Tag Archives: Brian (K3ES)

Guest Post: Recipe for a Failed Activation in Allegheny National Forest?

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


Recipe for a Failed Activation at K-0619?

by Brian (K3ES)

A couple of days before Christmas, high winds came, temperatures dropped, and 3 inches of snow made a real nuisance of itself by blowing around and re-covering anything that was swept or shoveled. With daily high temperatures below zero (Fahrenheit) and wind gusts over 40 miles per hour, the weather just didn’t make for much fun outdoors. In fact, we hunkered down and didn’t get beyond the end of the driveway for four days. So when the winds calmed and temperatures rose, I really needed to get out of the house for a bit. What better way than to walk up the road and activate K-0619? Even with temperatures in the low 20s, I should be able to finish a quick activation. And so it was planned…

Of course just before walking out the door, it is always prudent to check on band conditions…

What did the sun just do to me, and how will I ever make 10 contacts on 5 watts before my fingers freeze???

Alright, I really need my outdoor time. Even if it means that I fail to activate the park this time, I’m going for it!!!

I walked down the driveway…

Off to the woods we go…

…up the road…

Fortunately the hike is less than ½ mile…
K-0619, Allegheny National Forest…

… and into the woods.

Snowy, peaceful, and lots of trees to support my antenna.

After getting to my spot, I set up my chair, laid out a trash bag to keep radio gear out of the snow, threw a line over a tree branch (it took two tries), and rigged the antenna. Continue reading Guest Post: Recipe for a Failed Activation in Allegheny National Forest?

Guest Field Report: K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

K3STL and K3ES at the entrance to K-0621.

by Brian (K3ES)

K3ES Perspective

Saturday November 19 dawned clear and cold in northwest Pennsylvania, but the truth is that I was up well before dawn.  The third Saturday of each month, I try to make the 2 hour drive south to help with Skyview Radio Society’s monthly Volunteer Examiner (VE) testing session for new or upgrading licensees.  Clear skies (which matched the forecast) meant that road conditions would not be a problem.  So, shortly after 5 am I pointed the truck south.

One of the creature comforts I appreciate about our VE session is meeting for breakfast before the test.  It was obvious on arrival at the restaurant that the VEs would greatly outnumber the test candidates, but many hands make light work.  Coffee and an omelet definitely helped fuel the effort.  Since the test sessions normally last less than 2 hours (and that held true this time), three of us VEs had made plans for post-test session POTA.

Before launching into the field report, let me acknowledge that K3STL’s photography was instrumental in providing a report with visual appeal.  Personally, I almost always forget to take the pictures.

POTA Plan

John “Tall Guy” K3STL, Steve K3FAZ, and Brian K3ES in the parking lot at K-0621.

The plan for the day was to attempt activation of two POTA sites, Beechwood Farms State Conservation Area (K-0620) in suburban Pittsburgh, and Todd Sanctuary State Conservation Area (K-0621) about 20 miles further to the northeast.  John “Tall Guy” – K3STL and Brian – K3ES would do a short activation of K-0620, then meet Steve – K3FAZ at K-0621 for the rest of the afternoon.

Knowing it would be a cold day for mid-November (temperatures peaked for the day just barely above freezing), each of us made plans to adjust for operating from our vehicles. That meant that we would be doing parking lot activations at both locations. While we each normally activate with slightly different operating styles that are suited to outdoor POTA operations, some tweaks made it possible to have wind and weather protection for this outing.  In hindsight, it was a perfect choice.

Operating Methods

K3FAZ works an SSB contact.

K3FAZ operated his treasured Kenwood TS-50 using SSB mode with an EFHW antenna in a tree.  Rather than setting up with a table and chair, Steve configured his station to fit in the front seat of his SUV. Continue reading Guest Field Report: K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

Brian’s Kilo at Cook Forest State Park is tied to family, memories, and his CW journey

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


Field Report:  Reflections on a Kilo at Cook Forest State Park

by Brian (K3ES)

Contemplating my favorite antenna tower during the Kilo activation.

