Category Archives: SSB

Lightweight SPOTA Hat Trick on Angel Island

San Francisco Radio Diary – Part 3

by Leo (DL2COM)

Do you remember the last time you arrived at a new vantage point on a hiking trail and all of a sudden you were stunned by a view that you didn’t expect at all? 

“No kidding.” I said when I approached the summit of Mount Caroline Livermoore on Angel Island and “bang” there it was: San Francisco Bay showing itself from its best side all around and in beautiful sunlight. Wow what a moment to remember.

The stunning view from Angel Island
Is this CGI?

If you’re passing through San Francisco and you’re looking for the perfect ham radio-infused hiking day trip and a very hard-to-beat city panorama, Angel Island is your ticket to a heavenly experience. If you’re the fast type you could get an activation done in half a day even including the summit. My two cents though: Bring a little time and let it soak all the way in. It’s worth it and not just because you can log three references in one go:

Angel Island State Park is covered by the very large Golden Gate National Recreation Area. If you are eager to read about the history of Angel Island you can do so here or here (former immigration station).

A few hours earlier: 

KX2 radio kit, sandwich, granola bars, water. The contents of my backpack on November 8th 2023. This was going to be a good day. I just knew it when I approached the dock at San Francisco Ferry Terminal (Gate B).

San Francisco Ferry Terminal
See ‘ya city life

I had a couple of minutes left so I enjoyed walking through the ferry building with all its nice shops, bakeries and cafes. Many options for advanced coffee-heads to get their fix before going aboard.

coffee and backpack
Yes please

The ferry takes you across the bay in just about 30 minutes, past Alcatraz Island and without noticing you’ll have left big city life behind and swapped it for a remarkable landscape. You can check out their service times here and make sure to keep an eye on the last departure from the island. Otherwise you’ll have to stay for the night. Also the only restaurant on the island was closed (for renovation?) and I am not sure what their plans are to open again. 

From the arrival dock at Ayala Cove I decided to start the hike towards the north-east side of the island via the North Ridge Trail. It takes the better part of an hour to get to the summit if you walk at a constant pace but of course depending on your level of fitness and also how much time you take to enjoy the views. The trails are in very good shape and there is nothing keeping you from finding your personal and comfortable rhythm up the mountain.

Yes I admit it – I am getting excited before an activation.  Most likely it’s because I am looking forward to having fun on the airwaves but then it’s also about not knowing what to expect at the operating site and how to tackle potential challenges. So I usually try to get there fast.

At the summit:

I was still catching my breath from the not-so-difficult ascent and then I saw a demounted truss mast lying on the ground. Should I try to somehow get this up pointing towards the sky and use it as an antenna support? Tempting, but given the fact that I was alone and lacking proper guying material it seemed a bit mad. This brings me to an important fact: There are pretty much no usable trees inside the activation zone when it comes to hoisting a wire. So I do recommend bringing some form of a mast. A luxury I didn’t have due to luggage restrictions on my flight to the U.S.. So the trusty Elecraft AX1 needed to make do.

Truss mast on the ground
Should I or should I not?

There is however a very nice picnic area just below the summit and well inside the AZ. It doesn’t have a roof and it might get a bit windy but it sports a fabulous view and plenty of options to attach masts. Luckily, I was completely alone for the most part of the activation so I didn’t need to worry as much about someone tripping over the counterpoise wire. I used a second round of 50+ sunscreen on my central-European mozzarella body and got the antenna tuned up. 

Downtown San Fransico and Alcatraz Island
Downtown San Francisco and Alcatraz Island

A few seconds into calling CQ on 20m K6EL came in 599+ from a summit nearby and I was super happy to log him given the fact that we had completed an activation together only one day before. He was followed by many US operators almost all the way over to the east coast and then, of course, Chris (F4WBN) from France. Wait – which antenna was I using again in W6?

