Tag Archives: Vince (VE6LK)

Lunch break? Time for a rapid SOTA/POTA activation!

by Vince (VE6LK)

As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! 🙂 Also, it’s with thanks to the management at QRPer.com who give me this outlet for creative writing.

While on business travel in Northern Alberta recently, I found myself with a slow workday and a few hours owed from lunches not taken that week. A quick plan was hatched and out the door I went after ensuring that all at work was going to be fine without me for 2-3 hours. But before I get to that story…

While travelling to and from this site, I’ve made it a mission to activate as many ATNO [All-Time-New-Ones, ie. never-activated parks] as possible within POTA. I plan these 500km trips with some small side journeys to these parks or natural areas and to break up the otherwise long drive along the foothills of the Canadian Rockies up and down the Highway 22 (aka. Cowboy Trail) corridor. It’s truly a lovely drive and I don’t mind it in the least.

Now back to my late-day lunch break adventure…

With the nearest park to me (VE-3162, Whitecourt Mountain) already activated but only on phone, I figured I’d activate it on CW and do more QSOs than the other activator just for good measure. I can’t believe that a park this close to a townsite had only one activation before I got there to activate it.

If that isn’t enough, it’s also a SOTA entity [VE6/ST-102] with a broad and not-steep slope making the activation zone quite wide. On top of that I can do this two-fer as a drive-up! This worked in my favour as I parked my truck within the activation zone! This SOTA entity had been done a couple of times already so I knew that electrical noise would be my nemesis.

For those of you that may have disremembered, I’m in shape -round- and that shape doesn’t easily climb summits, so a drive-up is totally my kind of summit. But I had to get a move on as there were only two hours left on the Zulu timeclock.  At my hotel room I had more gear, but being nervous nelly that I am at times, I do not leave my KX3 in the room unless there’s a safe. Given that the KX3 gets lonely without companions, I ensure that it always has a battery, antenna and key along for the ride so they keep each other happy as can be 🙂 I had just enough of my portable kit with me to make this happen.

Continue reading Lunch break? Time for a rapid SOTA/POTA activation!

Check Out Vince’s Quick Start Guide to SOTAmat!

If you’re not familiar, SOTAmat is an incredibly valuable app and tool for spotting yourself on the SOTA or POTA networks when you’re truly off-grid and outside the range of mobile phone service.

Check out this two minute intro to SOTAmat:

Setting up SOTAmat for the first time can be a bit confusing, but it’s not difficult. It is important, however, that everything is set up in advance of your SOTA or POTA adventures.

Our friend Vince (VE6LK) has just published a “Quick Start” guide to SOTAmat. It’s concise, and covers everything you’ll need to get set up and running with SOTAmat!

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Thanks for putting this tutorial together, Vince!

SOTAmat is an incredibly powerful resource for those of us who activate parks and summits in remote locations. I highly recommend downloading the app and making it a part of your SOTA/POTA tool kit!

For more information about SOTAmat and for links to the apps, check out the SOTAmat website!

The prettiest activation ever – Spray Valley Provincial Park

As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! 🙂

Ahhh .. few things in life compare to the view one sees while lakeside in the mountains. The flat water is a stark contrast to the towering mountains nearby. There is at least a 4000′ difference in height between the two at my destination in this story. For me, nothing so succinctly tells me where I fit in the world as when I stand among these giants.

So It was with that big goal in mind that a drive through the mountains of Alberta’s Kananaskis Country region was called for. The drive would take me through sweeping vistas, over high mountain road passes, along nearly 100km of gravel roads in no-cell-service backcountry while racking up nearly 400km of travel in one day.

Along the way I activated two never-before done parks in the POTA system and scouted out one more to be done at a future date. This is the story of the lakeside activation… but first, watch the short video to understand why I’m gushing on the beauty of this particular spot and written this atypical (for me) article about the activation itself.

The Drive to the activation

Overview of the trip. Darker lines indicate gravel roads. First activation is along the westernmost gravel road along the lakeshore.

