little more than a week ago. I am signed up for the Advanced class that will begin in January. However, I will probably be assigned to my previous teacher and he will begin informal class the first of December, then reset when we begin formally in January. That gives his students a head start on the work.
In addition, the regular practices will run on other days of the week. There are four practice sessions on Sunday evenings for the various levels of students. In general, everyone is welcome to participate in those practice sessions. I generally make between one and three of them and think I will continue that effort. There are other practice sessions that run through the week as well and I try to make at least one of those. There are also two class sessions per week as well (although we are on break now).
Every Wednesday there are three CWT mini-contests spread through the day. These last one hour and the objective is to make as many contacts as possible. The exchange is simple and the CWOps operators exchange is tabulated on their website. So, I can chase the runners (the operators who are calling) and once I have their callsign (which might take me a few tries to get at speed), I can lookup the remainder of the exchange if I cannot copy it.
I typically operate from home morning and evening, but for the noon session we go to one of my portable operating points and I work the CWT from there. I can hear much better. The image above is from the 02Sep2020 noon contest. I setup my portable radio, a place for The Girl, and an awning to keep some of the sun off (it was hot and smokey too).
Learning Morse Code started the beginning of this year. I did not realize how big an effort this would be. It has been a big effort and has challenged me. This is a good thing. The challenge is good.
On many days, after walkies, The Girl and I pause for a few minutes for me to setup a radio and chase some of the Summits on the Air (SOTA) and Parks on the Air (POTA) operators. They are listening for contacts so they can get the required quota to count the activation. Chasers also receive points for making those contacts. It is a fun game (on both sides) and I am enjoying it. There is a challenge to making these contacts with low power (typically a few watts) and the exchanges are simple.
On this day, The Girl and I paused in the shade near the staging area for Mexican Ditch Trail and the trails on Silver Saddle Ranch at River Park. It was pretty warm the afternoon of 22Sep2020, but there was a little breeze and it was pleasant to rest after the hike in the shade and listen to the radio and the wind rustle the leaves of the trees. What a good day it was.
On 22Sep2020, The Girl and I drove up towards Reno to activate Steamboat Hills. It was a short trail drive up to a staging area and then another couple hundred feet hike to get to the top. I used the little magnetic loop antenna with my Elecraft KX2 (and no amplifier) to make quite a few contacts (more than my quota). I also chased a few summit-to-summit contacts as well.
My friend Dick sent me a text message and commented “It’s as intimidating as hell to call CQ in CW mode (Morse), knowing that there will be a pileup, isn’t it?” I responded to him that it was and I was nervous about making a call. But I wanted to get started making Morse contacts on the summit (one of the reasons I decided to learn Morse Code), so I thought about it for a few minutes, then said (to myself) “F-this, I’m just going to do it!” I sent Dick a text, then posted a spot of myself requesting chasers to respond slowly.
My CQ (general call for any station) was responded to by two patient operators. They put up with my stumbling and bumbling and request for a repeat. We made the exchange and I put them in my log.
The weekend of 10–11Oct2020 was the Nevada QSO Party. Greg, Subrina, and I drove out east of Ft. Churchill to camp and operate on the Lyon/Churchill County line. I think that expedition deserves a story of its own, so I think I will write that later. I do have photographs as well.
The following weekend I did not want to stay indoors, despite the heat and smoke. So The Girl and I drove south to Wild Oat Mountain. There I setup my portable station and activated the summit. This time I used Morse Code only; I did not make a single phone (voice) contact.
I had plenty of butterflies as I readied to call CQ on 40m. I checked that the frequency was open, then spotted myself on the SOTAwatch website. I started calling CQ SOTA and after a few calls the pileup happened. There were too many stations calling me, but I caught part of a callsign and responded with that fragment and a question mark.
