All posts by Vince VE6LK

Experimenting during Field Day 2024

by Vince (VE6LK)

Field Day 2024 started out with the best of plans to be spent with the best of friends and ended up totally different – and, unexpectedly, I had a hoot! With my carefully made plan behind me, my new last-minute plan was to run solo for Field Day in the backcountry of Kananaskis Country and bring along my new-to-me Nikon D3400 and lenses and rekindle my interest in (D)SLR photography at the same time as doing some experimentation with radio gear.

I grew up in a home with a scratch-built enlarger and a darkroom, so a love of taking pictures has been with me for a long time. My Father taught me patience to get the shot as he would set up a 120 format bellows camera on an air-triggered remote release to get closeups of chipmunks while we were camping, a process that took hours and yielded excellent results. My Brother, AG7GM, has attempted to instill within me the basics of composition, rule of threes and such and his wonderful skill in editing both stills and live video. While I have plenty of patience, with composition I think I’m fair to middling at best.

Thus photography has always been on my mind.

With a recent sale of a few ham radio related items, I had fun money, so just for fun I started looking [on Thursday before I activated] at used DSLRs and was shocked at how much camera I can get for such a relatively low cost compared to new. I had said once, 25 years ago when I divested out my 35mm kit, that when I could get a DSLR with a 25 to 300mm lens for <$500 I’d jump in… and finally that day is here, even if it means carrying two lenses. Of course, I started looking on the day before Field Day for deals – and scored them too! 🙂 Around these parts, good quality pre-owned consumer grade DSLRs are easily available. I purchased this as much for still photography as for ability in shooting high-quality video for my YouTube channel.

These peaks form part of the border between Alberta and British Columbia to the west

For me, Field Day has always been about the experimentation rather than chasing points. Trying new things. Changing up from the normal way I operate in the field. Comparing, analyzing and making notes as I go.

For example, and as a tribute to Chip Margelli K7JA (SK) after corresponding with his brother David, last year I attempted to wet a piece of string and see if the KX3’s tuner would match it and radiate a signal. Chip was known for many things, among them his proficiency in CW as he demonstrated on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2005. David told me that he and Chip would do crazy and fun experiments like loading up clotheslines and wet string to experiment .. and it fostered a new direction I could take each FD and on some days between. The string experiment was a failure last year but I haven’t given up yet!

This year, I wanted to work with a few different antennas and a Charmast 100W battery pack from Amazon along with a USB-C PD 12v power cable for my KX3 [note: Amazon affiliate links!].

I wanted to know, in no uncertain terms, that the Charmast would or wouldn’t be as quiet as my trusty Talentcell LiFePO4 pack. The Charmast is also used in my field soldering kit with a Pinecil as it delivers USB-C PD. What better way to test this out than to head as far away from noise sources as possible, see the Canadian Rockies in their early summer glory with snow on the peaks, rivers running high (and cold) and the sun in the sky? Just for grins I would ensure that I was in POTA entities while doing Field Day.

Continue reading Experimenting during Field Day 2024

SOTA: First activation of VE6/RA-174

As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! 

You can see a full video of this activation on YouTube. Use it for CW practice as the footnotes follow the callsigns but only once I’ve gotten it correctly and have transmitted it back.

Our local club runs a repeater network with a dozen repeaters connected hub and spoke style on UHF links. It covers an area approximately 42,000 square kilometers (16,200 square miles) in Southern Alberta. I help to maintain that network and am constantly learning from the smart people that put it together and fix it when it goes awry.

On a Sunday afternoon, in mid-March, I discovered that our club’s VE6HRL repeater at Longview Alberta wasn’t passing audio back to the network, only carrier and some white noise. Local audio was passing along just fine, so the issue is either with the controller or the linking radio. A plan was struck for a service call and to activate this summit at the same time.

Given the repeater is located on Longview Hill, SOTA entity VE6/RA-174, and it is on private land, this summit cannot be activated unless we have reason to be there. Performing repeater maintenance gave us that reason, and so I enlisted the help of Canada’s first double GOAT, VE6VID, to come along with me as it’s a 2 person job to remove a repeater from the rack. We’d activate the summit after the work was complete.

So, on a Sunday morning late in March, the two of us set out in our respective 4x4s to crawl up the road to the summit. In the event you’ve disremembered, I’m in shape -round- and, as a result, my favourite type of SOTA to do is a drive-up. For our repeater sites that are on top of summits, we always bring along two vehicles in case one has mechanical difficulty or gets stuck in the snow. Yes, we have used snowmobiles to do service calls in the past!