Cook Forest State Park in northwest Pennsylvania has always been a special place for me.  It abounds in trees (including some of the last virgin timber around), wildlife (deer, turkeys, song birds, squirrels, and the occasional bear), and also includes the scenic Clarion River.  When I found out about Parks on the Air (POTA) after getting licensed in 2020, I knew that I had to put POTA entity K-1345 on the air.

Our family cabin; which has been central to all of the phases of my life – including milestones, joys, sorrows, and unadulterated wonder – is located on a plot of land bordered on two sides by the park.  It just seemed natural and right for me to do my first-ever POTA activation under an ancient hemlock tree just a few steps over the line from the back corner of our property. That mostly-SSB activation happened in May 2021 with my TX-500 pushing 10 watts into a homebrew dipole suspended from a dead branch up 30 ft in the hemlock.

An early activation of K-1345 from beneath the ancient Eastern Hemlock Tree

Last weekend, I reached a meaningful personal goal by completing my 1000th activator contact from K-1345.  After the first activation I never again operated mostly-SSB, and I never increased radiated power.  Nearly all of my contacts since have used CW, and many were completed at 5 watts.  The added challenge of QRP CW undoubtedly made the Kilo more difficult, but it was also much more fulfilling.  It has taken me 28 successful activations, a lot of work to improve my CW skills, and a lot of patient support from the hunters who have shared this journey with me.

My activations at K-1345 tell the story of my journey as a CW operator.  I took my first steps on that journey in late 2020, months before I had a portable radio or a plan for my first activation.  I started with an Android app, V-Band, and listening to CW exchanges on webSDR.  Eventually that progressed to CW Academy basic, intermediate, and advanced classes.  The classes really upped my CW game, but what helped even more was using CW on the air.  I finally got my HF station on the air in March 2021 and started hunting parks, SSB at first, then increasingly CW.  During my first mostly-SSB activation I did manage to hunt down three park-to-park contacts using CW.  I started my second activation by calling CQ using CW, and I have not looked back.  Wow, those hunters were patient during that first first CW activation!  My skills have improved greatly since then, but I’m still not where I want to be.  The next goal for me is to gain confidence and proficiency in less-structured QSOs.

I want to thank Thomas – K4SWL, whose real time, real life activation videos challenged, motivated, and inspired me to learn and use CW.  I greatly appreciate the work of the CW Academy advisors who guided me through some of the hard work needed for improvement.  I also need to thank the hundreds of hunters who have patiently endured my developing CW skill set. Finally, my hat is off for the dedicated POTA volunteers, who continue to improve and expand this amazing activity to the benefit of radio amateurs around the world.

Completing the Kilo activation would have taken me longer if it were not for the tremendous encouragement provided by my gracious, intelligent, and beautiful XYL.  As I was contemplating indoor chores on a Friday morning, she pointed out the opportunity to go out and activate during the best weather of the weekend, and save the chores for a rainy day.  Who am I to argue with such impeccable logic?  Off to the woods we went!!!

I made a point of using the TX-500 with the homebrew dipole suspended in that ancient hemlock tree to complete the Kilo activation, going back toward the starting point, as it were.  Of course I did finish with CW mode and 5 watts to commemorate my personal growth during the journey, too.  I was set up to go by mid-afternoon.  Needing 57 contacts to complete the Kilo, I decided to get some contacts on 20m, then move to 40m a bit later.

Getting started on 20m.

After calling CQ for almost half an hour to get two contacts, I decided to move to 40m a bit sooner than planned…

With the antenna lowered, I am reconnecting the links for 40m.

40m was hot!  I completed the eight additional contacts needed for a successful activation in less than 15 minutes.  By the 2 hour mark, I had racked up a total of 69 contacts and finished the Kilo.

As a final note, I picked up 55 more contacts on Saturday, bringing my total CW mode contacts over 1000.  The rain started early Sunday morning, and I got my indoor chores finished after all.

Gear for the Final Activation:

Photos

An arborist throw line works great for setting up the antenna here!
Almost any weather is great when you are doing a POTA activation!
But sometimes cold fingers limit your endurance…
My starting kit for the TX-500.
Antennas and accessories for the TX-500 kit.  Home-brew linked dipole is on the right.
Arborist throw line for the TX-500 kit.
TX-500 kit packed for POTA!