VA3SIE @ King Mountain QC
 VA3SIE Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Hike - October 2007

   Polar Bear Moonlight Madness is a monthly event run by the Eastern PA QRP Club.  We polar bears hike to the high ground and play QRP radio.  This month, I hiked the King Mountain trail in Gatineau Park, Quebec.

1830 UTC

Happy Trails

eardley escarpment
Eardley Escarpment

   I drove up to the King Mountain trailhead.  On the way I put a couple of calls out on the VE2CRA repeater for Michael, VE3WMB PB#19.   Just as I pulled my rucksack over my shoulders, the repeater chirped up, there was Michael coming over Mount Fortune.  There were some hikers who arrived at the same time as I, but I passed them at the start of the ascent over the Eardley Escarpment.   The night and morning saw heavy rain, and the trail was in the clouds so it was very wet and misty, the other hikers chose not to go on… so I had the place to myself!

trail map
Trail Map (click)

   It's a short trail about 100′ ascent up and over King Mountain about 1 mile to the edge of the Eardley Escarpment.  The trail was beautiful, I was all alone which is a first for me… it's usually a very busy hiking spot.  I had Pulpit Rock programmed into my GPSr so I kept a look out for a nice spot from which to operate.

   I arrived at the scenic viewpoint and saw a lovely spot to operate from just up the mountain a bit.   The view from King Mountain was beautiful!  To the South West a view of the Ottawa Valley and the Ottawa River.  To the South-East the City of Ottawa.

View over the Ottawa Valley
Scenic Viewpoint
VA3SIE at the Scenic Viewpoint

1900 UTC

Throwin' Wire

   I used bungee cords to strap my 20′ shakespeare wonderpole to the trunk of a dead tree.  The wonderpole made a great hiking stick as I hiked in and out, the rubber tip was good for gripping the trail.  I had brought a couple of antenna options and I chose to put up the 88′ doublet.  The technique which worked very well with so many trees around was to attach a fishing weight to one end of the antenna and twirl & toss the wire out over the trees, then repeat the other end.  The fishing pole was then raised to full height, and finally I attached a reel of string to each end of the antenna and pulled the ends out as far as possible.

Chair Ready
VA3SIE Ready

VA3SIE Operating Position Movie (Click)

   The resulting antenna was an inverted-vee doublet with the apex at 20′ and the ends down at to around 8′ which was up over the tree line.  The antenna was running almost exactly East-to-West.   I had about 45′ 300Ω TV twinlead as a feedline, so I routed the excess feedline South for 10′ to a tree and then back to the operating position in the hope that any feedline radiation not be lost to ground.

Woo hoo - the antenna loads up! (Click)

   The antenna loaded up quite well - under 2:1 SWR on 20m, 30m and 40m.  I had intended to operate mostly on 30m but I started on 40m and heard John 'Rookie' NU3E PB#26 and Chris NG3W PB#33 exchanging GRRRs on 7042kHz and while I was waiting for a chance to say hello I heard Michael & Missy calling CQ on 7040kHz so I returned Michael's CQ.  We exchanged RST 599 not surprising we were 2.1km apart…Missy is sounding great! (Missy was the name given to Michael's ATS-3A by his daughter!)

   I couldn't decide whether to call VA3SIE, VA3SIE/VE2, VA3SIE/VA3 or VA3SIE/P… The official policy doesn't require anything other than VA3SIE but hey… it sounds good.  Michael mentioned hearing some polar bears down the band a bit.  He was using the ' Elecraft KXAT1 special' - a 28′ wire and some radials.  The strangest thing was that I was hearing a trace of QSB on Michael's signal, so there must have been some component of NVIS skywave mixing in with the predominant groundwave.

KX1 & Clipboard

   After my QSO with Michael I went back to look for John or Chris but alas!  I could no longer hear them.  I tuned further down the band around 7030kHz and I heard Mark NK8Q PB#4.  Great!  Mark was at Polar Bear HQ Pulpit Rock.  Mark and I had a nice long chat, through the local scout QRM ;)  Mark passed along Hellos from Ron and Ed.  Weather sounded great at Pulpit Rock, 63F and Sunny.  WX here wasn't so good…during the QSO, the rain started again so I put my KX1 in a ziplock bag and put a tent fly over my knees to keep the notebook dry.  I also put a tarp over my head.

