Update (20 Sept 2009): Here’s wGØAT’s YouTube video of the whole excursion!
Field Day 2009 was a total blast for me this year! After missing the last few years for various reasons, I finally managed to get out of the house and on the trail with Steve wGØAT and his QRP goats Rooster and Peanut (well-known characters here in the list). As usual, we chose Mt. Herman (just west of Monument, Colorado) as our Field Day site, due to its close proximity, elevation, and abundance of excellent campsites.
I met Steve at his place on Friday afternoon, and he promptly provided me with my own official QRPgoat expedition t-shirt–a picture of Rooster with the caption, “Old Goats Rule–QRP Adventures.” For me, this was like getting my Gold Card–I knew I’d *arrived*!
The hike up Mt. Herman is short but steep (with a nice flat section right in the middle). I took the point and Steve hung back a little with Rooster and Peanut. All was smooth and uneventful until, as I neared the top, I heard Steve call out to me, “Dave, grab Rooster!” I turned and saw Rooster trotting up the trail, missing his panniers and fifty pounds of gear. Steve followed close behind, and told me how Rooster (AKA “Knucklehead”) had tried to squeeze between two trees and stripped off his packs, breaking a buckle. We weren’t so worried about the buckle–it was the camp refreshments in the packs that were our main concern. Luckily, there were no casualties. After a quick repair, we were back on the trail and soon arrived at our campsite.
The first order of business at our campsite (after dropping our packs, of course) was to enjoy one of those camp refreshments that Rooster hauled up the hill for us (and for that, I shall refrain from calling him names like Knucklehead). After a little rest and refreshment, we set up camp, got dinner going, and enjoyed a beautiful evening on Sunrise Ledge, a rock outcropping that overlooks Monument, Palmer Lake, and Colorado Springs.
Saturday morning found us busily assembling our stations, deploying antennas, erecting tarps for shade and shelter, and preparing for the Field Day starting gun at noon. Steve brought his Yaesu FT-817 and his ICOM IC-703, along with a variety of fiberglass masts, Buddisticks, and whatnot. I brought my Elecraft K1 (with internal lithium AA’s) and my jumper dipole fed with RG-174.
Steve’s Buddistick is an interesting contraption. Steve configured it in quite a few different ways over the weekend in order to work 6, 10, 15, and 20 meters (I shoulda been paying more attention as he played with it–I mighta learned something). Saturday morning he configured it as a vertical dipole, strapped to a small pine tree at the edge of the cliff, using a length of fiberglass mast to push it higher in the air. Seemed like it was working quite well, too. Until Knucklehead–er, Rooster–wandered by and proceeded to tangle himself in the coax. As he struggled to get free, Rooster snapped the fiberglass mast and brought the whole works down. Thankfully, Steve was quick to disconnect the coax from his rig, and the only casualty was the mast.
Luckily, Steve has goats to haul his gear so he can bring an assortment of backup gear on these expeditions. He had a shorter replacement mast on hand, and soon he was back on the air. Steve worked the HFPack frequencies while we waited for the festivities to begin. Once noon rolled around, I started on 40 meters while Steve worked the higher bands.
I had my K1 set for three watts, and you can imagine that making contacts on 40 meters at noon using three watts took patience and work. I worked ten or so stations, mostly close in. In between contacts I was treated to amusements of various sorts by Steve’s goats. Rooster *really* hates the big deer flies, and he would occasionally take a mad dash across the campsite in a valiant but futile attempt to elude them. It wasn’t long before Steve had Rooster hitched to a tree to avoid a repeat of the morning’s episode. (It should be said that Peanut was a model citizen through the whole weekend…)
Steve took his boys for a little hike around mid-afternoon, so I jumped over to 20 meters where things were really hopping. I’m not bustin’ many pileups with my 3 watts, but I’m gradually filling the log with contacts. My CW’s pretty rusty, too, so I take extra time listening to make sure I get the exchange correct. I programmed the keyer memories in my K1 to send my call sign and my exchange, so I had to touch my paddle only occasionally. (Heaven forbid anybody trying to engage me in a CW ragchew these days…)
All afternoon we were alternately baking and cooling as the sun and the clouds took turns adjusting the thermostat. And, as is usual for Colorado in the summer, the skies darkened in late afternoon and the thunder began to rumble. I disconnected my antenna and made sure that all my gear was stowed, because rain was on its way. Lucky for us, the brunt of the storm passed north of us and to the east, and we only had to hide from the rain for a few minutes. It was quite a show to watch, though, and on Sunrise Ledge it felt like we had ringside seats. We were treated to a neon-bright rainbow in the finale–what a show!
We took advantage of the radio timeout to make some dinner and relax, and after the storms finally passed, Steve jumped on 15 meters and I stayed on 20, and we worked contacts til dark. I’d managed to get about 50 in my log by this point. Not a record-setting pace, but fun!
Sunday morning started with a cup of coffee and a chat with NØMHQ in town about 20 miles away using 2 meters with my Yaesu VX-2R. It’s amazing what a couple of watts and line of site will do, and the VX-2R is a great little rig for dragging along on outings like this. I use it for weather radio, for tuning in the FM stations for a little music, and for local communications. I consider it absolutely essential gear for a trip like this.
Steve and I both worked a few more stations on Sunday morning before it was time to pack everything up and head down the trail. The hike back down was uneventful, and it’s always interesting to see the reactions of other hikers when they encounter Rooster and Peanut on the trail. According to one tiny lad, Peanut is not a goat–he’s a moose!
Anyway, we were back down the mountain and at Steve’s place by noon. It was a good thing, too, as the rain poured on Mt. Herman later that afternoon! Glad our storm-dodging karma was working this weekend!
Thanks a billion to Steve for being a great QRP and backpacking buddy–I don’t know how many times we’ve been out like this, but it’s been a bunch. And thanks to those QRP goats Rooster and Peanut, too–not only for transporting my water and other refreshments up the hill, but also for being a frequent source of amusement and entertainment. And thanks to everyone who was on the air this weekend–great fun!