Ham radio QRP station in San Francisco
Dream operating location

I have “whipped out” this compromised whip so many times to complete an activation that it has become one of my favorite antennas in the arsenal. What fun to reach France from the West Coast with it.

40 QSOs on 20&17m later (yes including some S2S SSB via the KX2’s internal mic and even a contact on 15m thanks to the capable tuner) I had to go QRT because the sun was strong and I wanted to make sure I had a relaxed hike back down. 

ham radio QSO map
Testing the transmit and receive capabilities of a QRP dummy load

Because you get a couple of loop trail options you will also get a completely new perspective of the island and landscape while walking back to the dock which is nice. It is worth mentioning that poison oak is pretty common there and branches of these plants hang down across the paths. I actually touched a leaf accidentally with my arm but was lucky not to get a full load of the poison. The itching was already gone in about an hour.

At the dock I had a nice chat with some of the rangers and then hopped on the ferry back to SF. Thanks to all chasers and hunters for making this a truly special day.

Gear used:

ham radio gear and energy bars
Recharging for the next adventure

California, what have you done? I need to come back. I’ll be back.

vy 73 de Leo W6/DL2COM

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

SSB Style: Mark pairs the Elecraft KX3 and AX1 for some challenging activations

Many thanks to by Mark (W2ITG) who shares the following field report:


Elecraft KX3/AX1 Field Report

by Mark (W2ITG)

I’m an avid POTA activator and wanted to try an experiment to see if I could complete an activation using just the Elecraft KX3 & AX1 on 40 & 20m SSB. I’ve seen others do it on CW but not on SSB. My CW learning is not going well by the way.

This was at K-1635 Washington Rock State Park 02-07-2024, with a beautiful view of the NYC skyline approximately 20 miles away.

My 1st attempt was a failure because I ran into SWR issues on 20m when I picked up the microphone & RF was getting into the audio as well. This was with the antenna mounted directly on the side of the radio using a 90 degree elbow connector, the AX1B bipod & an elevated radial connected to one of the case screws of the radio, unfortunately it didn’t work.

It’s a good thing I had brought along my Tuftln EFHW and telescopic carbon fiber fishing pole as well because it saved the day which allowed me to complete the activation. When activating make sure to have a backup plan, so far I have no incomplete activations.

Fast forward to 02-27-2024 I’m making another attempt but using a clamp mount, clamped on to the side of the picnic table, 25’ of ABR Industries RG-316 with built in CMC choke, the Elecraft AXT1 tripod adapter, and an elevated counterpoise.

I was much more successful, but barely. I did get my 10 contacts, 7 on 40m and 3 on 20m. This really took me by surprise as the AX1 is more of a compromise on 40 than it is on 20m.

Radio set up at a different picnic table.
This clamp mount was taken from one of my BuddiStick setups.
Notice the electric fence post in the background to elevate the counterpoise.
The QSO map, it took me an hour and a half to get these 10 contacts.

Using the AX1 was quite the challenge to say the least. It does prove that even with a very limited antenna you can make contacts. My guess as to why it didn’t work as well on 20m, is poor band conditions. Living in the very populated northeast is what I believe allowed me to make more contacts on 40m.

Would I recommend buying this antenna? Most definitely, just as long as you know what it’s limitations are. I will try another attempt, but by trying 2 elevated counterpoise wires instead of 1. This antenna can use all the help it can get.

Building Positive Park Relations: Elevating Our Role as POTA Activators

Our Parks On The Air (POTA) community has experienced exponential growth since my introduction to POTA activations in 2019. Today, POTA boasts over 500,000 participants, including both hunters and activators.

Gone are the days of awkwardly explaining our hobby to park staff who were unfamiliar with amateur radio, let alone park activations. Nowadays, when I approach park staff for permission to operate, they often direct me to areas where other POTA activators have set up in the past, showcasing a growing acceptance and understanding of our community.