For those of you that want to replicate this trip, here’s the route I took shown on the map above.

From just before when I turned north off Highway 541 to Highway 40, and until I reached Canmore, there is zero cell service. Same again turning onto Highway 68 from 40 until Bragg Creek.

Alberta has much backcountry that is well beyond cellular range. Working at The Candy Store(tm) as I do, I have access to items like the Zoleo Satellite Communicator to give me text messaging and SOS capabilities should I need them. Before I discovered SOTAmat, I used the Zoleo for all of my spotting in backcountry.

Continue reading The prettiest activation ever – Spray Valley Provincial Park

Business Travel & POTA: It’s as simple as One … Two … Three!

by Vince (VE6LK)

As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! 🙂

The backstory

For those of us that work from home there are good and not-so-good things about it. One of the not-so-good things is that I’m not getting out somewhere every day like I used to, thus I embrace corporate travel as it represents a mini-escape from the day-to-day activities that would normally happen.  It also gives me an opportunity to operate in the field and away from the comfort of sites nearby my home.

In late September I was in the Edmonton Alberta area for work and, as always, I brought along a set of gear to play radio. Where I’d normally drive up and park my F-350 within the boundaries of the park and operate from the cab of the truck, this time I was in a rental vehicle so I had to be well-equipped for the unknowns. I also didn’t pre-plan my stops like I normally would, I just wanted to roll up and do my best to make it work.

These would all be CW activations at QRP power and are part of my 200 CW activation contacts per month personal goal to improve my CW skills. (Spoiler alert: I hit the goal while writing this article!) See below for my kit list that made this possible.

Not really pre-planning an activation is a stark contrast to how I normally roll as I usually pore over maps and satellite views on multiple websites to visualize where the park entrance is and where I’ll set myself and what I may encounter for surroundings when I get there. I know exactly where I’m going and just about down to the parking space. I build a set of kit up to support that/those activation/s.

With the lovely autumn weather we were experiencing in Alberta, my plan was to activate after work opportunistically around Edmonton – something I’d not yet done despite many trips to the area – and set up and operate right around 0000z. This time is after my workday, so a nice mental break from the day’s activities before kicking back for the evening. I think to my self that I’ll roll into a site nearest to where I was working arriving just before midnight UTC (1800h local) and get set up and start calling once the clock ticked over into a new day. From there I would then head to the hotel (or home) and grab a bite to eat and close my day off on a high note.

Continue reading Business Travel & POTA: It’s as simple as One … Two … Three!

VE6LK makes a quick trip to Montana o/a AI7LK – Day 2

by Vince (VE6LK)

As you read in day 1 of this story, I landed up in Montana opportunistically. The plan for day 2 was to say goodbye to our visiting family, then make our way north from Kalispell, MT via Eureka, MT and head for home. We’d stop on the way to visit with friends and, of course do one more POTA activation.

Operating position at K-4848. This spot is at the south end of Lower Stillwater Lake.

After departing Kalispell we arrived at Lower Stillwater Lake, part of K-4848, at around 11am MT.

There is one picnic table near a boat launch and it was vacant so I got to work quickly and set up. I had brought along a lightweight kit consisting of my VE6VID EFHW, Elecraft AX-1, the KX3, a battery, a key, a paper logbook and some extra bits like carabiners, a bit of masonry string and a small mast that I landed up not using. With my wife and doggo along for the ride, I didn’t want to take too much time to set up and operate, so the natural choice would have been the Elecraft AX1 antenna, but with conditions being as soft as they were a day earlier, the resonant wire antenna seemed the better choice for the extra 5 minutes it would take to set up.

