Monday, January 07, 2008

2008 Camp Run-A-MOC, a QRP Adventure

It was about noon on Friday, Jan 4th when my new Garmin Nuvi GPS flawlessly guided me into the Appalachian Mohican Outdoor Center (MOC) ( ) in west New Jersey. The Appalachian Trail crosses about 1/4-mile from the MOC lodge, a very busy place during the summer hiking season both with local day hikers as well as the AT thru-hikers. Joel, W2TQ and I met up with Ed, WA3WSJ, Glen, NK1N, and the other early arrivals at our cabin "Blueberry Hill" for our 3rd annual January Polar Bear outing. The weather was uneventful (as opposed to previous years) with warm temperatures and clear skies forecasted for this weekend.

Joel and I intended to hike up to Catfish FireTower (
) on the Kittatinny ridge about 500 elevation feet above the MOC and spend the night as part of a winter camping shakedown of tents and equipment. Although not as cold as our previous Mt. Everett, MA effort the first of December ( ), overnight temps were in the low 20’s but generally clear skies and the afternoon breezes died down after sunset.

I additionally intended to hang my multi-band dipole (40, 30, 20 ) off the 60’ antenna support structure, errr.. firetower for some 40m QRP fun with my Elecraft K1. My goal was to operate Friday evening and Saturday morning. The AT follows the Kittatinny Ridge in west New Jersey for about 40 miles. And Catfish is one of two 60' firetowers in this section. This is a great location because the terrain both east and west drops off over 500' very rapidly thereby significantly enhancing any RF QRP signal.

We left Blueberry Hill cabin about 1:30 pm and the 1.5 mile hike up to Catfish was easy in spite of our heavy packs, full of cold weather gear, extra water, stoves, and large tents. With only a breeze up top, tent setup was uneventful. Joel wasn't going to operate so I garnered the best tent location near the tower. I climbed the 60' tower and hung one end of my 40m dipole at the 60' level and the other end over the top of some 20' elm trees with the 35' of coax directly over my tent. The dipole broadside was NW-SE, optimum for any midwest contacts. We were ready to go and I quickly setup the K1. It's always a rush when you first power up the rig and hear the band hopping with activity. It was going to be really fun operating from such a great location and the winter weather couldn't be more cooperative.

Sunset was at 5 pm and the temperature was dropping fast. Forecasted overnight lows were in the mid-teens although current readings were in the high 20's. I was on the air at 5:15 and had a number of quick qso's before striking Polar Bear gold with a fun QSO with Steve, N0TU, in Coloradio. Always a treat to share a GRRRRRRRR with our Bears out west! I worked a few more folks that evening before taking a break to fix dinner. It wasn't until after 8 pm that I got back to 40m but the band was really long and the QRN challenging.

Sunrise was around 7 am and I awoke to a brilliant cherry red sky to the east. Temperatures were in the low 20s with no wind so the morning looked very promising. A quick CQ bagged NK1N who was up a bit early in order to start breakfast for the in-the-lodge-den Bears and then a surprise with a long 57N qso with CM2AF in Havana who gave me a 55N...not a bad way to start the QRP morning! After a quick gourmet oatmeal breakfast, I was back on the radio for a bunch of QSOs including a number of Polar Bears. Over all I had 28 QSOs including 7 Polar Bears (N0TU, WA3WSJ, NK1N, WB3AAL, WA8REI, AB4PP, and AB0SR). More information about the Polar Bear Club can be found at ( ). Thanks to all the Polar Bear's who were out on the hunt. It's always fun to share a few GRRRRRs!

It was now around 10 am and we had a few visitors hiking into the area. Temperatures were climbing fast into the low 40's and now sunny. Almost T-shirt weather!

Four of the MOC Bears hiked up to the Firetower around 11am to visit and also operated QRP portable on the ridge adjacent to the Firetower for a couple of hours. Joel and I broke camp about 1 pm and met the rest of the guys on our way back down to the lodge. We had a fun but uneventful overnight on the Ridge but the prospect of a warm shower and the comfort of the lodge was very appealing, like the reward of an ice cream cone after a hard day's work in the summer.

So the stories were fairly mundane but sometimes that's just the way it is. There will be many more opportunities for Mother Nature to balance the scorecard. Thanks to everyone who gave us a Polar Bear contact!

Guy, N7UN/2

Polar Bear #15

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