The road on the north side of the hill runs up through small valley and does not catch much sun, so the recent snowpack proved to be a small nuisance as we crawled forward. That small nuisance became medium-grade once I got stuck due to lack of forward momentum. A couple of backside-puckering moments later I backed down the hill to take a run at it with more speed and more potty-mouth. Success and no digging with snow shovels was involved.

View from the summit looking West-by-southwest

We arrived at the summit and the view was breathtaking! There were only a few clouds in an otherwise vibrant blue sky, and with the 4″ of snow on the ground it was simply VERY BRIGHT OUT making both of us wish we had darker sunglasses! We entered the repeater building and performed some simple testing in situ and then I powered off the repeater and we removed the gear from the rack and put our tools away a half hour after we arrived. Now we can do SOTA!

The activation zone is quite large at this site and Malen drove a few hundred metres away to set up, providing needed separation between us. He set about to do his thing and I did the same. I brought out my crappie fishing rod/mast and propped it up along the barbed wire fence and set about putting out my VE6VID 66′ EFHW. The folding lawn chair would serve as a table, and a nearby metal cabinet that houses phone lines would hold my Contigo mug and two video cameras.

EFHW running parallel to the fence. The tower is straight in real life, but my camera was not!

With the antenna oriented to the west and sloping downwards and parallel to the very old barbed wire fencing (I call it Tetanus fencing given it’s age and your need for a booster shot if it should puncture your skin), I was uncertain how it would perform. As it turns out I had no cause for concern as I was able to make contacts without too much trouble. I trudged back up the hill to the now-placed lawn chair and finished my set-up.

My “desk” for the activation

I evaluated the bands by listening briefly on the FT8 frequency for 10, 15 and 20m. For me it’s a quick measure of how active the bands are, and dialing off a few kHz or so will reveal how noisy the conditions are. I settled on 20m. Aaand right about then, as if I needed another distraction besides the Canadian Rockies staring me in the face, my HamAlert went off on my phone; regrettably I was unable to hear my friend N4JAW at his activation. As it was too cold to handle my cellphone for typing and spotting, I set about getting spotted via SOTAmat and got on the air. Continue reading SOTA: First activation of VE6/RA-174

Leap Year Day report from the Great White North

by Vince (VE6LK)

It seemed easy enough on paper. Famous last words, right?

It’s a leap year in 2024 and how many chances will I ever get to activate on February 29th, at least that was the reason for the multi-entity rove. That and the fact I hadn’t been up close to the mountains in at least a month despite living in close proximity.

The day before departure for #POTAThon240229 my heart sank when I saw the forecast of 4-8″ of snow. I’d already done my planning and secured most of the day off work. The plan was bold, including 3 National Parks and 2 National Heritage Areas in two provinces and would take about 9 hours to execute from end to end. I was also badly in need of some mountain therapy as it had been a couple of months since I’d been close-up to the Canadian Rockies. I went to bed not hopeful for the next day but kept an open (hopeful?) mind.

The next morning, the forecast had changed drastically and the snowfall had been cut in half; 2 to 4″ of snow is pretty normal this time of year and that means the roads are usually no problem, and yes that is a foreshadowing .. The route planned was to go out along the Trans-Canada Highway to Field, British Columbia, and work my way back towards home with stops along the way. A simple out-and-back as it were.

I hit the road and aimed the F-350 for Yoho National Park in Field B.C. where I snapped the photo below. Two-thirds of the way there, the roads turned terrible, and a two or three lane road was open with only a single lane. Whiteouts happened on and off and travel was Sierra Lima Oscar Whiskey, to say the least.

Pottymouth made some short inward appearances, mostly exclamations about my lack of luck. With conditions like this, the basic rules are to take your time and allow twice the following distance you think you need. “Why not turn around?” you ask? Because I was already two-thirds of the way to the endpoint, thus deeply invested in the travel and I figured it would not get much worse.

Mount Dennis as seen from Field B.C.

It didn’t get much worse, and arriving at the Field Visitor Centre, I was parked within 100′ of the Kicking Horse River National Heritage Area by being in the parking lot pictured above. In the summer months, this lot is jammed with cars and the view is stunning as you are in a narrow valley with a small town across the fast-moving river. It appears that the 2-4″ of fresh snow was more like 8″ as the parking lot had not yet been plowed and it was up past the chest of Red Wrangler the Shiba Inu.

