Rough conditions but serious QRP POTA fun at New River State Park

The New River (Photo by K4TLI)

You might recall from my previous field report that I took the family on a camping trip at New River State Park in April 2022.  During that trip, I made an activation of New River each day and also fit in a very fun SOTA activation (click here to read an overview).

Note that anytime you’re performing an activation over multiple days at any one park, you can only have one activation per UTC day.

The following brief field report is essentially my “Part 2” from April 28, 2022. Since I’d already worked well over my ten contacts in the previous activation session that UTC day, all of these contacts were simply icing on the cake!

Keeping this one brief(er)

I’ve an insanely busy day today, what with exam study, errands, splitting firewood, and prep for our summer travels.

That said, I wanted to squeeze in an activation video and field report because the rest of the week is even crazier.

This field report is conveniently identical to my previous one. I was using the Yaesu FT-817ND, MW0SAW’s EFHW, and charging my Bioenno battery with two folding PowerFilm Solar panels fed into my Buddipole PowerMini 2 solar charge controller. Again, for more detail, check out my previous field report.


Spots and Prop

I mentioned in the previous report that we had no internet service whatsoever at New River State Park. In a sense, that’s part of the appeal for me: disconnecting!

That afternoon, however, a kind person offered a connection to their hotspot so that I could spot myself on the POTA network. This turned out not only to be handy for SSB, but for CW too as well since the Reverse Beacon Network connection on the POTA spots page was intermittent during much of our camping trip.

Propagation?  Well, it was pretty lackluster.

That’s okay, though, because part of the fun of doing POTA excursions is not knowing what you might encounter on the air, right? Right!

Since we were camping at the park, I had what felt like an unlimited amount of time to play radio, so was in no hurry whatsoever.

On The Air

Knowing my hotspot connection could disappear the moment its owner left the park, I decided to start my activation with SSB.

I spotted myself and started calling CQ on 40 meters–it all looked very promising. I worked three stations–KC4JNW, KS4S, and AA0Z–in short order.

Then nothing. The band took a nose dive.

After QSYing to 20 meters, I decided to pull out the key and try a little CW.

CW is such an effective and efficient mode that even in rough conditions, it seems to punch through. I worked 12 more stations.

Many thanks to all of the hunters out there that day! It was great putting you in the logs!


Keep in mind that the following QSO Map reflects the entire UTC day, so has many more contacts than I made in this one session. I find this map fascinating because I’d spent a great deal of time on 20 meters that day (on and off camera) yet I only had one contact (N7AO) west of Texas. Typically, 20 meters would yield a fair amount of west coast contacts, but that day the band was very short.

Activation video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of this activation session:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Since this video is real-life (meaning, I don’t edit out anything during the activation) there’s a fair amount of time at the beginning where I’m calling CQ and no one is answering.


This is a part of doing field activations of any sort; somedays, the contacts roll in on a waves of pileups, other days, you hear crickets between calls.

For me, that’s part of the fun.

Sure, if I’m in a hurry (as I often am) poor propagation can make an activation frustratingly slow or it might even mean that I can’t log the 10 contact needed to validate my park. That’s okay.

My advice is that when you hit the field, just enjoy whatever our local star deals you that day and assume you might not be able to validate an activation in the time you have. We often assume we’re doing something wrong, but much of the time it’s just propagation.

I’ll admit that I enjoy slower-paced activations from time to time and during those each contact I make is a bit of a happy dance moment. 🙂

Thank you!

Photo by K4TLI

Thank you for joining me during this campsite activation!

Of course, I’d also 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 which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos. It also helps fund purchases like the PowerMini 2 which has been a brilliant addition to my field kit.


Thomas (K4SWL)

5 thoughts on “Rough conditions but serious QRP POTA fun at New River State Park”

  1. A wonderful follow-up, thank you Thomas. I sometimes wonder if I am even going to get my minimum of 10, then I get a few more, then a little while later more contacts come my way. This is why I enjoy getting close to the Appalachian Trail, so I can hike for few, then get back on the radio, eat my lunch etc.

    Thank you again for the encouragement.

    Fr Richard

  2. One thing I learned from your previous video was when operating with no cell signal or ability to spot one’s self was to send the park number on CW in hopes that someone will spot you. I’ll try that the next time I’m in a no cellphone location.

    Thanks for a great article.

    Max – WG4Z

  3. Thomas, nice to catch you on that activation and fun to hear the other end of my transmissions starting at 25:00. One of these days I will catch you for a park to park or summit to summit.

    73 and thanks, Douglas K1GC

  4. Tom-

    That was a great adventure under rough conditions! Sometimes the propagation Gods just are aren’t smiling on you.

    I did an activation yesterday to the tune of 46 contacts on 20M CW. They all involved fairly short distances- largely this side of the Mississippi. The sole exception was K7ULM in MT. Not a single European, and those are fairly common from here in NH. The short distances suggest that higher bands were open and in use. I didn’t have an antenna for 15M with me, though, so I didn’t get to test that theory.

  5. Hello Thomas
    I am looking to buy a CW paddle for portable use.
    I see where you list the N0SA paddle but I understand they are no longer available. Could you share your experience with other paddles you like, hopefully one still available?

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