For the 3rd year in a row, I had the privilege of working FD with the Zuni Loop Mountain Expeditionary Force located in the San Gabriel Mts of southern CA. This year was perhaps my most memorable because after 3 years of trying to keep up with the cw ops that comprise the Zunis.....Cam Hartford, Richard Fisher, Keith Clarke, Paul Carrerro, Fred Turpin and in spirit if not it body, Bob Spidell as well as others, I believe that I was able to contribute my share to the operation.
If you are a qrper, you will think you have died and gone to heaven if and when you do FD with the Zunis. First of all, this group is one terrific group of hams. Having been there for my third year, I can state each year the Zunis have made me very welcome and continually impress me with their abilities.
Then there is the site....about 6000 feet above Antelope Valley and overlooking the city of Lancaster, California. Did I tell you about the trees? Dozens, maybe hundreds of tall pines 75 to 100 ft just waiting for the next FD!
Then there are the antennas which vary a bit from year to year depending upon how much time and energy Cam & Fred have to erect all that wire. One year I worked 40m cw using a 4 element wire yagi at about 80 feet. This year I spent most of my time in the 20m cw tent using my Sierra (naturally).
The huge 2000 mw signal being pumped out of the Sierra into what I consider an amazing antenna array known as the Six-Shooter. You have to see this antenna in person to fully understand how big it truly is. The Six Shooter is two sets of 3 one half wave antennas stacked 3 over 3 and phased to give a forward gain of about 14db !!!! My greatest hope is to be listening on this antenna with a good opening to Europe or Africa and snag a couple of new countries. As many of you know, my bag is Qrp DXing. So far this has yet to happen given the general perversity of mother nature and the Gods of Propagation.
Ever since I first heard about the Zunis from Doug Hendrick's articles in Qrpp, I had wondered about this group and place and 3 years ago for FD '96 I got to experience it first hand and was so impressed that I keep coming back each year since. For those of you reading this outside of California, this means an 800 mile round trip from the San Francisco Bay area to S. California, about a seven hour drive with pit stops included.
I had the good fortune to travel this year with my good friend and fellow Qrper, Stan Cooper, K4DRD. This was Stan's first Zuni experience and judging from the smiles on his face afterward, one he enjoyed tremendously. Stan is one of us and fit right in with the Zunis....every time I went past the 40m cw tent there was Stan and Jerry Parker pounding out the Qs into a 2 element 40m wire beam at about 75 feet.
Propagation was as usual, a bit weird, especially for the first 5 to 6 hours on Saturday with signals being s9+ one moment and down in the mud the next. Thereafter it settled into a more normal FD and the work began. Since we had a few less bodies this year, I had more work to do.
My most memorable moment came late Sat or early Sun when I got to watch Cam N6GA and Richard, NU6SN, work 20m cw. Keeping in mind, I have only been a ham for 5 years, I soon discovered that these 2 pros with about 80 years of experience between them, are crack cw ops. I was continually surprised and impressed with their abilities to get callsigns & exchanges the first time, often digging them out of seemingly impossible qrm and qsb.
I'll never forget the first year when I offered to dupe via computer for Richard Fisher, then KI6SN. I rapidly discovered that he was so fast that I could not keep up with him, to my dismay, and realizing I was holding him back, I made a quick retreat to let Richard carry on. This year was a bit better, I could at least get most of what transpired that night, so I guess I am learning. ;)
This account would not be complete without a thank you to all the Zunis and to K4DRD, who did all the driving, and to the Sam, KF6ML, who provided all the food and cooked for the Zunis.
All in all, another fun time at the Zuni site.
Qrp Bob, ex KD6VIO, now K6KK
Owner, Wilderness Radio
Never Underestimate the Power of a Qrper!