Well, QRP Afield 2007 has come and gone. As is customary, our merry little band assembled on Friday afternoon to begin the journey to our campsite for this year’s event. Dave NK0E, John N0HJ, and Steve N0MHQ made up our group this year. Steve N0TU, a regular for these events, was enjoying retired life by hitting the trail for a five-day venture with his goats and his brother-in-law and couldn’t join us this year. Our destination was once again along the Ute Creek Trail in the Lost Creek Wilderness west of Colorado Springs. This area is absolutely perfect for such adventures. It’s easily accessible, not far from water, but yet secluded and sparsely traveled. We can reach the trailhead in an hour and a half from Colorado Springs, the roads to the trailhead are good, and we can reach our campsite in less than an hour’s hike from the trailhead. Yet, we have *never* seen another hiker near our campsite (and I’ve camped in this area at least eight times over the years).
We marshalled the troops and left Colorado Springs by 3 PM, reaching the trailhead around 4:30 after stopping in Woodland Park for a bite to eat. The trailhead was nearly empty, and we passed a couple of hikers with a dog on our way up–they undoubtedly accounted for the only other vehicle at the trailhead. The sky looked a little bit ominous as we hiked, and we heard some far-off thunder rumbles, but that didn’t detract from the absolutely perfect conditions for the weekend. We reached our campsite in about an hour’s time, and after dropping our packs and scouting the area, we each set up our shelters and began relaxing for the weekend. By the time dinner was finished, the sun had set and we were losing our light quickly. This, of course, meant that it was time to sit back, enjoy the company, and admire the evening sky as the stars poked through between the clouds. It was an absolute perfect evening–little wind, moderate temperatures (upper 40’s and low 50’s), and (of course) whatever beverages we chose to bring along.
Saturday morning, I crawled out of my tent expecting to be greeted by a brisk morning with chilly temperatures, but I was mildly surprised that it was already nearly 50 degrees. Down came the food bag from its place above the reach of bears, and after breakfast and morning rituals it was time to get on the air. I packed fairly light for this event–just my ATS-II with 20m band module, and an inverted Y antenna for 20 m. John had his ATS-III with tuner that he packaged into a Batman tin, using (I think) a random wire for an antenna. Steve brought along his SST and inverted Y for 20m, but I don’t think it ever made it out of his pack (sometimes, it’s nice to just enjoy the place and the moment and not worry about trying to work contacts).
So, I got my inverted Y hung in the tree, connected up my ATS-II, flipped the switch to turn it on, and heard–nothing. Nada. The ATS-II annunciates its name in CW when you turn it on, but this time I didn’t hear anything. The rig wasn’t working. Rats.
It was then that I determined that the rig works *much* better if you plug the headphones into the headphone jack instead of the paddle jack. D’oh!!!
But 20 meters was pretty quiet at 9 AM MDT. I heard only one or two very faint QRP stations. I worked WN1GIV not long after 9 AM, but pickin’s were pretty slim after that so I decided to start packing up some of my gear while I waited for the band to wake up a little bit. John was having the same experience with his rig and antenna, so I figured it wasn’t just me. Anyway, off and on through the day we’d get on the air, work a contact or two, and then attend to other activities or simply enjoy being out in the woods.
We’d pretty much reached our limit as 2 PM rolled around (I worked a grand total of 6 stations), so we packed up our gear and headed back to the trailhead and the drive back to town. Despite the sparse band conditions for QRP Afield, we all agreed that it was an *excellent* and thoroughly enjoyable weekend! For us, QRP Afield is as much an excuse to get our backpacking gear out as it is a radio event, so it’s a great time, good bands or bad.
You can see a few pics of our adventure at
73, Dave NK0E