[amsat-bb] NPOTA activations via satellite in southern Arizona on 28 July - report (long!)
Patrick STODDARD (WD9EWK/VA7EWK)
amsat-bb at wd9ewk.net
Sat Jul 30 05:48:59 UTC 2016
On Thursday, 28 July 2016, I decided to make a day-trip to southern
Arizona. I went to a grid that isn't terribly rare, DM42, and planned
to operate from a couple of National Parks on the Air sites around
Tucson. I have enjoyed working other satellite operators who have
operated from the NPOTA sites, and have tried to do my small part to
put NPOTA sites on the satellites. With AO-85 and SO-50 passes during
the day, those passes helped me work enough stations at each site to
have two more official NPOTA activations.
After leaving home early Thursday morning, I drove to the western
edge of Saguaro National Park, near Tucson. Saguaro National Park has
two sections, on the west and east sides of Tucson. I decided to work
from the western half of the park, since that made for a shorter drive,
and I was confident I could find locations that would let me work both
western and eastern passes. With a fuel stop near Tucson, I made it to
the first of the three spots I would operate from - along a road near
the western boundary of the national park - in under two hours.
The first pass was a western SO-50 pass around 1550 UTC. I expected
more stations to show up, even on a Thursday morning. I worked the only
two stations I heard: NP4JV in southern Arizona, and VA6OK in Alberta.
As I wrapped up working this pass, I had a visitor. Jim KB7YSY, who
saw my post to the AMSAT-BB on Wednesday (27 July) evening. Jim lives
very close to this part of Saguaro National Park, and had e-mailed me
earlier Thursday morning asking where I was planning to go. Jim also
saw my APRS track, so he was able to find me easily. We chatted for a
few minutes, and Jim mentioned a picnic area that he thought I might
want to use. More on that later.
After that SO-50 pass, I had about 90 minutes until the next two passes
I planned to work. I went to the visitor center, so I could put the
stamps for the park in my passport, and then drove along a road on the
north side of the park. I needed to find a good spot with a great view
to the east, for the passes around 1730-1830 UTC. FO-29 was passing
by at a maximum elevation of 11 degrees, and AO-85 was only going up to
a maximum elevation of 5 degrees.
After about 45 minutes of driving around, I found an intersection where
I could pull off the road and have a good view to the east. With the
western portion of Saguaro National Park being in the Tucson Mountains,
this was no easy task. I was able to hear myself through FO-29, but made
no QSOs on the 1735 UTC eastern pass. Maybe I should have tried the
western AO-73 pass at that time, which was a 19-degree pass. Then came
AO-85 at 1805 UTC...
I have been reading on Twitter about how NP4JV has been working low AO-85
passes from southern Arizona. I figured that I could make a try at doing
the same thing, if I had a good spot. It turned out that I found a great
spot for the 5-degree pass. I made 5 contacts in the middle 3 minutes of
the 9-minute pass. It seemed easier for me to work this 5-degree pass,
compared to some passes at higher elevations.
After the AO-85 pass, I had just over an hour before the next pair of
passes, FO-29 and AO-85 again. I grabbed a sandwich at a Subway just
outside the national park, and then visited that picnic area Jim KB7YSY
mentioned. The picnic area was just inside the national park boundary,
and was perfect for these two passes around 1915-2000 UTC. FO-29 was
going to rise to a maximum elevation of 76 degrees, followed by AO-85
going up to a maximum elevation of 63 degrees. FO-29 had some activity,
and I was able to work Endaf KG6FIY in California and George WA5KBH in
Louisiana. Unfortunately, I couldn't work the other 2 or 3 stations I
heard, but two contacts were better than zero contacts on the earlier
AO-85 at 1940-1955 UTC had a great crowd. Once the satellite rose above
the mountains south of me, I was able to work 9 stations across the
continental USA and Canada. I had a visitor stop by while I was working
the pass, wondering if I was tracking animals. I explained that I could
track animals, but I wasn't doing that. I also mentioned the National
Parks on the Air program, the reason why I was operating from the park.
If not for the NPOTA program, I wouldn't have been in the park at midday,
with the temperatures already up to 106F/41C outside.
With the 9 contacts I made on AO-85, I had a total of 18 contacts with
13 different stations. This made my visit to Saguaro National Park an
official NPOTA activation, having worked at least 10 different stations.
Instead of trying to work the next AO-85 pass at 2123 UTC from here, I
drove north about 40 miles to find a spot for the next NPOTA activation
I hoped to make.
Northwest of Tucson along the I-10 freeway is Picacho Peak State Park.
This park has two bits of history associated with it. Picacho Peak was
the site of the westernmost battle in the US Civil War. Not a big battle,
but a small bit of US history in Arizona a half-century before becoming
a US state. Almost a century before the Civil War battle, the Spanish
explorer Juan Bautista de Anza led expeditions from Mexico through what
is now Arizona and California, up to what would become the city of San
Francisco. Picacho Peak was used as a camp for the de Anza expeditions,
and is within the corridor defined by the National Park Service for the
de Anza National Historic Trail.
The 2123 UTC AO-85 pass favored the west coast, with a maximum elevation
of 17 degrees. After driving through the Picacho Peak park, I parked at
the westernmost trailhead in the park. From there, I worked 5 stations
up and down California, and one station in Oklahoma, in about 10 minutes.
Logging 6 stations on this pass made me confident I could work 4 more
different stations on the later SO-50 pass, so I could count this stop
as another NPOTA activation.
Now in the mid-afternoon, the outside temperature was up to 109F/43C. I
had hoped to go in the visitor center at Picacho Peak to kill some time,
and get the NPS passport stamp for the de Anza National Historic Trail
at Picacho Peak. I had to wait about 30 minutes for the rangers to come
back to the visitor center. I did not care about fuel economy for my car
between passes, as I was using my car's air conditioning to have a cool
place to escape the heat. When the visitor center opened up, I was able
to get those passport stamps. Unlike most national parks, the stamps were
kept behind a counter, and I had to ask for them. Not many apparently ask
for these stamps, probably not realizing that this state park is also
part of a rather large National Park Service unit (the de Anza trail).
With the passport stamps out of the way, I found a spot at the eastern
edge of the park with a nice view to the northeast. I had an SO-50 pass
coming at 2244 UTC, with a maximum elevation of 18 degrees. From Picacho
Peak, this meant a pass that would cover almost all of the continental
USA. With the earlier AO-85 contacts, I figured I should be able to get
4 contacts on this pass. Not only did I get the 4 I hoped to log (that
was done in the first 2 minutes of the pass), I worked a total of 14
stations. Thirteen of these stations were across the continental USA,
and one was in Cuba (CO6HLP). This pass alone was more than enough to
make this stop an official NPOTA activation. I logged 20 contacts between
the two passes, doubling the minimum number I needed for an activation
(10). After putting my gear back in the trunk of my car, I drove home.
All QSOs made from these two locations have been uploaded to Logbook of
the World. If anyone would like to receive a QSL card for a contact made
with WD9EWK on Thursday, please e-mail me with the QSO details. Please
note that anyone participating in the National Parks on the Air activity
must use LOTW, as ARRL will not accept QSL cards for any awards connected
with this activity. Thanks to everyone who worked me at these two sites!
Despite the hot weather, it was fun to activate two different NPOTA sites
in the same day, all via satellite.
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