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)
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.
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.
After calling CQ for almost half an hour to get two contacts, I decided to move to 40m a bit sooner than planned…
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:
- Lab599 TX-500
- Homebrew linked dipole antenna – 40m, 20m, 17m, 15m.
- Bioenno 6 Ah LiFePO4 battery
- BaMaTech TP-III Paddles
- Rite-in-the-Rain 4.625”x7.25” All-Weather Soft Cover Notebook
- Pentel Twist-Erase 0.9mm pencil
- High Sierra Pathway 30L backpack
- Mini Arborist throw line kit with Excel 2mm line and Petzel 9 oz throw bag
- Legal-size clipboard