Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:
“Fly-Away Kit” QRP POTA Activation
by Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH
The National Association of Broadcasters convention is an annual event that takes place every April at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, I traveled to the show for work and made some time to activate a park and get another state ticked off my “Activated US States” list. I also didn’t want to miss getting the Spring 2023 Support Your Parks Weekend activator award.
A colleague suggested I visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, K-7494. The park, which is operated by the US Bureau of Land Management, has a 13 mile scenic drive that has various parking areas you can stop at to get out and explore. Red Rock requires a reservation to visit and costs $20 to enter the scenic drive area. There are places within the park you could activate for free, but I took advantage of my military veteran benefit of free admission and drove the trail and activated at one of the scenic overlooks.
Before I traveled, I had to decide what radio and antenna to bring. I selected the Elecraft KX3 and the AX-1 antenna. Not having to check a bag was key to deciding what to take.
I packed the cables, battery and computer in my brief case and the radio and the AX-1 antenna went into my carry-on bag. I did get pulled out of line by the TSA at JFK airport, but the TSA agent was very nice and just asked a few questions and let me through with no issues.
Before I traveled, I took a look at the park page on the pota.app website and saw that Colin, AK7LV, was the park leader in QSO’s. I looked him up on qrz.com and sent an email asking if he had any good advice for me or could give me some pointers. He responded quickly with suggestions of his favorite locations, how to get to them and even a suggested location where I could pick up a twofer at a trail that crossed through the park. He said I should call him when I get into town.
Once I arrived in Las Vegas, I picked up a rental car and made my way to the park. When you make a park reservation, you’ll receive an email with a QR code that you’ll show at the entrance and in you go. I stopped at the visitor center for a look around and then began the drive up the trail.
I selected the High Point Overlook to set up. My GPS camera app showed the elevation here at 4,834 feet.
My rental was a Volkswagen SUV, so I opened the rear hatch and set up on the tailgate. I set the AX-1 on the roof with the counterpoise wire draped down the hood. The KX3 ATU got the SWR to 1.0:1 on 20 meters with this setup.
The sun beaming down on the equipment in the photo above was hotter than I expected and it caused the laptop and the KX3 to heat up more than I’ve ever experienced before. If I had to do it again, I would have kept the car running and the air conditioning on and set everything up inside the car. I didn’t feel hot being outside, but the heat sink on the radio became almost too hot to touch. I moved it into the shade, but that didn’t help much. I lowered the power on the KX3 to 3 watts and spaced out my QSO’s to give it time to cool down.
I activate on digital and began on FT8. Cell service was spotty in the park, so I used JTSync to set the time on my computer, which had drifted nearly two seconds off from the last time I used it. Oh, and do you see that purple post-it note on the laptop? It says, “Update Grid Square.” Do you think I did that? The first few QSO’s I did were from FN31 and I was in DM26. I’m sorry if that messed up anyone’s logs who chased me. POTA doesn’t use the grid square in their system but if someone uploaded to LOTW, it will not match what I sent over the air. I did correct it once I realized my mistake.
So this was my view while doing this park activation. Pretty amazing.
I was receiving great signals here and ultimately made 13 FT8 contacts and 4 FT4 in about an hour. One thing I didn’t realize when I started was that I was going to cross the UTC day. I was on site at 5:30 pacific time, and ended up with 11 QSO’s on April 15th and 6 QSO’s on April 16th. This is not something I ever deal with living and activating in the Eastern Time Zone. If I had hung in for 4 more QSO’s, I could have completed two activations. I was lucky to get 11 in before the day changed, otherwise I could have had two failed activations.
Here’s a map of my contacts:
During my activation, I did call Colin, AK7LV, who invited me by his place nearby when I was done. I met him and his girlfriend Gina and had a wonderful conversation comparing notes about our POTA activations. We shared our experiences with various antennas and configurations we’ve tried and software we use, since we both activate digital. We also discovered that we had QSO’s with each other before.
Once again, the KX3 and AX-1 delivered. If it weren’t for Parks On The Air, I don’t know that I ever would have had a reason to visit Red Rock Canyon or would have made the time to do so. I also made a great connection and new friend meeting Colin. I would certainly recommend visiting (and activating) Red Rock Canyon if you ever have a reason to visit Las Vegas.