After being gone for more than a month, it took me nearly two weeks to regroup. At first, the heat was oppressive here in Carson City. I have one cool room in my house, the living room. The portable A/C is sufficient to keep that room cool, but not the remainder of my house. In general, I am able to cool the rest of my place by opening the windows at night and drawing in the cool evening air.
But on 16 July 2021, the Tamarack Fire bloomed from a single isolated tree to a raging wild fire. I happened to be in Gardnerville to have Sera’s ears checked. I could not get a vet to see her, so we left. As I stepped outside the office, I saw the plume rising in the south and the winds blowing it over the Pine Nut Mountains. I had no idea how bad it would get.
Over the next few days the fire grew as the crews sought to protect structures in and around Markleeville. The aggressiveness of the fire and the rough landscape made fighting it difficult. Winds from the southwest blew the smoke into Carson Valley, Carson City, Washoe Valley, and Reno. At times, Mount Scott is invisible from my house, just a couple miles away.
The air quality has been in the very bad range. We had a few reprieves when the winds turned westerly and moved the plume to the east (poor folks east from us). The management team projects they will have things under control by the end of August. That is a long time to deal with this smoke.
We continue to walk in the morning. I am rising earlier to get us out before the heat rises. Sera does not handle the heat well. So I carry water for her as well as myself. So far, I have not felt the impact of the smoke too much. I can tell it affects me, but not badly.
My friend called and asked to to meet him, his bride, and another couple at Stampede Reservoir Saturday. I was concerned that the smoke would be bad, but agreed anyway. The worst case scenario would be I turned around and returned home. So I agreed.
Sera and I got an early walk Saturday, then I loaded the rig. I made a mistake of driving SH 28 along the northeast side of Lake Tahoe. Traffic was awful and unnecessarily slow. I knew much of the route because I have a project on the Truckee River near Boca Reservoir. It is a pleasant route once off the Interstate.
Boca was very busy with the campgrounds and dispersed camping fairly full. However, because it is a little farther out, Stampede Reservoir was not bad. There were a few rigs down by the water and a few watercraft on the lake.
I found a copse of trees to shelter in. The smoke was bad, but less so than at home. I parked the rig, set up my radio, and watched Sera chase the local squirrels. I made a couple of contacts with SOTA activators before my friends arrived.
I turned off the radio and visited the remainder of the afternoon. We got a little westerly wind and the smoke was a little better. The wind also provided a little cooling.
Before we broke up to head back home, I made a capture of the lake through the trees. It was my only photograph of the day.
Field Day 2021 was different than the last two years. The previous years involved an expedition to a relatively remote location. The expedition involved significant planning and preparation to ensure everything needed (for both radio and camp) were assembled and loaded into the rig/camper. Once at the operation point, we setup camp and stations far from the noise of civilization. There was much fun and fellowship.
This year I was in Springfield, Missouri, visiting family. I had no plan. I did not even know if I wanted to do any radio activities so far from my friends. After waffling about what I should do, I elected to visit the Southwest Missouri Amateur Radio Club (SMARC).
But first, I need to present a little backstory.
While in Springfield, I programmed two of the local repeaters into my HT — the SMARC repeater and the Nixa Radio Club repeater. Older Son, who has a license, told me he tried several repeaters and did not hear much traffic, with the exception of a Skywarn net during a heavy thunderstorm.
After programming my HT, I regularly listened for traffic and heard little. When in the 4Runner, I called on both repeaters to see if anyone was monitoring them. I knew my programming was good because I could hear the repeater radio respond to my transmission. What I learned is that these repeaters are not heavily used. More on that below.
I checked into the Friday evening SMARC net. There were a few stations checking into the net, but even Net Control remarked that traffic was light. However, Net Control took my call and asked a me a few questions. He was curious about my visit and my background. He also invited me to attend their Field Day operation. It was to be held at the Salvation Army gymnasium not far from my kids’ place.
Saturday morning, I took Sera and we navigated to the Salvation Army gymnasium. When I arrived, I gave Sera a little time to sniff around and eliminate. (I did police up after her.) Then we entered the gym and looked around. There were about dozen folks inside, some working and some just chatting. An additional dozen personnel were outside wrangling a couple of multiband beam antennas.
