Archives For March 2014

This post is part of a short series of posts describing my weekend backpacking the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail on March 21st-23rd:
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Prologue
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 1
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 2
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 3
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Epilogue


Benton MacKaye Trail, Section 3: Highway 60 to Skeenah Gap Road

The BMT continues at Highway 60 across Wallalah, Licklog and Rhodes mountains.  It’s approximately 3.5 miles in length, according to the BMT Section Mileages. http://www.bmta.org/SectionMileages.php

Sunday morning began with the typical smells and sounds associated with hikers fed on a steady diet of camp food.  Bryan wisely decided if he were ever to walk normally again, he would sit this part of the hike out.  I believe Trent decided to sleep in.  That left: Brandon, Brian, Greg, Jason, Ross and myself.

The plan was to begin early in the morning, on trail at dawn and hopefully finish this excursion before the rain set in.  Only, it started raining the moment we set foot on the road pointed toward the trail and didn’t let up until we were somewhere on the other side of Wallalah Mountain.  I apologize for the lack of photos, but my phone went into my bag at this point and didn’t see the light of day until I stepped off the trail.

I don’t normally injure myself on the trail, but when I do, I make it memorable.  We weren’t even ten minutes on the trail and my head had an intimate encounter with a tree that had fallen across the trail but was suspended about 6 feet in the air.  I was watching my footing as I was climbing a set of steps, and with my jacket hood obstructing my view, I stood right into it.  I immediately crumpled but instead of falling to my knees I got hung up on my hiking poles.  I remained hunched over for a few minutes while the stars stopped swimming circles around my head.

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This post is part of a short series of posts describing my weekend backpacking the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail on March 21st-23rd:
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Prologue
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 1
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 2
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 3
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Epilogue


Benton MacKaye Trail, Section 2: Three Forks to Highway 60

The BMT continues at Three Forks across a couple mountains and along the ridgeline before descending to the swinging bridge over the Toccoa River.  From there, it’s a tough slog uphill before descending to where the trail crosses Highway 60.  It’s approximately 12.4 miles in length, according to the BMT Section Mileages.

Around 4:30am I had to get up and water the bushes.  While climbing back into my hammock, I realized someone else was up and shining their flashlight around the campsite.  My hammock was just on the outside of the camp, in the shadows, but I couldn’t figure out where this person with the flashlight was.  In my sleepy stupor, it took me a long moment to realize the light around camp was the moonlight shining through the opening in the canopy above.  It was so much light, in fact, that you could have easily made your way around any obstacles in camp without your headlamp.

I woke again later in the morning when I heard someone else stirring around the fire and stuck an arm out of my sleeping bag to snap a selfie before briefly going back to sleep.  It wasn’t bitterly cold but cold none-the-less and I wasn’t about to stir before most of the group was awake and packing.

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This post is part of a short series of posts describing my weekend backpacking the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail on March 21st-23rd:
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Prologue
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 1
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 2
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 3
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Epilogue


I realized that some folks might have tuned in here to actually read about the individual sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT).  If that’s you, you might want to skip story time to the appropriate section below.

Thursday night I did a final gear check after unpacking/repacking my bag to remove my radio gear.  I didn’t want to be “that guy” and forget anything, so I laid out the next day’s clothes and miscellaneous gear (not packed in the bag) next to the bed.  I left my bag, hiking poles and boots by the door.

My Friday morning began at 4:30am, but I remained in bed until nearly 5:00am.  Jason was picking me up at my place at 5:15am.  Amazingly, I was ready by the time he pulled into the driveway.  Jason was the only person in the bunch that I knew — everyone else in this cast of characters I’d be meeting for the first time this morning.

I loaded my gear in the back of the pickup and we headed over to Ross’s house to pick him up.  Ross was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this early in the morning and we were soon under way to pick up Bryan… as soon as we figured out where that was to be.  Bryan wasn’t waiting on us where they formerly discussed meeting up, but in Bryan’s defense they had agreed to “figure it out in the morning.”

Bryan wasn’t answering his phone so we made the short drive to his place in hopes of catching him at his house.  His truck was in the driveway but no lights were on in the house and he wasn’t answering his phone.  Jason and Ross exited the truck and commenced to ringing the doorbell and knocking on the front door.  The only creature stirring at Bryan’s place was their scruffy cat.  Ross decided we weren’t going to leave without Bryan and went around to the back of the house.  I was still seated in the truck parked in the cul-de-sac out front when I heard Ross banging on the house yelling Bryan’s name.  I opted to stay in the truck; I figured I was least likely to get shot if I stayed there.

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This post is part of a short series of posts describing my weekend backpacking the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail on March 21st-23rd:
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Prologue
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 1
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 2
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Section 3
Backpacking Benton MacKaye Trail Epilogue


This past weekend I backpacked the first three sections of the Benton MacKaye Trail with 7 strangers.  But before I tell you how all that went down, let’s drag this story out a bit…

It’s been a while since I’ve been backpacking.  As best as I can tell, I believe the last time I went was when RakeTheTable, DuckHunter and I went to Shining Rock. That was September 2011.  I didn’t think it had been that long, but apparently it had.  So I wasn’t about to turn down an invitation to go backpacking… unless DuckHunter was planning the trip. 😛

To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the Benton MacKaye Trail.  When I was first invited, I mistakenly thought the person was talking about the Bartram Trail (of which I am familiar).  It wasn’t until later that I realized I had the wrong trail in mind and started reading about the right trail. (Sorta important when planning, ya know?)

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Yesterday I discovered an error in my DownloadRouterConfig application where it would terminate abnormally if a variable (a path name) in the settings.cfg file was left blank.  Should no path name be specified, the application should have used it’s current working directory.  Instead, it just crashed.

In fixing the code, I realized that all my other applications used this same function — so I corrected all of them as well.  (I also took care of a few other miscellaneous things while I was in there.  See the CHANGELOG, if interested.)  If you happen to be using any of these applications to help manage your own Cisco routers, you’ll want to pull the latest code down to prevent any possible errors in the future.

BuildVRFIndex v0.0.9-alpha (2014-03-17)
DownloadRouterConfig.py v2.2.3 (2014-03-17)
RunRouterCommand.py v1.2.0 (2014-03-17)
VRFBackupTool v0.0.9-alpha (2014-03-17)
VRFSearchAndBackup v1.0.1 (2014-03-17)
VRFSearchTool v0.0.18-beta (2014-03-17)

In case you aren’t current on this topic, you might want to read Setting Up My Ham Shack and My Thoughts on CQRLOG.

A few weeks ago I mentioned the “powerful logging features” of CQRLOG.  Such features don’t come without a cost.  Or, in this case, a “processing” cost.  And by processing cost, I mean the type usually tied to using a traditional database.  SQL databases aren’t exactly known for their low overhead, which is why CQRLOG was not a good candidate to run on a Raspberry Pi.

My Intel i7 2.7gHz processor with 8 gigabytes of RAM, however, is a different story.

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Read Setting Up My Ham Shack for a bit of background, in case you missed it.

Twice I’ve complained (in some capacity) about CQRLOG on this blog which, to be honest, isn’t fair to this application (or it’s authors).  My complaints (if you want to call them that) around CQRLOG had to do with its limitations.  But getting back to that aforementioned honesty — it isn’t CQRLOG’s fault.  I was simply trying to use the application on platforms or in situations for which it was not designed.

As far as Linux is concerned, it’s actually quite a nice and capable application.  So in defense of CQRLOG (as if it needed it), here are the features which I most enjoy:

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Setting Up My Ham Shack

March 11, 2014 — 2 Comments

I really wanted to be chasing a couple of new states for the ARRL Centennial QSO Party, but I feel like I need to pump a few blogs out — so those contacts will just have to wait until later.  This post is mainly to serve as some background for future topics; certainly not to establish any baseline for how you should outfit your shack OR possibly cover everything on the topic.

I haven’t been a ham radio operator very long (less than 2 years), so I don’t exactly have an established ham shack (what ham radio operators call the room or area where they operate from).  Seasoned ham radio operators put a lot of thought and consideration into their shack setup for a multitude of reasons, mainly to avoid unwanted RFI (radio frequency interference).

While my RFI problems are mainly limited to not being able to tune to certain frequencies (noisy interference) or being able to turn some of the lights in my home on/off using my ham radio, I mostly considered how I was going to fit ham radio gear on my already-established “home office” desk. Between two laptops, a display, large printer and all the other accessories that clutter one’s desk, space was certainly limited!

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March AARL DX Contest

March 4, 2014 — 2 Comments

This past weekend the ARRL sponsored a DX Contest which I participated in as time allowed.  I racked up 78 QSOs for 62 new DXCCs.  I was hoping that would be enough to push me over the top for 100 DXCCs, but I fell short by 6 contacts.  I’m sure I’ll fill in the blanks before the next big HF contest…

All contacts were made QRP via my KX3 on 5 watts or less.  I backed down the power on several stations to qualify for more than a dozen 1,000 miles-per-watt awards.  (I would have displayed the actual MPWs and country names in the table below but I couldn’t figure out how to get my logging program to export all those details.)  Anyway, here are the QSOs I made this past weekend:

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