QRP Ham Radio... Posing next to a huge cactus!

Me posing with he biggest cactus we saw that week…

Just got back from an incredible trip to Arizona with my dad (WD2E) and brother (AI4KQU.) A week and a half excursion to the Lost Dutchman’s Mining District to learn how to pan for gold turned out to be an adventure of a lifetime while tent camping in coyote country, working portable QRP from the desert, and yes, even finding GOLD!

First off, the 29+ hour drive from my dad’s location in TN didn’t seem too bad since we had mounted a Yaesu FT-857 and Tarheel Screwdriver antenna to the truck, and were making contacts along the way.

Many contacts were made on 40, 30, 20, and 17 meters both SSB and CW.

Getting to the camp was very scenic as we traveled through the lower portion of the Rocky Mountains through New Mexico and Arizona on I-40 while reaching elevations of 7000+ ft above sea level. The views were incredible!

And the final descent into Congress, AZ along the very windy and sometimes precarious Rte. 89 through the Copper Canyon was amazing. Tight twisty turns – sometimes with no guard-rail to save you from a long and deadly drop into the canyon below.

In fact, the road had many memorial crosses and flowers planted where some unfortunate drivers had met their demise on that road. I counted at least 6 memorials.

Our destination: Stanton…

A ghost-town located at the base of “Rich Hill.” Rich hill was discovered by early settler Pauline Weaver who found “spud sized nuggets” atop the famed hill. Gold nuggets the size of potatoes?? The town was quickly over-run with prospectors and grew to a population of about 3500.


The Story of "Rich Hill"

The Story of Rich Hill – Rich Hill in background…


After the gold played out in the early 1900’s, the town was left abandoned until aquired by the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association and opened to LDMA members wishing to find gold through metal detecting, mining, and panning. You can prospect on LDMA’s claims, or become a member of nearby prospecting clubs with claims in the Stanton and surrounding areas…



The Hotel at Stanton – Still Standing since the late 1800’s. Our portable QRP operation was set up on the hill behind the hotel to the left.

QRP Operations From the LDMA Camp:

Our QRP operations began just above our camp site in the hills of the Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association. Operators were my brother Dave (AI4KQU,) and me.

One problem:

There were no trees anywhere in sight that could support our 20m dipole! Being from the East, I never even considered the fact that there would be no natural support for our antenna.

The solution?

Walking around camp, I noticed a 10 ft. piece of PVC pipe behind the Opera House where renovations were being done. We snuk the PVC up the mountain and found an old rotted shack on the mountain. We stuck the PVC in a hole in the roof for a support for the dipole, sent the coax up through the pipe and strung the dipole elements out into an inverted vee.. Not much elevation, but we were making voice contacts to Texas with 5/9 signal reports from several stations!

As the sun fell, the band conditions dropped very quickly, and our 5/9’s went to 5/3 at best until we were gone!

QRP Ham Radio from Stanton, AZ

Playing around after a tough day of digging!

The way home…

Although we never struck the real “pay-dirt,” we did find fine gold and a small nugget before packing up camp and heading back East. I never experienced “gold fever” before, but when we were onto some “good color,” the excitement rose!

Our trip home offered some opportunities for portable QRP as well.. Camping in Oklahoma, we set up the antenna as a flat-top dipole right outside our camping cabin. We made CW contacts to Russia, Greece, and Austria to name a few while 20 was open to Europe well after midnight…

All in all, it was a great trip, and I’m glad I had a chance to operate portable QRP. If you’ve got a portable rig, never leave home without it because you never know when an opportunity will present itself for you to set up and make some contacts.. My lesson learned: never go out west without some kind of mast system for an antenna – the mountains in the deserts of the West are much different from the East!

73’s Thanks for reading! -Brian  (please share!)