Many thanks to Damian (SP9LEE) who shares the following field report:
Field Report: 5 Parks in 5 Hours
by Damian (SP9LEE)
Okay, to be totally frank with you and as not to lose your trust, I have to admit that the title, however technically 100% true, may be slightly misleading. If you’re wondering to what extent, I suggest you keep reading 😉
I live in Krakow, the second-biggest city in Poland, and I’ve always complained about not having enough green areas there. But starting my QRP outdoor adventure and joining the POTA program helped me realize that I couldn’t be more wrong. I live in the city center (20 minutes walking distance from the Main Square) and as it turns out, there are 11 POTA parks within a 20-minute drive (outside rush hours, of course), and around 30 if you decide to drive 40 minutes.
That’s just crazy, especially compared to the places where some POTA Brave Souls live, giving Thomas (K4SWL) as an example – a few dozen activated parks, but only a couple of them in close range. Mine I could reach by foot or bike! I don’t like to waste anything (not only tangible goods, but also opportunities or this great potential that a lot of nearby POTA parks give), so I rolled up my sleeves and started activating one by one in May 2022.
But when December 31 comes, it tends to provoke reflections of the happenings in the last year. This happened to me as well. I asked myself: “Hey, isn’t it also a waste if you have a few parks clustered and never try to do them all in one day?” As you read this, you already know what the answer was. I decided not to hesitate and do it as soon as possible, on January 2nd, 2023.
Since I’ve never tried to do more than one activation per day, I felt quite insecure. What I do like during an activation is to practice quick antenna deployments (this may be useful one day), then experiment with different antenna configurations (such as sloper angles, heights, azimuths, counterpoise placement), and finally make as many contacts as possible during a given time limit. This time limit is usually set by my family schedule or other errands I need to run.
As you can see, that’s the complete opposite to the requirements that RaDAR or POTA Rover awards make: proficient antenna deployment, gathering 10+ QSOs for a valid activation, collecting the equipment, and speedy drive to a next spot. Sounds challenging? But isn’t it what the New Year usually brings? It’s just a matter of making proper adjustments in one’s procedures and attitude. At least, that’s what I thought.
I picked three park entities 20-25 minute car drive from my home, which in total would give me 5 POTA references:
- SP-0997 Kowadza Protected Area (3-fer)
- SP-0994 Skołczanka Nature Reserve (3-fer)
- SP-2274 Skawiński Obszar Łąkowy Natura 2000 (2-fer)
They are all located on the territory of Bielańsko-Tyniecki Lanscape Park (SP-0993) and/or Dębnicko-Tyniecki Obszar Łąkowy Natura 2000 (SP-2122). So now you know why the title might be a bit misleading – I actually planned to take advantage of having 2- and 3-fers around and work 5 entities in total from only 3 different spots.
Kowadza Protected Area (SP-0997)
I hopped into the car just after I left home (yes, some of us have work or school duties… and some of us have a day-off to play radio!). I’ve never been to the Kowadza Protected Area, so even after researching it on Google Maps, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Besides my standard set, I also packed my fiberglass 6m fishing rod in case there was no convenient place to mount the antenna, and my portable PV panels in case the LiPo 5Ah battery died.
As I reached the destination, I saw that the entire area was shrouded in fog. I didn’t expect that. But as I started climbing the hill, the fog cleared, and I just couldn’t believe how beautiful the view was. Krakow lies at the bottom of a bowl and has a generally flat surface. But the landscape from the top of the hill was nothing like Krakow.
If it wasn’t for the POTA, I probably wouldn’t have discovered this little marvel!
With no time to lose, I found the tallest tree and deployed my 40-20-15-10 end-fed antenna, supported it with the fishing rod on the transceiver’s end (so it did come in handy!), and hopped on the air. Since it was Monday morning, a working day for most people, I wasn’t sure how much time I needed to collect 10 QSOs for a valid activation. Usually, I start with the high bands, as they are more unpredictable, and go down to the more reliable 20m and 40m. But this time I turned everything upside down and called “QRL?” on 7.032 MHz (I’m a software engineer, so .032 and .064 are my favorite frequencies – that’s my flaw!).
After 20 minutes there and a switch to 20m, I got my 10 calls for a valid activation, and ended up with 14 CW contacts (plus a “local” FM one on 70cm with a friend of mine, Johnny SQ9NIL). Wow, that was quick! I worked primarily with operators from Western Europe (Great Britain, Italy, France, etc.) except for one contact from Latvia. The reports were exceptionally good, only 559s and 599s – very promising for the rest of my rove!
Enjoying the success, I packed my things and headed to the next place.
Skołczanka Nature Reserve (SP-0994)
I’ve been here once before. It’s a forest area spread over small hills, and if I’m not mistaken (I’m not a dendrologist), it’s nicely covered with beeches. I parked off the gravel road that splits this wood in two, and went for a walk to enjoy nature and find a perfect spot. I aimed for a small clearing among the trees, to catch some sun and have some room to span the antenna.
Deploying the antenna was super simple (the beech’s bark is very smooth), so I was QRV within 10 minutes after I arrived. I felt I was a bit ahead of time, so I took the risk and started my activation by chasing other activators – HB9AFI with his SOTA summit was the first one.
After 25 minutes, I had a valid activation, and finished the entire thing after 50 minutes with 15 QSOs. I ended up working on 4 bands and having some POTA friends and reliable chasers in the log, such as Fabio IK2LEY, Jean-Pierre F8NUH, Manuel EA2DT, Stuart M0TTQ, and Andy SP8QC. Everything was CW only – something I couldn’t even imagine half a year ago, when I started watching Thomas K4SWL’s activation videos and learning Morse code!
Skawiński Obszar Łąkowy Natura 2000 (SP-2274)
Even though the spot was very close to the previous one, less than 2 km (around 1 mi) as the crow flies, it was a 20-minute drive using available public roads. The landscape changed significantly, and the temperature dropped a little – “obszar łąkowy” means a meadow area, which should explain everything.
Deploying the antenna was a piece of cake – just look at these easily accessible trees and all the space to span the wire. Even though I had a lot of power left in my battery, I was curious if my PV panel would power the radio in case of an emergency. I bought it on AliExpress as a “60/100W foldable 5V/18V DC solar panel,” but there’s no way it can provide what’s promised. The vendor says the maximum current is 2.66A, and multiplied by 18V it gives 45W at most.
I set up my rig and connected the solar panel instead of the battery. Using my ATU-100 as a power meter, I measured fluctuating 3.5W – 6.5W during the CQ call. If I’m understanding correctly, it was a clear sign that the panel couldn’t produce enough energy, and the Icom IC-705 was switching between the internal battery and external power source back and forth. Maybe it’s the sun’s fault (what do I expect from it in early January at this latitude?) or maybe it’s the panel’s fault. Nevertheless, time was ticking, so I decided to test the PV later this year and focus on the activation.
I started on 18.089 MHz and made one contact in 10 minutes. Believe it or not, I wasn’t that slow – there were virtually no chasers on 17 meters. 20 meters and 40 meters were much kinder, bringing me 4 contacts each with no time to rest in between. When the radio went silent for a couple of minutes, I realized that I hadn’t made any SSB contacts yet. I chased two activators, one of whom (Vicente EA2EZ) activated a 3-fer. I couldn’t miss that opportunity, as my 2-fer combined with his 3-fer gives 6 P2Ps as a result. I finished my activation of SP-2274 with a quick CQ on 20 meters and 3 more nice contacts.
When I looked at my watch, I realized all three activations took me exactly 5 hours, if you include setting up and packing. I was amazed! Firstly, I didn’t even think I could try such a challenge – it’s so against my natural way of performing activations, and I usually had a hard time fitting one activation into my schedule, let alone more. Secondly, it was Monday – a working day after a Christmas break – who in their right mind would expect a lot of chasers that would make the activation valid? Nevertheless, we did it, and I learned a lot.
The most important thing I learned is that POTA is incredibly fun. No matter how you do it and where you live. You can always enjoy working QRP in the field, looking at beautiful natural surroundings, explore new places and work with your friends or other people that share similar interests.
Finally, I take my hat off to Thomas (K4SWL), a great ambassador of POTA/SOTA, CW, and QRP. I love watching his videos and I wait for a new content each day. That’s partially why I decided to write this field report – to share my experience and spread QRP around the world.
Have a great time QRPing in 2023!
- Icom IC-705 with BP-307 (extended) battery
- Homebrew 40-20-15-10M end-fed antenna with switchable 1:49 / 1:64 unun
- 5Ah LiPo 14.8V battery + adjustable step-down voltage converter
- ATU-100 EXT (reprogrammed for QRP power levels) to work on non-resonant bands
- full-metal iambic paddle (no-name AliExpress purchase)
- 5m RG-316 feedline with integrated HF choke-balun
- Xiaomi True Wireless Earbuds Basic 2
- Portable 60/100W 5V/18V solar panel (another AliExpress purchase)
- Caperlan Lakeside 100 Travel 6m fiberglass fishing rod
- 2mm arborist throw line with homemade 340g weight
- Mil-Tec Assault Large 36l backpack
- Magnum Castor size 4.5 first-aid bag (perfectly fits my IC-705 with the cage on)