On Friday morning, April 29, 2016 I had the distinct pleasure to be high on a ridge just a hundred feet inside the southwest border of Yosemite National Park. I was there with my Elecraft KX3 ready to communicate with at least ten other radio operators. If this happened, I’d successfully *activate* Yosemite National Park.
The red balloon in the lower left shows where I was. Image credit: Google Maps (C) 2016
I was in Yosemite on vacation with my two daughters and my son-in-law Brent Walter. Yosemite was the first of three national parks I’d see with my youngest daughter over the next five days. Once we finished at Yosemite, we were off to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks. It was my goal to set up my radio in all three parks as part of the year-long National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event that’s celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park System.
Yosemite West is an interesting location. It’s a private single-family housing development that abuts the national park. At the end of one of the small dead-end streets, Azalea Lane, there’s a dirt road that leads up to a park fire-watch tower and cellular phone tower.
This is a map of Yosemite West. It’s a private development right next to the park. The red balloon is where I parked my rental car. Image credit: Google Maps (C) 2016
The owner of the house I was staying in revealed this perfect operating location to me the day we arrived. Without his guidance, I would have never known about this ideal operating location. Previous amateur radio operators had tried to activate Yosemite setting up down in the steep-walled granite valley and had very limited success.
I knew I needed to be up and away from the valley walls for my meager 10 watts of power to get the attention of other operators. It worked, just barely.
The following photos and video should do a better job of communicating where I was and what I was doing that gorgeous sunny morning in the crisp mountain air.
My rental car is parked at the end of the development street. Straight ahead through the gap in the trees is the start of the access road. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB
As you walked up the access road, you were surrounded by giant trees and silence. Photo credit: Tim Carter W3ATB
I’m getting ready to launch my water bottle up into the tree. Attached to the line is a cord I use as a halyard to then pull up my antenna. My first throw was perfect. It’s not always that way. Photo credit: Brent Walter
My antenna wire is tied to the halyard. I’m ready to hoist the antenna up into the tree. Photo credit: Brent Walter
After you hoist up the antenna wire into the tree so it hangs as vertical as possible for great radiation in all directions, you tie off the end of the halyard to a special carabiner made to hold onto the cord. See the jagged teeth and hook setup? Photo credit: Brent Walter
A 29-foot wire is the antenna. The one end of it is connected to a 9:1 unun that reduces the impedance of the wire. This unun and the internal automatic tuner inside the Elecraft KX3 radio allow you to transmit on just about any band from 160 down to 6 meters with the single 29-foot wire. It’s a critical combination to allow the magic to work. Photo credit: Brent Walter
This photo tells the tale. You can see me laying out the coax cable from the 9:1 unun that will eventually connect to the radio. Next to me is my backpack where the yellow halyard line is tied off to the carabiner allowing the antenna wire to dangle from the tall pine tree. Photo credit: Brent Walter
I was just about ten miles to the south southwest of these magnificent falls. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB
I’m moments away from getting on the air. Here I’m getting ready to show Brent how to use the logging software on my tablet. It worked well! Photo credit: Brent Walter
I’m completing a conversation with another operator here. You can’t see the very small iambic paddles in my hands that allow me to do Morse code. I was happier than I seem in this photo as I made the required ten contacts to successfully activate the park! Photo credit: Brent Walter
Here’s upper Yosemite Falls lined up with Lower Yosemite Falls. I lucked out being in the park with water flowing this much. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB
Here’s my two daughters trying to hold up Nevada Falls I believe. Poor photography skills are the cause of the improper hand orientation. “I got it.” I replied when asked. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB
Here’s the list of the radio operators I was able to contact: