After a long meeting and a little decompression (and some lunch), I got The Girl out for walkies at Silver Saddle Ranch. It is good we left when we did, because about halfway into our walk, I noticed clouds showing over Prison Hill. Further north, I could tell it was raining in Washoe Valley. The wind was up, gusting hard from the south/southwest.
The incoming weather added some impetus to making progress. I snagged three captures and then the battery in the Fujifilm X-E2 died. I should have known to bring a backup battery. Nonetheless, it felt like rain was coming and so we moved right along.
Even so, The Girl and I played a little. She picked up a huge stick that made me laugh out loud. It was just like all those memes in which a dog picks up a six-foot long stick.
At least she did not run into anything.
And, sure enough, it started raining when we were about five minutes out from the rig. It was good to get in and be dry.
In the end, it was a good outing. I came home with a keeper. We had fun. We got exercise. Life is good.
I was not really in the mood to do much when we left the house yesterday afternoon. I left the Pentax 645NII kit, the Fujifilm kits, and the pack at home. I was hungry, so we drove by Arby’s for a sandwich (shared). Then we headed for Silver Saddle Ranch to get in a walk.
It was a beautiful fall day in Carson City. The sun was shining with maybe a little high clouds. It was strong enough to make mid-40ºF feel nice with a light cover. There was not a lot of traffic at the gate at 1330h. All of this raised my spirits, especially getting out of the house with The Girl.
What I did bring (besides The Girl), was the little Fujifilm X-E2 with the 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens mounted. This is the smallest digital camera I own1. I have it on a wrist strap, so I can let it dangle when I am busy with The Girl or want both hands free.
I made a few captures as we walked along. I made sure she checked in with me frequently. There were only a couple other walkers that I saw and none crossed paths with us. That made for a really nice walk.
The Girl got frisky a couple of times along the way and we paused to play. Those interactions always raise my spirits, and the did this day.
I grew more cautious as we approached the segment of the trail that has more traffic, but we saw no one. We paused at the ranch compound to look for possible photographs. I noticed this old gate and the light was just about right to bring out the texture in the wood. There was a power pole peeking out above the cross bar, but a judicious adjustment to my point of view hid it from the frame.
I made the capture. I am glad I decided to carry the camera along.
We ended the hike with some more play. She brought a stick and we wrestled over it for a few minutes as we walked.
The drive home was uneventful. The Girl crashed on her bed under my work table. It was a good day. Life is good!
1Well, that is not *exactly* true — I have a Panasonic ZS-40. I used it as a field camera for the Wilson Creek project. Its EVF and image quality make it such that I do not want to use it. Neither a very good. For a slightly larger package, I have better options that are much more enjoyable (and easy) to use.
A couple of weekends ago I decided it was time to not work all weekend. On Saturday morning, The Girl and I headed out, not knowing where I might end up. We walked for an hour out at Silver Saddle Ranch, then headed east on US 50. I was on the phone with my buddy Dick and indicated that I needed to get out and do something away from the house.
At first, I thought I would drive down to Yerington and activate the wildlife management area north of town. But, as I turned south on US 95, I decided that either Buckland Station or Ft. Churchill were both closer and needed to be activated.
Buckland Station won the coin toss. I parked the rig and looked for a place to deploy a wire. Seeing none, I retrieved the drive-on mast mount and the 10m SOTAbeams mast from the rig and set them up. I also retrieved the Elecraft KX3 and a small battery from the rig.
I used the Sagebrush Antenna deployed to near vertical with the distal end affixed to the top of the mast. The opposite end went to a cobrahead adapter and direct to the radio. I threw the counterpoise on the ground around the rig.
I sat down at my folding table with my back to the sun (it was chilly), started a log on my iPhone (HAMRS), and listened on 20m near the QRP watering hole of 14.060MHz. With nothing heard, I called QRL? (“Is the frequency in use?”) a couple of times, then hit the message button to transmit “CQ CQ POTA DE AG7TX AG7TX POTA K” a couple of times, then paused to listen for a caller.
While the radio was sending my general call, I spotted myself on the POTA network. After a few minutes, the calls began to come in. I worked each station as I could and even managed a few DX (foreign country) contacts. The most memorable being an OH1 station located in Finland.
I worked the bands for an hour or so and made my quota for an activation. I was cold, so The Girl and I headed home after a brief pit stop.
I woke Sunday morning again not wanting to spend the day working. So I puttered a bit over my morning coffee and then decided to get The Girl out to walk and do another POTA activation.
I grabbed a snack because my blood sugar has been falling unexpectedly, some water, and a battery for the radio. We loaded up into the rig and headed west to Spooner Summit. I pulled off onto the forest road and parked the rig at the staging area where I like to work.
The Girl and I then headed out to walk before I set up a radio. Again, I talked to my buddy in Montana as I walked. But I kept my eyes open for critters as I have seen a big coyote who is not afraid of humans several times.
She was ready to rest when we returned to the rig, so I gave her some water and put her in the 4Runner. She settled right down for a nap in the sun.
