N2EC

Ed's Adventures in Amateur Radio

Ed Cabic

Ed's Adventures in Amateur Radio

POTA Activation #50: A 2-Band 2-fer on the Commute to Work in Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and Potomac Heritage Trail NST



You would think that having hit up 10 parks on the rove I did over the weekend, I'd be wanting a break from activating. Nope. I just can't get enough lately. I had to come into the office today, so I decided to set the alarm for super early and get out into the parks for a morning CW activation. I had some errands to run, so I didn't get the early shift time in as I would have liked, but alas the car needs gas and I needed coffee (both brewed and in bean form), so I had to make some stops on the way into the District.

I was going to do another activation at Hains Point, but when I arrived, the gate was locked, so that was not to be. Thankfully, about a mile from there is another location that is also a 2-fer that I have activated before. You do have to pay for the street parking, but that's a small fee for 2 parks and a lot of fun. The DC area had a dusting of snow overnight, so at home I had clear the windshield. By the time I got into DC there was still a little snow on the grass (as you can see above) but thankfully nothing was sticking on the roads. It was a beautiful morning to activate in the shadow of the Washington Monument and on the banks of the mighty Potomac river.


I had mentioned to some Long Island CW Club members the previous evening that I might do a before-work activation, so as I tuned up my radio to the 30m band I sent a note out to our text group that I would soon be QRV on 10.111 MHz. After calling QRL and spotting myself on the POTA page, I was off to the races. My first contact was at 13:00:03 ... so not an Early Shift, but that's okay, I had coffee and life was good. That first contact hailed from Georgia, and the getting was good on 30m. Next came Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Ontario (Canada), Illinois, Texas, Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Arkansas, Dan from Georgia (for the first of 2 bands for the day), Texas, and Massachusetts.

Then I got a very pleasant surprise and got a call from Chris, N8PEM from the Long Island CW Club out of Ohio. He teaches one of my favorite intermediate CW classes and is an all-around great guy. I was very happy to get him in the log and have our first on-air QSO. Next up I got a pair of calls from Georgia, including one that would work me on the next band, and finally one last contact on 30m with a station in Michigan. Things slowed down a bit, and I noticed several of the folks on the LICW text group mentioned they could not hear me up in the NY area. So I decided to fix that and QSY down to 40m.


The band was busy -- there must have been a contest or something. At first I started calling around 7.053, but shortly I had someone sending a wall of code over top of me, so I moved up to 7.062 and started calling there and updated the LICW crew. Very quickly I got a call from Virginia and then the pileup came! Wow there were a lot of people on top of each other. I was able to pull out a LICW member, Rin, W4RIN, out of the pileup with a solid signal out of Georgia. It was nice to get him in the log, next up was a station in Michigan, also booming. Then I heard Mike, N2PPI, also of LICW in NY with a solid signal, followed by super-hunter N3XLS in PA. After that I heard a quieter signal just off frequency with an N2 ... I had a hunch that might be Ed, N2GSL of LICW working QRP, so I sent out an N2? and sure enough it was Ed! He had a nice 559 signal on a Heathkit HW-9 and showed how it is done working QRP, making his signal stand out by not zero-beating me. Good to get Ed in the log too, with a 72. Next up the pile-up kept coming with calls from Virginia and Georgia. Then I got Dan, WD4DAN on a second band out o NC, and another big hunter, NE4TN with a big signal out of Tennessee. Then I got calls from West Virginia, Tennessee, a repeat caller from Georgia on a second band, North Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and finally New Hampshire.

I looked at the clock and was faced with the reality that I had to end my activation and get to work. So after 43 contacts in 2 parks on 2 bands, I called QRT and called it an activation. It was great to be able to work so many friends early in the morning. What a great way to start the day.

Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Green Lines = 40m, Orange Lines = 30m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • CW Morse SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle (N0SA Designed)
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activations #43, #44, #45, #46, #47, #48, and #49: Getting the Rhino Rover Award with Gersohn - 10 Parks in One Day (VA & MD) (1/30/2023)



Long-time readers of this blog will know that my buddy Gersohn, KO4IUK, and I like to go out and activate the parks together. Interestingly enough, most of our activations are done in parallel, where we both bring our radios, antennas, and other gear and activate alongside each other. We really haven't done many dual-operator pass-the-mic activations in the past. A while back, while talking about future POTA activations, as we often do, I mentioned that the rules for roves (formerly RADAR runs) had changed. In the past, to do a multi-park RADAR (Rapid Deployment of Amateur Radio) you had to have a certain distance between your activation sites. This made the logistics a bit more challenging, especially since there were different distance minimums based upon your mode of transportation (pedestrian, bicycle, automobile). Because of those requirements, you had to apply for these awards in the past since accreditation was a manual process. I had considered doing a RADAR run under the old system, and had planned out a bicycle mobile path in Downtown DC, but life got in the way and I never got around to it. When they changed the rules a few months back, they took out the distance limits, and the new rules were simply having a certain number of park activations in a Zulu day.

So this got me to thinking ... what would a new rove look like? The biggest challenge in all of these roves was the setup and take-down of equipment. Getting antennas into trees or verticals onto tripods with radials and getting an operating position going. However, I had a new mobile HF setup that has been working phenomenally well from my car. That changes everything. I can roll into a park, tune the ATAS 120A, and get on the air within a minute or so. So where to go? I started looking at the map for Parks on the Air and noticed that there are a lot of parks along the water's edge of the Potomac on the Maryland side of the river, or a few miles inland. Some parks I have already activated, others that were small tracts of wildlife management areas, some were full-blown parks that were new to me.

Awards are given starting at 5 parks in increments of 5 up to 30 parks. So one day I charted out a potential route to 30 parks basically doing a loop from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-95) down to the Nice Bridge (US-301) and back up, finishing up with a spur in DC. That would be an epic undertaking, and I'm not even sure I could do it in a 24 hour period. But it got the wheels in my mind turning. So on Saturday, January 28, 2023, I was at the MVARC club breakfast and was chatting with Gersohn over coffee and we decided this would be a good day for a smaller scale test. After taking my daughter to her piano lesson, I drove over to Gersohn's and we set out to hit up 10 parks in what we had left of the day. We set out a bit after 11 AM from Alexandria, which gave us 8 hours to work with. We felt reasonably confident we could hit 10, but we didn't know if the bands would cooperate. We also didn't factor in that this particular Saturday was during Winter Field Day, so finding spectrum to operate on would be a challenge. We would primarily operate SSB and pass the mic since Gersohn isn't a CW op (yet). So with some cold drinks in the back seat and an air of excitement, we were off.

