Many thanks to Mark (K8LSB) who shares the following announcement:
Sharing POTA/SOTA with the Public
Greetings POTA/SOTA activators,
This year the Big E (exposition)—a “combined” state fair for the six New England states (CT MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)—will run for 17 days: from September 16 to October 2. In the past, 1.5 million people have attended the Big E, the fifth largest fair in the nation.
Hampden County Radio Association (HCRA) will be running a special events station (N1E) and have a booth at the event where we hope to acquaint the general public with the many facets of amateur radio. For example, we have made arrangements to have a live ARISS space station contact, emergency communications display, POTA/SOTA contacts (hopefully), etc. One of our key goals is to identify those who might be interested in getting their ham license and connecting them with license training classes held by radio clubs across New England.
I am seeking your help in two ways. First, I would like to schedule some contacts with people activating POTA/SOTA sites during the Big E period. To make this interesting for visitors, I’d like to limit this primarily to phone operation, and would love it the activators could talk for a minute or two about where they are and what they enjoy about POTA/SOTA operation; not just the typical “you’re 58 in Massachusetts.” Many of the folks who attend the Big E are people who enjoy outdoor activities like RVing, hiking, camping, biking, etc. and may be attracted to adding the adventure of portable ham radio operation to their recreational routine.
The second way you can help is, for those of you who live in New England, to consider helping staff our booth at the Modern Living building. We hope to have at least four active hams at the booth from 10 am through 10 pm. Our operating shifts are from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm and 3:30 to 10 pm. As you can imagine, we need a lot of hams to help out! We have contacted all the radio clubs in New England to solicit volunteers, but we could still use some more hams on specific days. This is a volunteer activity, but we have funds to offset the price of admission ($15) and parking ($10), and can provide free overnight accommodations with local ham families if this makes the logistics easier.
If you’d like to volunteer to be one of our “activator” contacts, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re interested in learning more about our Big E plans or would like to volunteer, go to: https://nediv.arrl.org/project-big-e/ and scroll down to the “How Can I Help” and click the link for volunteering. It will show the specific dates and times that are open.
When I first started doing activations in the Parks On The Air (POTA) program, many of our regional parks in North Carolina were ATNOs (All-Time New Ones).
An ATNO is what it sounds like: a park that is in the POTA network but has never been activated.
ATNOs were plentiful in the early days–before the rise of POTA. In those early days, I found that if a park was even slightly inconvenient to access, it would be an ATNO.
In fact, I reckon that nearly 40% of the parks I activated in 2020, were ATNOs. This wasn’t because I made a particular effort to hit ATNOs. Rather I made an effort to activate unique parks that year; it was the beginning of the pandemic and this was a fun activity for me–an excuse to explore regional public lands–so ATNOs were among them.
With POTA participation having grown by orders of magnitude in the past few years–a very welcome thing indeed–ATNOs in North Carolina are extremely rare. I just checked and we have two ATNO parks out of 230 parks in NC. I can pretty much guarantee that our two ATNOs have either just been added to the database, or they’re very difficult to access.
POTA hasn’t been in Canada as long as it has in the US and, in some regions, it’s just catching on.
I was surprised to find that there were still a lot of ATNOs in/around Québec City because the area has a very active ham radio community.
As we were plotting our summer trip to Canada, I made a list of the parks I wanted to activate and Grands-Jardins was at the top of that list.
When we spend the summer in Québec, we always fit in a few visits to Grands-Jardins. The mountains there are beautiful with rounded tops and rocky faces. Via ferrata is a very popular summer activity in the park, but our family enjoys the hikes, the overlooks, and I especially love the back country roads!
When my family spends the summer in Québec we typically visit it several times, especially since it’s never far from where we stay.
Thing is, each entry into Cap Touremente costs about $20 or so (unless we purchase an annual pass), but it’s worth it for the hikes, and the scenery. We also like supporting parks with our entry fee.
For a POTA activation–? I don’t need access to the main park, especially if the family isn’t with me. I did a little research and found a spot within the NWA on the “free” side of the park gates.
The spot is a basically a wildlife viewing area with a small grass road that is flanked by marsh land near the town of Saint-Joachim.
Marsh Land = Mozzies
Before heading to Cap Touremente on Monday, June 27, 2022, I sprayed a “healthy” dose of insect repellent on my clothing. Having been to this spot several times in the past, I knew what awaited me: mosquitos. Lots of them.
We have mosquitos back home in the mountains of North Carolina, of course, but not in the quantities you find in marshy areas along the north shore of the St-Lawrence.
That Monday, though, it was very gusty. In the morning we had heavy rains, then a front pushed that through in the early afternoon opening up clear skies and very gusty winds. Mosquitos don’t do well in the wind, so my hope was the wind would offer an extra layer of protection.
