Tag Archives: Tufteln 9:1 EFRW Antenna

Biplanes, Canoes, Callsigns, and POTA: Looking back on our summer in Canada and final field report from Québec

Our travels in Canada this summer exceeded our expectations.

Looking back

Les Escoumins, Québec (click to enlarge)

If you’ve been following my Canada POTA activations and field reports, you’ll get an idea where we traveled and a small sampling of the many amazing parks Canada has to offer.

We started off our trip in Ottawa where we spent four days.

Only moments after arriving at our hotel that first day, Vince (VE6LK) made time in his schedule to administer my Canadian Basic exam remotely. That evening–despite being a bit bleary eyed after a fairly long day of driving–I passed my Basic with Honours. (I’m still chuffed about that!)

By the next morning, I already had the callsign I requested: VY2SW. My mailing address in Canada is in Prince Edward Island hence the VY2 call. Since essentially every new call in Canada is a vanity call, I chose the suffix SW to reflect my US call. PEI is one of the few provinces where as a Basic license holder you can request a 2×2 call.

My first activation in Canada was at Hog’s Back Conservation Reserve.  I had the good fortune of meeting up with Andrew, one of my subscribers, at the park. It was great getting to know him–what a nice fellow–and to start off a series of activations in Canada on the right foot.

St-Anne River in Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges

After leaving Ottawa, we made our way to Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Québec where we’d reserved a condo/townhome for 6 weeks. That served as our home base as we traveled around Québec City, Saguenay, the Charlevoix region, and the North Shore of the St-Lawrence.

At our local farmer’s market in Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, I especially loved the VW campervan bookstore.

I noted in many field reports how surprised I was to discover that a number of popular parks were still ATNOs (All-Time New Ones) in the POTA network. Then again, POTA hasn’t been in Canada as long as other similar programs like WWFF and SOTA.

Many of the POTA activations I made in Canada were in urban parks–especially the ones in/around Québec City. These activations took me outside of my comfort zone; I’m used to activating state and national parks back home that are expansive and largely in rural areas.

Continue reading Biplanes, Canoes, Callsigns, and POTA: Looking back on our summer in Canada and final field report from Québec

Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500 and Tufteln EFRW for an ATNO at Base de plein air Sainte-Foy

At some point during my Canada travels this summer, I realized I had been using the Elecraft KX2 quite heavily. If you’ve been following my recent field reports, you’ve no doubt seen a lot of the KX2.

This was never intentional–it’s just how it played out.

Why the KX2 in heavy rotation?

For starters, I only brought two general coverage radios with me to Canada: the KX2 and the Discovery TX-500. I also tucked away my KX1 and MTR-3B (hidden under the floor of my boot/trunk space), but band conditions were so incredibly poor most days, I liked the option of a QRP “full gallon” (ie. 5 watts+) for activations. The KX2 and TX-500 can push up to 10 watts when needed.

The KX2 tends to be the radio I reach for when I don’t know what to expect at a park. Most parks I activated in Québec were firsts for me so I liked having my most versatile radio option on hand.

Since the KX2 has a built-in ATU, battery pack, and even an internal mic; it’s so self-contained, I pretty much take it everywhere.

Operating from my kneeboard at the Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve (check out that activation)

The KX2 is also one of the most compact radios I own–so compact, in fact, it fits on a small folding knee board my friend Carolanne (N0RNM) made (see in photo above and read more about the design in her guest post). With this kneeboard, I’ve no need of a table: just strap the board to my leg, add radio & log book, and I’m good to go!

Whereas I feel like the KX2 is a Swiss Army Knife of a radio, the TX-500 feels more like a tactical radio–ready for any changing weather environment. The TX-500 is water resistant, weather/dust sealed, and insanely rugged. It’s also the most efficient general coverage QRP radio I own, needing only 100-110 mA in receive.

The TX-500 is super portable and I tend to reach for it when weather conditions are uncertain. In a way, I often don’t think about it when there’s good weather. Odd, but true!

It’s a wee bit too wide for my current knee board, but (hint) if you own a TX-500, hang tight. There may be a knee board in your future.

All that said, the big reason I didn’t take the TX-500 to the field a lot is because it served as my “home base” transceiver at our rental condo in Québec. I had it set up for hunting POTA and SOTA activators and making casual contacts. The TX-500 sat on a table next to the deck at the condo and was hooked up to the CHA MPAS Lite most of the time; the KX2 stayed packed away for POTA/SOTA.

TX-500 field time!

On July 18, 2022, I grabbed the TX-500 from the table and packed it in my field radio backpack.

My wife and daughters were up for a trip to Québec City, so I picked out a park in the Sainte-Foy part of town.

There are many POTA parks in Sainte-Foy (indeed, I already activated four of them) but the one that immediately came to mind was one of the few I’d explored previously in Québec: Base de plein air Sainte-Foy.

In 2017 and 2018, I joined the Club Radio Amateur de Québec (CRAQ) at the Base de plein air Sainte-Foy for the ARRL’s Field Day.  I knew it was a pretty expansive park with a nice lake and beach. It looked pretty welcoming in the summer, but I imagine the park gets even more visitors in the winter for skating, cross-country skiing and sledding.

