On Target!: An Outdoor Signaling Adventure
Bob Armstrong, N7XJ
The ARS Sojourner
have a standing date with Boy Scouts and my ham radio gear on a high mountain
top the third Saturday of each July. That's the date of the annual "On
Target" mirror signaling event here in Utah and surrounding states.
On this day hundreds of Scouts and their leaders climb to mountain peaks
to enjoy the outdoors, learn to work with one another and to have fun signaling
the old-fashioned way - with mirrors! Radio is an important part of the
event because it is coordinated by ham operators.
My first experience with "On Target!" was in 1976 while I was a medical student in Salt Lake City. I took a pair of binoculars and my clunky old two meter rig to a mountain peak to look for mirror flashes and listen to the fun on the radio. Since moving back to Utah I've participated in "On Target!" as a Boy Scout leader and as a mountain guide and volunteer ham radio communicator.
"On Target!" began in Salt Lake City many years ago when a leader named Doug Brewer organized his 14 and 15 year old Scouts into groups to signal one another from peaks surrounding the city. The event quickly spread through Utah and more recently to surrounding states. Most of the activity is concentrated in the heavily populated areas nestled against the Wasatch mountain range in North Central Utah. Internet has helped spread the event, and it now involves literally hundreds of boys and leaders all over the region.
How does it work? The event is coordinated by Internet at:
Kirk is a young Eagle scout. On the summit we met three groups of scouts and helped coordinate their signaling efforts with our two meter radios. The sky was hazy from wildfires, but we saw blinding flashes from a large mirror on Mount Nebo about 60 miles away and bright flashes from handheld mirrors about 20 miles south of us coordinated by Dean Harmer, W7DHH. We saw other signals, but our biggest thrill was seeing flashes from a four foot by four foot mirror array on Wheeler Peak in Nevada over 150 miles away. Michael Taylor, K7BYU, who is very active in coordinating "On Target!" events around the Provo, Utah area reported over 100 participants. He coordinated Ham volunteers so that every group had a communicator. Michael has a personal web site describing how to construct signaling mirrors. It's at: http://members.home.net/mdtaylormd/ontarget.htm
Radio adventurers who live in an area where "On Target!" activities occur might enjoy volunteering as a ham communicator. If you live far from the action, you might think of organizing a similar event in your own area, or maybe you would enjoy simply visiting the web site to read about the signaling adventure. Adding mirror signaling to your list of outdoor communication skills is certainly an interesting and worthwhile goal.