Trip Report CN93 Green Mtn

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ba...@k7bwh.com

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May 17, 2022, 11:38:20 PMMay 17
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This is the story of a Rover who went roving not once, but twice, to help Jim AA0MZ “Mike Zulu” accomplish his last contact needed to finish the coveted FFMA award. The trip had its own share of problems.

Jim had already worked 487 grids in the continental US. The last grid needed was in Central Oregon, CN93, a dry remote desert-like area known as the Oregon Outback. It’s about 420 miles of driving each way from my home in Seattle.

My first trip to CN93 was Feb 12-13, 2022, to Glass Butte CN93xn. That peak was chosen to be as close as possible to the eastern edge of the grid to shorten the distance to Jim. I was hopeful that my high power, 5-element antenna, and favorable mountaintop location would do the ‘heavy lifting’ for a 1300-mile meteor scatter contact with Jim. It didn’t work. We had to conclude that MSK would never work for this path and grid square. For an overview, see QST April 2022, “World Above 50 MHz”.

My second trip to CN93 was May 14-15, 2022, to Green Mountain CN93pj. I chose this peak as a favorable spot with good altitude, an open horizon, nice campsite, and enough space for another ham to join me in case his schedule worked out. Thanks to Matt KC7OOY for scouting and suggesting this spot.

On Friday, May 13, I drove from Seattle to Green Mtn, which should be an 8-hour drive. After filling the tank in Prineville, the natural approach is to go due south to enter the park's unpaved roads. But no, my Garmin Overland navigator had a very different idea, and directed me in a gigantic circle around the park to enter the wilderness area from the south side. This is a reminder that GPS navigation systems are poorly informed about unpaved roads. In primitive wilderness areas it can't distinguish between wide maintained roads and ranchers' pasture trails. This time, Garmin's "most direct route" included the dead-end private driveway to the Morrison Ranch, and a large herd of black cows clamoring for dinner, and a dwindling ATV trail through soft sandy scrubland. Thankfully the rancher happened by in his pickup truck and provided directions.

However, the misrouting added an hour and a half to the trip, and I finally arrived at sunset. I re-hydrated something elegant for dinner and went to bed, delaying set-up until morning.

On Saturday morning, I worked meteor scatter all around the Pacific NW for up to 900 miles in every direction. It was trivial to contact my good friend Ed N7PHY on his weekend rove to a mountaintop in DN08. But the 6m band didn’t give me the direction or distance needed for Jim AA0MZ in Kansas about 1330 miles away. We spent hours dedicated to “blind calling” toward each other. I decoded only one sequence from Mike Zulu and he never heard me.

In the afternoon, I worked FT8 making contacts around the Pacific NW out to about 900 miles again but no further, as if all signals were blocked beyond Denver. Mike Zulu and I spent another hour or two focused on working each other and again were stymied. I decoded only one sequence and Jim none at all.

From time to time, I heard PY2XB in grid GG66 on the southern coast of Brazil over 6,000 miles away. Now, the chance to work TEP (trans equatorial propagation) was a possible prize not to be missed. So, I turned up his power output as far as I could. The outcome wasn’t nearly as fun as hoped. It turned out the power limit was announced by the kilowatt amplifier made arcing sounds, a big bang, and releasing its magic smoke. This was a dreadful setback. I was limited to 100w output for the rest of the trip. Further, my IC-7300 could only run from my LiFePo battery and not from the generator. And the battery could not recharge at the same time as it was being used. The remainder of the weekend operated in a duty cycle of about 2 hours of usage and 3 hours of recharge. I planned my meals and rest breaks around the recharge cycles.

On Sunday, we had another day of lousy propagation without enhancement. The propagation maps at PSK Reporter showed the East Coast in fabulous E-skip conditions, while the West Coast with zero propagation eastward past Denver. How frustrating. But there are some digital tricks available. We tried the super sensitive mode of Q65-30A for almost two hours. I decoded one sequence at -35 dB, and Jim had no decodes at all. So, we tried the even-more-sensitive modes of Q65-120A and -120E. No luck. No decodes. All we had after two days was discouragement and sore butts.

At 0200z (7 pm Pacific) our luck improved. The E-clouds finally moved and new paths opened in the ionosphere. I first heard Francis KV5W, a well-known grid chaser, and began a contact with him using FT8. Then I heard AA0MZ too, but I might as well finish with Francis first, right? Wrong! I heard Mike Zulu for only  one sequence and the path disappeared. Was the skip all done? You can imagine me kicking myself for not delaying Francis and working him right away. At the moment, we desperately feared the band’s opening was only one contact long.

Thankfully, a few minutes later, Jim and I easily worked each other on FT8. This finished Jim's long chase for all 488 grids. A new FFMA winner is born, the first such award in 2022 that we know of. All it took was two trips, four days on the air, and driving 1600 miles.

I went on to work KV5W, W5VY, N4WW, and a dozen more lucky grid chasers for 45 minutes until the band died again. All with only 100 watts output power. The skip was extraordinarily narrow, in the sense of a very thin track from CN93 to Florida EL98 about 2420 miles away, and many points along this line. See the screen shot below from PSK Reporter to visualize the path.

A rover's bottom line: Be sure to linger in a spot as long as you can. You won't know what can happen until you go there. You have to be there and be ready for sudden band openings. A good antenna is essential but high power is optional.

73 Barry K7BWH /R

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Alexrules11

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May 18, 2022, 12:08:43 AMMay 18
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Barry,

Congratulations on the successful Rove! My deepest condolences for your amplifier. Just wanted to mention that I happened to also be on 6 meters FT8 this past weekend during the band opening and I recall seeing your callsign decoded by WSJT-X amongst some of the other callsigns decoded that were coming in from the midwest and some of the states down south that happened to have a path here to DN13. Good idea with the QSO attempts using the newer WSJT-X modes.

Thanks!
-Alex P. KJ7KIN

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ba...@k7bwh.com

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May 18, 2022, 12:27:50 AMMay 18
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What fun to see callsigns you recognize on the waterfall. I bet you’re popular in DN13.

That was quite a spectacular early-season band opening we had, and strangely so geographically narrow. Thank goodness we had it! I’d really hate to have to go back to CN93 yet again.

A replacement 6m amplifier arrives tomorrow. A good friend is selling me his backup 6M1K2. And another local friend will help diagnose my blown PW-1 and see if we can fix it. His first guess is the problem is probably the power supply which is a couple thousand $ from Icom and unobtanium otherwise.

73 Barry K7BWH

John MacDuff

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May 18, 2022, 12:43:34 AMMay 18
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Barry,
   Great story with a great ending. Thanks for sharing,  John KA7TTY

Joe Decuir

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May 18, 2022, 1:02:24 AMMay 18
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This is an amazing story.  I am glad that you can help him activate all grid squares.

 

I use an IC-7300 and I can also run it directly from a Goal Zero Yeti 500X battery.

I have a portable vertical antenna, which I will use again on 2022 Field Day.

 

Joe Decuir, KF7BMD

Issaquah Amateur Radio Club, W7BI.com

Issaquah CERT 0015, Zone 14

E: jde...@ieee.org

E: jde...@uw.edu

M: 425-985-1562

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Marine Radio Adventure.pdf

Lara F.

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May 19, 2022, 9:45:41 AMMay 19
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Thank you for sharing, Barry!!! This is amazing! 73, Lara

 

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