Ham Radio: portable operation from an Oregon treehouse!
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Radio In The Trees

My kind of vacation!

Ham operators have always looked for interesting places to operate from; Field Day activities are just one example of this. But I wonder how many hams have tried operating from a tree-house?

Our family vacation this year took us from our
QTH in San Jose, California, to the "Out and About" Tree-house Resort in southern Oregon. Located in tiny Takilma, near Cave Junction, "Out and About" is a small bed-and-breakfast with one unique difference: the guests stay in robust tree houses. The small family-run operation offers horse riding, rope climbing, swimming, and, of course, veg-out-style relaxation.

But I brought an extra activity of my own; and, of course, you can you guess what it was...

The equipment

When we first packed for our vacation, I included a few extra goodies, with permission from my
XYL, of course:

I brought along my portable military-surplus mast, which can be hoisted up to 40 feet tall. The mast was bought from Fair Radio (whose advertisement can probably be found in any decent ham magazine). While quite heavy, the mast can be carried (with some effort) by one person prior to being erected. It travels well, since it breaks down into a rugged, compact package. An optional tripod piece can be added for more flexability; the mast can then be put up in more than one configuration.

I also brought my deep-cycle battery, providing long-lasting portable power. This kind of battery is better for portable operation than a regular car battery. While car batteries are better suited for high cranking power, deep-cycle batteries hold a steadily-drained charge longer. Deep cycle batteries can be bought at either marine or RV supply stores. A word to the wise, though: get two important accessories along with the battery. One is the protective box which the battery can be placed into, this can protect you both from shock and from acid spills (should the battery tip over). The second important accessory is a good smart charger, one that is designed specifically for deep-cycle batteries. The charger should include overcharge protection.

Of course, I also brought my radios, an ICOM 2710 mobile and an ICOM W32A handheld. Both rigs are dual-band FM only, this is because I currently hold a lowly Technician license. I hope to change this someday and operate in the HF bands also, but for now, VHF and UHF FM would have to do. To be sure, other bands and modes would yield even better results.

Since I was only operating VHF/UHF FM, a dual-band vertical antenna was used (a Diamond X-50). I brought a 2-meter beam, but did not use it.

My goal was threefold: 1) to become skillful at raising and using the portable mast, 2) to function fully portable (without an AC power supply), as might be needed in emergency service, and 3) to contact Oregonian hams from a tree house!

Getting down to business

The first night we arrived, I still had some daylight, so, though sweating in the Oregon heat, I erected the mast right by our treehouse. Since the tree houses are all quite high already, I opted for the tallest possible configuration of the mast (40 feet tall). Otherwise, I'd be looking straight out at the antenna as I sat in my tree house balcony!

I have been told only two people are needed to set up the portable mast, but I have not figured out how just yet! Finally, three of us got the mast up and vertical (sort-of).

However, the mast was very crooked and the guy lines were not well adjusted. Some of the guy lines were snagged by tree branches, since I had placed the mast so close to our tree house. It was getting too dark to do much more. Between the guy lines and the entangling branches, the mast seemed stable enough, even if it did look awful. So I left it as it was (embarassing) until morning.

I thought about taking it down completely and looking for a better location. But, in the morning, I managed to straighten up both the mast and the guy lines. As a result, I had a nice straight antenna mast right next to the balcony of our tree house!

The only remaining hardship was dragging the battery up the ladder into the treehouse. After that, I set up my ICOM 2710 dual-band mobile, and I was up and running. I was now "KF6ONE/7 portable Takilma"!

My meager accomplishments

Being surrounded by mountains was a limiting factor, since VHF/UHF are mostly line-of-sight. Nevertheless, I was able to hit local repeaters, including 147.340 (WB7VMS), and 147.300 (WM7K). WM7K had been down and needing repair for quite a while, but, lucky for me, it came back on the air while I was there. Once finding repeaters, I was able to start working local operators, and was quickly invited to hang out on their favorite place for chatting, 147.420 simplex.

During my stay, I enjoyed repeated
QSOs with several local operators, whose hospitality I am grateful for. Some of my first contacts included Ed, KG6IA, and Ron, KC7GAE.

There was also Bill, KD6LTB, who was vacationing like us, up from Santa Rosa, California. David, KC6HOY, also jumped in several times.

Bob, KC7VKR, ran a tie-dye stand in the nearby town of Kirby; we stopped by to visit him on our last day. By the way, Bob, the blue-blocker sunglasses fit great, thanks.

Later contacts included Jim, WA7OTP(?), and Roger, WA7TGA, who kindly gave me some final contacts before I had to break down for home.

My vacation was enhanced by the contacts I made, and by getting to use my portable mast in a unique and lovely setting. I would heartily recommend the "Out and About" Treehouse resort for any ham with a portable mast. On the Internet, you can check them out at www.treehouses.com. I had fun even with my limited emission privileges, imagine what some of you HF operators could do there!

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