I've enjoyed the IOTA program for 25 years. It took me 16 years to get to #1 DXCC, but I'm still working new ones in IOTA. There are 1200+ island groups so it takes a while. I've also enjoyed IOTA Expeditioning over the years including islands in Australia, Nicaragua, Labrador, Alaska and numerous islands in the Gulf of Mexico. My last expedition was in 2017 and I was getting the itch to go out again.
I live about 3 hours from the Gulf of Mexico and had been thinking about a trip to North Padre Island, (NA-092), on the Texas coast to have a fun couple of days operating portable and enjoying the National Seashore there. I was convinced that while NA-092 was not rare in the states, the RV Ham crowd has satisfied that demand, but that it would be needed in Europe and Asia. To convince myself that I needed to take the radio gear on the trip, I put out a query on the IOTA Chaser reflector to gauge interest. I was a bit surprised at the many long time IOTA Chasers in Europe and Asia who needed it. So, my hunch was confirmed.
So I put my operating plan together. My station would consist of:
30 ft MFJ push up pole
MFJ 2980 Feather Lite Vertical
Begali Stradivarius Paddle
Since Padre Island is a barrier island it is connected to the mainland by a bridge, so no boat necessary on this trip. I have a tear-drop camping trailer that is a king-size bed on wheels with a kitchen in the back which would be sleeping quarters and a 6 person tent which would be the operating HQ. My XYL, Cris, accompanied me on the trip and was gracious enough tolerate my operating. Below is a picture of the operating location.
|AD5A/p on North Padre Island|
I was very pleased with the results of the operation. I provided a new island to many EU and Asian Chasers and the station performed well. I was very pleased with the performance of the Feather Lite vertical. The antenna has a very small foot print, which in a campground is essential, and I experienced good TX/RX results with it, of course a vertical over salt water works extremely well and this was confirmed once again. During the first Asian sunset, 3:30 am for me, I had to go split for about an hour to handle the pile-up. I finished with 633 QSO's with ~40 countries, 427 of the QSO's were on 40m.
But this is only half the story. We arrived on Padre Island on a Monday afternoon and departed on Wednesday morning.
On Friday, we had to catch a flight to Albuquerque, NM and drive to our second QTH in Santa Fe, NM. One of my favorite things to do in Santa Fe is to do activations for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. In Santa Fe we have a team we call the Three Amigos, consisting of Fred, KT5X, John, K1JD and myself. We are all Mountain Goats within the SOTA program, (1,000 activation points required) and our likeness was captured by a female artist, the subject of another blog. But here is our portrait, notice the belt buckles if you can see them:
|Tres Amigos de SOTA|
Upon arrival in Santa Fe, I made contact with John, K1JD (KT5X as out of town) and we decided to activate El Cerro de la Consena or W5N/SI-020 which had an elevation of 6,923 ft. This mountain has lots of loose rock and cactus.
Planning for a SOTA activation is much simpler than an IOTA expedition, but you will need to be self propelled. This hike is ~6.5 mile round-trip. My station consisted of a KX-2, a 3 band trapped EFHW made of 28 ga. wire, an 81 to 1 transformer and a 20 ft. collapsible fiberglass pole. The paddle I use is the Elecraft paddle made for the KX2 I made 28 QSO's on this activation and found these:
|AD5A Shack at 9,420 ft|
So in the span of a week I had gone from Sea Level to Mountain Summits operating CW and enjoying the magic of our hobby. There is adventure in ham radio, and many ways to get out and make QSO's. If you can't make QSO's at home, go to where the QSO's are, the seas and summits.
Painted by Georgia O'Keefe 1942
|The Near Vertical Climb|
The actual route is up the left side
|AD5A and KT5X on the summit of the Pedernal|
Going to Australia was a bucket list item for me and to check it off with such an adventure as the VK9AR expedition was a wonderful treat.
As it would happen today, with the flux at 67, I did my 258th SOTA activation on a summit near Santa Fe, NM that has no name, but goes by it's elevation, 8409. There are beautiful views in every direction, from the summit of 8409, and I enjoyed them immensely. With me, on my trek up the mountain, was my KX2, a 21ft. collapsible pole to support a 29 ft. piece of wire through an 81 to 1 transformer. I feed the antenna about a foot above the ground and run the wire up the pole in an inverted L configuration. The pole was propped up among the branches of a pine tree and I tied off the antenna to a close-by pine branch. I had the power set to 5 watts and tuned the wire with the KX2. I operated CW using the Elecraft plug-in paddle and I logged with a golf pencil on a, write in the rain, index card. The temperature was a crisp 39 degrees, but the sun was shining and not wisp of a breeze. It was a good day to be on the mountain top.
