[aprssig] Operation PCT 2006

Bruce Prior n7rr at hotmail.com
Sat Jan 7 22:27:34 EST 2006

>From early April through September, 2006 I will be thru-hiking the Pacific 
Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) from the USA/Mexican border near Campo, 
California to Manning Provincial Park in southern British Columbia.  To 
other hikers, I'll be known as "Doodad," my very appropriate trail-name. 
Operation PCT will include HF and VHF/UHF components.

I will be using an Elecraft KX1 transceiver.  I built my KX1 from a kit and 
I wrote a review of it in the April, 2004 QST.  I praised the radio highly, 
but I complained that it really needed to operate on the 80 m band, since 
that is where hams meet, mostly in the evenings, to chat and to pass message 
traffic.  Amateur radiograms are a great way for wilderness trekkers to stay 
in touch reliably with folks at home.  Radiograms can be delivered by 
telephone, by mail or by e-mail to the addressee.  They can also be relayed 
via the same radio traffic system directly to the wilderness trekker.  
Spurred on by my plan to thru-hike the PCT this year, Wayne Burdick, the 
full-time design engineer at Elecraft, figured out how to add 80 m 
capability into the already very small and light-weight KX1 box, principally 
by adding a combination module for 30 and 80 meters which replaces the KXB30 
module with one which enables both bands.  I expect to be building my 
optional module soon, leaving plenty of time to test it in the field before 
my April PCT departure.  With the brand-new KXB3080 adapter installed, the 
KX1 transmits CW on the 80 m, 40 m, 30 m and 20 m Amateur Radio bands, but 
it receives LSB or USB or AM transmissions from 1000 kHz in the AM broadcast 
band all the way up to 16.505 MHz, so cross-mode QSO's and shortwave 
listening are also lively possibilities.

For originating and receiving message traffic, I will be checking into 
various West Coast 80 m CW nets:

Oregon Section Net (OSN) 3587 kHz @ 1830 PDT (0130 UTC)
Washington State Net (WSN) 3658 kHz @ 1845 PDT (0145 UTC)
Northern California Net (NCN) 3630 kHz @ 1900 PDT (0200 UTC)
British Columbia Emergency Net (BCEN) 3652 kHz @ 1900 PDT (0200 UTC)
Southern California Net (SCN) 3598 kHz @ 1915 PDT (0215 UTC)
Idaho Montana Net (IMN) 3647 kHz @ 2000 PDT (0300 UTC)

There are also four Western US slow-speed Morse Code nets which operate on 
frequencies available to Technician Plus and Novice  amateurs:

Utah Code Net 3708 kHz @ 1830 PDT (0130 UTC)
Colorado-Wyoming Net 3715 kHz @ 1830 PDT (0130 UTC)
West Coast Slow Speed Net (WCN) 3702 kHz @ 1900 PDT (0200 UTC)
Northern California Net (NCN) [slow-speed Morse Code session] 3705 kHz @ 
2100 PDT (0400 UTC)

Just for fun, on 24 days of my thru-hike, I'm planning "Operation PCT" 
starting at local noon for quick Morse Code contacts with radio amateurs 
anywhere in the world.  We will exchange three pieces of information:

1. callsign
2. name
3. Maidenhead grid

The ARRL website has a nifty Maidenhead grid calculator:

My scheduled days for "Operation PCT" are:

Mondays: April 10, May 22, July 3, August 14
Tuesdays: April 18, May 30, July 11, August 22
Wednesdays: April 26, June 7, July 19, August 30
Thursdays: May 4, June 15, July 27, September 7
Fridays: May 12, June 23, August 4, September 15
Saturdays: May 20, July 1, August 12, September 23

On scheduled weekdays I'll operate on:
7030 kHz ± 1200-1215 PDT (1900-1915 Z)
14.060 MHz ± 1215-1300 PDT (1915-2000 Z)
and on Saturdays:
10.106 MHz ± 1200-1230 PDT (1900-1930 Z)

What does this cost in backpack weight?  My complete KX1 station weighs 1.7 
kg including the KX1 transceiver with 6 internal AA cells, extra external 
battery pack, antenna, external speaker, headphones, two CW keyer paddles, 
logbook, and a 2.4 L Rubbermaid container.  Since I will be stealth camping 
away from my dinner-preparation site, I won't be saddled with a lot of camp 
chores in the evening, so I might decide to eliminate the external speaker 
and just use headphones in my tent.  I'll be experimenting with a lighter 
wire antenna system as well.  So, I might be able to cut the KX1 station 
weight down to about 1.2 kg, or slightly more than my Bearikade Expedition 
MKII food canister, a carbon fiber/epoxy/aluminum cylinder which no bruin 
has ever successfully penetrated.

"Operation PCT" also has a VHF/UHF component.  My transceiver is the Kenwood 
TH-D7A(G) which weighs 415 g including four extra lithium AA cells,a spare 
antenna and a power cord to connect to a 9 V lithium battery or the external 
8 @ AA RadioShack external power pack which I also use with my KX1.  My main 
antenna is a Diamond SRH77CA.  An Amateur Radio station using APRS can 
telemeter its current position and speed and altitude and heading if it is 
coupled to a GPS receiver.  In practice, I won't connect them directly; I’ll 
just occasionally enter my geographical coordinates into the radio manually 
and transmit my current position and some additional information, such as my 
northbound PCT mile.  You may wish to save this URL on your favorites list 
to watch my south-to-north traverse of three western US states:


Be sure to scroll down so you can see the street map, the weather radar 
chart, the aerial photograph and the topographical map.  At the very end, 
I'll switch callsigns for the short Canadian leg.  For that, check out:


APRS operation with my handitalkie also allows me to send text messages.  I 
can exchange messages of up to 45 characters to another APRS station.  I 
hope to exchange that same callsign, name, grid information with many APRS 
stations before, during and after my PCT trek.  Just address an APRS message 
to N7RR and include your name and Maidenhead grid.  Your callsign will be 
included automatically with the message.  With the APRS messaging system, 
there is no need to adhere to my HF operating schedule.  In addition, I can 
send e-mails through APRS, but the e-mail address is included in that 
45-character allotment, so the longer the e-mail address, the shorter the 
message must be.  APRS node and internet gate stations are not as readily 
available as FM repeaters.  On the PCT, therefore, I will be using Amateur 
Radio satellites frequently to relay my APRS transmissions.  Two such 
satellites were built by midshipmen at the US Naval Academy under the 
supervision of Bob Bruninga.  One of those (PCSat2) is attached to an arm of 
the International Space Station.  There are currently eight 
fully-operational Amateur Radio satellites in orbit, three of US origin, one 
multi-national, and one each from Saudi Arabia, Israel, India and Japan.  
For more information on Amateur Radio satellites, check out:

73, Bruce Prior N7RR

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