Tuesday, October 26, 2021

W7RTA Home QTH Rain Gutter Antenna

 After upgrading my ham license to general in March of 2021, I looked to different ways to enjoy the hobby. Antenna theory  is very technical and I enjoy learning what I can about it. But at some point, all the numbers, graphs and such are a bit challenging for me. At my home QTH, I have some challenges. I live in an HOA. I live between two broadcast AM radio stations. I live up on a hill 900'. At the top 1200', there is a massive commercial antenna farm. I was able to put up a random wire antenna that was mostly hidden from the street (HOA Rule). That works very well. But one day during the summer of 2021, I looked up at my home and was wondering what I could do to deploy another antenna. All of a sudden it hit me. I recall reading about folks using gutters as antennas in nursing homes, HOA's, etc. So I inspected my gutter on my home. The wheels in my brain were spinning with ideas. 

The gutter on my home does not wrap completely around the roof. One side, the gutter is in several sections. The other side, west side, has a more complete length of gutter. One downspout that runs down near my shack. The downspout does not touch the ground. There is a plastic pipe that the downspout rests on at ground level. I examined the west side more and found it wraps from part of the back of my home to part of the front of my home. The downspout is connected to that section. 

For my random wire antenna, I use a 9:1 Unun that I purchased off of Ebay https://www.ebay.com/itm/191903715614 . I thought, what the heck. That works well with my random wire. So I figured I would try it on the gutter. I have a spare 9:1 Unun, I took a 6" 16ga wire and removed the plastic sheath from the ends. I put a self tapping screw about 2 inches above the plastic pipe on the downspout. Connected the wire to the screw. The other end of the wire to the Unun. With the random wire, I use a MFJ Common mode choke. https://mfjenterprises.com/products/mfj-915 . I have a 20' and a 30' RG 8X feedline cable with PL259 connectors on each end. I put the common mode choke inline between the two feedlines. I have a ground rod nearby and I connect the PL259 connector closest to the shack, to the ground rod. I find it important to have at least 20' of feedline from the unun to the choke. The shield of the cable acts as a counterpoise. The choke and ground help keep the RFI and other noise out of the shack. 

In the shack I use a Morgan Filter M-400X  to filter out as much of the AM Broadcast signal flooding my antennas. https://kf7p.com/KF7P/Morgan_Filters.html . I also use a MFJ-939 auto tuner. Icom 7300 radio. 

During the summer of 2021 I tested my gutter antenna set up. I was surprised on the first attempt. It worked! 80m to 10m . I didn't need to use my ATU on 20m to 10m. A couple bands in between I needed the ATU. I ran some tests with FT8 and my reach was quite impressive.

After testing the set up, I found a few things that keep me from using it full time. My kid's rooms are up closest to the gutter. The RFI on their headphones and other things was a little annoying to them. The noise being picked up by the gutter is slightly more than my wire antenna. The gutter antenna doesn't 'hear' as well as the wire. Probably because of the noise is slightly higher. 

Fast forward to October 23rd 2021. I had a guy come out and trim some trees away from the house. I had to take down the wire antenna. I hooked up the 9:1 Unun to my gutter and used it for several days. I mostly operated digital, as I wasn't feeling well and didn't feel like talking much. I did make some SSB contacts. The gutter antenna performed quite well. Confirmed contacts using FT8 on 40m with South Africa, China and Japan. I used multiple bands. 75m, 40m, 30m, 20m, 15, 12m, 10m. I made contacts on all those bands. All across the country and even into South America. I check into a net on 75m and no one can tell the difference in my signal. 

I bet you are wondering what would happen when it rains. It has been raining for three days straight and I cannot see any degrade in performance. No whacky SWR. We'll see what happens when it snows. 

Not every gutter is installed the same. If you are looking at this as an option, I would consider how many downspouts. How long of a run from the unun tot he farthest point of the gutter. I would recommend isolating to one downspout. Meaning if there are more than one inline, I would put a rubber or plastic insulator to to remove the other downspouts from the antenna system. If the gutter is too long, I would consider isolating a portion of it to shorten the antenna. Experiment and find what works for you. 

It is nice knowing that
I have a viable backup to my main wire antenna. Especially as winter sets in and damage to the wire will probably happen during ice, snow and wind storms. 

The below pic shows the red line where the gutter is. 
Notice how it ends in the front and back of the home. 

The contacts made in the three days using the gutter on FT8/4 

This is the 9:1 Unun I use for my random wire and gutter. 


