Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) for the following guest post:
Two Parks in One Day – Fort Anne NHS and Lake Midway Provincial Park
by Teri (KO4WFP)
If you read my three previous articles, you know my family and I went to Nova Scotia for eight days. You also know that the first three parks I attempted to activate in Nova Scotia provided challenges galore! I was unable to secure 10 contacts at either the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site (VE-4841) or the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site (VE-4826). However, the third time was the charm and I secured 10 contacts (just barely) at Cape Breton Highlands National Park (VE-0013).
Feeling confident after the Cape Breton activation, I decided to attempt two QRP POTA activations in one day. I already planned to activate Fort Anne National Historic Site (VE-4832) in the morning. My husband and son had a whale-watching trip scheduled for the afternoon giving me three hours to kill. What better way to pass the time than with POTA! (They did ask if I wanted to accompany them; however, there was no contest in choosing between being on a boat for three hours, whales or not, and an activation!) I chose to attempt activating Lake Midway Provincial Park (VE-0922), a fifteen-minute drive from their launching point.
The day prior it rained nearly all day. This was not typical summer weather for Nova Scotia. In fact, one of the Canadian airport security officers, while searching my backpack and ham equipment, apologized for the rainy weather we experienced during our visit. The forecast for Tuesday, July 4th, called for possible showers in the morning but clear weather for the afternoon.
We arrived at Fort Anne around 9:45 AM. The earthen-walled fort was built to protect the harbor of Annapolis Royal. A museum exists in the renovated Officer’s Quarters on the site, though I did not have time to visit it.
There were no trees near the visitor center but I spied trees past an earthen embankment with an opening in it and headed in that direction. As I walked through the opening at the base of the embankment, an bowl-like area among the trees with picnic tables appeared. At the top of it’s far side was what I considered the ideal tree for my activation. I would set up on top of the bowl’s far side embankment wall and use that tree for my EFRW antenna.
It didn’t take me long to snag the branch I wanted and put up my antenna. Now how to deal with the feed-end and counterpoise?
I attached the feed-end to the loop on top of my backpack. I then used one of my Thomas Bihn travel bags and attached the loop on the end of the counterpoise to its drawstring with an S-carabineer. This way the counterpoise was elevated just off the ground.
There were no picnic tables on the embankment wall so I spread my rain jacket on the wet grass and begin arranging my equipment. This was my first time activating while sitting on the ground. The photos have my laptop next to the feed-end of the antenna. I later realized when I called QRL that the laptop was generating low-level noise and moved it to the left of me on my jacket.
Comfortably ensconced, I set about picking a frequency. I stuck with 17 and 20 meters as those bands had given me the most success so far. I moved back and forth between them, beginning with 17 meters for two contacts, 20 meters for four more, back to 17 for one contact, again to 20 for six. By this point I had enough contacts (twelve) for a valid activation. However, I tried 17 meters one more time and snagged two, including Scott KW4NJA, a friend in Georgia.
At this point it was time to call QRT and gather my equipment. My husband and son needed to be on time for their afternoon whale-watching trip.
I took one final look around the site. The fog obscuring the harbor had cleared and now, from my seat on top of the embankment, I could see Allains Creek and the Annapolis River clearly.
We headed to East Ferry, about an hour’s drive south, checked the two of them in, and ate lunch at the Petite Passage Cafe. I couldn’t pass up a slice of the coconut cream pie which looked and tasted homemade!
Once the two of them were safely delivered to their boat, I headed back up the road to Lake Midway Provincial Park (VE-0922). I knew nothing about this small roadside park. In fact, we passed it on the drive to East Ferry and I didn’t even notice the sign for it. The park sits between the highway and a lake whose shore is lined with trees. There is an open area with picnic tables between the lake shore and road as well as changing rooms for those who wish to swim in the lake.
At first I figured I would activate at an area I found out later is the designated swimming area and is the open area at the end of the photo below. (Good thing I didn’t end up there as several families came to swim later during my activation.) However, as I scrutinized that location, I realized power lines that ran along the road were too close for my comfort.
While we stayed near Truro the day prior, I attempted to activate the Truro Post Office National Historic Site (VE-5847). The site is small and I set up where I could – in the parking lot which just happened to have power lines extremely close by. The noise level there was horrendous – S4 to S6, depending on the band – and I only logged two contacts at that site. I now had a healthy dread of power lines.
I found the only other obvious opening in the trees next to the lake and away from the power lines and began setting up there. The trees were right on the edge of the water so I had to be careful how I tossed my arbor line. I choose my branch but missed it. However, the branch I actually caught proved to be a better choice.
The trees were not that tall by the lake so my antenna ended up occupying more real estate than I planned. However, it worked because to the left of my site was a tangle of branches. It was to that I attached the feed-end so it would be elevated. As for the counterpoise, there was just enough room to run it back toward the picnic table. I secured a bungee cord to one of the legs and attached the S-carabineer to it. The arrangement worked well enough.
It wasn’t long before my equipment was in place and I jumped on the air.
I began with 17 meters. The bands in the afternoon were not as kind as they were in the morning. It took 15 minutes to log two contacts on 17 meters. I moved to 15 meters and then back to 17 and finally to 20 meters. It was an hour after I first started before I logged my third contact! Gradually, one by one, someone would hear me and I’d log another contact. I was running out of time because I had to pick up my husband and son when they returned from the whale-watching excursion. My final contact – VE3NRT – came at the two-hour mark of being on the air. I wanted at least eleven contacts to ensure a valid activation. I called QRT and hastily gathered my equipment.
As I drove back to East Ferry to pick up my family, I reflected on the day’s activations. Both were successful. In both, I made good use of the site conditions. I actually felt comfortable and confident during the activation. The investment in my skills and knowledge base had paid off.
I had but one more day before heading home from Nova Scotia. I could play it safe and be happy with an even score – three successful and three unsuccessful activations. However, I am not one to play it safe. I hankered for one more POTA opportunity as KO4WFP/VE1 before going back to the States. To which side of the scales would it tip the balance? Stay tuned…