I just returned from an incredible APE expedition to the Boundary Waters
Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota. Technical difficulties limited my
contacts to about 30 PSK-31 contacts plus another 27 CW contacts. Here
are some highlights with much more detail and pictures to follow. Logs
will follow when I figure out how to retrieve them from my dead
computer. I'll have pictures available in a day or two.
Day 1: August 23rd - I wish I could take that one back
We canoed out to our first camp site on Ensign Lake without a
hitch. After setting up camp, I started to go through some preliminary
gear testing. I carefully hooked up my ft-817 to a gel cell taking
extreme care to make sure the DC polarity was correct. (Hooking the
power on the 817 backwards fries the rig instantly). Next I hooked up
the solar panel to the notebook computer to verify proper operation.
Nothing happened. No charging. Dang! I couldn't believe it but I had
hooked the DC input to the notebook computer up backwards instantly
frying the charging circuit! That left me with a maximum of 10 hrs of
operating time on PSK-31. The notebook had a 10 hr battery installed.
Still in a state of shock, I put up a Zepp antenna fed with my ZM-2
tuner into 300 ohm ladder line.
During the setup of our camp, we discovered that our water
filter was broken. Most people in the BWCA drink right out of the lake,
but we prefer not to take any risks. That left us with boiling water for
7 people. Not only that, but a fire restriction was in effect that only
allowed camp fires between 7 pm and midnight. We calculated that we
would need a lot more fuel for the Coleman stove.
In the early evening I started calling CQ. It seemed like I was
using a dummy load for an antenna because no one was answering back. I
finally made a couple contacts. One was with Karen, W4GTM who was kind
enough to call our outfitter and ask them to deliver a water filter and
another gallon of fuel. A fishing guide was scheduled to camp with us
for a couple days starting on the 26th so we thought that would be a
great opportunity for a delivery. Thanks a million for the help Karen! I
made a couple more contacts and shutdown for the night to conserve
Day 2: August 24th - So close yet so far
After a morning of fishing I decided to string up a new antenna.
Using my trusty golf ball on a fishing pole, I was able to put up a
delta loop at least 35 ft high. The delta loop is my all time favorite
antenna and it didn't disappoint. The signals were booming in. The
delta loop was made of about 77' of wire fed at the bottom with ladder
line. Ropes were strung from the sides to form a triangle with the apex
at the top. It was pointing East/West and was about 5 feet from Ensign
Lake. Not the best heading but good enough to get things started.
In the late morning I fired up the rig and made many more
contacts including many 070 club members. Karen got back to me reporting
that they had no water filters but would send more fuel. (As it turns
out, they did manage to get their hands on a water filter for us).
Batteries were dying and I thought that this would be my last night on
PSK-31. I had about 15 contacts and the batteries gave out! I couldn't
believe it! I was so close and yet so far. I only needed a few more
contacts but there would be no such luck that night...
Day 3: August 25th - A day of fishing and more...
We all fished all day. My cousin Ed managed to hook a lure barb
deep into his finger right to the bone. Ouch! He returned to camp and we
tried to figure out how to get the hook out. Finally he decided he had
to bite the bullet and rip the barb out. We rigged a tourniquet on his
finger and he ripped the hook out with a pair of pliers. No doubt it was
quite painful judging from the sounds he made while pulling the hook
out. After the deed was done we wrapped his finger in bandages and all
went back to fishing. In the late afternoon rangers inspected our camp.
The inspection went well. In the evening I managed to squeeze a couple
more contacts out of the notebook computer then it died for good. Total
17 contacts... So close...
Day 4: August 26th - The day it rained flies
Steve arrived from our outfitter with fuel and a water filter.
We had burned a lot of fuel and were very happy to have replenished
supplies. Steve also delivered a next day air package that I was hoping
to get my hands on. It was a custom modified green laser pointer. (More
on that toy later)
By mid morning I couldn't stand it, I just had to find a way to
get the computer working. I took a good look at the computer, made a few
lucky guesses and got it working off one of my 5 Ah gel cells. The
computer did not think it had any power, but somehow it booted up
anyway. By late evening I had made lots more contacts! What a relief.
A strange phenomenon occurred in the late afternoon that we had
never seen in 8 years of canoe trips. Flies began falling out of the sky
by the thousands. And they couldn't get back up off the ground.
Everything was covered with flies! Up to this point, we hadn't seen a
single fly in camp so it truly baffled us. Eventually they were able to
get up and fly away and they never returned. Our only possible
explanation was that one of the many weather fronts had quickly come
through and the change in pressure somehow confused them for a while. We
may never know...
The evening was beautiful with bright stars dimmed only by the
full moon rising. For additional entertainment I unveiled a
state-of-the-art night vision scope and my new custom laser. The laser
was a green 30 mw laser that was so bright, that the beam could be seen
for miles. It made a great pointer for constellations and satellites
flying overhead. And I wonder why they call me gadget man :)
Day 5: August 27th - Half the crew returned home and we journey on
Half our camping crew returned home on this day while the
remaining three members, my brother Greg, my cousin Ed and myself
journeyed on to Birch Lake. There were three tough 100 rod (1 rod = 16
feet) portages to traverse to get to Birch Lake. The first 2 portages
required climbing steep rock inclines with canoes and heavy packs. The
third portage was a mud bog. I was the first in line through the portage
and midway through, the logs that helped keep us out of the mud ended.
It didn't look too bad so I took one more fatal step and instantly fell
waist deep in the mud with a 100 lb pack fishing rods and the Coleman
stove. Everyone behind immediately went into uncontrolled laughter. The
mud was just like tar, and it sucked on my boots when I tried to get
out. I finally got the pack off and crawled out of the mud, finished the
portage and swam off as much mud as possible. It turned out that I had
missed a small side trail that would have led us through only ankle deep
mud. We eventually made it to a fine camp on Birch with a view across
the lake to Canada, set up camp and collapsed for a while. Steve our
fishing guide did his best to get the muck out of the stove.
Later I tried to get the computer working but it had given me
its last gasp. It just could not be convinced to turn on. The rest of
the trip would be an exercise to brush up on my very rusty CW.
Late in the night on the 27th we heard a loud banging on one of
our canoes. An Otter was eating a fish on our stringer. We put up a good
fight, but the Otter won. He came up on shore and started hissing at us
in a way that convinced us that he should get the fish.
Day 6 - Day 10
There was lots of fishing. I hooked a monster Northern that
eventually broke my line and spit my lure back at me. I made CW contacts
in the evenings. Weather was perfect for fishing during the last 5 days
but bad for recharging batteries. It was very overcast. We constantly
heard thunderstorms to the north in Canada. There were Walleye dinners.
The WX was 70's in the day and 50's at night. All in all, it was another
incredible canoeing adventure.
NOTE: I haven't been able to get the QSO logs off my computer yet
because it is completely dead, I'll probably have to pull the hard
drive. When I retrieve the logs I'll submit them ASAP.
Expedition Members: Don Snider Jr. (N3MK), Don Snider Sr., Greg Snider,
Mary Snider, Ed Snider, Bob Bulley, Michelle Bully