Rich’s Triple Activation Day!

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:

Triple Activation Day

by Rich (KQ9L)

I decided to build on the momentum and lessons learned from my last two POTA outings and yesterday [October 29, 2022] completed x3 Activations in one day— a first for me. I wrote a brief description of the day and I hope you enjoy reading about the activations.

Well the weather has been pretty good here in Chicago and Old Man Winter hasn’t made it around to these parts yet and being on a POTA kick lately, I decided see if I could complete several activations in one day. Previously I had completed x2 in one day, but felt that after all that I learned from my last couple activations, I should practice what I learned and go for three.

In my area, there are several POTA sites, but one area to the south of me seemed to be the best location to accomplish my goal. The area has a unique geographic feature and historically interesting landmark which added to the lure of the area. The region centers around the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

Here is a quick history lesson courtesy of Wikipedia:

The Illinois and Michigan canal was build in 1848 and served as a connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Running 96 miles, it connects Bridgeport in Chicago to LaSalle-Peru. Why was this important? This connect helped establish Chicago as the transportation hub of the US and linked by water the East coast to the Mississippi River and from there the Gulf of Mexico. Before the railroad era in the US, this water way dominated transportation.

Pretty cool!

Along the canal are numerous little hamlets and one in particular, Morris, Illinois had x3 State Parks all within about a 5 mile radius. Perfect!

First stop was Gebhard Woods State Part (K-0995). The park is only 30 acres, but affords activities for hikers, fisherman, campers and picnickers. There is even an eBike rental facility so the park has broad appeal to many people, including hams!

I arrived pretty much right after sunrise and was greeted by fog and a thin layer of frost on the grass and picnic tables. Though beautiful this frost and fog, did not make for a fun activation. Temps were in the upper 30’s F, but with the fog the air felt damp and overall much cooler.

I hurriedly set up my PackTenna 9:1 antenna on my collapsible mast and leaned it up against a nearby tree. I had a separate counterpoise and feed line with a choke built into it…more on this later.

It was kind of cold while setting up, but I sat on the frost covered park bench and encounter mistake one: what happens when said frost melts under one’s bottom? Exactly: I was now wet and now getting even colder!

I was able to tune up the antenna and get the activation started but then I ran into problem two: the Bluetooth keyboard I was using to enter Q’s into my iPad protested being placed on a cold, damp picnic table. The unit stopped functioning after 5mins and I had to call “AS” during the activation to see if I could get it to work…no dice.

I think the rechargeable batteries in the unit are old and with the cold damp temperatures could not provide the necessary voltage and or current to keep the keyboard connected to my iPad. Despite the cold I got the requisite Q’s to complete the activation but, I was in such a rush to get back into the pickup and to the warmth of my car heater that I didn’t even take any photos of the station. Here is the QSO map from HAMRS.

On to site #2 William G Stratton State Park (K-1032) only 1 mile from Gebhard.

This park beautiful and is a long recreation area along the Illinois river. The park is sandwiched between river to the south and the I&M canal to the north. There are boat launches and picnic areas, it also is the launch site for Morris Kayak if you ever get the urge to paddle on the river. The views of the river are great and tugboats pushes barges up the river gives you something to watch and daydream about.

Thankfully by the time I drove to the park, I had warmed up and the activation site was in full sunlight, yay warmth.

I chose to set up along the river on a picnic table.

This time I used my “dog towel” (if you have a dog, you probably have a dog towel in your car too) to dry off the bench seats and top of the table. I set up my antenna in a clearing, away from foot traffic and used my 28’ Jackite mast. The mast has been modified with epoxied paracord guys tie down points near the top.

I use “Figure 9” rope tighteners to facilitate getting the mast perfectly vertical. To aid in preventing the mast from slipping on the ground, I made a support out of PVC pipe hose clamped to a fence stake. Driving this into the ground and guying w/ paracord results in an very stable antenna support:

The antenna was my trusty PackTenna 9:1. I use a counterpoise about 17ft long and a feed line that has a built in choke at the 20ft point.

