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KnightLites 2017 Field Day

June 23-24, 2017


The KnightLites QRP Association fielded a Field Day event by six of our members, 4 from North Carolina and 1 from Tennessee and one from Alabama.  The site was a primative camping area between Sam's Knob and Balsam Knob near mile post 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina.  We operated four stations, each running the QRP full gallon (5W) operating from batteries.  Computer logging was used on 3 of the stations withj a generator powering the computers.  This page documents the adventures of that team and includes the following:

The story by John Paul.

Details and Statistics.

Photo Gallary.


KnightLites 2017 Field Day, June 23-24, 2017, as described by KnightLites Scribe, John Paul, AB4PP

Planning and more planning. We kept the emails going and finally the days arrived. We started out with a larger group and it dwindled down to 6. We all came in from several compass points and arrived at Road 816 to enter the parkway parking lot and start the trek to the summit on Sam’s Knob below Black Balsam on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Weather had been threatening and we had the remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy coming up through the Appalachian Mountains from the Gulf. We drove through torrential downpours for hours and then came into clear weather as we approached the Appalachian Mountains. Nothing new for Knightlites since we have had everything from freezing rain, snow, ice and even a NEAR hurricane hit us on our treks.

Our Crew, left to right:

JP/AB4PP

Joe/WA4GIR

Tom/K6IUZ

Derek/WF4I

Chris/KD4PBJ

Dick/N4HAY

Field Day Crew

Dick, Joe, Derek and I arrived early on Friday. Upon arriving early we were introduced to wind and light rain. The major rainstorms had come through earlier on Thursday, so we thought. Little did we know more was coming. Tropical storms have rain bands and we found that out rather quickly. We made several trips to the summit and started setting up on near flat spots. The weather looked threatening and first up was the tent. After we got all the gear and radios up we started putting up antennas. The summit has changed over the years. The high grass was not as apparent as it had been years ago. We did have soft groundcover and several small scrub trees all around the area we finally picked to set up. We kept in a cluster and had three tents up in a short time. Next putting up the wire and getting ready for some communicating. Mast Company masts sure are rigid and we needed those in the winds we were about to experience. After we got all set up and started to relax the weather took a turn. We had high winds and plenty of rain. Somehow the fly on my new tent came undone from the ground peg and it blew up against the door of the tent. About 12:30 in the am I got up to visit nature and stepped in 2 inches of cold water. Wow what a wakeup call. After getting a headlight on that was not floating around in the pond I saw that my waterproof bag of clothes was open and sitting upside down in the pond. Oh, well so much for a change of clothes. Lesson learned for sure leave the clothes in the vehicle in the parking lot. Others had minor issues with the water but nothing like we did. In the morning we simply emptied out the tent and flipped it over to dry it out. New tent did not leak inside out. It did the job and kept the water inside. The winds blew til about 2am and finally subsided. The rain let up and when we all woke up around 6 am it was time for breakfast and we all had coffee and whatever for breakfast. Blueberry Oatmeal sure does hit the spot for breakfast in the wild. We all relaxed and made a walk to the privy and then got ready for the start of the FD event. One of the major events was the walk to the parking area. A long trek but always a new group of folks in the parking lot or on the walk back and forth. It was amazing how friendly everyone was. I have never seen so many folks. Hikers, camera toting, young-in toting and backpacks. It was wonderful to see the road lined on both sides with cars and people interested in the nature as we were. On the trip down the mountain on Sunday we noticed that every overlook and every parking lot was full. It is nice to see so many people enjoying nature and the beautiful mountains we are gifted with.

Another thing we found out was that the locks on the privy doors did not work any more. In fact weather has taken it’s toll on the metal doors to the point they are rusted out and falling apart. The locks on the doors do not work any more. So you have to be on guard when in the quiet rain room. I got two unpleasant visits from ladies while pondering and it was their surprise not mine. Anyway we were lucky the park service kept the paper well supplied. No need for us to leave any girardia on the slopes.