Stop 1 (Parks 1-4): A Familiar 4-fer in Virginia at George Washington Memorial Parkway, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star-Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage Trail NST


Since we were doing this for the first time, we decided to take advantage of a 4-fer that we had activated many times. This would get us 80% of the way to a 5 park rove in one fell swoop. Under the old rules, this would not have been possible to do, but with the new rules, it was fair game, so we drove up to our activation zone and got things tuned up. We set up with a beautiful view of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the Potomac River, and of course, I forgot to take a picture. That said, I've taken pictures of the location several times before, this is one of our favorites. Gersohn insisted I start the activation with a bit of CW, so I hopped on the 20m band, found a free spot and started calling.

In short order I heard back from stations in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Idaho, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Texas, Montana, New Hampshire, and a final call from Texas. My activation (or 4, really) was already made, but the point was to do this rove together. So I called QRT for CW and moved up the band to the SSB portion (no mean feat ... the bands were quite busy with over 100 park activations and Winter Field Day in full swing). I found a clear patch at 14.296 MHz and we started calling. Very quickly we heard back from Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, Quebec (Canada), North Carolina, a pair from Florida, Ohio, a Virginia station just a mile or so away, Alabama, Florida, and a trio from Ontario (Canada). Next we got some nice DX from Poland from a hunter I've had the good fortune to work multiple times in the last couple weeks. It was good to be able to hear his voice, and I thanked him for our multiple contacts on the two modes. Next up was Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia, and finally Indiana.

We were having a good run, but we wanted to make another 7 stops, we realized we would have to call QRT and get on the road. From first contact to the last we had spent a leisurely 46 minutes behind the radio for 37 contacts total (12 CW and 25 SSB). We would have to get going faster if we wanted to get to 10 parks. So we drove across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to a park we could practically see from our initial operating position.

International Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB / Blue Lines = 20m

Domestic Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB / Blue Lines = 20m


Stop 2 (Park 5): A New (to us) Park at Oxon Cove Park & Farm National Historic Park in Maryland


This stop was a park that I had never activated before, despite being one of the closest ones to my QTH and seemingly ideal for the task. For this rove, it had a nice and mostly empty parking lot, and for fair-weather operations, it had several picnic tables nestled between great antenna supports ... err ... trees. The park itself has a working farm that you can visit, and of course, picnic grounds. It is situated at the top of a large hill ... Oxon Hill ... that overlooks the Potomac. Although, from our operating position we mostly saw the parking lot. This, and the rest of our activations on this day, would be 100% SSB, dual-op pass the mic affairs. We decided to give 10m a go and see what we could do, and almost immediately we were picked up but AF4LL in Arlington, a frequent participant in our local club 2m nets. He was booming in, of course, and was testing out a mobile setup. He just happened to hear us. We chatted for a bit and got him in the log, and then tried calling CQ for a while, but got nothing, so we move down to 12m.

On 12, we got a park to park contact with Texas, almost right away, but then we got nothing for about 10 minutes. So we decided to go down to old reliable, 20m. Our first contact was from Spain 55 both ways! It was nice to get EA1GIB into the log again -- he is a frequent hunter and a patient operator. Propagation was certainly working. Next up we got Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Quebec, a pair from Indiana, a pair from Minnesota, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Indiana, Ontario (Canada), Florida, Wisconsin, Alabama, Minnesota, New York Mississippi, a pair from Georgia, and another Mississippi before we looked at the clock and realized we'd have to move on soon. All In all we had 26 contacts in 47 minutes on SSB including our across-the-pond DX. We also had made the first minimum for a Rover award at 5 parks. That said, we weren't content to stay there, so we drove off to our next park.

International Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB / Blue Lines = 20m, Pink Lines = 12m, Yellow Lines = 10m

Domestic Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB / Blue Lines = 20m, Pink Lines = 12m, Yellow Lines = 10m


Stop 3 (Park 6) : Fort Washington Park in Maryland



Our initial plan was to stop at Harmony Hall National Heritage Site, a place that I had not ever visited. When we got there, the gate was closed, so there was no way for us to drive onto the property. Since we didn't have a portable setup with us, we decided to move in to the next park on our list: Fort Washington Park. I had done a previous activation portable with great success, and I have been to the park several times to visit the fortifications as well as to picnic with friends for some fair weather barbecues. Gersohn and I elected to setup in the parking area at the top of the park with an eye toward the best position for the RF, even if it wasn't the best position for the views.

We started out on 20m SSB and were able to make a quick park to park contact with an activator in Tennessee, but the band was super crowded. We had stations on either side of us giving is QRM at S7-S9 levels, so we decided to take refuge in the WARC bands, specifically a perennial favorite of ours, the 17m band. Immediately it was clear we had a pipeline to Missouri as we got a trio of stations from there including a park-to-park contact. That was followed by contacts from Ontario (Canada), Mississippi, Wisconsin, another pair on the Missouri pipeline, another Wisconsin, another Ontario (Canada) and finally a contact from Illinois. 17m was definitely working -- and we'd need that as the day progressed.

In all we got 12 contacts on SSB during this activation in 21 minutes. We were starting to hit our stride and build up a bit of speed. So no stopping us now, we set off for our next stop.

Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB / Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m

Stop 4 (Park 7): Another New (to us) Park at Piscataway Park in Maryland plus Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT (Maryland) and Star-Spangled Banner NHT (Maryland)


Our next park is one that I have seen numerous times, too many to count, but one that until this day I had never set a foot inside. How was that? Well, a bit of history about Piscataway Park is in order. The park was created in response to the potential for development in the area, which just so happens to be in the viewshed of George Washington's Mount Vernon. Private individuals bought up the parcels and eventually the foundation that managed the land donated it to the National Park service in the 1960s. As a neighbor and member of Mount Vernon, I see it from the Virginia side of the river every time I visit. This would be my first time inside the park. For this visit, we decided to go into the Farmington Landing boat launch which goes right down by the river. So, this activation was a 3-fer, getting the Maryland side of two parks we activated earlier on our first stop, but not adding to our park totals. The view was quite beautiful, and we were very close to the water's edge.

Knowing that the 20m and 40m bands were super crowded, we decided once again to seek refuge in the 17m band. After finding a free space, we started calling CQ and heard back from Florida, followed by a call from the complete opposite direction in Nova Scotia (Canada), then a good way West to Minnesota. Then we got another bit of DX, with a call from South America in Venezuela from YV1GIY. We were definitely getting out and it was exciting to get a third continent in the log for the day. Next up we got another Nova Scotia (Canada) station in the log, followed by another from Minnesota. Next was Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, and then clear across the continent to British Columbia and VA7HUM who was in an island just off the coast between the mainland and Vancouver Island. We would end up working him again in other parks, too. Next up we heard from Colorado, New Brunswick (Canada), and finally North Dakota before calling QRT and moving on to the next park.

