Last night, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Amanda/K1DDN on the popular TWiT TV show Ham Nation. We discussed my book, VHF ham radio and SOTA. You can watch the whole episode here or view just my segment below.
There’s also a “photo appearance” by Stu/W0STU.
Over time, I have written several electrical engineering books (see electronic-measurement.com). These books were written in the dead-trees print model, focused on creating a book that you can hold in your hand. I recently published VHF, Summits and More in both print and ebook editions. This was a learning process for me and I’ve come to understand a bit more about the differences between these formats.
I definitely have a soft spot in my heard for a good-quality printed book. It is just plain satisfying to hold a printed book in your hand and flip through the pages. Moving quickly between pages and chapters is easy; very tactile with immediate feedback. I often look at our bookshelf at home filled with various engineering, ham radio, hiking and travel books. It just feels good knowing I can reach out to any one of them and access useful information.
Last year, we went on a long cruise and I wanted to have plenty of reading material while still traveling light. I did not want to drag along a big pile of books, so I purchased a monochrome (“paperwhite”) Kindle with the promise of long battery life and the ability to read it in bright sunlight. It delivered on both items. And it holds a ton of books (most of them I didn’t have time to read).
It didn’t take long to realize that the monochrome e-readers are optimized for plain text. They do pretty well with text-heavy books such as novels but aren’t very good for technical books that have photos or graphics. I mean, the display is only monochrome (and many of the readers are small.)
While creating my new book, I wasn’t really happy with how my book looked on the monochrome Kindles. It seems that there are some legacy formatting behaviors that cause them to present the text in some interesting ways. Also, the photos and other graphics really didn’t look that great. I was not encouraged and almost tossed the idea of publishing an ebook version.
Then I decided to purchase a Kindle with a color display, the Kindle Fire HD 8 tablet. This device has an 8-inch display and 16 GB of storage, costing $79. I downloaded the mobi file of my book to the Kindle and was immediately impressed with the presentation of the material. The photos and graphics show up in color and look great. Another added feature compared to print, is that the embedded hyperlinks allow easy to access to web-based information.
One thing I had to adjust to was losing some control over how the Kindle displays the book. With a print book, you have absolute control…put each comma, period, character right where you want them and they stay there. On the Kindle, the reader gets to make a lot of decisions: font type, font size, color, line spacing. While the author gets to choose the words and graphics, the final presentation is in the hands of the reader.
Read Kindle on non-Kindle Devices
Amazon has done a fantasic job of supporting the reading of Kindle books on a variety of hardware platforms. You can get a free Kindle reader for both Windows and Mac. Mobile devices are supported, too, with their own readers (iOS and Android). The mobi (Kindle) file format is dominating the ebook market so I don’t have any plans to add other ebook versions.
This book is about having fun with ham radio, primarily on the VHF/UHF bands. It covers the basics of VHF, with practical tips for getting on the air and “messing around with radios.” Topics include FM, SSB, repeaters, equipment, band plans, phonetics, portable operating, Summits On The Air (SOTA) activations and more. This book is a compilation of the best articles from the k0nr.com website plus some brand-new material.
The first section explains VHF/UHF concepts via tutorial articles such as “VHF FM Operating Guide,” “Getting Started on 2m SSB” and “How to Work a VHF Contest.” The second section includes blog posts from the k0nr.com website, such as “Choose Your 2m Frequency Wisely,” “VHF Grid Locators,” “Phonetic Alphabets” and “VHF FM: The Utility Mode.” The final section helps the reader understand mountaintop operating, especially Summits On The Air (SOTA) activations, including operating tips and trip reports.
The book is available from Amazon, in paperback and Kindle formats. The normal price for the print version is $22.95, but there is an introductory price of $15.95 through November 18th. The Kindle version is $9.95.
VHF, Summits and More
by Bob Witte, KØNR
While looking for our next SOTA adventure, I noticed a never-been-activated, unnamed 13er (W0C/SP-020) to the west of Mount Princeton. I checked various maps and it looked like there was a 4WD forest service road that went up to the adjacent saddle. So Joyce/K0JJW and I decided to give it a try.
We took County Road 306 west out of Buena Vista, towards Cottonwood Pass. Then we turned left onto County Road 344 which goes to Cottonwood Lake. We continued past Cottonwood Lake until we found FS 348, also known as Hope Gulch Road. We followed this road for 5 miles to the saddle.