Chris and Tom showed up with an hour to spare for the start of FD. After helping them get set up and ready to go we started our logging. The bands were very quiet for the most part. No noise from any power lines or other interference items. The generator (we only used one at a time) made a small amount of noise but the KX3 filtered it out very easily. We worked through the day into the evening and the weather was pleasant. Having 4 stations going we had 2 people to take turns, give breaks, and keep the stations occupied and running full time. It was very windy at first and then it calmed down. We had two Beautiful sunrises and the valleys below were full of low fluffy clouds both days. Something you simply cannot see down East. The bands opened very well for us and we noticed something new this year more prevalent on the bands. Several stations parked on a frequency and put a beacon on calling CQ and not answering their CQ’s. We found that with one station in particular that had errors in their message that kept going over and over. Pretty noticeable they just parked on a spot and left to go do something else. It was just frustrating to answer some of their CQ’s when we were in S&P mode. The bands were open enough at times to call CQ and we found a lot of takers.

Friday night when we were sitting around enjoying the beautiful scenery and the quiet I broke out some Wild Turkey (small airplane bottles) a tradition Joe and I started years ago. Well this time Joe said no way. He was not participating. We talked, chatted, sat around the small whisperlite gas stove and drank some coffee and spirits. After dinner and a relaxing evening we all hit the tents. We got on the KX3 and we found out that the antenna on the ground with 5 watts did not perform very well too. We realized that the antenna had to be in the air. Hee Hee…

It is a hobby and we go for the fun. We did just that. Work some on the radios and take a break and cook something up. I myself got a fondness for the mountain house dehydrated meals and my jetboil. Trailmix and small cans of beanie weenies supplemented my diet. Others had their mixed brews. Dick even cooked up a pot of beans and rice which filled the air with an odoriferous fragrance. Glad he slept in his own tent. The jet boil and Dicks small gas stove were a great pair. We kept the water hot and flowing. And I was glad I got an extra can of gas as we used Dicks stove to heat and boil water and he ran out after we made several meals. Good thing to always have extra. Speaking of extra I took along 7 gallons of water in containers and we used most of it for our drinking and cooking. The one thing I did not drink much of was the coffee and tea in bags. We took powdered coffee and we had plenty for everyone. All in all if you had a cup we had coffee to drink.

The weather on Saturday changed for the good and we operated all day in a light breeze with occasional short showers but there was nothing to amount to in the way of rain or wind. It had all subsided and we had a near perfect weather event. For the record book we had a fairly dry FD event. Can’t say much for the night before though. Records say about 2 inches in that area.

Operating the radios at times gets to be hilarious. Dick got on the 20 meter rig in our tent and was having a fit of a time getting responses. We had 3 KX3’s and a K2 set up in the four tents. He got on one of the KX3’s that he fell in love with. Of course he had turned something the wrong way on one of the settings and was not putting out any power. In the end it was corrected and he was off to the races again. It was hilarious at first to hear Dick in the tent fussing about no one answering him. After he got that radio pumped up to 5 watts he was in business.

Speaking of radios Dick brought his K2 up and it quit on him Saturday morning. We had checked into a 80 meter net the night before on SSB and it worked fine. However in the morning he had error messages and had to break out the manual on the computer. Sure enough he had a mishap. The radio quit. Watching him tear the rig apart on the floor of the tent was awesome. He finally found the problem. A blown fuse and with no replacement he was SOL. Luckily I had brought my KX3 along as a spare (My SOTA rig). Another trip to the parking lot and back and we put that up in his tent and off he was to the races. Was he ever in hog heaven. He operated the rest of Field Day with the new KX3 and since I had the mike and a Begali paddle he was in business. That Traveler Lite got a real workout this weekend. Lesson learned, always have a backup rig on standby in case someone goes down. We also had plenty of antenna and had two set up on 20 meters, two on 80/15/10/6, one on 20M SSB and one on 40 Meters. So we had plenty of wire up in the air.

Joe did get on and copy the broadcast for us. He was so laid back this weekend. The rest of us forgot it completely and were busy doing other things. He stayed away from those turkeys this time. I don’t blame him. And he expressed his ideas for us for the next event and I am taking those to heart very seriously.