No one greeted me. No one asked me to pitch in to help and showed me where. I was not quite an invisible person, but close.
After trying to start a couple of conversations without success, Sera and I stepped back outside where we surveyed the scene. The two groups wrangling beam antennas were still wrestling with their prey. Another group started erecting a vertical antenna. A young man was working on a wire antenna. He was raising a fan dipole for the 40m, 20m, 15m, and 10m bands using a hitch-mounted telescoping mast. (I thought “Ah, a portable operator.”) He introduced himself as Mike, but I cannot remember his callsign. I helped with one end of the antenna and another person pitched in on the other end. We helped Mike get his antenna deployed and then joined him in the gym where he began assembling his station.
Mike was personable and engaging. He is an active Parks on the Air (POTA) activator and often operates portable. He is a doer.
I didn’t get the other young man’s name, but he works in the SKYWARN (storm spotter) network. He needs his General license and wants to get it. He is also a doer.
After giving Mike a ride to a nearby convenience store to get a drink and some lunch, Sera and I met the kids for lunch at a local Italian restaurant. I really like it and will visit again. Then we returned to the gym to see what was up.
There was not much. Mike was one of three operators who were working the bands and was focused on what he was doing. So, Sera and I left the building and walked the perimeter of the large field adjacent to the gym building.
When we returned to the parking lot, we found another ham, Patrick, assembling a portable antenna. He uses a vertical wire either wrapped around a Black Widow mast or suspended from a tree limb. He uses one of two low power radios (QRP rigs). As he prepared to setup his station in the back seat of his vehicle, I asked him if he thought the pavilion with a roof and shade might be more comfortable than the back seat of his vehicle.
“Maybe,” he said.
I moved my rig near the pavilion and then got out my Elecraft KX2, a telescoping mast, my end-fed halfwave antenna, and a battery. I had my station set up in about fifteen minutes. Patrick was working on his as well. He had moved to the pavilion.
“I won’t bother you will I?” he asked.
“No, I often operator portable with other operators.”
“Do you have a log?” he asked, “I’m going to see if I can get some sheets of paper to keep my log.”
“I think I’ll use my iPhone. I don’t think I’ll make that many contacts.”
I ran my KX2 at about 10w. I started searching and pouncing and after a couple of hours had 15 contacts or so. It wasn’t bad.
Now and again I heard Patrick transmitting or one of the stations inside the gym on my radio. But there was not a lot of interference.
I decided to walk Sera around the perimeter again before calling it a day. Patrick offered to watch my rig while I walked.
As we walked along the back lot line of the nearby houses, three dogs ran up to their fence aggressively and Sera got away from me. When she turned to respond to me, one of them nailed her hip through the fence. If I had realized that it got her, I would have kicked its teeth in. I should have carried my pepper spray and hosed them down.
Tired, soaked to the skin from the humidity, and hungry, we returned to the pavilion and I tore down my station. I said good evening to Patrick and Mike and we headed home.
On the way home, I heard an operator call on the Nixa repeater asking for help with the Field Day exchange. No local ham answered his call. He called again and no one answered. So I answered his call and we had a nice chat. He had been away from the HF bands for awhile and wanted to play during Field Day. But he could not figure out the exchange and was having trouble navigating the ARRL website. I think I got him straightened out. At least he had an idea of what to do.
Sunday morning I thought about visiting the Nixa club to see how they were doing. It was threatening rain, so I stayed home.
I sat at my Elecraft KX3 station running 15 watts into a magnetic loop antenna. I tried several times on previous days to raise a call, but no one answered my call on any band that I tried. Sunday morning I worked another slug of stations with the KX3. I logged my contacts on my iPhone as they were made. I quit about 1000h local.
On Monday morning I moved all of my contacts (36 of them) to my computer. Then I prepared the log for submission to ARRL as my contribution to Field Day. It was quite different than my previous Field Days, yet I still had fun — even with the disappointment in the club.
I learned a few things again this year.
Amateur radio clubs are their own worst enemies. Survival of the service requires new people participating. New operators need a community where they can receive instruction (answers to questions as well as more formal work) and fellowship. They need a place to belong.