In all, 13 contacts on 17m SSB in 22 minutes. Not bad for a 17m only activation.

Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB / Purple Lines = 17m

Stop 5 (Park 8): Another New (to us) Park at Smallwood State Park in Maryland plus Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT (Maryland) and Star-Spangled Banner NHT (Maryland)


Next up was a Maryland State Park called Smallwood State Park, another one I had never visited before. When we arrived at the entrance station there was nobody at the gate, just a box with envelopes to put a $5 entry fee (less for MD residents) and get a permit hang-tag to put on our rear view. From my research, I saw that there was an art center inside the park that was situated on the banks of the river with a parking lot that would make a nice operating position. Looking at our watches, we had a little over an hour until closing time for the park, but the art center itself was closing within minutes. There were a couple vehicles in the parking lot that would leave while we were operating, so eventually it was just us.


Since we already had the VFO of the radio on the 17m band, we decided to start there and we got replies from Illinois and Mississippi. Unfortunately, the band appeared to die out on us, so after a 6 minute dry spell, we migrated over to 20m to see if we could get the rest of the contacts we'd need to complete the activation. We had a challenge finding a spot, and were surrounded by QRM, but we were able to get through. We heard first from Indiana, then South Carolina, and Wisconsin. Then we got a little Caribbean DX from the Dominican Republic, followed by Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, a pair from Indiana, Montana, Michigan, a park to park from Michigan, Georgia, another Georgia this time a park to park, a pair of Florida park to parks, and one last call from Illinois. It was interesting to get all those park to parks and my hypothesis was that with all the Winter Field Day stations, lots of activators were having the same trouble we were finding a space and were resorting to hunting to finish their activations. Glad we were able to get them all in the log.

All-in-all it was a 31 minute activation with 20 contacts on SSB, mostly on 20m with a pair on 17. The sun was starting to get low in the sky, so we moved back on the road with a purpose for our next stop.


Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB / Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m

Stop 6 (Park 9): Another New (to us) Park at Chicamuxen Wildlife Management Area in Maryland


Not too far from our previous park, we saw that the Chicamuxen WMA was pretty close by, so we punched the location into Google Maps and had it navigate us to where it said it could be found. As it turns out, blindly following navigation instructions can be a bit perilous. It took us to a dead end at the Naval Support Facility Indian Head Stump Neck Annex. There was a blocked off bit that seemed to go into the WMA, but we certainly could not drive there, and I'm guessing that the military security would not be interested in us going there either. So it looked like we had a bit of a swing and a miss, so we set up for the next park we had on our list and made all due haste to leave the entrance to the base. As we were on our way, we saw a sign to parking lot/trailhead for the very WMA we had just tried to go to. Would be nice if that was the one listed on Google Maps ... but at least we found it. So we pulled into the parking lot of the trailhead, and got our radio ready to transmit.

Once again the 20 and 40m bands were packed, so we decided to once again use 17m. Things were noticeably quieter on the band, leading me to worry that we might be losing 17m as an activation option. With us using SSB, that meant our only two options would be 20m and 40m ... and those were packed. We might be forced to scrape by on hunting. Considering how our time was drawing short, I hoped we could finish calling CQ. Our first two contacts were from Florida, the first one being a park to park. Our third contact was a park to park in Illinois. Our fourth was a park to park contact in the Dominican Republic. The density of the park to park calls made me think they were in the same boat we were, watching the spots for fresh activations to make their ten. Next up we got calls from Florida, Missouri, Idaho, Arizona, South Dakota, Alabama, Florida, the Dominican Republic, and another from Florida. At the end we ended up having a conversation with the last station about what POTA was. He wasn't familiar with the program, and wondered how it differed from a contest, and why we were on 17m. I explained how you had to be in the park to activate, so it wasn't like a contest in that respect. I also mentioned that the IARU, which came up with the convention of not using the WARC bands for contesting had given their approval to POTA being used on the bands due to it being more akin to a special event station as opposed to a contest one. In the end, I think it was a positive conversation, and he was happy to get into our logs and thanked us for the explanation.

We had made it, 24 minutes on the air and 13 contacts in the log with 3 being park to park. We were now down to our last park to make the 10 rove and had just under 90 minutes to get there and finish the activation. With the bands fading, we weren't sure if we could do it, but there was only one way to find out. Onward we went, back on the road.

Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB / Purple Lines = 17m

Stop 7 (Park 10): Another New (to us) Park at Ben Doane Parcel of Nanjemoy Wildlife Management Area in Maryland



Luckily for us, this last stop was just a couple miles down the road. Similar to Chicamuxen WMA, this was a parking lot trailhead. This time it was under a power line, so we had a bit of QRN to contend with, but it wasn't terrible. The sun was setting below the trees and the darkness of night was starting to envelop the woods. This was an interesting parcel of land -- although the sign said Namejoy WMA, POTA saw it was particularly the Ben Doane parcel of that WMA, which had its own reference number. It had not been activated many times in the past, in fact our activations would be numbers #13 and #14. It made me smile to see that #12 was our friend David, KU8V. MVARC members were responsible for over 21% of all activations, how cool is that?

Once again, we didn't have any luck finding room on 40m and 20m, so with no small amount of trepidation, we gave another try to 17m hoping that we would be able to make our 10. We tuned up the ATAS 120A and hoped that propagation would be in our favor for at least 10 contacts. Here we go. After calling CQ for a while we got our first contact with a station we worked just a half hour before at our last park from Florida. Next after a couple minutes of silence we heard from Minnesota. Then more silence followed by a contact from Illinois. We kept calling for 4 minutes and then got a contact with Florida followed by crickets. We were starting to worry we may need to get some hunting into the mix to close this thing down, but we kept calling. Next we had a weak station from Arkansas who we heard 52 and who heard us 44, but he stuck with it and we got him in the log for a park to park. Following that we were able to work a Nevada station who came in strong for us at 57, but heard us 44. We were grateful for him sticking with us to make the contact. Shortly thereafter we heard VA7HUM off the coast of British Columbia who worked us once again, we were ecstatic to hear him come through and while he was 57 to us, we were 45 to him, but he graciously worked us both for another contact at another park across the continent. 7 down, 3 to go.


