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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Yellowstone, Smoke-jumpers, and SolderSmoke on 20 CW


Bill,

It has been a long time since I have written to you.  I’m the ex-smokejumper up here in the great winter wonderland known as Montana.  I thought I’d drop a quick note to say howdy and fill you in on the crazy string of events that happened this afternoon.

To refresh your memory…. I stopped jumping fire in ‘09, I have continued to be employed with the US Forest Service as a radio technician.  Part of my duties is to do annual maintenance on all of the Gallatin National Forest VHF handheld radios.  So every winter I update the programming and check the VCOs, RX specs, modulation, and TX power on about 250 handheld radios (luckily the USFS provides me with a handy Aeroflex 3500 service monitor that speeds up this task, but I digress). 

Anyhow I had finished programming and tuning a large batch of radios and today I was making my rounds to deliver them to the various offices.  My route was from Bozeman (where my shop is) to West Yellowstone (where I used to jump out of) … through the North side of Yellowstone Park to Gardiner), then  following the Yellowstone river north up the Paradise Valley (where I grew up as kid) to Livingston (where I live now).  I must say it’s an absolutely beautiful drive that took me to 6 of my delivery points.  This time of year Yellowstone Park is closed to normal traffic, but official Gov’t use is permitted, so you see very few other vehicles, it’s a pretty neat time of year to be in the Park.

Continuing….I stopped at the smokejumper base to deliver their radios and visited with some of the “bros” for a bit then headed on my way.  As I drove off I was thinking of my very last fire jump in Yellowstone and it reminded me that I had written to you back in ’08 about my last jump and listening to “Soldersmoke” while waiting for my ride home.  So today as I drove on through the Park I turned on the old Yaesu FT-747 that I installed in my work truck to accompany me on some of these long drives.  I did not have the mic or key with me, so I was “voiceless”, but I put the 20m stick on my hustler antenna and turned it on anyway.  I enjoy tuning in to some CW while driving and just listening to random QSOs to make use of my drive time by honing my CW skills.  Just after I turned on the radio I heard some a W7 station calling CQ and listened for a while in hopes that it might be W7ZOI, I always am listening for the callsigns of the QRP gurus out there, no luck though it was not Wes.  I continued listening for quite a while.  On the final leg of my trip from Gardiner to Livingston, I was just north of Yankee Jim canyon in Paradise Valley when I heard a very rhythmic CW pattern.  It was almost musical sounding, so I tuned it in good, put the narrow filter on and listened.  It sounded like the OP was using a Vibroplex bug key, due to the long dash patterns, but the way he keyed it was almost like CW R&B..it was a little tough to copy but fun to listen to none the less.  Anyhow as I continued listening, his callsign was KC0MTC in Des Moines, IA and you can guess who he was talking to…none other than yourself, N2CQR!!  I couldn’t believe I had just been thinking about “Soldersmoke”, in fact I had even checked the podcast on my iPhone before leaving West Yellowstone to see if a new podcast was posted yet.   Then a hour or so later, I hear you live on 14.058500 MHz.  What are the chances.  I was frantically thinking of a way to jury rig a cable of some sort to plug into my key jack.  I was hoping you would make another contact so  I could pull over, take a 15min safety break,  rig up a key out of headphone cable or something and give you a call by touching the wires together.  Unfortunately, you disappeared right after the QSO with KC0MTC.  I think you went QRT after that.  I tuned all around the CW portion of 20 searching but no luck. 

Either which way, I got a big kick out of it and thought it was quite a coincidence.  I figured you would appreciate the story.  So here is your signal report into Montana …

You were just above the noise this evening, which is quite high S3-4 due to the engine noise in my mobile. You were readable most of the time but dipping into the noise occasionally.   I heard you tell him you were QRP but missed the power level you were using.  I’d give you an RST of 549, this was about 1730 MDT.  Not bad at all for QRP and 1800 miles or so….KC0MTC was booming in a solid 599.

Anyhow 73’s,

Kevin – AA7YQ

1 comment:

  1. Kevin, Here in VK a number of us believe your vehicle is not "road worthy" unless it has a functional ham radio installed... so unfortunately as your radio was not "functional" due to the lack of a key and a microphone, you are now required to park the truck until you make it "road worthy" again.....
    73 Mike VK3XL

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