I have put this post off for a week as I wasn’t sure what to say or how much detail to include. I also wasn’t 100% sure how my future ham radio activities will play out.
For 60 years or so I have wanted to live in the North Carolina mountains. As a kid growing up my Dad would take us on vacation each summer to the area around Asheville NC. I grew up loving the area. Fast forward to modern times and after I got married my wife and I took our kids to the mountains every year or so and they have grown up with the mountains in their DNA.
Not that we are both retired my wife and I have been looking for a place in the mountains to call home. I won’t bore you with the details but I will say that in mid July my dream will finally come true. We have leased a condo in Laurel Park NC for the next year. Laurel Park is a small town just 2 miles out of downtown Hendersonville and about 30 miles south of Asheville. Laurel Park has a lot of green space and there’s even a lake and a park across the street from our condo that has walking trails along with a fitness/exercise trail.
There is a very active ham radio community in Hendersonville as well as just across the state line which is about 8-10 miles from our new home. I will have the Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Club in Hendersonville and the Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Society in South Carolina. I have already made friends in both clubs and have joined their Nets when I have visited the area.
There are really only two problems we will be downsizing from 2400+ sq. ft. to about 1,000 sq.ft. and the condo is up stairs. This means my ham shack will have to be downsized too and I’m not sure what my antenna options are. I will probably have to set up my station on a small table in the closed in balcony area and throw a wire out the window for an HF antenna. Luckily the Hendersonville repeater can be easily activated by an HT but I will be using my Yaesu FT1900 as a base station so VHF/UHF shouldn’t be a problem.
I have thought about selling most of my radios and getting a IC-705 to pair with y IC-7300 in order to make my footprint as small as possible. But my current plan is to take all of my rados and see what I can do once I get there then make the decision whether to sell or not. Either way I will be off the air for a few weeks as I tear down, make the move and setup the new station.
I am really looking forward to the cooler weather and getting out into the outdoors. The area has a plethora of hiking trails and waterfalls. Along with The Pisgah National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest, there are lots of state parks for POTA. The Dupont State Recreational Forest is about 11 miles from our location and the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is about 4 miles away.
As, you can probably imagine there are no SOTA opportunities near my current Florida QTH but at the new home there will be plenty of SOTA opportunities.
The maps below show the active hams around our new home along with the POTA and SOTA opportunities. The Magenta circles shows a 5 mile radius around the new QTH and the Red circle is a 25 mile radius.
For the next several weeks I will be tearing down my shack and boxing things up so I will be pretty much off the air. But in the long run I will be much better off with considerable opportunities to live a more active lifestyle and pursue my hobby.
You may have noticed that I have been a little absent from my blog. We took a three week trip to the mountains of western North Carolina leaving on May 1st and returning home on the 23rd.
My planned activations didn’t go according to my dreams or plans. I had planned to do some POTA hunting during our first week from the place we were staying at north of Mars Hill NC. It had an elevation of 4500 feet but the ground was so sloped that there was no place to set up. I tried using my speaker wire antenna from the 2nd story deck but it was 30′ off the ground and I couldn’t get a good SWR so that was a bust.
After we relocated to Black Mountain I had planned to activate at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a site that Thomas Witherspoon (K4SWL) has activated numerous times but on the morning f the activation it started raining before we even got out of bed. Another POTA opportunity lost; this time to the rain gods (or Mother Nature). Though, looking back I really didn’t want to get me or my equipment wet so I guess that also contributed to the failure.
After relocating to the Hendersonville NC area for our final week, I tried an activation at the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site. That was ultimately a failure mostly due to band conditions. I tried hunting after no one was responding to my CQs. I could hear an activator in Florida who said he was using 100 watts. He was a strong 59 but not even calling “Park to Park” could get a response to my 10 watts out of the Xiegu X6100. I did make contact with a MA activator but I dropped down into his noise floor so we never completed that Park to Park. This failure was due to bad conditions and QRP power levels.
The next day we planned on hiking to the waterfalls in Dupont State Recreation Area and I was going to try activating there too. But after hiking to two waterfalls and doing a total of 3.5 miles I was just two hot and tired to do an activation. My bad knee was also bitching at me about all the abuse I had put it through.. It kept reminding me that it was used to flat land in Florida and not changes in elevation going up and down the mountain trails I had abused it with. So when we got back to the trailhead we jumped into the car to cool off in the AC and went back to town for lunch. Another failure but this time it was all on me.
We are back home now and I am slowly unpacking the radio gear and bringing the home shack back online. I downed all the antennas before I left and took the shack computer with me. But as of this morning the shack is fully operational.
I was able to spend some time on vacation thinking about my field setup and what I took with me. This resulted in several planned changes and enhancements that I will be making over the next few weeks. I will try to blog about those as I do them. Once I complete them I will activate a park near me (there are only two) and blog that as well.
I’m reminded of that line from Field of Dreams – “If you build it they will come“. I believe that line was from Shoeless Joe Jackson (played by Ray Liotta) but I’m not sure.
It doesn’t matter who said it. I still feel like Kevin Costner did in the movie. I have a love for Amateur Radio and QRP field work especially. I have built QRPguy and now I have to see if anyone will come. So far I have been working on the look and feel along with the feature set for QRPguy.net. I have been fine tuning my radio setups, antennas and adding images to my gallery for use on the site. I am still adding features but I am also ready to add content and word is slowly getting around that the site exists. Encouraging? Yes, but I’m still nervous.
I am creating a community here and I hope to see it grow to become one of the best places on the Internet to obtain information about QRP operating. I’ve already gotten some positive emails from people about what is happening. I thought there was a need for something like this and hopefully I am right. Now if everyone will just participate I will be able to relax and sleep at night again.
If you have any suggestions for content or things you would like to see then please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, I’ll be setting here nervously waiting to see if they will come.
Hams have a history of stepping up during emergencies or natural disasters and providing communications when other means such as cell phones and landlines are down and not operable. To do this hams need to know how to set up their equipment and get “on the air” as quickly as possible.
POTA is a program where hams setup in National or State Parks as well as wildlife areas and State forests etc. and make contacts (called QSOs) with other hams. The ham setting up in the park is referred to as an “activator” and the hams he makes contact with are called “hunters”. Setting up portable operations like this is great practice for emergency communications.
QRP is the term we use for operating with limited power. That means 5 watts or less for CW (think Morse code) and a maximum of 10 watts for other modes (think voice communications).