"CQ POTA, CQ POTA, this is November Two Echo Charlie at Park Kilo Seven Seven Eight Two for Parks on the Air". Over and over I repeated that refrain for 6 minutes with no response until finally a station in Texas gave us a contact at 55 both ways. Shortly after that we heard a station in North Dakota come back to us, also 55 both ways. Almost there. We called again and again and then finally at 22:53Z we got a final contact with a station in New Mexico! He was 55 to us but we were 33 to him. When we gave our 73s we had 10 contacts in the log. I usually like to have an insurance contact in there, just in case, so I kept calling for a bit, but nothing was heard. Looking out my car window I saw that sun had set down behind the dirt road just beyond our operating position. Undoubtedly, the charged particles in the ionosphere had taken notice and 17 was done for us for the evening. With 10 contacts in the log here, and 10 parks activated for the day, we had met our goal with 67 minutes to spare. Rhino rove complete.

Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB / Purple Lines = 17m

Successful POTA Rhino Rove: 10 Parks in 1 Day for 2 Operators


By the time we called QRT for the last time, we were tired and hungry, having skipped lunch in all the excitement. But we were happy that we were able to complete the rove successfully. We had made a total of 168 contacts in 10 parks for the day with 12 of those on CW and 156 on SSB. Due to the 3-fer and the 4-fer, for POTA the total count when adjusted for multiple parks was 308 total contacts with 260 on SSB and 48 on CW. We contacted stations in the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Spain, and Poland, while activating from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Maryland. A very successful day in the parks.

What would I do differently next time? I probably would not activate during a contest weekend, for one. Not being able to use 20m and 40m definitely slowed our rate considerably. I also would get an earlier start, so we would not be getting so close to the end of the Zulu day. Also, while I enjoy setting up in a park and activating for as long as I can, for a rove, that's not a winning strategy. If I do something like this again, I definitely need to keep the activations quick, and the transitions efficient.

This was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed spending the day with my buddy Gersohn and stretching ourselves to reach a challenging goal. Who knows, maybe another rove may be in the cards someday. The overall activation maps for the entire day are below.

Overall International Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB , Green Pins = CW / Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m, Pink Lines = 12m, Yellow Lines = 10m

Overall Domestic Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB , Green Pins = CW / Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m, Pink Lines = 12m, Yellow Lines = 10m


Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • CW Morse SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle (N0SA Designed)
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #42: A CW Activation on 4 Bands and in 2 Parks Before Work at Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and Star-Spangled Banner NHT (DC) (1/26/2023)



Parks on the Air has a way of motivating you. There are dozens of awards to chase, personal statistics to grow, the fun of activating a park, and interacting with people around the globe. So, I decided to see how early I could get up and see if I could get some Early Shift contacts in and work toward a new award. I set the alarm early and got out to the park as the sun was rising. As I drove to my operating position the sun was shimmering over the Washington channel and dozens of cyclists and runners were taking the loop around Hains Point. There was even a peloton of Metropolitan Police Department officers doing a group ride that came around several times. DC was showing off, and I loved every minute of it.


The previous day had been decidedly dreary and wet, so with a clear morning in the 40s, people were making sure to get out and savor the sunshine. I was no exception to this, and was enjoying feeling the warmth of the early morning sunlight stream through my car window. This was the kind of morning that makes up for the ones that are cold, wet, and gray. On the way in I had heard several QSOs on 40m CW, so I decided to start there. I didn't have a lot of time until the Early Shift ended (8AM local), so I thought starting on the "easy" band would give me the best success.

I did have an ace up my sleeve, though. I had much more time to linger this morning, due to my earlier departure. So I was in it to spend some time and savor my moments in the sun along the banks of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. I also had another ace up my sleeve. I had recently joined a text group with some friends from the Long Island CW Club that is particularly active, even in the early hours of the morning. So, in addition to posting a spot on the POTA spotting page, I dropped a note to my friends in the club that I was starting an activation on 40m.


Mike, N2PPI, the leader of the text group and an avid POTA activator himself, came back to my CQ with a 599 both ways from New York and said hello. It was nice to have him be the first contact in the log. Next up I got calls from Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, and Kansas. Next up, I heard from Ed, N2GSL, another club member from New York, who gave me a cordial greeting and a 599 both ways. I was also pleased to hear that this was his first time getting one of the parks I was activating. Glad I could get him in the log, too. After that I got a call from WD4DAN, Dan, in Georgia. He would end up working me on all 4 bands I activated this time, a lot of fun. He also is the developer of a script that allows you to put live POTA data on your QRZ page, which is a very helpful tool. Thanks to Dan for hunting and all his hard work! One more call from North Carolina would close out the Early Shift on 40m, but I kept going, making contact with Ohio, a pair of New York stations, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, and finally a station on Ohio.

The calls slowed down a bit, so I decided to hop up to the 30m band and see what I could do there. After a few CQs I got contacts from Tennessee and from Brian from QRPARCI in Indiana who was working QRP, as usual (72!). Always fun to get him in the log. I also got my second contact from WD4DAN in Georgia (Thanks Dan!), as well as a pair from Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Oklahoma. Once again the calls slowed down, so I decided to move on up to the 20m band and started calling CQ. I had a bit of a false start when after calling QRL? a few times and then calling CQ, a really weak QSO came out of the noise. I had been spotted by the RBN, but I didn't want to interfere, so I moved up 2 kHz and started calling again. After a minute or so, the RBN caught up with me and I got responses from Arkansas, and then New York. Next I got a very fast call from a station in Poland who was coming in 599 both ways -- nothing like some morning DX! He was followed by New York and Indiana and then another DX station, this time from England! All from the lid of my trunk on a "compromised" antenna. Yeah, I love this thing. Next we got back stateside with Oklahoma, the third call from Dan in Georgia, and one last call from Missouri.

The time was getting late and the calls on 20m slowed, so I wondered ... could I get in another band before going to the office? Well, there was only one way to find out. I changed the band to 17m, spun the VFO to a clear frequency, spotted myself, and gave it a go. I called for a few minutes and thought I was going to get nothing. After all, this was a bit early for 17m ... but I had heard some SSB stations on the top end of the band just moments before and the MUF was well above 18 MHz for me ... so there had to be a chance. Who came the rescue, well, none other than Dan WD4DAN, of course! Fourth band of the day! I gave him sincere thanks, and his contact was followed by a station in Florida. I called a few times, to no avail, and after looking at the clock, realized it was time to head to the office. I called QRT, snapped a few photos, and called it an activation.