The operator filled his callsign and we made the exchange. After my “TU” (thank you), the pileup started again. So, I caught another fragment of a callsign and repeated the process. I cannot remember how many contacts I made on 40m, but it was quite a few. And, eventually, I fished that hole dry. When I heard no more calls, I announced that I was changing bands and cleared the frequency.
I repeated the process on both the 30m and 20m bands and worked more stations. On 20m I worked a station in Spain with the 12w that the Elecraft KX2 produces. He was difficult to hear and kept fading in and out, but I think we made the exchange.
In the end, I made 21 contacts that day. I was tired, sweaty, and hungry. So I broke down the station and The Girl and I made a few rounds about the top of the hill, enjoying the weather, the sun, and the sights.
Beyond the radio activities, work and walkies keep me busy. There has been a little drama in the firm that I support, but I think that things are settling out. (No, the drama does not involve me.) I appreciate the work — the pay is good and the intellectual stimulation from working on technical problems is good for my old brain too.
The Girl must be walked every day. She needs the exercise to burn off that young-dog energy. I need the exercise to keep my body moving and limber. The time outdoors is good for me as well.
My goal is to write a little more here, at least once or twice per week. There are lots of things to write about and photographs to post. I simply need to set aside an hour or so from other things to assemble my thoughts and images so I can make the posts.
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.
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.
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.
Introduction: The middle of last week, our fearless leader sent out an email that our intended SOTA activation, Fred’s Peak, was not going to work. Another team member had scouted the area and found a locked gate blocking access to the area.
Therefore, an alternate site, Genoa Peak (W7N/TR-007 and an eight-pointer) would be the target if the group agreed.
I am generally agreeable and am interested more in the activity and the fellowship than the particulars of the event. I knew we would have fun. I knew it would be refreshingly different from my normal routine. I knew the sights would be beautiful. (Now can they not be with Lake Tahoe visible from the site???)
I already had most of my radio gear ready to go, if not well organized. I intended to use the Elecraft KX2, the MiniPackerHF linear amplifier, the Bioenno 12Ah LFP battery and Genasun GV10 charge controller, and a Bioenno foldable 28w panel as the station equipment. I would log my contacts on paper.
What needed to be done was figure out provisions and water for The Girl and myself, get everything staged (so as not to forget something), and gather the last minute needs on departure.
I decided to take a small sandwich, the snacks that are always in my pack, plenty of water, and some iced tea. I would use the Yeti cooler to keep the cold-things cold and figured I would be able to hike back down to the 4Runner at the staging area to retrieve food and drink.
It has been hot here during the day and the west side of my unit is warm until at least 2200h local. So I do not go to bed until sometime between 2200h and 0000h. I knew that getting up early would be a challenge and that I would not get as much sleep, nor would I get an afternoon nap.
But, I got what sleep I could, woke about 0600h, and figured I would be good if I met the rest of the group at the departure area by 0800h. I puttered around a little, drinking some coffee, gathering up a few last things, and generally waking.
The Trip Out: Then I realized suddenly that it was 0700h and it was time to go! The Girl knew I was hustling about, so she woke and her energy level immediately came up. On these kinds of mornings, she will generally avoid food because our routine is that we are back home by noon and she eats a late breakfast. Well, not so this day…
I schlepped the remaining things to the 4Runner, loaded up The Girl, and made a last pass through the house to ensure I did not miss something. Then we headed for the fuel depot to refuel, get some ice for the cooler, and buy a sandwich and drinks for the day.
The cooler filled and secured, I used the iPhone McD’s app to order a couple of biscuits and another coffee. I was still running about a quart low. After I placed my order, I realized that the app put in my order at the north McD’s, not the south store, which took me out of my way. Poop!
So I drove to the north store and checked in for curbside pickup. Of course, it was my day for the s.l.o.w. service. The phone rang… it was Greg…
“How’s things? Are you still planning to come along to Genoa Peak?”
“Yep. I’m picking up a bite and should be there in about ten minutes.”
“Good, see you then.”
