Article by kk6tmn on Feb 12 2017 at 07:02

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A Tale of Two Activations


Well, eventually  it had to happen. My initial expedition (if one can call an air conditioned drive-up, an expedition) proved to  my first "agony of defeat" less-than-4 contact debacle. Due to my own hastiness, trying to pack too light  and not triple checking my pack,  I left an all important BNC jumper cable at home in w6-land. "No Prob, that's why we bring the HT" so out came the Baofeng and sure enough the North American guardian angel of all SOTA travelers, Tommy W7RV was there to greet me on my first CQ call on 146.52 and usher me over to 144.410 to greet the many SOTA lovin' locals who monitor there. And boy could they hear me! The little Baofeng blasting 59 into the Valley of the Sun. They were lining up, an HF style pile-up in the making...or so I was told...I could hear nothing but fuzz. " Ya got one of those little Chinese HTs?" chimed in Tommy (as he simultaneously logged 3 other SOTA contacts.) Me sheepishly: "yeah."  "that's going to be a problem." And indeed only by contorting my body into an odd pretzel shaped counterpoise and holding radio 48.5 degrees off vertical (you think I jest?) was I magically able to pull in W7USA; but despite running around the outskirts of the peak, trying UHF, inviting CW chasing and hiding behind rocks I could not overcome the wall of TV/radio tower QRN rendering my $28 toy near worthless. 2 contacts would be it.

But before I tell you the happy ending, let me rave about this beautiful park. The Flintstones-esque rock formations sprinkled with perfectly spaced Saguaro cacti and Palo Verde trees give it a surreal, almost landscaped feel. Open the windows and breath-in the chaparral! In 20 minutes you are out of Phoenix and in Sonora. Rightfully the road belongs to the cyclists though, so eyes on the road! And if you can handle 6 miles of 8% grade + 1 miles of 12%, bike it! (early on a weekday morning anyway.)

So the following day I got back on the horse that threw me. With  a new cable from HRO, King chaser W7RV and Prince chaser W7USA shepherded me to an exciting day of mostly 20 meter SSB pileups and the Yaesu FT-817 handled the towers just fine, I recommend low in the band (14.228) as I could hear hints of broadcast station across much of the upper band. 40 meters didn't fair as well.

Activation area also seems to be a Verizon LTE dead spot (as is a lot of Phoenix!?) so my day was completely made by Tommy's omnipresent spotting and Ray's support. W7A SOTA hospitality can't be beat. Thanks you two, chasers, especially the ones I couldn't hear!