The road was easy-peasy 4WD, no problem at all with our stock Jeep Wrangler. A Suburu-class SUV can probably make it but there are a few rocky spots on the road that will require special care. There were two water crossings, one of them with about a foot of water (across Cottonwood Creek). Now this was mid-October, so the streams are not running real strong. Earlier in the year, this could be a major hazard.
Warning: water crossing at Cottonwood Creek.
FS 348 is single lane, with long stretches without an easy passing or turnaround spot. We were happy that we only saw two other vehicles on the road.
We drove a bit past the saddle (where there is a small hut/cabin) and parked where a closed side road heads off toward the summit. We hiked up this closed and then vectored off towards the summit. The hike was only 0.6 miles and 800 vertical feet. However, there was quite a bit of talus to climb over which really slowed us down. The hiking route does not seem critical but following the top of the ridge seemed to be good.
Yeah, about the talus. It isn’t any worse than other rocky summits in Colorado but it seemed to catch our attention, usually in the form of “ok, I’ve just about had it with this talus.” A contributing factor was that both Joyce and I had foot/ankle injuries in recent years. So our unofficial name for this summit became Talus.
Joyce/K0JJW took the honors of completing the first SOTA activation of this summit by contacting Bob/W0BV on 2m FM. We also both logged these stations: KD0MRC, W0RW, W6JM, W0LSD and N0AJN.
We sat there quite a while just taking in the view. Mt Princeton is due east; Mt Antero and Mt White are to the south.
You never know what your gonna get on the first activation of a summit. On this one, it turned out to be a fantastic day. The weather was sunny, temperature about 40 degrees, a little too windy at times. Late in the season, we didn’t have to worry about thunderstorms moving in and blowing us off the mountain. I liked the combination of a good 4WD road, heart-pumping but not-too-difficult hike, a first-time SOTA activation and doing it all with my favorite hiking partner (and wife).
73 Bob K0NR
Mt Herman is the Most Radio Active (SOTA) Mountain in Colorado. I noticed there wasn’t a good writeup with how to hike and activate it, so I wrote this one up: Hiking Mt Herman for SOTA.
I keep an alert on my smartphone for whenever I get spotted on the ham bands. Mostly, this is a way to confirm that I get spotted when activating a SOTA summit. The other day, I was spotted on 20m CW, when I haven’t worked that band/mode in over a decade.
These spots came from the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN), so I pulled the spot data from RBN for that day (483,362 spots). A little bit of searching revealed there were spots for K0NF on almost the same frequency a few minutes off in time going 37 to 40 wpm. Miss one dit and you get K0NR. Mystery solved.
Last week, I visited the site of the Marconi station on Cape Cod that made the first transatlantic two-way wireless contact. There is not much there…just a stone marker. Yes, I understand Marconi was not real active on VHF.
Legos and Ham Radio
I came across this video of a clever Lego project with a ham radio theme:
ICQ Podcast Interviews the ARRL CEO
This ICQ podcast includes Frank Howell (K4FMH) interveiwing the ARRL CEO and Secretary Howard Michel (WB2ITX), who provides an update from the recent ARRL committee meeting. I like Howard’s style and appreciate his willingness to engage with radio hams.
Regulation By Bandwidth
Dan/KB6NU writes that the ARRL renewed its request to the FCC to replace the symbol rate rule on digital transmissions and move to regulating by bandwidth. On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer thing to do: regulating by symbol rate is archaic and limits the use of new, more efficient modulation techniques. But drill in deeper and you’ll find there are legitimate concerns about protecting narrowband emissions (e.g., CW) and not allowing automated stations to dominate the ham bands. Still, it seems like a reasonable approach can be found. Stay tuned on this one.
73 Bob K0NR
Mount Herman (W0C/FR-063) is a popular Summits On The Air (SOTA) peak near Monument, CO. It is The Most Radio-Active Mountain in Colorado and recently popped onto the worldwide 50 Most Popular Summits. The summit elevation is 9063 feet (2762m) and the grid locator is DM79mb.
Access to the summit is not difficult and most of the locals know how to find it without a problem. However, there are a few things that can trip up a first-time activator.
