N2EC

Ed's Adventures in Amateur Radio

Ed Cabic

Ed's Adventures in Amateur Radio

POTA Activation #34: Just Passing Through POTA at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park (FL) (12/23/2022)



The trip to St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park took us on a bit of a detour from the direct route to our destination after we had to take a pit stop along the way. We ended up winding our way through suburban Palm Bay until we got to the visitor center. The center was quite nice with helpful staff and a nice parking lot for the activation as well as rest room facilities. Interstate 95 runs through the middle of the park, so we could have conceivably activated from the side of the road, but that would have been significantly less pleasant.

My mom decided to go and check out the visitor center while I got the third and final activation of the day underway. 20m had been good to me, so I decided to give it another go, once again on CW.


I pulled out the phone, spotted myself on 14.042 MHz, and started calling CQ on my CW Morse SP4 paddle. Now safely away from power transmission lines, the sweet sounds of an S0 noise floor allowed me to hear every signal as Yaesu intended. My first call back was from North Carolina, followed by Maine , and Maryland. A good start from my location in Florida. Next I heard from Wisconsin, Texas (a station who also worked me in the previous park), North Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, a pair of Pennsylvania stations, and Ohio.

Then I was treated to a very familiar call, K4SWL. I was very happy to hear Thomas and to get him in the log. I slowed down the pace a bit to say hello and thank him before getting back to the pile-up that the activation had attracted. Next up was a station from Maryland, one from Minnesota, a pair from Tennessee, one from Massachusetts, a Virginia station with a great CW call sign (W5FB -- FB is used in CW to mean "Fine Business" when you're positively acknowledging something someone had sent you), Texas (this time from another repeat hunter), Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, Tennessee, and finally one last caller from Texas. I had a pause in the pile-up for the first time, so I let the silence hang there for a few moments and finally called QRT DE N2EC and the activation was complete.


All told, in 37 minutes on the air I made 31 contacts and had a whole lot of fun in the process. It would have been nice to explore this park a bit more as it looks like it has a lot to offer, but I was expected down in Stuart, so I put away my key and left the park with another activation in the books. While I've technically activated more parks in a single day when doing my 4-fer activations, this was my first time doing multiple parks in multiple locations in a single day. I did do two locations in Shenandoah National Park in one calendar day, but it was two different Zulu days. The new Yaesu FT-891 paired with the ATAS 120A is really showing itself to be a solid performer and I'm excited to have it as part of my park activating toolkit.

I hope to get a proper rove in sometime soon. POTA has awards for activating 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 parks in a single Zulu day. There used to be distance requirements depending on the mode of transportation, but now it is just individual references. It would be fun to see just how many I can activate when I get back home, and if multi-park activations count, there are some good places to help raise the number of parks a bit in the DC area.

For now, I hope to be able to activate more while on my trip to Florida, and if the scheduling works out, I'll post it here.
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+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #33: QRM Heavy Just Passing Through POTA at Buck Lake Conservation Area (FL) (12/23/2022)



Fresh off my successful and quick activation of Lake Monroe State Conservation Area, I was excited to make our next brief stop at nearby Buck Lake Conservation Area just a few miles down the road. Google Maps had me overshooting my route to my final destination a bit, but as I was driving down route 46, I noticed there was a trailhead on the West side of the area that was right on the way. I decided to give it a go, and as I pulled in to park I noticed that the parking lot was right underneath some high voltage transmission lines. In the spirit of keeping things moving along I decided to give activating at the site a try and was curious what the power lines would do to the noise level on HF


Spoiler alert: a lot.

I decided to set up camp on the same 20m frequency I was on at the last park, re-spotted myself, and started calling CQ. I noticed that I now had an S5 noise floor (up from the essentially S0 noise floor I enjoyed at Lake Monroe) but with the numerous S9+ signals I was getting before I figured it might still work out and ease the pile-ups a bit. As I got some calls back from my CQ, I noticed that the power lines were making things almost unintelligible. I cranked the noise blanker up to the maximum and although it was incredibly distorted, I was able to discern the code buzzing in at that setting. Pretty it wasn't, but it was able to work. The first intelligible call back was from Mississippi, followed by a pair in Texas, a Virginia station who worked me just minutes before at the previous park, Connecticut, Tennessee, Mississippi again, North Carolina, Texas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia, and finally Oklahoma. The going was slow, the copy was challenging, and seeing that I comfortably passed the threshold for activation, I called QRT with a sigh of relief.


