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Hello from Lancaster

Posted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:21 pm
by Fetus
Hello to everyone at

Been lurking for a couple weeks and decided to start posting and become a part of the community here.

I've been exploring the deserts around Southern California since about 1998. I don't know what caused this affliction, as I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. I also despised the desert while on exercises at 29 Palms in the USMC and being deployed to Kuwait in the late 1990s.

I think it's the solitude, the quiet (oftentimes interrupted by sonic booms or low flying jets), and the darkness at night. I've met a lot of interesting people out there and everyone seems really friendly. I like the challenge of navigating to new distant places. I also like the challenge of surviving and exploring when the temps are in the extremes.

In 1994, I completed a weeklong Desert Survival Instructor Course with some Navy SEALs and Navy pilots in El Centro. If I can wrap it up in a nutshell.

1. Find shade and get off the ground.

2. Only move at night, and only if you have to.

3. If you have food but no water, don't eat.

4. Breathe through your nose not your mouth.

4. Don't panic.

As for vehicles, I use a 2005 Nissan Xterra Offroad 4x4 for longer trips with the family, light offroading. I have a 1999 Jeep Wrangler TJ that I use for shorter range trips, medium duty offroading. I already stranded myself once near Superior Dry Lake due to a broken suspension arm. That's a story for another post.

I'm licensed as a General Class Ham. I started using HF on portable operations in the desert. I'm using a Buddipole antenna system and a deep cycle battery. I have made contacts as far east as South Carolina from the middle of the desert. I make good use of the APRS system on 2m so that my family can track me on the internet.

I'm looking at an expedition type trailer in the future. I find that camping in a lot of places here in the desert, you have to contend with sharp rocks. The only nice places I like to bed down are dry lake beds.

Here's a photo of a trip I did near Cuddeback Lake last month. Apologies for the long post.


Posted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:27 pm
by David_Bricker
Welcome to the board!! Nice to have you as a member, rather than just a lurker.

I think we all have different reasons for becoming addicted/afflicted to/by the desert, but all of us here have to a large degree.

David Bricker / SYR

Posted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:39 pm
by desert4wd
Hey Fetus.. Welcome!

- Doug
A little background in the military (21 yrs) and GC ham also.

Posted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:46 pm
by BucYouUp68
Welcome to the Forum. 8)

Posted: Sun Oct 12, 2008 9:47 pm
by B-Spec
Welcome to the madness!! :D

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:55 am
by D.A. Wright
Welcome, Festus!

Your APRS ability caught my eye. Over at a new thread appeared yesterday discussing web tracking ability with some ideas tossed out, including APRS. I bet your input would be welcome with your experience in remote locations using this. I bet it would be of interest here also, as I don't recall any threads about this capability.

The thread over at the other board is at ... #post72256

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 8:59 am
by Ray and Nancy
Welcome Fetus :) :cheers2

Ray and Nancy

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:46 am
by Fetus

I'll make a post with my input on on APRS here and the other board. I don't consider myself an expert by any means but can get it to work. APRS stands for Automatic Packet Reporting System. To use it, you need to be a licensed Amateur Radio Operator (Tech Class or higher). The test is fairly simple to pass and doesn't require morse code.

APRS uses the frequency 144.390 (simplex) on 2m VHF. So you have to be in line of sight with another APRS user called a Digipeater. The radio, at whatever interval you choose, 1 min, 3 min, 30 min, will broadcast a packet containing GPS information on it. Your coordinates, heading, and speed are sent. If your stationary, it's typically 30min beacon. If mobile, then 3 minutes.

Once it is picked up by a digipeater, that signal is rebroadcast to other digipeaters within line of sight. One of those digipeaters puts that info onto a APRS server on the internet. Your family members can (no license req'd) can go on the internet and punch in your Amateur Radio callsign. They can see your position on an online map.

If you are near other APRS stations, a display will appear on your radio displaying their location with an arrow pointing in their direction. You can also send text messages to each other. You can send short email messages to your family members, but you cannot receive email. If you have a GPS unit, it will create a GPS waypoint on your unit that you can navigate to. And there is no subscription fee.

There are mobile and handheld units that can use APRS. The mobiles typically have more power and can reach more distant digipeaters.

There are some obvious limitations. If you are in Death Valley, there are no digipeaters in the area. Digipeaters tend to be fixed locations, like a house. In wide open areas of the Mojave Desert, it tends to work better. I used it around Johnson Valley and the Cuddeback Lake area.

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:48 am
by Fetus
double post.

you can also check

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 3:40 pm
by Bill Gossett
Welcome aboard. That's an interesting camp you have there.

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 4:46 pm
by Fetus
Thanks for the compliment on my camp. It was just an 36 hour trip. So I was out there in the heat. It was in the 90s. I've been in extreme heat before and the main thing I wanted was cold water and shade. The netting is able to contend with the wind more than a tarp would, and resists the need to turn into a ground sail. The tradeoff is less shade, but it's enough. The downside is that it takes a while to take it all down.

I did forget a tarp as groundcover for my tent. I was on a small hill covered with small jagged rocks. That's what causing a want/need for a roof top tent on a trailer.

I had a little portable HF ham radio station set up. There is also a Panasonic Toughbook with Google Earth cached on it. My quest was to be able to set up a system and see how far I could reach with it.

I was able to get in touch with my dad (also a Ham) in Northern California. I made contacts in Texas, South Carolina, and New Mexico as well. The HF conditions are oftentimes dependent on solar activity and time of day. I was powering everything off a 12 volt deep cycle marine battery. I want to be able to set up some kind of solar charging capability.

Posted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 6:24 pm
by D.A. Wright
Fetus wrote:D.A.

I'll make a post with my input on on APRS here and the other board.
Thank you! I saw your other post over at There are several here that are also on that board. I think you'll find the two boards very entertaining.

By the way, I was born in Victorville, raised in eastern Apple Valley. My oldest daughter lives in Acton, I have a step-daughter in Palmdale. And my elderly parents (both healthy and in their mid-80s) live in on acreage northeast of Joshua Tree and only a half mile from the western boundary of the marine base.