Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Handiham World for 30 January 2008

Greetings from my work-at-home office and ham shack!

The pontoon boat leaves for a ham radio cruise.Image: The pontoon boat leaves the dock at Courage North, heading out onto Lake George for a ham radio cruise. The mobile HF antenna is visible against the blue water.

No doubt you have heard about Handiham Radio Camp. Right now, we run two camps a year; one is in February in the San Francisco Bay area and the other one is in late August, generally in the week before the Labor Day holiday at our camp in northern Minnesota. Both camps run about a week, but the Minnesota camp is far and away the one with more activities and resources. The reason is that the Minnesota camp is located on a lake and Courage Center owns the property, Courage North. For that reason, we can provide an excellent camp experience with lakeside activities using the boats for Maritime Mobile amateur radio operation. Because the property is under our control, we can also have ham radio infrastructure built in. That means that we have a wonderful free-standing tower with a tri-band beam antenna and a permanent ham radio station. We also have several wire antennas available, making set up for camp much easier in Minnesota than in California, where we have to rent a camp for the week. Furthermore, our Courage North facility is very well maintained and spacious, with plenty of acreage of tall pine trees and forest trails. From the standpoint of Handiham staff and volunteers, setting up for the week of Radio Camp in Minnesota is far easier because we have so much equipment that is already in place and does not have to be shipped and set up, then taken down.

Where I am going with this is that I would like to hear from you, our Handiham members, and find out what you think we could do to get you to come to Radio Camp. One idea that I had been mulling over would be to have an early summer camp here in Minnesota and still have the late August camp later on in the summer. Does it make sense to have two Summer sessions? Well, it might if the early summer session were at Camp Courage, which is in the southern part of the state. Because Camp Courage is close to the Twin Cities metropolitan area, it would be possible for campers from everywhere to fly in to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. This would make it cheaper to come to the early summer session when one considers the cost of transportation, at least for many people who choose to fly.

Although we had a very good run of camp sessions for many years in Southern California at Camp Joan Mier, that camp property has been sold and is no longer available for rental. Our current location in the Bay Area has not proven to be all that attractive in terms of nearby amenities, and the Bay Area climate is prone to producing cold and wet winters. The camp is located in a valley, not ideal for amateur radio.

So I would like to hear from you. Let me know what you think about running a second Radio Camp in Minnesota during the early summer months. Is this something that would be attractive to you? Since Courage Center owns Camp Courage, we are able to have a complete amateur radio station with tower and beam antenna there, just as we do at Camp Courage North. There is also a lake, and we can do maritime mobile activities.

Cabins are modern and completely wheelchair accessible. There are many paths through the woods at Camp Courage, just as there are at Courage North. One big difference between the two camps is the type of forest. In southern Minnesota, the trees are primarily deciduous. That means that they lose their leaves in the winter, unlike the pine trees in northern Minnesota. So Camp Courage has beautiful forests of broadleaf trees like oaks and maples.

One thing you might not know about the history of Radio Camp is that the first radio camp sessions began at Camp Courage! In recent years, the antenna and beam at Camp Courage have been completely rehabilitated through an Eagle Scout project. This makes the camp much more attractive to us than any California location we have found so far.

Of course we really like being at Courage North, and plan to continue offering our popular end of the summer radio camp session there. But some of our members who go to school or university may find the timing of the February California camp and the late summer camp to conflict with their school schedules. These Handiham members might be attracted to an early summer session at Camp Courage in Minnesota instead of a February session in California.

Please e-mail me and let me know what you think. California? Or Minnesota?

Patrick Tice
Handiham Manager