The MFJ-915 

The Morgan Bandpass Filter

Sunday, October 10, 2021

My Ham Portable Operations


Charlie Bottita

I am often asked what equipment and antennas I use when operating ham radio via portable. Here is a break down of what I use. Pics towards the bottom. 

**Pictures are at the bottom**


Icom IC 7300 

Xiegu G90

HT's - Baofeng and a Yaesu (I use these mostly for SOTA. 

I use the IC7300 in my home shack and portable. I made a 'rack' for the radio, bandpass filter and tuner. When I do Parks on the Air (POTA), I mostly use this radio. Living in the Pacific Northwest, the need for extra power is helpful. There are not as many POTA hunters on the west coast, as there are on the east coast. So the extra power is helpful. Having the radio in a rack makes it easy to pick up from my shack to my van. I thought about buying another radio, but this set up works and is very portable. The rack is made from a plastic 3 drawer from Walmart. I took out the drawers and cut the frame. I mounted each item using zip ties. 

The Xiegu G90 I use mostly for Summits on the Air (SOTA). Or if I am out on my scooter . The G90 has a very low power draw and is not too heavy. The built in tuner is great. So no external tuner needed. In the pic below, I am using the G90 on a drive up summit. I have it set up to do digital modes. 

Antennas and masts:

Various lengths of end fed random wires with a 9:1 unun ( https://www.ebay.com/itm/191226640113 )

20m speaker wire dipole homemade

Hamsticks, Hamsticks and Hamsticks https://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-011589

Hamstick Dipole - https://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-014059

Jackite 31' windsock pole  https://www.jackite.com/online-store/Windsock-Flying-Poles-c21767998 

Harbor Freight Push Up Flag Pole  https://www.harborfreight.com/20-ft-telescoping-flag-pole-kit-64342.html  

21' Crappie Pole from Amazon  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074M6BRZ8/?th=1&psc=1 

Electric fence post  https://www.google.com/shopping/product/3228771980588713026 

Triple 5" Mag Mount for Hamsticks - https://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-006460

Single 5" Mag Mount for Hamsticks - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013HHINDS/

Random Wire -For POTA and SOTA I utilize the random wire antenna with the 9:1 unun. I carry 41', 58' and 84' lengths. Those seem to work the best for the bands I want to use. This is a compromised antenna, but it works very well. I have made many many contacts around the world using both my G90 and 7300. I also use a MFJ Common mode choke 20' in between two feed lines. The random wire can be set up in various configurations, depending on my situation. When doing SOTA, I carry the crappie pole and the 41' random wire. I run the wire up the pole, with the unun at the base. Then I take the remaining wire, and tie it off with mason string so that the antenna is an inverted L. When doing POTA, I use the 31' Jackite pole with the random wire. Depending on my location, I can choose which wire length. I also run the wire up the pole, with the unun at the base. The remaining wire, I will tie off with mason string to a electric fence post. Or use the Jackite pole and slope the wire with the unun on the lower end. 

Speaker wire dipole - I made this antenna out of some speaker wire I had laying around and a female PL259 connector. I trimmed the wires and on the first try got them at the right length. This antenna works very well. I use my Jackite windsock pole as the center mast and run a feed line to my radio. 

Hamsticks - I use Hamsticks in different configurations depending on my needs. 

    Mag Mounts- The simplest method is using the above mag mounts and putting what ever bands I want to work on the top of my van. Once the Hamsticks are tuned, they work great! Very easy to deploy and be on the air in a couple of minutes. I do not drive with these on the roof. Although I did a 5 hour drive with a 20m on the roof and my G90 talking to folks all across the country. 

    Hamstick Dipole - I purchased the above flag pole to use with my Hamstick dipoles. I have two dipoles that I deploy. A 20m and 40m. I mount the flag pole to the side of my van with a bucket with weights at the base, and a 8' painter pole that is mounted to the rack on my van. I bungee cord the flag pole to the painter pole. This set up supports the flagpole very well. I have the two dipoles and two feedlines on the flag pole up 20' in a cross formation. The benefit of this set up is that it is less noisy than a vertical hamstick on the roof of my van. The dipoles also 'hear' the S0 signals so much better. I can turn the dipole to eliminate some noise from nearby sources at times. To deploy this set up is not very difficult. The drawback is that I only have 2 bands. I add other bands to the mag mounts on my roof. So I have 4 bands available to me. I can switch the mag mount hamsticks very quickly if I want to work other bands. 

    Free standing - Yes, Hamsticks free standing. I have a short tripod I fastened a 3/8" mirror mount on. I built several lengths of radials to use with this set up. I put a hamstick on the tripod about 2' off the ground and attach 4 to 8 radials. This works. And it works pretty good. I also bought a handful of measuring tapes from the Dollar Store and put clips on them to use as radials. Those work great. Easy to deploy and store. This has been more of an experiment and I don't use it often. But it works. 

