Being focused on everything in life besides having a bit of fun camping and wheeling, I realized I was overdue for a trip. I needed to get out of town and enjoy the outdoors a bit. So Tara and I packed up the Nissan Pathfinder and headed to Big Bear where we found a Yellow Post campsite in the forest to make home for a few days. However, this wasn’t a totally random weekend. On the 4th full weekend of every June, the American Radio Relay League hosts a national ham radio event called Field Day. The objective of field day is to contact as many other ham radio stations on the HF bands across North America with the allotted 24hr period.
After we unpacked on Friday night, we strung up a multi-band dipole antenna at about 25 feet in the trees, and hooked up the Icom 746Pro HF Ham Radio. I spun the dial and one of the first signals I hear was a guy talking about how he was absolutely loving his new Icom IC-7300 radio which was just released a few months ago. After making sure everything was working, we hung out around the campfire and eventually called it a night.
Saturday morning started out with Tara & I cooking up some breakfast burrito’s., and eventually I got on the radio while Tara read a book. I started making contacts here and there. The antenna we put up was acting up a little bit and my radio was only putting out half the max power for some reason. After kicking on the antenna tuner, I found that the dipole was tuning on 15, 20, 40 and 80 meters. which was definitely good enough to play around for Field Day.
Later that afternoon Tara and I somehow started talking about trigonometry… I’m not sure exactly how we got on this topic but I blame the juice-box-wine she was having! Soon after the trigonometry talk, she sat in the drivers seat of the radio and started making contacts here n there. She never really liked the hunt n peck method of field day operations, so she eventually started calling CQ Field Day and Wham! Signal after signal started rolling in. I was impressed at the way she logged the contacts quickly and only asking me for call sign verification of those who mumble and the ones with weak signals. After she logged nearly 60 contacts I got back in the drivers seat, for a little bit, then went for a short hike to explore the area around camp. Dinner time rolled around which was cooked on the open fire. We sat around the fire even after dinner talking, joking and having a few adult sodas. Time seemed to just fly by.
The next morning, after breakfast I made a few more contacts before the battery that the radio was running on, ran out of juice. Filed day wasn’t quite over but I was feeling pretty good about even getting out and operating. Tara and I packed up and then explored the lesser traveled roads of the Big Bear forest before heading back down the hill to reality.
During this trip I’ve realized that the accessory wiring in the Pathfinder is getting old, and that the alternator that’s been in there for many years isn’t putting out the power that it should be. I guess it’s time to put in one of the new high output alternators that DC Power Engineering made for Rugged Rocks, and probably find a place to run a second battery to feed the ARB fridge and other accessories. I want to be able to run that HF ham radio off of the trucks power and be able to keep it topped of for full power output.
Although I’ve got some work to do for get serious about field day like I have in past years, this was a great start getting back into it. I’m glad Tara had fun on the radio and maybe next year we can get a few more radios going. maybe I’ll even brush up on my morse code skills to bring in the double points contacts, and maybe even bring some friends along with us. we’re going to need some big antennas for 2017. Lets get competitive.