2015 San Francisco 2 Meter FM QSO Party

Today, I listened in on the activity from the 2015 2-meter QSO party in San Francisco. In amateur radio operator ("ham radio") speak, a QSO party is a contest for operators to see how many contacts they can make in a given time. In this case, contestants had from 1200 to 1800 PDT to make contact with other hams and try to score as many points as they can.

I'm still studying to take the exam for my Technician class license, so I only listened while everyone else introduced themselves and chatted about everything from radio gear and operating tips to movies and the weather. "Technician" class is the first level of three operator classes for which the FCC issues licenses, the others being "General" and "Amateur Extra," so I'm completely new to this.

Getting set up

Around noon, I took to my building's roof and set up at a patio table, giving me an easy time receiving the transmissions going around, and an equally nice spot to enjoy the warm weather. I scanned the frequencies that the SF Radio Club suggested for use during the contest, and my radio stopped when it detected anything other than the usual noise. It wasn't much work for me to listen in on operators from around the Bay Area "working" their new contacts, as they say.

To keep me busy and to get used to listening for callsigns, I wrote down every one I heard. I don't have a callsign yet as I don't have a license. The FCC assigns one to you when you become licensed, and after that you can trade for a vanity call sign (like a vanity license plate) if you want.

Listening in on 145.460

I learned a lot just listening to hams participating in the contest, but I also got curious and scanned around other frequencies to see what I could find. It was pretty exciting to find that SFO Air Traffic Control operates on several frequencies for coordinating with aircraft on the ground and in the air, approaching and departing.

I spent most of the time I checked out KSFO frequencies on 135.650—"NORCAL Approach (Woodside Sector, SFO 28L Final)." I also downloaded FlightRadar24 and watched the aircraft I heard on the radio live on a map as they descended to SFO airport.

Admiring the view and monitoring KSFO 135.650

This was my first day using my Yaesu FT-60R—or any FM transceiver, for that matter. It reminded me a lot of the time I'd spent running around the woods and my neighborhood as a kid, using walkie talkies to communicate with my friends. But once I get my license, a lot more is possible. I'll be prepared to use my radio in the event of a natural disaster where cell phones aren't a viable option, and for fun I can talk to people in my city, state, across the country, around the world, and even on the International Space Station (ARISS). I can't wait.

Exploring Lands End

At the end of the four day holiday weekend (Independence Day), Ashley and I decided to go for a hike around the Lands End area of San Francisco. It was a fantastic afternoon, and it only cost us $4.00 each to take the N Judah lightrail, roundtrip between Hayes Valley and Ocean Beach.

When we reached the end of the N line, we were at Judah Street where it intersects with Great Highway, which spans the Western edge of San Francisco—about 3.5 miles.

We were headed for the Cliff House/Seal Rocks area, but we were actually still a couple blocks south of Golden Gate Park. We enjoyed a long stroll north and luckily got to pass the Dutch Windmills this time!

The Pacific is too cold for my liking, but there were several surfers paddling out in the icy water—in wetsuits, of course. The water at Ocean Beach is especially nippy and the current is strong. A dangerous combination for casual swimmers, it has swept away and drowned many. Dedicated local surfers tend to stick to the northernmost part of this area, Kelly's Cove.

Passing the Cliff House restaurant smelled delicious and it made me hungry, but I restrained myself and decided on a pit-stop for coffee at the Lands End Lookout cafe, instead. Their coffee and hot chocolate really is not half bad! It comes in handy on cold windy days in this area.

 

This is the first time we'd ventured past the Sutro Baths ruins on to the Lands End trails. I mean, Ocean Beach and the Sutro ruins are beautiful, but I frequently had to stop along our way through Lands End and say a few things, in awe, which I won't repeat. The views were stunning.

Recalling my Boy Scout days, this was not what I would call a very long or difficult trail, so I think it's perfect for a bit of casual exploring on the weekends. If you're still hungover, you'll be fine. If you're visiting, this will fit in nicely with the rest of your activities for a day.

There's not much I can say about the trails themselves that you don't get from this: I was smiling the whole time, snapping photos with Ashley and of the amazing views, and I really felt like I was far from the San Francisco I see every day. I was in the great outdoors, if you will, and I needed that.  It's hard to believe I'm just a short trip away from such beautiful, perfect nature.

Check out more photos from my Exploring Lands End set on Flickr.com