Batteries / Solar- 

Lead Acid 100ah and 36ah Deep Cycle  

Miady 16ah Lifepo4 (3 in parallel) and a 8ah https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07X7MD2JK/
8ah Miady -  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07X5G2FFW/

Lead Acid -  I use these batteries while camping. They work well for keeping things charged, such as my laptop, lights and other things. But for use with the IC7300, they are not practical. They do work for the G90 though. The batteries are bulky and heavy. So they take a back seat to the Lifepo4 batteries. 

Miady 16ah Lifepo4 - I had purchased one of these batteries to try. It worked very well. So I bought two more. The trick to running them parallel to start is to make sure they each are at the same charge level and voltage. I wired the three batteries together to make 48ah. I put them in a ammo can I picked up from Harbor Freight. I have a watt meter I use inline between the battery and the radio https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B088NC3PZG/ This lets me know how many watt hours/ah I have used. This is critical with Lifepo4 batteries, as the voltage reading does not let me know how many watt hours are left. So I can look at the meter to see how many watt hours / amp hours were consumed. On the flip side, I plug the meter inline when charging. This tells me how many watt hours are being sent from the charger to the batteries. If I consume 11ah, then I should see 11ah from the charge when complete. 

Miady 8ah - I purchased this to use with my G90 when I need to be most portable. Like when I do SOTA. This battery size can be carried on a plane. The G90 consumes 1.75ah per hour of full duty cycle (I tested using FT8 for one solid hour). So I can get many hours of use before the battery needs to be recharged. 

Solar - I purchased the Harbor Freight Solar Panels a few years ago. They worked well for camping and charging the lead acid batteries (The charge controller that came with it is only good for lead acid). I disliked having 4 panels to set up each time. So I purchased a Rich Solar panel off of Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DNP14JY/ . This also worked with the charge controller from Harbor Freight to charge my lead acid batteries. After I purchased the Lifepo Batteries, I had to buy another charge controller https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MU0WMGT/ This is very inexpensive. The lead acid controller had no RFI issues. But the Lifepo charger does. I increased the length of the cable from the charge controller to the batteries and put a 1" toroid wrapped with the cable. That has all but eliminated the RFI. I am one that likes to use what I have for a project. I had several old laptop wall chargers laying around. They are 15v at 3amp. I wired one with a plug similar to my solar panel. I plug the laptop charger into the charge controller when I am home, and charge my batteries. It works very well. (The charge controller doesn't know the source is not solar) The charge controller limits the voltage that is required by the batteries. The batteries have a BIM Battery Isolation Manger built into them. So when they reach full, they tell the controller to not send any more. I charge the three 16ah in parallel. I also set up something similar to charge the lead acid batteries with the other charge controller.   

When I am in the field and the sun is out, I can run my IC 7300 full power most of the day while the Lifepo batteries stay fully charged. For 5-6hrs of use, the IC 7300 will consume about 13ah of battery. 

POTA Van - I have a 2015 Honda Odyssey that I have removed the middle seats and folded down the back seats. I put in a 'bench' seat of totes with pads on top. I am 5'7" and I fit sleeping across right behind the driver and passenger seat. I have some side boards I made to protect the interior sides. I put a board across the top and use it as a table. I lined the floor with removable linoleum. I use this rig for camping and for POTA activations. As well as other ham activities. It is very comfortable to operate in. 

Extra Gear - If I want to put my random wire up in a tree, I have a couple ways of doing that. I have rope with a weighted end I toss up. It works, but I cannot go very high. I also have a crossbow pistol that I mounted a Zebco closed face fishing real onto. I added weight to one of the darts and I put a fishing swivel on it. I point and shoot the dart with good accuracy up to about 50' into a tree. The dart will slide down the other side of the tree, I will then tie a mason string to the dart and 'reel' it back over to me with the mason line. I will then tie the mason line to the wire and pull that back over the tree. I do this mostly in the forest and not parks. https://www.amazon.com/80-lbs-Self-Cocking-Pistol-Crossbow/dp/B00EFF1K1E/ I had the crossbow already, so I didn't go out and buy one. There are other options for getting lines in a tree, but this works for me. 

