Typically, when I do field activations while on vacation, I squeeze them in and around our family activities and travels. This is quite easy to do because our family enjoys a good hike and we love our parks.
On July 4, 2022 (Independence Day in the US!) my wife and daughters had their own activities planned for the day which opened up nearly a full day–at least a good 5-6 hour window–for me to do park activations solo.
I had numerous park choices in/around Québec City–an area rich with POTA sites.
I thought that I could either spend the day hitting one park further afield or hit multiple parks clustered together.
I chose the latter, so I started researching the POTA Map for Québec City.
In truth, pretty much any of the parks in Québec City could have been pieced together for a multiple park run. In fact, there are a number cluster in the city center and in Old Québec, but I was keen to explore a little cluster of parks I noted in the Saint-Foy area west of Québec City:
The map below shows just how close these four parks are to each other. Very doable!
These parks were so close to each other, I considered parking in the middle and simply walking to each site, but after reviewing the distance between the potential activation sites at each parks more carefully, I realized I wouldn’t have the time to activate all four parks if I walked it.
It was this activation that reminded me how brilliant it would be to own a folding bike like by buddy Jim (N4JAW) uses on each of his nearly daily POTA activations. With a bicycle, I think I could have actually activated these more quickly than I could with a car because there’d be no need to find a parking spaces at each site.
I decided I’d try to hit my four parks in this order:
- VE-0970 Parc de la Plage-Jacques-Cartier Provincial Park
- VE-0964 Parc Cartier-Roberval Archeological Reserve
- VE-0956 Boise de Marly Provincial Park
- VE-0958 Boisé des Compagnons-de-Cartier Recreation Park
The only park I’d visited in advance was Parc Cartier-Roberval so I knew I’d need a little time to find activation sites, etc. at the other three. If the activations took longer than expected to validate with 10 stations logged, I might have to skip the final park.
Interestingly, three of these four parks were ATNOs (All-Time New Ones) thus had never been activated for POTA.
That Thursday morning, I checked propagation by contacting my buddy Mike (K8RAT) who reported that conditions were in the dumps and to allow much longer to complete each activation. I turned on the TX-500, which I had set up semi-permanently at the condo, and found after a bit of band-scanning that he was correct. I couldn’t hear a single POTA activator spotted that morning; in fact, I heard few stations in general. The bands were very quiet and QSB was prominent.
In my mind, I was prepared to skip that last park already.
I packed my Elecraft KX2 field kit and planned to use the TufetIn Random Wire antenna at all of the sites. As a backup, I also brought the Elecraft AX1 antenna.
A little secret here: bad propagation can be frustrating at time, but I never let it stop me from doing an activation.
Time to hit the first park!
Parc de la Plage-Jacques-Cartier (VE-0970)
I arrived at Parc de la Plage-Jacques-Cartier around 10:15 AM local. Parking was quite easy (and free!) although it was filling up quickly that beautiful morning.
The park is nearly ideal for POTA. I was super pleased to see a number of picnic tables and loads of trees I could use to support an antenna.
There were, however, a couple of park employees walking around checking out the site and doing a bit of morning clean-up. Because I was pressed for time and because throwing a line into a tree would have been pretty conspicuous at a park that had only been activated once before, I thought it best to go low-profile and low-impact.
Time to set up the Elecraft AX1.
To be clear, I seriously doubt I would have been asked to leave the park or take a wire antenna down. So far in Québec, I had no problems at all doing activations. I just didn’t feel like testing the waters on a day I was on a schedule attempting a multi park run. That and, to be frank, I was still not used to activating urban parks with so much activity.
As you can tell in my activation video, I had strong reservations about using the AX1 that day of all days.
Here’s one of the beautiful things about the AX1 antenna, especially if you’re attaching it to the KX2: set up is a very speedy process. It takes me a maximum of three minutes, but I bet I could do it within one minute if needed.
The winds were pretty gusty that day on the shore of the St. Lawrence and while the AX1 is otherwise pretty stable when attached to the KX2, it does not handle strong winds well. It has a tendency to fall down. To give the AX1 a little extra support, I ran the whip through the carry handle on my Tom Bihn pack. That worked out quite well, actually.
Quick note/update: a number of readers have pointed out that I did not have a counterpoise connected to the KX2.
I did, in fact.
I attached the short counterpoise (11 or 13′, I believe?) under the bottom cover screw on the left side of the KX2. That is a good grounding point (on the inside part of the chassis where there’s no paint). You simply can’t see the counterpoise in the photos and in the video, but it’s there!
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Elecraft AX1 packed in a Maxpedition Fatty Pouch
- Moleskine Cahier Journal (affiliate link)
- Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack
- 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)
On The Air
I planned to only operate on 20 meters and possibly move up to 17 meters if I had any difficulty getting my 10 contacts. I knew 40 meters was dead–the flaring literally wiped that band out completely.
Sounding like a broken record here, but each time I use the AX1 antenna, I feel like there’s simply no way it could work effectively.
In terms of size and weight, it feels like…a toy.
The whip is about 5 feet tall. I think my first CB walkie talkie had a longer telescoping whip.
When you’re sitting at a picnic table, pushing a mere 5 watts into this wee aerial, it just doesn’t seem possible that it could possibly work. Even though it’s proven me wrong so many times, using it on a day with poor propagation felt like an exercise in futility.
With my fingers crossed, I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters.
Within one minute, a number of stations replied all at once.
Within the first 4 minutes of the activation, I logged seven stations!
I knew this could have been a freakish little opening on the bands, so I worked the hunters as quickly as I could without going into contest exchanges.
The pace of contacts only slowed slightly after those initial seven.
In the end, I logged twelve station in 19 minutes. Here are my logs:
I think what really tells the story of the AX1 at this activation is looking at the QSO Map. Five watts into the AX1 on a picnic table was able to yield this in 19 minutes:
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. In fact, this entire video was done in one take:
I won’t lie: this was an incredibly exciting activation!
I live for QRP activations like this–they remind me of the pure magic and joy of radio.
Part of me wanted to continue operating 10-20 more minutes, but looking at my watch, I knew it was time to move to the next site in my multi-park run. Look for that field report soon!
Thank you for joining me on this brilliant little activation! This is why I’m so insanely addicted to POTA.
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!
Cheers & 72,
Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)