What an amazing way to start the day. Savoring the sunrise over the Potomac, talking to friends around the world, and challenging what you think is possible. All-in-all I made 35 contacts on 4 bands in 3 countries from 2 parks in just under 1 hour. Thanks to everyone who hunted, this one was a whole lot of fun.

International Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Green Lines = 40m, Orange Lines = 30m, Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m

US Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Green Lines = 40m, Orange Lines = 30m, Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • CW Morse SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle (N0SA Designed)
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #41: A Mobile Late-Shift Support Your Parks Weekend 4-fer at George Washington Memorial Parkway, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star-Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage Trail NST (VA) (1/21/2023)

I always like to participate in the Support Your Parks Weekends for Parks on the Air, but for the Winter 2023 SYP weekend I was going to be out of town on Saturday and flying back home on Sunday. I had the unfortunate realization that I would not be likely to be able to pull off an activation if I stuck to my normal activating hours. I had to get on the road early on Saturday, so the only window I had was actually on my Friday shortly after the start of the Zulu day.

I went out to a nice dinner with the family mere feet away from the George Washington Memorial Parkway at a restaurant called Cedar Knoll. When there is daylight it has commanding views of the Potomac. It was dark out, so all we could see were the headlights of cars making their way down the Parkway. Our dinner was delicious, and afterward I drove a little bit down the road to a pull-off that was right by the water and the trail, giving me a 4-fer from the car. My normal spots would not have worked as those parts of the park were closed. But in this particular location, it was right on the parkway itself, which never closes.

It was pretty dark out, so I don't have any pictures of this activation, but the stars were out in full force and we saw countless planes coming in to Washington National Airport on the Mount Vernon visual approach. We also saw the lights of a few boats on the Potomac slowly making their way to their destinations.

Before leaving the restaurant I had looked at the MUF map, and it looked like a 20m activation on CW might have been possible with the SFI being well over 200, so I decided to start (and I was hoping to end) there. This would be a quick one, I hoped. After setting up and spotting myself, I started calling CQ on 20m and after a couple minutes I got a call from Kansas, followed by Texas, Oregon, and Colorado. The going got slower and I got a contact in California, then Texas, and then I got nothing for many minutes.

Nothing on the East Coast followed by weakening signals on the West and then radio silence made me think that the band may have died on me as the country got blanketed in inky darkness. I moved down to 30m. I was re-spotted by the Reverse Beacon Network pretty quickly, so I was hopeful that I would get some luck there. I eventually did get a strong signal from Missouri, although he wasn't hearing me anywhere near as clearly as I heard him. After that I called and called to no avail. I had 8 contacts, but I needed 10.

Time to move down once again, this time to 40m. After finding a clear frequency (which was a bit harder than on 20 and 30 as this band seemed quite a bit more alive), I started calling CQ and after a slow start was greeted by a call from Brian from QRPARCI coming in 599 with a QRP signal from Indiana. It is always great to get him in the log (this was the second time he hunted me this week), and he always sounds super strong, even at QRP. I smiled when he sent a 72 letting me know he was low power. Next up I heard from New York and I had a valid activation, but now I had a mini-pileup. So I got contacts from Illinois, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois again, Michigan, and finally a contact with Woodbridge, VA that came in super quiet, so we must have had just enough groundwave propagation to make it happen, even though we were just a few miles apart.

In all, in just over 35 minutes I had 16 contacts on 3 bands ranging from the West Coast to the Canadian border and down to the Gulf of Mexico, all on the late shift. I had a few moments where I doubted whether I would make the activation, but perseverance prevailed. Since I had a tired and full crew, I called it an activation and headed on home. Another Support Your Parks Weekend activation (or 4) in the books.


Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Green Lines = 40m, Orange Lines = 30m, Blue Lines = 20m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • CW Morse SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle (N0SA Designed)
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • Flyboys Classic Kneeboard
  • Gasuuo College Ruled Spiral Notebook
  • Sharpie S-Gel Retractable Pen
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #40: 2-fer Commute to Work on 20m in Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and Star-Spangled Banner NHT (DC) (1/18/2023)



There is nothing like a POTA activation first thing in the morning. I knew I would have to come into the office today, so last night I was already planning to get a pre-work activation in the books from what is fast becoming one of my favorite roll-up activation sites in the District of Columbia. This morning the weather did not disappoint with mild (for Winter) temperatures around 42 degrees F and mostly clear skies. On the drive into DC I was treated with a beautiful sunrise over the Potomac river and fairly light traffic. I also got to chat with my buddy Corey on the local repeater who just upgraded to General (Congratulations Corey! Can't wait to get you in the log for POTA).


While I was having my morning coffee, before heading out for the day, I looked at the solar weather forecast, and saw that the SFI this week is well over 200, so I hatched a plan to give some early morning 20m CW a go to see what I could do. With luck I'd get some of the Eastern half of the States as well as some European DX. On the drive in I didn't hear a lot of activity on 20, but I did hear some, so I had my plan.

When I rolled into the parks I setup in my spot nestled by the water just across from Washington National Airport, found a clear frequency, and gave myself a spot on the POTA network. At first, I didn't have any takers, so I was concerned maybe the propagation magic was not in my favor. I kept at it though, and I saw Reverse Beacon Network spots coming in from Europe and the US with respectable signal-to-noise ratios. When all else fails, perseverance prevails ... so I kept calling CQ.


Finally, after a few minutes I got my first reply from super-hunter Mike, CU3HY, in the Azores. He was a solid 599 on my end and he sent me a 559 from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Things were starting to look up. Next I got a call back from Florida with 599 both ways and then had a few minutes of calling CQ with no response. The silence was broken by DX in Poland with 559 sent and 599 received. Fantastic! After that the pace quickened and I got responses from Texas, Tennessee, Texas, New York, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, a pair from Illinois, Georgia, Maine, Texas, Iowa, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. On the last few of those calls I was getting some pretty intense QRM. A station with a pretty big signal had set up camp just up the band from me, so I decided to find another frequency and found some quiet 12 kHz up.


Thankfully, I was on CW, so the RBN re-spotted me quickly and I got a call from Kyle, AA0Z of YouTube fame, 599 both ways from Missouri. Next up I heard from Indiana, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, and last but not least, Minnesota. I looked at the clock and realized it was time to call QRT and make my way to the office. As I sometimes do, I sent "QRT QRT de N2EC TU (dit) (dit)" which basically means I'm stopping my transmission, thank you. The dit dit is a pleasantry that many CW operators do at the end of their transmissions that comes from the last two parts of "Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits". I don't expect a response, but I got one from my last contact in Minnesota who had been listening to my last CQs after our contact. That put a smile on my face and I sent another "TU (dit) (dit)" and called it an activation. CW operators are the best.