Headset and PTT - I use a headset/mic when operating POTA mostly. I can hear much better with a headset on. And the mic frees my hands to log. I made a PTT out of an unused light switch. Hey it works and cost me nothing to make :) I have several headsets that have a 3.5mm female port on them. This is so a wire can plug in and go directly to a mp3 player, tv, etc. The headsets I have are comfortable. The IC7300 and the G90 both use electret microphones. I purchased a couple of these https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KHRWC78/ for $15 on Amazon. They work great! This splitter is required https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B094VS7HBP/  as well as an adapter for each rig. A headset with a port like this one is what I use https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZN2IZ1Q/

Computer  - When Portable, I operate on phone and digital. I have a dedicated laptop that I purchased used from https://blairtech.com/laptops/ I paid $119 for it. It is a Lenova Yoga 11e. I bought additional RAM to make it 8gb. Check back with that site, as they have new deals often. That laptop works well for my portable operations. I also use it in my shack for digital and logging. The only problem is battery life. All laptops have this issue. I can get a solid 4 hours of use , which is good for most activities. I also have an external battery I had laying around to charge it. So I can get another 3-4 hours from it. I also had a small 10" Windows tablet laying around. I had thought about putting together a Raspberry Pi system, but I found the Windows tablet works. One big plus with the tablet is it is charged via 5v USB-C. I have about 10 USB batteries ranging from 3000mah to 15000mah. I ran some tests using the tablet with FT8 for an hour. It only consumed 1,000mah of power. That was consistent use for the hour. The internal battery lasts about 3+ hours. But I plug in any of my USB batteries and I can get days and days of use. https://www.amazon.com/CHUWI-Hi10-Quad-core-1920x1200-Multi-Touch/dp/B087WNHD88/ I use the tablet without the keyboard (it detaches), as I really don't need to type much when doing FT8. Using the keyboard does use slightly more power, but not too bad. 

Logging Software - when I am portable I use HAMRS. I use this for POTA and SOTA. I use it with my Samsung 8" tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard. I also log on paper at the same time. When I hear a call sign coming back to my CQ , I write the call sign on my notepad. As I repeat the call sign and give a signal report, I type it into HAMRS. I use a headset, so this is easy to do while talking. Having the call signs on paper gives me a good backup if something were to happen to the digital log. When done with my POTA activation, I export the ADIF file and email it to myself. Assuming I have cell service. When I get home, I import that ADIF file into my N3FPJ ACLog software and upload to eQSL and LoTW. I try to send my logs to the POTA area rep for upload into the POTA system about once a week. I may activate several times a week. For SOTA, I do it a little different. I just log on paper, then enter into HAMRS. Why? Because Summit 2 Summits are handled correctly. I can review the ADIF file before uploading to the SOTA site and my ACLog. It works for me. 

Internet Access - I have a Visible Wireless phone. For $25 I get unlimited data/phone and hotspot on the Verizon system. My data speed can be throttled during peak times, but I rarely run into that. I launch the hotspot on my phone to use with my Samsung tablet. I have a cell booster with a cell yagi antenna. I use then when camping and works well. I have an older version of this I bought refurbished. https://www.amazon.com/weBoost-Signal-Booster-Cradle-Holder/dp/B073V5S3T7/  This is the Yagi I use. https://www.amazon.com/Electronics-Wideband-Directional-700-2700-314411/dp/B00J14YEHQ/

Pics of my setups. 

This is the setup inside my van. The rack on the left contains the IC7300, MFJ Auto Tuner and a Broadcast AM Bandpass filter (mostly needed at home). The tablet is used for logging as well as the pad. 

The G90 on the left. The Chuwi 10" Windows tablet on the right. I did a SOTA activation using FT8. (Wanted to test the viability and it worked well)
The small tripod with the hamstick mounted and tape measure radials. This was 20m and it worked very well for my SOTA activation. 

When using the 20m speaker wire dipole on the 31' Jackite windsock pole, I run a 41' random wire sloping down. The 9:1 unun is at the low end. This set up gives me resonant 20m and I can band hop using the random wire. 

The Jackite pole can be used many different ways. Here I am using it to support the JPole roll up antenna I have for 2m/70cm. 

When I am out in the forest, I take my somewhat off road scooter. The bag has the G90 and other items. The 21' crappie pole is seen here too attached to the bag. 

21' crappie pole at a local park.

The 21' crappie pole is attached to my scooter. I am using the G90 at a local park with a 41' random wire. 

The 20m speaker wire dipole supported by the 31' Jackite windsock pole. 

My solar panel and my POTA-Mobile

The Harbor Freight flagpole supporting the 40m and 20m hamsitck dipoles. Each have their own feedline. 

This is how I support the flag pole on my van. The painter pole is extendable. When done, I twist and slide it back in. . 

The base of the flagpole I use a small bucket with weights and a piece of PVC the flag pole is inserted in. 

