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.
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.
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!
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.
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→
Although a Canadian license is not necessary for a US ham to operate in Canada, some choose to obtain a Canadian license because they visit for extended periods of time or are even planning to relocate to Canada.
If you’re serious about studying for your Canadian Basic exam, I highly recommend this book.
Let’s make a deal…
I have a copy of Hamstudy Basic (see photo above) that needs a new home. It is slightly warn and has accumulated about 5,200 road miles. There are no marks on the pages and, so far, it has a 100% pass rate.
All this for the amazing price of…FREE, FREE, FREE!
Fine print:Serious inquiries only. No tire kickers! Void where prohibited. Parts swappers will be reported to local authorities. May cause drowsiness. Batteries not included. Offer only available to everyone, everywhere…no exceptions. 400% money back guarantee. Ask about our extended warranty.
Just send me an email (my callsign at QRPer.com) and let me know what your plans are for Canada. This good book needs a new home. Yes, I’ll even pay shipping.
Cheers & 72,
This wonderful book has found a new home! Another Canadian operator is in the works!
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.
To date, I believe I’ve activated 11 parks (1 in Ontario, 10 in Québec) during our extended family vacation. Instead of hitting the same parks over and over, I’m trying to activate new parks during each outing because it’s giving us an opportunity to explore some really amazing spots that we might not otherwise discover.
Before we leave La Belle Province, I’ve at least two SOTA summits in mind and 3-4 more parks, family time permitting. Indeed, as I mention below, I hope to activate another park sometime today.
Ham Radio Workbench Podcast
Once again the fine crew of the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast made the mistake of inviting me on another episode of the podcast.
In truth, it’s a proper honor to join them each time (don’t let them know I said that!). Seriously, they’re an amazing group of friends.
This episode was dedicated to our Field Day activities. For many of us, it was an unconventional Field Day and perhaps that’s what made the event so much fun.
John (W7DBO) was invited back to the show and it was great hearing how he integrated his whole family in his Field Day activities.
George had to operate from home, I operated from our condo/chalet here in Québec, and Vince from his very unique club setup in Alberta. Rob had a project that took priority on Field Day, and it’s worth listening to the podcast just to hear Smitty’s tale of life as a Field Day RVer (hint: not for the faint of heart).
I did finally choose that one extra radio: the Discovery TX-500.
I chose the TX-500 because 1.) it would be a great “bad weather” radio, 2.) it could operate from my KX2 battery packs, 3.) it’s multimode and also covers 6 meters, and 4.) it has such a slim profile. I could easily the TX-500 in my Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack with the Elecraft KX2 and it didn’t make the pack feel any bulkier.
I came very close to choosing the IC-705, but it was just a bit too bulky for the way I had my pack configured.
Back to the hypocrite part…
The day before leaving North Carolina, I removed everything from our Subaru and gave it a deep cleaning.
When I pulled up the floor panel in the trunk/boot area to check the first aid kit, spare tire, and emergency gear I discovered that there was a fairly large unused area under there–a spot where I might be able to sneak a few extra radio supplies.
After a little finagling, I discovered that I could fit spare batteries, two folding PowerFilm panels, the Buddipole PowerMini 2, and two more radios: the MTR-3B field kit, and my Elecraft KX1.
This essentially amounted to contraband since I tend to be the guy who enforces “one bag per person” policy during our family travels.
I got some serious eye rolls from the family when they discovered the hidden radios after we reached our destination. I might not ever live this down.
If I had even a shred of dignity upon our arrival here in Canada, I can confirm it’s gone now.
Elecraft KX2 getting heavy use
Other than Field Day where I primarily used the TX-500, the Elecraft KX2 has been getting a heavy workout on this trip.
The reason why is because I’ve been activating a number of urban parks where an all-in one radio paired with a random wire or the AX1 vertical has been very useful.
Conditions have been very rough during some of these activations as well, so it’s nice to have both CW and SSB modes available and a full 5 watts (the KX1 and MTR-3B are CW-only hover around 3 watts). I’ve snagged some excellent QRP DX at times, but everything has been so unstable.
I didn’t bring the KX2 hand mic on this trip, so all of my SSB contacts have utilized the KX2’s built-in mic. It’s actually worked brilliantly!
I’ve recorded a number of activations here in Canada and will likely post a couple of these out of chronological order while I’m still on this side of the border.
Uploading from our chalet hasn’t been possible–the upload speeds are about as dismal as they are at my QTH. Download isn’t too bad, though.
While at the hotel in Baie-Comeau a few days ago, I uploaded at least four videos with their high-speed internet, so I’ll soon post a couple of them.
In short: the activations here have been amazingly fun. Some of the sites have been truly spectacular in terms of scenery and others are in urban settings taking me well outside my comfort zone.
In short: I’ve loved every minute of it!
We have had an amazing time here in Québec as always.
Our flavor of travel is the opposite of many: we tend to rent a home or apartment for a few weeks or couple of months and use it as a base for exploring the region. We do this as opposed to traveling long distances and only spending relatively short periods of time at multiple stops.
I plan to activate a park while in Québec City today. I’ve no clue which one it’ll be yet, but I’ll announce it on the POTA site once I’ve got a plan together. If you have the time, look for me on the POTA spots page (as VY2SW) or via the RBN! I’d love to put you in the logs.
Here’s wishing all of you a week full of radio and fun!
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.
I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been studying for my Canadian Basic license exam.
I’ve been working on this in my very limited spare time for a few weeks now, balancing study from the book above and HamStudy.org–both brilliant resources.
Now that I’m actually on Canadian soil, I scheduled an online exam with my friend, the amazing Vince (VE6LK).
Vince must be one of the busiest remote examiners in all of Canada. He’s professional and has the process down to a science which makes the whole experience very fluid and low stress. His website has a load of resources!
Although I’d been on the road most of the day yesterday and was a bit tired, I was ready to write the exam. I gave Vince my schedule and told him I would even be willing to schedule as early as 9:00PM last night or anytime this weekend.
The 9:00 time worked for Vince, so he sent me a Zoom link and I did a bit of last-minute study before meeting him online for the exam.
The Canadian Basic is a 100 question test, so it takes some time to get through it all.
I was absolutely chuffed to pass with 94% which meant passing Basic with Honours.
Vince started the online process which allowed me to create an account on the ISED website.
Getting a call
I’d been giving my callsign a little thought.
Since my mailing address is in Prince Edward Island, I knew the prefix would be VY2.
Every new call issued in Canada is essentially a vanity callsign and you’re allowed to choose from available suffixes (and even purchase additional callsigns in the future).
PEI is one of the few provinces that also allows Basic licensees to claim a 2×3 or even a 2×2 call. If I were in Ontario, for example, I could only request a 2×3 as a Basic with Honors license.
This morning, with my first cup of coffee in hand, I finished setting up my ISED account and requested my callsign.
I decided that I wanted my Canadian call to reflect the suffix in my US call, so I requested VY2SW.
As soon as I hit the SUBMIT button on the ISED website, it confirmed that the call had been assigned to me. A couple hours later and I’m showing up in the callsign database.
The Canadian licensing system is incredibly efficient and effortless to use.
POTA and SOTA in Canada
Now that I’m VY2SW, I cannot use my US callsign as K4SWL/VE3 or K4SWL/VE2 while on the air.
I’ve already added VY2SW in the POTA system as my second callsign, so I believe it’ll compile all of my park activations under one account. I suppose there’s a way to do this in the SOTA system too.
Sometime within the next two days, I will be doing my first activation as VY2SW here–a park somewhere in the Ottawa region. I can’t wait and I certainly hope to work you!