All-in-all I got 27 contacts from 3 countries in the log in 42 minutes -- not quite the rate I usually get from the lower bands in the morning, but very much a success. It was great to get some morning DX in the log, and fun to get some familiar calls on there too. The Polish DX was 4,537 mi (7,301 km) away and Mike in the Azores was 2,649 mi (4.263 km) from me. The farthest US station was 1,314 mi (2,114 km) in Texas. Not bad for a vertical on my trunk! As Sunspot Cycle 25 keeps rising, maybe I can activate even higher bands before work. Could be fun.

Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Blue Lines = 20m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • CW Morse SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle (N0SA Designed)
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • Flyboys Classic Kneeboard
  • Gasuuo College Ruled Spiral Notebook
  • Sharpie S-Gel Retractable Pen
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #39: Another 2-fer Commute to Work in Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and Star-Spangled Banner NHT (DC) (1/10/2023)



My new mobile HF setup has really been paying dividends. I've been enjoying listening in on the air to CW QSOs as I am going down the road for great code practice and hearing people talk all around the world. But perhaps the most fun part has been how easy it has become to roll into a park, adjust my antenna, and get on the air for a Parks on the Air activation. There are now all sorts of opportunities to get on the air that were simply impossible before. One situation that has been particularly fun for me is activating in the morning before I get into work on days when I'm driving into the District of Columbia.

It seems like any time I activate DC it is as though I've got an extra 6 dB of gain on my setup. Since it is the Hunted All States wildcard, people go pretty crazy when it is on the air. So even at 7-8AM on CW, you'll get instant pile-ups. If I can get up even earlier, maybe I can get some Early Shift awards, too. I've found a few great spots to activate not far away from my normal commuting route that are 2-fers that are easy to activate and surprisingly quiet for rush hour in one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the country. Watching the sun rise over the Potomac and the world spring to life as daylight banishes the darkness is a wonderful way to start the day.


Today I decided to go back to Hains Point to activate Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and the Star-Spangled Banner NHT on 30m CW. Hains Point is a beautiful peninsula just across from Washington National Airport that features a loop road that goes along the coastline that is very popular with the cycling community in DC. There are numerous pull-offs along the way where you can park, bathroom facilities, paths, picnic areas, and beautiful views across the Washington Channel to the East and Washington National Airport and Gravelly Point to the West. In its center is a large municipal golf course run by the District of Columbia. In the pre-work hours, a visitor practically has the place to himself, save a few cyclists enjoying the views and getting some miles in on the pancake flat loop.

I had done my last activation at this spot on 40m, and it worked well, as you would expect. But I was eager to give a higher band a try to see what could be done. I elected to give 30m a go to see if I could get some stations a bit farther out this time. I got the ATAS extended to the right length and got a pretty good match, called QRL?, spotted myself on the POTA spotting network, and started calling CQ.


I didn't have to wait long to get a response. The first station I heard was out of Texas with a solid signal. Based on his report to me, he was pulling me out of the noise, but we were able to make the contact, so we were off. Next I had a contact with Tennessee 599 both ways, so I thought to myself, I must be doing alright. Then the pileup came, and I heard from Florida with another strong report, Georgia with a 559 both ways, Kansas with 599 sent and 539 received, and a 599/539 in Illinois. Next up were Kentucky, New York, Brian from QRPARCI in Indiana was next with a very solid 559 on QRP (of course), followed by Marc in MD who is a prolific hunter who always does a great job of getting into my logs (thanks for being out there). Marc was a 559 both ways, even with us being so close, so I was glad to get him in the log. Next up was a booming station in New Hampshire, another in Florida, and another station in NY who I heard loud and clear but who had me in his noise, but all was successful with that QSO.


The contacts kept rolling in with a pair of 559 both ways reports with Florida, followed by a very weak but workable 529 sent and 339 received with Virginia. Next we got some longer distance contacts with a 599 reception from Minnesota with a 479 from him, and a 599 signal from Arizona who was hearing me 339. Not bad at all. I made contact with a frequent hunter in Tennessee 599 both ways, a station in Arkansas 599 both ways, and finally a station in Pennsylvania I heard 529 who heard me 339 -- glad we were able to make the contact. I called CQ a couple times as things slowed down, looked at the time, and decided to call it an activation and call QRT to make my way to the office.

All in all I made 21 QSOs in just over 21 minutes. Definitely a lot of fun and a great way to start the day. This was also the first activation with a new bit of gear I recently picked up, the Flyboys Classic Kneeboard. Although I mostly just used it as a platform for my phone on this activation, it is a neat little item that straps to your leg to allow you to have a surface to write on while you're seated. My understanding is that they're popular with pilots who use them to take notes and to have flight instructions attached to their leg so they don't have to mess with them as they're flying. I teamed it with a spiral notepad that should allow me to easily flip pages if I want to paper log. Having a flat platform to rest my phone on was definitely helpful, and it is nice to not have to worry about stuff falling on the floor.

Until next time, thanks for being out there and 73.

Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Yellow Lines = 30m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • CW Morse SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle (N0SA Designed)
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • Flyboys Classic Kneeboard
  • Gasuuo College Ruled Spiral Notebook
  • Sharpie S-Gel Retractable Pen
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #38: A 2-fer on the Commute to Work in Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and Star-Spangled Banner NHT (DC) (1/5/2023)

I set the alarm a bit earlier than usual this morning to get a jump start on the day. In the back of my mind last night when I set the alarm I was having daydreams of a quick before-work POTA activation. Of course, this always depends on me actually getting up and on the road on-time, and also on the traffic conditions. Thankfully the stars aligned and I rolled across the 14th Street Bridge with plenty of time to spare on my commute into the office. So I pulled off into East Potomac Park from Interstate 395 and went to see if the gates to Hains Point were open for the day. Thankfully they were, so I started my slow roll down the scenic peninsula.

I knew that if there was a spot to be had by the point itself, I would have a very nice 2-fer with Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT (on the Potomac) and the Star-Spangled Banner NHT (on the Anacostia as it meets the Potomac). Oddly enough, even though the park itself (East Potomac Park) is a federal (NPS) park, with a name and everything, it isn't part of the parks in the POTA system, so no 3-fer for me on this one. I got a spot by the water (and promptly forgot to take pictures of the beautiful view of the Potomac river, Anacostia river, and National Airport across the Potomac -- sorry about that). I had been listening to some activity on the 40m band on the way into work, so I new that the band was doing pretty well, so I decided to make my calls there. I found a clear bit of spectrum on the CW portion of the band, spotted myself on the POTA spotting page, and started calling CQ.

