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New Hams Arise from a Field Day Conflict


Every now and then a problem comes along that can be flipped from a disadvantage to an advantage. Such was the case when we were approached by members of the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania group. They were looking for radio amateurs to provide communications for the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, a 34 mile long, 1 day, sunrise to sunset endurance hike. We agreed to do it and the event was really fun to work. What we didn't realize at the time was that the hike would often fall on Field Day weekend!

The planned date for this hike is always the Saturday nearest the summer solstice, which very often lands it on FD weekend. Did you ever try to recruit hams to work on FD weekend? Not easy. Hey, we all wanted to work Field Day ourselves! After a couple of years of working the hike we decided to ask the event coordinators if they might be interested in obtaining an Amateur Radio license. After some thought and discussion, they agreed. We had a 1 day class at our club, the Skyview Radio Society, and by the end of the day all the attendees had passed their Technician class tests.

We felt that a 1 day class makes a radio amateur not, so we also followed up with a couple of sessions where we worked with the newly licensed hams to give them practical experience and advice on purchasing radios, how to approach their first QSOs on simplex, on repeaters and more. We also gave them some insight on the nuts and bolts of operating. We helped them put wire up their radios and talked about the best ways to mount their antennas. (Most of the check points are deep in valleys, with no cell phone coverage.)

Carson Communicators Key Up

In 2008 we worked the hike again. It was thankfully on the weekend before FD. This time we were more in the background and the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge people worked most of the check points. No shadows for the Marshal or Logistics were needed because they handled their own communications and all did a great job! The preparation that was done concerning the practical side of operating really paid off.

While we were doing the class, we knew that their main interest in getting the license was for the purpose of communications for their event. Still, we never passed up an opportunity to reinforce the fact that radio is fun and that many manufacturers make equipment ideally suited for hiking and camping. We always pointed out the fun of building your own equipment such as portable antennas and continued to point out that this Amateur Radio thing is much bigger than just a way to coordinate their hiking event. We think we're onto something. We received word that they have four more people interested in getting licensed.

The next time you're working a public service event or emergency drill, consider that you potentially are working with future radio amateurs.

All photos by Robert Bastone, WC3O.

Robert Bastone, WC3O, an ARRL member, has been licensed since 1979. Bob operates about 98% CW on the HF bands and can be found during drive times daily on 2 meter FM. Bob is the Radio Officer, head cook and bottle washer for Skyview Radio Society, K3MJW. He enjoys organizing multiclub events in the Pittsburgh area. One of his main goals in Amateur Radio is to promote ham radio to young people. Bob is married to a ridiculously understanding wife of 20 years and has one really smart daughter in college. He has worked for the last 30 years in the family automotive repair business. Bob can be reached at Robert L. Bastone, WC3O, 308 Garden Hill Dr, Tarentum, PA 15084-9322.


Robert Bastone, WC3O



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