All in all I made 13 contacts in 21 minutes more or less all in a straight line between the western edge of Texas to New Hampshire. Definitely some of the most difficult noise I've had to contend with in an activation. I had one more park on the list for this mini-rove, and I set its coordinates into my navigation software and headed on my way hoping the next park would be a return to the silky silence of the parks I have enjoyed so often.

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+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #32: Just Passing Through POTA at Lake Monroe State Conservation Area (FL) (12/23/2022)



Our family went to Florida for the holiday season to visit family and decided to take the Auto Train from our QTH near DC down to Sanford, Florida just outside Orlando. We have taken it several times and it is a more pleasant way to get down to Florida then the marathon drive. We brought two cars with us this time, so I was driving my car along with my mother to make our way down to the Treasure Coast of Florida. Looking at the POTA map, as I frequently do, I realized that we would be very close to three different POTA references on our trip to Stuart. So I did a bit of research, planned a route, and decided to use the new mobile HF setup to see what kind of contacts we could get with a Yaesu FT-891, 100 W, and an ATAS 120A in a short period of time. I didn't want to take all day, just have a few pit stops along the way, so I was a bit worried that either band conditions or a scarcity of hunters would make getting 10 difficult.


The park itself was quite easy to get to, just off a main road with lots of parking. I set up in an empty parking lot for the trailhead in the park. In terms of making contacts -- I should not have worried. At all. I spotted myself and started calling CQ on 20m and my first caller was Maryland at 529 both ways. Thankfully this park was low in noise, so that was workable, but then the pileup came with many strong signals. There were so many callers it was hard even getting a single character out of the warbling tone to limit the callers. In rapid succession I got North Carolina, Texas, Missouri, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Idaho, and Delaware.


This mini-rove was off to an auspicious start. 24 QSOS on CW in 27 minutes, not bad. I was originally thinking of sticking to a lower number, but there were so many callers I felt bad calling QRT right away. Eventually, I had to do it, and we made our way off to the next park.

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+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #31: Early Shift Commute Mobile 2-fer in DC in Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and Potomac Heritage Trail NST (DC) 12/20/2022



When it comes to playing radio on POTA, I am very fortunate to live in the Washington, DC area. There are a lot of parks close by to activate, and several of them overlap, so it is easy to get 2, 3, or even 4 -fers. Part of the fun for me is doing the research to find where I can activate to maximize those overlaps. Now that I have a mobile station in my car, there are a lot of activation options that I pass on any day that I go to work. A good chunk of my commute is on the George Washington Memorial Parkway (K-0670), which goes along the Potomac River which at various sections has the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT (K-4567) and the Star-Spangled Banner NHT (K-4581) in its waters (and 100 feet ashore), and at various sections is adjacent to the Potomac Heritage Trail NST (K-4564). So as you can imagine, I've activated those a few times (9 times for GWMP, 9 times for CJSCNHT, 7 times for PHTNST, and 7 times for SSBNHT).

I was thinking about places near my commute I could activate after work, and there are some good options out there, but as I was thinking about the logistics, I asked myself a question: Could I activate early in the morning before work? I decided to set the alarm early in the morning to see what I could do. When I left the house I saw the MUF was around 14 MHz, so maybe I could do a 40/30/20 activation. The sun had not yet made itself known, but as I got closer to DC I saw its amber and red hues ready to peek above the horizon. What I didn't know was whether there would be any hunters ready to contact me. Only one way to find out ...


So I set off for what I thought would be an interesting 2-fer at Hains Point at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers -- but when I got there, the road was closed. So, I had to think quickly. I re-routed to go North along the banks of the Potomac toward the FDR Memorial where there is a lot of parking alongside the river. At that location the river is coincident with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, and the road where I was parked is adjacent to the Potomac Heritage NST, so a 2-fer nonetheless.

