Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Weather Straight off the Gulf

A front's stalled out between eastern Texas and western PA, and it's pulling hot muggy air straight up off the Gulf across us: 80 degree days, 70 degree nights, 90%+ humidity; it's like a bad week in early May.  Bleh.  Looks like relief is a week away, when we return to late winter/early spring patterns.  In the meantime, there's not much else to do but hunker down and enjoy the thoroughly mediocre weather and its accompanying gnats.

OTOH it's not actively raining.  Well, only a small part of the day.

More inspiration later.  It may take a while in this case.  Oh wait, here's some: a video travelogue about Bikepacking in the Atacama Desert.  At least it's dry there.

Monday, February 19, 2018

QRP Radio – Everyone's Doin' It!

And not exactly by choice.  Even if they're transmitting the usual 100 Watts, at least for the next 5 years until the Sun pulls out of this latest solar minimum, we're all struggling to make contacts harder than someone running 5 Watts just a few years ago.  Last night I was talking with a relatively new ham who was having these troubles, and so I recommended the book Minimum QRP and two of its chapters, Propagation and Activity and Operating QRP for advice on how to rustle up a few contacts.  Meh, it's better than cursing Fate and selling your gear.  Anyway, it's a pretty good read and at $5 it's cheap on kindle.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Backpacking the Tuxachanie Trail – Finally!

It finally stopped raining on weekends long enough to get out on the Tuxachanie Trail and backpack from Airey Lake to the POW Camp.  On this map, it's the the right hand part, the eight mile section between Airey and Bethel Roads:

The first six miles were pretty easy woods trail with a few muddy stream crossings.  The last two miles, where the trail closely follows Tuxachanie Creek though, those were a challenge.  Lots of bridges out, and while there was always a way across or through, at times it was like crossing playground monkey bars made of trees and roots.  Good stuff!

Lots of lessons learned along the way.  Here are the main ones:
- The 50 liter Osprey Atmos pack has plenty of room.  I had it completely loaded – gear, water, radios and all it came to 43.7 pounds.  That's pretty much my limit.  I'd been wishing I'd gone with the larger 65 liter version, but now all that extra room just seems like excess space that'd tempt me to pack too much.
- The Jurassic Duck Mk II antenna performed well on the trail, allowing me to stay in touch via the W5SGL Biloxi repeater in most places easily.  The exceptions were down in the creek bottom, where there just isn't a LOS to the repeater antenna.  However... it probably wasn't worth it.  Operating off the FT-60R hand-held radio, the entire rig adds two pounds weight.  Also, it was a raging pain to get through some of the tight trees and vines in those last two miles along the creek.  Next time, just take a roll-up slim JIM and operate off the FT-817nd after making camp.
- Tents and RVs camping at the same site go together like lobster tail and chocolate sauce.  Little things like generators that aren't any big noise deal when you're in an insulated aluminum shell are a problem for the folks in tents.  Nobody wants to be the campsite scold though, and so it's just better to pick a slightly more remote site.  Luckily, maintaining radio contact is pretty easy.
- When unpacking take notes.  I use a 6-1/2 x 4-1/2 bound journal I picked up at Downtown Books back in December.  It's just the right size to take along, big enough to write in, small enough to bring, and it even says "Principia Mathematica" on the cover.  Anyway, as you unpack each item it'll likely jog a memory from the trip.  If there's some lesson to be learned, make a note of it.  This blog post is pretty much straight from my notebook, and there are also plenty more smaller items I'd scratched down.  Three pages' worth in fact!  But I think I see some ways to shave some pack weight pounds here.

OK, enough jibber-jabber.  Here, have some pics.

Lots of these little low bridges over boggy spots.

Ah, good to be in camp and put the feet up.  Notice the poncho tent for gear just outside.

Time to play radio.

A little rushing water on one of the side creeks that had to be waded.

Not all the bridges made it through some recent storms.

Well, that's all for now.  Time to go roll up and re-pack some gear that's been drying out in the living room since last night.

ps: I've gotten a few questions about what antenna I was packing.  It's an LNR EFT-10/20/40 Trail Friendly.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


You may have noticed that three out of the last five posts have featured maps.  Obviously I've got something on my mind here, but I am too tired to blog about it tonight.  Expect something tomorrow.

Friday, February 16, 2018

River Level Gauge Maps

Ever want to go do outdoors but you're not sure if Unpronounceable Creek is currently overflowing its banks and getting all up onto your good-times trail?  Well brother, your tax dollars are now coming to your service, by way of NOAA/NWS's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service's online real-time maps.  The screen capture image you see below is just a still, but on the real one at their site all of the little green-yellow-orange-red dots are live links.  Mouse over dots or click to open up full pages of info at particular gauges.  Some locations even have water level forecasts.  It's pretty good.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

St. Vincent NWR Turns 50

Just glad it's been preserved.  Full article at The Times.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Over the Hills and Far Away...

In ...Yellowstone?  Wait, that's a real place, right?

Um, yeah.  But it doesn't keep some guy from drawing Tolkenesque maps of real places.  He'll draw you one too for $108 (current exchange rate, prices will vary), or sell you an existing print for somewhat less.  Article at Backpacker, and his web site here.