For Conrad, DC Travel = DC POTA!

Washington, DC Field Report

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

January 30, 2024

Periodically, I travel to Washington, DC for my job. On my latest trip, I carved out some time to activate some parks. The hotel I was staying at is just a few minutes away from the National Mall, which provides many activation options on the POTA website. After scoping it out on Google Earth and researching trails using the National Parks mobile app and web sites, I settled on the Jefferson Memorial, K-0792 as my first stop which is a two-fer with the National Mall, K-0655.

Photo of Jefferson Memorial

Just steps away is the George Mason Memorial where the Potomac Heritage Trail National Scenic Trail, K-4564 passes right through and is located along the East bank of the Lower Potomac River. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, K-4567 runs by as well. The bench I found on the shore of the river met the minimum 100’ rule for both trails and was also located in the National Mall park, so this location was a three-fer.

Photo of George Mason Memorial
View of the Potomac River
Bench along walking path near George Mason Memorial

I tried to travel as light as possible this trip. The gear I chose to bring was the Elecraft KX2 along with the AX1 antenna and my laptop with the USB sound card and CIV cable.

Samsung laptop with Electraft KX2 and AX1 antenna

The January winter weather was mild, in the low 40’s F so setting up and activating outside wasn’t a problem. With it being off season for tourists, I had the park almost all to myself.  There were signs posted at the memorial asking visitors to be quiet and respectful, so the last thing I wanted to do was set up on the steps and draw attention to myself. I found a wall near the Tidal Basin’s water’s edge and was able to set up out of the way of anyone wanting to photograph the memorial, but still be on the property.

Photo of equipment set up, view across Tidal Basin to Washington Monument

You can see in the photo how simple this setup is. Not quite “Altoids tin” small, but pretty lightweight considering. It all fit nicely into my briefcase. I try to keep the radio and the computer separated since the RF locks up the mouse during transmit cycles if they are too close together. Now, here’s the amazing part. The setup above managed to net me the 33 QSO’s on 20 meters in the map below.

Jefferson Memorial QSO map

Normally when I’m running QRP with a compromised antenna, I don’t expect this kind of range. I made contacts in Canada, Spain, Italy, the UK and had really good coverage of the US, too. I activated both FT8 and FT4. On weekdays (I activated on a Tuesday afternoon), FT4 is not usually very crowded, which I think lent itself to better DX.

The second location by the trails at the bench pictured above did not work quite as well, as you can see by the following QSO map. This is more in line with my expectations having used this antenna and transceiver pair before. It’s not bad, but not nationwide though I had no problem getting the 10 QSO’s needed to activate the parks. A friend suggested maybe the extended range at the Jefferson Memorial was possibly because of the water of the Tidal Basin being so close by, though I’m not sure.

Lower Potomac River QSO map

Equipment List

  • Elecraft KX2
  • Elecraft AX1 with AXB1 Whip BiPod
  • Samsung Galaxy Book Flex2 Alpha 2 in 1 Laptop with Outdoor mode

Here’s a screenshot of the pileup that ensued once I spotted myself. I did manage to get a few park-to-park QSO’s during this activation as well.

Screenshot of K-0792 Pileup

Activating Washington, DC added another “state” to my activated US states award. I’m also happy to report that in the 39 times the Jefferson Memorial has been activated, my activation was the very first digital one and at the time of writing this, is the only digital one. Thank you to all of the hunters out there who hunted me down on my DC activation. Here’s a few more photos of the Jefferson Memorial.

Jefferson Memorial
Thomas Jefferson

5 thoughts on “For Conrad, DC Travel = DC POTA!”

  1. Hey Conrad!! Sorry that I couldn’t meet you that evening. I got back the Pota mobile late that evening from the shop.

    You beat me to activating that park with digital modes.
    When it gets a lil warmer, I might adopt that park, that park need some love and care. I gonna set up shop there soon.

    73 de N2NWK

  2. I love how your setup is so small and portable, that you can easily activate these DC sites and landmarks, Conrad. Very well done.
    Sort of blows my mind that you worked excellent DX as well with the AX1!

    1. Thomas,

      I was truly amazed at the performance I was able to squeeze out of that radio/antenna pairing. Next time I think the Washington monument and the reflecting pool will be on my list.

      73 Conrad

  3. It’s FT4/8, so it doesn’t surprise me. You can work those modes with a dummy load. I took my AX1 one out today and only made 4 contacts with it on SSB, which is WAY more challenging. 3 on 40m which really surprised me. 2 in VA & 1 in PA. I made one on 20m into GA a P2P. Thank goodness I had my EFHW as well and made 36 total, otherwise it would’ve been a failed activation, which hasn’t happened to me yet.

    Either way great job Conrad!

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