I paid for parking (even though I was in the car, I figured it was the right thing to do) and got my setup ready. I tuned up the ATAS 120A on 40m, gave myself a spot, and in short order made my first contact with a station in Texas. He would call me several times on this activation on the same frequency -- perhaps he didn't hear my confirmation that I got him (he was 599 and I was 449 from him). Nonetheless, he's in the log. Then I got contacts from New Hampshire, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, Georgia, Alabama, Georgia, Maine, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Alabama, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, New York, Ohio, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The contacts were pretty much non-stop. So much for hunters sleeping in! In fact, I tried 3 times to QSY to 30m and immediately people came back with calls (so of course I answered). On the 4th try, nothing was heard, so off to 30m I went.


Within a minute or so the Reverse Beacon Network spotted me on 30m and I got a call from a station in Michigan who got me earlier on 40m (always fun when propagation lets it happen). That contact was followed by Alabama and Indiana. I noticed something quite strange ... every time a Metrobus drove by I got astonishingly high amounts of noise, sometimes up to S9 (and I had the noise blanker on). So it was getting tough as the busses rumbled by to hear the weak signals, so I decided to make one last move up to 20m.


I started calling CQ and so quickly did I hear a response, they must have beat the RBN to the punch, I heard a US station operating in the Dominican Republic (that pin didn't show up on the QSO map below, but imagine a blue line down there all the same). I had a bit of a challenge getting his HI7/ prefix on his call, but he was quite patient. That would be my only DX of the day, very fun. Next I got calls from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia, and Florida again. I had a bit of a pause in the calls, looked at my car's clock, and realized it was time to call QRT and head into the office. Another 2 activations in the books.

All-in-all I made 39 contacts on CW (9 on 20m, 3 on 30m, 27 on 40m) and still got in to the office on-time. What a fun way to start the day! I think it also helps a bit that I was activating from DC -- being relatively small with only 30 parks and surprisingly lightly activated, hunters get really excited when DC gets on the spots. Also, being able to run a full 100W didn't hurt, either. Everything went pretty well. I still have to work on bonding (have gotten some of the materials I need to use, so hope to work on that soon) to get the SWR down closer to where I'd like it to be, but that as mentioned, it is workable where it is, and clearly I'm getting out.

The pages for the the two parks aren't clear, but at least some of these contacts are likely to count as my first Early Shift contacts -- as the system processes the stats this evening it will be interesting to see how they're tabulated. If 1300 UTC is the cutoff (as it is for smaller local parks - the page for these two says coming soon...) then I got 18 contacts before the cut-off in 2 parks, so likely 36. I know they changed how they did Late Shift (and added Early Shift), so I believe it is now number of contacts not total activations (how they used to do it), but we'll find out.

Being able to do impromptu activations like this really changes the game for me. I'm excited to be able to do more of this as my schedule allows. I hope to see you soon down the log and in the parks.

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+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #30: Strange New Worlds at 100 W - Activating a 4-fer with My New Mobile HF Station in George Washington Memorial Parkway, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage NST (VA) (12/16/2022)



If you've been reading this blog, you have probably noticed I really enjoy activating Parks on the Air. I'm a fairly hardy soul who has gone bike commuting in snow and temperatures below 3 degrees F and camped in a hammock in the snow, but in the late Fall and Winter, the conditions outside aren't always cooperative with my goal to get on the air without damage to myself or my equipment. So, I've been long considering getting myself a mobile HF setup so that I can activate from my car (or just operate from there in general). I still like getting out into nature, finding creative ways to get an antenna into a tree or setup on a tripod, setting up an operating position in a good spot, and feeling the sun beating down and the breeze against my face. But having the ability to activate whenever I want, in whatever weather I want, from the comfort of my vehicle is a bit of a game changer.

As I started researching what my options were in the world of mobile HF radios, there were a few that stood out. Ultimately, due to supply chain issues, only one was easily obtainable. In the unobtainable category (at least on the new market) was the Icom IC-7100. I really enjoy my IC-705, and the IC-7100 has HF, VHF, and UHF just like its QRP cousin. Unfortunately, it is out of stock nationwide, and although HRO says they expect it in May on their web site, privately they say it could be longer, if ever. The 7100 has been out for a while, and if the supply issues continue, they may just replace it. Additionally, if you want an easy multi-band antenna, you'd probably want a screwdriver, but ones like the Tarheel are out of stock in most outlets. Unobtanium.

