June 2002 WV Expedition

The Story:

We arrived to the campground at 20:00r (00:00z). We were able to set up our tents and get the essentials unloaded before the rain started. And what a rain it was!! Thunder and lightning all around. No antennas were put up Friday night.

Saturday morning was clear and sunny. We ate a little breakfast and headed for the equipment. Don, N3MK, had a delta loop up in no time with his golf ball / fishing pole combo. Later we put up a Zepp for me.

Don made many contacts via PSK-31 from his FT-817 and Fujitsu laptop. My efforts were thwarted every move I made. Plagued with a wet cell battery that was boiled dry slowly over the past year, then resurrected 24 hours before getting to the campsite, power was not as easy to maintain as I expected. The solar panel charged the battery just fine, but the battery just wouldn't hold the charge under the 1+ amp load of the IC-706mkII. 

While letting the wet cell charge a little, we played with the Arrow antenna. We tried the tripod, only to find that we need serious counterweight on the back of the antenna. Later we tried climbing a tree and putting it near the top, but we still didn't get the best results. Later we took some spare tent poles an fashioned a tall mast. We lashed the Arrow to the top and, with only minutes to spare, attempted our 2m ssb sched with N3VOP. After a half hour of calling CQ on 2m, the wet cell was low again and we gave up.

Moving away from the power hungry 706, Don pulled out a PSK20. I got everything connected and working only to have my laptop battery fade out while tuning up. We replaced the laptop with a pen computer and tried more contacts. Later we found that the PSK20's finals were blown. It was getting late, and I just gave up.

Sunday came and Don hammered out some more PSK in between attempts for 2m FM repeater contacts. The Arrow antenna worked great, but my power issues limited us to 5w HT's. We were able to activate a number of repeaters on the eastern edge of the mountain range, but not the K3MAD repeater in Frederick, MD.

Lunch came and went as we packed up our gear, pulled down antennas, spooled up wire, and cleaned up the area.

Will we do it again? You can bet we will! September 2002 is the current proposed timeframe for the next trip.

Things we will do different? Assure we have enough power to make contacts for at least 12 hours per station per day. Also, we may try to spread out around the campground to give a little more room for a little less interference. Make sure each radio works before it is packed in the car. The kids have promised to have their Technician Licenses before the next trip. This will give me a small 'technology tether' for keeping them close by. Maybe I'll teach them transmitter hunting and put a beacon on Dakota. That should keep everyone busy for a while. :-)

The Pictures:

When you enter Dolly Sods Wilderness Area from the north, you are greeted by the usual array of government supplied information. 

Don works some PSK-31.

The Arrow Antenna worked out fine, once it was put up above the trees and bushes.
Don re-orients his delta loop.

"Get off that branch!!"

The shrubs are a mixed blessing. They offer many places to attach antennas, but also many places to snag antenna ropes.

Gram checks out the goings on while Don explains PSK-31.

Don adjusts the Arrow Antenna trying to reach the K3MAD repeater in Frederick, MD. We could hear it fine, but just couldn't bring it up with the 20w IC-706mkII. We were successful with reaching several other repeaters on the east edge of the Appalachian Mountains.

Amie and Brianna take a break after loading the gear into the car. Dakota still wants to play.

After leaving the campground, we stopped at bear rocks before heading down the mountain.

A last look from the vehicle towards the east.

The dates:

Friday, 5/31/02, to Sunday, 6/2/02.

The Location:

Dolly Sods, West Virginia. In particular, Red Creek campground. (Longitude -79.315, Latitude 39.032. Grid Square FM09ia.) Check out the topographic map.

The Operators:

Don, N3MK, and George, W3GCW. Sorry, no special or club call sign. We will have a special QSL card for those who get through.

Support Staff:

Radios:

Antennas:

Processors:

Power:

Modes:

Schedule:

Frequencies:

We will not be limiting ourselves to these frequencies, but they are a good place for someone to try to find us. Solar conditions and other factors may keep us moving around.