2002 Field Day

Mount Gleason, CA — June 22-23


This was my first Field Day in over 20 years. I'm happy to report that it was every bit as much fun as I remembered! I had the pleasure to operate with the group from the Jet Propulsion Lab, using the call W6VIO (class 4A).

Two things made the event particularly noteworthy this time around:

  1. It was the first Field Day since the events of September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of that tragedy, anything that demonstrates ham's emergency preparedness to the public can only be seen as positive.

  2. This was the first running of the annual Field Day "test"1 since expanding it from a US-only thing into a Region 2 (the Americas) event.

Antenna scene atop Mt. Gleason

Click on picture for a full-size view, or here for an aerial view.

Why Mt. Gleason? Because it's there! Seriously, it is a desirable base of operation for a number of reasons. At 6532' (1991 meters) ASL, it is one of the highest accessible locations in Los Angeles County (LAX Section), offering unobstructed views in most directions. It is nestled within the Angeles National Forest, part of a range known collectively as the San Gabriel Mountains. The US military also considered Mt. Gleason a good location, as it is the former site of a Nike missile base.

Notice the mixture of desert-like terrain and evergreens in the photo at right. In the full-size image you can also make out small orange nets at ground level. These are wind screens to protect planted saplings from the prevailing winds. This is an effort to allow nature to reclaim the area from it's former use. Conditions were "right" at the beginning of the contest that I witnessed my first dust devil. It quickly swept up, over, and across the mountain. I didn't know what had occurred until later, but while it was happening, I thought my tent was going to blow away...possibly with me in it (we don't have these kind of things back in Massachusetts, where I come from). I was a little shaken, but unharmed, as were the antennas. I may have inserted a couple of extra "dits" in the callsign while running guys though! Aussies call these mini-twisters willy willies. Go figure!

UHF/VHF array preparation

Trent (from local Explorer post) and Mike, W4EF assemble the 430MHz and 2M arrays.

10M phone is HOT

Stan, N7YQ and daughter Debbie work the hordes on 10M phone.

Bob humming along on 20M

Bob, N6ET at the controls of the 20 Meter CW station.

15M seems to be open everywhere

Marty, N6VI switches modes on 15M to keep the rate up. Here he knocks 'em dead on code!

6M log periodic

Click on picture for a full-size view, or here for the technical specs.

What is it?
This unusual looking antenna at right is actually a military log periodic array for the frequency range of 30 - 76MHz. To be precise, it is a Marine Corps model AS-2236/GRC. It is intended to collapse into a backpack size unit, and was perfect for Field Day purposes. W6VIO used it to good advantage on 6 Meters.

About the Event Organizers
Of course, credit as overall organizers of the event belongs to ARRL. They are to be commended for keeping the event fresh and exciting by implementing important new rule changes this year. Notably among them:

  • Establishment of a GOTA (Get-On-The-Air) station category, to replace the old Novice-Technician station, and encourage operation by newcomers and "rusty" old-timers.

  • Broadening scope to include all IARU Region 2

  • Expansion of Club Competition rules

At the local level, members of the JPLARC and CalTech ARC worked hard to make this operation a success, and are to be congratulated. Murphy did pay a visit, but it was certainly not due to lack of planning, or errors in execution. As a former W1 who has used CT from the beginning, even I was impressed with what this team accomplished. To minimize the possibility of RF interference, and use mainstream technology that didn't require a CT guru to troubleshoot, they interconnected stations with standard Windows networking via fiber optic links. CT was run within a Dos window. It all worked perfectly...until the computers were rebooted just prior to the start of the test. Suddenly, the CW interface on all stations stopped working. As a result, all CW was sent with a paddle. The network however worked without a hitch, and SSB operations of course, were not affected at all. On a slightly different note, one of the best ideas of the weekend was having professional caterers on the mountain-top for the duration of the event. Cost was minimal, the chow was great, and no one got stuck being chief cook and bottle washer.

All in all, a good time was had by all. See you next year!

1. Contesters generally use the terms "test" and "contest" interchangeably. Field Day however, is truly a test, as the object is to verify emergency operational readiness (although having entry classes, scoring, and awards doesn't hurt!).

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All photos copyright © 2002 by Bob Wilson, N6HB