4:50 AM - Cat jumps on bed, waking up Bumblebee No. 49.
5:05 AM - I wasnt planning to get up until 6:00AM, but anticipation
of the days upcoming event keeps me awake. What the heck, Ill
get up now. Its going to be a fun day.
6:00 AM - Backpack and hiking sticks loaded into the car, I buzz off for
the mountain. My target for the day is Timber Mountain, which is an 8300
peak about 40 miles East of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains.
6:25 AM - Arrive at trailhead, Icehouse Canyon at 4960 elevation.
I put on the backpack, stand up, and immediately fall backwards. Yikes,
who packed this thing? I tried to keep it minimalist, but somehow the
pieces all add up to something that feels like 75 pounds. This bee is
definitely not going to fly up the mountain today.
7:30 AM - At the 2 mile mark, I stop for some caloric input. Things are
going well, the first two miles in an hour, and the total distance is
4.3 miles, so I should get there in plenty of time. New Platypus Hydration
Bag works like a charm.
7:36 AM - As I load up and hit the trail again, a young Blonde thing in
short shorts buzzes by me as if I were an old man. Hey! Im supposed
to be the Bee here! She leaves me in the dust.
8:30 AM - I reach the Icehouse Saddle, elevation 7580. This is a
convergence of 5 trails, and there is a small crowd of hikers lying about
in various states of disrepair. I join them. Blondie is there, having
just been joined by her two boyfriends, whom she seriously smoked on the
way up. She jumps up and announces that its time to start back down.
They moan, but somehow find the strength to arise and light off down the
hill after her. After a banana and some trail mix, I push off once again
in the upward direction.
9:30 AM - This bee, having started off so well, finally stumbles into
the clearing at his destination. The last mile took about an hour, meaning
I was going roughly half as fast as I did in the first hour. Somebody
tilted the earth and stole the oxygen. No mercy for us flat-landers. It
took a total of three hours going up, so its a good thing the Cat
woke me up when he did.
9:35 AM - Commence antenna launching activities. Yikes! Who packed this
backpack? He put in 4 pound mono-filament instead of the 10 pounds of
stuff! Talk about flimsy. It works fine at Field Day for launching antennas
with the sling-shot, but try tying a rock on the end of the stuff and
heaving it up in a tree. The least thought of a snag and it snaps. This
is not progressing as planned, and the 10:00AM start of the Flight is
loomimg just a few minutes away.
9:58 AM - The antenna is finally deployed. I chose a three-quarter size
W3EDP for this Flight. It consists of two pieces of #22 wire, the long
one 63 feet and the short one 12.5 feet. It is very light and the K1s
auto tuner can tune it on 40, 20 and 15. The long wire goes up in a tree
about 20 feet, then across to another tree.
9:59 AM - Yikes! Who packed the radio stuff? After a couple frantic minutes
of tearing through the backpack, I arrive at the inescapable conclusion
that neither the balun nor the BNC-to-terminal lug adapter came along
for the trip! Now what? No way to attach the antenna to the radio
10:01 AM - Bumblebee Rule Number Two is that a Bee must be prepared for
emergencies. What, you ask, is Rule #1? A Bee always makes a list and
checks it twice. Fortunately, the nut on the key jack on the back of the
K1 is loose, so I can wrap the counterpoise wire under it and tighten
it down. Luckily, the antenna wire slides directly into the center contact
of the BNC antenna jack. Unluckily, it also slides right out without much
provocation. During the course of the contest the antenna disconnects
itself from the radio only about a dozen times, so I feel lucky.
10:06 AM - After running through all the bands, the tuner has done its
thing and we are radioactive. We dont need no stinkin baluns!
10:15 AM - A few minutes late for the start, but were off and running.
10:35 AM - 20 Meters is playing peek-a-boo. N4BP is calling CQ, but has
managed to syncronize his CQ'ing with the ups and downs of the QSB so
that during his CQ his signal peaks at 579, but by the time he ends his
call, hes down to 529 and theres no chance hell hear
my reply. I give up after four tries. Maybe hell be out of sync
11:00 AM - Sitting on the ground and leaning up against a tree works for
a while, but there are a few drawbacks. First and most important, ones
posterior tends to go dead. Second, and this one was noticed by the keen
eyes of Mrs. BB #49, was that sitting in and leaning against pine sap
makes an ugly mess, including what it does to the seat of ones car
during the return trip. Be careful where you place your bottoms, fellow
Bees! Next trip the checklist will include a small square of foam pad
stuff for protection from the elements. It might also help alleviate the
Dead Bottom syndrome.
11:05 AM - Whoever thought logging with a Palm Pilot (or a Handspring
Visor, in my case) was a good idea must have had a deep malicious streak.
Yes, Ive been practicing my Graffiti like a good little bee, but
man, when the Qs are flying hot and heavy, I cant make an X
or a K for the life of me. Then I drop the stylus on the forest
floor and need to organize my ant friends into a search party to help
12:00 PM - Food happens. At least this is one department where He Who
Packed the Backpack didnt mess up. No wonder the thing was so darn
12:15 PM - My choice of power supply for this occasion was a rather small
2.3 AH gel cell. I know that Bumblebees have an amazing carrying capacity
for an animal that theoretically cant fly, but a 7 AH brick would
have been a bit too much. Concern over the life of this smaller battery
led me to limit the K1s power output to 2 watts, but checking the
battery voltage halfway through the contest confirmed my worst suspicions
I could have had 5 watts the whole time! Rats! That error probably
cost me 40 or 50 Qs!
1:17 PM - I hear Paul, AA4XX down in the crud. Actually, I never hear
his complete call because of the QRM and the QSB, but I hear AA
and later an XX, so it must be him. I give him a call and
he proceeds to copy all my info on the first try. Man, what a set of ears!
All of that low-power work must have sharpened his hearing. Kind of makes
a guy proud to be a member of the same hive.
2:00 PM - The fat Queen Bee sings, and another Flight is in the history
books. All that's left is to stumble back down the mountain. As always,
it turns out to be a learning experience as well as an overall great time.
THE ACCOMPANYING PHOTOGRAPHY:
1 (bb1.jpg) How NOT to attach an antenna to a radio. Except if you
forget the connector.
2 (bb2.jpg) View from operating location. That's the Los Angeles basin
off in the haze. Can't see it?
3 (bb3.jpg) My operating position, in the shade of the tree.
* * * * * * * * * *
Cam Hartford, N6GA, a contributing editor to The ARS Sojourner, is a longtime
QRPer, builder, outdoorsman and contester living in Claremont, CA.