17 September 2016

Activating Fort Bowie for NPOTA with the W7AI Gang

About 10 members of the Oro Valley Amateur Radio Club made a 2.5 hour drive to Southeastern Arizona on Saturday, September 17, 2016, for another National Parks On The Air activation.  This is OVARC's 7th activation for NPOTA this year, and it was my 2nd time joining them for the fun.

The operating location for this one was the Fort Bowie National Historic Site (NPOTA NS18), which was a military outpost in the 1800's when Arizona was still a Territory, and some infamous history was being made involving Native Americans such as Cochise and Geronimo.  There are still a few remnants of buildings on the site, which is nestled among the hills in an area that apparently was significant due to its proximity to a natural water source.

I carpooled with my friend Quinton NU7Y, who brought along the antenna we used.  It was a homebrew inverted V which we hoisted on a 30-foot push up pole.  Quinton parked his truck on top of a homemade mast stand, and an LDG auto tuner did a nice job finding optimal SWR for us.

The radio gear was supplied by Tom, W8TK, who has a nice box full of gear that he hauls out for these portable operations.  The rig was a Kenwood and we logged using N1MM.

Quinton snagged some nice DX on 20m CW including Belgium, Germany, and Slovenia.  We also worked a lot of stateside stations, all of who were happy to add NS18 to their NPOTA credits.  The antenna and rig were working very nicely, although propagation was a bit up and down.  We primarily worked 20m although George NG7A worked a few on 15m and we also tried 30m and 40m.  Other ops included Ken, Paul, Rick, and Steve, 

The OVARC club call sign is W7AI, obtained after one of our local hams, Ron W7AI became an SK.  Ron had been a friend of mine since the 1990's and I have many memories of shared amateur radio experiences with Ron, including Field Days on Mt Lemmon and trips to the Dayton Hamvention.  To be able to use his call sign for operations like these is quite an honor for me.

My operating these days is most often CW, but for this activation we were using both phone and code, and my time at the station was during the phone mode.  I had fun working stations all around the country, and the QSB was very interesting as we went from chaotic pileups to a totally quiet band in seconds.  That's one of the things I love about ham radio - the unpredictability.

We sure had a fun time and were on the air for about 4 hours.  During that time we made 171 contacts.  It wasn't a competition but towards the end we realized we might be able to make more QSO's than another club who had activated this same park, so we had a little fun squeezing out a few more to up the ante.  All in all we had a wonderful time and I'm looking foward to doing it again!

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