I was on the air from 1642z - 1722z. I operated on 40, 30m, 20m and 17m and completed 40 QSO's in the 40 minutes that I was on the air from 8409. Also, with the flux at 67, I managed to work two EU stations, ON and EA. I heard a 9A calling me but we couldn't complete the contact. So, 40 QSO's, coast to coast in the US and 2 DX QSO's from EU was my catch for the day. Not bad for a short QRP/portable outing. Keep in mind that's with the flux at 67. I'm glad I didn't look at the numbers before I left or I might have been a bit discouraged and perhaps wouldn't have gone out at all. I would have missed the beautiful views, the warming sunshine and a QSO a minute QRP operation. I wouldn't have worked EU with 5 watts and a wire. I would have had to put off my 258th SOTA activation for another day.
The moral of this story is simple, don't look at the numbers. In fact I would recommend that you ignore them. There is plenty of fun to be had keying up your radio even when conditions, or at least the numbers, are this bad.
Keep the Faith. Go call CQ. I was glad I did.
Another source of information is the recent Episode of HamRadioNow which is a round-table of Scout leaders on the benefits and some methodology of JOTA. I was honored to be asked to participate. I think you will find the show to be informative with regard to JOTA.
Here is the link:
Participate if you can.
So, I've asked myself, what is it about Ham Radio that's so important? Many of us spend a lot of time in the hobby, so where is the meaning, where is the value added to our lives? Many of us chase awards, join clubs, go on expeditions and have many significant achievements in our ham careers that bring a certain level of satisfaction. However, what we soon learn is that it's the chase, not the finish that's exciting. I've enjoyed very much chasing DXCC Honor Roll, WAE-TOP, IOTA, SOTA and competing in a variety of contests. However, once the objective is achieved, the excitement of working toward the goal is gone and the sense of accomplishment is not quite as satisfying as the thrill of the chase.
So in my thinking about what's lasting and important about ham radio, at least to me, starts from a simple QSO. QSO's bring joy in many ways, i.e., marking a needed entity of the list, working a new club member, getting that rare country that you never thought possible, whether QRP or QRO or perhaps a special contact on Top Band or the Magic Band. It's QSO's that bring joy. However, many of these QSO's are the 599, TU type of QSO and are more focused on accomplishment or earning some award than the relationship side of ham radio. As I've progressed or maybe matured or perhaps just gotten more sentimental, I get a lot of lasting joy from a simple rag-chew. Does a rag-chew bring my recognition, no. Will it qualify me for any awards, maybe, but probably not. But what it does do is allow me to meet real people with similar interests as me. Since I retired I find that I have more and more rag-chews with the most interesting people. And I am starting to come across guys multiple times and we pick up where we left off from the previous QSO. It's wonderful. I don't have to worry if I've already worked them on the band I'm on, they are glad, at least I think they are, to take my call and have a chat, I don't have to worry about getting a "worked B4" response.
I've found there's lots of unexpected pleasure in the simple things. A simple QSO gives me lots of satisfaction. Don't get me wrong, you may well hear my call in a DX pile up or calling CQ in a contest, but I've learned to stop and smell the roses and the roses of ham radio, to me, are the relationships you can build and develop through conversational ham radio.
My mode of choice is CW, but I don't suppose it really matters what mode you use. Just get on the air and have a real chat, you might find it brings a little more meaning to the hobby.
However, I just participated in a noteworthy activity that needs to be published. This year I was on the staff of K2BSA at the recently completed 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree and what a wonderful experience it was. For a comprehensive, day by day, look at the activities at K2BSA, have look at the K2BSA Facebook page.
One of the old timer mantra's in ham radio is, "where are the next generation of hams coming from", but all too often nothing is done to address the problem. However, I can say that the K2BSA team is very busy about addressing that issue through efforts to expose Boy Scouts to Amateur Radio. During this Jamboree, 300+ radio merit badges were awarded to boys who completed the requirements which requires a contact via ham radio and a classroom session that delivers a solid primer on Amateur Radio.
Other activities included Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF), a Summits On The Air (SOTA) activation, Satellite operations, both base station and portable, VHF/UHF operation and a nightly net for the hams participating at the Jamboree. There were typically ~60 check-ins each night including local hams not participating in the Jamboree and interested hams from around the world, including JA, KL7 and VK based hams via Echo Link. As you can see a comprehensive presentation of ham radio was on display.
K2BSA is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization making contributions from US Hams tax deductible. So if you are inclined to support the furtherance of our hobby through youth, I can't think of a better organization to support. A contribution button is present on the FaceBook page or you can visit their webpage at www.k2bsa.net.