This granted me full HF privileges and I even obtained the callsign VY2SW within an hour of requesting it the following morning.
Of course, I was very eager to use the new callsign on the air!
Finding a park
A few weeks prior to our trip, I checked out all of the POTA sites within a short distance of our hotel in Ottawa.
Turns out, there are loads of parks in the Ottawa/Gatineau region so I was spoiled for choice!
What, at first, surprised me was the number of parks that had either never been activated or had only been activated a handful of times. Taking a closer look in advance and with the assistance of Google Street View, I could see that many of these entities are simply historic buildings/sites or formal parks in the city with no easy means of activating without special permission.
Hog’s Back Conservation Reserve (VE-1596)
Shortly after noting on QRPer that I’d be in Ottawa a few days, a reader named Andrew reached out and offered advice about local parks. He suggested the Hog’s Back Conservation Reserve since it was only a 15 minute drive from our hotel. We made plans to meet up there for the activation.
Not only was Hog’s Back convenient, but it was also a large park with loads of spots where one could set up and play radio. No doubt this is why it’s one of the most popular POTA spots in the Ottawa area.
Andrew and I agreed to meet up at Hog’s Back on the afternoon of June 17, 2022. The weather that day had been spectacular. We’d just come out of a mini heatwave with record temps so the cool dry air felt pretty amazing.
On the way to the park, my daughter and I could tell that clouds were moving in rapidly, though.
We met up with Andrew and walked out to a brilliant little spot to set up the activation. I put my end-fed half-wave in a tree as we chatted and pulled out the Discovery TX-500 assuming we would be hit with some rain.
As I was finding a clear frequency on the bands, the rain and winds moved in with a bit of a vengeance.
Andrew looked at me and said, “You know, discretion is the better part of valor.”
That gave me a chuckle and I agreed. Instead of fighting the crazy weather which was deteriorating so quickly, I simply packed up my gear as quickly as I could and we made our way back to the parking area with a plan to return the following day.
We arrived on site and I made my way to the same spot where I’d set up the previous day. There was no real threat of rain that Saturday morning, but it was quite gusty!
Instead of using a park bench, I brought one of my folding chairs and set it up under a large tree.
To date, this was the most urban park I’d ever activated and I felt a bit conspicuous if I’m being honest. I’m not quite used to so many people walking about.
That said, I’m always prepared to stop my activation and answer any questions from passersby; we POTA and SOTA activators are often ham radio ambassadors and this is very much a privilege.
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Packtenna 9:1 UNUN Random Wire Antenna
- Moleskine Cahier Journal (affiliate link)
- Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack
- 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)
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil (affiliate link)
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera (affiliate link)
- Folding chair (this one purchased at ALDI)
Deploying the random wire antenna was super quick and easy.
This was also the first activation where I used a small folding camp chair I purchased at ALDI a couple years ago. I’d always assumed it would be a poor choice for activations since it sits much closer to the ground than my three-legged REI hiking stool. Turns out I was quite wrong about that. This chair proved to be comfortable and, of course, much more stable than the REI stool. I’ll continue to use the REI stool, because it’s much smaller and packable for my SOTA hikes, but it’s nice to have a slightly more comfortable option.
The new call
Since this was the first (of many to come!) activations using my VY2SW callsign, I decided:
- Not to use my CW message memory keyer and do all of the CW by hand with the attached KXPD2 paddles. The reason for this was to get my fist used to sending VY2SW instead of K4SWL. I figured the extra keying would help re-wire my brain and muscle memory.
- I also decided not to attempt to log in real time on my HAMRS app. I didn’t want the distraction on this activation.
I’m often asked why I bother with logging on both paper and the HARMS app. The reason is I actually prefer logging on paper only, but I really dislike transcribing the logs to electronic form later to be uploaded. I also find that I have more errors in my logs when I transcribe them after the fact. I do find it a pain to log to a mobile phone or tablet in real time along with logging on paper, but it saves SO much time post-activation, it’s very much worth the effort.
On The Air
I started calling CQ POTA on 30 meters and fortunately the band was open. My very first contact with the new call was Gary (W5GDW) in my home state of North Carolina! The next contact was my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) and my buddy Mike (K8RAT) soon thereafter. It was great working two fellow SEORAT members in this first Canadian activation with my new call.
I logged Dave (W4JL) who’s a local back in NC–in fact, we rarely get to work each other because we’re too close for skywave and too far away for ground wave. I also logged Steve (K9IS) on 30M along with a few other familiar calls! All in all, I worked eleven stations in 12 minutes on 30 meters.
I then QSYed to the 20 meter band and immediately picked up K9IS again (thanks for the second band, Steve) and added four more contacts for a total of five on 20 meters in 5 minutes.
For fun, I also moved up to the 17 meter band where I worked one more station for a total of 17 total contacts in 30 minutes on the air.
I was very pleased with these results–thanks so much to those who hunted me during this activation!
Here’s how my 5 watts into the PackTenna random wire propagated that day:
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the activation at Hog’s Back Conservation Reserve. As with all of my videos, there are no ads and I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time:
Near the end of my activation, Andrew showed up and we got to spend a bit more time together. My whole family was appreciative of his local advice about places to see and the many beautiful walks in Ottawa.
We had such a great time in Ottawa, we adjusted our return trip so that we could enjoy a few more days in Canada’s capital city! In fact, look for me doing an activation there within the next few days (at time of posting).
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.
In fact, your support is what has made this extended family road trip to Canada possible. I apply any funds above and beyond the costs of running the website, producing the videos, and purchasing review equipment, to our family travel fund. This not only gives me an opportunity to play radio well outside my home area, but my family also gets to benefit from the work I put into producing activation videos and content on QRPer.com.
Thank you so very much!
Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)