QTH: near Oral, SD
Class: Amateur Extra
AMSAT # 41247
QRP ARCI # 16638
NAQCC # 9880
Firefly # 61
Field Day 2019
Haying season on the ranch usually starts during the first half of June and will go until the last field is cut sometime in July.
This year, the weather has been cool and wet so haying has been delayed by a few weeks as we wait for things to dry out some. Having had a few nice days last week, I started cutting the hay and planned on skipping Field Day this year in an effort to get caught up a little. As luck would have it, we got just over an inch of rain on Thursday night and a few little showers on Friday so the haying come to a complete stop once again as I waited for the fields to dry.
Mother Nature is being uncooperative this year and it's starting to get under my skin a little. I appreciate the moisture and it's making for a lot of hay this year which is truly a blessing, but I have many projects that need to be done and this weather is not helping me get them completed.
I decided to take a little time off from ranching and head up the mountain for an overnight camping trip. Since I as headed to one of my favorite operating spots, and it was Field Day weekend, I decided to take the radio gear along as it has been quite some time since my last field portable adventure.
As the batteries were being topped off, I took a quick inventory of my "bug out" bag to make sure all of the necessary equipment for portable operations were still in there. With the exception of my KX3, everything for my field station (usually) stays packed up in a small backpack so I am ready to go at a moments notice, but once in a while some key component to the field station will grow legs and run off.
Once I was satisfied that I had all the essential items for a successful deployment, I grabbed the hammock and loaded everything into my pickup for the trip to the mountain. I decided to take along my 4 wheeler as a means of conveyance to get the gear to the top of the mountain quickly.
After the 35 minute drive and the trip of the side of the mountain, it didn't take long to get everything set up and operational. I have a lot of experience in deploying this station and can usually be on the air within 5 minutes. It took longer to set up the hammock and tarp awning than it did to set up the radio equipment.
On the drive over to the mountain, I contemplated my operating strategy. I knew would be operating as a 1B - Battery class station which is limited to 5 watts.
Since I donated one of my two Raspberry Pi's to my local ham club for their digital modes HF station and used the other one as part of my 3D printer build, working digital modes was not an option.
My CW skills are improving but are not adequate for operating during Field Day so CW wasn't a viable option either and that left me with Phone.
Since I am more about the experience and less about being at the top of the points leader board during ARRL's "non-contest" (insert sarcasm here) event...I decided to give myself a challenge. I would pack up my station after the 50th contact was in the logbook......or Field Day ended, which ever came first.
My favorite portable antenna is the QRPGuys tri-band vertical, which as a quarter-wave vertical for 20 meters that also uses toroids to load 30 and 40 meters. Since 40 meters seems to be where all the activity is these days, and 30 meters is off limits to phone operation, I decided I would use 20 meters to complete this challenge.
Field Day started at 18:00 UTC but I was in no real hurry to get to the mountain. I stopped by the club's Field Day site for a visit on the way to my operating spot. Once I had made the rounds and visited with the fellow club members, I continued on my journey.
By the time I got everything set up and settle in for some radio time, it was almost 21:00 UTC. I casually operated for the next 6 hours, stopping on occasion to take in the scenery or play fetch with my dog and we shared a Lunchable for supper and watched the sun set while I enjoyed an ice cold adult beverage.
It was at this point that I realized that I had forgotten to pack a flashlight or lantern....so my "playing radio" ended for the evening when the sun finally set because it is pretty difficult to fill out paper logs by the back-light of the KX3.
I have never participated in a Field Day where it did not rain, and this year was no exception. Pictured below is the light, gentle rain that was falling over the area on Sunday morning.
I have learned long ago to plan for the rain because that is just part of Field Day for me. Once the rain moved in, I packed up my hammock and lowered the sides of the tarp so I would have a dry place to operate.
I had managed to log 42 contacts before the sun went down the night before so I only had 8 contacts left to make to complete my goal and I knocked those out in about an hour and a half. By the time the 50th contact was in the logbook, the rain had stopped so I pulled the tarp and headed down the mountain back to my pickup.
Overall, I was pretty happy with my impromptu Field Day. I got to camp out overnight, watched a beautiful sunset, enjoyed the nice scenery, and I made my 50 QSO goal with relative ease despite being limited to 5 watts. I worked 26 unique US sections and 2 Canadian sections.