It did not take long to hear back from my first caller in Pennsylvania. Next I heard a prolific hunter in Maryland give me a call, followed by a station in Charlottesville, Virginia. Next up was another station just up I-81 in New Market, followed by Ohio, Ontario (Canada), Indiana, another prolific hunter and activator in Massachusetts, another prolific hunter and activator in New York, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania ,another prolific hunter and activator in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, yet another prolific hunter and activator from Tennessee, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and finally Tennessee.

All-in-all I got 21 contacts on the 40m band in just 28 minutes, and all on my way to work. I really am enjoying having the mobile station so I can get in more of these impromptu activations. Thanks to all the hunters out there who made it so much fun this morning. The only way it could have been better is if I had gotten up even earlier to activate longer!


Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Green Lines = 40m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • CW Morse SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle (N0SA Designed)
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #37: New Year's Day Activation 4-fer in Mason Neck State Park, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star-Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage Trail NST (VA) (1/1/2023)



After the damp and dreary weather on New Year's Eve, we were treated to some unseasonably warm weather (around 65 degrees F) with a whole lot of sunshine. I have always liked the idea of a first day hike, so I convinced the family to join me at one of our favorite local parks, Mason Neck State Park, on beautiful Mason Neck in Northern Virginia. We love the trail network in the park and with my annual state parks pass, we're frequent visitors. One of our favorite trails is a short mile-long route called the Bay View Trail. As its name implies, it takes you along the banks of Belmont Bay at the confluence of the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers.


The trail is a real gem with incredibly varied scenery for such a short route. The trail starts at the parking lot for a picnic area where you're greeted by signage that reminds you that you're along the Star-Spangled Banner NHT and points out some history for you to enjoy. The trail also coincides with a stretch of the Potomac Heritage Trail NST and the water that it borders is part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT. Of course the State Park itself is a listed POTA entity, so if you're in the right place, you get 4 parks for the price of one. As you walk beside the bay you cross over the outlet of a marshland and come to a boardwalk that takes you to a beach on the bay that is quite beautiful. Then the trail goes over the marsh via a boardwalk, up a hillside to a point with a observation blind overlooking another part of the marsh, and then into a forest area that provides yet another ecosystem to enjoy. We have done this hike numerous times, but it never gets old.


After we finished our hike, the family was ready for a late lunch, but allowed me to get in a super-fast activation. Luckily, our parking spot was within range of all 4 parks, so we were able to get a 4-fer going with my mobile setup. I didn't want to make them wait a long time, and I also didn't want to annoy them with too much beeping, so I set up for 20m SSB and after some trouble finding a spot on the band spotted myself and started calling CQ POTA. It didn't take long to get a call back from a station in Illinois, followed by Georgia, a Park to Park contact with Stones River National Battlefield in Tennessee, another Park to Park contact with Tishomingo State Park in Mississippi, another contact with Georgia, a Park to Park contact with Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, and another Georgia contact who let me know that I was being crowded in a bit by some stations in Texas. So I decided to move up 2 kHz and after re-spotting and calling CQ for a couple minutes I was back in action with a contact in Arkansas, followed by Illinois, Georgia, Illinois again, another Park to Park contact with Elk River Lodge State Park in Alabama, a contact with Tennessee, and two contacts with Missouri. Next up I had another Park to Park contact with Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park in Florida, followed by contacts with Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas, and finally another with Florida.

For the first time in a while there was no answer to my CQ, so I decided to call it an activation so we could head to a nearby chili parlor for a hearty post-hike repast. This was probably my fastest activation ever with 20 contacts in 14 minutes. Not bad at all, and since it was a 4-fer, that technically 80 contacts in 14 minutes. This park holds a special place in my heart as it was also the first park I ever activated. That activation probably could have been a 3-fer based on where I set-up, but I didn't know that at the time, so it is in the logs just as the one. It was good to get it back on the air again. I was chatting with some friends tonight who also activated today and they saw me in the spots, but I was a bit too quick for them to be able to make the contact. They are frequent activators and we're in each other's logs several times, so we'll get it done next time. We really do have a great community doing Parks on the Air.

Happy New Year to you and yours and until next time, 73.

Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB / Blue Lines = 20m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #36: New Year's Eve with 4 Bands and 4 Parks-in-one with the XYL at George Washington Memorial Parkway, Potomac Heritage Trail NST, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, and Star-Spangled Banner NHT (VA) (12/31/2022)

We were having an easy day at home for New Year's Eve and I asked my wife if she would like to go for a quick jaunt over to the park to do an activation with me. Much to my pleasant surprise, she said yes, and we were off in the car to one of the 4-fer spots near my house. The weather was pretty dreary with rain and fog enveloping the Potomac, but since we were using my new mobile setup, we were cozy and dry in an almost empty park. Normally we can see the dock for Mount Vernon, but today, the fog over the Potomac was thick enough that our visibility did not include the dock.

Before leaving the house, I had a look at the MUF map, and saw that all the bands from 10m down should be open, so I decided to get started on 10m SSB and work my way down from there. I offered to let my XYL run the mic in a control operating situation under my call, but she opted to just soak in the fog laden scenery and listen in. Unfortunately, I only thought about pictures after we had headed home, so I don't have any pictures to share of this activation, save the activation map below.

I got my FT-891 set-up on a blank patch of spectrum in the technician portion of the 10m band, tuned up the ATAS 120A, spotted myself on POTA and started calling CQ on SSB (I thought my XYL would appreciate to hear the voices from far off places instead of the incessant beeping that only an amateur radio operator can love). Pretty quickly I heard back from a station in Arizona, and after a few more minutes I got a call back from Saskatchewan (Canada), Idaho, Minnesota, Saskatchewan (Canada) again, and finally Venezuela. My signal was getting out, but there weren't too many people on, so after giving another try for about 10 minutes, I moved on down to the 12m band.

On 12m, things started slowly, but I got a booming signal from Puerto Rico coming in, and had a nice quick QSO thanking him for his call and wishing him a very Happy New Year. After a few more minutes I got a response from Wyoming and then there was much calling of CQ, but not much in the way of a response. So I moved the VFO down to 15m, gave the ATAS a tune, and tried yet another band.

The first call was from Texas, then Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, Minnesota, and Missouri. Then I heard a station from Panama and had a nice chat thanking him for his call and wishing him a very Happy New Year. He was followed by Florida, California, Missouri, Texas, Missouri, Idaho, Florida,and one last call from Idaho.

