These past few weeks have been absolutely crazy for me in terms of activity–I’ve been traveling a lot, doing (involved) DIY projects on the house, searching for a new car, planning a PV system for the QTH, fixing well pumps, helping friends, and doing caregiving for my folks.
It’s all kept me very busy!
I have a sizable backlog of emails that have accumulated during this time. If you’ve sent me a message, I likely haven’t read it yet. Apologies for that. I simply haven’t had time to read and reply.
I thought about skipping a field report this morning, then I remembered an amazing West Virginia camping trip and draft videos I’d already uploaded to YouTube.
In lieu of writing a full field report (and so that I can share a video today) I thought I’d simply share this activation video with a Postcard type field report.
2022 West Virginia POTA Camping Trip
Last year (2022), in lieu of going to the Dayton Hamvention, my buddies Eric (WD8RIF), his son Miles (KD8KNC), and I spent a long weekend activating parks and camping in the New River Gorge area of West Virginia. Click here to read more about that trip.
The camping trip was absolutely amazing and we activated a number of parks during that time.
I made activation videos at most of the parks we visited, but with my summer travels and activations in Canada last year, I skipped over several of the videos I’d uploaded so that I could publish my Canadian activations while I was still in Canada.
New River Gorge National Park (K-0696)
The following activation video was made on May 21, 2022 as WD8RIF and I activated K-0696.
I’ve yet to re-watch this video myself, but I remember clearly that this particular day we had atrocious band conditions.
Indeed, rough bands were present during much of our weekend camping trip, but it never stopped us from having fun or activating our parks.
In terms of gear, I used my trust Elecraft KX2 paired with my Chameleon MPAS 2.0 antenna system.
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 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!
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!
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)
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.
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.
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!
It’s about a seven hour drive from my QTH directly to Dayton, but in the 12+ times I’ve attended Hamvention, I’ve never actually driven there directly. Instead, I drive to Athens, Ohio, spend the evening with my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) and his family, pack one car, then carpool to Dayton.
Heading to Athens, I like to time my drive so that I pass through Beckley, West Virginia around noon and enjoy a fine lunch at Tamarack Marketplace. It’s always a nice reward after spending a little over four hours in the car.
This year, I enjoyed local almond-crusted rainbow trout, braised kale, and dill pickle soup. I know…dill pickle soup sounds a bit strange, but trust me: it was exquisite. The food at Tamarack is always top-shelf because the chefs behind the scenes are training for positions at the famous Greenbriar Resort.
Park en route
Of course, another way to break up the trip and add a little fun is to activate a park. I decided I wanted to activate a new-to-me park not too far off my route, so I consulted the regional POTA expert: WD8RIF.
Eric is an avid park activator and has hit pretty much every park within a three hour drive of his QTH. He made a few suggestions, and I opted for Tu-Endie-Wei State Park in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
I got back from my 2023 Hamvention trip last night and am now trying to catch up after nearly a full week on the road.
As in past years, I traveled to Hamvention with my buddies Eric (WD8RIF) and his son Miles (KD8KNC).
It was amazing to meet so many readers, subscribers, and POTA/SOTA friends in person!
When I wasn’t walking around the Hamvention grounds checking out the inside vendor tables and outdoor flea market, I was hanging out with friends at the Halibut Electronics/Ham Radio Workbench table.
It was great to finally meet Vince (VE6LK) and Mark (N6MTS) in person. Hopefully, next year, we can have the whole HRWB crew at the table!
Side note: It was a true surprise and joy to discover that the amazing crew of The Unseen Bean were next door to us. I’m a bit of a coffee snob, so it was wonderful having Gerry and his amazing team so close. I bought a lot of coffee!
Eric and I didn’t arrive in enough time to enjoy the Thursday presentations, but we did make it to Vendor’s night that evening. It was busier than I ever remember.
As we walked into the conference room, there was already a massive line to purchase Hans’ new QRP Labs QMX transceiver kit.
Of course, I bought one (serial number 28, evidently)! It will take me some time to build this as I have a crazy June schedule filled with travel and camping.
We also attended FDIM Club Night and the Homebrew contest on Friday. It was so much fun.
I was over the moon to have been inducted into the QRP Hall of Fame at the Saturday Evening FDIM banquet. I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve this, but I’m incredibly grateful and humbled. Many of my QRP mentors are in the QRP Hall of Fame.
Thank you to those who nominated and selected me! What an incredible honor.
Vince and Charlie joined us for two POTA activations (during horrible band conditions, I might add), then Eric, Miles and I capped off the short POTA run with one more activation after lunch.
Monday was all about taking it easy…
Eric and I took all day Monday to “decompress” at the US Air Force Museum. Although I’ve visited this museum a dozen times before, it never gets old and the displays and exhibits are ever-changing.
I think it’s one of the best aviation museums in the world.
Tuesday (yesterday) I drove back to the QTH and fit in one short activation at Yatesville Lake State Park in eastern Kentucky. I recorded this one, so there’ll eventually be a full field report and activation video!
All-in-all, I fit in five POTA activations over the Hamvention trip!
Now that I’m back at the QTH, I’m prepping for a family camping trip. This is going to be one busy summer indeed!
Again, so many thanks to all of you who introduced yourselves over Hamvention and FDIM. It was amazing to meet you all! And, again, a very special thanks to the QRP Hall of Fame committee–being inducted is the true highlight of my amateur radio journey!
Did you attend Hamvention? Or did you have other radio plans this past week? Feel free to comment!
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)
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 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.
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!
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!
This year, instead of attending the 2022 Hamvention, my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) and I hatched another plan.
Eric and I–along with his son Miles (KD8KNC) and sometimes Mike (K8RAT)–attend Hamvention every year it’s held. We’d planned to do the same this year especially with it being the first in-person Hamvention since 2019.
As I mentioned in a previous post, instead of going to Hamvention this year, I went on a POTA expedition with my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) and his son Miles (KD8KNC) in West Virginia.
In short? It was a brilliant trip!
West Virginia is such a beautiful state and it’s absolutely chock-full of state and national parks. Eric and I were left scratching our heads as to why there are so few activations in many of West Virginia’s most accessible parks.
In fact, though it’s still relatively early in the season, we found the parks to be rather busy with tourists from across the globe.
We set up camp at Babcock State Park and used it as our home base to activate numerous parks in the area. In the late evenings we activated Babcock from the comfort of our campsite.
I didn’t bring Hazel on this trip, but Eric brought his little dog, Theo– A.K.A “The Great Warg”–who was our little POTA mascot and certainly our ambassador at each site.
Theo attracted a lot of attention from pretty much anyone and everyone. That little guy never meets a stranger.
On a mission
Our goal wasn’t to activate as many parks as possible, rather it was to enjoy camping, sightseeing, and simply hanging out together during our activations.
Wow–what a success!
If you’ve been on the air the past few days, you’ll have noticed that band conditions have been pretty rough and unstable at times.
We had to allocate more time than normal to work our ten contacts needed for a valid park activation.
That was perfectly fine, though, because the scenery at our activation sites was simply spectacular. I just hope the rushing waters didn’t create too much QRN in my videos!
We also learned early on that (since we had no band pass filters in tow) it was best that we work non-harmonically-related bands simultaneously and, of course, separate our stations as far apart as reasonable at each site. When Eric was on 40 or 20 meters, I was on 30 and 17 and vice versa. It worked out pretty well.
Now that I’m back at the QTH, I’ll pull the videos from my camera then process and upload them. I’m currently a good four weeks behind on field reports.
If you’ve tried to contact me recently, you’ll notice I’m also at least two or more weeks behind on email as well. Unfortunately, there’s simply not enough time in the day and I need to sort out a better way to handle questions from readers and subscribers. I love answering emails and attempt to reply to each and every one, but the amount of time it takes to manage email is actually now taking a significant bite out of my content creation time. Between QRPer.com and the SWLing Post, I receive an average of 25-40 messages per day from readers, many of which are new to the site. Those stack up rapidly when I’m traveling or out and about doing activations.
I receive questions about choosing gear, asking about operating practices, and general advice on a variety of radio topics. They’re all great questions, but I feel like I’m a bit of a bottleneck in terms of delivering answers.
I might build a discussion board or create an email group where people can find community support. I certainly welcome your thoughts and comments on this.
I need to take action soon, because I’ve got a lot of travels planned this summer and will be off-grid for days at a time.
If I’m being perfectly honest, another reason why I didn’t attend Hamvention this year is because I knew it would only add to my work and correspondence load right before nearly two months of planned travels.
Our POTA camping expedition was a more relaxing option than Hamvention for 2022. (You can bet I’ll be at the 2023 Hamvention, though!)
Sharing the journey
Indeed, this trip reminded me why I do what I do here: I love to share the radio journey.
On that note, I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed with kind comments from readers and subscribers. It’s humbling and I’m most grateful to each and every one of you. Thank you so much! Sharing the radio journey is indeed my main focus here on QRPer.com and on my YouTube channel. Sharing my journey and yours via the many excellent guest posts I’ve received.
I’ll sort out a way to manage correspondence in due time and, in the meantime, I appreciate your understanding.
Thanks for reading this post and many thanks to Eric and Miles for an amazing trip exploring the rivers and mountains of West Virginia! I can’t wait to do this again.
Indeed, this trip has me absolutely energized about the activations I’m plotting in Canada this summer. Stay tuned!
It’s been over a year since our last episode was released so we’re trying to make up for lost time by releasing show number 28 almost eight years after our first show back in February of 2014. Where have the years gone?!
In this show, Bob and Mike get to grips with constructing a digital voice modem using an MMDVM module kit and Raspberry Pi Zero, and Bob reviews the long-awaited ID-52 5W hand-held transceiver from Icom. As always there’s a chance to win a bundle of books from the RSGB in our free-to-enter draw. See here for terms and conditions and full details of how to enter. Don’t forget we also provide a podcast of the GB2RS news every week. Details of how to download or subscribe are here.