Most people will get to Monument via I-25, taking the main Monument exit (Exit 161). Go west on 2nd street through the old downtown area, over the railroad tracks to a stop sign at Mitchell Road. Go left (south) on Mitchell Road and then right (west) onto Mount Herman Road (FS 320). Shortly after entering the national forest, you will probably see a sign that says Mt Herman Trailhead. THIS IS NOT THE TRAILHEAD YOU WANT. Keep going on Mt Herman Road.
Mt Herman Road angles left (going south) at the intersection with Red Rocks Drive. At this point, reset or check your odometer as it will help you find the actual Mt Herman Trailhead (see map below). Continue on Mt Herman Road for 2.6 miles, where the trailhead is off to the right as the road curves left.
The condition of Mt Herman Road varies considerably from year to year. Most of the time the road is OK for high-clearance 2WD vehicles. Sometimes it deteriates to easy 4WD. The road and trail are often usable in the winter months but it depends greatly on recent temperatures and snowfall. The road is not maintained in the winter so definitely 4WD required.
The actual trailhead is not that well marked, hence the need to watch the odometer. However, on most summer days, there will be cars parked at the trailhead. Parking is informal, just a gravel area off on the right side of the road.
The trail to the summit is 1.2 miles one-way and 800 feet vertical. Make sure you make the first turn, about 500 feet from the trailhead, that takes you up the mountain. There is another trail that continues straight at this point, which may throw you off. There are a few steep sections where the loose granite marbles can make the trail slippery. Hiking boots with some tread on them are recommended and trekking poles can be helpful, too.
At the summit, there is a fire ring where people sometimes camp out overnight. The hike is popular, so you’ll probably have other people stopping by. There is plenty of room in the activation area, so I set up my radio gear some distance from the actual summit.
Mt Herman is a wonderful hike with great views (even if you don’t want to do a SOTA activation). With a superb radio horizon, it is also first-rate place to make radio contacts.
73 Bob K0NR
As noted in that trip report, we never did find much of a trail so we had to do some serious offtrail bushwacking. Being on the summit was great but bushwacking up was not. Later Walt/W0CP found a much better route using the Davis Meadow Trail. We definitely wanted to try this route and get back on top of that summit.
We approached the Davis Meadow Trailhead from the east via Highways 285 / 24. We took FS 311 from Trout Creek Pass to FS 373, then FS 373A. FS 311 starts out in good condition, passable by high clearance 2WD vehicles. Later it turns into “easy 4WD” but it gets very steep in spots which may be a problem during wet weather. You can also approach from the west side coming up from Buena Vista. Check the San Isabel National Forest map for the complete picture.
Just to the east of the unnamed summit is a natural arch, marked on some maps as Aspen Arch. We’ve hiked up the arch on numerous occasions, often with visitors from out of state. So we’ve started referring to this unnamed SOTA as Aspen Arch, to differentiate it from the other unnamed summits in the area.
The Davis Meadow Trailhead is marked by a sign. Trail 1413 heads north and loops around the north side of SP-089. The trail is well laid out with plenty of switchbacks, much more than indicated on the Trails Illustrated map.
We followed the trail until it looped around the north side of SP-089. Marmot Peak, another SOTA summit (W0C/SP-063), sticks out prominently to the north and is a good landmark to use for navigating. As shown on the map above, we left the trail and bushwacked south up to the summit. I don’t claim that our route was optimal. It was classic offtrail hiking with some areas quite open and others clogged with plenty of downed trees and rocks. (Next time, I think we’ll try to stay a little further east of our recorded track. It looked a little better over there.)
The GPS app on my phone recorded the one-way hike as 2.7 miles and 1100 vertical feet.
We arrrived at the summit around noon and thunderstorms were moving into the area. We both made four quick radio contacts on 2m FM to get the activation points, then headed back down the trail. The summit is exposed and very rocky but once we got off the top, we were hiking in trees with limited lightning danger. Thanks to Bob/W0BV, Jim/KD0MRC, Larry/KL7GLK and Kevin/KD0VHD for working us.
After our first bushwack adventure on this summit, we were not motived to activate this one again. However, using the Davis Meadow Trail has changed our opinion. (Thanks Walt/W0CP!) This route still has some offtrail bushwacking but it is not bad. We will be back!