The inside of my POTA-Mobile (Van)

If you have any questions, you may email me at charliebottita@hotmail.com 

73 W7RTA

Monday, September 27, 2021

Summer 2021 POTA Hamming W7RTA

 Since upgrading my ham license in March, I have been exploring various aspects of the hobby. As I experimented with different modes and abilities, one thing was certain. I enjoy being outdoors. Earlier in the summer I embraced the Summits On The Air program (SOTA). See my previous blog. I also dabbled with Parks On The Air (POTA). I wasn't able to get out camping as much as I hoped during the summer. Michael came home from school in June. Then there were fires in many of the areas I wanted to explore. If it wasn't the fires, it was the smoke from them keeping me away. I got sick and so on. So I focused on the POTA around the Portland area. 

What is POTA. It is Parks On The Air. It is a program set up to get hams out of their homes (shacks) otherwise known as home QTH and into the outdoors. Participating in POTA requires a portable set up. Meaning, most of the time a ham radio needs to run on battery power. An antenna needs to be set up and taken down each time. There are designated parks that are listed in the program. Usually state and national parks. National Forests, national trails etc.. There are many of these in each state. Oregon has a large number and some nearby my home QTH. QTH is what hams use as an abbreviation for location. Activating a park means that a ham operator made 10 contacts with other hams any where in the world, while in the 'Park'. A hunter is someone that is not in a park, but is seeking and making contact with someone in a park. Hams in a park can contact another ham in another park and that is called Park to Park. Or P2P. 

So why participate in POTA? It gets me out of the house and into the outdoors. There is less noise on the radio from appliances from my home or a neighbors home. I can play with and test many different portable antenna types. Others participating in POTA will 'hunt' me and make contact with me. There are awards for activators and hunters. I meet some awesome people in person and on the radio. 

I have activated several parks in the Portland area. Each park can be activated as many times as a ham wants to. There are many other locations in the Portland Area and in Oregon. One of which is the Oregon National Historic Trail (K-4576). Each park is given a number. The rule for POTA is that a trail, an activator needs to be within 100'. I had learned the Oregon Trail is on the Willamette River from Oregon City down stream to where it meets the Columbia River. I did some investigating and found that Meldrum Bar Park in Gladstone has several spots within the park that is close to the water (within the 100' requirement). I have been going to this park frequently to activate. I have made many many contacts while at this park. Over 1000. And I have activated the park over 20 times. This gained me what is known as a Kilo Award and a Repeat Offender Award. The awards are PDF files that can be printed if we wish. I do that and frame the meaningful ones. You can see my various awards by clicking HERE on my profile page. On a side note, the Meldrum Bar Park has a big pile of wood chips. Free for the taking. There were some areas of my yard that needed to be covered. Each time I go to the park and activate, I bring home several bags of chips. See pics below. 

At times when at the park, my set up draws a lot of attention. My antennas I use make it appear I am trying to communicate with aliens. While at the park, I have had people ask me if I was tracking fish. Talking to Martians. Spying on people and so on. It is always fun to meet new people at the park and explain to them what I am doing. I have met other hams that come by to visit too. I use my minivan while camping. I also use it when I am doing POTA. It is comfortable inside and quiet. But I can still enjoy my surroundings. I have several different types of antennas. A couple different radios. I run them on battery power. If the sun is out, I will set up my solar panel to keep the batteries charged. This set up has talked the world. Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Sweden, Slovenia, England, France, Russia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and many others. Each trip to the park, I never know how far I will reach. Some days are better than others. What do we talk about? Not much really. Lol. Usually the exchanges are quick. There are often times that I will talk to other hams for a bit longer. This is called a QSO. We talk about what park I am at. What the other ham set up is like as well as mine. But mostly for POTA, the exchange is quick with a simple signal report exchange (meaning how well I hear them and how strong their signal is). And they will share their location (QTH). 

This is my typical radio set up. My ham radio is on the bottom left. My tablet and pad I use for logging who I contact. 

This is my 'wire' antenna. It is called a dipole because there are two sides to it. The pole in the middle is a windsock pole that extends up to 31'. 

This is my 'Hamstick' dipole at the top. There are two of them that make the X. The pole is a push up flagpole from Harbor Freight. It extends to 20'. The antenna on the roof of my van is a single 'Hamstick' on a magnetic mount. 

Now you can see why my set up draws a lot of attention. And I get many questions :) 

Here is a map that shows where my contacts were that I made during my last activation. 

The yellow dots on the map indicate a park that is included in the POTA program. These are many in NW Oregon. The National Forest, such as Mt Hood NF, is part of the program and cover a large area. 

