Spartan Sprints are two-hour gatherings sponsored by the Adventure Radio Society, held the first Monday of every month. The Spartan Sprints have a unique, three-faceted focus. They encourage outdoor operation with backcountry radio gear (if outdoor operation isn’t practical, home-based operation is fine). They gather fascinating information about the upper atmosphere, documenting how low power signals can travel long distances. And they encourage the growth of a like-minded community of amateur radio operators who generously share their knowledge and experiences.

Yesterday was the first Monday of December and I wanted to make an appearance in the Spartan Sprint since it’s the last one of the year. In preparation, I tossed a 30-foot wire up in the backyard, stretched a single radial across the lawn and waited for the 9pm (local) start.

Ten minutes before nine I had the KX3 connected to a battery and the makeshift antenna and was tuning a very noisy 40 meter band. Band conditions were either lousy or my antenna was doing a better job attracting noise than radio signals. When the clock struck Nine I started calling with no results. None. Nada.

And then off to one side I heard a station calling CQ. Not in the sprint, but I figured to work something as opposed to nothing so I called him back. It was AA1PD in Buxton, Maine. Signals weren’t good. Up and down with a lot of noise. We exchanged 469 signal reports and then he was gone. I would like to have asked him about the big winter storm that happened up there on the weekend, I had read the news that thousands were still without power, but he was lost in the noise.

More listening on 40 meters yielded nothing so I moved on to 80.

This band was in much better shape and in minutes I had located a little beehive of SS activity in the area of 3560. I copied K4BAI, N0AR, and N0TA but despite multiple calls, they never heard me. I kept listening to them and noticed that signals were coming up a little. When K4BAI in GA came up to a solid 559 I decided to give him one more call. Bingo! We exchanged reports and I felt fortunate to have at least one SS contact in the log for the final sprint of 2020.

I don’t think there’s a moral to this story, I just need to get the new antenna work finished so I can generate a more formidable signal on the air. It’s reassuring to know that a makeshift antenna tossed up at the last minute and five watts can span impressive distances, but I’m doing myself no favor using this approach.