So that left one great combination that is a perennial favorite in the POTA community: the Yaesu FT-891 radio and the Yaesu ATAS 120A antenna. When Black Friday arrived, Ham Radio Outlet had a great deal on the radio cutting $40 off of the asking price, and everything was in stock! So I pulled out my credit card, filled my electronic cart, and hit submit. Then I got a phone call from HRO -- turns out they just sold out of the radio. They could ship me all the other things, but the radio would be back ordered. Bummer. They didn't know when they would get stock, but I decided to wait it out. A few weeks later, I got a shipping notification and the 891 showed up at my door.


Now I had to figure out how to install the thing. My buddy Gersohn, KO4IUK, graciously offered his assistance in getting everything installed. We tried valiantly to find the pass-through grommet that YouTube assured us was to be found by the foot well of my 2006 Honda Accord, but alas it was not to be. I wasn't flexible enough to warp space and time to find it, so I reached out to a car audio and security systems installer near where I lived, Car Trendz. They were incredibly helpful and for a reasonable fee routed the power cables through the firewall, so my radio could have power. They also gave me a hand with putting on the bracket for the radio. Once I had that in place, I went back home and put the radio into the bracket and connected it to power.


Next I had to install the antenna, the Yaesu ATAS 120A, a vertical capable of operating from 40m-70cm. For this purpose, I had purchased the Diamond K400C lip mount to attach to the trunk of my vehicle. The ATAS 120A is a large antenna weighing around 2 lbs and with a considerable wind load, so from what I had read, a good mount was paramount. The K400C came well recommended from Yaesu for the task. The installation of the mount was quick and straightforward with 4 grub screws clamping it to the trunk lid where it meets the rear of the car. An SO239 UHF connector provides the connection to the antenna, which simply screws on to the base. The antenna itself came basically pre-assembled, with the only task for the operator being to install the whip with a hex screw and its accompanying weatherproof cap. So far, so good.

The one last thing I had to do was connect the antenna to the radio. For this, I needed to make a cable. Unfortunately, although I had connectors, and I had cable, I didn't have the right tools for the job (I had crimp connectors, not solder-on ones). Once again, Gersohn came to the rescue and provided time, tools, and some extra materials to help me build the cable. I'm very grateful for his help. So after a series of false starts and setbacks, we finally had a radio that was powered and connected to an antenna properly mounted to my car. Time to get on the air. Time was getting short, so we looked at POTA spots while parked in Gersohn's driveway, and I made contact on 17m a station in Kansas and on 40m with a station in Virginia. Success!

SWR was higher than I'd like, but under 2:1 -- I'm going to work on improving the bonding of my vehicle -- but we were in a good place. So, I decided to use my lunch hour today to give the new rig its first activation at a 4-fer location just a few minutes from my house. The location could not be more ideal -- 4 parks all within proper range of the parking spot. I decided to take my new CW Morse SOTA/POTA paddle designed by N0SA with me and just use the HAMRS app to log. Ultra fast and light (well, if you don't count the vehicle ...).


I figured out how to work CW on the new rig, spotted myself on the 20m band, and I was off. It didn't take long for the pileup to commence. I found out (the hard way) I didn't quite have the paddle magnetic returns properly configured, so my code was a lot sloppier than I would like, but as always, the hunters were gracious and patient. When I got back home, I upped the magnet force so that the bouncing I experienced should be resolved in the future. Being used to operating POTA with 10W maximum output power, 100W was a whole new ballgame. I probably only called CQ around 5 times in the hour I was out there, the contacts just kept coming. Eventually, as my time was growing long, I had to call QRT to get back to working at home.


My first caller was in Michigan who gave me a solid 579 report, followed by a station in Idaho who gave me a 599. Then came a pair from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas, and Georgia. Next I was treated to a call from my buddy Ed, W4EMB, in Tennessee, followed by Quebec (Canada), Tennessee, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Michigan, Ontario (Canada), Florida, a pair from Illinois, Wisconsin, Virginia, Georgia, another pair from Tennessee, Texas, Florida, MIchigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and one more call from Michigan before I had to call QRT. In all I had 45 QSOs in 4 parks (180 total, in the POTA accounting) in just under an hour from the comfort of my car.

So much fun.

I can't wait to do it again ... and with a mobile setup, I would imagine that I won't have to wait long! Impromptu activations are now simply a short drive away.

