Tag Archives: POTA

The Big E exposition: Radio club seeks scheduled contacts with POTA and SOTA activators

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 k8lsb@arrl.net 

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.

73, Marc K8LSB

Activating Parc National des Grands-Jardins as a POTA All-Time New One!

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.

Another discovery was the Domaine de Maizerets–a very popular urban park in Québec City/Beauport that I activated as an ATNO in June 2022.

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.

Parc national des Grands-Jardins (VE-0499)

One of my favorite parks in Québec is Parc national des Grands-Jardins. This is a SEPAQ park located in the Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve.

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!

I didn’t realize until a few days before attempting this activation that Grands-Jardins was still an ANTO Continue reading Activating Parc National des Grands-Jardins as a POTA All-Time New One!

Fighting mozzies and logging POTA hunters at Cap Touremente

One of our favorite national parks in the Côte-de-Beaupré region of Québec, Canada is Cap Tourenemente National Wildlife Area.

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.

Of course…

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

A stealthy and challenging activation at Parc de l’Île-Lebel

Sometimes, I like going a little stealth.

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.

Parc de l’Île-Lebel (VE-0967)

On Sunday, June 19, 2022, our family was traveling from Ottawa, Ontario to our final destination of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Québec where we’d spend the next six weeks. Continue reading A stealthy and challenging activation at Parc de l’Île-Lebel

Field Report: First POTA activation as VY2SW in Ottawa!

As I mentioned in my previous field report, the afternoon I arrived in Canada, I somehow managed to pass my Basic exam with honors.

This granted me full HF privileges and I even obtained the callsign VY2SW within an hour of requesting it the following morning.

No visit to Ottawa would be complete without snagging this photo!

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.

Not only was Hog’s Back convenient, but it was also a large park with loads of spots where one could set up and play radio. No doubt this is why it’s one of the most popular POTA spots in the Ottawa area. Continue reading Field Report: First POTA activation as VY2SW in Ottawa!

Steve’s Homebrew Vertical Antenna for POTA

Many thanks to Steve (KM4FLF/VA3FLF) for sharing the following guest post:


A Great Homebrew Vertical Antenna

by Steve (KM4FLF/VA3FLF)

Last spring, I was going through my many boxes of ham “stuff” looking for items to sell at our club tail gate sale. I came across a couple of Hustler SM Series Resonators (20 /40 Meters) that I had acquired. I am not sure where I obtained them, but I decided they were keepers.  That decision turned out to be the first step in a year long process that has given me an awesome homebrew vertical antenna.

After doing a little research I found the resonators and accessories at most of the online ham dealers. They are used primarily as mobile and marine antennas. I had seen where a ham had used these on a ground stake as a portable antenna as well. I ordered a Hustler MO1 mast which is 54 inches tall and thought I would attempt to make a portable POTA antenna.

Antenna base

I had a couple of small aluminum plates that I drilled out a few holes. I cut out a notch to put a SO-239 Stud Mount on the plate as my antenna base. I now had a ground plate, connector, and antenna with resonator. By putting a stake in the bottom of the plate, I was able to get the antenna to stand up. The Hustler resonators have a hex screw for tuning that can be loosened. The antenna can be adjusted for resonance by lengthening or shortening the radiator length. After adjusting the radiator my SWR was still horrible on the two bands.

Antenna base close-up

I had some 14-gauge wire laying around and attached it to the plate using carriage bolts and nuts for my ground radials. I didn’t think about the length of the wires at this point but went with three or four lines around 20 to 30 ft. I was able to use my vertical a few times with moderate success. My SWR on 20 and 40 Meters was around 2:0 to 1 at best. It was bulky and very delicate. Sometimes screwing in or unscrewing the MO1 the SO239 would slide off the edge of the aluminum plate. I put away my contraption for the winter and decided to move on to something else.

In April of this year, I wanted to revisit my project. Continue reading Steve’s Homebrew Vertical Antenna for POTA

En Route to Canada: An impromptu POTA activation at Swatara State Park

If you’ve been following my field reports and activation videos, you’ll note that I’m almost two months 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.

(Read this previous post for more detail.)

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.

Objectif Québec

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.

