The Rocker Box Blog Archive

Hobby Symbiosis


Those of you who have followed me for a while, or bought a copy of my book “Cache! Stories of Buried Treasures and hidden Wealth” know that I have been a diehard Treasure Hunter since I was eight. Treasure hunting is not just a pass time…it’s a passion. Everywhere I go, and whatever I’m doing at the time, my self-talk is usually something like “I wonder what’s buried around here?” or “that would be a good place to dredge for gold.” I make notes (mentally or otherwise) and invariably do a search thru my library of information to see if there’s something interesting to learn about or search for.


In my time as a Special Forces soldier, I’ve been in some remote areas. Places that would prove to be a challenge to get into and to get out of when healthy and in-good physical condition. If I had been injured or came down with some “rare tropical disease” getting out on my own probably would have been futile. That’s why one of the critical aspects of any ‘mission’ was communications.


Communications allows the team to let ‘higher ups’ know the status of the mission. Communications allows those same ‘higher ups’ to provide the team with needed support, supplies, and equipment. Communications allows the ‘higher ups’ to extract the team when the time comes. And communications allowed the team a way to call for and get a medivac for an injured or sick team member. Communications was critical to success. These are lessons that are not ‘incompatible’ with treasure hunting.


When I travel out into the woods and wilderness in search of a good gold bearing area or a long-lost treasure, chances are I do so knowing that I’m going to be well outside of cell phone range. In fact, I’ve been to a lot of areas within the lower 48 that get no AM radio stations, much less cell phone. If I get hurt or my vehicle breaks down, I have no way to call for assistance or to at least let my family know what’s going on. I’ll never admit to ever being lost, but if I happen to get confused on my whereabouts for a month or two, it might help to be able to contact someone.


Now, being an old Special Forces communicator, I learned a whole lot of skills that are valuable in just such a scenario, and I have concluded that being able to communicate using Amateur Radio is a perfect match to that slice of treasure hunting planning, preparation, and activities. Let me expand a bit on these so you can see what I mean.


Most people who are not involved in Amateur Radio immediately think of “Hams” (an Amateur Radio enthusiast) sitting at a table full of huge radios, banging away at a Morse code key and talking on a large microphone. Those Hams do exist. In fact, I also enjoy “banging away” on a code key, as that was one of the skills I picked up in my prior life. But, there is a slice of Amateur Radio much more suited to the treasure hunter and his/her treasure hunting activities. It’s commonly called “2-meter,” but more properly called “VHF/UHF.”


Think of VHF/UHF communications as more of a “walkie-talkie” type of radio, only instead of just  talking to someone a mile or so away that has a similar walkie talkie, you talk on a hand-held radio that can reach a station called a “repeater” that could be miles away (up to 20 or 30 miles), especially if you’re able to get on top of a mountain. That repeater will retransmit your call to an area that could be another 30, 40, or 50 miles away, ...and…other Hams monitor repeaters as a normal course of their hobby. Here is an instant way to get assistance, or perhaps to have the Ham on the other end make a call for you to a family member or friend. But, there is another protocol set up for wilderness communications. The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) has instituted the “Wilderness Protocol,” which states:


“The Wilderness protocol (see page 101, August 1995 QST) calls for hams in the wilderness to announce their presence on, and to monitor, the national calling frequencies for five minutes beginning at the top of the hour, every three hours from 7 AM to 7 PM while in the back country. A ham in a remote location may be able to relay emergency information through another wilderness ham who has better access to a repeater. National calling frequencies: 52.525, 146.52, 223.50, 446.00, 1294.50 MHz.”


So, what does it take to get this capability? Two things. 1) Get licensed by the FCC as a “Technician,” and procure a suitable hand-held (or vehicular mounted) radio. Getting a Technician license is not difficult. Get a suitable book, study the book, take an exam, get your license. For Technician, it’s more about “rules of the road” than it is technical stuff. If you want more info on how to get started, drop me an email. I’ll get you pointed in the right direction. As for a radio, you can pick up an inexpensive 2-meter radio for about $50 or less. Granted, it won’t be the fanciest out there, but it will get the job done.


One note about the typical FRS/GMRS radios you can buy at your local store, or even the "CB" radios so popular in the 1970's and 1980's. These radios might be good for two people to stay in touch when out together, especially in open, flat terrain. But, no one other than you (and your partner) is listening. For long range use, or use during an emergency, they are not reliable.


One other thing about Amateur Radio and Treasure Hunting. When you’re out doing your ground research and reconnaissance, and you’re spending overnights in a camp, be it a tent or an RV, tuning in on the world with a ham radio is a great way to relax. As a Technician, you also have some privileges to talk to other hams around the world using another slice of amateur radio called “HF.” Yes…there are amateur radios that can reach hundreds, if not thousands of miles that weigh less than a pound or two. Very portable…very manageable. Listening to commercial shortwave stations and talking to other hams adds another dimension to outdoor experience of treasure hunting.


A second advantage of having the right Short Wave radio for listening to commerial braodcasts is that many models have Weather stations built right into them, so you can keep up on the latest weather forecasts in your area.


Being able to communicate to get assistance or to keep in contact with friends and family is a critical step in a well-planned and executed treasure hunt. I urge everyone to explore getting their Technician license and have an expanded capability probably not thought of until now. And, you never know…perhaps you too will discover another great hobby and skill set to pursue during those “off times” from treasure hunting.


Full Disclosure: The supplies, equipment, tips, techniques, and procedures I recommend are based on my evaluation and experience. I link items I recommend to companies I have an affiliate agreement with (or to The Rocker Box Catalog) from which I receive a small percentage of sales if sales are made during your visit to their website. The recommendations are mine, and mine alone. I use any proceeds to pay for The Rocker Box website, and to generate future articles and activities. I thank you in advance for your patronage and support to further the great recreations, hobbies, and vocations of treasure hunting, gold prospecting, metal detecting, ghost town hunting, and rock hounding.

30-Second Bio: I am a retired soldier of the US Army Special Forces (aka Green Berets),The Author: Mark Prewitt serving for over 25 years. My specialties were communications, medicine, operations and intelligence, with extensive cross training in weapons and demolitions. I was a paratrooper, jumpmaster, combat diver, combat dive supervisor, combat dive medic, sniper, and pathfinder. I’ve been deployed countless times to locations on four continents, and have participated in operations in open water, riverine, jungle, mountain, desert, arctic, and urban environments…but I’ve been a “treasure Hunter” since I was eight. The End.