Amateur Radio WB3GCK QRP to the Field
April 2004

Craig LaBarge, WB3GCK


The QRP to the Field contest is always a fun time. It's like a mini Field Day for QRPers. The fact that it is a short, sprint-type event, also appeals to me. Each year, the contest has a different theme, which makes it even more fun. The theme this year was Battlefields.

So, I threw together some equipment and headed out to nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park. OK... Technically speaking, Valley Forge wasn't a battlefield, per se. However, one could hardly argue the military significance of the Continental Army's encampment there during the winter of 1777-1778. It seems to me that it was certainly a battle for survival.

I parked my pickup truck in an isolated corner of a parking lot near one of the picnic areas. This spot had access to nearby bathroom facilities (a feature that weighed heavily in my decision to locate there).

I had heard somewhere that Valley Forge park rangers are sometimes fussy about having their trees used for supports, so I decided to try a setup that was completely self-contained. For the antenna, I set up a 28-foot collapsible fiberglass mast in the bed of the pickup truck. I supported it with an old, heavy steel antenna support, originally designed to mount an antenna mast on a flat roof. The mast supported about 34 feet of wire which was connected to a homebrew Z-match tuner. I used the truck's body and a counterpoise wire for ground.

This trip was the first field outing for my Yaesu FT-817, which was running 5 watts. I powered it using a 17 Amp-hour gel cell battery. This was also the first outing for the NorCal Keyer, which I had finished building about a week before the contest. Since QTTF was originally a NorCal-sponsored event, I guess it was also fitting that I used my NorCal paddles.

From the start, I was plagued with antenna problems. I had some problems getting a consistent match on some bands. At one point, in mid-QSO, the mast decided to spontaneously collapse itself. Toward the end of the contest, the wind kicked up and I found myself keying with one hand and grabbing the antenna with the other. Other than that, it worked out pretty well for an antenna design that was conceived about a hour before I left the house.

It was a beautiful afternoon and there were plenty of picnickers in the area. I got a few curious glances from passing park rangers but none of them stopped. A fellow in a park maintenance truck passed by several times and finally pulled up next to me. He said he couldn't contain his curiosity and just had to find out what I was doing.

Once again, not being a serious contester, I didn't set any records with this effort. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the great weather in a very picturesque setting.

Visit the National Parks Service's website for more information on Valley Forge National Historical Park.

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WB3GCK in action

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The set-up

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The operating position

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Another view of the operating position

Contest Log:


UTC        CALL                RST-S      RST-R      SPC
1535        W1PID              589        559        NH
1554        K1CL               599        599        MA
1556        K2QS               579        559        NY
1600        NQ2RP              599        559        NY
1607        K4HTA              549        549        VA
1614        VE3WMB             579        569        ON
1621        W3IYQ              579        559        DE
1623        AE5X               599        599        NJ
1630        W3BBO              589        579        PA
1632        WB8YYY             599        559        MD
1639        VE3QDR             579        339        ON
1701        W4GGM              599        559        TN
1719        KM1CC              599        579        MA
1720        K4JSI              599        579        MD
1722        KI4DEF             579        559        NC
1723        K3UJ               579        559        MD
1727        K8KFJ              599        579        WV
1732        N2JNZ              599        599        NY
1742        VE2HAC             599        599        QC


UTC        CALL                RST-S      RST-R      SPC
1650        W0UFO              559        559        MN
1755        KD4ORO             559        449        AL
1758        WA7LNW             559        559        UT
1803        WA9PWP             569        569        WI
1805        K5OI/M             559        579        OK
1809        AA5CK              569        559        OK
1811        K5KW               579        559        OK
1814        W5YA               559        539        NM
1819        W3IYQ              559        559        DE
1835        W0CH               569        569        OK
1836        N9KO               559        559        IL
1838        WW4DX              599        599        TN
1844        NE4LS              569        559        FL
1941        K6JSS              579        559        GA
1943        AF4PP              599        559        GA
1944        N0TK               559        559        CO


UTC        CALL                 RST-S     RST-R      SPC
1854        N0TK                599       579        CO
1856        KL7FDQ              559       339        MT
1907        KL7V/5              599       579        OK
1914        K7TQ                559       559        ID
1919        W5KDJ               449       559        TX
1954        WA7LNW              579       559        UT
1956        WA8ZBT              569       559        TX

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