Work is keeping me busy these days. So, I was not able to make the usual excursion to a remote site in central Nevada. I also did not have time to make a plan for when, where, or how I was going to setup a portable station and operate, if even for a few hours.
Therefore, when Saturday morning arrived, I had only a notion that I would drive up to one of my usual operating points in the Pinion Hills/Pine Nut Mountains, setup one of my portable radios, choose an antenna, and see if I could hear any stations. I knew that The Girl and I both needed a walk/hike as well. So I thought that the higher location I often use would be a good place. There is not much traffic, I could setup just over the hilltop where I might have a little shelter from a northerly wind and get some sun exposure, and there is an old juniper stub that I can strap an antenna mast to.
So, I loaded a few things into the rig, got The Girl fed, added some water and a snack to the mix, and we headed out. As we turned up the road to the public lands, I noticed there was not a lot of activity in the area. That meant it would be quiet on the trail.
The trip up to the OP was easy, as usual. The road has not changed much since the last time we were up here. I realized I should drive up here more often on the weekends because there are so many more people out at Silver Saddle Ranch, where we usually walk on the weekends. I prefer to encounter as few two- and four-legged others as I can. In part, that is because I am not very social and in part because there are so many with bad behaviors in the latter.
There are rarely others out in the area where I like to operate. It even occurred to me that if I had a hot-tent, I could camp at the next hill up. I am confident the 4Runner would make it up there with no problem. However, I am just as confident that I could not get the camper up there.
After parking the rig, The Girl and I got out for a hike to warm up and let her burn off some energy. I paused at the overlook to make an image of Carson City, with the Carson Range and Slide Mountain in the background. I love the view from this place. We turned south and climbed part of the hill while I chatted with Older Son. I saw tracks from what was probably a pickup truck on the trail. It was clear they were made when the soil was wet and the drive had slid off into the rut. I saw where the vehicle drug but did not high-center. It looks like it can get pretty sloppy on this trail if it is wet.
On return to the rig, I started setting up the station. I decided to use a home-built doublet for the antenna. It is a non-resonant antenna that I feed with open wire (not coaxial cable). Older Son and I built this antenna a couple of years ago with some THHN wire I had in the garage and some electric fence standoffs I purchased.
I put a 4:1 BALUN at the end of the open feedline so I can reduce the impedance (by a factor of four) and run a short length of coax to the station. Deploying the antenna took me about 15 minutes.
I initially thought to use a new linear amplifier I bought for portable operations, but after fiddling with it for a few minutes, I realized I need more time with the equipment to become familiar with it. So I retrieved the other amplifier (the KXPA100 matched to my Elecraft KX3 transceiver) and used it for the deployment. I connected a Microsoft Surface Go 2 to the radio for logging. This little computer is nearly a perfect logging machine for these kinds of deployments. It is also easy to power from the station battery.
I briefly considered deploying a second antenna. But, I decided I would operate for only a couple of hours so elected to use just the doublet.
I sat down at the radio about a half-hour after starting the setup. I checked everything, entered the appropriate data into the logging software, confirmed the computer and radio were communicating, and then started listening for calling stations.
Over the next couple of hours, I worked stations from California to Pennsylvania and Florida. I did not make a lot of contacts, probably about 15 of them. Most of the activity was on the 20m band, but I also worked a station on 15m and heard another who could not hear me. About 1530h local, the 40m band came alive, suddenly. That gave me the opportunity to work a few more stations.
Then I got cold as the sun faded toward the mountains. I knew it was time to tear down the station and head back to the house. I let The Girl out of the rig so she could sniff around a bit as I put away the equipment. We then did a short walk around the top of the hill before climbing back in the the rig (which was warmed up) and heading down the hill.
I learned a few things from this deployment, as I usually do.
- It is possible to do a hasty deployment for a field activity without a lot of planning.
- Such a deployment requires a decent go kit, preferably stored in the vehicle.
- Never take unproven equipment to the field without a backup.
- The backup plan has to be proven equipment or there is a risk of complete failure of the mission.
- A hasty setup can yield a fair number of contacts. I would have had a lot more contacts if I had run a frequency instead of playing search and pounce. I just did not want to work that hard. I wanted a little radio fun for the weekend.
- Part of the Winter Field Day experience is to get out of the house and operate portable in more difficult weather. It was not cold, but it was cool and I got cold by the end of the day.
- A longer deployment would require additional personal equipment than I carried in the 4Runner. But I was fine for the afternoon.
In all, I had some fun, made some contacts, and practiced my Morse Code. All of my contacts were Morse Code. I had a microphone with me, but did not use it.
That was my Winter Field Day 2022 experience. It was good. And then, I was treated to a beautiful view of Carson City and the Carson Range on the way back home.