Nightingale Trip

The view from my hilltop.

My friend emailed early yesterday (Saturday) indicating they were headed out to Nightingale to ride the desert race trail and spend some time outdoors. He invited us along.

The Girl and I had a recheck appointment at her vet about 1100h, so I knew I would be late getting out there. On the way down to the vet, I decided it would be a good day to get out and get away from the house. I figured I could stop at the Maverick on the way back towards Carson City, pick up a snack, and then head out towards Lovelock and the Nightingale exit.

The Girl was more interested in hunting for critters. It was windy.
The vet check went well — Sera’s toe is healing well and the infection is under control. Her nail is growing out and the new tissue is healthy.

That out of the way, we headed north from the vet. I stopped at the Minden Maverick, picked up a wrap and some chips, and we headed north. On the way, I called for my friend on the SNARS Mount Rose repeater. After a couple of calls, another friend answered and we chatted a couple minutes. They were tied up with chores and could not join us. That was too bad as they are both fun.

I made one wrong turn on the way north on the trail from the Nightingale exit but that was quickly rectified and I arrived at camp. I had a nice visit with the female half of my friends and soon the male half arrived. We chatted and shared a meal and then headed northwest from the staging area to a site they wanted to show me.

One of my friends riding to the next hilltop to check the view.

It was not a long trail drive and the trails are in excellent shape. We arrived at the hill top and my friend asked if I was going to run the radio. The wind was already up and I was cold, even with the moderate temperature (70F). I hunted around from a windbreak, but the shape of the hilltop was such that there was not break.

I decided to get out the triple mag-mount and try a hamstick. They headed off to ride and said “We’ll meet you at camp in a bit.” That was good enough for me.

Is this Indian Paintbrush? I don’t know, but they were very pretty on the hillside.
After setting up the antenna, I got the Elecraft KX2 out of its bag and also one of my American Morse Equipment keys. There were a few Parks on the Air (POTA) activators working 20m so I thought I might be able to work them. I could hear a couple of them, but they were not very strong. I checked the solar weather conditions, but there was not a lot of geomagnetic activity and the sun was not producing a lot of X-rays. The base noise level was a little elevated, but that did not explain why the stations were weak.

I was probably in the wrong location for skip to be working for me. So, after calling a few minutes, I decided to just enjoy the day, get out with The Girl, and move around a little.

I put away the radio and antenna (that did not take long), then started my tracker and we walked around the hilltop. She bounced from bush to bush, looking for critters. (It was too cold for them.) The wind was blowing pretty strongly. NOAA Weather Radio reported sustained winds of 20–25mph with gusts to 30mph in Carson City. Along the ridge I suspect it was greater. (That’s why my hat is blown back in the selfie above.)

We still had a good walk around the hill. I had worked my way downhill a ways so I would have a climb back to the rig. That was good for me. We clambered back into the rig and headed back down the trail to camp.

When we arrived, they were just about ready to go. We headed out and stopped in the Red’s Grill in Fernley for a bite of supper. The Girl and I then blasted on home, tired by satisfied.

It was a good day.

Another Nevada playa lake that might make a good campsite and operating point.

Sunday Radio Play

I took the Elecraft KX1 out to play a little radio. What a great little radio it is.

It has been weeks since I operated one of my radios. Either the weather was not very good, I was too busy with other duties, or I just did not have the energy to take the radio out for a spin.

Almost all of my operations are portable. I have written many times about the noise level at home. Even if I could hear other operators, the constant hash is fatiguing and I cannot deal with it for very long before I have to leave the radio.

Sunday was a pretty day, a little cool, but with plenty of sunshine. So The Girl and I walked our usual route out at Silver Saddle Ranch, then returned to my parking spot at the upper staging area. I decided to get the Elecraft KX1 out of its case and see if I could make any contacts.

I setup a random wire with one end affixed to a 10m telescoping mast and the other to a 9:1 unun. I used a short jumper to the radio. What I learned is that the wire length I am using does not need the unun; the matching network in the radio is sufficient to make the impedance match between the radio and the antenna.

I learned something.

So I set aside the unun and tuned the KX1 to 7.2835MHz for the 40m Noon Net. It is an easy check on whether my radio is working and the net control operators will take check-ins from CW operators. (CW is the official term for Morse Code operations.)

One of my favorite features of the KX1 is that it has an adjustable filter and at the wide setting it is about 2KHz, which is plenty for listening to phone operators. It will also tune the entire 20m, 30m, 40m, and 80m bands, which means I can listen to both code and phone operators on those bands. In addition, it will receive CW, lower sideband, and upper sideband modes (switchable). That is a huge feature for such a small radio.

I was able to check-in to the net with about four watts of output, so the radio was working. I then turned my attention to SOTA (Summits on the Air) and POTA (Parks on the Air) activators to determine if I could hear any of them.

I worked four stations, three POTA activators and one SOTA activator. The setup and teardown of this station takes only about ten minutes each. So, for 20 minutes of work, I played for an hour or so and made a few contacts, all QRP (low power). It was a good day.

New Year 2022

This is a test shot with the new (to me) Sony A7S. I used a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 at f/4 and an ISO of 25k. The test subject was Sera in my backyard, playing in the snow.

In the evening of Christmas Day, Sera needed to go out before we hit the rack. I bought a Sony A7S (first generation) a month or so ago for use as a low-light camera. This Sony model (the A7S and its progenitors) is considered the queen of the low-light cameras. The 12.1MP sensor resolution is fine for most of what I do, plus does not take up so much disk space on the computer and its backup drives.

Work kept me from doing much with the camera and will for awhile yet. But I wanted to do some test shots. So I took it into the backyard with us, with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 mounted to the camera. (Yes, that is a legacy manual focus lens.) I set the ISO to 25k and made a few captures of Sera playing in the snow.

I like this one the best of the lot. There’s a lot of detail in the image. I am impressed.

This week I continued working on my review of 2021. What I came away with is that of the things I should do, my self-care suffered in favor of the work. The work is good too, but I really need to spend some time every day working on myself, including the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects.

Work continues to keep me busy. In fact, I intended to publish this on Christmas, but here we are more than a week later.

Sera and I are walking and enjoying each other quite a lot. She loves our daily walks and the time to work off-lead. I require her to check in every minute or two and do not like her to be out of sight for long. There are coyotes in the field and she would think they were like domestic canines. That could be bad.

Happy New Year, all.

Happy 69th Birthday, Old Girl

I took a few minutes Sunday afternoon to set up a radio and play a little. It was a gorgeous day.

I will say a bit more about the image a bit farther down the page. My main thought for the day is that it is Wife’s 69th birthday. Had she lived, I would be teasing her about being a cradle-robber or a cougar now that she is older than me again.

It was a fun exchange we shared over many years, even before we were married.

And we are approaching the holiday season. There are many things I love about the holidays and shared that love with Wife. I never cared for the outward appurtenances, but for the deeper meaning of gratefulness for God’s provision to our forbears and to us. The former is in terms of the Thanksgiving Day celebration and the latter the time we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child.

I still feel deeply about these celebrations and their true significance. But I also remember that Wife loved these holidays and the time spent together, with family, and with friends. I also remember that it was during this season that she suffered so much before she died.

So there is the knife-edge balance of joy and melancholy in this season. It requires some mental discipline to avoid too much of the latter and focus on the joy and thankfulness of the season. I work on this every year and so I will again this year.

What about the image? Well, on Sunday afternoon after The Girl and I finished a very nice walk, I decided to play a little radio. I stopped at the north end of the Prison Hill Complex, a network of trails and parks here in Carson City and pulled into the staging area. I setup a telescoping mast, a wire antenna, and the Elecraft KX2. I was able to check in to the 40m Noontime Net (7.2835MHz) and also heard a SOTA (Summits On The Air) activator calling, so I worked him too.

It was a good day, spending part of it with The Girl and our usual outing, loving the sun and warmth of a fall afternoon, and then returning home for food and rest. The radio part was an bit of lagniappe and an opportunity to practice a little code.

I Still Miss Ki

I don’t remember who made this capture. The composition is not the best, but it is one of my favorite shots of us together.

This is one of my favorite images of Ki and me. I do not remember who made the image and the composition is not very good. But we were together and bonded. Of course, she was on the lookout for squirrels.

Both of us look so young.

Now and again, Ki comes to mind. We had such a good run together. Now she waits on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Winter Field Day 2021

The portable station I used for a couple of hours of Winter Field Day fun.

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.

Dry Camp near Big Dune, Nevada

We dry-camped near Big Dune on the way home from Quartzite.

On the way home from Quartzite, Arizona, we camped near Big Dune, Nevada. It was a good camp, although I nearly lost The Girl before we left. She ranged out of sight and I could not hear her.

Fortunately, she heard the 4Runner and came to me. I was so relieved. Like a child, a moment of inattention nearly cost me dearly.

Fall

The leaves are mostly gone, with just a few stragglers hanging on. Between the sub-freezing temperatures and the recent winds, the trees have shed their fall colors and donned their winter garb.

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.

On the way back from the Mexican Dam, I saw this scene. Fall images do not get much better for me.

Playing a Little Radio

The Elecraft KX1 is small enough to hold on my knee for operating.

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 keep the little Elecraft KX1 in this sealed box. In the box are the radio, battery, key, headphones, and an antenna.

2020 Hawaii and Ohio QSOPs

At the end of my radio ops, Sera and I took a walk around the Pine Nut Mountains knoll where I like to operate. The sky was filled with smoke.

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.

That’s my Wolf River Coils vertical antenna in front of a very smoky Mount Scott in the background.