Spoiler alert: The winds did help to some degree, but Canadian mosquitoes are heartier than our Carolina varieties.
Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area (VE-0012)
I had been on the air earlier in the day and conditions were truly in the dumps–at least, at my latitude. I knew it wouldn’t be a quick activation, so I allowed myself extra time to complete the activation.
On the 10 minute drive to the site, I decided to pair the Elecraft KX2 with the TufetIn 9:1 random wire antenna that I configured with a 31′ radiator and a 17′ counterpoise. I found this combo very effective in the past and I love the frequency agility of random wire antennas especially when the bands are rough and it becomes a game of band hopping to see what portions might be open. Continue reading Fighting mozzies and logging POTA hunters at Cap Touremente→
Stealthy field activations, for me, aren’t about activating where I shouldn’t (in fact, by definition, activations can only take place on public lands) it’s just fun!
As I’ve mentioned before, when I choose to be a bit stealthy, it’s strategic. I consider one of the privileges of doing POTA and SOTA activations is that I’m often the first ham others encounter out in the wild. It gives activators like me a chance to be a ham radio ambassador. I like giving our wonderful past time a proper introduction and even enticing others to join in on the fun.
That said, there are times when my on-the-air time is very limited and I want fewer interruptions. That’s when being a bit stealthy can help me get in/out quickly.
It simply attracts less attention.
I tend to be less conspicuous in a park when I’m in a busy area with lots of people and activity. I don’t want my operation to get in the way of others’ enjoyment of a park. I don’t want someone to trip on or get tangled up in my wire antenna while tossing a frisbee, for example.
Also, when it’s super busy and I’m pressed for time, I’d rather get the activation done and then move on.
Of course, I was very eager to use the new callsign on the air!
Finding a park
A few weeks prior to our trip, I checked out all of the POTA sites within a short distance of our hotel in Ottawa.
Turns out, there are loads of parks in the Ottawa/Gatineau region so I was spoiled for choice!
Since Ottawa is the capital city of Canada, there’s no shortage of provincial and national parks in the area. (Washington DC is very similar in this regard.)
What, at first, surprised me was the number of parks that had either never been activated or had only been activated a handful of times. Taking a closer look in advance and with the assistance of Google Street View, I could see that many of these entities are simply historic buildings/sites or formal parks in the city with no easy means of activating without special permission.
Hog’s Back Conservation Reserve (VE-1596)
Shortly after noting on QRPer that I’d be in Ottawa a few days, a reader named Andrew reached out and offered advice about local parks. He suggested the Hog’s Back Conservation Reserve since it was only a 15 minute drive from our hotel. We made plans to meet up there for the activation.
If you’ve been following my field reports and activation videos, you’ll note that I’m almost twomonths behind posting them at present.
Much of this is due to the fact that I made numerous activations during a camping trip at New River State Park with my family in April and many more activations during a camping trip with WD8RIF and KD8KNC in West Virginia in May.
May was an extremely busy month for me family-wise and I was fitting in Canadian Basic Exam prep during any free time I had because my goal was to write the Canadian Basic exam within the first few days of arriving in Canada.
Looking at my field report back log, I’ve got a few more reports from both the NC and WV camping trips, but I’ve decided to put them on hold for a bit so that I can post more recent ones. Plus, it might be fun posting late spring field reports this fall!
One of the things I love about writing these field reports is re-living the activation.
We began our road trip to Canada on the morning of June 15, 2022.
Our first stop would be Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, the second stop Ottawa, Ontario (for three nights), and then our final destination of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Québec. All in all, we’d log 1,306 miles/2,102 km not including side trips.
Although I sort of fantasize about all of the amazing parks I could activate during our travels north, in reality this road trip was all about reaching the destination in fairly short order to save on hotel expenses en route.
The first leg of the trip equated to a good 10 hours on the road including stops to refuel, stretch our legs, and grab a bite to eat.
That first day, I’d completely written off the idea of performing a POTA activation assuming we’d arrive in Pine Grove, PA too late and too tired.
Turns out, though, we got an earlier start than we had anticipated, so arrived in Pine Grove around 16:00 local. That afternoon, everyone was eager to take a stroll or hike to shake off all of those hours of sitting in the car.
I checked my POTA Map and then cross-referenced it with my All Trails app to find the closest park with proper hiking trails. Turns out Swatara State Park met both criteria and was a mere 8 minutes from our hotel. Woo hoo!
Honestly: Swatara couldn’t have been more convenient for us.
To date, I believe I’ve activated 11 parks (1 in Ontario, 10 in Québec) during our extended family vacation. Instead of hitting the same parks over and over, I’m trying to activate new parks during each outing because it’s giving us an opportunity to explore some really amazing spots that we might not otherwise discover.
