The weather was sunny with temp's in the low 80's yesterday afternoon and I was in need of a little time away after work so I packed up the mcHF SDR radio and drove out to Cataract Falls State Park. I've been to several State Parks across Indiana, but this is one I had yet to visit. The area was first settled on by Theodore Jennings in the early 1800's. Jennings was traveling by horseback from Louisville to Greencastle when he heard the sound of the falls and was immediately drawn to it. He returned later to build a home, saw and flour mill, and blacksmith shop. After spending just 10 minutes at the falls, I could tell already why Jennings was drawn so quickly to them.
|Cataract Falls Covered Bridge|
Cataract Falls consist of two sets of waterfalls along Mill Creek that are about a mile apart and both have a series of falls. The total height of the upper falls is approximately 45 feet or so and the height of the lower falls is a little more than 30 feet. Downstream from the falls sits Cagles Mill Lake and Lieber State Park. I plan to travel over to the lake and park soon and will share my adventure there as well, stay tuned!
I took several photographs of the falls in hopes that it will help you to visualize the setting in which I was lucky enough to operate from yesterday.
|Which way do I go?|
The photo above shows you the view from the location of which I had choosen to set up my station and get on the air, overlooking the lower falls. So I got my gear out of the car and began to set my portable station up. Man was I pumped up, ham radio with a view!
|Ham radio with a view|
My station was a mcHF SDR QRP rig and a 40 meter "hamstick dipole" antenna. I had the rig ready to go and went to deploy my antenna when I realized that I had made my first rookie mistake, and it was a big one for sure! In the excitement and rush of packing everything into the car after work so that I could get out to the falls, I forgot to pack the tripod for my hamstick dipole. Oh no! I was a little over an hour away from home and did not have enough daylight left in the day to go home, get my tripod, and return. Fighting the urge to throw the hamstick into the creek as a sacrifice I sat down and thought to myself, what can I do? I mean, I'm the guy known locally now for loading his gutters at home because of HOA restrictions and talking across the country, certainly I can come up with something? Then it came to me, I see a shelter house about 400 feet away from me. I wonder... Once I got to the shelter house I found the answer to me problem! Open access to the rafters supporting the roof to the park shelter. The perfect place to throw my hamstick dipole up into and get on the air. So, that's exactly what I did!
|It's not pretty, BUT it worked - Problem solved!|
After a little tuning I was calling CQ on 40 meters. I was not sure how far my signal would actually reach due to my unconventional approach to my antenna placement, but it only took a few minutes before I was able to connect with Richard - W3CUV from Erie Pennsylvania. Eire is located almost 500 miles away from my location at Cataract Falls, not bad with just 5 watts! Richard and I had a short QSO as I listened to the water falling over the rocks just a few hundred feet away. I told Richard where I was and what I was doing. I'm still slow and mess up from time to time when sending CW, but that's all part of learning and Richard was very patient with me. After our QSO I sent 73/72 to Richard and noticed that I was smiling from ear to ear with what I hd just accomplished. It was not pretty, but I did it! My first solo portable station was a success. Richard I hope to have the chance to QSO with you again, thank you for your time and patience.
|My portable station set up on the picnic table under the park shelter, just a couple hundred feet away from the falls|
Wow! QRP CW is where the fun is at and nothing beats ham radio with a view. I may never transmit from my shack ever again! Well, at least until winter rolls around that is. I am already looking forward to my next adventure and I hope to encourage you to do the same. This is a great hobby and you can do so much with just 5 watts, a simple antenna, and a desire to want to learn and have fun.
See you on the next adventure. 72 for now, de W9ODX