Wood Chips. I have nicknamed my activations in this park. The 'Wood Chip Kilo'. Since I earned the Kilo award for this park :) 

"Really officer. Those are wood chips in those bags. " :) 

Thank you for reading my blog. 73 W7RTA  (73 means Best Regards followed by my call sign)

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Ham Radio and Scooter Adventure May 2021 W7RTA

Last summer, I had been seeing a pain psychologist. He told me to replace the things that I was no longer able to do since my brain injury diagnosis. Last summer I purchased an off road scooter to replace my mountain biking activities. The scooter has been a lot of fun and has taken me to areas I would no longer be able to experience.  The scooter was first. Second, he knew of my involvement with my kid's sports activities. Now they are older and in college, those activities are no longer. He gave me a homework assignment over the winter of 2020/21 to replace those activities. I struggled all winter trying to find something I could do. I realized that I still had my ham license. The license level I had was  a beginner level, Technician Class. I had limited access to certain ham activities. I began playing with the radios I had and quickly realized that I needed to upgrade my license to enjoy the hobby more. An upgrade would require me to study and pass a General Class test. The next level from Technician. The studying was very difficult for me. I could only study 1/2 hr per day. It was all my brain could handle. I started studying in early February 2021. By the 3rd week in March, I knew I had to either plan on taking the test or stop studying. I felt it was now or never. For several days, I took practice tests and was not doing well. But each practice test I did better and better. I finally got to a point I felt confident in taking the real test. I scheduled the online test via zoom with the VE's. Volunteer Examiners. Out of 400 questions possibilities, I would have to get 26 out of 35 correct to pass. When I finished the test and clicked the submit button I could not believe what the result was. I got 35/35. I cried. It was very emotional for me. The VEs were very excited and happy for me. They knew the struggle I had to get to that point. Passing that test opened many doors for me with the ham hobby. It gave me the replacement I needed to fulfill the request from my pain psych. I already had a ham call sign, but I wanted to change it. So I am known as W7RTA (Old call KG7IHK) 

So what activities are now available to me? Ham operators are given privilege's to frequencies. As a Technician Class, I was only given a small portion of the frequencies available. Mostly local contacts. As a General Class, I can now access many of the frequencies used to talk the world. Computer data, Morse Code and Phone (talking) over all the newly available frequencies to me. Two of the activities that sparked my interest was Summits On The Air (SOTA) and Parks On The Air (POTA). 

SOTA is where you hike up to a summit (hill or mountain top) and use a portable radio set up to make contacts with at least 4 other hams to gain the activation. At first I thought that would not be something I could do. But I quickly learned that there are many SOTA locations that I can use my van or scooter to reach. With none to minimal walking. 

POTA is where you set up a portable radio set up in a designated State or National Park/Forest and make contact with at least 10 other stations to gain the activation. 

 Over the past couple of months, I was able to 'Activate' two summits in the Portland area. They were simple summits and it was fun to get my first summits activated. I began planning a camping trip to the Metolius River Basin for May 23rd. I had a goal of activating a summit in that area. I also planned on activating the Deschutes National Forest for POTA. Both were a success. 

Now for the details of the SOTA and POTA activations. 

I camped in my van near Camp Sherman Oregon in the Deschutes Nationals Forest.

The POTA activation on Monday May 24th was fairly simple. I use an 84' random wire with a 9:1 UnUn. I had it up about 40' sloped up facing the NW. I used my IC-7300 with a deep cycle marine battery charged via solar. All set up in my van. On May 24th, I was able to gain the minimum 10 contacts for the activation. 14 total. Throughout the week, I made an additional 50+ contacts. Including 2 in Australia and 1 in Lithuania.

SOTA requires me to be on a designated summit. Since I was in the Metolius area, I found a summit nearby W7O/CN-100. Each summit is given a code designation for logging. It looked very simple and had potential for my scooter to get me close. I reviewed maps and satellite photos in preparation. But neither would give me the knowledge to make a quick trip to the summit. 

I attempted to get near the summit from the east from Forest Service Road 1270720. I found myself bushwhacking through very thick Manzanita bushes. There was a fire in this area (B&B Complex) in 2003. The area was stripped of trees. The hills are covered in 4' to 6' Manzanita bushes now. I attempted to walk up the hill as far as I could and going very slowly. One because of the thick brush. Two, because of my brain injury. I turned back after about 100 yards. The Manzanita was like a cheese grater on my legs. Lots of scratches. I regrouped and studied the maps some more. I found there was a road on the west side of the hill that appeared to get me close to the summit. I road my scooter to Forest Road 1200700. I was able to get a little distance in and near the base of the summit. The road was primitive and rough. There were downed trees blocking me from getting close to what appeared to be another primitive road to the summit. 