About that time, a server brought my goodies. I thanked her and we were off. The drive south through Carson City was a little slow. Carson Street is all torn up for construction. But at least there was little traffic. So I caught up to the group about on time.
We chatted for a few minutes and then were off. The Girl was doing her excited-bouncing-on-the-seat-and-back-seat-and-front-seat thing. I am hopeful that will wear off a little as she gains experience on our trips and gains a little age. But, we will see.
The trip up the hill to the trail was short and uneventful. Once on the trail, the dust was awful. Nevada is normally a dusty place; this powdery dust was worse than usual and my 4Runner looks like it. I think I blew dust from my nose for several days. But the trip was not bad except for a wrong turn that took us up a reasonably sketchy bit of trail. Mike’s pickup had a little trouble traversing one portion, but it was just rough, steep, and rocky other than that.
Setup and Operation: We arrived at the staging area. The hike was about what I expected, something short but fairly rough and steep. I hoped The Girl would not get into trouble on the way up. But there is only one way to learn to be a trail dog and that is to hike trails.
I grabbed my radio pack and then stuffed the battery and solar panel into it. I did not take time to repack the bag nor to examine what was in it before we headed up the trail. I learned an important lesson from this.
Most of our group was already on the trail to the peak by the time The Girl and I headed up. We readily caught up with Subrina and Sharon. Sharon was particularly struggling to get up the trail. I stayed with her a good part of the way to help her with some of the big steps that were required. As we walked together, I thought “It would not be good for her to fall.” The trail was rocky with plenty of scree and a fall (for any of us) would be a bad thing.
Sharon apologized for being slow so many times I finally had to tell her “Stop! I don’t mind walking with you and I’m not in a hurry.”
We laughed about that fact I might have to grab-a-handful-and-push several times on the hike up. We are both old enough and good enough friends that I would have immediately grabbed her had she slipped or failed to make the step. But, eventually she sent me on and I permitted it. She has a right to do things her way without an old man hovering.
When I hit the summit, I took a moment to take it in. I was facing south. To my left was Carson Valley and to my right was Lake Tahoe and its basin. Both were stunning and well worth the trip, even if no radio happened.
I set myself to setting up my station. I found a relatively flat rock not far from a large boulder that I thought would support my telescoping antenna mast. I got out the linked dipole (20-30-40m bands) and started unspooling the wire and coaxial cable from the wire winders. I then affixed the center support and balun to the top of the mast and ran it up. I secured the mast by wedging it next to the large boulder with some smaller rock and walked out the antenna. It was easy to find brush or boulders to secure the ends.
I assembled the KX2 and linear amplifier, added the battery, DC distribution block (fused), and the solar panel. With everything connected, I tested the station and everything was working. I was ready to operate.
In the meantime, the other part of the crew were busy assembling Greg’s DX Commander, an all-band vertical antenna that does not (when properly constructed) require an antenna matching unit, or tuner.
I puttered with the radio a little, sending some Morse Code to determine if a frequency was in use. I checked into the 40m noontime net (via phone). The other station was coming together and they did not need my help.
The Girl and I headed back down the hill to get a bite to eat and some water. The others were kind enough to give her some water from their supply, but I needed water and the bottle I mooched was not sufficient.
So down the hill we went. The Girl scampered ahead, looking for lizards and the chipmunks that live on the summit. I called her back several times because I am so much slower than she is. All-wheel drive is a thing.
We took time to rest a little, or rather I rested while she hunted lizards around the staging area. I made sure she got plenty of water while we were there and decided to carry a liter back up the hill with me.
So we humped it back up the hill, this time with water.
The remainder of the group was ready to go. They got started while Greg headed back for lunch while others activated the mountain.
The Girl was hungry. As usual, she ignored breakfast in her excitement to get on with the day. Sharon is an animal-lover, so she asked “Can she have some cheese?”
“Of course, just make her behave.”
Being hungry, Sera was a little grabby, so I told Sharon how to handle that. “Just palm it if she’s grabby. She knows how to behave, but sometimes needs some instruction.”
