Tag Archives: Hike and Talk

Hike & Talk Session: Conquering the CW Doldrums

A couple years ago, I started making Hike & Talk video sessions covering in-depth topics that are challenging to answer via email or even long-format blog posts.

When I receive a question from a reader and think to myself, “I’d rather answer that in-person than write a reply,” I make a note to do a Hike & Talk session.

These sessions are not scripted, outlined, or formatted in any way shape or form. When I make a Hike and Talk video, I imagine that I’m chatting away with you informally as you join me on a hike or walk.

All this to say that these long-format videos aren’t for everyone, so if it doesn’t sound like your cuppa’ tea, it’s okay to skip it! I promise, I won’t be offended.

Conquering the CW Doldrums

On January 11, 2023, I was driving back from Raleigh and decided that a quick POTA break was in order. That morning, I read an email from a reader and it was on my mind as I drove to Tuttle Educational State Forest. It was a long email, but here are the relevant bits:

Hi Thomas […]I’ve been studying CW on my own for about four months now. I know you advise joining a group like the Long Island CW Club to learn CW but my work schedule simply doesn’t allow for this. I travel frequently and have team members across the globe so my schedule is a mess. I have so little free time.

[…]I’ve been using various CW apps, CW recordings like W1AW and your videos to practice CW. I can’t stress how much your videos have encouraged me along the way because you make this all seem so achievable. I download your videos from Patreon and listen to them when driving, flying, during layovers, and in the evenings in my hotel room. Many times I just listen to your video audio as I would a podcast.

I am not at a point where I can understand all of the contacts you receive, but I do get maybe 1 out of 3. It’s a real thrill to know I decoded a callsign on my own. I see a day when I will do CW activations.

[…]I’m writing though because I feel like I’ve reached a barrier. I know all of my characters and numbers and I continue to do regular CW practice, but I feel like I’m not learning. Like my brain has stopped soaking up the code. It’s discouraging. Do you have any advice for getting through this?

I’ve received similar emails and comments in the past which is proof that you’re not alone if you can relate to this reader.

I’ve certainly been there, too!

Hike & Talk

In this video I will talk about the CW Doldrums, how I related to them, and how I work through them myself.

I include (against my better judgement!) a very long side story about my path to learning French. It relates, but perhaps not how you might think.

Instead of editing my videos, I always try to include chapter markings in the YouTube timeline so you can skip over any sections that aren’t of interest to you.

You’re going to need a few cups of coffee or tea for this one. You’ve been warned!

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this Hike & Talk session!

If you’re experiencing or have experienced the CW Doldrums yourself, let us know how you work through them in the comments section.

The important part is to know that you’re not alone and that, in fact, the Doldrums are truly a healthy sign that you’re learning CW and your brain is doing it’s thing!

As always, a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me on the trail!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Hike and Talk: Future of Ham Radio, POTA/SOTA’s Role, CW Renaissance, Power of Kindness, and Engaging our Youth

As I drink a cup of coffee and type this post, I’m also packing my camping and radio gear in the car for a four day POTA expedition with my buddy, Eric (WD8RIF). As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s what we’re doing in lieu of going to the 2022 Hamvention.

I’d planned to write up a field report this morning (I’ve a few in the pipeline) but I simply don’t have the time to do a proper job and I like taking my time with these reports.

Instead, I unearthed a “Hike and Talk” video I made earlier this year and completely forgot about.

Be warned…

My “Hike and Talk” videos aren’t for everyone. I don’t edit them–they’re pure unscripted stream of consciousness. And they’re quite long by YouTube standards.

If this isn’t your sort of thing, just skip this one–I won’t be offended.

On this particular day, I had the future of amateur radio on my mind.

Since it’s been a couple of months since I made this video, I listened to it this morning while packing if for no other reason than to simply refresh my memory. Since I don’t typically do this sort of thing (sharing my thoughts and opinions out there in the public space) I always find it a bit cringe-worthy to review these after the fact. I’m no authority on any topic and never want to paint myself as one, so I typically only discuss these things in interviews and even then, I rarely, if ever, listen my interview post-broadcast (save this one, perhaps).

Proud Prof

But this rambling “Hike and Talk” session reminded me of something that still makes me swell up with pride. I mentioned one ham radio class in particular that I taught for the high school students in our home school cooperative.

It reminded me of a couple of photos I took during that class:

In this first photo (above), I took the class out to the parking lot at the school and I had them set up a (then prototype!) Mission RGO One transceiver on a folding table under a large tree. I had the students erect both an end-fed resonant antenna and a simple 20 meter vertical. I picked the RGO one because all of the adjustments we had talked about in the classroom—AGC, Filters, A/B VFOs, Direct Frequency Entry, Pre Amp, Attenuation—are on the front panel and one button press away. Plus, it’s just a cool radio!

We hopped on the air with one of my students calling CQ (SSB) on the 20 meter band. Her very first contact was with a station in Slovenia—and she simply beamed with excitement. Thank you propagation gods!

In the photo above–taken a week or two later–we were forced to play radio indoors. I’d planned to set up the ALT-512 QRP transceiver outside and see what sort of DX we could work with a simple home brew mag loop antenna. Heavy rains moved in, though, so we moved back to the classroom, they set up the loop in a small window of this large brick building, and we worked station after station on FT8. You can see one student operating, another logging, another looking up each grid square and address, and one at the board calculating how many miles per watt we were achieving with each contact. We had huge fun!

All of the young ladies in my class passed their Technician exam by the end of the term and are all now licensed amateur radio operators. They were all amazing students.

I couldn’t have been more proud of them.

The Video

But I digress. Here’s my “Hike and Talk” video in all its glory:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you!

I hope you enjoyed watching (or skipping) the video!

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos.

Here’s wishing you some rewarding radio activity this week!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)