Goal: Positive Impact

With such a large and expanding community, we have the potential to significantly impact our park systems positively. It is crucial for POTA activators to not only leave a positive impression with park staff but also actively support and contribute to the well-being of our parks.

Why now?

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for several months. I hesitated to publish it because of my inclination towards positivity and reluctance to dwell on the negatives.

However, recent conversations with park rangers and staff from three different sites between June and November last year prompted me to share these insights. While acknowledging that interactions with POTA activators are generally positive, all three shared some concerns and criticisms.

I was surprised, in one case, that they hadn’t banned POTA activators from their site entirely. (I detail two examples at the end of this article.)

I imagine each and every one of these park rangers has had more negative interactions with the general public, but we POTA activators and amateur radio operators are a cohesive community that they lump into one group for better or for worse.

For instance, while a rowdy family gathering might disrupt the peace in a park, it doesn’t lead to a ban on families. However, repeated negative interactions involving POTA activators could result in our exclusion from parks or even escalation to wider park networks since many individual parks are tied to state, provincial, or national park systems.

Indeed, this has already happened at National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia. Check out the following message posted to Facebook this week from John (AB0O) who is a US mapping volunteer for POTA:

Time to be a positive force!

As John states in his message above, it’s time for us to proactively become ambassadors for POTA and good stewards of our parks and public lands.

I could have easily titled this post, “Ask not what your park can do for you; ask what you can do for your park!”

Let’s delve into some simple suggestions that I personally follow. This list is not exhaustive, so I invite you to share your strategies for promoting POTA positively in the comments below.

1. Obtain permission before operating

Despite the temptation to activate first and ask questions later, it’s essential to seek permission before setting up your station in a park. Some parks may require written permission for activations, regardless of the setup’s profile or impact (remember Leo’s recent field report?).

While most POTA sites allow activations as long as park rules are followed and other visitors aren’t disturbed, it’s prudent to confirm with park staff or experienced activators when in doubt.

In my experience, asking for permission is particularly crucial in parks with historical or ecological significance and limited facilities.

A piece of advice: When seeking permission, showcase your most portable, low-profile radio gear to help park staff understand the minimal impact of your setup. Over the years, this approach has resulted in successful activations for me, with only one instance of declined permission, primarily due to supervisor unavailability.

2. Choose inconspicuous locations

At the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, I received permission to operate and I set up my station well outside the viewshed of the lighthouse.

When setting up your station, avoid obstructing viewsheds or high-traffic areas within the park. Instead, opt for spots away from major attractions or foot traffic, ensuring minimal disruption to other visitors’ experiences.

Most POTA sites offer designated picnic or parking areas that are suitable for activations without interfering with scenic views. When uncertain, seek guidance from park staff to identify suitable locations.

3. Default to low-impact, low-profile gear

Unless you know in advance that a park allows wires in trees, stakes in the ground, or other antenna support structures, default to your most portable, low-profile, low-impact field setup.

Unless explicitly permitted, refrain from deploying antennas in trees or using stakes that could damage park grounds.

I believe every POTA activator should possess a compact, self-supporting antenna system to minimize environmental impact. Additionally, consider operating from your vehicle if uncertain about setup requirements.

An NC State Park ranger told me last fall, “I like to see POTA activators that aren’t taking up a lot of space and yelling at their radio.

Let’s not be the guy or gal he described!

4. Leave No Trace

Adhering to the principles of Leave No Trace is paramount during POTA activations and other outdoor adventures. Always dispose of trash properly and, if at all possible, pick up any litter you encounter at your operating site. My goal is to always leave the site cleaner and tidier than I found it.

In my backpack and car, I keep small litter bags along with nitrile gloves so that I can pick up and dispose of any trash I find.

Over the years I’ve operated POTA, park rangers and game wardens have caught me in the act of collecting trash and thanked me. I made a point of telling them that I’m an amateur radio operator doing a POTA activation. I feel like this can only leave a positive impression in their minds and help future activators who might seek permission to operate at a particular site.