I was very surprised to discover that Base de plein air Ste-Foy was also a POTA ATNO. No doubt, there had been plenty of radio activity on-site int he past, but no POTA activations.

Continue reading Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500 and Tufteln EFRW for an ATNO at Base de plein air Sainte-Foy

An amazing QRP POTA ATNO at the Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve in Baie-Comeau, Québec!

This spring, as we planned our two months of travel in Québec, Canada, I jotted down one location in particular that I wanted to visit: Baie-Comeau.

Baie-Comeau is located about 420 km (260 miles) northeast of Québec City on the north shore of the mighty St-Lawerence river. It’s a small city with a population of around 21,000 and is pretty darn isolated. For many travelers, Baie-Comeau is the last major stop before a long, lonely road journey north to Labrador City or further northeast along the St-Lawrence.

I’ve always wanted to visit Baie-Comeau and my wife and daughters were game to make a proper trip out of it!

While in Québec, we plotted the details of our trip to coincide with a good weather opening.

We packed our gear, left the home base near St-Anne-de-Beaupré on July 13, 2022, and drove up the St-Lawrence, crossing the Saguenay River by ferry, and on up to Baie-Comeau with a few stops along the way.

Les Escoumins, Québec (click to enlarge)

It’s a beautiful drive.

We reserved lodging at the Hôtel Le Manoir Baie-Comeau (an excellent hotel, if you ever find yourself overnight in Baie-Comeau). We’re frugal travelers, so this was a bit of a splurge, but the stay coincided with our 20th wedding anniversary, so why not?

I was very happy to see that the Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve was on a hill only a short drive from the hotel. It was approaching dinner hour, so I didn’t want to fit in a late afternoon activation with the family; we had other plans that evening. My wife suggested instead that we check out the park and walk the trails before dinner which would allow me a bit of time to scope out an activation site.

Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve (VE-0054)

We discovered that Google Maps doesn’t have the trailhead marked very well. It led us to a neighborhood street a short walk from the park. I remembered reading a note from a local (online) mentioning there was ample parking at “the church” so we drove to a beautiful church nearby and immediately spotted the trailhead. If you ever find yourself in Baie-Comeau, here are the coordinates for the trailhead.

Turns out, the church is no longer a church, but has has been converted into the headquarters for the park which is a part of the Jardins des glaciers.

There are some brilliant views of the St-Lawrence from the parking lot.

We quite easily found the trailhead of the sentier which led into the biosphere reserve. I used my GPS to confirm when we were well within the boundaries.

We enjoyed a scenic hike that evening.

As I mention in my activation video, this is one of the amazing things about doing POTA during travels: you discover so many incredible parks that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. My family truly appreciates this particular aspect of POTA. It opens the opportunity to find spots only locals might otherwise know about.

After our hike that evening, I had a pretty good idea where I could set up in the morning. We made our way back to the hotel and enjoyed dinner and a movie.

Morning activation

So that my activation time wouldn’t interfere with family plans that day, I scheduled an early morning activation for July 14.

Continue reading An amazing QRP POTA ATNO at the Manicouagan Uapishka Biosphere Reserve in Baie-Comeau, Québec!

A challenging but fun POTA ATNO activation at Parc des Moulins

Some activations are more challenging than others.

I think we had all hoped on our climb into Cycle 25 that we’d get some brilliant propagation, stable conditions, and the opportunity to use less power and yield more DX.  Who doesn’t want that?

But we get what we get from our local star and the theme this year is that it is indeed showing some positive indicators, but at the same time–this summer, especially–it’s spitting stuff toward our pale blue dot that makes a mess of the ionosphere.

Photo by K4TLI

Lately, each time I head out the door to activate a park, I never know what to expect. It’s part of the fun. Will band conditions be in the dumps, or will the ionosphere provide the perfect platform for my QRP signals–?

On Thursday July 7, 2022 it was the former rather than the latter.

My family decided to head into Québec City that day to visit one of our favorite used book stores (in search of some Bandes Desinées–read more about that at the bottom of this post) and other errands.

I checked the POTA Map and discovered a park we’d never visited in the past, so it looked like a good candidate for a POTA activation!

Digging deeper, I also discovered it was an ATNO (All-Time New One) and had never been activated for POTA before. Hard to believe given its location, but there you go!

I put my POTA backpack in the car and we hit the road!

Parc des Moulins (VE-5068)

After a little searching, we finally found a good parking spot at the park. There was a LOT of construction going on around the grounds.

Parc des Moulins, like many of the parks I’d recently activated in/around Québec City, is a proper urban park with manicured paths and gardens. It’s a beautiful little park!

Continue reading A challenging but fun POTA ATNO activation at Parc des Moulins

Side trail POTA ATNO at Boisé des Compagnons-de-Cartier in Québec City

On July 4, 2022, I plotted a multiple park POTA run that included four urban parks all clustered in the Sainte-Foy region of Québec City.

