Washoe Lake SP AAR — 18 June 2023


A little wider view of Washoe Lake and my operating position.

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).

Portrait view of my operating position and Washoe Lake in the background.

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.

Contact map for the 18 June 2023 activation of K-2640, Washoe Lake State Park.