VE6LK makes a quick trip to Montana o/a AI7LK – Day 2

by Vince (VE6LK)

As you read in day 1 of this story, I landed up in Montana opportunistically. The plan for day 2 was to say goodbye to our visiting family, then make our way north from Kalispell, MT via Eureka, MT and head for home. We’d stop on the way to visit with friends and, of course do one more POTA activation.

Operating position at K-4848. This spot is at the south end of Lower Stillwater Lake.

After departing Kalispell we arrived at Lower Stillwater Lake, part of K-4848, at around 11am MT.

There is one picnic table near a boat launch and it was vacant so I got to work quickly and set up. I had brought along a lightweight kit consisting of my VE6VID EFHW, Elecraft AX-1, the KX3, a battery, a key, a paper logbook and some extra bits like carabiners, a bit of masonry string and a small mast that I landed up not using. With my wife and doggo along for the ride, I didn’t want to take too much time to set up and operate, so the natural choice would have been the Elecraft AX1 antenna, but with conditions being as soft as they were a day earlier, the resonant wire antenna seemed the better choice for the extra 5 minutes it would take to set up.

This short video shows my full set-up:

I looped the feedpoint end around a nearby tree branch and unrolled the antenna and tossed it up in a branch just out of my reach – another low-slung wire antenna! The rest of the gear came out on the table and I used the tote box as a makeshift stand for my shortie camera tripod.

Wire winder temporary storage on the end of the wire – also serves as a visual indicator for anyone walking past

With good cellular internet at this location, I spotted myself and was off! Conditions were soft as like the day prior, with Solar Flux about 150, SSN around 90, A was 5 and K was 1, and so I knew it would not be simple and quick. But the first three contacts came along fairly quickly with even a small pileup (!) .. after that, it was a slog. I tried changing bands to find more contacts.

With a 40/20/15m EFHW in the air, I tried 40m but noted that WWV at 10MHz was almost non-existent so I abandoned that idea. I tuned to 15MHz and WWV was strong, so I was hopeful and used the built-in tuner to load up on 17m -while I heard contacts working FT8, I was not as fortunate as nobody was answering me. I heard very little on 15m FT8, so I went back to 20m after muttering some potty-mouth words to myself 🙂

I also had to remind myself that I was in a sparsely populated part of North America and it would not be as easy as it was for me when I was operating in Ohio.

A few callers came and went, and one emailed me afterwards to apologize as his home suffered a power failure mid-QSO. There are some things you can’t manage from your end as an activator, but in the moment it sure made me scratch my head for a couple of moments.

I was so very fortunate that this area was not very busy, save for highway traffic and one train that passed by while I was activating. Save for those moments, it was such a peaceful place.

If you have the chance to go to Montana, ensure you visit any of the beautiful parks in your immediate area – you won’t be disappointed, and it will create memories to last at least half of a lifetime!

72 and dit dit,

First was introduced to the magic of radio by a family member in 1969, Vince has been active in the hobby since 2002. He is an Accredited examiner in Canada and the USA, operates on almost all of the modes, and is continually working on making his CW proficiency suck less. He participates in public service events around Western Canada and is active on the air while glamping, mobile, at home or doing a POTA activation. You can hear him on the Ham Radio Workbench podcast, follow him on Twitter @VE6LK, and view the projects and articles on his website.

2 thoughts on “VE6LK makes a quick trip to Montana o/a AI7LK – Day 2”

  1. What a beautiful spot to play radio, Vince! Thank you for taking us along on the journey!

    That KX3 seems to be serving you so very well these days and, obviously, your CW skills have gotten better by orders of magnitude compared to this time last year. Pretty darn amazing!

    Now I’m ready to plot a trip to Glacier myself. Any excuse, right?


    1. Amigo, it is such a pretty place. For those so inclined, about 100 yards away is a lakeside bar with a patio. Overall a stunning location if you can forgive the noise of occasional traffic or railway.
      The whole of Northwest Montana is very pretty and in my travels I’ve not seen a spot that’s less than stunning. It’s worth a trip!

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