On Saturday May 22nd, 2010 my wife and I headed out to the Denali Highway, which on this side begins in Cantwell, Alaska. She had no idea until that morning of my plans. I grabbed up my portable station, my Buddipole antenna while she packed our picnic lunches and off we went.
The weather was warm but it almost looked like it could shower but as it turned out, not a drop fell. This was our first trip this year on the Denali Highway. The Denali is known for chewing up tires as most of it is unpaved. The State of Alaska maintains the road during the summer months. There was very little traffic on the road and it turned out to be a wonderful day to hit the road.
After I passed mile 98, I found a nice spot off of the north side of the roadway to park our truck. I decided since we left without our wildlife protection, we would stick close to the truck. The tailgate to our Ford was going to be my desktop and this was my 2nd outing with my Buddipole.
It only took me a few minutes to get the rig out and powered up and the antenna erected on 20 meters. The band came to life and I immediately headed for the QRP frequencies that the Polar Bear Club members hang out (CW). I was not hearing a peep from 14.060 thru 14.064! I tuned down the band and was very surprised to hear some very strong signals out of Japan and Europe. I figured it would be pure luck for me to work another Polar Bear, especially a portable operation to another portable operation but I was determined to try.
As the afternoon progressed, I continued to call CQ on 14.060, 14.061 and 14.062 several times with no luck. I then headed down the band and came across a big signal from Japan, that being JA1NUT. I answered his CQ and I had a several minute QSO with Shin. I have heard him many times and Shin is always loud into Alaska on most of the bands. Shin gave me a report of 549 and peaking a bit higher at times. After a great first contact from the Denali Highway, I continued to tune the band, call CQ, and listen to those in the "UN" contest. It was so nice not to have a hint of QRN on the band! What a difference there is to being out in the middle of no place, Alaska.
In the end, I never did hook up with any of my fellow Polar Bear members but I gave my Buddipole and portable set up a good going over. I recorded lots of small snips of video. I just downloaded some editing software so my plans are to join the video crowd and start uploading to YouTube. Like any new software, there is a learning curve. I will post on my blog when I get the video done but with a hectic week and holiday weekend looming, not sure I will have time to get it finalized prior to the holiday weekend. I'm looking forward to many more outings and also sharing video clips of our excursions. Even though the bands have been pretty poor lately, I knew this was going to be tough. In the end, even if there was not a signal on the band, just the drive and experiencing the great views of the Denali Highway would of made it worth the trip anyway. But when you have propagation, good weather, and beautiful views of mountains and wildlife, it just don't get much better than that! Nice to work some DX with a small herd of Caribou nearby.