NPOTA Entity: MN06
SOTA summit: W6/SE-021
Activation Date: May 11th, 2016
Portable operation: Yes using K1JD home brew battery
Radio: Elecraft KX3 operating at 10 watts
Antenna: End fed per WS0TA and K1JD design
Bands used: 40m and 20m
Furthest QSO: ~1,500 miles with W4DOW, Virginia using SSB at 10 watts
Hike in: Yes
Solo operation: With K1JD and WS0OTA
ATT Coverage: Hopeless…resorted to a sat pone
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016
Slowing down for the unexpected security checkpoint that straddles the highway, Fred is ready to vouch for his passengers, license in hand. I smile at the guard who’s seen countless nondescript faces and for once I hope I am exactly that. We are passing through Los Alamos National Lab that soon brings the conversation to Oppenheimer, the Manhattan project and other pieces of history. That behind us we concentrate on our destination and more that Scooter Peak is within Bandelier National Monument; “an NPOTA entity” I exclaim with surprise and joy only to be followed by a hectic attempt to find its NPOTA code before I lose the erstwhile cell signal. MN06 is jotted down.
We converge on our launch point and the Xteera glides to a halt on this empty piece of dirt road within a heavily wooded area. The ascent is up and over countless felled trees brought down by a fire years earlier and around each their replacements vey to impede progress.Fred halts, arm extended and utters a low “shush” and points to an elk. All I glimpse is a rather large rear end disappearing into the woods. Further along this trail-less journey we walk through trodden grass, stumps and trunks all with grey wispy hair everywhere. We are in an elk “nest”.
Cresting the summit, all looks very promising for a successful activation. My station is up however as is my current modus operandi I can’t get reliable cell coverage. I imagine the elk are giggling as I wander around arms extended, cursing, hopping and hoping. We are on the clock and I’m burning valuable time. The trees don’t seem to favor my device of last resort; the sat phone. This is all quite frustrating only to have all this fade away as Bob KB6CIO answers and I’m off to the races.
The call rate is at a healthy clip, not quite a pile up but good. This is one aspect of the activation I really enjoy. The unknown of how many, the unknown of who, the pleasure of the familiar and frenetic pace that NPOTA activations can be all add up to something quite magical. You get the first QSO then wait for the fourth that chimes SOTA success, you wait for the tenth that rings the bell of NPOTA and then it goes on. Lost in my NPOTA/SOTA madness, I realize Fred standing above me. The repeated hand gesture across the throat is a universal sign its time to wrap up and head out.
Tear down is quick and we are descending Scooter in Scooter like time.
The two ranger vehicles surrounding the Xterra are unmistakable. We see them pretty much at the same time along with the two rangers. I think we are all wondering what this is about. Maybe we shouldn’t have parked there. Maybe our faces weren’t so nondescript we have been mistaken for some other nondescript who is a Person of Interest.
Darren shouts out…”Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble, we just don’t see many vehicles parked in the middle of nowhere….”. Darren and Iffy are very welcoming and we share our passion around hiking and radio that is SOTA. Darren asks if we are also doing a National Park on the Air. Almost falling backward in happy surprise, I beam from ear to ear….”NPOTA, sure I’m doing as much as I can and I’ve visited so many great places, some I’m not sure would ever have visited within NPOTA”. We talk more and I learn that Bandelier will be featured on one of the upcoming USPS Centennial Stamps. Cool and I’m planning on getting as many first day covers as I can.
Peak one of two or three completed and it was fun!