Archives For Elecraft KX3

Saturday, September 13th: Every once in a while a blind hog finds an acorn and such was the case with Brushy Face.  Brushy Face has been inactive as long as I’ve been involved in Summits On The Air and as such it was one of those summits that I secretly hoped no one would attempt and I would one day be able to claim it as first-activator.

Brushy Face presents a challenge in that the summit is on private property.  In fact, someone’s home sits right atop of the summit:

Screenshot from 2014-09-14 00:09:05

When I had originally scouted Brushy Face, I was new to SOTA and unfamiliar with a lot of the rules and regulations regarding activating a summit.  I thought my only alternative would be to knock on someone’s door and ask if they’d mind if I erected an antenna in their driveway for a few minutes.  In fact, there are ways that this summit could be activated so long as I was within 80 vertical feet of the summit, which is what I did.

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Friday, September 12th: The family has a place up in Highlands North Carolina so we make an effort to spend a couple-three weekends a year up there. I’m particularly fond of the area because it reminds me so much of time spent with my Grandparents who used to own a place near Boone. Of course, there’s a lot of good hiking in this area of Western North Carolina and that suits a young SOTA kid (as in baby goat) such as myself.

One such hike that has become a staple of our visits to Highlands has been Whiteside Mountain. As far as SOTA designated summits are concerned, I can’t think of an easier 8pt summit. And I can say that with confidence after hiking up it with a 40-pound pack containing baby, radio gear and water. Wife, baby AND dog accompanied me for this expedition.

Since it was Friday, there wasn’t as much foot traffic on the mountain as there usually is on the weekend. But there was at least a dozen folks on ropes at the top rappelling on the mountain. I had heard Whiteside was big with climbers, but I’d never had the occasion to see any until today. I imagine that had to do with their ropes crossing the trail at the top and the popularity of the mountain on the weekends

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I originally had other plans for Saturday, but they fell through.  Left with a wide-open Saturday, I planned a multi-activation SOTA expedition.  I even had my eyes on a few local inactivated mountains.  However, my wife commented that I had been out of the house the last four Saturdays in a row and wasn’t too keen on me skipping town for a fifth Saturday.  Knowing she’d let me go but I’d suffer for it later, I did the only thing I knew to get what I wanted: I invited her (and the baby) along.

Surprisingly, she agreed.

While I would still be able to do a SOTA activation, that meant that I had to be choosy about where we went which coincidentally also meant no new summits and it wouldn’t be a multi-activation kind of day.  The weather-guessers were saying it was expected to be the hottest day of summer, so I wanted to be especially sensitive in regards to taking the baby along.

I decided upon the next-nearest summit, Kennesaw Mountain, as it has plenty of shade all the way to the top along a well-traveled path.  Plus, I was very familiar with the hike and knew I could survive the trip with boy the radio AND baby strapped to my back.  Using my Father’s Day gift, an Osprey Poco Plus, I carried a well-behaved 14 month old, all my radio gear and a baby to the top of Kennesaw Mountain.  It wasn’t as difficult as I expected but took longer than I expected to lug what I estimated was approximately 40 pounds to the top.

Sarah entertained the kiddo while I began erecting my antenna.  I’d never seen so much foot traffic at the top of any mountain I’ve ever been on, so not surprisingly I was getting all sorts of long stares and questions about what I was doing.  As I was stretching out my cordage for the antenna and raising my carbon fiber mast, I had three separate individuals ask me where I was going to go fishing.  To their credit, the mast IS a fishing pole.

All fishing jokes aside, the most common question I got was how far away was I able to talk to other stations.  Today it just happened to be Arizona or Colorado, but the onlookers appeared quite impressed with that sort of distance.  I was just happy to talk to anyone, it didn’t matter how far away they were. 🙂

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Late Friday evening I dropped an alert that if everything lined up, I intended on activating Sweat Mountain during the ARRL VHF contest.  I also followed it up with a rambling blog post, because 60 characters sometimes isn’t enough to explain the details surrounding a mountain activation.

My priority was to meet up with a fellow Ham and work as many stations as we could and before we packed up to head home for the evening, I would activate the mountain.  Unfortunately, we got started much later in the afternoon than I had anticipated and I never bothered to update my alert to let anyone paying attention know that I was going to be late, if at all.

In hindsight, I probably should have done that as a courtesy to others but by my estimation (looking at my web logs), only two people clicked on the link to my blog from the alert I posted on SOTAWatch anyway.  So to those two individuals, I apologize.

While my activities during the VHF contest weren’t anything to write home about, the adventure to activate Sweat Mountain turns out to be blog-worthy.  I’ll start by saying that it’s the activation that almost wasn’t.

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I had participated in the ARRL January VHF QSO Party my very first year as a licensed Ham and I must admit that I wasn’t that impressed.  It was cold, my fingers were numb and my arms were tired from holding an Arrow antenna at arms length trying to chase a dozen VHF/UHF contacts across metro Atlanta.  Yet, I still answered the call from a fellow Ham to participate in this year’s VHF contest. I actually thought this year would be different — and for the most part, it was.

I was equipped with new radios, new antennas and most importantly, I intended on letting a mast do the work: I wasn’t going to be holding any antennas this time.  So I met up with WK4U Saturday afternoon and we rolled up to the top of Sweat Mountain, found a spot in the shade a little ways down from all the antennas and EMI and got to work.

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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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As a Ham Radio operator and a Linux enthusiast, my options for programs to log QSOs is somewhat limited.  Unlike the Windows environment, there are only a handful of Linux logging programs to chose from.

I had initially taken a liking to CQRLOG for it’s powerful logging features but quickly became disappointed with it’s system requirements.  Namely, it won’t run on a Raspberry Pi — especially when operating side-by-side with FLDIGI.  While I don’t use a Raspberry Pi as the primary computer in my shack, I’d like to have that low-power option should I need it. (Such as, for a Field Day.)

Ultimately, I decided upon Xlog not only for it’s ability to run on systems with less horsepower but also in part because of it’s speed and simplicity of use.  I also liked that it uses a flat file for the log instead of a database on the backend.  (However, check back with me when I have several thousand contacts and we’ll see how that flat file holds up.)

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Not knowing when I might actually get on the trail to complete another activation, I took advantage of another nearby mountain to complete back-to-back activations.  So with the help of K4KPK’s Pine Mountain SOTA Guide, I made Pine Mountain outside Cartersville, GA my second activation of the day.

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My son is nearly 8 months old and I’ve had neither the opportunity, nor a cooperating schedule since he’s been born to either get out in the woods or even contemplate completing a Summits On The Air activation.  Knowing it would be sunny and clear skies, I decided I would brave the cold temperatures (< 40deg F) and constant breeze for an opportunity to play radio at the top of a local mountain.

So with the help of K4KPK’s Vineyard Mountain SOTA Guide, I selected Vineyard Mountain outside Cartersville, GA for my first stop.

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