The Girl does not get a lot of people food, but she gets a lot of little bits as a treat. I think this also bonds her to her people because we share our food with her. She understands.
When my turn came to operate the radio, I fired up my KX2 and got started calling CQ SOTA. I made several contacts after Greg spotted me on the SOTA network (we had cell service). All of my contacts were phone. I am still too chicken to call CQ with Morse Code. I made my quota quickly and even had a couple of summit-to-summit contacts. Those are fun, even if sometimes difficult to work, and give double points.
After I turned operation over to the next operator, I realized that my linear amplifier was in bypass mode. I could not see the front panel well and missed it. So my contacts were made with five watts — I was in QRP mode. Hah!
Mike got into a rag chew with an operator in San Diego. Most SOTA operators do not get into rag chews, preferring to make the exchange and move on. Not Mike, though. They talked about all kinds of things, especially about vehicles. I was amused.
I got a second shot at operating and this time made sure the linear was inline. That gave me 35 watts and made it a lot easier for other stations to hear me. I made a few more contacts and one more summit-to-summit and then the well went dry.
Teardown and Return: So I turned off the rig, satisfied with the day. It did not take me long to tear down and prepare to repack my pack. This time I took everything out and packed it properly. That made the trip down the summit easier because my load was balanced and the weight low and close to my back.
At the bottom of the hill and at the staging area, for the last time this trip, I paused, wanting a photograph of The Girl and myself at the end of the trip. Another group were standing around visiting and enjoying the day. So I asked.
“Would one of you please take a couple of pictures of my dog and me?”
A large man smiled and stepped over to us, “Sure.”
“I assume you know how to run one of these,” I asked as I passed my iPhone over to him. He smiled and nodded. Then he proceeded to make a few images of my dog and me. She was still in patrol mode, but we got one good one of her looking at the camera.
He handed back my iPhone and The Girl immediately began greeting the group. They asked me all about her, what breed was she, where she came from. So I told her story, at least what part of it I know, while she absorbed all the attention and affection.
[Soapbox] People think pit bulls, and all the bully breeds, are nothing but aggressive dogs who should be banned and destroyed. Those who know the breeds understand their breed traits and work with those traits to help these dogs become the wonderful companions that they can be. [End soapbox]
They went back to their visiting. A couple of other groups drove in, stayed a bit, and wandered off. I waited.
Before much time passed, I saw the rest of the group heading over the summit and back down the trail. The two female members of the group struggled with the steepness of the trail. I was particularly concerned about Sharon. But she had help, took her time, and made it just fine.
They stowed their gear and we headed back down the trail, this time avoiding the sketchy portion for the better trail. Once down in the trees, Greg found a wide spot in the trail and pulled off.
“Who wants wine?” I had to laugh. I have not been known to turn down a glass of red wine. Greg likes red wine, too. I pulled out a folding chair from the back of the rig and plopped into it. The Girl immediately took to hunting. So I watched to make sure she did not wander off too far. She is doing really well.
We talked and laughed and drank a little wine and enjoyed the coolness of the forest after all the sun of the day. My knees were a little sunburned given they do not get much sun on my daily outings. Well, they did this day.
The wine bottle empty, the snacks gone, and everyone tired we saddled up for the short drive (for some of us) home. I stopped by the Aloha liquor store and bought a sixpack of Coronas and a bottle of Cognac. I intended to celebrate the day a little after I got home, stowed the equipment, and showered.
Lessons Learned: I learned a few things on this activation. They are:
Always, always, always carry some water. Even for a short trip from the rig.
The pack carried a lot better on the way down, after I unloaded and repacked everything. I need to mind my pack and how it is loaded.
I can probably do these activations with a lot less radio. I think I should try working with just the KX2 and a wire antenna. I could do an end-fed half wave or just a random wire. I would still need a mast for many locations, but it would lighten my load a lot.