I brought 8 7aH 12V batteries up for the event. Thank goodness too. I had them all charged and ready to deploy and we used 6 of them for the event. When one would go down and get near being low we would swap out. Another trip to the parking lot. Not a problem and made for more exercise. Most of them were new and were donated by Doug/KS4TI and his company. He runs a security company fixing bank machines and security systems and was gracious enough to donate the new batteries to the Knightlites. Thursday night I had checked and topped off all the batteries with a full charge. Derek and I have battery packs for the KX3’s for SOTA ops but they only lasted about 4 hours. So we had to jump on the larger batteries and use them. Since we are not allowed to recharge batteries during the FD event we were sure to have power on standby. The new radios monitor the Voltage and Amp usage which is a nice feature. When you get low you can switch out or shut off if you set them up that way. A feature where you don’t have that extra piece of equipment to monitor that. It is built in.

We operated the length of FD we could and had the radios to do the job. The radios emitted a nice sound and the CW could be heard a mile away in the parking lot. Joe went on a trip down there and came back and said he could hear it that far away. On one of my trips I could hear it at a lesser distance but then Joe probably has better hearing than me. Age is catching up with all of us and I sure do feel it.

Between the 6 of us we took a lot of pictures and conversation came up at some time about uploading the photos we took and putting a story on the Knightlite site. Kind of update and educate for the future.

After a long 24 hour period we decided to call it a 2017 Field Day and broke down camp. We all made about 3 trips or more back to the vehicles, had a group gathering and chat and then started home. From all I heard everyone made it without incident so we can say we had a wonderful Field Day.

Tom, our newest addition to the group, seemed to have a wonderful time with us. He operated with Chris on the 20 meter SSB station and he got to check out the other stations and worked CW with the hand key on several stations too. We have to upgrade him to a set of paddles. From what he said he had a wonderful time and he will be back. Long ride from Alabama to NC for FD.

We did have several visitors or stop and see what we were doing. We camped close to the Ben Loeb trail this time and we were visible from that part of the trail over to Sam’s Knob. That trail stayed busy for the three days we were there.

One special visitor was KI4SVM Pat. He is one of the most active SOTA activators and he stopped by just to visit from South Carolina. After a long visit he trekked on his hike and came back to the parking lot with us and even carried some gear down for us. A real gentleman in my words. We shared a lot and he checked out our tents and gear. He seemed impressed with our setup and we learned some from him as well.

We learned a lot, shared a lot, and talked about preparations for the next QRP event. With all the events we have participated in we have learned about equipment and food and the like. Fine tuning is the thing we do now. We will more than likely do it somewhere near home. Bumble Bee and other ARCI events are coming up soon and we even talked about an overnight camping event mixed with a fishing and cooking event near one of our lake locations. That is our next plan and I am looking forward to that. Thank you everyone who participated. I had a wonderful time and can only give my praises to everyone for the historical event. It was a very good one. And I did not get bitten by a snake this time so I feel even more special this year.

There was only one bad thing to talk about for the whole weekend. We had a camper set up below us on the summit and he was a person from California/Florida. He was a very unusual character to say the least. He set up his camp right on the trail we had to our campsite for one thing. Then he started a fire in a firepit both days (nights) and was not very personable. Even I could not strike up a good conversation with him. On our last walk out of the site he got real smart with Dick and made a comment that there goes the troublemaker. He then changed his tune and said that he meant the generator. He made several comments about not liking our generator on the summit. We dismissed his stupidity and we let it ride. We were there before he was. We set up before he did. We explained what we were doing and he had a lot of mountains to go set up on and plenty of other places to go. His choice and his reward for his actions. There was a no burn notice and he had an open fire on the mountain and he was complaining about our noise. The 1K Honda generator made very little noise.

Another mishap happened with one of the generators. It must have run low on oil or something and it was shut down and the spare generator was run the rest of the time. All in all we had power for the whole event and I had my CPAP for the sleeping time. I am going to find out about a spare battery pack they offer for that. There is supposedly one available that I can use instead of the generator and if there is I will acquire one and we will not have to use the generator again.

We talked about paper logging instead of the computers and that would be fine. There were a lot of other stations that evidently did not use the dupe sheets if they used paper logging or they did not check their callsigns when logging first because I personally worked a lot of stations that were dupes on particular bands and some that said we were dupes that we did not work on that band. I am going to suggest to ARRL that they put that in their notes to make sure when you log that you are allowed to work the same station on all the bands; but, not twice on the same band. We used paper logs for years and it seemed to work out just fine. This will be one of the topics I will bring up next time we do an outdoor event.

