Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ham Radio Adventures In The BackCountry

Although this day would be about spending time indulging in one of my favorite summer activities, fly-fishing on one of my favorite trout streams located here in southern Alberta, I would be keeping myself on the map and connected by utilizing one of my APRS equipped dual-band HT's to make that happen.  To make sure that I can connect to the APRS network while in the backcountry, I always set my mobile up as a fill-in digi through the use of the Kenwood D710A part of the radio stack in my mobile.

I have been a fly-fishing enthusiast for going on 40 years, and in that time I have fished many of the streams located along the eastern slope of the Alberta Rockies.  Its a given that stream fishing involves spending time off of the beaten path, so its crucial that you are prepared for the unexpected while spending time in the backcountry, including the chance that you may have to spend a night out if something were to happen that you hadn't planned on.
For this reason, and before leaving home, I always make sure someone knows where I'm headed, and when I plan on returning. I also carry a selection of emergency preparedness gear that allows me to deal with the un-expected should it arise.

This day finds me fishing the upper reaches of the Sheep River located in Kananaskis Country. Before leaving my mobile parked on a high vantage point overlooking the Sheep River Canyon, I set my Kenwood D710A up for APRS operation, including turning on the digipeater mode.
 I headed out carrying my Kenwood D72 attached to my fly-fishing chest-pack, and the beacons being transmitted by the D72 were being digipeated by my mobile.
I also had my take-down yagi along just in case I needed the extra reach, and this very portable lightweight yagi is stored in a rear pocket of my fly-fishing chest pack.

So although my D72 was not being heard by a distant digipeater due to my location in the bottom of the canyon, my mobile was hearing my D72, keeping me connected to the outside world.
If your wondering about cell phone service, that stopped some 50 kilometers back on the drive in!
Normally while wadding the river fishing, I would carry my Yaesu VX-8R instead of the Kenwood D72, as the VX-8R is waterproof, where the D72 is not.
The D72 is a better APRS radio than the VX-8R, but if I were to submerge the D72, then it would be game over.
I realized after I arrived and was preparing to hit the river that I had forgot to swap out the D72 for the VX-8R before leaving home, but I wasn't about to head out without having a radio along, allowing me to stay connected to my mobile parked several kilometers away from my location in this photo, so the D72 was my go to transceiver on this day.

Of course what's a day on the water if you don't have a camera or two along with you, and mounted on the left shoulder harness of my chest pack is my GoPro, that allows me to shoot video if I feel like recording the goings on around me or under the water.
It goes without saying that I never head out without my trusty head-lamp mounted on my cap, as you never know when the fishing will keep you out after dark.
Being I planned on being out for most of the day, I brought a lunch along, as well as energy bars just in case I stayed out longer than I planned for.

 Although the upper reaches of the Sheep this far west of civilization are more than likely pure enough to drink from, I have a water bladder located in the rear of my chest-pack that holds several liters of drinking water.
The water is available through the mouth-valve equipped hose seen attached to the front of my chest pack. If I wanted to lighten the load, I could leave the bladder empty and use the life-straw I have with me, that being a personal light-weight filtration device that you suck water through from a water source.
If you were to look in one of the rear pockets of my chest-pack, you would also find a small emergency-kit, as well as a few other items that could prove invaluable if the unexpected should occur while in the backcountry.

I also am carrying a pressurized canister of bear spray in its carrying-pouch located on my right side attached to my wader belt. Another device I always carry while off of the beaten path is my flare pen that includes a selection of red, white, and green flares, as well as smoke and bear bangers.
One more thing you may find of interest that keeps me safe while wading deep fast water, is the wading staff located on my left hip.
It is easily deployed when required, as once I pull it from its pouch, the shock-corded aluminum shaft with its tungsten carbide tipped end is immediately ready for action.
The handle is also lashed to my wading belt with a length of 550 paracord, in case I let go of it on purpose or accidently, I can easily retrieve it.

There is a whole lot more going on as far as what I had with me on this day, but most of the remaining details pertain to my fly-fishing the Sheep that has its own challenges,  including in many cases no room for a back-cast due to the many rock cliffs lining the river. In one situation my only option was to make my cast facing down stream, and then mend the line while on my backcast, and roll the line out and on to the water just above where I had been watching a Cutthroat feeding.
It did not help that on this day there was a blustery wind with gusts threatening to ruin my presentation and drop my fly-line directly over the fish, putting him down with the result.......

Well that's a story for another day, but the bottom line is that those of us who are amateur radio operators, have the means to keep ourselves connected while off the beaten path, and this can play a crucial part in keeping us safe while going down roads less travelled, or in my case on this day, keeping me connected while fishing the upper reaches of the Sheep river located on the eastern slope of the Rockies.

NOTE....all photos expand

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