I retrieved the new line-throwing kit from the 4Runner, stretched out the line, and affixed the throw weight. After four or five throws, I was unable to hit my target branch. Instead of fumbling more, I retrieved the drive-on mast mount and the 10m mast from the rig and setup a wire antenna. I again used the Elecraft KX3 barefoot (10-15w of power) and set up my table and chair.
A wind had come up, maybe gusting to 10–15mph, but variable direction. It was kinda-sorta from the south, but was curling around to the point I could not get shelter.
So I put on my heavier hoodie, put my back to the wind (and the sun), and worked the radio. The higher bands have been good lately, so I started on 10m and worked my way down.
Again, it took an hour or hour-and-a-half to make my activation quota and work the bands dry. The sun was falling lower in the sky and I was cold, so I quit.
It did not take long to put away the station and get The Girl out for a last bit. She looked for critters and peed until I called her in and we got into the rig.
It was another good day and a good day for me to get outdoors. The Girl loved it, too.
I learned a few more things.
I need practice with the throwing kit. I suspect there is something of an art to using a throw weight and line to hit a particular target.
I need some kind of shelter for cool-weather activations. I looked at a fishing hut last year, but did not buy one. A small fishing hut that folds up would make a good operating shelter. I could deploy a heater (I have one) and place a mat for The Girl.
My principal reservation about a hut is the lack of windows. I like being outside because (in part) I like the sun and the light. I do not want my activation shelter to cut those things off.
I need the means to heat water and make coffee, tea, soup, or a hot meal. I have used the Trangia burner in another stove I have in my inventory. But it is not as handy as I want. Hence, I am working on an upgraded kit and some of the results are posted on this weblog.
The iPhone works for spotting myself and for logging, But I think a Rite-in-the-Rain notebook and pencil should be in my field kit. I am thinking again of reducing my dependence on technology, although it is good to be able to spot myself for SOTA/POTA activations.
HAMRS is well suited to logging POTA activations. It has features that display other activators and make it easy to log their information for park-to-park chasing.
I am not sure I ever documented my post-processing of POTA logs. Most of my activations are multiple parks, at least two. I have a couple of favorite places that are three or four park activations. That means the post-processing of my log requires some editing so that chasers get credit of more than one park. I also get credit for activating multiple parks.
The new field cooking kit is coming along. I will have the ability to make a hot drink or food in the field. This is a critical safety issue as hypothermia is real and it does not have to be very cold for it to strike. Hot food and drink are part of combating environmental dangers effectively.
I am really enjoying Morse Code. I still operate phone part of the time. But the ability to deploy a small radio kit and make contacts thousands of miles away with a few watts means everything is smaller, lighter, and simpler than a more powerful radio kit.
That is all I can think of. It was a good couple of days in the field. Life is good.
A few weeks ago, Greg KG7D, mentioned to me and Diana KJ7GVY that it was time to plan our expedition for the Nevada QSO Party. He is very organized (a good thing) and selected a potential campsite/radio operation site in eastern Nevada.
For those who do not know what a QSO party might be, here is an explanation. The Q-code, QSO, stands for a contact or conversation between to operators. It derives from the telegrapher’s shorthand. A QSO party occurs when a group of operators put together a plan for operations on the amateur radio bands with the intent of making many contacts, receiving points for each contact (depending on location and operation mode), and then competing for the most points collected over the party period.
This is similar to the radio contests but has a little less pressure associated with it. It is newbie-friendly in that regard. It is also an opportunity to practice radio operation and copy skills under varying conditions. These are good skills for radio operators for those times when normal communications are interrupted and amateur operators are called upon to pass traffic.
So we were headed east to the White Pine/Lincoln County line. Each contact we made was worth two because we were activating two Nevada counties. We were also operating in an area where there are not many amateur radio operators. We should have been rare DX (desirable contacts).
It took me a few days to prepare the camper, collect necessities and food, and gather/pack the equipment I would use.
I intended to go out to the area a couple weeks before all of us headed east to scout for a good campsite. But work kept me from my intention and we headed out blind.
We gathered at the staging area about 0600h on Thursday 10 October. After milling about a few minutes, we mounted up and headed east on U.S. Highway 50, America’s Loneliest Road. All of use have VHF radios in our vehicles, even if only handhelds connected to external antennas. So there was plenty of chatter as we drove east through the gathering light. There were no mishaps on the route out and we made a few stops to pay the rent on coffee and to take on fuel.
At Ely, Greg called, “ Do you know a good place to eat. We’ll stop at Love’s for fuel.”rdquo;
“Let me think a moment.” I spent some time in Ely a couple years ago and had a couple of places in mind. “There’s a Mexican place a half-mile before Love’s that is pretty good.”
“Is there parking for the trailers?””
“I think there is.” And we moved through Ely toward the east side of town. Sure enough, I called the location of the restaurant. Greg and Diana turned off into the residential area near the restaurant. I pulled ahead to the Ramada Inn and casino, found a large graveled area suitable for parking semi-trucks, and called out the location while I parked my rig.