All-in-all I had 32 contacts in 50 minutes, all on SSB. Pretty respectable considering the higher bands were slower going than the lower ones. I would have kept on going, but we were getting close to dinner time, so it was time to call QRT and head on home. It was fun having my wife along with me and being able to activate when the weather outside was dreary.

Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB / Purple Lines = 17m, Cyan Lines = 15m, Pink Lines = 12m, Yellow Lines = 10m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #35: 6 Bands, 149 contacts, and DX Aplenty at Seabranch Preserve State Park (FL) (12/26/2022)



The day after Christmas I had some time in the early part of the day and I decided to get in a solid activation of a new park. Unlike the earlier activations this week, I didn't have to rush things, so I decided to spend some time on as many of the bands as I could on both CW and SSB. Before leaving our rental, I looked at the Maximum Usable Frequency (MUF) map and saw that 10m should be open, so I hoped to work 10 on down. My park for the day was Seabranch Preserve State Park just South of Port Salerno in Florida. There was a trailhead right off Dixie Highway where I parked, as far away from the power lines as I could.


From what could see that was the only part of the park that allowed motorized vehicles, but there were extensive trails on offer that I would very much like to visit on another day when the weather is more cooperative. The temperatures were on the cool side for Florida, due to the unseasonable cold snap that Florida (and much of the rest of the United States) was experiencing. Fortunately for me, I was running my mobile setup, so I kept comfortable as I got my radio ready for an activation.

I started on 10m on SSB in the Technician part of the band and got a quick response after I spotted myself from Nebraska. The going was slow, but I got another a few minutes later from Colorado, and after a few more minutes Maine. There was a fair amount of calling between contacts,and most of them were pretty light on the s-meter. Next came Massachusetts and Vermont. As things were slow going I decided to migrate to the CW portion of the band and then I got my first DX of the day from Germany blasting in at 599. Next I got a response from Colorado, then another German station, followed by a French station, followed by another French station (this time portable), followed by a station from Belgium. Next I got a station in New Mexico, followed by a French station, and a station in Croatia! Next up was a station from Arizona, followed by a station in Spain. The amount of DX I was getting off the back of my car with a "compromised" vertical antenna was blowing my mind. The band was definitely acting a bit weird, but it was working. It reminded me of some of the magic I experienced on the band when I got my Novice and Technician licenses all those years ago.

Since the stated plan was to get on as many bands as I could muster, I decided to hop on down to the 12m band (and announced that intention on frequency as I went QSY). Much to my surprise, the last Spanish station I worked on 10m was the first I worked on 12. On CW, that was followed by Maine and Illinois. I called CQ for a while, but wasn't getting a lot of responses on 12m, so I decided to call QSY again and hop on down to the 15m band.

Right away, it was clear that 15 was going to be more productive. Maine, Ohio (x2), Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, Kansas, New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and New York followed. One of the stations I worked on 15 was fellow Long Island CW Club member, Drew, N2AKJ. Was nice to get him in the log.


As things slowed down on 15, It was time to make the jump to 17m. I made contact with stations in Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Louisiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Tennessee, Idaho, and New Hampshire. Once again, things slowed down and it was time for yet another band change -- this time to one of the meat and potatoes bands for POTA -- 20m.

I knew it was likely that the pace would quicken once I got on 20m, and that likelihood was proven to be 100%. The first response came quickly from Virginia, followed by Oregon, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Wisconsin, New York, Idaho (a second band for a previous caller on 17m), Louisiana, Indiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, some DX from the Azores, New Jersey, Indiana, Arizona, another Indiana, Florida, New Jersey, Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey, Indiana, Rhode Island, Georgia, New York, Indiana, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington State, some DX from the South of Spain, and Indiana.

Once again I was treated to a contact with Thomas, K4SWL in North Carolina. As usual I took some time to slow things down and say hello. Then it was back to this amazing pileup with stations in Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas, Maine, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, New Brunswick (Canada), Virginia, North Carolina, Connecticut, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, Quebec (Canada), Kentucky, and finally Wisconsin. Things had been going fast and furious for the last 91 minutes, and finally there was a bit of a break. So, I figured it was now or never if I wanted to move down to another band, so I took the leap down to the 30m band.

On 30m I got calls from South Carolina, Florida, South Carolina again, Indiana, Alabama, and Tennessee before things stalled once again. So I thought time to jump down to the 40m band and get another band in the logs ... but alas it was not to be. I tried for 15 minutes, but go no callers back on 40m CW. I could see myself getting out on the Reverse Beacon Network, and I was spotted on POTA with that, but never heard any responses to my CQs. So with my ATAS 120A fresh out of unworked bands (save 6m, which the MUF indicated would not work). I decided to shift modes again, this time to SSB, and bands again, once again to the 20m band which had been on-fire just minutes before.

It was not long until I got callers back form Missouri, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. I decided to band hop again, this time up to the 17m band where I made contact with Minnesota, Virginia, West Virginia, Virginia again, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia once more. Then I was treated to a contact from none other than my buddy Bill from the Mount Vernon Amateur Radio Club, WB4KFO. He had seen me on the DX spots and we had a quick chat on the air. It was great to talk with him -- I usually get to catch up on the weekend Cherry Tree Net with him, but since I don't have an antenna that can do 80m down here in Florida, I wasn't able to check-in this week. I was delighted to have a QSO with him. Once we said 73, it was back to the activation with contacts on 17m with Missouri, New York, Missouri again, Texas, and finally a DX contact that looked like it was from Iran ... but the call doesn't resolve on QRZ, so may not have been what it appeared to have been.


It was one heck of a run on the bands and so much fun. The activation had run longer than expected and I needed to call it day, so after 4 hours and 20 minutes I called QRT after making 149 contacts in the United States, Canada, Azores, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, and Croatia on both CW (121 QSOs) and SSB (28 QSOs). I also had the pleasure of making contact with some friends along the way. Since the map is a bit more densely packed than usual, I gave two renderings below. The first shows all contacts, and the second shows the US and Canada a bit closer so you can see things a bit more clearly. The FT-891/ATAS 120A combo has really shown it can perform across the bands and give some fun DX. Definitely looking forward to whatever park is next.

Activation QSO Map (International): Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB/ Orange Lines = 30m, Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m, Cyan Lines = 15m, Pink Lines = 12m, Yellow Lines = 10m

Activation QSO Map (US Detail): Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB/ Orange Lines = 30m, Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m, Cyan Lines = 15m, Pink Lines = 12m, Yellow Lines = 10m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • CW Morse SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle (N0SA Designed)
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App