Red Wrangler the Shiba Inu, totally within his element

The parking lot is at ~1225m (4045′) Above Sea Level and the mountains nearby are ~2400m (7920′) and are just about right beside the road. The narrow valley runs Northeast to Southwest so it for certain affects takeoff angles on any antenna. Given the temperatures were plus or minus the freezing point, I opted to stay in the cab of the truck for the day. I completed my activation 25 minutes later and started driving. At this point I’m close to 2 hours behind plan and I made the choice to visit Lake Louise and do a food stop, but not to activate.

Lake Louise, lakeside and pretty snowy

If you are wondering what Lake Louise looks like without 2′ of fresh snow, you can do that here with Google Street View. Even though I was behind plan, it was a must-do visit in order to refresh my soul and get some fresh mountain air.  Mister Dog and I made a quick trip to the lake’s edge and back to the truck to continue along with our day, as even if I had the time, I did not bring snow-clearing equipment -like a front-end loader- to clear off a park bench to set up!

About 45 minutes later, I crossed over the fifth mountain pass of the day and ended up in Kootenay National Park (CA-0045) at the Alberta/BC border on Highway 93. It’s a geographically unique spot as it is also at the Continental Divide. It was the third point of the Continental Divide I’d cross during the trip. At least by now the snow has stopped falling.

The Continental Divide at AB/BC Highway 93

Once again, I arrived to a fresh 8″ of snow in the unplowed parking lot and Wrangler was most pleased to cavort about and stretch his legs. At this point, I was surrounded by ~3100m and ~2600m mountains while sitting at ~1631m ASL. Again, a narrow valley with rocks on either side of me and, thanks to low-hanging clouds, I couldn’t see much of them at all, sigh.

I’ve travelled up and down this valley before so I know that, as long as I’m not right next to the rocks, my signal will be heard someplace. I’d learned first-hand just how much close proximity to the side of a mountain can impair your signal during my trip to Montana’s Glacier National Park last August. The noise floor and signals will drop out as you drive along beside the rocks and then comes back up as you move away from them even by 50′ or so. Continue reading Leap Year Day report from the Great White North

Field Radio Kit Gallery: N7KOM’s Pocket HF Go Kit

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it or held it – just how small this kit is. Tim (N7KOM) and I met up in December 2023 when I was on a trip in the Pacific Northwest and he and I stopped for a lunchtime activation.

Tim’s ENTIRE kit for mountain-top activating less his mast and the 9V battery seen in the background. It’s a stark comparison to my KX3 Go-Kit.

His kit is super light and small. I’ll let Tim take up the description from here:


A Pocket HF Go Kit.

by Tim (N7KOM)

There are few pleasures in life more satisfying than making QSOs on a thin wire tuned for a half wave.

One of my favorite radios is the classic MTR3B. At 9.8cm x 6.5cm x 2.4cm it is truly a pocket radio. Everything I need to get on the air fits into an Amazon external Harddrive case. Here’s a breakdown with weight measurements:

  • MTR-3B – 126 g
  • 9V Li-Poly USB-C rechargeable battery + power plug – 29 g
  • K6ARK 3D printed paddle and 3.5mm cable – 22 g
  • Earbuds + external volume control knob – 26 g
  • Trapped EFHW on an RCA connector (matching the radio’s connector) tuned for 20m/30m/40m. 28-32 ga wire on a 3d printed winder. – 42 g
N7KOM’s ultra-lightweight HF Kit

As is, it weighs a total of 323 grams or 0.7 lbs. Add in a lightweight 9 foot mast from ali-express and I have everything I need to make contacts. I could even string the wire on some bushes or the ground if I was really in a pinch.

Other notes

I could reduce the weight and packability further by using shorter cables on the earbuds/volume control as well as the paddle cable.

The antenna winder is a K6ARK 3D printed winder printed at around 70% size.

A 41 g external speaker may also be added to the kit, but it does not fit in the HDD case and must be carried separately.

Here is a video tour of the kit on YouTube:


So there you have it folks -323g of portable HF kit everything included! Check out Tim’s YouTube page or his Microlight QRP Traps on Etsy for your next QRP outing.

Tim’s field kit is now featured on our Field Kit Gallery page. If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, read this post

[Please note that Amazon affiliate links support QRPer.com at no cost to you. Thank you!]

One quick question on learning CW

by Vince (VE6LK)

Have you ever thought about your journey into learning CW? Many of us learned the “wrong” way, whatever that means. But along the way we’ve gained some smarts about how learning worked -for us- and from that you probably have at least one tip to share with others.