Want to go a step further?  Consider organizing group clean-up events with your amateur radio club. This collaborative effort not only benefits the park but also strengthens park and community ties.

5. Support your park financially

Show your appreciation for park access by contributing financially, especially at smaller locations with visitor centers or donation boxes. Whether purchasing items from the gift shop or making direct donations, your support is invaluable in maintaining park facilities and programs.

For instance, during a recent visit to a historic site, I made a point to purchase items from the gift shop and donate to the park.

The park rangers thanked me and noted that another frequent POTA activator also donates a bit of money or buys something in the shop each time he visits.  They pointed out how much they appreciate that type of support.

While I usually prefer inconspicuous contributions, I intentionally inform park staff of my status as a POTA activator during these interactions. This transparency reinforces the positive image of amateur radio operators as park supporters.

6. Respect park operating hours

Ensure that your activations align with park operating hours to avoid overstaying your welcome. Familiarize yourself with park schedules and plan your activities accordingly to minimize disruptions and inconvenience to park staff.

I learned this lesson firsthand during an activation at Lake Norman State Park in 2021, where I unintentionally extended my stay past park closing hours. This happened during the week they shifted from more liberal summer hours, to winter hours. I was apologetic to park staff. Since then, I make a conscious effort to wrap up my activities well before closing time and communicate my intentions with park staff if I feel like I might cut it a bit close.

Be a POTA Ambassador

Vlado (N3CZ) draws a crowd on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

By following basic guidelines like these, POTA activators can cultivate positive relationships with park staff and demonstrate our commitment to responsible outdoor recreation.

As POTA Ambassadors, let’s engage with park staff, address any concerns they may have, and showcase the respectful conduct of our community. Listening to their feedback and acknowledging past issues can help mitigate negative perceptions and foster mutual understanding.

Real-word example

During a visit to a new-to-me urban park last year, I proactively sought permission to operate, considering the site’s limited space and popularity among POTA activators. Park staff appreciated my courtesy and expressed gratitude for my considerate approach.

Our conversation revealed previous negative experiences involving POTA activators. These included instances where operators failed to comply with park rules and even exhibited disruptive behavior. For example:

  • One operator tried to set up an antenna by tying a short 2×4 to fishing line and attempting to throw it into a tree. However, this park prohibits the use of trees for antenna support, and his “method” was causing damage to small branches. When asked to refrain from using the tree, the operator became confrontational, insisting on his ‘legal right’ to do so. Despite the staff’s polite explanation of the park rules, the operator angrily packed up and left.
  • Another incident involved a mobile activator who parked his truck in the park’s small lot, occupying three parking spaces, while deploying a hitch-mounted vertical. With a public event underway and all parking spaces occupied, park guests raised complaints. Despite staff requests to reposition his truck to free up space, the activator responded angrily, rolled up his window, operated for a few minutes, and then departed.

Despite these incidents, the staff emphasized that they were exceptions rather than the rule. They mentioned several regular activators whom they enjoy interacting with during their visits. Undoubtedly, these individuals serve as POTA ambassadors, exemplifying our community’s respect for parks and public lands.

Privilege and Responsibility

Wiseman’s View in Pisgah National Forest (K-4510)

While our tax dollars support public lands, park staff retain the authority to regulate activities that may impact park ecosystems or visitor experiences.

The recent notice regarding National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia serves as a reminder of this privilege and responsibility.

Let’s strive to represent POTA activators positively and proactively contribute to our parks’ well-being. Together, we can ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of our public lands.

What are your strategies? Please share your tips and advice in the comments section!

SSB and CW QRP POTA: Testing my new KM4CFT End-Fed Antenna Kit!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Jonathan (KM4CFT) sent me one of his new QRP end-fed half-wave/random wire antenna kits.

When my friend, Alan (W2AEW), caught wind that I planned to buy some 26AWG wire for this build, he sent me a spool of wire from a large reel he’d recently picked up at a hamfest.

