After the challenging activation at Lost River State Park, I wasn't sure what to expect as we made our way East to our second park for the week, Lake Anna State Park, in Virginia. I knew the area was substantially less remote with plenty of homes along the lake that gives the park its name, so I was hopeful that at the very least I would be able to spot myself. Lake Anna State Park is on the banks of Lake Anna, a man-made reservoir that was created as a source of cooling water for the North Anna Nuclear Generating station. The lake is about 17 miles long with 200 miles of shoreline. The park is along the public side of the lake and it is used heavily for recreational watercraft, fishing, and swimming at a man-made beach. The park has water access, trails, and a campground. In addition to traditional camping and RV sites, there are a handful of what they call "Camping Cabins" that have power, bunks, lighting, and an internal fan. There is no air conditioning, but while we were there we stayed quite comfortable.
After being off the grid and significantly shaded (so our solar setup was unable to generate power) it was nice to be able to recharge our batteries and let our cooler run off the mains. When we arrived at the park we were a bit early, but we were able to check-in and our cabin was ready for us to move in. There was one challenge -- the electronic locks had not been updated with the new code. We went back to the ranger station and they had someone come out to reprogram the lock and we got ourselves situated. The cabin was spacious for the two of us and my daughter excitedly chose one of the upper bunks as hers. We had some fixings for sandwiches, so we made ourselves lunch, and took-in our surroundings. Being in the middle of the week the campground was mostly empty, but we got to chat with some neighbors who had an adorable little dog that my daughter quickly befriended.
After lunch I set-up my station to see what I could do on the bands. In some of the information from the park they mentioned that they frowned upon using ropes in the trees, so I decided to use my Buddistick Pro once again so as not to run afoul of their rules. I got my table out of the trunk of my car and set up my operating position on the front deck of the camping cabin, using the provided rocking chairs for a place to sit. Having the roof above me would prove to be quite nice throughout the trip as we did have some rain during times when we wanted to cook and operate. Having the shelter allowed us to not worry about what the sky was doing. I got everything up and going on 20m and my plan was for a quick CW activation to take advantage of the Zulu day still having some time left, with an eye to a second activation after dinner on the late shift.
Once again, I noted that the RBN spotting connection wasn't working on the POTA site, but this time, I could do something about it. I self-spotted on my cellular connection and the hunters came quickly. The first call came from Illinois, then came Michigan, Utah, Missouri, Illinois again, and California. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the California station spotted me on the World Wide Flora and Fauna network, so I was quickly treated to some unexpected DX. I got calls from Texas, Michigan, Nova Scotia (Canada), Florida, Washington, Spain, Sweden, and finally Michigan again. Getting two contacts well across the pond and four West of the Rockies was pretty great. It felt like my luck had turned around and I was excited about the late shift to come.
Activation 1 QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Blue Lines = 20m
After the first activation, with the temperatures rising a bit, we decided to go explore the lake and see about going for a swim. Normally there is a fee for using the beach, however, when the beach is unguarded on Mondays and Tuesdays access is free. We brought a blanket and made our way into the pleasant waters of Lake Anna. After a couple days of being out in the woods without a shower, taking a dip in the lake was a small slice of heaven. We ended up splashing around for quite a while enjoying the delightfully cool lake and it was great to see my daughter enjoying some time in the water after we missed out on the pool at the previous park. After we had our fill of beach time and our stomachs started reminding they were there, we made the hike back up to the campground through the trail that connects it to the beach through an educational forest. Every few feet there were signs pointing out different species of trees along the way, so we enjoyed learning about them as we hiked.
Once we got back to the cabin, I took out the camp stove and prepared for one of the meals I was most looking forward to making during the trip, cheeseburgers. Thankfully, with the battery power in West Virginia, car power on the drive, and shore power at the cabin, our cold chain remained unbroken, so we were able to enjoy some delicious burgers on potato rolls with all the fixings along with some potato salad that I had been saving for one of our dinners. Everything was delicious and we enjoyed our dinner under the roof of the front porch. As the day came to a close we sat outside and enjoyed the view, talked, and relaxed. My daughter enjoyed reading her book, eagerly devouring every page, and as the start of the new Zulu day approached I set-up my station once again.