Operating a SOTA activation with more than one radio is difficult. We could not both operate at the same time. My KX2 would bypass the receiver to protect the itself.
I should put some orange tape on the cap of the telescoping mast. A black cap is easily lost in the shadows of gray rocks.
I should wrap the bottom section of the telescoping mast with something protective. I have a roll of orange Gorilla Tape that would work and would make the mast easy to see if I put it on the ground.
I need some kind of platform to work on. I could not see the front panel of the linear, so I made a few mistakes along the way. A working platform would also mean I could have a low chair to work from.
I need water bottle carriers on the sides of my radio pack. I should carry at least a couple of liters of water and a foldable dog bowl… always.
I should have completed my activation while the others were assembling the second station. I could easily have filled my quota for the day and then torn down my station and just played. DoH!
It was a great day, a good activation, and I am grateful. I leave the story with a view of Carson Valley from my operating position.
Ki will always be The Original Girl, even as I begin calling Sera The Girl.
I found this image on the memory card of my Fuji X-T1 camera this afternoon. I was doing a couple of test shots with an old Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 manual focus lens. When I grabbed the SD card from the camera, this was on the card. I do not recall making the shot, though I do remember the day.
She was not feeling well after a couple of really bad seizures. But she still wanted to get out and walk and she so loved the snow. So we took her out for a walk — as long a walk as she wanted.
I was thinking about her this morning. I do not recall what made me think of her, perhaps it was my play with Sera. Sera and I have been playing tug with the old rope Ki and I used. Plus I bought her a new Kong squeaky-stick, which is a toy that Ki also loved to play with.
I am using the same training approach with Sera that I did with Ki. My friend Anna taught me to use the tug to teach them to manage their energy. Both of them get (got) very excited by the tug. So we tug for a bit, then I ask for a release and tease them with the frayed end of the tug, but require them to leave it.
Ki got it and it helped her a lot. This morning Sera was getting it. She wanted to continue to play, but listened to me and it was a good session.
I love working with dogs. They are such wonderful creatures.
Yesterday afternoon I sat on the couch in the cool living room to rest and read a little. It was not long before The Girl showed up, oozed up onto the sofa, and stuck her face right up against mine.
After checking on me, she laid down next to me and put her head on my thigh. It was not long before she was sleeping. Her relaxation and sleep sounds made me put down my book before I dropped it. I then fell asleep too.
I only woke because my legs went to sleep. Otherwise I might have slept a couple of hours.
I loved how Ki shared her life and energy with me. I miss her and always will. She was a unique personality who was a huge part of my life.
And guess what, The Girl is a huge part of my life and is a unique personality who came into my life at the exact moment that I needed her. We need each other and will have a good life together, full of love, play, and even a little work. God willing, Sera will be as well traveled as Ki was and have experiences that only a few dogs ever do.
I love dogs, working with them, living with them, having them be part of my life.
Every summer I have been in my little place, these small black ants have invaded. They usually invade the kitchen, looking for sweets.
Some years ago, someone recommended Terro Ant Killer for the little buggers. When I researched it, I learned it is just Borax, which is non-toxic to humans and dogs. So that is what I use.
I really dislike killing them. I do not care to kill God’s creatures unless necessary for the most part.
There are a few exceptions to this rule — Black Widow spiders and wasps in my house or around my house die as soon as I see them. I have had too many bad encounters with those (in the house). Away from the house, I leave them alone. Sometimes a wasp will get after me. If they will not leave me alone, they die.
This year, the little black ants have invaded my living room. I did not notice them until one of them bit me. Their bite is not bad, just a small pinch that I noticed. So, I tracked them down and found them running across the top of one of the rear channel speakers. It took me a bit to track down my supply of Terro and put out some of the poison.
If they had left me alone, I would not care if they were in the house. But they became an irritant so now they have to go.
I still do not care to kill them. But I do not know of another way of making them go away. So, they will have to die. Pity.