Ham Radio Field Day in the Huachuca Mountains

June 20-23, 2019

Every year on the fourth weekend in June, ham radio operators nationwide participate in a "Field Day" to demonstrate their ability to send messages without the use of phone systems, internet or any other infrastructure that can be compromised in a crisis. Dennis and I typically celebrate by camping in the Chiricahuas, but this year we decided to try a different location in the Huachuca Mountains. Dennis and I scouted the area a few weeks prior, and although it was lower than our usual location in the Chiricahua Mountains, it had a better radio horizon.

We persuaded our buddy Doug to join us, and we made an ... interesting ... convoy.
What a great place! Plenty of shade, killer views of both the nearby mountains and the valley floor, and just a handful of other campers!
Doug settles into his brand new portable ham shack. He hadn't been camping in decades, and this was his first ever ham radio expedition.
Before the contest started, Dennis and I continued exploring my new favorite hiking trail, which drops into the canyon at the edge of the campground. The trail winds downhill through a lush forest that reminds me of what the Chiricahuas were like before all the fires.
Wildfires roared through this area in 1977, 1991 and 2011. But the area has recovered remarkably well, and the slopes of Carr Peak are covered with lush emerald green new growth the likes of which one rarely sees anymore in southern Arizona.
Texas Crescentspot Butterfly. So little light reaches the forest floor that there is almost no underbrush. A thick carpet of pine needles cushions your feet on a path that shows no signs of erosion.
This area is a well-known mecca for birders, and with good reason. Robins were everywhere, but we also saw olive warblers, painted redstarts and western tanagers (no photos unfortunately).
Near the bottom of the canyon we heard a familiar "bark", and moments later an elegant trogon flashed by overhead (no photos!).
Scottish thistle but more pink than purple.
Single claret cup cactus blossom.
Moth enjoying a prickly pear blossom.
We had only planned on hiking a few hours, but we were so enchanted with this forest trail that we pressed on, all the way to the junction with Hamburg Trail, searching for an old mining camp we'd read about.
In the early 1900s Henry Hamburg had more than 20 copper and gold claims in upper Ramsey Canyon near the junction of Pat Scott and Wisconsin canyons.
Hamburg was a tireless promoter who frequently traveled to New York City and Chicago looking for investors. The Hamburg Mines were active from around 1900 to 1914. A community named for Hamburg supported about 150 people and included saloons, general stores and boarding houses.
A post office was established in 1906. Today, the remains of the camp are well hidden in a dense pine forest.
Fire brick line the interior of the most intact building.
The bricks were manufactured by the Evens & Howard Company of St. Louis, Missouri.
AZ Backcountry Adventures did quite a lot of research on the mining debris in Hamburg, and identified this piece as a crosshead from a steam compressor.
A brilliant-hued mountain spiny lizard. We didn't see another soul all day. At the canyon bottom, we ate the little bit of food we'd brought, and sat quietly enjoying the shade of the towering pines and trying to identify different voices in the chorus of birdsong.
Comfort Spring was rebuilt by volunteers just a few years ago, but today it's mostly dry.
Fortunately a nearby stream was flowing and provided a refreshing break before the long climb back to camp.
Sierra. Vista.