Eager to get another late shift in the books, I started once again on 20m and didn't have to wait too long to get plenty of calls. My first 4 callers hailed from Texas and then I did a double-take as I heard an NL prefix. I must have been hearing things, right? NL is the prefix for Alaska. I sent a "?" to make sure ... QSL, that was NL7V from North Pole, Alaska! The first time I had ever made a contact with an Alaskan station! AMAZING! To me he was a solid 559 and he gave me a 319 -- big thanks to Paul for pulling me out of the noise. I was just 5 contacts in, but I my activation was made, I was floating on air. Next came another station from the other side of the continent in California, then down the other way to the Dominican Republic. Then it seems like I had a pipeline into Missouri and Minnesota, I also made contact with Texas, and Louisiana before I had another DX surprise with Hungary! The bands were on-fire. Up next was Puerto Rico, Kansas, Arizona, Puerto Rico again, a California station I had worked on the previous Zulu day, Indiana, another California station, and Arkansas. What a run on 20m!
As the sun had set, things started to slow a bit, so I went out and re-tuned my radial and re-tapped my coil and decided to give 40m CW a go. I got my first response from North Carolina, followed by New York, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia again, Ontario (Canada), Louisiana, New Jersey, Dominican Republic, another Ontario (Canada), Ohio, Delaware, and a Park to Park with POTA legend KE8PZN on SSB (very surprised I broke his pile-up with 10 W! -- a testament to his ability to hear multiple stations in a pile-up). By this time it was 10:04 local time and I decided to call it a night and get some rest for the day ahead. Besides, I had been getting eaten alive by some huge bugs that were attracted to the light of my computer, radio, and lantern. Time for sleep.
The next morning we had a traditional camp breakfast with all the trimmings: pancakes, eggs, bacon, coffee (for me), and hot chocolate (for my daughter). It was absolutely delicious. The more I use that Eureka Ignite Plus camp stove the more I love it. It is plenty spacious and the burners can be controlled just as well as those as home. Being able to boil water for coffee and cocoa while cooking breakfast is a wonderful thing, too. Once again we sat out on the porch together, avoiding the water all over the picnic table beside the cabin from earlier rain. We enjoyed a slow start to the day, great conversation, and good food.
As noontime rolled around (local time) I decided to get back on the air for a bit and see if I could get some more of the magic I had experienced just hours before. I set up camp on 20M CW and got my first response from Charlottesville, VA, followed by Louisiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Ontario (Canada), South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
Next I decided to give SSB a try and made contacts on 20m with Mississippi, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, Florida, and a final contact with Wisconsin.
With the peak of the afternoon upon us we decided to head down to the lake and see about having a swim. This time the beach was guarded, so we had to get our wrist bands to enjoy the beach. Conveniently, right where we had to buy our admission was a snack stand with ice cream, so we availed ourselves of a tasty treat on the pavilion overlooking the beach. After enjoying our snack, we made it down to the beach and moments after getting in the water there was thunder which forced us to get back out again. We sat on the beach for a bit with my daughter enjoying some fun in the sand until we were once again allowed back in the water where we spent a good amount of time until more bad weather sent us back up the hill to our cabin. Still, a fun time was had by all.
Activation 2 QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB, Green Pins = CW / Green Lines = 40m, Blue Lines = 20m
That evening we decided to go out to a local restaurant and chose The Cove at Lake Anna. After a week without climate control, it was quite nice to be in an air conditioned space and we both enjoyed our dinners, both with ample portions. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner and by the time we got back it was already getting quite dark. My initial plan had been to get a third activation in before we were to depart the next morning for Williamsburg. I decided that with a full day ahead of me I would skip the second late shift and get everything packed up so we could make a fast departure the following morning and make it in time for the opening of Busch Gardens. Although it would have been fun to get another activation in the books, getting rest was the right decision. With two activations totalling 91 contacts (84 CW and 7 SSB) ranging from Alaska and Sweden in the North to Hungary in the East, and Puerto Rico to the South, all on 10 Watts, the activations can only be considered a smashing success.
Even more important, my daughter and I had a blast exploring a new park and getting time to swim and enjoy ourselves. So much fun.
Overall Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB, Green Pins = CW / Green Lines = 40m, Blue Lines = 20m
Gear used in this activation
Buddipole Buddistick Pro Antenna
LDG Z100 Plus
RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
CW Morse Pocket Double Paddle Morse Code Key with Magnets
CW Morse Steel Base for Pocket Paddles
Bioenno 12V 6Ah LiFePO4 Battery
Dell XPS 13 Laptop
Rite in the Rain Notebook
Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil
Hcalory 50L Portable Fridge/Freezer