I’ve always believed that the first day of the year should be symbolic of the whole year.
At least, that’s the excuse I was using to fit in a quick activation on New Year’s Day (Jan 1, 2022).
I have had the new Xiegu X6100 on loan and planned to take it to the field, but that afternoon waves of rain were moving into the area in advance of a weather front. Since I don’t own this X6100, I didn’t want to risk getting it wet.
In fact, I had almost talked myself out of going on an activation, but my wife encouraged me to head to the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we jumped into the car and hit the road.
Our options on the parkway were very limited as they often are in the winter. In advance of winter weather, the National Park Service closes off large sections of the BRP because they have no equipment to remove snow/ice. Plus, you’d never want to drive the BRP in slippery conditions. There are too many beautiful overlooks to slide off of.
Thankfully, the Folk Art Center access is always open and incredibly convenient.
Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)
I knew this would be a short activation even by my standards but hopefully, it would represent the first of many meaningful field outings this year!
- lab599 Discovery TX-500
- Elecraft T1 ATU
- Packtenna 9:1 UNUN Random Wire Antenna
- CW Morse “Pocket Paddle”
- Red Oxx Micro Manager
- Bioenno 3 aH LiFePo Battery (Model BLF-1203AB)
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- Rite In The Rain Notepad and Koh-I-Noor .9 mm Mechanical Pencil (affiliate link)
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera with Joby tripod (affiliate links)
Setup was quick.
One of the great things about the little PackTenna random wire is that it’s not terribly long. I think mine may be 31 feet in length (you can trim it to be shorter, of course). That means it can be deployed in low tree branches so it’s effortless to shoot a line when we have old-growth trees like those at the Folk Art Center.
On The Air
I used the Elecraft T1 ATU and quickly matched the PackTenna on 40 meters.
I started calling CQ POTA and only heard crickets for a couple minutes. That worried me.
I had scheduled the activation moments before we hopped in the car and was relying on the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) to spot me. I thought, perhaps, RBN functionality might be down (it does happen, quite rarely). I checked the POTA spots page on my smart phone and could see that not only had I been spotted but the RBN actually gave me a good signal report. Hmmm…
Then, all of the sudden, everyone found me…all at once!
I started working stations and within 10 minutes had my 10 contacts.
I continued working stations until my wife and daughters came back from their walk, then I signed QRT.
In total, I made 23 contacts on 40 meters in 25 minutes.
Based on the number of CW hunters I was logging, I think I could have easily worked 40+ stations on 40 meters that evening within an hour.
This was one of those rare times when I had to send QRT even though there were still hunters out there calling me, but I couldn’t impose on family time. I had dinner to prepare back home!
Here’s how my 5 watts into a PackTenna random wire performed on 40 meters:
I made an unedited/unscripted real-time video of the entire activation. Due to time limitations, I didn’t film deploying the antenna. As always, my videos are ad-free!
Fitting in activations
I remember speaking with a fellow at the WCARS hamfest last year who told me that if he doesn’t have enough time for three solid hours on the air, he doesn’t bother packing the car and doing a park activation.
There are times I wish I had as much as three dedicated hours to activate a park or summit, but the only time I get that experience is when we’re camping in a POTA park. I’ll admit: it’s wonderful having what feels like an unlimited amount of time on the air!
My style is built around having around 45-60 minutes on the air. Sometimes I fit in a wee bit more time, then again there are days like this one where I don’t even have 30 minutes.
In truth, though? I also get a small thrill out of a rapid deployment activations. I feel activations like this actually build emergency communication skills as well: you get to know your gear, how it’s packed, and how to reliably deploy it in short order. In this case, I was on the air within five minutes of pulling up to my parking spot that day.
Doing this multiple times a year also gives you a good sense of what your radio, the battery, and the antenna is capable of doing.
Looking forward to 2022
Still: my family is determined to travel to some interesting places in 2022 and my hope is that I’ll be able to do little rapid activations like this along the way and document them here on QRPer.com and the YouTube Channel.
Thank you, in advance, for coming along for the ride!
I’d like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.
Here’s wishing everyone an amazing 2022!
Cheers & 73,
My daughter, Geneva (K4TLI), snapped a few photos as I was packing up. Enjoy: