Guest Post: Recipe for a Failed Activation in Allegheny National Forest?

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

Recipe for a Failed Activation at K-0619?

by Brian (K3ES)

A couple of days before Christmas, high winds came, temperatures dropped, and 3 inches of snow made a real nuisance of itself by blowing around and re-covering anything that was swept or shoveled. With daily high temperatures below zero (Fahrenheit) and wind gusts over 40 miles per hour, the weather just didn’t make for much fun outdoors. In fact, we hunkered down and didn’t get beyond the end of the driveway for four days. So when the winds calmed and temperatures rose, I really needed to get out of the house for a bit. What better way than to walk up the road and activate K-0619? Even with temperatures in the low 20s, I should be able to finish a quick activation. And so it was planned…

Of course just before walking out the door, it is always prudent to check on band conditions…

What did the sun just do to me, and how will I ever make 10 contacts on 5 watts before my fingers freeze???

Alright, I really need my outdoor time. Even if it means that I fail to activate the park this time, I’m going for it!!!

I walked down the driveway…

Off to the woods we go…

…up the road…

Fortunately the hike is less than ½ mile…
K-0619, Allegheny National Forest…

… and into the woods.

Snowy, peaceful, and lots of trees to support my antenna.

After getting to my spot, I set up my chair, laid out a trash bag to keep radio gear out of the snow, threw a line over a tree branch (it took two tries), and rigged the antenna.

I had brought my KX2 kit, and decided to use the Packtenna 9:1 random wire with 71 ft radiator to give myself the best chance to make contacts, given the poor predicted conditions for propagation.

Chair and gear set up for operation.


With everything in place, it was time to begin the activation.

Radio, key, clipboard, log, pencil, and operator ready to go.

On the Air

I started by hunting some park-to-park (P2P) contacts. I could hear them, they could hear me (this activation might not be a complete failure). With three P2Ps in the log, it was time to call CQ and get myself spotted.

There were lots of POTA CW operators on 20 meters, so it seemed like a good idea to begin there. It was. I got 18 more contacts in 24 minutes, and suddenly it didn’t seem like propagation was so bad.

The pace also didn’t leave much time to for warming my fingers between contacts, but still I could keep going for a bit longer. A dozen contacts on 30m, and 17 more contacts on 40m brought the total to 50 QRP CW contacts in 85 minutes.

It was also time to call QRT and get back to central heating!

QRT with 50 in the log, time to get packed up!

Surprisingly, my fingers never got really cold until I started packing up to go. Untying knots and wrapping up cordage, feedline, and antenna wire really takes a toll! Ah, but so worth it. POTA in the woods is therapy for me.

Winter POTA in the woods can still be enjoyable, if you dress for it, and pack up before you get uncomfortable.

Oh… I am not sure this helped, but it sure didn’t hurt. During operation, the 3 Ah LiFePO4 battery that powered the station was tucked away in the inside pocket of my coat to keep it warm and energetic.

I’m not sure Packtenna designed their products to be treated like this… Still the antenna performed like a champ… I guess I’ll have to thaw it out and let it dry back at the home QTH.

So, the doomed activation turned out to be a huge success in my book!

The moral of the story is: Don’t give up before you start. You can only be sure that conditions are bad after you start transmitting!


Best 73 de Brian – K3ES

13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Recipe for a Failed Activation in Allegheny National Forest?”

  1. I love this field report, Brian, and especially your message: Never let poor propagation stop you from hitting the field!

    You’re so lucky to live within spitting distance of a POTA park. With all of those trees and even some clearing in between, I should think you could do a lot of antenna experimentation there.

    Thank you again for sharing this report with us and here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year!


    1. Hi Larry – I use my wrist watch. It has a digital display that I keep set to GMT, and analog hands set to local time.

  2. Excellent account Brian. I really enjoyed reading it. I did something similar in the last week, but I chose to operate right beside Georgian Bay and my fingers got too cold to operate the paddles properly after a while. Next time I’ll head for the woods!

    1. Thanks, John. It was really nice to have a calm day. Wind (like off a BIG lake) can make things so much worse!

  3. Great report Brian.

    I think if I lived that close to the park I would just leave an antenna up in the trees year round ( well concealed of course so as to not mess up other peoples enjoyment of the park). One less step and takedown step to go through each time.


    1. Hi Marshall – LOL. Actually a good toss of the throw line is really satisfying. I can get the antenna up (or down) in less than 10 minutes. On the other hand I did put up a semi-permanent QRP antenna on the back porch for just the reason you hit on…

  4. Thanks Dennis. I hope others will have great year-round adventures and tell their stories. Happy New Year and I hope for a contact!

  5. Great report Brian. RE: antennas, I am *really* enjoying my new Chelegance MC-750 I ordered after Thomas’s review. I can have the antenna set up and ready to rumble in less than three minutes. I love my EFHW wire antennas, but I’m in Florida… which means the only tall trees are called condominiums. Most the parks around here are all sand and scrub, so the MC-750 has been game changing. Open bag. Screw together. Drop in sand. Plop. Extend antenna. Install quick-plug radials. Done!

  6. Great activation and report!

    Notice that the solar flux index (SFI) was 0, hence the propagation forecast is likely to be inaccurate. Nonetheless, it was good that you didn’t get discouraged by it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.