This past weekend was the annual ARRL Field Day event. It’s a contest of sorts where US hams attempt to contact as many other stations as possible in a 24 hour window. It encourages people to get out of their usual home stations, set up portable gear or staff an emergency station, and operate from a different spot with different equipment. I have long wanted to “do it for real” by venturing far out into the woods and setting up a station away from civilization and its “easy power” and RFI.
This year, four of us (Dawn, JD, Taylor, and myself) headed out to a pre-scoped spot in the Tillamook State Forest. The picturesque hilltop site we chose was at about 1600′ elevation and had just enough of a flat clearing for two sleeping tents, a food tent, and a radio tent. We arrived Friday afternoon at about 1630 and began our setup procedures. The contest didn’t start until 1100 Saturday morning, so we had a leisurely evening with pork link sausage and baked beans for dinner.
A quick 80 meter dipole setup that evening enabled some email contacts over Winlink, through the Pendleton RMS station. We were about 40 miles from the nearest cell phone coverage, and almost ten miles from the nearest civilization (a campground with running water and power). We brought four 100AHr lead acid batteries as our only power source for the weekend.
Saturday morning, we had eggs, bacon, and hash browns for breakfast before beginning the rest of the station setup. We planned to use all Buddipole gear and proceeded to set up 20 meter and 40 meter vertical antennas. We changed the 40 meter antenna to a 15 meter vertical at about noon, which served us very well until that evening. As originally planned, we ran the radios off of Buddipole A123 batteries, charging them in cycles from our lead acid batteries.
We each had a laptop with an Ad-Hoc WiFi network between us, running the FDLog software with a few of my own changes to the code. These were powered using DC adapters from the main batteries. We were able to last the entire time on just two of the large batteries, with no-load voltages sitting around 12.2V at the end of operations on Sunday.
Saturday night, we had spaghetti with Taylor’s home-made turkey sauce and garlic bread done on the camp fire. JD and I continued to operate until just after midnight when we had made 100 contacts. Just before that, we caught the 2305 pass of the International Space Station, which was easily visible to the naked eye until it passed far enough east to be eclipsed by the earth.
Sunday morning, we had pancakes and sausage for breakfast and made a couple dozen more contacts before beginning to break camp. In total, we made 122 contacts with 26 different states, including several from British Columbia to the north. Our farthest contact west was Hawaii and Florida to the east.
We all had a blast camping and operating in this heavenly spot and are already making plans for next year. My favorite picture of all was taken Saturday morning when we woke to an amazing blanket of fog down in the valley, probably 900 feet below us:
I recorded a video of JD giving a walkthrough of the entire camp, including our antennas. Unfortunately, it was Sunday morning and we had taken out one of the radios in the operating tent just prior to breaking down, but otherwise this is a nice video tour of what we had going: