QRP POTA with Friends: Two Park Activations with VE6LK, NJ7V, WD8RIF, and KD8KNC!

Sunday, May 21, 2023, was the final day of Hamvention.

I traveled to Hamvention with my buddies Eric (WD8RIF) and his son Miles (KD8KNC). We decided in advance that instead of attending Hamvention that Sunday (after having spent all day Friday and Saturday there) we’d opt for a relaxing day playing POTA near Dayton/Xenia.

We weren’t, in fact, the only ones who skipped Hamvention that Sunday–our friends Vince (VE6LK or AI7LK State-side) and Charlie (NJ7V) did as well, so we decided to play POTA together!

Both Charlie and Vince were leaving the Dayton area that afternoon, so they needed to finish up their activations by noon at the latest. We decided we could fit in two activations that morning before Charlie and Vince headed back, then Eric, Miles, and I would hit a third park in the afternoon. Actually, Miles never planned to hop on the air, but he was both our ride and valuable POTA support!

Vince and Charlie in the rear view mirror!

Charlie and Vince met us at our hotel around 9:00 AM and we drove to the first of two parks we’d activate together.

Cowan Lake State Park (K-1943)

Charlie (NJ7V) and Vince (VE6LK/AI7LK) ready to deploy their gear.

The weather was beautiful that day, but the space weather, much less so. We knew in advance that it would be a struggle based on the propagation forecast and numerous reports from other activators.

Vince set up his Elecraft KX3-based station in the trunk/boot of his rental car.

He deployed his “low-slung” wire antenna (read more about that here) and hit the air.

Vince’s low-slung antenna

Eric described the POTA station he deployed in his field report on WD8RIF.com:

Eric found a shady, level spot near the parking lot, strapped his 31′ Jackite telescoping fiberglass pole to his folding camp-chair, deployed his 28½’ wire vertical on the pole, set up his Elecraft KX3 on the camp-chair’s flip-up table, and was on the air at 1412 UTC. Eric began his operation with a lovely touch-paddle which he had unexpectedly been given as a gift from the builder, Brian Manley, K3ES

Eric’s station

Note that Eric carefully documents each and every one of his field activations and field contests on his website. His field reports date back to Field Day in 1995!

I found a spot to set up next to the lake under the shade of a large tree. I deployed my Tufteln no-transformer 28.5 foot end-fed random wire.  This antenna is simply two lengths of 28.5′ wire: one wire for the radiator and one for the counterpoise. The KX2’s internal ATU does all of the heavy lifting.

I did not record an activation video at this park, however I did manage to log my ten mainly with the help of park-to-park contacts with Eric, Charlie, and Vince. In fact, that day, we all relied on those park-to-park contacts to finish up early.

I primarily stuck with 17 meters since Vince and Charlie were using 40 meters and Eric had 20 meters.

Here’s the QSO map for my activation–note that NJ7V, WD8RIF, and AI7LK’s contacts show their QTH location on record so are not accurate:

As soon as I logged my ten, I packed up my station so we could stay ahead of the schedule. I walked back to Vince’s car and found Charlie operating.

Charlie, like all of us, struggled to get his ten contacts in short order, so I worked him pedestrian portable with my KX2 and a dummy load Vince provided. What fun!

Charlie actually posted a video showing bits from this and the following activation on his excellent YouTube channel Red Summit RF:

After Charlie completed his activation, we drove to the second park of the day…

Culberson Woods State Nature Preserve (K-9402)

The drive to Culberson took all of three minutes. The site has a small parking area against a rural two-lane highway.

Charlie, in particular, was a bit pressed for time, but we all wanted him to fit in a second POTA activation.

As soon as we arrived, I deployed my PackTenna 9:1 UNUN random wire antenna and connected it to my KX2 with KXPD2 paddles, then put Charlie in the seat to operate. Vince decided he’d skip activating this park in the interest of time.

Charlie had better luck on the bands, but it was still tough going. He worked all of us park-to-park to tie up the activation as quickly as possible.

One thing we all had to deal with was some QRM–road/engine noise–coming from the many cars and trucks passing by. The rural highway next to us was quite busy and we weren’t 10 meters from it. Charlie, in particular, is used to operating SOTA which is blissfully quiet–there aren’t many roads on high, remote summits!

Fortunately, it’s extremely rare that I activate public lands this close to a busy road.

Interesting side note: Charlie operated my KX2 in CW. He is left-handed, but learned CW by sending dits on the left and dashes on the right of the paddle. This makes it easy for him to pick up most right-handed ops’ paddles–say, at Field Day or in a park activation like this–without needing to reconfigure which side of the paddle sends dits and dashes. Clever!

Quick PSA

I’m always on the lookout for poison ivy and poison oak when I do POTA and SOTA activations. You should too!

Culberson Woods SNP had its fair share of poison ivy around the parking area and walking path.

I’m pretty allergic to both of these plants, so I’m always on the lookout.

Click here to read a simple article about identifying poison ivy.

Happy Trails

Vince checking out one of Eric’s field paddles

After Charlie called QRT, he and Vince jumped in the car and headed back to Dayton.

We had so much fun hanging with Vince and Charlie that day–they’re two truly amazing guys.

I then took the hot seat–facing Eric–grabbed the KX2, and hopped on the air.

I took this photo of Eric showing Joshua (at Tufteln) that he was using Joshua’s antenna when logging him only moments earlier. How cool!

At this point, Eric, Miles, and I wanted to push through this activation so we could fit in another in the afternoon.


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On The Air

I started my activation on the 30 meter band, trying to be on a non-harmonically-related to Eric.

I worked three stations in two minutes, then Eric worked me from a few feet away. I then worked Eric on both 17 and 40 meters, then stated calling CQ on 40 where I worked an additional four contacts in five minutes for a total of eleven including the P2P I did with Charlie earlier.

Note that I tried to produce a QSO Map for this activation, but for some reason the polylines were not labeled correctly and NJ7V’s park-to-park showed up as working him in Arizona, thus I simply omitted it this time.

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

POTA + Friends = Incredible Fun

We all had such a great time hanging out together and making the best of a POTA day with challenging propagation.

At the end of the day, none of us like defaulting to working each other park-to-park in order to complete an activation, but it’s a perfectly valid strategy when needed. If we wanted to, we could have technically completed both activations exclusively with P2P contacts with each other. In POTA, each time I work a friend on a new mode or band, it’s considered a new contact towards the ten needed to validate the park.

We could have attached Vince’s KX3 and my KX2 to dummy loads and worked each other on 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 15, 12, and 10 meters in CW, then switch to SSB and work each other on two bands to validate each activation. There’s no fun in that, though!

We were grateful to cap off each activation with P2Ps with each other to better manage our time and, frankly, put each other in the logs. When we’re all back home (Vince in Alberta, Eric in Ohio, Charlie in Arizona, and me in North Carolina), it’s much tougher to log each other!

Thank you

Thank you for joining us on these activations!

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

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.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

4 thoughts on “QRP POTA with Friends: Two Park Activations with VE6LK, NJ7V, WD8RIF, and KD8KNC!”

  1. Great article- thanks for sharing!
    Question- you closed the blog post with a “Cheers and 72″…. is 72 a CW OM phrase?

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