A hike around Camel Bluff, and an amplified speaker for the tr(u)SDX

On Saturday I was en route to the nearest Aldi store and realized I would soon be passing by Mill Bluff State Park, which quickly led to trying to remember the last time I had hiked the Camel Bluff trail, or any of the other hikes at this small-but-fun park … I still have no idea, which adds up to “it’s been too long!” in practice.

Turn off on Funnel Road, drive past the trail to Mill Bluff itself , then the (closed) campsites, over one side of the interstate and under the other, a shallow S-curve, and pull into the familiar parking area. Well, here’s a surprise!

The pipe forming the gate has been slightly bent for many years, presumably as a result of someone incautiously pulling in, probably at night. This time it got bent badly, and the post at the hinge end is quite flattened. The chain and padlock are largely symbolic at this point.

The hiking was quite lovely; blue skies, not too windy … though the temperature at dawn was only 10, by mid-afternoon it was around 35, giving the thin and patchy snow a good consistency for walking. Not many tracks to be seen, and none fresh; looked like 3 different hikers, a good-sized dog, a smallish deer, and a very large turkey!

The southern “hump” of Camel Bluff, viewed from the west.

There is a northern hump of the putative camel, but it is hidden in the trees.

The same, but seen from the south. A few years ago this would have been hidden by dense forest, but about 3 years ago the DNR allowed loggers to come in and remove a lot of trees throughout the park – the stumps and slash piles are visible in the foreground.

Today, (Sunday) it snowed a bit overnight, flurried on-and-off all day, and just resumed snowing in earnest as I sit here by the bay window typing, so indoor pursuits have predominated.

I interleaved some little home DIY stuff with trial-assembling some parts I bought to make an amplified speaker for the tr(u)SDX, which has a known issue of feedback howling making the internal speaker unusable above a fairly low level. Earbuds are the typical solution for portable QRP operators, but I really dislike using them outdoors; too much interference with my situational awareness. I can think of several QRP operators who use external speakers, even with rigs other than the tr(u)SDX; the Anker Soundcore Mini is frequently mentioned for this because it has an AUX input jack in addition to the ubiquitous Bluetooth. I looked at it, but I don’t want or need most of the other features, and the half-a-pound weight served to break the deal conclusively.

First I tried an external passive or un-powered speaker, which seemed actually to reduce the perceived volume. Okay, then an amplifier it is (sigh). A quick search on Amazon came up with a small, cheap amplifier based on the LM386 chip, and the box arrived earlier in the week.

Not much to it, really; some screw terminals, a few solder joints, ready to try it!

Every time I would need to go upstairs to retrieve a tool or find a small piece of hardware I would pause at the electronics bench to do some small task: strip a couple of wires, make a couple of solder joints, find a 9V battery connector …

Move it all over to the other table by the station and we have proof-of-concept!

It works great! Plenty of volume, no feedback, clear as a bell; easy to distinguish between several cw stations close together.

Now I need to find a small plastic box to put it all in, or maybe 3D-print one?

Thanks for visiting driftlessqrp! Going to do some POTA next weekend!






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