...I'm basically trying to get the elements as parallel to the ground as I can.
A good idea.
I chose a phased array because they work really well at low heights, the gain is good, and I need a low takeoff angle.
From my modeling so far I haven't seen any significant difference between the gain at
low angles for a phased array compared to other options at the same height.
We have the same issues here in NW Oregon: the bulk of our contacts are at distances of
1000 miles or more. Closer stations are strong enough that we don't have to worry about
working them: instead the major focus is improving gain at angles below about 30 degrees.
Height is the most important factor, and having some douglas fir trees can come in handy.
Ground slope in the desired direction also improves your low angle signals - operating from the
East side of a hill can make several dB of improvement.
We just point our beams East: 40 to 60 degree half power beamwidth is about ideal to cover
most of the Field Day stations from here, and I expect it is from WWA also.
Unfortunately I don't yet know how the stations will be arranged on our site this year - in
one corner there are trees behind us to string up a 3-element 40m beam, but otherwise
we may have to get by with an 80m doublet strung up at 80'+. (Which, with some ground
slope, should work pretty good on 80m as well.)
I also don't trust my reflector measurement abilities enough to pursue a parasitic array with vee or quad elements,
Are you using a wire measuring board? It really makes life easier. My first one was on the
back of my Dad's garage door: I pounded two nails in 10' apart and marked off the feet and
halves between them. Hook the wire on one nail and wrap it back and forth: even at 144' I
can get it with in a few inches (depending on the wire thickness and how sharply it bends
around the nails: for #12 solid wire I'd use a square or octagon.) I now keep 5' and 2.5'
measuring boards built on 1x2 furring strips handy for measuring antennas: sure beats trying
to lay the wire out on the driveway!
I've been able to put up masts like that before with others' help...
A push-up mast isn't too difficult if you have a step ladder so you can guy the bottom
section upright, then extend it. Tilting a heavy mast upright can generate a lot of
forces on the hinge: the best approach is the "falling derrick" method where you use
a shorter mast (perhaps 15' or so) at a right angle to the main mast. Tie the guys
from the tall mast to the short one with both laying on the ground, then pivot the
short mast vertical and pull it down to raise the main one. Some Russian friends put
up a 160m quarter wave vertical this way using 3 separate steps (and only dropped
it 3 times in the process.) There's a good description in one of the RSGB antenna
books on how to do this - they used aluminum scaffold poles to go to 60'.
By stacking the sections vertically I never have to deal with the weight and loads
of tilting up the mast. I tie off two of the guy ropes about where I think they will
need to be, put together the top 2 sections of the mast with whatever goes on top,
and walk out until both guy ropes are tight. I should be able to set down the mast
and lean it against both ropes so it stays upright. Then I pick up the mast, slip the
next section in the bottom, and put it back down, all the while moving slightly to keep
it leaning just enough against the ropes. The 4' sections are about as long as I'd
want to use without having a truck bed or ladder to stand on. You can make your own
sections out of other materials as long as the total mast isn't too heavy for one or two
people to lift. If your material comes in 10' pieces, cutting it in thirds is probably the
best length to use. We regularly put up a tribander at 32' for Field Day, and I think I
could do it myself. (I was going to try last year, but someone insisted on helping.)
In that case we put up the mast, get all the guy ropes set, then take it down, put
the antenna on, and put it back up.