Owasippe Scout Reservation – W8OSR

This description and photos were provided by Dennis Mitchell, WA9IVU.

1 welcome '16Welcome to the oldest camp in BSA. As of this writing, we are in our 105th year of operation. See our website at www.owasippeadventure.com

I started camping here with my troop 833 in 1953 at the then sub camp James E. West.

I remember on a the rear table in one of the lodge buildings, a big cabinet of radio stuff with the glass bottle transistors and their glowing pilot lights and the T-5 mic hanging there with ladder-line out the window disappearing into the trees. I assume it was WW II surplus stuff but I don’t recall ever hearing it on the air, nor can I find any reference to previous operations.

I guess it takes a hobbyist to appreciate that stuff. It did impress me and I then met a neighbor ( W9OEY) who impressed me with a similar pile of “stuff” at his house.

When I was in high school, my favorite hang out was in the back store-room of the Physics Dept, where the school club station (W9CXZ) resided. Again, WW II (BC 610, ARC 5, etc.) and 600′ of long wire out the window and through the trees, around the campus.

2 W8OSR '98 - '11When I returned to OSR with my own Son ( KB9UYS), I set up at our site on the Camp Wolverine sub camp and operated as WA9IVU / 8 for several years doing an impromptu Radio Merit Badge for our troop , or any other passer-by who cared to join us.
After 3-4 years the Wolverine Director gave me semi-official status and my own tent and shelter for the radio, adding Radio Merit Badge to the Wolverine agenda. That’s when I applied for and got the W8OSR club station license. All the “BSA” combos were taken and since the camp is in MI and W8 is appropriate age call sign, I took this.
In 2011, our Centennial year, I campaigned for a “real station.” As we all know too well the performance of a station is directly proportional the amount and height of aluminum you have on  the end of the coax! The then Reservation Director was only luke warm to the prospect of more construction but with some pleading and enlisting arm twisting of “friends of the camp” I got permission for a better antenna system, sans funding of course!
4 planting antBeing slightly nuttier than the average Ham, I’ve accumulated a stash of extra antenna system components. I was able to raid my stock and during a supply truck run from our Chicago HQ to the MI camp, I got the makings of an iron tree and it’s alum leaves on the truck.
Enlisting the aid of my fellow Shooting Sports Director, and a good Marine,  we drilled anchor holes in the diving board base of the old pool. We were able to easily glue in the mount rods with an epoxy construction adhesive.

Centennial prep, from my collection of extra stuff, 40′ of Rohn 45 and a top section of Rohn 25, starts our tree now relocated to Owasippe. I get to begin installing a workable antenna system. My Hy-Gain 203 BA is our 20M capability and my Hy-Gain 10-15DB is 2 more bands. But I didn’t have anything for 12 or 17.

6 ant installI went to our friends of the camp group, The Owasippe Staff Association (owasippe.com), who are very supportive of adding to a better experience for our campers, and got funding for a C-C A3WS and a lot of RG 8 coax. I set up an extra Ham IV rotator I had and started installation.

Now we’re operating with decent antennae. There’s a 33′ alum pole w/ 8 radials for 40M behind our picnic table operating bench and a 75M inverted V wire also hanging from the ham antenna support structure. (Note the absence of the “tower” word, for approval considerations on a couple of fronts). This, with a shelter tent roof out on the old pool deck, was our ’11 station and our Scouts and guest Ham operators talked around the world to stations we never even heard with the “wire in the trees”!

7 real ant finallyThe deep woods of west-central Michigan are often rainy and home territory to quite blood thirsty mosquitoes. Rainy days and evenings were not good time to be out at the radio station.

The pool pump house had been re-habbed into the photo darkroom/lab for MB outpost. I got permission to take over a corner and we moved the station into air-conditioned quarters.

11 2nd station siteWe’d moved indoors and had 240 VAC available so I dragged an extra amp (my SB 220) over to camp and now were getting closer to a real station with a little increased talk-out power too.

12 3rd QTH site '14An old lodge (1930) had fallen into disrepair and many alums of Owasippe had fond memories of times there. The OSA stepped in with $$ assistance and a rehab project was started. The STEM/NOVA projects also started and the Council decided to make part of the rehab a home for STEM. The ham station was considered an asset for STEM so we were asked to incorporate it into the rehab.

I was able to exhibit a bit of persuasion and salesmanship and got funding for an “improved antenna support system” if we were going to have a new home.

15 crank-up baseOur funding was accomplished and we made a deal with U S Towers for a motorized HDX 55 crank-up as the basis of our system. I campaigned for the extra expense of the motorized winch for a couple of reasons. One is operation ease, this new lakeside site is on a hill and we do have Summer thunderstorms and often wind storms. Now with the twist of a switch we can pull the antennae down, hopefully out of harm’s way. And winter time is no exception, this part of MI will easily get 110″ average snowfall with ice in the mix. So I wanted to emphasize safety of securing the antenna from storms year around.

We are on a 100% sand base, down many many feet. That doesn’t make a good footing for any tall structure. The Engineering Department at U S Towers told us to use an alternate pad-type foundation. That’s a 9′ x 9′ x 3′; 9 cu yds; with almost a 1/2 ton of #8 rebar, hunk of concrete to foot our structure. And we’ve incorporated a conduit to keep our cables protected and out-of-the-way too. We’ve also noticed our critter neighbors, the porcupines and raccoons, seem to like the taste of coax vinyl jackets.

23 operating deskHere is our present main operating set-up in the Lake Cabin 2 Lodge. I put in my Drake TR 7 transceiver for the simple reason it has far fewer bells and whistles to confuse inexperienced operators. (I’ve worked all 350+ DXCC countries with my other Drake stuff) so it still works well. We’re using the SB 220 to make more smoke again too. And the 40M pole and the 75M wire are up too.

The biggest problem we seem to have is finding other SCOTA or any Scouting stations on the air. So we have to just play the DXing game and are collecting QSLs from lot’sa countries instead. The Scouts seem to be impressed to talk to places like Indian Ocean islands and VK, ZL , etc. when they realize that’s truly the other side of the world.

24 QTH '15Our “other station” for fun rag chewing is my Elecraft K2 with a Wilson 33 tribander and another A3WS on the old tower. The rig is great for an experienced operator to use but the simpler TR7 seems better for the kids. The two stations are just about a mile apart on the 5,000 acre Reservation. And we’re now hosting Radio Merit Badge for our next door neighbor, The Gerber Scout Reservation of the Grand Rapids MI, Council.