What a nice guy! The blue wire is absolutely ideal for portable antennas.

Being the nice guy he is, Alan actually published a video about building Jonathan’s antenna kit on his YouTube channel. I highly recommend watching it!

Before I received the kit, I already knew what type of antenna I’d build: a 30 meter end-fed half-wave (EFHW) linked with a 40 meter extension. This antenna design has been on my mind for some time and Jonathan’s kit was the perfect excuse to build one.

Why a 30M EFHW with a 40M extension? Because a 40M EFHW gives me excellent SWR matches on 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters without needing an ATU.  A 30M EFHW gives me matches 30 and 17 meters.

Thus, with one linked wire antenna, I can cover 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, and 10 meters! That’s a lot of bands!

And since the antenna needs no extra matching, it’ll work with my transceivers that lack an internal ATU.

The Mountain Topper MTR-5B I acquired earlier this year.

In fact, I originally thought about this antenna design to use with my Mountain Topper MTR-5B which covers 40, 30, 20, 17, and 15 meters.

I built this antenna by first trimming it for a 1:1 match on 30 meters including a loop and strain relief to attach the extension.

When I was satisfied with my 30M EFHW, I then made the 40M extension, attached it to the 30M section with 2mm bullet banana connectors, then trimmed the antenna for a 1:1 match on 40M.

I spent the better part of 60 minutes trimming this antenna. I feel like patience really pays off because it’ll set up the antenna for good matches on all of the upper harmonics. Admittedly, I was a bit pressed for time that day, so I only tested this antenna in one configuration (an inverted vee shape) so hadn’t checked the SWR as a sloper or vertical.

My advice is to aim for a 1.3:1 or better match on 30M and 40M–that should be very doable if you wound your transformer correctly.

This was my first attempt at making in-line links, so I wouldn’t consider link my method as a “best practice”–rather, check out K7ULM’s guidance for making in-line links. Continue reading SSB and CW QRP POTA: Testing my new KM4CFT End-Fed Antenna Kit!

POTA by Bicycle: VA3MZD’s QRP Ham Radio Journey

Many thanks to Rod (VA3MZD) who shares the following guest post:


POTA by Bicycle: A Ham Radio Journey

By Rod Murray VA3MZD

First, some background: I earned my Canadian Basic With Honours Amateur Radio License in February of 2022 as a retirement goal while taking advantage of pandemic isolation time to read and study for the exam. I then chose VA3MZD as my call sign. Back in 2007, while teaching in Australia, my students gave me the Aussie nickname, Mr Muzzdog, and it stuck. I’m now Victor Alpha Three Mike Zulu Delta.

At about the time I got licensed, I acquired a Yaesu FT-818ND QRP radio. I had read and heard a lot about POTA and was eager to get on the air but also to operate outdoors. Being active in hiking, cycling and paddling, my immediate goal was to activate a local park on one of my outdoor adventures. I learned as much as I could about QRP and POTA from subscribing to Thomas’ QRPer Blog as well as numerous other channels. I was thrilled when I made my first HF QSO followed shortly thereafter with my first POTA contact as a Hunter from my QTH. This made me even more intent on activating a Park.

My activation attempts from a local park, however, were unsuccessful. QRP with a compromised, mini loop antenna wasn’t working for me. My first successful activation was unique and did not occur until a few months later, far from home.

In May 2022 I traveled to Vancouver, BC to visit family. One of the regulars on my radio club’s morning net (The Elmira Radio Club), a long distance Elmer, so to speak, offered to take me to a local British Columbia park and help me make my first activation. Despite having never met, Trevor VE7BM, scheduled a rendezvous east of Vancouver at VE-3304, Castle Park, and in half an hour, we had over 10 QSOs in the log. I was hooked!

