After spending the morning cleaning for friends coming on New Years Day, I had several hour of sunlight left, 8 inches of new snow, clear skys and a temperature of 35 degrees. It was time to get a jump-start on my New Years plan to operate portable each month.
I set out for a short radio hike in Penwood State Park in Central Connecticut, Grid FN31ot. I began at the park entrance, and hiked 0.5 miles up a moderate grade. The park has an automobile road from decades past that's no longer used. It makes a great path for hiking and mountain biking. The snow was pretty well packed from other hikers and skiiers. My hunting boots worked OK, and snow shoes would have been even better. The landscape is very monotone and serene this time of year.
I selected a spot half way up the small mountain, limited by time and a sun already low on the horizon. I was able to toss a line about 20 feet into a tree to suspend my End Fed 20/40m wire antenna. Sloping quickly, most of wire was only about 5 feet above ground. I realized there was a yellow blazed hiking trial right next to my chosen spot, and made sure the wire didn't cross the path of hikers or runners.
Now this was my fist time radio hiking out in the snow. I learned quickly I should have brought several items. A tarp to sit on for starters! I hadn't thought of keeping moisture out of coax connectors. More on that another day. I ended up throwing a few things together in the snow: FT817 radio, KK-1 straight key, and very heavy and overdone lead acid battery.
Wow...setting on a small mountain top with wire antenna fed directly to the radio....the signals were really booming in! I managed to call CQ on 20 meters using thick gloves, the small KK-1 morse code key, all while kneeling over my backpack.
My First CQ was answered by Stan, AE0SL in Minnesota. First time, really! Stan is a Straight Key Century Club friend who I've worked a number of times. I follow the K3UK scheduling site used by many SKCC members, and note Stan has been operating QRP (low power) quite a bit these days. I hope our 2-way QRP contact helped with his awards, and I really appreciated Stan's rapid fire reply.
I decided to drop down to 40 meters and try for another contact at the sun was getting quite low on the horizon (and my hands were getting cold). KB1PBA, Peter, soon came back with a reply. While my copy was spotty with QRM (interference) and a cold wind piercing the trees, it was nice to meet a neighbor from Massachusetts on 7 MHz. A great day in all.
Note to self: reassess battery situation, bring tarp, extra gloves, hike and operate often.