This short video shows my full set-up:

I looped the feedpoint end around a nearby tree branch and unrolled the antenna and tossed it up in a branch just out of my reach – another low-slung wire antenna! The rest of the gear came out on the table and I used the tote box as a makeshift stand for my shortie camera tripod. Continue reading VE6LK makes a quick trip to Montana o/a AI7LK – Day 2

VE6LK makes a quick trip to Montana o/a AI7LK – Day 1

by Vince (VE6LK)

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

In early August 2023 I was lucky to be able to activate parks in beautiful West Montana on such short notice.

As opportunity would have it, my brother Dan, AG7GM, and Sister-in-Law Val were at the tail end of visiting with us and wanted to do a drive on Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road as part of their return journey home. We had attempted this trip with them some years ago but were met with inclement weather and were turned around after landslides blocked the road. After an overnight stop in Kalispell for all of us, they would continue towards home and we would head back to ours.

The preparation involved plotting out which of the 9 parks I could tackle along the routes I would be travelling. I settled on K-0028, Glacier National Park and K-4848, Stillwater State Forest. But, still, my activations would need to be opportunistic in nature and involve a willing family allowing me to partake in one of my favourite activities.

Before you do this road trip, you need to understand that the Going-to-the-Sun Road is highly popular and the park restricts the number and type of vehicles that pass along it each day. You can find out more details about Going-to-the-Sun Road here. While their advance booking system granted me one vehicle pass, I needed two and was unsuccessful in the days before the actual trip to secure a second one. Luckily (there’s that word again) we arrived after 3pm when passes are not required at this time of year. I was absolutely stoked as I love driving on mountain roads!

Continue reading VE6LK makes a quick trip to Montana o/a AI7LK – Day 1

Beating the POTA propagation blues at Stonelick State Park!

As mentioned in my previous POTA field report, I had the great pleasure of playing POTA on May 21, 2023 with a number of friends. We all played hooky on the final day of Hamvention. The first two activations of the day were with Vince (VE6LK/AI7LK), Charlie (NJ7V), Eric (WD8RIF), and Miles (KD8KNC).

Charlie and Vince had to leave us after the second activation of the day because both of them had travels in store that afternoon.

Eric, Miles, and I grabbed lunch at a nearby town, then made our way to our final park of the day.

Stonelick State Park (K-1993)

We pulled into Stonelick State Park a little after 3:00 PM and found the best open area to set up our stations. This park was a new one for me and, I believe, for Eric as well. (FYI: Miles didn’t hop on the air that day, but helped his dad set up his POTA station.)

Eric’s station

Eric set up his station on a bench overlooking Stonelick Lake. He supported his 28.5 foot vertical wire antenna on a 31′ Jackite fiberglass telescoping pole which he strapped to the bench. His transceiver of choice was the Elecraft KX3.

Note that Eric writes detailed field reports for all of his activations and field activities on his website.

For more details on this activation from Eric’s perspective, click here!

Working with poor propagation

Instead of using a vertical, I opted to deploy my recently cannibalized 40 meter end-fed half-wave. I felt a full 40M EFHW, properly deployed, would increase my chances of logging stations on a day where contacts were few and far between. Continue reading Beating the POTA propagation blues at Stonelick State Park!

QRP POTA with Friends: Two Park Activations with VE6LK, NJ7V, WD8RIF, and KD8KNC!

Sunday, May 21, 2023, was the final day of Hamvention.

I traveled to Hamvention with my buddies Eric (WD8RIF) and his son Miles (KD8KNC). We decided in advance that instead of attending Hamvention that Sunday (after having spent all day Friday and Saturday there) we’d opt for a relaxing day playing POTA near Dayton/Xenia.

We weren’t, in fact, the only ones who skipped Hamvention that Sunday–our friends Vince (VE6LK or AI7LK State-side) and Charlie (NJ7V) did as well, so we decided to play POTA together!

Both Charlie and Vince were leaving the Dayton area that afternoon, so they needed to finish up their activations by noon at the latest. We decided we could fit in two activations that morning before Charlie and Vince headed back, then Eric, Miles, and I would hit a third park in the afternoon. Actually, Miles never planned to hop on the air, but he was both our ride and valuable POTA support!

