Grid square CN97an41qt
Lat 47.549189, Long -121.960902, Alt 1,400′
Dist from home: 13.3 mi/31 min drive, 4.5 miles SE
Grand Ridge North, and its sister Grand Ridge South, are the steep hills on the north side of I-90 halfway between Issaquah and Preston, WA. The map shows a one-lane road to the top and a few houses among the dense forest. At 1400 feet (426 meters) it should have a better view in most directions than the Sammamish Plateau. Also there are fewer hams in CN97.
Unfortunately, a scouting trip found the mountain peak is heavily carpeted with “no trespassing” and “keep out” signs. I will respect their wishes.
Grid square CN97an10gx
My goal this trip is to get out of CN87. It so happens the border with CN97 is about two miles east. What can we find nearby?
I think I found the highest public roadway on the Sammamish Plateau at 1,022 feet (317m) among the new million-dollar homes above Highland Drive. It has a stunning panorama of Mt Baker to the north and Mt Rainier on the south. At least, it would when it’s not raining and dripping everywhere.
I made five contacts including some new hams, all with good reports in the region. I heard some stations in Portland but they were buried in the noise floor and they could not copy me. Net Control said the conditions were quite bad, so I was pleased to do hear Portland at all.
The eastward path was dead. Nobody could hear from Spokane at all. But I had some trees and a bit more hill behind me to the east, so I wasn’t expecting anything that direction.
More things for my checklist:
- Use the iPhone’s Compass app to find magnetic North.
- My lamppost tripod is unreliable on the slightest slope away from horizontal. Worse yet, it’s round and rolls easily given the slightest chance.
- Look into building a mast platform that goes under the front wheel.
- It’s nice to run coax through the door jamb instead of the window. Then I can close the window completely and stay warm and dry. Maybe. A drip loop is required or else the water follows the coax inside.
- There is a PNW VHF S spreadsheet online as a Google doc. It provides a useful summary of the usual suspects:
- I met G4AMD/7 on the air and we had a great chat about VHF propagation. There are a lot of interesting things that can happen to VHF / UHF signals, and there is a lot of fun stuff to learn.
Grid square CN87xo53ut
Finally, this was a very successful trip to a nearby hilltop. The transmitted signal strength was good and several people had no problem hearing me.
My antenna tuning yesterday was very helpful. The 3-element beam was very sensitive to the exact adjustment to the gamma match. The final placement for 144.240 MHz was 54mm (2-1/8 inch).
Rod WE7X joined me in the parking lot and setup his 3-watt 817 transceiver, battery, tripod, 2m 3-elt beam. He could receive well but others could barely hear him. Perhaps his equipment needs adjustment, or possibly the nearby cyclone fence was affecting performance.
Things for my checklist:
- No bathrooms on most hilltops. Esp along a busy road by a popular high school. Don’t load up at Starbucks along the way.
- Tune gamma match for maximum forward power. This may or may not coincide with minimum SWR.
- My transmitter’s power output (Yaesu FT-480R) is very sensitive to antennu tuning. It varies from 5w to 15w across small adjustments of gamma match.
- My transmitter’s frequency display reads too low by 400 Hz. For example, the proper dial readout is 144.240.4.
- Get a magnetic door sign to look official. Rod WE7X suggests “Amateur Radio Bear Tracking”.
- It would sure be nice to have a callsign lookup available.
Grid square CN87wm89iu
I parked at the old anti-aircraft site on the peak of Cougar Mountain, altitude 1,600 ft (487m), a part of the city of Bellevue. In 45 minutes of trying, no contacts were made on SSB and the regular weak-sign net was not heard. As far as I can tell, everyone (wisely) slept in this morning as a result of advancing the clocks today for Daylight Savings Time.
But my time was not wasted. I tested the SWR using a “new” VHF swr meter purchased at the Puyallup hamfest yesterday. The Cushcraft 3-element beam measured 10:1 while the 5/8 magmount whip measured 1.2:1. This would explain why I can hear people better than they can hear me. Now I know what to work on next!
Here are notes of the visit:
- Park gates are apparently open 24-hours, even though the sign posts 8am to dusk.
- Ranger house is occupied full time.
- A nice ranger guy came over to ask what I had going on, under the pretext of emptying the garbage can next to my car.
- Ranger suggested hiking from the parking lot a very short distance west to the “Million Dollar Overlook” for direct line-of-sight communication.
- Curiously, the peak is in a cellphone radio hole. Almost no signal strength.
- Simplex contacts on FM had very poor coverage in the nearby valley or flatlands. But I had good signal into Shoreline area of Seattle.
My white PVC antenna mast leaves room for improvement:
- It is raining heavily outside
- Water runs downhill
- My car window is open
- I’m holding a plastic water pipe vertically up through the open driver’s window
- Water runs down the outside of a water pipe as easily as the inside
- Water sticks to a pipe until it’s diverted
- I’m holding a plastic water pipe
Grid square CN87xo53ut
I parked at Skyline High School in the city of Sammamish, with an open vie in most directions. I checked into the PNW Weak Signal Net on the regular Sunday morning schedule at 8am. Made three contacts: Kirkland (12mi), Monroe (CN97au, 21 mi) and Woodinville (CN87ws, 15 mi).
Here are notes and to-do list from the visit:
- It worked very well to have an antenna switch to easily compare the 2m beam with the two little mag mount whip antennas.
- Figure out ergonomic mounting of FT-480R radio on passenger seat. The front panel needs be tilted up, and the radio was precariously balanced.
- Find a better antenna mast mount then the driver’s window.
- Measure radio current draw; estimate car battery life.
- Fix powerpole connectors, they were prone to intermittent connection.
- If you sign as “mobile” then Net Control assumes you are moving and puts you first in net rotation. You should say “portable” if you’re parked and stationary.
- Get QRZ.com databse on the laptop to look up antenna bearings.
- Make list of hams to look for at Puyallup Hamfest this weekend.
- Buy one more antenna switch so it can be dedicated to portable use.