Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ham Radio Operations

With the majority of the winter gates located on the various backroads and highways throughout Kananaskis Country now open for the summer driving season, I had the itch to saddle up my truck and head out that way.

Of course the forecast wasn't looking all that great for later in the day, but I figured if I got moving early enough, I could make the drive south down to Williams Coulee located west of Nanton just off highway 2 south of Calgary, and from there drive the Williams Coulee road west over to highway 22, then drive south on highway 22 till I picked up highway 532 located on the north end of Chain Lakes, and from there I would drive west through the Willow Creek valley before arriving at the Hump located in Kananskis Country.
I planned on leaving my truck parked there while I made the hike up to the ridge that overlooks the Hump as well as a 100 kilometers or more out over the eastern plains of southern Alberta.
This ridge with its rocky outcropping located at an elevation of 7000 feet above sea level would be the perfect place to set up with my manpack and make some contacts on the HF bands.  If you are not familiar with the manpack that I put together some months ago, you can read my review on it by opening one of my previous blog posts titled  "Manpack Communication Systems".

With all the gear that I was going to take with me piled by the door to the garage, I was loaded and out the door before 5:30am, on what was shaping up to be a beautiful morning for the drive down to "the Hump" the nick-name given to the summit of the Willow Creek road (highway 532) that connects highway 22 south of Longview Alberta to highway 940 (forestry trunk road) south of Highwood House to the north.

I have mentioned Kananaskis Country before, but just to refresh your memory, Kananaskis Country is situated to the west of Calgary and lies up against the front ranges of the southern Alberta Rockies. Kananaskis Country was established in 1978, and covers an area 4000 square kilometers in size that lies against Banff park on its northwestern border. Once you visit this area with its magnificent ranges and valleys, the endless forests and rushing waters, the abundant wildlife, you will want to return again and again as I have done hundreds of times since first visiting the area in 1971.

The drive proved to be everything that I expected it to be on a morning with never ending blue skies not yet marred by the rain clouds scheduled to move in later on in the day. Once I reached Williams Coulee, and knowing that there would be photos to be shot both of the landscape and the wildlife within it, I kept my camera close at hand as I drove west on the coulee road making stops as required to capture images that were pleasing to me,  some of which consisted of wildlife, the landscape, and on occasion the picturesque ranches dotting the landscape with commanding views of the Rockies to the west. Many of these ranches are steeped in history going back 120 years or more, before Alberta was yet a province but part of the Northwest territories.

Arriving at the start of the Willow Creek road (highway 532) I noted a sign that said there were logging activities happening further west on the forestry trunk road, and anyone travelling on the Willow Creek road should be aware that meeting logging trucks could be a possibility. I also took the time to program in the VHF frequency 162.610 Mhz into my radio, the frequency to monitor for information and warnings as to where the logging trucks were located between mile marker 1 and mile marker 25, the location of the forestry trunk road.  The drive through the Willow Creek valley proved to be uneventful as far as meeting logging trucks went, and upon reaching the top of the switchback that tops out at the summit of the Hump just through the gap in the rocks on either side of the road, I pulled my truck over and parked.

With my manpack loaded, I headed up the slope bordering a small lake just off of the road that still had lingering snow in the shadows (left over from a recent system that had passed through the area), and immediately felt the winds spilling over the ridge that I was following from the southeast. I wasn't surprised, as in all the times I've been up here, the wind is a constant that you have to deal with. As I hiked up to the outcropping marking the ridge located a 1/2 kilometer away, and 400 feet in elevation above the road where my truck was parked, I was keeping an eye on the skies, as the clouds had been forming up for the past hour coming in up wind from the northwest, and in my mind a sure indication of rain arriving soon.

Once I reached the outcropping marking the ridge, I off-loaded my manpack and began assembling my 10-60 meter vertical antenna. With the antenna assembled, and in place on my manpack with 20 meters chosen to operate on, I turned on the FT-897 and began spinning the VFO looking for activity. Very shortly I made my first contact followed by a second, followed by a 1/2 hour of good operating conditions on 20 meters.

 I had also brought along my 2 meter take-down yagi, as I had been notified through an email that stated Lewis VE6LEW, and Ken VE6AGR were planning on a SOTA activation in the area west of Longview located to the northeast of my location, and that they would be calling on 146.520 Mhz, and 14.300 Mhz, both frequencies I would monitor and give a call on from time to time, although I never did work them, possibly because they didn't make the hike in happen due to the incoming weather.

After an hour on the ridge, and the wind increasing in force as the clouds became more ominous, I decide it was time to pack up and head back down to my truck. Once I arrived back at my truck, I headed west picking up secondary highway 940 north (forestry trunk road). I drove the 35 kilometers to the Highwood House junction before turning east on to secondary highway 546 located in the Highwood Valley west of Longview, a 45 kilometer drive through some of most beautiful and scenic country in southern Alberta. The skies obscured with rain laden clouds that had become more threatening throughout the morning, finally opened up with rain spattering on my windshield and increasing in intensity as I drove east towards home.

In actuality I enjoyed the drive through the rain as I played back my morning spent in Kananaskis Country, exploring, photographing, and playing radio.
Does it get any better....I was already planning my return to the headwaters of the Oldman and Livingston rivers located in the Livingston range of the southern Alberta Rockies, where fly-fishing these pristine waters would be the order of the day.

NOTE.....all photos expand

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