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+
  • HAMRS Logging App

POTA Activation #29: A 4-fer on 7 bands with Gersohn in George Washington Memorial Parkway, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage NST (VA) (10/30/2022)



As sunspot cycle 25 has been coming into its own recently the higher bands have been coming alive with the sound of Amateur Radio. On the day before Halloween, the DC area was having a particularly pleasant fall afternoon, so I decided to get out into Belle Haven Park inside the George Washington Memorial Parkway and meet up with my buddy Gersohn for some fun in the Autumn sun on the bands. As is frequently the case, I setup where several POTA park entities overlap, so I was also adjacent to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, the Star-Spangled Banner NHT, and the Potomac Heritage Trail NST. Four Parks for the price of one.

Since the bands were active, I decided to use my 40-10m EFHW teamed with my antenna tuner to keep things nice and frequency agile. I started out on 20m CW since I figured when Gerson arrived, he might want to use that band. I got my first response at 17:39Z from a station in Alabama and then in short order made contacts with South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Ontario (Canada), Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, and Texas. Then I was very pleased to hear my buddy and fellow Long Island CW Club member Ed, W4EMB, giving me a call from Tennessee. It was great to get him in the log. After Ed, I got calls from Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee, Illinois, and Indiana.

Gersohn arrived and we chatted for a bit and he setup some of his equipment. I decided to implement my plan to work a bunch of bands and gave 10m a go on CW. Right away I picked up New Mexico, Texas, Montana, France, another hunter from Texas who worked me a second time on this second band, and Northern Virginia. After things slowed down a bit, I moved down to 12m and didn't get any CW callers. I really wanted the band though to add to my N1CC award titles, so I pulled out FT8 on the laptop and contacted Minnesota, and Texas.

Next up it was time to get back on CW and move down to the 15m band. First to respond was an operator across the country in Washington State followed a couple minutes later by Arkansas. Things didn't seem to be as active on 15, so I moved down again to the 17m band where my first contact was with North Dakota, followed by Idaho, Texas, South Dakota, Alabama, and Florida. Hard to believe I got both Dakotas on a single band within a few minutes of each other!


After things slowed down a bit I moved to my 6th band, old reliable, the 40m band. My first response was from Tennessee, then Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, another Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ontario (Canada), Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, and a second contact from a station in Michigan. As time was getting late and I had to prepare to go QRT, I decided to give one more band a try, 60m. In a few minutes I had replies from New York, Georgia, and a final contact with North Carolina.

What a fun activation! I'm really enjoying being able to activate on the higher bands. The different skip distances allow for some states and DX that I don't usually get in the logs. At the end of the day, my 10W and a wire netted me 59 contacts in about 2:30. I really enjoyed being out with Gersohn just a few feet from the Potomac at one of our favorite activation spots.

Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW, Blue Pins = FT8 / Black Lines = 60m, Green Lines = 40m, Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m, Pink Lines = 12m, Cyan Lines = 15m, Yellow Lines = 10m

Gear used in this activation
  • Icom IC-705
  • MFJ 1984 MP End-Fed Half Wave Antenna
  • LDG Z100 Plus
  • CW Morse Pocket Double Paddle Morse Code Key with Magnets
  • CW Morse Steel Base for Pocket Paddles
  • RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
  • Icom LC-192
  • Bioenno 12V 6Ah LiFePO4 Battery
  • Sony Headphones
  • Dell XPS 13 Laptop
  • Rite in the Rain Notebook
  • Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil

POTA Activation #28: A Support Your Parks Weekend 4-fer CW Activation at Riverside Park in George Washington Memorial Parkway, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage NST (VA) (10/15/2022)



Sometimes life comes at you fast and you don't have the time to get out. That definitely was my last month an a half. Thankfully, on October 15, I had a bit of time for an activation on the POTA Fall Support Your Parks Weekend. It was a beautiful day, so I brought my daughter along with me to enjoy some fresh air at one of our local parks that is one of my favorite activating locations. We lucked out and got one of the prime picnic tables nestled between the Potomac River and the Mount Vernon Trail, easily within the activation zone for 4 parks. There were no shortage of beautiful trees to assist with the use of my MFJ 1984 MP End Fed Half Wave, so with a quick throw of my arborist line, my antenna was lifted skyward and I was quickly on the air.


had been hearing reports of how the higher bands had been "on fire" of late, so I decided to start at the top with 10m and see what I could get. After several calls on 10 without any takers, I hopped down to 12, and similarly had no luck. Next was 15m, and there I did get two contacts with Louisiana and Florida and then the contacts dried up. So I decided to move down to 20m, and boy was that band "on fire". The first contact came from Maine, followed by some nice DX with Belgium.