Vince and Charlie in the rear view mirror!

Charlie and Vince met us at our hotel around 9:00 AM and we drove to the first of two parks we’d activate together.

Cowan Lake State Park (K-1943)

Charlie (NJ7V) and Vince (VE6LK/AI7LK) ready to deploy their gear.

The weather was beautiful that day, but the space weather, much less so. We knew in advance that it would be a struggle based on the propagation forecast and numerous reports from other activators.

Vince set up his Elecraft KX3-based station in the trunk/boot of his rental car.

He deployed his “low-slung” wire antenna (read more about that here) and hit the air.

Vince’s low-slung antenna

Eric described the POTA station he deployed in his field report on WD8RIF.com:

Eric found a shady, level spot near the parking lot, strapped his 31′ Jackite telescoping fiberglass pole to his folding camp-chair, deployed his 28½’ wire vertical on the pole, set up his Elecraft KX3 on the camp-chair’s flip-up table, and was on the air at 1412 UTC. Eric began his operation with a lovely touch-paddle which he had unexpectedly been given as a gift from the builder, Brian Manley, K3ES

Eric’s station

Note that Eric carefully documents each and every one of his field activations and field contests on his website. His field reports date back to Field Day in 1995!

I found a spot to set up next to the lake under the shade of a large tree. I deployed my Tufteln no-transformer 28.5 foot end-fed random wire.  This antenna is simply two lengths of 28.5′ wire: one wire for the radiator and one for the counterpoise. The KX2’s internal ATU does all of the heavy lifting. Continue reading QRP POTA with Friends: Two Park Activations with VE6LK, NJ7V, WD8RIF, and KD8KNC!

The joy of a low-slung wire

(As is my usual, this article has a bunch of links – click on as many as you wish to receive the full experience)

by Vince (VE6LK)

In May of 2023 I embarked on a two week vacation to Hamilton Ontario that co-incidentally happened to include a side trip to Hamvention just outside of Dayton, Ohio.

For a guy living in Alberta, Canada, this would prove to be quite the trip and it created memories to last a lifetime. I also was told that I could play radio during the trip provided my wife would get to see some of the many waterfalls in the City of Hamilton, the area we’d call home for our two week trip.

At Niagara Falls

Yes, I did take a brief detour to Niagara Falls while on the trip as it is only an hour from Hamilton.

And thus the planning began. I started overlaying POTA entities that overlapped on waterfalls so we both could visit and enjoy in our own way. It also meant I had to figure out what radio gear and, most importantly antennas, to bring along.

I landed up mostly running with low-slung antennas. By this I mean something between 4 and 10′ off the ground and horizontal in orientation. But it’s what I discovered about this simple approach that made it appear like pure magic to me – I made great contacts at what I would consider to be beyond NVIS distances including one from OH to UT!

Continue reading The joy of a low-slung wire

Pit Stop Style Activation with Elecraft KX3 and AX1

(As is my usual, this article has a bunch of links – click on as many as you wish to receive the full experience)

by Vince (VE6LK)

In May of 2023 I embarked on a two week vacation to Hamilton Ontario, the city of Waterfalls. And I found myself with a spare 30 minutes so I decided to squeeze in an activation.

And as I am an opportunist, I made this decision at 23:25’ish z and I had not yet arrived at the park but the target was only a few minutes away! I would have until 23:59:59z to complete it if I were to be successful. “It’s time to break out the Elecraft AX1 antenna I bought at Hamvention last week I think to myself. It would be my first time using the antenna. I had pre-read the instructions and knew what had to be done in order to set it up.

The whole thing would unfold like a Formula 1 pit stop, albeit a wee bit slower <grin>.

Battlefield House

I arrived at VE-5351, The Battle of Stoney Creek National Historic Site and began to scout a location. Pausing only long enough to snap a few photos, I parked and immediately got to work. Continue reading Pit Stop Style Activation with Elecraft KX3 and AX1