My First Activation with Elmer VE7BM at VE-3304, Castle Park, BC

Upon returning to my home province of Ontario, I acquired an EFRW antenna that I eventually tested for the first time on Field Day in June of 2022. The Nelson 9:1 worked well with my FT-818 and I began taking it on visits to my local Conservation Parks and on hiking trips. I made several successful activations with it but I then ordered a much more portable Tufteln QRP EFRW that Thomas had demonstrated on his QRPer channel. It performed very well and became my regular POTA antenna after installing the Nelson 9:1 permanently in the attic.

Having four POTA units close to home, all within 10 km, made it very convenient to make trips by vehicle to activate them. What makes those 4 parks even more interesting from an outdoor activity perspective is that they are linked by a well maintained rail trail, The Elora-Cataract Trailway which just happens to be part of VE-5082, The Great Trail of Canada! The rail trail connection means that all of these parks can be easily accessed on foot or, my preference, by bicycle.

The Elora Cataract Trailway / The Great Trail of Canada VE-5082 near Shands Dam and Belwood Lake

I started taking my pared down kit, the radio, antenna, tuner, battery and throw line in my bicycle pannier on my regular rides. Then I’d set up the radio for a POTA Activation while visiting a park. My most frequented and my most favourite is VE-5319, Belwood Lake Conservation Area, because of the 10 km eastbound ride through farms and forests, over Shands Dam into the park. Not only is it a pleasant ride, it’s a 2-fer with The Great Trail!

POTA by Bicycle at Belwood Lake Conservation Area – VE-5319/VE-5082

In the westbound direction, The Trailway ends in the scenic and historic tourist town of Elora, and just beyond the town is The Elora Gorge Conservation Area, VE-1392, where the Canadian Heritage designated Grand River cuts a 22 metre chasm through the limestone bedrock.

It has serviced campsites, trails, picnic shelters and tables near mature White Pine trees (Ontario’s Provincial Tree) perfect for deploying a wire antenna. I’ve been fortunate to have met each of these Parks’ Superintendents, and have been able to promote Amateur Radio, my radio club, and also received their full support for POTA activations and Winter Field Day.

Activating VE-1392 Elora Gorge Conservation Area from a picnic shelter with a radio club colleague

Between the two historic mill towns of Fergus and Elora that make up the municipality of Centre Wellington and accessible from The Trailway, stands The Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge National Historic Site, VE-5928. Now renovated to serve as the Wellington County Museum and Archives, the historic limestone building has an interesting, well documented history. Continue reading POTA by Bicycle: VA3MZD’s QRP Ham Radio Journey

Greg discovers the joy of QRP in his first QRP SSB POTA activation

Many thanks to Greg (KJ6ER) who shares a post he originally published on Facebook regarding his first ever QRP SSB POTA activation. This post is just as much a break down of his field kit, so we’re also including it in our Field Radio Kit Gallery.


My First POTA QRP SSB Activation

by Greg (KJ6ER)

Wooo hooo! After 700 QRO SSB POTA activations in California over the past 2 years, I decided to try my first 10-watt QRP SSB activation from K-3473 in San Jose. To my pleasant surprise, it was very successful: 121 SSB QSOs in 4 bands (10, 12, 15 and 17M) across 5 countries including DX to Japan, Alaska and Argentina. I worked 34 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces. I operated a total of 4 hours, averaging a QRP QSO every 2 minutes. Lesson learned: Inspired by my QRP mentor Kevin Behn, QRP is not only as fun as QRO (when the bands are working) but it is simpler and faster to deploy. And I can wear the entire station on my back!

My QRP shack-in-a-pack is the ICOM IC-705 (in an ICOM backpack) with a 7M Spiderbeam fiberglass telescoping pole and my homebrew resonant halfwave monoband antennas. Quite frankly, a significant contributor to my success was the monoband resonant halfwave antenna: low angle of radiation and more gain than a typical quarterwave with radials. I modeled this after my homebrew POTA Dominator resonant halfwave antenna. If you’re interested in more detailed information about this antenna and components in my backpack, take a look at each photo with descriptions (below).

Starting on 10M, I was planning to work my way down the HF bands to 20M where I assumed would get me the most QSOs and help me officially activate.

Well … I never made it to 20M: by band, 24 QSOs on 10M, 13 QSOs on 12M, 32 QSOs on 15M and 52 QSOs on 17M = 121 QSOs! I will plan to do a 20 and 40M QRP activation soon, as well as 2M and 70cm since the IC-705 supports those bands, too.

Many thanks to all the hunters who helped me complete my first QRP activation! While I certainly did not experience any massive pile-ups like my typical QRO activations, the slower pace QRP activation made it very relaxing. I strongly recommend it! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help  72 KJ6ER, San Jose

Field Kit Details

My complete QRP shack-in-a-pack!

The ICOM IC-705 running 10 watts off a 3Ah Bioenno battery. Just to the right of the pack in the field is my 7M Spiderbeam fiberglass telescoping pole supporting monoband resonant halfwave wire antennas for 10M, 12M and 15M. I also use the pole to operate on 17M and 20M as a sloper or inverted-V, and 40M as an inverted-V. I love how fast I can get operating with just a backpack and telescoping pole!

My first QRP SSB 10-watt activation resulted in 121 QSOs on 10-17M including DX to Japan, Alaska and Argentina.

I thought I would need 20M to activate but the uppers bands worked so well, I never got there. I completed my activation in 4 hours and averaged about 1 QRP QSO every 2 minutes. While I was not getting my usual 5-9 QRO signal reports, I was heard clearly on the low noise upper bands with my QRP SSB signal.

The 7M Spiderbeam fiberglass telescoping pole supports my monoband halfwave vertical wire antennas for 10M, 12M and 15M, as well as 17M and 20M when used as a sloper or inverted-V. I also use it as a center mast for my 40M inverted-V. Continue reading Greg discovers the joy of QRP in his first QRP SSB POTA activation

Guest Post: A wildly successful POTA activation…on a whim!

Many thanks to Mike (KE8PTX) who shares the following field report:


One of my best POTA activations on a whim.

by Mike (KE8PTX)

Monday 8/15/2023

Doing some late afternoon POTA chasing from the back deck home QTH,  contacts on 5 watts seemed to be coming fairly easy so I started to think I should have a go at it and activate a park.

One in one hundred times I activate QRO, so I decided to take the FT-891 and blow the dust off the finals.

When filling my pack, I had a last minute change of heart and decided to stick with QRP.  Bagged up the never fail KX2 field kit and hit the road.

The park was Port Huron State Game Land (K-6762) a nearby game land with many activation spots.  As I never do look at the solar reports, this time was no different.  I feel the solar reports more times than not would keep me home. With a QRP mind set we all feel we have something to prove by just doing it.

So off to the park we go!

After a short 20 minute dive through the countryside of the Michigan thumb, I arrived at my location only to be welcomed by a flock of Michigan state birds: the mighty Mosquitoes.  I came prepared with my trusty Thermacell.  Fired it up 5 minutes before exiting the car to give it a head start.

My deployment of gear is simple and quick.  My go-to antenna is a 40m EFHW inverted V configuration running North to South.

My mid support is a modified Carbon 6 mast.

Setup time was less than two minutes and I was on the air. Continue reading Guest Post: A wildly successful POTA activation…on a whim!

Part 3: N2YCH and K1PCN’s Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the first of a three-part field report series outlining his 2023 Hamvention rove with Peter (K1PCN). Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.


Part 3: Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove

By Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

The Bonus State

Welcome to part three of a three-part POTA rove story where Peter, K1PCN and I decided to activate six state parks for our Parks on the Air Activated States Award on the drive to the Dayton Hamvention.

In installments one and two we activated Delaware, Maryland, West Virgina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. I thought we had exhausted all our state activating possibilities for this trip, until…Peter said, “you know, Kentucky is not that far away. And, by the way, there is a park down there that has never been activated digitally…

Really? I’m in.