I walked up road 1200700 hurdling a few downed trees. I approached the location where the old primitive road to the top of the summit began. At first it looked somewhat clear of manzanita. But that changed quickly. The road still exists at the base of the bushes. Walking up requires bushwhacking. It was a tiny bit easier than the east side, so I continued. That changed quickly too. I was half way up going very slow and resting often. I had set my goal and I was not going to fail. I had lots of time to complete this. I muscled through the thick cheese grater brush. My legs were raw from the dry manzanita branches scraping them. Several times I could not find the primitive road. Which seemed to not really matter. But I used Google Satellite view to give me an idea if I was headed the right direction. After over an hour of pushing through the brush, I made it to the summit. If I wasn't so tired from the climb, I would have cried. It was very emotional for me. I haven't hiked in over 4 years. Of course, I had to pick a summit that was much more difficult than I should have attempted. I will not do that type of summit again. Lesson learned. I rested for a moment and found several ticks walking up my leg. Oh joy. I pulled them off. I have never experienced ticks in this region until now. I took in the scenery while eating a snack and drinking water. I set up my portable ham radio. A Xiegu G90, Miady 16ah battery and a 41' end fed random wire 9:1 UnUn. I had the feed point on the base of a 21' crappie pole and the remaining wire into an inverted L tied to a tree off in the distance. I was using SSB on 20m and 40m. My first contact was at 1:11pm Pacific Time to another ham on a summit east of Prescott Arizona N3BZ on W7A/CS-074. My second contact was a shock. The ham gave me S57S call sign. I repeated the call sign and he confirmed. He was in Slovenia! Here I am sitting on top of this summit with a wire talking to a guy in Slovenia. I only needed 4 contacts to activate the summit. At that point, I didn't care. Wow! I was so excited. I made 9 other contacts. I did not realize that one of the 9 contacts was in France. I wrote down all the call signs and when I was logging them on my computer back at the van, I realized I made contact with F4WBN in France! Sitting on that summit I made contact with folks in Slovenia, France, Alaska, Washington, California, Montana, Arizona and Utah. I stayed on the summit for a bit longer just taking in the beautiful views. I was successful in completing my goal, but without a price. My brain was hurting. I had to rest often on the way down as I was getting light headed and dizzy. I took it easy going back to my camp  on my scooter. Would I do this again? Nope. But I had to do it to prove to myself I could do it. It does give me hope that some much easier walks to a summit might be possible. I will do much more homework in planning on doing future summits. 

Failed attempt from the east side of the summit. 

The west side which I hiked up.

My Xiegu G90 radio. (20watts)

Me at the summit after the successful activation. 

The end of the road 12700200 and my scooter. 

Three Finger Jack from the Summit.

Mt Washington from the Summit.

Mt Jefferson from the summit. 

Black Butte and Three Sisters from the summit. 

My SOTA contacts. 

The entire week I was camping was very resting and fun. My dad and step mom came down and rented a house on the river. I visited with them several times. I have been coming to this area since just after I moved to Oregon. 40 yrs ago. It never disappoints. 

73  W7RTA

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Central Oregon Scooter Adventures July-August 2020


Full July Album Pics Click Here

Click on images throughout blog for a larger image. 

In past years I would be very active outdoors, throughout the seasons. Now that I am limited with physical activity, I have had to make some life changes. Mountain biking and hiking were two activities I can no longer do. I have been working with a pain psychiatrist and he told me that if I can no longer do one thing, find another to replace it. When he told me this, I already had my new scooter on order. I had explained to him that I recently sold my mountain bike, and as I was driving away from the sale location, I cried. It hit me very hard that these changes are happening. I mentioned that I had ordered a scooter to get me out into the back country to explore areas that I used to mountain bike in. My pain psychiatrist was thrilled that I had already began the replacing of my activities. He gave me homework to work on. Find a replacement for what I normally would do during the winter. Ann Marie's volleyball club and high school careers are over. So no more of that. No skiing. So I am working on a plan for this winter. Stay tuned. 

My scooter (Scooterstar Roguestar 50) arrived in early July. It is a 50cc size. Meaning I do not need a motorcycle endorsement to ride it on streets. It is not very fast, which is ok for me. It's top speeds are 30+mph on a flat surface. Going up hills is much slower. My goal was to replace the mountain bike, which was much slower. It is a 4 stroke engine and gets around 100 miles per gallon. I had looked at eBikes, but the range and electricity requirements were very limiting. 

