When I first started doing activations in the Parks On The Air (POTA) program, many of our regional parks in North Carolina were ATNOs (All-Time New Ones).
An ATNO is what it sounds like: a park that is in the POTA network but has never been activated.
ATNOs were plentiful in the early days–before the rise of POTA. In those early days, I found that if a park was even slightly inconvenient to access, it would be an ATNO.
In fact, I reckon that nearly 40% of the parks I activated in 2020, were ATNOs. This wasn’t because I made a particular effort to hit ATNOs. Rather I made an effort to activate unique parks that year; it was the beginning of the pandemic and this was a fun activity for me–an excuse to explore regional public lands–so ATNOs were among them.
With POTA participation having grown by orders of magnitude in the past few years–a very welcome thing indeed–ATNOs in North Carolina are extremely rare. I just checked and we have two ATNO parks out of 230 parks in NC. I can pretty much guarantee that our two ATNOs have either just been added to the database, or they’re very difficult to access.
POTA hasn’t been in Canada as long as it has in the US and, in some regions, it’s just catching on.
I was surprised to find that there were still a lot of ATNOs in/around Québec City because the area has a very active ham radio community.
Parc national des Grands-Jardins (VE-0499)
As we were plotting our summer trip to Canada, I made a list of the parks I wanted to activate and Grands-Jardins was at the top of that list.
When we spend the summer in Québec, we always fit in a few visits to Grands-Jardins. The mountains there are beautiful with rounded tops and rocky faces. Via ferrata is a very popular summer activity in the park, but our family enjoys the hikes, the overlooks, and I especially love the back country roads!
I didn’t realize until a few days before attempting this activation that Grands-Jardins was still an ANTO!
I was surprised by the ATNO status because when you drive between Baie-Staint-Paul and Saguenay on 381, you drive through Grands-Jardins and there are numerous spots where you could easily pull off the road and perform an activation.
It’s true, though, that 381 is not a busy road even during peak season and it’s quite a lonely (though stunningly beautiful) drive. Make sure you’re not low on fuel before driving on this road because there are no gas stations for a good hour or so of driving (there are signs en français to remind you).
If you’re ever in the Charlevoix region of Québec, make the detour to take the 381 and spend some time hiking in Grands-Jardins. You won’t regret it.
Now where was I? Oh yes…
We decided to spend the day at Parc national des Grands-Jardins on Friday, July 1, 2022 (Canada Day!).
The drive from our home base in St-Ferreol-les-Neiges to the visitors’ center was about one hour. Weather that day was iffy;l still, our family doesn’t let the threat of rain stop us from enjoying a good hike & activation.
The visitors center was nearly parked full. Not surprising since it was a national holiday and a Friday (despite the rain!).
I quickly realized that I didn’t want to set up at the actual visitors center since there was so much foot traffic. We decided, instead, to drive about 2km to a trailhead and campsite we’d passed on the way into the park.
This site turned out to be nearly ideal; there were even picnic tables and trees, thus all of the elements needed for an easy peasy POTA activation!
We were also eager to fit in a little hiking post-activation, so this site would serve both purposes.
I decided to pair my Elecraft KX2 with MW0SAW’s 40M end-fed half-wave (EFHW) antenna.
I used my Mini Arborist Throw Line kit which was tucked away in my field pack.
The trees weren’t terribly tall, but I was able snag the top of one of the taller trees to support my EFHW in an inverted vee configuration.
The only real challenge was deploying the antenna in such a way that it wouldn’t create a trip hazard for innocent passersby.
Propagation was, again, quite poor that day, but there were also a lot of people on the air chasing Canadian stations for the RAC Canada Day contest. Plus, it’s a known fact that activating an ATNO gives you an extra 5 dB of gain automatically–!
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Moleskine Cahier Journal (affiliate link)
- MW0SAW end-fed half-wave
- 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 with Joby tripod (affiliate links)
Herein lies the amazing thing about the KX2: since it’s powered by an internal battery, has an internal ATU, and an internal mic, all I have to do to put it on the air is attach my KXPD2 paddles and connect the antenna. Done!
On The Air
As with all of my activations in Canada (starting June 16, 2022) I operated with my Canadian callsign VY2SW in /VE2 land.
I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters in CW. Despite lousy conditions, I worked fourteen stations in 21 minutes! Woo hoo! Activation validated!
I then QSYed to the SSB portion of the 20 meter band and worked four stations using the KX2’s built-in microphone. (I left my KX2 hand mic back in North Carolina!).
Next, I moved to the 40 meter band and worked five more stations in 5 minutes.
I then called QRT so I could pack up and enjoy a hike with the family!
I was very pleased to work so many POTA friends at Grands-Jardins and to even work one of the RAC special event stations (VE4RAC in Manitoba). I was very surprised to work my buddy Paul (W4/VP9KF) who’s practically a next door neighbor back home. Thanks for hunting me, Paul!
There was a lull in this activation, but overall, I was very pleased. My total time on the air was 57 minutes and I worked a total of 23 stations.
Thank you, hunters!
Here’s what my activation looks like on a QSO map. Note that the red lines are SSB contacts:
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. As with all of my videos, there are no ads and I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. If you’ve been looking for an insomnia cure, look no further!
It was so much fun to finally activate Parc nationals des Grands Jardins!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.
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!
Now go out there and play radio! 🙂
Cheers & 72,
Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)
Post-activation, my family enjoyed a long hike where my daughter (K4TLI) took a number of photos. Enjoy (click thumbnails to enlarge):