Swatara State Park (K-1426)

Swatara had multiple access points along the highway, so we simply picked one and drove to the end to find a trailhead and picnic table under the trees. It was ideal. Continue reading En Route to Canada: An impromptu POTA activation at Swatara State Park

Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and TufteIn Random Wire at Gauley River National Recreation Area

During my West Virginia POTA expedition with Eric (WD8RIF), Miles (KD8KNC), and Theo (The “Great Warg”) dog, the last park we hit on Friday, May 20, 2022 was Gauley River National Recreation Area (the first park  was New River Gorge  and the second was Hawk’s Nest State Park).

Back in the days of National Parks On The Air (2016), I activated this site (the Gauley River, actually) but it was snowing, the winds were howling, and being on a tight schedule, I didn’t hang around to explore the site.

Gauley River National Recreation Area (K-0695)

Gauley River with the prominent Summersville Dam in the background.

On Friday, May 20, 2022, the weather was nearly ideal.

Eric, Miles, and I decided to venture down to the river for our activation.

We knew that it would compromise our signals to some degree setting up at the base of the Summersville Dam instead near the top, but how can you pass up scenery like this–?

The banks of the river were very rocky and there wasn’t a lot of space for Eric and I to separate our stations, so we knew our signals might interfere with each other.

Eric and Miles setting up.

Eric set up his trusty 31′ Jackite pole which supports a 28.5 vertical wire–the entire setup is attached to his folding chair. FYI: Eric tells me he’ll do a little write-up here on QRPer.com detailing his antenna setup in the near future.

You can barely see it in the photo above, but I deployed my TufteIn Random Wire antenna which I have configured with a 31′ radiator and one 17′ counterpoise. Continue reading Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and TufteIn Random Wire at Gauley River National Recreation Area

Reunited with the venerable Elecraft K1 at Hawk’s Nest State Park

As you might have guessed, I’m a bit of a QRP radio addict.

Over the years, I’ve owned and sold quite a few rigs; there are some models that gave me instant seller’s remorse.

In the past, I sold good QRP radios to buy “better” ones: transceivers that had a more compact form factor, better feature set, better battery management, or other desirable updates/upgrades.

Boomerang!

In almost every case when I experienced seller’s remorse, that particular model of radio has eventually found its way back into my field kit.

A few examples:

  • I sold my original Yaesu FT-817 to purchase an Elecraft KX1. In 2020 I purchased a used FT-817ND then the following year a second FT-817ND for full duplex satellite work.
  • I sold my Elecraft KX1 to help fund the purchase of the Elecraft KX2. I purchased another KX1 in 2020.
  • 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.

(Image via WD8RIF)

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.

Hawks Nest State Park (K-1813)

During my West Virginia POTA expedition with Eric (WD8RIF), Miles (KD8KNC), and Theo (The “Great Warg”) dog we hit  Hawk’s Nest State Park on Friday, May 20, 2022; this was our second park of the day (New River Gorge was our first).

En route to the site, Eric suggested I use his Elecraft K1 travel kit during this activation and I quickly accepted the offer!

I used everything in Eric’s Kit save the antenna.

Photo courtesy of WD8RIF.com

Instead, I paired the K1 with the homemade 40M End-Fed Half-Wave MW0SAW kindly sent me.

I also used a 50′ of feedline so that I could move the antenna as far away as possible from the picnic shelter Eric and I would both be using during the activation.

The long feedline also made it possible to set up the antenna in a way that it wouldn’t interfere with any park guests who might walk by.

Gear:

On the Air

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!

QSO Map

Here’s what my five watts into an end-fed half-wave looked like on a QSO Map:

Activation video

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:

Click here to view on YouTube.

WD8RIF’s report

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!

We spotted this little guy on a hike after completing the Hawks Nest activation.

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! 🙂

Cheers & 72/73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

I could use some help at VE-0054 this morning…

Baie-Comeau, Québec

Note: See update below!

This morning, I’m going to attempt a POTA activation of Manicouagan-Uapishka Biosphere Reserve (VE-0054) around 11:30-12:30 UTC. This is an ATNO (All Time New One) park.

I’ll be using my Canadian call VY2SW.

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.

If you have a moment, look for me on the RBN. I appreciate any/all spots!

This will likely be my only activation for a few days because there are sadly no POTA/WWFF parks nor SOTA summits within easy reach of our campsite along the St-Lawrence.

Update!

Thanks to everyone who listened for and logged me this morning. The activation was a big success. I logged a total of 30 stations on three modes all in very short order.

Thanks so much! Now it’s time to pack the camping gear and go whale watching!

73,

Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)