HF adventures on Siwash Creek Road
Today’s HF test in the back country was planned to be on Siwash Creek Road, behind Spider Peak. This road connects the Fraser Canyon near the Alexandra Bridge with the Coquihalla by Carolin Mine. It was hopefully going to be a fun drive through the valley.
The week leading up to the test I worked on the antenna some more. I had loops attached to both ends of the 40m section of the dipole. I also attached loops to one end of the extension lengths that convert the antenna to the 80m band. I also attached Anderson powerpole connectors to the ends so that the two segments can be reattached when needed. The loop pairs are then joined with a simple shackle. My goal for back-country deployment is speed. The antenna must be easily setup by two in fewer than 20 minutes. All decisions regarding the structure of the antenna keep this goal in mind, if it can’t be assembled and packed away quickly, it won’t be useful. So I am always looking for ways to speed up the deployment process.
While preparing for the trip I noticed that there was a gate on both ends of the road. The ministry stated that Tamihi Logging was responsible for the gates but when I contacted them they didn’t even know where the road was! So with little information available I decided to start the drive from the Coquihalla rather than the Canyon, this way I would have better alternate roads should the road indeed be gated. We left home and headed for Hope where we picked up lunch at the local Subway – that was a huge delay due to a big group getting in just before us. Eventually we were on the highway approaching the Siwash entrance. We started off on the road and gave a quick check-in with home on the linked 708/661 repeaters. Soon we came to the gate, it was cut open, the lock still in place. That was fine with us and we continued on to Carolin Mine. It was getting quite vandalized and little of value remained. After looking over the one remaining structure we set off for the road to the canyon.
The road initially climbed up the southern flank of a hill as we made our way westward along the Canyon. Soon we had a lovely view of the canyon ahead, but the road was not looking that good. At a fork we took the more major road which lead to a small lake and a more recently cleared area. We soon reached the end of the spur and turned back, on our way back to the fork we got stuck in mud, fortunately our winch made short work of the situation. We next tried the lower road but soon came to a slide with a few rocks blocking our way. Clearing them by hand we drove past and down into the valley. The road here was very over-grown and though we pushed our way along for some distance we realized that it wasn’t practical to go much further. Geoff got out to see if there was a location to setup and we found a spot a 100 meters further down the road.
The deployment took a bit longer than desired this trip as we had rough, over-grown ground to set up on. Geoff had to cut down a number of Alders to make a clear area for the masts. Once the area was clear, I had completed the positioning of the masts, antenna cable and the guys. Now it was time to pull it taught and raise the antenna. Our first attempt failed as the angle of the guys pulled over the masts due to the un-level ground. We repositioned a bit and this time was able to get it tight and ready to lift the centre. Once up I attached the Coax to the radio and immediately heard the home team chatting amongst themselves waiting for me. I had to break in to be heard! Our first contact was on schedule at 1:30 and we continued for around 20+ minutes when the band abruptly faded out. At this location I was having high SWR issues which convinced me that I need a tuner to help alleviate the variability of the environment. Hopefully I will have it for our next adventure. Today’s distance was 118km with several mountains between me and the home team.
Geoff and I then packed everything away, we stopped to gather a few more photos and then we were back on the road heading out the way we entered. Once back to the mine we met a couple who were exploring one of the entrances. They had panning bowls but they hadn’t found anything yet. A second couple was camping out on the dam holding back a small lake used as a reservoir for the mine. Once done with the roads around the lake we returned to the highway and the town of Hope where we grabbed a coffee at the Blue Moose Bistro before heading home.
Persons participating in today's adventure: Eric (VE7EGK) back-country operator, Geoff (VA7GLK) back-country driver and support, at home - Ralph (VE7OM), Stuart (VA7QB), Deme (VE7CRT), Carolyn (VA7CDA).