NPOTA Entity: Ft Laramie National Historic Site NS20
SOTA summit: Chalk Mountain, W7Y/SW-161
Activation Date: July 29, 2017
Portable operation: Yes
Radio: Elecraft KX2 operating at 10 watts SSB and KX3 at 8 watts digital FT8
Antenna: LNR End Fed
Bands used: 20m
Furthest QSO: ??
Hike in: 50 yards and ~10ft ascent.
Solo operation: No, with Guy N7UN
ATT Coverage: OK
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2017
Its history day today.
In hindsight we probably should have done this earlier as we are backtracking 120 miles. Silly us for thinking Laramie and Ft Laramie might be close to each other but apparently not. In fairness, distances are relative and its not uncommon for people in western US rural communities to drive 60 miles of so to the nearest supermarket or doctor. Big country.
As is so often the case with western history, Ft Laramie was initially established by trappers and fur traders. It wasn’t until wave upon wave of immigrant pioneers passed through that the US army purchased the encampment and expanded it into a military base to provide protection and additionally a place for pioneers to rejuvenate before continuing on to Oregon, California or Utah.
I always enjoy learning about how different communities lived. We take so much for granted and easily lose sight of life and hardship generations ago. Turns out the occupants of Ft Laramie had a laundry service staffed by young immigrant girls/women. Cost was $1 per month for enlisted men to have clean clothing up to $6 for a married officer. The laundresses were understandably a popular marriage goal for the enlisted me and to keep some boundaries around unwanted or illicit courting signs proclaimed “any non commissioned solider, private or civilian found loitering around the Laundress Quarters of this Post will be immediately arrested“
Feeling educated for the day and having fortified ourselves with some crappy sugar centric food from a gas station, we are on the road to who knows where. There is a certain amount of randomness to our plans and this turns into a tour around southern Wyoming. We head west on interstate 25 and are drawn to Casper as we are generally trying to head south and don’t really want to retrace our steps to Laramie. Casper is like any other town of its size and its draw is quite the draw we expected and we head south with the intent on finding a room points south.
SOTAGoat is our friend and perusing a list of near by peaks shows Chalk Mountain a possibility and unclaimed. We need to make a decision soon as cell coverage fads in and out and caching the route makes life easier. Turning onto a lonely dirt road we head possibly 10-15 miles around bends, down gullies, behind hillocks and up and up until we have essential driven into the activation zone.
Looking back the clouds look quite menacing and while the activation isn’t a risk we don’t want to be driving the dirt road in an intense downpour wondering were the rudder and oars are on our rental.
Once we have both qualified the peak, me on SSB and Guy on CW, I take another run at FT8. Lenovo out, KX3 out, antenna plugged in and I’m off to the races, sought of. For some reason, I seem to struggle to get contacts and they aren’t exactly coming in fast and furious but I do nab my 4 to “re-qualify” the peak using FT8 after almost 30 minutes.
My FT8 chasers were;
I’m enjoying FT8 but I remain unconvinced at this point of its viability for an activator especially if conditions or time aren’t on your side.
Leaving the dirt track behind and safely on a regular road the heavens open up and magically wash away the dead bugs hitching a ride on our wind screen. Onwards and southwards we finally arrive in Saratoga, Wyoming.