Before we leave La Belle Province, I’ve at least two SOTA summits in mind and 3-4 more parks, family time permitting. Indeed, as I mention below, I hope to activate another park sometime today.
Ham Radio Workbench Podcast
Once again the fine crew of the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast made the mistake of inviting me on another episode of the podcast.
In truth, it’s a proper honor to join them each time (don’t let them know I said that!). Seriously, they’re an amazing group of friends.
This episode was dedicated to our Field Day activities. For many of us, it was an unconventional Field Day and perhaps that’s what made the event so much fun.
John (W7DBO) was invited back to the show and it was great hearing how he integrated his whole family in his Field Day activities.
George had to operate from home, I operated from our condo/chalet here in Québec, and Vince from his very unique club setup in Alberta. Rob had a project that took priority on Field Day, and it’s worth listening to the podcast just to hear Smitty’s tale of life as a Field Day RVer (hint: not for the faint of heart).
I did finally choose that one extra radio: the Discovery TX-500.
I chose the TX-500 because 1.) it would be a great “bad weather” radio, 2.) it could operate from my KX2 battery packs, 3.) it’s multimode and also covers 6 meters, and 4.) it has such a slim profile. I could easily the TX-500 in my Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack with the Elecraft KX2 and it didn’t make the pack feel any bulkier.
I came very close to choosing the IC-705, but it was just a bit too bulky for the way I had my pack configured.
Back to the hypocrite part…
The day before leaving North Carolina, I removed everything from our Subaru and gave it a deep cleaning.
When I pulled up the floor panel in the trunk/boot area to check the first aid kit, spare tire, and emergency gear I discovered that there was a fairly large unused area under there–a spot where I might be able to sneak a few extra radio supplies.
After a little finagling, I discovered that I could fit spare batteries, two folding PowerFilm panels, the Buddipole PowerMini 2, and two more radios: the MTR-3B field kit, and my Elecraft KX1.
This essentially amounted to contraband since I tend to be the guy who enforces “one bag per person” policy during our family travels.
I got some serious eye rolls from the family when they discovered the hidden radios after we reached our destination. I might not ever live this down.
If I had even a shred of dignity upon our arrival here in Canada, I can confirm it’s gone now.
Elecraft KX2 getting heavy use
Other than Field Day where I primarily used the TX-500, the Elecraft KX2 has been getting a heavy workout on this trip.
The reason why is because I’ve been activating a number of urban parks where an all-in one radio paired with a random wire or the AX1 vertical has been very useful.
Conditions have been very rough during some of these activations as well, so it’s nice to have both CW and SSB modes available and a full 5 watts (the KX1 and MTR-3B are CW-only hover around 3 watts). I’ve snagged some excellent QRP DX at times, but everything has been so unstable.
I didn’t bring the KX2 hand mic on this trip, so all of my SSB contacts have utilized the KX2’s built-in mic. It’s actually worked brilliantly!
I’ve recorded a number of activations here in Canada and will likely post a couple of these out of chronological order while I’m still on this side of the border.
Uploading from our chalet hasn’t been possible–the upload speeds are about as dismal as they are at my QTH. Download isn’t too bad, though.
While at the hotel in Baie-Comeau a few days ago, I uploaded at least four videos with their high-speed internet, so I’ll soon post a couple of them.
In short: the activations here have been amazingly fun. Some of the sites have been truly spectacular in terms of scenery and others are in urban settings taking me well outside my comfort zone.
In short: I’ve loved every minute of it!
We have had an amazing time here in Québec as always.
Our flavor of travel is the opposite of many: we tend to rent a home or apartment for a few weeks or couple of months and use it as a base for exploring the region. We do this as opposed to traveling long distances and only spending relatively short periods of time at multiple stops.
I plan to activate a park while in Québec City today. I’ve no clue which one it’ll be yet, but I’ll announce it on the POTA site once I’ve got a plan together. If you have the time, look for me on the POTA spots page (as VY2SW) or via the RBN! I’d love to put you in the logs.
Here’s wishing all of you a week full of radio and fun!
I sold my Elecraft K2/100 to fund the purchase of my Elecraft KXPA100. I don’t regret purchasing the KXPA100 in the slightest (even though I so rarely use it), but I do regret selling not one, but two K2s over the years! I’ll snap one up if I find a good deal.
I also sold my Elecraft K1 to help fund the purchase of my Elecraft KX3 in 2013.
At the time, the seller’s remorse wasn’t immediate because the KX3 was such a revolutionary portable radio in almost every respect. The K1 seemed so limited in comparison.
Still, since I started doing CW POTA and SOTA activations, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a good deal on another 4 band/ATU Elecraft K1.
Why does the K1 have appeal when I have so many “superior” radios at my disposal–?
Good question! I reckon I just like it.
