Brian’s Kilo at Cook Forest State Park is tied to family, memories, and his CW journey

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


Field Report:  Reflections on a Kilo at Cook Forest State Park

by Brian (K3ES)

Contemplating my favorite antenna tower during the Kilo activation.

Cook Forest State Park in northwest Pennsylvania has always been a special place for me.  It abounds in trees (including some of the last virgin timber around), wildlife (deer, turkeys, song birds, squirrels, and the occasional bear), and also includes the scenic Clarion River.  When I found out about Parks on the Air (POTA) after getting licensed in 2020, I knew that I had to put POTA entity K-1345 on the air.

Our family cabin; which has been central to all of the phases of my life – including milestones, joys, sorrows, and unadulterated wonder – is located on a plot of land bordered on two sides by the park.  It just seemed natural and right for me to do my first-ever POTA activation under an ancient hemlock tree just a few steps over the line from the back corner of our property. That mostly-SSB activation happened in May 2021 with my TX-500 pushing 10 watts into a homebrew dipole suspended from a dead branch up 30 ft in the hemlock.

An early activation of K-1345 from beneath the ancient Eastern Hemlock Tree

Last weekend, I reached a meaningful personal goal by completing my 1000th activator contact from K-1345.  After the first activation I never again operated mostly-SSB, and I never increased radiated power.  Nearly all of my contacts since have used CW, and many were completed at 5 watts.  The added challenge of QRP CW undoubtedly made the Kilo more difficult, but it was also much more fulfilling.  It has taken me 28 successful activations, a lot of work to improve my CW skills, and a lot of patient support from the hunters who have shared this journey with me.

My activations at K-1345 tell the story of my journey as a CW operator.  I took my first steps on that journey in late 2020, months before I had a portable radio or a plan for my first activation.  I started with an Android app, V-Band, and listening to CW exchanges on webSDR.  Eventually that progressed to CW Academy basic, intermediate, and advanced classes.  The classes really upped my CW game, but what helped even more was using CW on the air.  I finally got my HF station on the air in March 2021 and started hunting parks, SSB at first, then increasingly CW.  During my first mostly-SSB activation I did manage to hunt down three park-to-park contacts using CW.  I started my second activation by calling CQ using CW, and I have not looked back.  Wow, those hunters were patient during that first first CW activation!  My skills have improved greatly since then, but I’m still not where I want to be.  The next goal for me is to gain confidence and proficiency in less-structured QSOs.

I want to thank Thomas – K4SWL, whose real time, real life activation videos challenged, motivated, and inspired me to learn and use CW.  I greatly appreciate the work of the CW Academy advisors who guided me through some of the hard work needed for improvement.  I also need to thank the hundreds of hunters who have patiently endured my developing CW skill set. Finally, my hat is off for the dedicated POTA volunteers, who continue to improve and expand this amazing activity to the benefit of radio amateurs around the world.

Completing the Kilo activation would have taken me longer if it were not for the tremendous encouragement provided by my gracious, intelligent, and beautiful XYL.  As I was contemplating indoor chores on a Friday morning, she pointed out the opportunity to go out and activate during the best weather of the weekend, and save the chores for a rainy day.  Who am I to argue with such impeccable logic?  Off to the woods we went!!!

I made a point of using the TX-500 with the homebrew dipole suspended in that ancient hemlock tree to complete the Kilo activation, going back toward the starting point, as it were.  Of course I did finish with CW mode and 5 watts to commemorate my personal growth during the journey, too.  I was set up to go by mid-afternoon.  Needing 57 contacts to complete the Kilo, I decided to get some contacts on 20m, then move to 40m a bit later.

Getting started on 20m.

After calling CQ for almost half an hour to get two contacts, I decided to move to 40m a bit sooner than planned…

With the antenna lowered, I am reconnecting the links for 40m.

40m was hot!  I completed the eight additional contacts needed for a successful activation in less than 15 minutes.  By the 2 hour mark, I had racked up a total of 69 contacts and finished the Kilo.

As a final note, I picked up 55 more contacts on Saturday, bringing my total CW mode contacts over 1000.  The rain started early Sunday morning, and I got my indoor chores finished after all.

Gear for the Final Activation:

Photos

An arborist throw line works great for setting up the antenna here!
Almost any weather is great when you are doing a POTA activation!
But sometimes cold fingers limit your endurance…
My starting kit for the TX-500.
Antennas and accessories for the TX-500 kit.  Home-brew linked dipole is on the right.
Arborist throw line for the TX-500 kit.
TX-500 kit packed for POTA!

13 thoughts on “Brian’s Kilo at Cook Forest State Park is tied to family, memories, and his CW journey”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your Kilo and CW journey with us, Brian. It sounds like in so many ways, you’re a very fortunate fellow. I love how your wife is supporting your POTA adventures and how this park, in particular, has so much meaning for you and your family.

    And, obviously, you’re doing an amazing job in terms of CW. Very inspirational!

    Thank you,
    Thomas
    K4SWL

  2. Another inspirational story. So much so, I’m taking my TX-500 and CWMORSE paddle with me this morning. 73 DE KJ4MZ

  3. Great job Brian. Nice to work you Sunday. For being a Ham for over 40 years, it is tough getting back into CW. Like you said. Best practice is on the air.

  4. Congratulations Brian. Thanks for sharing your journey. It must be nice to get that kilo in a park that is this personal to you.

    There is something about activators getting their kilos that frustrates me. I’m still working on my 200th unique hunted park and I’m 3 short of getting the award. But it is hard when all of the most prolific activators keep going to the same old parks all of the time that I have already hunted. it is frustrating to not hear or be able to work new parks.

    I’m sure part of the problem is my location in northeast Florida. FL parks are too short for me most of the time, especially on 20m. I have the Atlantic Ocean about 15 miles east of me so that limits the parks in that direction. Go about 125 west and the Gulf of Mexico cuts down on the number of parks in that direction.

    Most of my contacts come from north of me and KY,TN,NC,SC and PA seem to be in my magic zone. I’m sure that will change with the move to NC next week which will also open up a lot of activation opportunities for me.

    It is just a frustration and it is no different than CW activations being off limits to me as I don’t know CW yet. It is just part of the ham radio hobby.

    Again, congratulations. It must be nice to walk from your backyard into a park and activate. Enjoy it.

    W4MKH
    https://w4mkh-qrp.com/

    1. I know several activators that really only have one easy park to activate near their QTH–others are much further afield. Sometimes due to mobility issues, they go to the same ones they know are accessible too. Many times, those are reasons you’ll see them hit the same parks. In my weekly travels, I tend to work the same parks only because venturing out of my corridor adds as much as 2-3 hours to the activation run.

      I will say that where you’re moving in NC, you’ll be spoiled for choice in terms of POTA and SOTA sites to activate. There are loads!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      1. Thanks Thomas.
        a
        I understand all the reasons. I only have two options within 5 miles of me and with all the daily thunderstorms It is hard to get out even to those.

        I’m not faulting anyone for working the same parks, just pointing out that it can frustrate us hunters.

        The only thing we are waiting on now is confirmation of the XYL’s dialysis appointments in the Hendersonville area. I’m really looking forward to the move.

        1. RR. I hope things get set up and confirmed for your wife so you can finish off your move. I know how complicated lining these things up can be. Good luck to you both.

          Cheers,
          Thomas

  5. Very inspiring field report Brian, and congratulations on your Kilo! I love that you have a supportive wife that suggested you get out and take advantage of the weather. What a beautiful location too! Thanks you for sharing.

    I just picked up a x6100, which will make it more convenient to get out and do more sota and pota, my kenwood ts-570 required more planning and a good workout to hike it to summits, lol.

    73
    K1AMT

  6. Thanks for all the kind words. Especially thank you for the comments about my supportive wife, she really is a gem.

    For Marshall: I am also a park hunter, and progress can be slow. In the meanwhile, I have found the Repeat Offender awards and the Operator to Operator awards to be equally fulfilling. Also, we changed QTH after my retirement just over a year ago. It was a lot of work, but so worth it! I wish the same for you.

    1. Thanks Brian,

      I’ve wanted to live in the mountains around Asheville NC for almost 60 years now. And that dream is on the verge of coming true with the move to Laurel Park planned for 9/24.

      We visited the area every year as I was growing up and I love it. Luckily it is a good area for POTA/SOTA and I am really looking forward to that. I have already been in touch with local ham clubs and have joined their Nets and meetups when in the area or via Echolink.

      You can check this blog post I did to get an idea of how rich the area is for ham radio. I am really excited about involved.

      https://w4mkh-qrp.com/2022/06/15/big-changes-coming-no-pota-or-any-ham-radio-for-me/

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