Many years ago now, my family lived in Houston, TX. We were very into the State Park scene there and we spent a lot of time camping and hiking across the parks of Texas. One of our favorites was Bastrop State Park – K-2986. We hiked there a number of times given that it was on the way to Austin and not too far from Houston when we wanted something different.
My favorite memory of the park was shortly after Hurricane Ike destroyed Galveston and beat up Houston so badly that we were without power for 9 days or so in September. That meant triple digit temperatures, 95%+ humidity, and no air conditioning. Given that being outside felt better than being in the house, we went west to Bastrop SP. It’s about 40 minutes outside of Austin with dense forest for hiking. Or, well, it had dense forest. More on that in a minute.
My son was little and we’d just gotten one of those kid carrying backpacks. We started to hike the 8 mile loop. It was cooler in the trees and we were having a good time. Back then it was only the four of us: My wife, 18 month old son, me, and Porschea. There have been many great dogs throughout history, but only one Porschea. It’s very hard even today to type this up without getting a little catch in the throat. She was beyond being a dog. She was our family in a way even some humans couldn’t be.
Porschea was a great hiker, but she was also a Rottweiler. Not everyone sees them as the clowns they are. The impact of negative portrayals of this breed in the movies was sometimes eased by her backpack. After all, what’s cuter than a dog with a backpack? The truth is, a dog that size will drink just as much water as a human in those temperatures. And water is heavy. And Rottweilers are carting dogs. Why not let the 100 pound Rottie carry her own drinks! She looked adorable in that backpack and always got excited when it came out because that meant a REAL hike.
As I said, we were using the baby backpack thing for the first time and struggling to get the boy back into it after lunch. We just let Porschea sit there while we showed our incompetence as parents with this new piece of gear. My wife looked up and the dog was gone. Or more to the point, she was approaching a couple of people. That’s not good. You don’t want your Rottweiler roaming free and approaching random hikers because there are plenty of people who are put off by even the friendliest big dogs. My wife went to grab her and we heard:
“Oh sweet girl! Are they making you work?”
Kneeling down with our dog was an older gentleman with biceps whose size could rival many of the trees in the park. This dude was HUGE. On his shoulder was the most elaborate and lifelike tattoo of a Rottweiler I have ever seen. This guy? He was our people and Porschea knew that. He spent a good long while petting her and talking with her. He told us that only a year before his beloved Rottie had crossed The Rainbow Bridge. He barely kept it together. His wife instinctively put her hand on his shoulder and he shook his head. We had a nice chat with the couple before they headed off their direction and we headed off ours.
Of course, we’d picked the wrong way to hike the loop and it back-loaded the most technical spots. Given the heat and a boy in a backpack, I wasn’t really loving life. The boy, dog, and I ended up sitting on a log along the road while my wife went to grab the car. It was a great hike despite the fact we were exhausted.
Now we jump ahead to 2023. Work summoned me to Austin this past week and I decided that, given the wacky travel arrangements I had to deal with, I would stop at Bastrop on my way to Austin from Houston and do an activation. I mentioned in a previous entry that I was on the fence about which radio to take along given that the X6100 and I weren’t the best of partners. But because I’ve never traveled with a radio before, I took it anyway. I wouldn’t stress out about having to do something weird with that radio in the event something went sideways like I would if I took the IC-705.
I arrived at the park and was ready to be surprised. There was an awful fire there around 2011 and it showed. I remember the place as being a densely forested park with trails that ran deep into the woods. That’s not the case anymore. I didn’t even recognize it. I snapped a couple of pictures from the picnic area where I stopped, but honestly, I was too stunned (and tired from travel) to take too many pictures. Instead, I set up on a picnic table and got to playing radio.
The basic setup was the X6100 paired with the Elecraft AX1 antenna and CW Morse paddles. A very lightweight setup and one that didn’t depend on trees. At least I was ready for THAT part of the equation. With the park basically empty and the weather holding at overcast and in the 60s F, I got to work.
It was slow going and 20m, the only band that I could think would do much for me, was a bit noisy. I didn’t bother to check the solar details, but I assume something was going on. Or that no one was around at that hour on a Wednesday. I managed to get from Seattle, WA to Minneapolis, MN and even over to the east coast of Florida. I was surprised I didn’t get anything south of my position, but propagation plays favorites and so do antennas.
Here’s what the QSO Map looked like:
All in all, the setup worked very, very well. I have nothing but praise for the X6100 as a CW rig. It performed admirably and did what I needed it to do to get the activation completed.
With the activation complete, I did sit for a bit and enjoy the sounds and smells of this place I’d not seen in a long, long time. I scanned the horizon for the new growth and felt very good about my decision to stop by and spend a little time in a place that meant a lot to my family.
Thanks for reading and 72!