The K1 feels more like an analog radio rather than a digital one; no doubt, this is due to its VFO’s limited range. It’s more akin to an analog radio with a digital frequency display.
The K1 is also super compact for a radio with a traditional tabletop form factor. The menus and features take a bit of time to learn–they’re cleverly implemented, but you definitely need an owner’s manual or cheat sheet to master them.
The K1 is not general coverage; it can only be configured to operate on a maximum of four CW bands. It does have an internal ATU option, but I don’t think it’s on par with the KX-series internal ATUs in terms of matching range. It works well with a variety of field antennas, though!
The K1 does have a very low noise floor and wonderful audio. Those are perhaps the two things I love most about it.
The separation/distance from Eric’s Tri-Bander antenna worked a charm: there was very little interference between our two stations.
I started the activation by calling CQ POTA on 20 meters. Funny: I actually thought I was on 40 meters; the K1 display (much like that of the KX1) only shows the last three digits of the frequency display; when I saw “61.1” I assumed “7061.1” but of course it was actually 14061.1. I realized this as I later changed meter bands.
Although the propagation forecast was pretty dismal, the EFHW performed very well.
Within 18 minutes, I logged 16 hunters (including WD8RIF some 20 feet away).
I then moved to the 40 meter band (so Eric could move to 20) and worked an additional six stations in six minutes!
The final contact was both an HF and eyeball QSO with WD8RIF. I got that on video–very much a fun first for me!
Here’s what my five watts into an end-fed half-wave looked like on a QSO Map:
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation with WD8RIF. I include a bit about Eric’s station and also his QRPguys Tri-Bander antenna after I go QRT. As with all of my videos, there are no ads and I don’t edit out any of the activation:
Make sure to check out Eric’s field report which includes details about his KX3 set-up that you’ll see in the video above.
Thank you for joining me (and Eric, Miles, & Theo) on this POTA activation.
Although detailed field reports take a few hours to write-up and publish (along with activation videos), I truly enjoy the process. It gives me a chance to re-live an activation and share the whole experience with kindred spirits. This was such a fun activation.
Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.
Oh, and if you have a four band Elecraft K1 with ATU you’d like to part with? Get in touch with me! 🙂
We’re in the Baie-Comeau area at present, and I’ll only have a short window to fit in this activation before we hit the road again and do a little off-grid camping for a few days!
I’ll be QRP and hopefully on 20 and 40 meters CW. If I have the time (and mobile coverage to self-spot) I’ll attempt to do a little SSB as well. If I can find an adequate tree (they’re not so tall along this trail) I’ll deploy an EFHW, else it’ll be a random wire.
Conditions have been so rough lately, I’m not quite sure what to expect; especially this early in the morning at this location.
More specifically, I wanted to activate the park by way of the scenic one-way road that starts near the New River Gorge Visitor’s Center and descends down to the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge (the “old” New River bridge).
Why? Because in December 2016 during the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) program, I passed through West Virginia and activated some very rare parks on my way to a multi-day park run with Eric in Ohio. I fully intended to activate the New River at this very spot (underneath the “new” New River Bridge) after hearing how amazing the drive was from Eric.
Unfortunately, I happened to time my trip through West Virginia on a day when we received about an inch of snow. Even though (at the time) I was driving a Toyota minivan with nearly bald tires, the snow didn’t pose a problem at any other site, save this one. I had to change my plans and activate the New River in a spot where the access had less elevation change on a narrow snow-covered road. With my Subaru, this wouldn’t have been an obstacle in the slightest.
I was looking forward to going back to this site and was very pleased to see that Eric and his son, Miles, had already planned this trip in the draft itinerary!
New River Gorge National Park (K-0696)
On the morning of May 20, 2022, Eric, Miles, Theo the dog, and I left our campsite at Babcock State Forest and made our way to the New River Gorge Visitor’s center next to the New River Bridge.
If you’re ever in this area, I’d highly recommend checking out this visitor’s center as it has some well-designed exhibits detailing the impressive engineering that went into the construction of the New River Gorge Bridge.
There are also some fantastic views from the visitor’s center and from its short gorge overlook trail.
From the trail overlook at the visitor’s center we could see the spot where we planned to activate near the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge deep in the gorge (see photo above).
The drive into the gorge was quite scenic with a number of spots to park and take in the enormity of the New River bridge.At the bottom of the gorge, the view was pretty spectacular as well!
TufteIn 9:1 EFRW (End-Fed Random Wire) antenna
I mentioned in a previous post that long-time QRPer.com reader and supporter, Joshua (KO4AWH), runs an Etsy store with a wide range of products primarily designed for field operators.
Besides the Elecraft T1 protection case I mentioned previously, he also sent a couple of his QRP field antennas for testing and evaluation (to be clear: free of charge). Thanks, Joshua!