72/73 all de JohnPaul/AB4PP


Statistics

KnightLites WQ4RP Field Day Stations and Results


Location:     
                    On high ground between Balsam and Sam's Knobs.
                    Coordinates: 35.327792, -82.885548
                    Altitude:  5840 feet.

Category 4A (Battery).  The 4 stations were:

  80m CW and 15m CW and SSB, set up by Dick, N4HAY
  40m CW set up by Joe, WA4GIR
  40m SSB set up by Chris, KD4PBJ
  20m CW set up by John Paul, AB4PP and Derek, WF4I

Computer logging used for all stations except 40m SSB, where paper logging was used.  Computers powered by Honda 1kW generator.

WQ4RP's Contest Summary Report compiled by Dick, N4HAY
  Created by N3FJP's ARRL Field Day Contest Log
  Total Contacts = 454
  Total QSO Points = 847
  Operating Period: 2017/06/24 18:08 - 2017/06/25 16:24

  Total Contacts by Band and Mode:

Band
CW
Phone
Digital
Total
%
80
60
0
0
60
13
40
100
25
0
125
28
20
128
0
0
128
28
15
105
36
0
141
31
Total
363
61
0
454
100

Detailed statistics including sections worked, break out according to station and operator etc. are shown here .

SSB contacts were logged on paper and were entered by Dick into the N3FJP software.  As a result the contacts from the 40m SSB station were lumped with the 80m/15m contacts in the detailed statistics.






Photo Album
KnightLites Field Day Experience -- Click on any image to enlarge, and use back arrow to return to this page
.



Entrance of Trail to FD Site
Entrance to trail to Sam's Knob.  Our Field
Day Site was just off this trail about
1/3 mile from parking lot.
Tom with Sam's Knob in background
Tom, K6IUZ standing just below our Field
Day Site with Sam's Knob behind him.
View of the Entire Site
View of the Field Day site after setup
mostly complete.
Fog obscuring Sam's Knob
Morning Fog rolling into valley
below our site
Joe, WA4GIR, mumbling about briars and stringing antenna
Joe, WA4GIR, muttering about briars as he
secures end of 40m inverted V dipole.
Center support seen tied to tree stump
in foreground. 
20m Antenna Farm
Derek and JP's 20m antenna farm.
Segmented
dipole supported by pole on
left and end-fed
antenna on
right-leaning pole farther back.

Dick's Antennas
Dick's 80m dipole supported by
telescoping
pole.  Guy ropes are visible
in this picture.

Dick's Antennas
Top of Dick's antenna showing the
80m dipole
that was also used on 15m.
JP's tent when dry
Derek, WF4I, and John Paul's AB4PP tent
which is still dry in this picture.
Chris's Tent and 40m antenna support
Chris's, KD4PBJ tent housing the 40m
SSB station and the support pole for his
40m dipole.
Dick practicing celebrating
Dick, N4HAY practicing celebrating in
anticipation of unprecidented FD
successes.  Note, he has not yet
fried his K2 -- yet to come.
Dick custom FD operating table
Better view of Dick's custom Field Day
operating table with built-ins below to
maximize table top space.
Dick
Another view of Dick's tent and antenna.
Dick's, Tom
...and the sky darkening....
Dick's Tent in the wind
...and the wind picking up.  Then the rains
came.  No pictures of that because
everyone was confined to their
tent.
Derek and JP drying out tent contents
Next morning, everyone's tent had water in
it.  Derek and JP have emptied their tent
of everything to pour water out and
dry everything out.

Dick's Tent with contents out to dry
Everyone else as well, hanging stuff out to dry.
Derek, WF4I at the ready
Derek, WF4I, at 20m station ready for the
2pm starting gun.

Derek/JP's 20m station
Better view of Derek and JP's 20m well
organized station.
JP operating Dick's Station
JP operating in Dick's tent using his KX3
he contributed to use there in place of
Dick's failed K2.
JP asleep
John Paul managing enthusiasm and
conserving resources  while Dick

operates 15m

Tom operating 40CW
Tom operating 40m in Joe's tent.

Chris operating 20SSB
Chris KD4PBJ doing 40m SSB in a position
reserved for young people.
Joe operating 40m
Joe, WA4GIR operating 40m.