Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Rain and sprain in the (30m) telegraphic domain

A blast from the past...

Wayne N6KR asked for Elecraft stories on the Elecraft reflector. I don't have anything more memorable than the following from 12 years ago - so old that it involves a KX1 rather than any current rigs but here it is anyway.

I think back on this event from time to time, even without being prodded. When I do, I remember the people and the great times we had. QRP really is a fraternity. Most of the people I've met in this hobby have been through QRP.

But, with the exception of my XYL, I've lost contact with everyone who plays a direct part in the story below - I hope you guys are all well.

Ed WA3WSJ and Guy N7UN - Appalachian Trail, northern NJ

From June 2006:

Rain, rain and more rain. By the time it ended, I had more adjectives to describe my feelings for it than Noah had animals - none of which are printable here. By the time we'd pitched our tents Friday night, I half expected to see Noah sailing down the trail in his Ark with two of everything, including (hopefully) dry socks for Ed WA3WSJ. This hike had originally been scheduled for last month but was cancelled due to a rainy forecast. That weekend turned out to be clear & sunny. So much for weathermen.

Guy N7UN, Ed WA3WSJ and myself left the trailhead at 11:30 Friday morning under partly cloudy skies, feeling great and heading north to High Point in northwestern New Jersey. Guy & Ed were armed with a pair of K1's and I had my KX1 in a 30-lb backpack containing tent, sleeping bag, stove, water and 3 days' worth of food. The trail in NJ is rocky - if I had a penny for every rock I almost tripped over I could buy anyone reading this their rig of choice.

Four hours into the hike, the first drops were felt on my increasingly-exposed-as-the-years-go-by scalp. The sky to the west was dark & the stuff making it dark was headed our way, so out came the ponchos. Within 45 minutes the drizzle had become a steady rain that didn't stop until early Sunday morning - but some of us hikers didn't last that long.......

A Short Course in Hard Geology

A known fact among experienced hikers is that flat rocks become slippery when wet and, further, that their slippage factor increases exponentially as their angle from level ground increases. Ed and I repeatedly proved this theorem correct. In fact, Ed now has a PhD in Rock Slippage Analysis. Somewhere near the 10-mile point of our eleven mile hike for the day, I inadvertently challenged this analysis with my right knee, the result being that while I could hike pain-free on level ground and uphill - going downhill was a study in Pain 101. By the time we reached our first campsite at Brinks Shelter I was considering asking Guy and Ed if they could amputate my leg just above the knee to relieve me of the pain.

Instead, we put up tents & antennas and cooked dinner. It was still raining, so we cooked and ate in the shelter but chose not to sleep there in order to have protection from the mosquitoes. After dinner, we said goodnight and each of us went to our tents for a rainy night of well-earned sleep. I hooked up my rig, batteries, etc and heard John K3WWP calling CQ on 30 meters. I called him and we chatted for a while as the rain pounded the roof of my tent. After working a few other stations on 30m I decided to get some sleep, but my knee kept telling me that my chances of being able to hike tomorrow were somewhere between none and zero. After admitting this to myself, I turned on the KX1 one more time.

K0RU - CW Operator and Good Samaritan Extraordinaire

Three miles from our campsite, the Appalachian Trail crosses Route 206 near Branchville, NJ. This is a wide spot in the road with a bakery, a tavern and a gas station. Not much else - no taxis, buses or any other means of escape for those of injured knee and no car. But this had to be my exit point from the hike somehow. Ed had a cell phone but we were well beyond coverage (in fact we wouldn't have cellular service until we were actually on the pavement of the road). I knew my wife had to work the next day and that she doesn't keep her cell phone with her at work & I didn't have her work number memorized, so calling her from the road the next morning wasn't currently possible.

So I tuned 30 meters, looking for a strong station whose CW seemed to be conversational at a good clip in order to accurately copy what I was about to ask him to do. I was lucky in finding Rob K0RU who was working one DX station after another. After he finished with a station in Cyprus (who I could easily copy as well), I called, knowing he wanted to keep chasing DX. I explained the situation to him about the hike and my knee and asked if he could call my wife and let her know that I would need her to pick me up the next day and to keep her cell phone handy so that I could call her with directions. Rob instantly went from DX'er to the Ham Samaritan mode and became everything that makes all of us proud to be involved in this hobby. I am now at home, safe and sound thanks to Rob, my wife, the Morse Code and a brand new KX1.

Rob copied my wife's name and number and gave her a call, explaining what was happening and telling her that I'd call her tomorrow when I reached the highway. He made the call in real-time, relaying questions from my wife to me and then my answers and requests back to my wife. She later told me that she could hear the dots and dashes in the background over the phone as Rob communicated with me in my tent. It was a dual-mode phone patch, half voice and half Morse! As Rob tapped out to me "she is very concerned, are u able to walk?" I would answer and ask him to tell her not to worry and, as Mayra later told me, Rob said that I was okay, just not able to continue the hike.

Guy, Ed and I made it to the highway around 12:30 the next afternoon. I called Mayra and she knew immediately why I was calling and dropped everything to come get us once I told her exactly where we were. She arrived with Advil and ice! By now, Ed had developed a limp and was also unable to finish the hike so we drove him to his truck at the destination trailhead, then Mayra drove me to Guy's house where I'd left my truck. We followed each other home while Guy continued on the trail to High Point.

When Mayra and I got home, she told me that Rob had been extremely courteous, helpful and professional on the phone and that she was glad it was someone like him who made the call. Thanks again Rob, from both of us.

Back to High Point - The Easy Way

Since there was no longer a vehicle waiting at High Point to shuttle back with, I had told Guy I'd be there at his expected arrival time on Sunday. I got there a couple hours early to set up the KX1 and do a little operating while I waited, now that the rain had finally stopped. I had the pleasure of working Jim W1PID on 40m and then Pierre VE2PID on 30m! I wonder if these two have ever worked each other? I also worked Ed AE6TY way out in Californy. Then I turned on my HTX100 to see if I could hear my own 10m beacon from 70 miles away. I heard it and a lot of other beacons on 10 meters - the band was wide open and I was at the highest point in the state. So I worked a number of stations on 10m with a rig whose receiver has been silent for months.

Guy arrived right on time, along with Glen NK1N who had hiked south from High Point to Guy's final campsite and then back out with Guy Sunday morning. We met and exchanged "war stories" about the trail, weather, etc. Then I drove Guy back to his house, talking about DX and future hiking plans along the way. While the weekend didn't go as planned & the weather was consistently rainy, ham radio shined with a Good Samaritan on the air and good company on the Trail.

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