Change Is Good

by Matt (W6CSN)

Recently, OM Witherspoon (K4SWL) wrote a blog here and shared a POTA activation video in which he described the benefit of changing up your operating location within a large park to keep things fresh or simply to be able to activate within a given schedule.

Activation zone looking over the Pacific

That got me to thinking about my own “home” park, Presidio of San Francisco US-7889, a large park which is also part of an even larger reference, Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) US-0647. Recently my XYL, who is very patient, has been subjected to my complaining about being bored by doing the same activation over and over.

Classic vistas from the Presidio of SF

My typical POTA outing is after work, I drive ten minutes down to the East Beach parking area, set up a base-loaded vertical on the roof of my car and plug in the trusty FT-818. Mind you, this is not a bad setup. The location combined with repeatable antenna installation reliably produces contacts and I usually have a complete activation in about 30 minutes.

GRA-7350T antenna deployed

The XYL’s suggestion was, “hey, why not play radio somewhere else?” and K4SWL’s blog and video were an inspiration as well. So I left the FT-818 in the shack, packed up a QMX kit, and headed for the high bluffs in the Presidio that overlook the Pacific Ocean to the west. I setup on an out of the way granite bench that was part of a World War II memorial to servicemen who perished in the coastal waters of the Pacific.

World War Two commemorative wall

My plan was to get on 15 meters in the hope of catching some early JA’s or other Pacific rim DX. The vertical antenna deployed easily and though the location was substantially protected from the strong wind gusts, I did stake the tripod down with a pair of tent pegs.

Tent pegs keep the tripod secure

With an SWR of below 2:1 on 21 MHz I set to calling CQ and posted a spot on advertising that I was in US-0647 GGNRA, even though I was also still in US-7889. Turns out 15 meters was dead, for me at least. Not a single nibble after 15 minutes of calling.

Good SWR on 15 meters

After a QSY to 20 meters, another half hour brought in only four QSOs! This location and radio combo was certainly a nice break from the usual and even though the QSO pace was glacial, it was quite satisfying and refreshing to do something different.

The QMX station ready for action

Since the clock read just after 00 UTC there was plenty of opportunity to gather the needed contacts for a complete activation. If necessary I could even come out the next day before 23:59 UTC. But since I had no particular time constraint for the evening, I decamped for East Beach where I was pretty sure I could wrap up the activation in short order.

Sunset over SF Bay

Even though I was back at my “usual” spot, starting the activation somewhere else was the change I needed to break the routine. Six more QSOs validated the activation in a matter of minutes. I swear being down close to the waters of San Francisco Bay adds at least 3db to my signal. There is a reason I frequent this particular spot.

Sun going down behind the Golden Gate

I feel fortunate to have so many locations within US-0647 and US-7889 that are quite close to home. I plan to take advantage of this diversity of operating spots, knowing that the “East Beach Amplifier” is always available if my QRP is not cutting it.

72 de W6CSN Matt

P.S. I did, in fact, log this activation as a two’fer.

7 thoughts on “Change Is Good”

  1. Matt, you are so fortunate to have a POTA site as gorgeous as the GGNRA.

    I was just thinking recently about how I like to shake things up–sometimes even just a little bit–with each activation. I think it may be one of the reasons I like collecting little QRP radios and various antennas. Between changing the radio, the antenna, and the site, it keep things feeling fresh.

    Above all, though, I love the point you made in this post: no matter the propagation, you had the privilege of enjoying an extraordinary site, the view, and the peace that comes with enjoying these moments. I love it and I get it!

    Thank you for sharing this report with us.


  2. Wow, a beautiful location and very inspiring. Of the ten or so POTA areas near me, two are around 15,000 acres and one is 290,000 acres, which opens up a lot of possibilities for different places to set up!

  3. I had the privilege of activating a less-spectacular site in the Presidio a few months ago, and I was gobsmacked at how many times Matt W6CSN has activated there. Seeing your field reports pop up here is extra motivation to get myself out and be more activate in activating (see what I did there?) the substantial number of POTA parks in our fair city of SF.

    1. Come on in, the water is warm (figuratively speaking)! Another fairly regular activation spot in US-7889 is at “Inspiration Point” just inside the Arguello Gate, across from the golf course parking lot. Good, fairly clear shot to the east, but pretty busy with tourists seeking inspiration.

  4. Thanks Matt for sharing! Around the south entrance, you may get a 3-fer with Juan Bautisca National Historic Trail included. Give it a try some day? 72 es GL, de KG6YJ.

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