Monday, July 31, 2006

Flight of the BumbleBees (FOBB)
July 30, 2006

It was a dark, rainy, and stormy night…..oh, no…wrong time of the year!!

Glen, NK1N, and I hiked the half-mile up to my local haunt, the BearFort Firetower in northern NJ, for this years FOBB. The weather was uncharacteristic clear, sunny, and unfortunately really HOT! In fact “it was at least a million degrees” with humidity not far behind. Actually the temps were in the mid-90’s but very humid. We got to the site about 11:30 am to scramble to get our antennas up in time for the contest start. Glen was going to try a longwire with an appropriate band-specific counterpoise. I was going to try out my recently built W7EL Field Day Special (, a two-element phased beam made of 300-ohm ladderline with significant gain. The plan was to hang one end of the W7EL antenna off the firetower at 50’ or so and the other end connected to a distant tree at the 30’ level. We then could hang Glen’s longwire off my antenna support rope. (Double click the picture and see Glen at the 50' level waving....)

Glen quickly set up a “sun shade” from the rainfly of his tent. I assembled the W7EL and hoisted it up the tower and connected the opposite end to a tree about 150’ away. We later got Glen’s antenna hoisted to this connecting line. I was sweating profusely by now….only a brief very-welcome wind on this ridge but we both hunkered down for the start of the FOBB “contest.”

Twenty meters was hopping and there were some strong stations and I quickly got them in the log. And then the DISRUPTION…..a young couple hiked into the tower site for the scenic views….unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your “viewpoint”) she was clad in a tight-fitted, sweat-soaked, T-shirt. Pamela Anderson, eat your heart out! My CQ’s became unintelligible…I was only sending gibberish. I had to stop…to get my bearings…..and breath again. I ripped my earphones off, jumped up, and explained to the inquisitive young lady (and her boyfriend…was he there?) what we were doing, putting on my “best” ham radio ambassador hat! After the short discussion, they left and I sat down to a cool Pepsi drink and to let my blood pressure come down. Where am I? What was I doing? Oh, yeah…the contest!

We both ground out a number of contacts on 20m and 40m. The bands seemed “reasonable” and I worked a number of west coast stations which were surprised at my “NJ” state but they were copiable and we got through the exchange. We switched antennas about 2-1/2 hours into the FOBB just so Glen could experience the phased-beam. Near the end of the FOBB, we were both “cooked” and more than ready to get out of the sun. It didn’t take long to disassemble, pack up, and hike down to the pickup. Already we have plans for next year’s FOBB…what great stories will emerge?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Indian Fire Lookout in Central Oregon
July 6, 2006

While out in Oregon visiting family, I occasionally break away to explore some central Oregon Cascade Mountain “vista” areas that are also ideal locations for QRP radio! Most firetower locations are chosen for their 360-degree commanding view for obvious reasons. Indian Fire Tower has been decommissioned from active use during the fire danger months and the Forest Service makes it available for “rent” at $40 per night. This tower is about 50 miles east of Eugene at 5,400’ and on a “pinnacle” overlooking terrain that is west of the Three Sisters Mountains (each over 10,000') in central Oregon

I arrived about 8am and quickly set up a dipole center supported from the 30’ high firetower and the ends supported by nearby trees. Unfortunately, the weather was warm (low 50’s) but the mountain was encased in clouds. The light mist wasn’t heavy enough to “rain” but certainly the humidity was 100 percent! To the east there is a 500-800 foot drop off (according to the topo maps!) so my 5w Elecraft K1 signal was enhanced! My first 20m qso was with a “local” in Salem. I had a previous qso with Vern, AA7VW, from the AT in NJ so it was a small world. This time my signal was a good 579 and we had an enjoyable qso. The previous AT qso was a real challenge for Vern due to my weak signal and QRN.

This was a great location! I worked a number of guys in Nevada, Colorado, and Missouri before having to pack up and get back to Eugene. Everyone complimented the “strong” QRP signal! Just what every QRP operator wants to hear!! I plan to revisit this site in August, perhaps for a campover and more QRP field operating. And certainly I had thoughts that this would be an IDEAL Field Day site!! Hhmmmm….more planning and opportunites!!