The scooter has been a game changer for me. In mid July I went camping in the Metolius River area. I brought my scooter. No I didn't ride it there. I have a motorcycle rack attached to my van. I set up camp in a dispersed camping site and made that my home base for the week. Even though riding the scooter is much easier than a mountain bike, I still have to pace myself. I have to plan on routes that are not too long or exhausting. And I plan on frequent rests. Some days, I am feeling like crud and just stay at camp. I am learning my limits and try not to exceed them. 

My July scooter adventure began with a short ride through the western portions of the Metolius Basin. I went to a cinder cone that has amazing views. Sisters Mountains, Mt Washington, Three Finger Jack and Mt Jefferson are all within view. It is a popular location for folks to shoot. So camping here is not recommended. 

I continued my journey that day through the lower lands of the Metolius Basin. I came upon horse camps and many streams. Canyon Creek and Jack creek are a couple nearby. The waters are clear and cold. I carry a water filter with me, so stopping off and getting a drink is welcome in the hot Central Oregon Sun. 

The next day I had planned on a much longer ride. I was feeling pretty good. I mapped out my route and set my goal of reaching the Green Ridge fire lookout. Of all the years I have been to this area, I had never been to the lookout. The route took me on the east side of Green Ridge. Green Ridge parallels the Metolius River to the east for 10 miles.  I took forest roads that near the end were pretty rough. As I rested and enjoyed the views from the lookout, I looked at my map and realized there is a forest road that goes down from Green Ridge to the Metolius River on the west side.  So I took that road on the way back. It was much quicker. But very rough road. 

The next couple of days, I relaxed by the Metolius River. I used my scooter to get me to a couple of spots that I like to hang out and enjoy the river. I then headed home. 


Full August Album Pics Click Here

Click on images throughout blog for a larger image. 

I returned to the Metolius Basin in early August. There is so much area to explore. Much of the area I explored was in an area that the B&B Complex Fire burned in 2003. Around 100,000 acres burned. I had hunted, hiked and mountain biked this area before the fire. I have not returned to much of the area until this trip. The landscape is very different than when I remembered it from before. Views that were never seen, are now seen. The fire was naturally caused by lightning. You can read all the history of the fire here - https://learnforests.org/sites/default/files/AnatomyofaWildfire.pdf  

As I rode through areas of the burn, the size of the burn area kept growing. I have seen the burn area from the highway, but not while standing in the middle of it. It is massive. There are thousands of acres of trees that burned and died. There is a natural recovery of the trees. Every where I rode, I could see new pines growing where the old trees were gone. I believe they are Lodgepole Pines and Ponderosa Pines.

The route took me to Abbot Butte. There once was a primitive road to the top. But since the fire, it has been removed. I did go to the base of it and there were many burned trees standing bare. It was very spooky. The wind was howling and I heard what I thought were coyotes yelping. But as I listened, I realized they were the trees singing in the wind. There are no needles on the trees. Just bare limbs. As the wind picked up, the trees would whistle and howl as if they were speaking to me. My plan was to ride a bit longer, but as I looked to the south, I could see thunder storms forming and moving my way. I headed back to camp and was hit with a storm. It only lasted about 20 minutes. 

The next day, I explored the NW area of the Metolius Basin. The Southern Border of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation is in that area. The B&B Fire stretched into the reservation and beyond. So much of the area I rode was affected by the fire. I did not go onto the reservation as there are signs that say no trespassing. As I rode along the Deschutes National Forest, I came upon no trespassing signs. This was not the reservation. I was puzzled to see these signs in the middle of the forest. As I rode along about a 1 mile stretch, I came upon a series of buildings. A home was there. As I looked closer, I saw several boats on trailers on the property. The boats, Jet Boats, were painted in Red White and Blue and read War Fighters on the side. After returning to camp, I researched online what I had seen. I found https://warfighteroutfitters.org/  A non profit that takes injured war veterans on outdoor adventures.  Just prior to the home and boats, I saw a couple of crosses on the private land. I got a closer look and the one on the left reads 'Chris' and the one on the right reads 'K'. The crosses are about 20 ft off the cinder road. 

I approached the Indian Reservation and went to a nearby stream to take a nap and rest. There are two streams just prior to the reservation. 

I took a day off, but the following day, I set my goal on going to Jack Lake. It is a lake where a trailhead begins for Three Finger Jack trail. Along the way, I rode through the burn area and witnessed some amazing views. The road was long and rough. But I made it. While at the lake, it was very windy. So I only stayed for a few moments. 

On the way back I took several forest road spurs. I found some streams and awesome views along the way back to camp.