   I must apologize to all bears for my poor morse sending.  When I switched to 'rain mode' I replaced the paddles for a straight key because I couldn't opearate the paddles through the baggie.  The key was a covered unit with a leg strap that was ex-Ukranian military so it can take the weather :)  It's been more than two years since I've used a straight key.

2000 UTC

…and the rain came!

The Rain
The Rain

   I settled down calling CQ around 7038kHz and after about 10 minutes, I got a call from our newest polar bear, Scott N3SW/3GRRRRRR *!*, Scott, Welcome to the fun!  Scott was on top of Cove Moutain in Perry County, PA.  Nice, a KX1-to-KX1 QSO, and Scott's 2nd Polar Bear contact.   Scott was planning to head back before dark - me too!  I didn't hold it with Scott, as I was sure there were other bears out there itchin' to work the new bear in-da-den!

Time for a lunch break in the rain! (Click)

   XYL-de-ditti made me an Italian sandwich and a flask of hot cocao.  I was getting chilled sitting in the rain, so after the QSO with Scott I walked around a little bit, ate my sandwich and drank some hot chocolate.  I decided to put my fleece on as well, although it was 55F the rain & fog was making it feel colder, the wind was getting stronger too.

   My timing couldn't have been better!  No sooner had I got back under the tarp then the rain really started falling monsoon-style…I fired up the rig and hit the auto-tune button.  Now for the second strange thing of the evening (the first being QSB on a 2.1km distant station).  The SWR on 40m had changed from 1.7:1 to 1.4:1 and my power out indication had changed to 2.5W from 1.5W, so I think my gear likes rain!  Hmm, well I guess it was all the water running down my twinlead :)

   I tuned around and caught Ken 'BEARglot' WA8REI/P or 8(?) finishing off a QSO, so I injected my callsign and Ken was hearing me good.  Ken was in Midland County…I owe Ken many many QSL cards, but he still returns my calls :)…I'm working on it Ken, honest!  WX was really windy at Ken's QTH, and his 87ft antenna must have been singing in the wind!  I found myself able to copy more of Kens morse than last time, I think my speed must be improving.  Ken had worked the M&M (Michael es Missy) earlier too.

2100 UTC

The murky hour…

Low Visibility

   Isn't it surprising how bright the photos look after you run them through 'image enhancement'?……By this time, the clouds (which I was sitting right in the center of!!) had intensified and everything was very gray and foggy, so I was thinking about packing up.  I tuned around and heard Mark, NK8Q and he was 599 (plus!) - propagation to PA had improved a lot!  I put another call out and Mike, W3MC PB#50 in MD.  I was glad to work Mike.  Last March PBMME, Mike had battery troubles and I worked him in-da-den that time… anyway I kept the QSO real short, the light was fading fast so I decided to make haste and tear down the antenna…Mark NK8Q jumped in at the end there…

VA3SIE Tearing Down… (Click)
black lake
Black Lake
black lake
Black Lake

   I took down the ends of the doublet, wrapped everything up, disconnected all the gear and left it in it's waterproof bags… anyway, I was back on the trail in about 20 minutes which ain't bad.  The walk back to the car past Black Lake was just in time, if I had waited another minute up on the mountain I would have had to break out the headlamp (despite how bright the photos look!).  I made it back to the car right at dusk and by the time I stripped off my waterproofs, it was fully dark, so I called back to Mrs. Ditti just to let her know I was off the mountain and safe.

2200 UTC

It's all over for another month :(

   A GRRRRRRRRReat start to the PBMME season.  I QSO with 5 bears, I heard another 2 bears on the bands, and I received traffic (via NK8Q) from two more bears……I wish I had tried 20m though as Ron was working on 20m I have just read.  The 88′ is a center-fed extended double-zepp on 20m and it works better on that band than any antenna I've used (including the vert!).

Date Time Freq Call Exchange
28 Oct 1917 7040 VE3WMB/VE2 Michael PB #19 RST 599 (out) 599 (in)
28 Oct 2000 7034 NK8Q Mark PB#4 RST 569 (out) 559 (in)
28 Oct 2030 7038 N3SW/3 Scott PB#58 RST 579 (out) 579 (in)
28 Oct 2050 7039 WA8REI/P Ken PB#21 RST 579 (out) 579 (in)
28 Oct 2115 7031 W3MC Mike PB#50 RST 579 (out) 559 (in)

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