All of us parked, we walked across the highway to the restaurant. It was as good as I recalled.
Fed and rested after the break, we remounted, drove to the fuel depot, and refueled the vehicles. We were then off to the east to find our way to the operating point. An hour later (and after some rough roads), we were at the White Pine/Lincoln County line. Unfortunately, the original location was not acceptable for camping. There was not enough room.
We sent Diana to scout a trail we saw that broke off the main road to the northeast. The topographic map on Greg’s GPS unit showed that the trail crossed the county line about a half-mile east from the original choice. After a few minutes, Diana called that the road was rough but passable and that there were reasonable campsites located in the pine and cedar trees. So Greg and I turned our rigs around and headed for the trail. A couple hundred yards in Greg suggested I move ahead and check the trail to be sure he could get his rig turned around. (He was driving a 1-ton Ford truck and pulling a toy hauler.)
I found a place where I thought he could get turned around, although it might take several moves and I found a place where I could park my camper. Greg came up the trail. I was right about the several moves. After a half hour of work, some clearing of brush, and many moves, he got his rig turned around and parked in a decent place.
He helped me get my camper located and then walked back down the trail to set up his camp. It took me a few minutes to get myself situated. Subrina brought a level up to my site and I dug a small hole to level my rig side-to-side. I completed the leveling with the tongue jack. I had my rig setup in about a half-hour.
I walked down the trail to help Greg and Subrina with their campsite. Subrina worked inside while I helped Greg outside.
We nearly ran out of daylight before camp was setup. As the sun fell, the temperature fell rapidly as well. I think it was at freezing about the time the sun set.
Everyone was tired and ready to turn in. But we gathered at Greg/Subrina’s camp to share a meal and some fellowship before retiring for the 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.
Over the last couple of years, I have watched these beautiful Northern Harriers work the sageland and wetland areas of Riverview Park in Carson City. It took me a couple of attempts to identify the raptor, but I finally got a view of the bird’s head and with the aid of the Merlin application from the Cornell School of Ornithology I made the identification.
They are now easy for me to identify — that big white patch on the rump is one giveaway. The second is their mode of hunting is to soar about ten feet over the surface listening for mice.
With the acquisition of the red-badge Fujifilm 100-400mm super zoom lens, I now have the capability to capture an image of these birds. They generally do not allow me to get too close, although they will sometimes glide just overhead, teasing me.
On this particular morning, I saw the harrier glide over the field. I made a couple of attempts to capture an image but was not satisfied with my attempts.
However, the bird soon began a climb, having caught a thermal. I watch it rise up and up until it was a couple hundred feet overhead. It soared in large circles, overwatching its hunting grounds.
I stood there a few minutes, knowing that the bird was not hunting but simply flying.
Many of the animals encountered during my life have shown an intelligence that is impressive. They do not simply eat, sleep, and procreate. They interact socially among their species and sometimes others. They play. They do things that please them. Otherwise, why would they waste the energy to move from place to place?
The best teacher of all is The Girl. She showed me there is intelligence without language. She often talks to me, speaking volumes without making a sound. I get it.
As I stood there on the trail, watching the harrier soaring far above me, I got it. This was not about a hunt, or about turf protection; the soaring was simply for the joy of it.
A couple mornings ago we had a bit of sun. That made the daily walkies much more pleasant. Even if it was a little cool, the sun warmed me and made the walk very pleasant.
I often see raptors while on my daily walks. I carry a pair of binoculars with me on all walks now so I can see them (plus other birds). I would not call myself a birder, but I enjoy them and love to make photographs of them when I can.
I think this is a Coopers Hawk. They are very similar to the Sharp-Shinned Hawk and I am not yet adept at distinguishing them. In any event, with the good light I was able to get a sharp capture. I like this image quite a lot.
On the road down to Pahrump, Nevada, we paused for a leg stretch and to watch the Sun set. Everyone else was hurrying on their way to wherever they were going. We watched them rush by while The Girl and Older Son puttered around the desolate landscape.
There are some odd places in this part of Nevada. Hoy’s “Lovership” appears to be one of them. [shudders] No, we didn’t stop there.
This morning it will be time to head back to the house. I think we accomplished what needed to be done here. Now it is time for me to work on the project and finish it up.
Between taking care of my body and taking care of my projects, there has been little time to write or make photographs. The lack of good light during recent days has not been encouraging me to make photographs. When the light is flat or gray, possible subjects that might interest me just do not appeal. Therefore, although I carry a camera, I find myself not motivated to make captures.
However, one day over the last week we were walking out at Riverview Park along the Carson River. I stop at this old abandoned truck often. The place is an interesting overlook of the river. There are often waterfowl nearby and I like to watch and listen to them.
The truck proves an interesting subject sometimes. I wonder how, why, and when it was left here. Most of the assemblies are long gone; only a shell remains. I wonder what interesting life that vehicle might have had.