[amsat-bb] Post-hamfest road trip on 11-12 June - report (long)
amsat at wd9ewk.net
Tue Jun 21 14:26:11 UTC 2016
After the Prescott Hamfest on 11 June, I planned on making a loop through
northern Arizona before returning home the following evening (12 June). I
ended up making stops in 3 grids (this included a grid boundary), three
national monuments, and making an official ARRL National Parks on the Air
(NPOTA) activation in the process. And, of course, having fun while doing
all of this...
When I packed up my stuff at the Prescott Hamfest on Saturday (11 June)
afternoon, and after making a quick stop for dinner as I left Prescott, I
drove north on AZ-89 toward the I-40 freeway. On the way up to I-40 is the
DM34/DM35 grid boundary, and a spot I have operated from in the past. There
is a county road that runs parallel to AZ-89 in that area, near a cement
plant, and this was the spot I looked to operate from. I parked on the grid
boundary, used my GPS receiver to confirm my location, and took pictures of
my setup. I had an XW-2F pass coming by about 45 minutes after I arrived,
and worked that pass with my FT-817ND/SDRplay combination. Only one station
was heard, K0NW in California, but one contact was a nice start to my
efforts at this location.
The pass I had targeted as the best for handing out contacts with these two
grids was an SO-50 pass around 7pm (0200 UTC). I was worried about how I
would be working this pass, after a quick and heavy rain storm passed
through the area after the XW-2F pass. The rain quickly went away, and I
didn't have to put my radios in the car or under some sort of cover to
shield them from the rain. Short of seeing lightning in the area, I wanted
to work this pass, and I did. Twelve QSOs went in the log on this pass,
with stations from coast to coast and also in Canada.
I had over an hour until the next pass I worked at DM34/DM35, a western
SO-50 pass. Between passes, I updated my logbook with the QSOs from the
0200 UTC SO-50 pass, and even uploaded them to Logbook of the World. I had
good coverage on the mobile phone network, so I took advantage of that and
also tried to quickly get at least a few of these QSOs turned into QSLs in
By the time the 0340 UTC SO-50 pass came, there was virtually no light left
in the western sky. Out with a flashlight, and back on the radio for the
west-coast pass. I worked 8 more stations, in Canada and mostly on the west
coast. I did work W5CBF in Louisiana, the furthest east I worked on this
mostly western pass.
During this SO-50 pass, it was mentioned that AO-73 was coming by in a few
minutes (at 9pm, 0400 UTC). I had not planned to work that pass, but knew I
could set up quickly for it. Using my FT-817ND/SDRplay combination again, I
worked two stations on AO-73 to wrap up my stay at the DM34/DM35 grid line.
I knew there was an ISS pass coming by around 10pm (0500 UTC), and I had
mentioned this on Twitter earlier in the day. I had one taker for a QSO
attempt on that pass, and hoped to make it from the DM34/DM35 line over to
grid DM45 near Flagstaff in time for this pass. I made the 50-mile drive in
about 40 minutes to the first I-40 freeway exit inside DM45, only leaving
me a couple of minutes to set up for the ISS pass. As I have been doing
lately, I use only my TH-D72A HT and Elk antenna to work these passes using
APRS messages. I logged two QSOs, with KK6QMS in California and NP4JV in
southern Arizona, to wrap up my operating for Saturday evening. I then
drove the last 20 miles to Flagstaff, checked into a motel, and called it a
Sunday (12 June) morning came, and my plans for this day were simple - work
some passes from a couple of the national monuments around Flagstaff, then
head home. All of these monuments were in grid DM45, and I hoped I might be
able to make one or two official NPOTA activations up in this area. I had
planned to start my day at the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
north of Flagstaff. I went there, and found that this was a tough spot for
satellite operating. The volcano rises above the forest surrounding it, and
the only clearing that I could use to work satellites had no parking area.
I'd have to hike about a mile to work from that clearing. I decided to move
down the road to the Wupatki National Monument next door, and try from
Wupatki National Monument is away from the trees, on the edge of a large
plateau covering much of this part of Arizona. Other than some hills to the
west, this was a great location to operate. The only drawback was that I
had no access to APRS or the mobile phone network in most of this national
monument, without driving back toward Flagstaff or the US-89 highway along
the western edge of this national monument, almost 20 miles west of where I
operated from. The lack of APRS or mobile phone coverage was not going to
The first of the 5 passes I worked was a very low western SO-50 pass just
before 7am (1400 UTC). I hoped someone would be on, to get my day started
with something for the log at Wupatki. Christy KB6LTY was up early like me,
and was my only contact on this pass. One QSO is better than none, and I
felt like this was going to be a good morning. I had over an hour and a
half until a pair of eastern passes, on AO-73 and AO-85. I worked only
WN9Q on the AO-73 pass just before 9am (1600 UTC), followed by 7 other
stations on the AO-85 pass a few minutes later. These QSOs brought me to 9
different stations worked from this national monument, and the next new
call sign in my log would make this an official NPOTA activation.
Between these two passes and the next pair of AO-73/AO-85 passes, I went to
the visitor center for the Wupatki monument to get my passport stamps for
this national monument. I did some sightseeing before returning to where I
worked the early passes, to try the AO-73 and AO-85 passes between 10am and
11am (1700-1800 UTC). The western AO-73 pass was quiet, with no QSOs made.
The AO-85 pass passed almost directly over my head, and this was better.
Seven QSOs, five of which were new calls for my log at Wupatki, were made.
This completed my NPOTA activation, and I drove back to Flagstaff and the
third of the three national monuments around this area, Walnut Canyon
Walnut Canyon National Monument is only a few miles east of Flagstaff along
I-40 and old US-66, still in grid DM45 like the other two national
monuments. The national monument is in a forest, and a national forest
surrounds the monument. For the afternoon, I did not have any other FM
satellite passes available. I had passes on FO-29, AO-7, and the ISS.
After visiting the visitor center to get more passport stamps to show I
visited Walnut Canyon, I parked along the roadway between the visitor
center and I-40, which was within the national monument's boundaries, for
the 5 passes I attempted.
FO-29 was first, around 12.30pm (1930 UTC). There was a lot of activity on
there, and I was able to work 5 different stations. This was a good start
to the afternoon. The ISS pass that followed about 20 minutes after the
FO-29 pass wasn't so good. I heard the station's packet digipeater well,
but made no QSOs.
Around the 2-3pm hour (2100-2200 UTC), I had FO-29 and AO-7 passes. The
FO-29 pass was quieter, and I worked KO6TZ and KI6WJ to add to my log. The
AO-7 pass after that was completely quiet. No QSOs logged. Seeing that I
was now at 7 QSOs for my stop at Walnut Canyon, and hoping to get to the
magic number of 10 different stations worked for an official NPOTA
activation, I stuck around for one last AO-7 pass near 4.30pm (2330 UTC).
This was a complete bust. Although I heard a couple of stations on, AO-7
appeared to make a switch from mode B to mode A. Since the monument
was closing at 5pm (0000 UTC), and I still had a drive of over 2 hours to
get back home, I wrapped up my radio activities for the day and weekend.
Although I was disappointed in not making my stop at Walnut Canyon an
NPOTA activation, I was able to put that monument into a few logs.
Between the Prescott Hamfest and the post-hamfest road trip, I covered over
500 miles in about a day and a half. This was fun, and I hope to be able to
make a return trip to Walnut Canyon to add that to my list of activations
for the NPOTA activity in 2016.
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