Accordingly, I’ve got one quick question to ask y’all:

If you could tell new CW learners your single best tip to learn CW, what would it be? Please post your response in the comments.

The author’s beloved Begali Traveler Light

Oh, and the top photo shows my first paddle keys. Yes, I did do my CW exam using the one on the left, much to the chagrin of my examiner. 20 years later he still ribs me about it.

72 and dit dit,
…Vince

First introduced to the magic of radio by a family member in 1969, Vince has been active in the hobby since 2002. He is an Accredited examiner in Canada and the USA, operates on almost all of the modes, and is continually working on making his CW proficiency suck less. He participates in public service events around Western Canada and is active on the air while glamping, mobile, at home or doing a POTA activation. You can hear him on the Ham Radio Workbench podcast, follow him on Mastodon @[email protected], on Twitter @VE6LK, and view the projects and articles on his website.

2,112 miles as AI7LK in the US Pacific Northwest

by Vince (VE6LK/AI7LK)

As always there are links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! 

In December of 2023, I found myself with a surplus of vacation from my employers, and my Brother who’s move-in date to his new home got suddenly moved forward to just before Christmas. I was able to get time off work and make an epic road trip with POTA stops along the way to both allow me to have some radio fun and to give my body a stretching break. My trip would take me from my home in Alberta, westward through British Columbia, southward into Idaho, Washington, Oregon and I even made it as far as Northern California to see the Pacific before turning around and heading back home.

Along the way, I activated at 14 stops which totaled 21 parks in all after factoring in the 2-fer, 4-fer and 5-fer stops! This was a total of 301 actual QSOs netting 508 after the x-fers were computed in. It was a mix of CW and voice with an average of 21 contacts per stop.

There were many highlights of the trip, and naturally spending time with my brother and his wife were at the top of the list–despite the work of moving into a house–followed by the simply spectacular scenery along the route and the route planning itself. While this trip was decided upon on a Thursday evening and I was on the road the following Monday, I still found about 10 hours to research points of interest along my routes and look for POTA entities that had either not been activated yet or were CW ATNO, having only had a Phone or Digital activation previously. For the most part, these were the stops I targeted as my waypoints.

The Columbia River is nearly a mile wide at Rooster Rock SP

Driving along the Columbia River Gorge on I-84 approaching Rooster Rock State Park felt like driving along the base of the Grand Canyon, given the 1000′ height of the cliffs beside me. Rooster Rock State Park (K-2850), is notable for two reasons. 1 – it’s a 5-fer activation point – my first 5-fer stop ever doing POTA, and 2 – it’s windy as heck as you can see in this short video I took for Charlie W7RTA who told me, via Discord, it would blow [what’s left of my hair] off my head.

Click here for 7 seconds of the Columbia River Gorge wind whipping the hair off my head!

Certainly Rooster Rock was a highlight given it’s the only 5-fer activation I’ve ever done. It was activated two hours after a 4-fer at Willow Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area (K-10646). I only learned about the multiples after chatting with folks on the POTA Discord server.

It was a short drive from Rooster Rock SP to the home of KJ6VU in Oregon City, Oregon. While I’ve worked with George on the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast for nearly three years, I’d never met him in person until this trip. It was such a treat to spend time with him.  George is the creator of the Packtenna that so many of us love to use. As luck would have it, the KJ6VU repeater was due for a replacement and scheduled for the next morning, and I was able to put my skills in racking (installing) repeaters to good use. After we finished the repeater I departed and did some performance testing while southbound on I-5 to test its range.

The repeater crew. L to R: Josh K6OSH, Nick KF7SOM, the Author, and George KJ6VU

Along the way I got to have a coffee break with Nick Smith NT3S who I had met via Discord. Nick can be found activating parks and going overlanding on weekends. Thanks Nick for the time to have a break with you!

Over the next several days I spent time in Grants Pass Oregon assisting my brother and his wife to get moved in. Grants Pass even has a Harbor Freight Tools and I was able to get some shopping done! So as it turns out I wouldn’t be slugging boxes every day and there was a bit of a break during my visit to go out and play radio. I know the POTA program is especially popular in the United States and I’d heard that every entity has been activated at least once, which is very different from here in Canada where many parks are untouched. In my research and thanks to the parks added in the autumn of 2023, there are some in the system that had never been activated. On one Saturday afternoon I was able to visit one of these parks -Cathedral Hills Trail System- and work 72 contacts in under an hour on SSB.

