Many thanks to Brain (K3ES) who shares the following guest post:
A Hike (and Activation) with a POTA Dog In-Training
by Brian (K3ES)
A plan for a Hike and an Activation
A couple of Wednesdays ago, I decided to take a hike along the North Country Trail. It would not only provide some needed exercise on a beautiful day, but it would also take me into Pennsylvania Game Land #024, enabling a 2-fer activation of K-4239 and K-8725. I had hiked this stretch of the trail several times before, so I figured it would be safe taking one of our dogs along for the trip.
Molly and Jojo are two rescued Boston Terriers, who have made our home their own since October of last year. Each has her own character. Molly is exuberant, very friendly, and frankly, a bit of a bulldozer. Jojo is pure sun bunny, preferring to find a bright patch of lawn, then lay there soaking up the heat. Once installed in a sunny spot, Jojo doesn’t like to move. So, it seemed natural to invite Molly along for the afternoon hike. The only potential issue was the planned stop for a park activation. I was almost certain that Molly would enjoy the walk, but how would she handle the period of inactivity? There was only one way to find out.
Since solar conditions had been keeping the radio bands rough and unpredictable, I decided to start my QRP CW activation in the middle of the afternoon. Beginning the activation at 3pm EDT meant that my first hour would overlap with the popular CWT sprint, so I planned to start on the 30m band to avoid trying to compete with my 5 watt signal. More importantly, the timing would let me finish on the 40m band later in the afternoon, when I have always found it to be productive.
The plan was set and an activation was scheduled in POTA.app to begin at 3pm EDT, so detection by the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) would assure automatic spotting. We left home just after 1pm, drove to the trail head, and started our hike to the activation point. Our travel and the station setup went quicker than expected. Even after securing Molly on her leash, with space to move around and drinking water in reach, all was ready to begin by 2:30pm. Fortunately, there was sufficient cell coverage to let me directly enter an early spot. Despite the early start, I stayed with my original plan to begin on the 30m band.
Contacts on 30m came slowly, but I was able to confirm the activation with 11 contacts in just over an hour. Since the CWT sprint was continuing, I moved over to 17m to see if I could pick up some more distant contacts, but it was not to be. I heard one strong signal on 17m – calling CQ over me. I am confident that the operator did not hear me on the frequency, particularly since he did not pick up my call when I responded to his CQ. Not only that, but my 5 watt signal did not even manage to attract the notice of the RBN. I took that episode as a sign that it was time to QSY.
Since it was past 4pm EDT, and the CWT sprint was finished, I moved over to 20m.
I picked up 3 quick contacts, hunted another station as a park-to-park contact, then moved on to 40m. As expected, 40m in the late afternoon was productive, and I logged 22 more contacts in the final 45 minutes on the air. I was pleased to have 37 contacts in my log, and with 5pm approaching, it was time to pack up and head for home.
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- Elecraft KX2 with internal antenna tuner
- SideKX end-panels and cover for the KX2
- Bioenno 3 Ah LiFePO4 battery
- Packtenna 9:1 unun random wire antenna with 71 ft radiator
- VK3IL-design homebrew pressure paddles
- Generic earbuds
- Homebrew 7 x 10 inch (18 x 25 cm) clipboard (size reduced to fit my pack)
- Rite in the Rain No. 946 notepad
- Pentel Twist-Erase mechanical pencil in 0.9mm
- 15 ft RG-316 feedline (BNC male to BNC male)
- Arborist kit with 2mm Marlow Excel line and Petzel 9 oz (250g) throw bag..
- Nalgene 1000 ml water bottle
- Foam Seat Pad
- US M7 Army Light Weight Service Mask pouch. WWII vintage, canvas construction.
POTA Dog Perspective
This late afternoon activation was a success. Molly and I hiked 3 miles out and back along the North Country Trail. She led the way on the hike in both directions, and had a knack for staying on the path. I spent almost 2-1/2 hours on the air for the activation, and Molly waited patiently, mostly staying right beside me as I called CQ POTA and logged contacts. She didn’t complain or try to wander off, and she was patient with being an hour late for dinner (she normally begins alerting you that dinner time is coming half-an-hour before it arrives, just to be safe).
During our hike, Molly and I had to contend with some causeways over swampy areas. She mostly did well with them, but some of the causeways were covered with expanded metal mesh to provide traction for booted trail-users. That mesh did not feel quite right on her paws, and she preferred to walk beside the mesh-covered causeways through the swamp, whenever possible. But this stretch of the trail also has a pontoon bridge, and its deck is also covered with expanded metal mesh. Since walking beside the bridge was not an option, Molly braved that crossing like a trooper in both directions.
One particular highlight on the return trip came when a deer jumped across the trail ahead of us, and bounded away. Molly was very interested to find out where it was going, but never got the chance. Since I was holding her leash, I was grateful that she didn’t dislocate my shoulder in attempting to follow her new friend (I think I mentioned that she is a bit of a bulldozer…). The second highlight of the return trip was arriving back at the truck. Molly was in her seat, and ready to drive home for dinner, just as quick as you please.
We will definitely be doing this again!
Best 73 de Molly (and Brian – K3ES)