The first park I activated that day was Parc de la Plage-Jacques-Cartier (VE-0970)–click here to check out my full field report and activation video. The second park was Parc Cartier-Roberval (VE-0964)–click here to check out that field report and activation video. The third park was Boisé de Marly Provincial Park–click here to check out that field report and activation video.

My fourth park was Boisé des Compagnons-de-Cartier which essentially adjoined the previous park I activated. As I mentioned in the previous field report, I could have simply walked through the trail system to this park from my previous site, but I needed to find a different parking spot for my car, so I simply drove to a large lot next to the secondary school I spotted on Google Maps.

Turns out even though that lot was nearly empty, it was a paid parking, so I reserved a parking spot for one hour.

Boisé des Compagnons-de-Cartier (VE-0958)

When I first parked, I wasn’t entirely sure where the park entrance was until I spotted a bench and park sign at the far corner of the lot.

This park, much like the previous one, seemed to be an urban park with trails for walking and running.

I walked the main path into the park and looked for a park bench like I found at the park entrance (above). I thought it might be nice to set up along the path and do a park bench activation much like I did at another urban park in Québec City.

I walked for a decent distance and couldn’t see a bench in sight.  The path was fairly busy with walkers and runners, so I was very pleased when I found a side trail cutting through the middle of the park.

I could tell that this path–while very well-worn and obvious–was not one maintained by the park admin. It looked more like a simple foot trail that local children have probably used in the past (I spotted a little wooden fort/lean-to in the woods.)

Keep in mind that this was my fourth park activation of the day and by this time, I was running behind–no surprise there. After the activation, I had two errands to run in QC before heading back to our condo and enjoying dinner and a movie with the family.

Continue reading Side trail POTA ATNO at Boisé des Compagnons-de-Cartier in Québec City

An Urban POTA ATNO at Boisé de Marly Provincial Park

I’m very grateful to Canada for taking me a little outside my comfort zone in terms of park activations.

You see, by and large, I activate large national and state parks in rural areas of the US. I’m used to having lots of space and loads of activation site options. Even on a busy day, if I choose, I can pretty much disappear in some far-flung corner of a park. No one would ever know I’m there.

Urban parks are still rather novel to me.

On July 4, 2022, I plotted a little multiple park POTA run that included four urban parks all clustered in the Sainte-Foy region of Québec City.

The first park I activated that day was Parc de la Plage-Jacques-Cartier (VE-0970)–click here to check out my full field report and activation video. The second park was Parc Cartier-Roberval (VE-0964)–click here to check out that field report and activation video.

The third park I scheduled for the day was Boisé de Marly Provincial Park. I could find very little information about this park online and even Google Maps satellite view didn’t give me an idea of what to expect once I arrived.

I could tell, though, that it was an urban park nestled between neighborhoods, roads, and commercial buildings. I could also tell that it had trees, so I planned to use the same transceiver-antenna pairing I used at the previous park: the Elecraft KX2 and Tufteln 9:1 random wire antenna.

Boisé de Marly was basically across the road from Parc Cartier-Roberval, but I needed to find a pedestrian access point and a parking spot, so I drove around the southern perimeter of the park until I found a side road with an access point and what appeared to be free parking on the road.

In truth, I wasn’t entirely sure if I needed a permit to park on the street, but I felt it was likely okay based on lack of signage. In any case, the street was quiet and I parked with a couple of other cars. I hoped that if I was mistaken, the person planning to write me a parking ticket would see my North Carolina plates and the RAC sticker and decide to give me a break. 🙂

Besides, at this point I was on a tight schedule if I wished to hit all four scheduled parks that afternoon, so I didn’t plan to hang around long enough for a ticket anyway.

Boisé de Marly (VE-0956)

At the neighborhood street entrance, I found the sign above that gave me a quick overview of the park. From what I could tell, this park primarily consisted of a trail network meant for walking and running.

I didn’t see any signs of picnic tables or even benches, at least at this end of the park.

I walked into the park maybe 100 meters or so and looked for a spot to operate.

Continue reading An Urban POTA ATNO at Boisé de Marly Provincial Park

Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and Tufteln 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 Tufteln Random Wire antenna which I have configured with a 31′ radiator and one 17′ counterpoise. Continue reading Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and Tufteln Random Wire at Gauley River National Recreation Area

New River Gorge: Pairing the Tufteln 9:1 Random Wire with the Elecraft KX2

When Eric (WD8RIF) and I hatched our plan to do a mini POTA expedition in West Virginia, there was one site I wanted to activate more than any other: New River Gorge National Park.

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!

My partners in crime: Eric, Miles and “The Great Warg” (Theo the dog)

Tufteln 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!

I decided to break in his EFRW QRP Antenna Long Wire at New River Gorge. Since Eric and I would be operating pretty close to one another, I wanted to use a random wire antenna that would give me a bit of frequency agility to hop around and avoid harmonically-related bands Eric might be using. This Tufteln antenna fit the bill! Continue reading New River Gorge: Pairing the Tufteln 9:1 Random Wire with the Elecraft KX2