Cathedral Hills Trail System, Grants Pass Oregon
Tall trees at Cathedral Hills Trail System, Grants Pass Oregon

On the following Tuesday, I headed out from Grants Pass to head to California if only to tick off the box on POTA’s website saying I’d activated there. I had no idea that Highway 199 would be so scenic. I activated six entities on this day.

At the end of Highway 199 is Tolowa Dunes State Park (K-1202). The photo at the top of this article is on the dunes and at the coast of the Pacific Ocean near Crescent City CA. Yes, I walked along the surf despite the threatening weather. It also allowed me the luxury to park within the dunes themselves to do my activation with a spectacular view. Continue reading 2,112 miles as AI7LK in the US Pacific Northwest

Lunch break? Time for a rapid SOTA/POTA activation!

by Vince (VE6LK)

As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! ? Also, it’s with thanks to the management at QRPer.com who give me this outlet for creative writing.

While on business travel in Northern Alberta recently, I found myself with a slow workday and a few hours owed from lunches not taken that week. A quick plan was hatched and out the door I went after ensuring that all at work was going to be fine without me for 2-3 hours. But before I get to that story…

While travelling to and from this site, I’ve made it a mission to activate as many ATNO [All-Time-New-Ones, ie. never-activated parks] as possible within POTA. I plan these 500km trips with some small side journeys to these parks or natural areas and to break up the otherwise long drive along the foothills of the Canadian Rockies up and down the Highway 22 (aka. Cowboy Trail) corridor. It’s truly a lovely drive and I don’t mind it in the least.

Now back to my late-day lunch break adventure…

With the nearest park to me (VE-3162, Whitecourt Mountain) already activated but only on phone, I figured I’d activate it on CW and do more QSOs than the other activator just for good measure. I can’t believe that a park this close to a townsite had only one activation before I got there to activate it.

If that isn’t enough, it’s also a SOTA entity [VE6/ST-102] with a broad and not-steep slope making the activation zone quite wide. On top of that I can do this two-fer as a drive-up! This worked in my favour as I parked my truck within the activation zone! This SOTA entity had been done a couple of times already so I knew that electrical noise would be my nemesis.

For those of you that may have disremembered, I’m in shape -round- and that shape doesn’t easily climb summits, so a drive-up is totally my kind of summit. But I had to get a move on as there were only two hours left on the Zulu timeclock.  At my hotel room I had more gear, but being nervous nelly that I am at times, I do not leave my KX3 in the room unless there’s a safe. Given that the KX3 gets lonely without companions, I ensure that it always has a battery, antenna and key along for the ride so they keep each other happy as can be 🙂 I had just enough of my portable kit with me to make this happen.

Continue reading Lunch break? Time for a rapid SOTA/POTA activation!

Field Radio Kit Gallery: VE6JTW’s lightweight SOTA kit

Many thanks to Jesse (VE6JTW) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page. If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, read this post.


VE6JTW’s lightweight SOTA kit

Good Day Thomas & all readers of QRPer.com,

I was Licensed Late in 2020 and I have been actively doing Summits on the Air since early 2021 here in Alberta, Canada. I started out using a Xiegu G90 but realised very quickly that CW operations where much more efficient especially in VE6 land where our 4 point summits sometimes have 1000+ meters of gain (3280 feet), your knees get tired fast on those big descents with a pack that can easily start weighing in the 30lb range.

So I started teaching myself CW a few months into activating and also started looking into the QRP world. How awesome is it to make worldwide contacts with 5 watts and a wire from a mountain top, am I right?

VE6VID EFHW

I started activating CW that fall and I have gone through a couple of different radio setups. My first QRP rig was a QRP Labs QCX-mini for 20m which I did not use for long. Then my wife bought me a Venus SW-3B for Christmas and that little rig is excellent in my books; it is very basic but effective. I used that for quite a long time with a trapped EFHW Malen (VE6VID) made for me. It covers 40, 30 and 20m, along with the very last N0SA SOTA paddle ever made by Larry.

Venus SW-3B in a custom enclosure

Fast Forward to 2023 and My SOTA kit contains the LNR Precision MTR-4B. This radio is amazing as the receiver is strong and I can pull callsigns out from the noise very well.  My antenna is still the trapped EFHW, and I now use the Bamakey TP-III paddle. For audio I have a set of JBL headphones for when it is super windy out and I also use an Amazon speaker as seen in the photo. Everything that fits in the bag weighs just 2 pounds and 4 ounces. The bag that holds all the gear is from Colonel Mustard.ca.