We decided that on day two of the Hamvention, we would leave in the afternoon and make our way to Kentucky, which was just over an hour away. While we were standing on the line to get into the Hamvention on Saturday morning, one of the people near us mentioned that the Voice of America Museum was open until 9pm that night and he was considering going.

I stopped at the VOA booth in the Hamvention and picked up a brochure and on our way to Kentucky, Peter suggested that maybe on the way back, we stop in.

Kentucky

Our best bet for a Kentucky POTA activation, which was recommended by a fellow digital activator at the South West Ohio DX association dinner we attended the night before, was Big Bone Lick State Historic Site (K-3779).  According to the Internet, it was named Big Bone Lick because of the “mammoth artifacts that were found and because of the salt springs that animals drank.” I found that it was impossible to tell anyone the name of the park without a smirk or chuckle in return.

When we arrived in Kentucky, we drove around Big Bone Lick park looking for a place to activate. Apparently, there are buffalo at the park…however, we did not activate near the buffalo. We found an unused picnic area and split up.

Literally about five minutes after I set up and got on the air, a group of moms with five-year-olds celebrating one of their birthday’s showed up. One of the mom’s apologized and explained that I had found her secret place in the park…but by then, I had almost completed my activation and was ready to break down.

I don’t mind it when people come up and ask about what I am doing, I’m always happy to explain ham radio to anyone who’s curious. Activating a park surrounded by a group of five-year-olds was a new experience that I hope to never repeat. Here is a photo of my setup at Big Bone Lick.

Given that it was later in the day by the time we arrived, Peter chose 40 meters, and I took 20 meters. 22 QSO’s later, here’s my coverage using the Buddipole with the 17’ MFJ whip and the Elecraft KX3 at 10 watts.

VOA

On our way back, Peter called the VOA museum to confirm they would be open late that night and then that became our next destination since we had to pass right by on our way back to Dayton. Continue reading Part 3: N2YCH and K1PCN’s Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove

Part 2: N2YCH and K1PCN’s Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the first of a three-part field report series outlining his 2023 Hamvention rove with Peter (K1PCN). Click here for Part 1, and look for Part 3 next week!


Part 2: Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove

By Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

Pennsylvania

Welcome to part two of three of the Hamvention QRP POTA Rove. If you missed part one, you can find that installment here.

Early on Thursday morning, May 18, 2023, Peter, K1PCN and I headed from Morgantown, West Virginia north to Pennsylvania to activate K-8920, the PA 223, Pennsylvania State Game Lands. While the park covered a large geographical area, we were able to find a parking lot not far off the highway that made it easy for us to get to and activate.

Peter spotted a nearby gazebo which was also a viewing area and hiked over to it to activate. If you look closely in the photo below, you can see it in the distance behind the sign and my antenna.  I stayed with the Jeep and set up on the tailgate using the Buddipole vertical.

Since it was early in the day, we used our frequency strategy of Peter on 40 meters and me on 20 meters. My QSO map here shows some decent DX for QRP on 20 meters at 8am ET.

Ohio

We traveled North towards Pittsburgh on Interstate 79 and then West on Interstate 70, passing through West Virginia again and then stopped at K-1934, Barkcamp State Park in Ohio.

I tuned my antenna for 17 meters and Peter activated on 20 meters.

I managed to activate the park, but it was slow going for me on 17, so when Peter finished up on 20, I changed to 20 meters and got a few more on that band just for good measure. Thinking that the slow QSO’s could have been the radio, I did switch to the IC-705 here, but that did not make any difference. It could have been conditions or our location. I did have better luck on 20 meters than 17. And I don’t know about you, but I can never go for just ten QSO’s. I feel like I need a few extra ones just in case. Here is a photo of me set up at a picnic table next to my antenna. Continue reading Part 2: N2YCH and K1PCN’s Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove