Fickle weather during an early morning activation at Parc de la Rivière-du-Moulin, Saguenay

Each time our family spends the summer in Québec, we make time to visit the Saguenay region  which is just a couple hours north of Québec City.

We enjoy the hikes, the river walks, and other outdoor activities. It’s a beautiful part of Québec.

This year, we spent more time along the north shore of the St. Lawrence visiting Baie-Comeau and later camping and whale watching a little north of Tadoussac. We also explored more of the Charlevoix region and even parts of the Québec City area we’d never visited in the past. I really enjoyed driving some new-to-us back country roads.

A couple weeks before leaving Québec, we took a family poll and unanimously decided to squeeze in a trip to Saguenay despite our other travels.

Due to other activities we’d scheduled, we only had a window of a couple of days to make the trip. The weather didn’t look that wonderful for the drive north and, in fact, it wasn’t. We drove along a line of torrential rain that was so heavy at one point, I (along with many other drivers) pulled off the road to wait out the heaviest bit.

Otherwise, the drive was/is a beautiful one through the Jacques-Cartier  National Park on 73/175 North. Had it not been for the thunderstorms and rain, I would have taken a small detour to make at least one activation.

The first day in Saguenay was all about walking on the river, and hitting some of our favorite spots when the rain finally moved on; I didn’t attempt a park activation. I decided instead to do an early morning activation the following day (July 22, 2022).

Finding a park

You may have noticed that quite a lot of my activations in Québec have been ATNOs (All-Time New Ones). I didn’t specifically set out to activate ATNOs–in fact, they were hard to avoid because there were so many.

Not so in Saguenay!

POTA activators in Saguenay are an active bunch and they are spoiled for choice in terms of the density of parks; there are so many!

It really pleased me to see so many previous activations at the parks I researched–not only activations in the summer months, but also winter (and they have proper winters in Saguenay/Chicoutimi–!).

There were so many parks to choose from, I decided I would simply choose the one closest to our hotel and that turned out to be Parc de la Rivière-du-Moulin.

It was so close to our hotel, I could have easily walked there.

Parc de la Rivière-du-Moulin (VE-0973)

I recognized this park as one I’d hunted from home, so I checked my logs and sure enough I’d logged it four times thanks to VA3SG and VE2VIA.

We decided to visit Parc de la Rivière-du-Moulin and fit in a walk the evening before the activation. This gave me a chance to scope out the park for potential activation sites and I discovered there were so many options!

The park is quite large and there are numerous spots with picnic tables and clearings with accessible trees to suspend wire antennas.

I mentally made notes along the way and that night, as I fell asleep, I tried to decide where I might set up in the morning.

Rain

The weather forecast showed no indication of rain in the morning, but when I woke up, I looked out the hotel window and it was absolutely pouring outside. I decided then and there I wouldn’t walk to the park.

Instead, I drove to the park, and kicked myself for leaving the Discovery TX-500 (which is weather-resistant) back at our condo.

Once I arrived on site, I discovered a small covered gazebo at the entrance that would keep both me and my radio dry. There was one picnic table inside the gazebo, so it made for a perfect activation spot.

Since it was raining steadily as I arrived, I decided to use my Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical instead of my end-fed half-wave antenna. Why? Because when the coil of an EFHW gets wet, it has a very negative effect on impedance. The MPAS Lite’s matching unit is sealed and waterproof.

Setting up

It took no time at all to set up the CHA MPAS Lite: I simply attached the matching unit to the 17′ whip, then attached the stainless steel spike, plunged the spike in the soggy ground, attached and unroll a good 20′ of counterpoise wire, then extended the whip. Done!

One big negative about setting up at the entrance of the park instead of the interior (where I’d planned to go), was that there were power lines nearby and neighborhoods across the road from the park parking lot. I was seriously concerned about the possibility of urban QRM.

First thing I did when I hooked up the antenna to the Elecraft KX2 was to check for noise. I did a small happy dance when I discovered that the bands were pretty darn quiet!

Gear:

You can tell in the activation video below that it was raining steadily during set-up and the first half of my activation. Eventually, though, the clouds moved on and the sun started shining!

On The Air

Before leaving the hotel that morning, I glanced at the propagation report and it was a pretty dismal site, frankly. A bit discouraging especially when combined with rainy weather, but you know what? I never let either of those factors stop me from playing POTA if I really want to!

I decided to start the activation by calling CQ POTA on 20 meters CW. Why choose 20 meters at this time of the morning?

For one thing, the CHA MPAS Lite performs very well on 20 meters and higher. Secondly, the forecast showed that 40 meters was in very rough shape. Finally, I also hoped to work some stations in Europe and have had good luck on 20 meters at this time of day in the past.

Fortunately, stations did trickle in. I logged five hunters on 20 meters within 10 minutes including one station (OZ7YY) in Denmark. A very promising sign! Then 20 meters seemed to dry up.

I eventually decided to go down to the 30 meter band next and worked an additional five stations in only 7 minutes which was pretty surprising, in fact.

I’m very grateful to my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) who worked me on both the 20 and 30 meter bands. On days like this when propagation is poor and my activation time is limited, those extra contacts from one hunter are truly an activation saver!

I’d logged my ten stations for a valid park activation after almost 40 minutes on the air.

For kicks, I decided to see if I could make an SSB contact on 20 meters as well. I did manage to work K8HQ in SSB, but otherwise I was hearing a lot of dead air, so I decided to call QRT, pack up, and head back to the hotel so our family could get the day started!

Here’s a copy of my logs:

QSO Map

Here’s what this 5 watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click to enlarge):

Activation Video

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:

Click here to view on YouTube.

By the end of the activation, the sun was out and the skies were clearing.

Shore of the Saguenay River in Chicoutimi

It stayed that way the rest of the day which made for some amazing walks along the Saguenay River.

In the future, I hope to spend a few days in the Saguenay/Chicoutimi area and activate numerous parks.

I did note that the next Bagotville International Airshow is being held June 22-23, 2024. We attended the last one and it was truly spectacular. This might provide the perfect reason to spend a few days filled with aviation and POTA in Saguenay region!

Thank you

As always, thank you for joining me on this activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.

It’s a lot of fun for me to re-live these activations as I write up the field reports and prepare the videos.

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!

I hope you get a chance to play radio this week!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)

One thought on “Fickle weather during an early morning activation at Parc de la Rivière-du-Moulin, Saguenay”

  1. Another great activation, Thomas. It is nice to see an activation in the rain. I have done some of those. They are not necessarily a favorite, but they are possible, even without the TX-500, hi hi. For the Fall 2021 Support Your Parks Event, I set up a tarp in the woods. It kept me dry and radioactive. This summer, I did a 2-fer activation from my truck. I parked at the trailhead lot and put up a random wire (inverted V in a tree), then ran the coax feedline in through the door seal. A word of caution: I was quick to shut down and disconnect for about an hour as a thunderstorm cell rolled through…

    Best 73 de Brian – K3ES

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