The whole kit in use on a summit

My mast is a fiberglass telescoping fishing pole from Amazon with a fishing eyelet at the peak to run the wire through. I lashed some line to the base of the mast with three loops then epoxied them to the fiberglas so they won’t move when guying the mast.

I carry two 1100 MAH 3s 11.1v LIPO batteries and get about 2 really good 30 min activations per battery,  they are both from Amazon.

Last but not least my hiking pack is a Mystery Ranch Bridger 35l.

73 de VE6JTW, Jesse

Field Radio Kit Gallery: VE6VID’s KX2 SOTA Kit

Many thanks to Malen (VE6VID)Canada’s first SOTA Double Mountain Goat – who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page. If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, read this post.


Hello Thomas,

After being prompted by Vince (VE6LK) I am sending in my humble lightweight HF setup. The core of the setup is an Elecraft KX2 with a few goodies bolted onto it.

My station consists of KX2 with tuner, end plates with lexan cover, external 4s LiPo (1100mah) battery, power cable that is fused and has switched diodes (voltage reducer), an Amazon speaker and earbuds, a modified UV5R microphone (I’m an SSB guy for now), and a homebrew 65 ft EFHW. It’s all carried in a large water bottle case by Condor and weighs in at just under 3lbs. That case also fits an Icom IC-705 or the Elecraft KX3.

I have approximately 300 SOTA activations with this along with various masts. These activations range from easy 10 pointer strolls in Arizona and Manitoba to strenuous (over 1000 metres of gain) 4 pointers in the Alberta Rockies along with summits in VE5, VE7 lands tossed in as well.

By using old Altoids tins for storage for earbuds and the mic, everything fits into the case with the antenna laying on top. I ended up doing some trimming of the kite winder to fit with ease on top of the case.

Here is the basic setup laid out.

The battery will last me for two ten to fifteen minute activations without having to switch the diodes out of line.

When solo activating in VE6 land, I use the Amazon external speaker to make noise to let the local four legged critters know I am there.

After a few years of using a dipole on treed summits, which at times can be troublesome to setup, I built a 49:1 EFHW. When using the EFHW I typically set is up as an inverted V with a mast, invert L with trees. The antenna is a homebrew 49:1 using a non-standard size type 43 toroid, SOTAbeams antenna wire 65 ft long, bulkhead male BNC for connecting directly to the radio.

Trying to go compact, not necessarily light, I ditched the Elecraft mic for something with a small footprint, a mic that started life as an UV5R mic / earbud combo from Amazon . By replacing the cable with a Walmart 3.5mm TRS cable and adjusting the menu on the radio, it works great.

Take care,  Malen Vidler, VE6VID


Vince’s notes: Malen is Canada’s first SOTA Double Mountain Goat. You can check out his YouTube channel here. He is soft-spoken and deeply knowledgeable on SOTA and Amateur Radio. He is one of my go-to people when I don’t understand something in these areas.

The prettiest activation ever – Spray Valley Provincial Park

As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! ?

Ahhh .. few things in life compare to the view one sees while lakeside in the mountains. The flat water is a stark contrast to the towering mountains nearby. There is at least a 4000′ difference in height between the two at my destination in this story. For me, nothing so succinctly tells me where I fit in the world as when I stand among these giants.

So It was with that big goal in mind that a drive through the mountains of Alberta’s Kananaskis Country region was called for. The drive would take me through sweeping vistas, over high mountain road passes, along nearly 100km of gravel roads in no-cell-service backcountry while racking up nearly 400km of travel in one day.

Along the way I activated two never-before done parks in the POTA system and scouted out one more to be done at a future date. This is the story of the lakeside activation… but first, watch the short video to understand why I’m gushing on the beauty of this particular spot and written this atypical (for me) article about the activation itself.

The Drive to the activation

Overview of the trip. Darker lines indicate gravel roads. First activation is along the westernmost gravel road along the lakeshore.

For those of you that want to replicate this trip, here’s the route I took shown on the map above.

From just before when I turned north off Highway 541 to Highway 40, and until I reached Canmore, there is zero cell service. Same again turning onto Highway 68 from 40 until Bragg Creek.

Alberta has much backcountry that is well beyond cellular range. Working at The Candy Store(tm) as I do, I have access to items like the Zoleo Satellite Communicator to give me text messaging and SOS capabilities should I need them. Before I discovered SOTAmat, I used the Zoleo for all of my spotting in backcountry.

Continue reading The prettiest activation ever – Spray Valley Provincial Park