Clubs that don’t dedicate personnel to capture new people and greet visitors are not going to add members. This is a critical issue to bringing in new operators and getting them active on the bands.
I still have work to do on my Morse code skills. I was uncomfortable with the idea of running a frequency. I would have made more contacts if I had. I still had fun and it was challenging.
It’s a good idea to have a computer that can run logging software and reads data from the radio. A phone logging program can be used, but all the data fields have to be entered manually. N1MM+ will read the radio if connected via USB. Even a low power Windows computer can run N1MM+.
I was not prepared for this Field Day. Normally I prepare a few weeks in advance. I have my station organized, know what I am going to use and what I am going to do, and I have the rules and supporting material printed and in a notebook for reference. Still, I had fun and made a few contacts. So it ended well.
Next year will be different again, I suspect. I am sure I will learn more on the next Field Day.
Greetings from Lubbock, Texas. I am at the KOA here in Lubbock for a couple more days. I stopped here to visit some friends and to pause before the trip back home.
It was a great trip in many ways and sad in a couple more. I might elaborate later on some parts of the trip. I certainly have a few more images to share.
But for this morning, this is it. I’ll share an image I made as the kids and I left Ozark, Missouri on our way to Durant, Oklahoma and then on to Lubbock. The kids came to visit my DiL’s folks and I was headed this way anyway, so we shared the road together.
We stopped over at Durant to visit Young Son and DiL-to-be. I enjoyed the night at Lake Texoma, where I camped before.
Older Son has his Technician license, so we were able to chat 2-meter simplex all the way. It was a reason why I think an amateur radio operator’s license is a good investment of time and energy. The Technician license is not difficult to acquire and provides privileges at 50MHz and above.
Now I need a late breakfast. The Girl needs an outing.
The plan for Winter Field Day 2021 started late in the fall of 2020. My friends and I drove out to the potential site and spent a few days camping there over the Thanksgiving holiday. We cleaned up the old tank and they played on the dirt bikes while I played with The Girl and a little radio.
But project work got busy so I could not leave Friday to camp and enjoy the weekend. My friends went out Friday, setup camp, and threw a couple of tarps over the tank to keep any weather out and some heat in.
I received a call yesterday morning that the generator they were using to power the stations was generating so much interference that it was affecting operations. So I decided to load up my smaller generator (a Honda) and drive it out there. The outing would do me and The Girl some good and I thought I might play a little radio before returning home.
It took me an hour to collect things and run an errand, but we headed out by about 1030h. The drive was a bit more than an hour. The trail was mostly snow-covered or damp sand/gravel. There were a couple of places that were slimy, but the 4Runner had no trouble traversing them.
Camp was a muddy mess, though. There was enough sun to melt the snow and the surface freezing, so they were left with sandy mud. The Girl did not mind and took off to check all her favorite sagebrush clumps for critters.
With one eye on The Girl, we got my generator running and providing power for the equipment. I learned that my friend’s radio was having an audio issue and not working reliably. This is odd for an Icon 7000. It had been a solid performer for the last couple of years we have been operating portable.
I offered to leave my Elecraft KX2, but he declined. He encouraged me to setup my rig, though, and make a few contacts. So I setup the rig and used his antenna (a very quick setup). I heard a number of loud stations calling and answered a few calls. I worked stations in California, Nebraska, Illinois, Florida, and Texas before deciding it was time to pack up and head home. I wanted to be off the trail before dark.
So I broke down and stowed my radio equipment, called in The Girl (who was very happy), and we said our goodbyes. She was not too muddy with just a little bit on her feet and a few splashes on her tummy. She mostly snuggled next to me on the way home, as she usually does. Most of the sand had fallen off her by the time we arrived home, just after dusk.
It was an easy unload, then supper for both of us and some rest. I watched a little Netflix while I ate some supper and she laid on her mat next to me, lightly begging for a bite of pizza. After supper and my show, I stayed on the sofa awhile longer, simply enjoying the quiet and the company of my dog.
I made about a dozen contacts over the couple of hours I worked the bands. Most of them were on the 20m band, which was nicely open yesterday.
Today I need to get a little work done, as well as take care of both of us. I am hoping for a little sun later today so we can enjoy that on our walk.
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.
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.