I’m a big fan of a common mode choke for these “random wire” antenna systems as I’ve been the recipient of an RF burn from RF traveling on the coax and back to my rig, no fun. The common mode choke is an FT140-43 with about 12 turns of RG316 wound through and shrink-wrapped to hold the whole thing together. It is a nice all in one solution and seems to work well.

Set up for the station was my KX2, iPad for logging, and CW Morse key.

Basking in the sun, this activation was much more pleasant and the early morning fisherman on the river had a nice little fire going which filled the air with a pleasant campfire smell. Even with the BT Keyboard in the sun and warming up, it did not want to revive and therefore data entry into HAMRS on the iPad was slightly more cumbersome.

I completed the activation with 21 contacts and really enjoyed this one. I worked primarily 20m and the band really was pretty good. I even got KJ7DT in ID and he was BOOMING into IL. I wonder what his station consists of….?

Below is the QSO map:

Last park was Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area (K-7638) only about 5 miles from William G. Stratton.

This park is close to the Heidecke Lake which is the cooling lake for a nuclear power plant— naturally this was the warmest park of the three activated that day (joking).

I chose to set up in a picnic area just off the main visitor’s center. The area was deserted which was a shame because by this time of day it has warmed up to the mid 50’s and the bright sunshine added to the warmth. I set up station slightly differently this time. There were many more trees spaced appropriately for me to use my 40m EFHW. I erected the antenna with one end attached to my collapsible mast and the transformer end elevated off the ground on a tree limb. A short piece of coax completed the RF path to my radio.

I did risk it when I chose my operating position and set up my station up under a walnut tree, luckily I did not get beaned on the top of my noggin by a falling nut! You can see some husks on the table next to my iPad, I guess the squirrels were having a little snack before I arrived.

I enjoyed this activation the most as it was warm, sunny, quiet and peaceful. The activation went well and with no hitches, hard to believe!

Upon completion, I felt that I had accomplished something I hadn’t done before, namely activating x3 parks in one day. I felt that the practice of setting up and tearing down several times in one day really solidified my process and will really payoff in the future should I need to set something up in a pinch in the case of a natural disaster or emergency.

We should never forget that amateur radio is first and foremost a service to our community, I’m just grateful that this service is so much fun!

For this activation, I completed 16 contacts and although I was warm and happy at this point, I decided to call it a day so that I could drive back and have lunch with the family.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this day and perhaps gleaned some new information that will be helpful for you in your future activations. Until next time, 73 and take care!

Your Ham Friend


4 thoughts on “Rich’s Triple Activation Day!”

  1. What fun! Thanks for the post. Anytime you activate multiple parks is a good day!

    I have had some issues with common mode currents, and a random wire is my preferred antenna with my KX2. I have a choke, just rarely use it. But it seems when I need it, I left it back at the QTH, and when I don’t, it sits in my bag.

    Thanks again for the post! 72, hope to work you on the air!

    de W7UDT (dit dit)

    1. Thanks Rand, me too! That’s why I wrapped my RG316 around a toroid. I can’t “forget” the choke now b/c it is integrated with the coax. Give it a try!


  2. Nice activation report!
    I grew up I Chicago and worked in planning in NE Illinois in the 90’s. Nice to see photos of the I&M parks. I had no idea there was still traffic using the canal.
    73 de WF7ABC

  3. Nice write-up, Rich. I too have done three in one day, a little further west in IL. It’s a lot of work unless you do drive-by mobile activations. But nothing beats a proper vertical, and I’ve had a ton of success with a 30′ 9:1 with a 16′ counterpoise. I can be up and running in under 10 minutes.

    That I&M corridor boasts a lot of parks. I hope to get down that way and hit a few. I’m near Aurora.

    73, OM
    Steve K9NUD

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