En Route to Canada: An impromptu POTA activation at Swatara State Park

If you’ve been following my field reports and activation videos, you’ll note that I’m almost two months behind posting them at present.

Much of this is due to the fact that I made numerous activations during a camping trip at New River State Park with my family in April and many more activations during a camping trip with WD8RIF and KD8KNC in West Virginia in May.

May was an extremely busy month for me family-wise and I was fitting in Canadian Basic Exam prep during any free time I had because my goal was to write the Canadian Basic exam within the first few days of arriving in Canada.

(Read this previous post for more detail.)

Looking at my field report back log, I’ve got a few more reports from both the NC and WV camping trips, but I’ve decided to put them on hold for a bit so that I can post more recent ones. Plus, it might be fun posting late spring field reports this fall!

One of the things I love about writing these field reports is re-living the activation.

Objectif Québec

We began our road trip to Canada on the morning of June 15, 2022.

Our first stop would be Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, the second stop Ottawa, Ontario (for three nights), and then our final destination of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Québec. All in all, we’d log 1,306 miles/2,102 km not including side trips.

Although I sort of fantasize about all of the amazing parks I could activate during our travels north, in reality this road trip was all about reaching the destination in fairly short order to save on hotel expenses en route.

The first leg of the trip equated to a good 10 hours on the road including stops to refuel, stretch our legs, and grab a bite to eat.

That first day, I’d completely written off the idea of performing a POTA activation assuming we’d arrive in Pine Grove, PA too late and too tired.

Turns out, though, we got an earlier start than we had anticipated, so arrived in Pine Grove around 16:00 local.  That afternoon, everyone was eager to take a stroll or hike to shake off all of those hours of sitting in the car.

I checked my POTA Map and then cross-referenced it with  my All Trails app to find the closest park with proper hiking trails. Turns out Swatara State Park met both criteria and was a mere 8 minutes from our hotel. Woo hoo!

Honestly: Swatara couldn’t have been more convenient for us.

Swatara State Park (K-1426)

Swatara had multiple access points along the highway, so we simply picked one and drove to the end to find a trailhead and picnic table under the trees. It was ideal.

This impromptu activation needed to be a very quick one because we were all eager to fit in a little hike (which my wife and daughters started while I was activating), then head back to the hotel for dinner, maybe an episode of Star Trek Enterprise, then some much needed sleep.


Deploying the Packtenna 9:1 random wire couldn’t have been easier.

One quick launch of the throw line and I was able to deploy the Packtenna as a vertical using the coax shield as a counterpoise (I didn’t attach a separate counterpoise in this particular case).

On The Air

Again, my goal was to make this a very quick activation, so I thought I’d focus on bands that might yield the most contacts in the least amount of time.

I decided to start this activation on 30 meters.

I called CQ for about six minutes and logged one contact. I got the impression that 30 meters simply wasn’t its normal vibrant self, so I moved to 40 meters.

On 40, things were quite different. I ended up logging thirteen contacts in 17 minutes! It was great fun.

For the first time, I heard my buddy Jim (N4JAW) on 40M but even after multiple calls back, he wasn’t able to hear me. Conditions were unstable and I know that Jim has to cope with some rough QRM conditions from home at times which is one of the many reasons he’s such a dedicated park activator. I highly recommend following his activations on Twitter. He cycles to all of his activations on a few different models of folding bicycles. The man is a true cycle portable POTA machine!

I’ll catch you next time, Jim!


Here’s what my five watts into the PackTenna 9:1 Unun random wire yielded in 23 minutes on the air:

Activation video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of this short activation at Swatara State Park.  As with all of my videos, there are no ads and I don’t edit out any parts of the activation:

Click here to watch this activation video on my YouTube channel and consider subscribing!

Ottawa bound!

The following morning, we started the second leg of our trip, crossing the US/Canadian border and heading to Ottawa.

We had some record-setting hot temperatures on that particular day with strong thunderstorms that we luckily avoided.

In fact, we sat at the border (the Thousand Islands crossing) with the border agent for nearly 25 minutes as the computer in their booth kept overheating and crashing. This was the first time I’ve ever spent quality time with a border agent–after 15 minutes of hanging out together, we were downright chatty and sharing jokes. They waived us through quickly once their computer was back online.

The view from our hotel room. That’s my Canadian Basic Exam Prep book on the table.

We arrived at our hotel in Ottawa in the late afternoon and I immediately started reviewing my Canadian Basic exam material.

Vince (VE6LK) administered my exam that evening and I passed with honors. By the next morning, I was holding the Canadian callsign of VY2SW. I was thrilled and very happy to have gotten the pending exam out of the way on the very first day I was on Canadian soil. If interested–I won’t blame you if not–check out this previous post for more detail.

The next field report will be be from an activation in Ottawa!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this fun, impromptu POTA activation. Indeed, this was my first POTA activation from the Keystone State! What fun!

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.

If you have any travels planned in the near future, keep a radio field kit handy for those times when an impromptu activation might really fit the bill! It’s funny but I feel like I’ve actually “been somewhere” when I activate a local park!

Have a great week, everyone!

Cheers & 72/73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

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