Michigan, Florida, and Tennessee came next. Another hit of DX was in the cards with a contact in Finland, followed by Missouri, Georgia, Florida. DX came again with the Dominican Republic, followed by Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Colorado, Maine. Then more DX, with a call from France, followed by Minnesota, Kansas, Montreal (Canada), Illinois, Texas, Oregon, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan. More DX was in store from Germany followed by Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, another contact with Germany, Texas, Georgia, Florida, and finally Utah.

Usually when I activate, I don't get a lot of attention from passers-by, but this day I had a friendly woman who had a lot of questions and seemed excited by the calls from far away stations around the globe. I tried to be a good ambassador for the hobby, answering questions and trying to do some real-time decoding of the calls coming in. I have to admit, it was quite a challenge to manage to answer her questions while still making the contacts on CW. My daughter helped with answering many of the questions and chatted with her while I was making contacts in rapid fire. The 20m part of the activation was pretty much non-stop.


I had to cut things short as my daughter was hungry and anxious to head home. In an hour and two minutes I made 42 contacts in 7 countries -- a quick but decidedly effective activation. Although I didn't have time to hunt, I did get 2 park to park contacts who hunted me, ending up counting as 8 when the 4-fer was counted. Sunspot Cycle 25 is starting to get really exciting -- getting these kind of results with 10 Watts and a wire is exhilarating. So much fun.

Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Blue Lines = 20m, Cyan Lines = 15m

Gear used in this activation
  • Icom IC-705
  • MFJ 1984 MP End-Fed Half Wave Antenna
  • LDG Z100 Plus
  • CW Morse Pocket Double Paddle Morse Code Key with Magnets
  • CW Morse Steel Base for Pocket Paddles
  • RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
  • Icom LC-192
  • Bioenno 12V 6Ah LiFePO4 Battery
  • Sony Headphones
  • Dell XPS 13 Laptop
  • Rite in the Rain Notebook
  • Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil

POTA Activation #27: A DC 2-fer at the Washington Monument National Memorial and the National Mall Park (DC) (9/3/2022)



The first day of Labor Day weekend was looking to be delightful, if a bit cloudy. My family had plans on Saturday, so I decided to get an activation in. Looking at the POTA map, I noticed that although I had two DC parks in the books, I had not yet activated anything on the North side of the Potomac River. I had been thinking about doing a RaDAR run, with a bunch of parks in the monumental core of the city, but as I was getting ready to head into DC I decided that I would activate the Washington Monument (and by extension the National Mall) and focus on spending my time in that one spot. The RaDAR run would wait for another day.


I decided to have a bit of hybrid transportation for this activation. I drove into my office in downtown DC and then used Capital Bikeshare to bike to the activation site. I found a delightful grove of trees in the shadow of the monument which kept me out of he sun and also away from the throngs of tourists that had descended upon the monument and the mall. There was a large concert, the Capital House Music Festival, that was at the nearby amphitheatre. Under my grove of trees I was well shaded and out of the way, so I decided to setup my MFJ 1984-MP End-Fed Half-Wave in a nearby tree and started to get on the air.

Before I left the house I had checked band conditions, and the forecast for 40m wasn't good. So I decided to get on 20 CW to see if I could make my 10, not sure if I would be able to make it. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded and quickly I was able to get several contacts. The first contact came from Florida, then Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas. Next, I had some trouble copying a call, but after a resend I realized it was a a DL call -- from Germany. Dead bands? I think not. Next came Florida and Virginia, and then a bit of silence. I tried switching to SSB, but got no calls, so I decided to give 40m a try. On CW I got calls back from Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Maryland, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, Indiana, Illinois, and South Carolina.

After another slow down I decided to give SSB a go on 40m and worked Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, Ontario (Canada), Michigan, New York, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. With that great run I thought I'd give 20 SSB another go and got Minnesota, Florida, and a final Minnesota before things slowed down again, so I decided to use the frequency agility of the end-fed half-wave and moved to 30m CW. Right away I worked Michigan and Indiana before things once again went silent. So I got another band on the log with 17m working two Texas stations and a weak one in Wisconsin.


I noticed on the spots that a station really wanted to work me on 20m, so I decided to make the switch as 17 was quite quiet. Immediately I was able to work the station in Wisconsin, and then after a lot of quiet a station in Florida before I decided to move back to 40m on CW this time. Contacts came in from Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ontario (Canada), Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts, another Ontario station, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Ohio, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and another New York. Then as I was getting another call in, I was approached by a Park Ranger who asked me to take down my antenna, since it was in a tree. I quickly complied and asked if my vertical antenna which was free-standing and not in a tree was okay to use, and she indicated I could use that and continue operating. I explained what I was doing and thanked her, and set up the Buddistick Pro.

Since 40 was working so well just minutes before, I decided to continue on it and got calls from New York, California (although I suspect they may have been operating elsewhere based on the band), Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maine, New Jersey, Ontario (Canada), Massachusetts, and a couple of Virginia stations. I was getting ready to call it an activation and had already crossed 100 QSOs, so I decided to give SSB another try and worked Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, and New Jersey again before calling QRT. One last look at the spots and I saw W2AEW activating a park in New Jersey -- I'm a fan of the videos he puts out on his YouTube channel (great educational content on amateur radio and electronics), so I decided to try for a park to park with him on CW, I was successful, and thanked him for his great videos before packing up the station.


I headed for the nearest Capital Bikeshare station, loaded up the basket with my gear (the radio was on my back) and biked my way up the hill to my office. It was a very successful activation with 113 contacts, 75 on CW and 38 on SSB in two parks. I also was excited to have contacts with my friends KK4WDP (who was activating his own park -- we worked on CW and SSB) and K3WD who was looking out for me on the spots after he found out I was activating on the Cherry Tree Net earlier in the morning. Also, I was delighted to work Thomas, K4SWL, who hunted me from NC on this activation. Hearing familiar calls put a big smile on my face. So many of the hunters were excited to get DC parks -- I guess they're a bit hard for people to get in the logs, so it was like I had an extra 6db of gain being in DC with all the hunters seeking me out. I can't wait to activate some more DC parks soon.

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

Gear used in this activation
  • Icom IC-705
  • MFJ 1984 MP End-Fed Half Wave Antenna
  • Buddipole Buddistick Pro Antenna
  • LDG Z100 Plus
  • CW Morse Pocket Double Paddle Morse Code Key with Magnets
  • CW Morse Steel Base for Pocket Paddles
  • RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
  • Icom LC-192
  • Bioenno 12V 6Ah LiFePO4 Battery
  • Sony Headphones
  • Dell XPS 13 Laptop
  • Rite in the Rain Notebook
  • Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil
  • Cascade Mountain Tech Ultralight Highback Chair

POTA Activation #26: A 4-fer with Gersohn and a New Radio at George Washington Memorial Parkway, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage NST (VA) (8/20/2022)



I've had a bunch of amateur radio projects that have been stacking up over the Summer, and I finally had some time to work on one of them: the QCX mini from QRP Labs. The QCX mini is a single band QRP (5 W) CW transceiver (mine was built for the 40 m band). I had seen a lot of reviews of the radio and was amazed with the quality of its receiver and its compactness. The radio is astonishingly inexpensive as well, coming in under $60 for the radio, and under $100 including the case and all the add-ons. I was excited to build the radio, and with a couple days of work I had assembled, aligned, and tested it successfully. I made contacts on my home antenna with an external antenna tuner was amazed with the quiet that I was hearing on the band. Where my Kenwood TS-440S had significant noise, the QCX mini had near silence. CW just popped out loud, clear, and easy on the ears.

The 5 W definitely made things more of a challenge at home, but after repeated CQs I made some contacts, including a Canadian contact and great rag-chew with a station in Maryland. I was also getting solid reports on the Reverse Beacon Network. When I connected it to the QRP Labs Dummy Load, it estimated that I was getting the full 5 W output, so I was excited to get it into a park, put it through its paces, and enjoy the "+6dB" that comes from being on the POTA spotting network.

My buddy Gersohn (KO4IUK) had gotten back from a vacation on the West coast and we had a beautiful day forecast on Saturday, so we decided to meet at Belle Haven Park on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Due to the location of our operating position we were within 100 feet of 3 other parks: Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT (on the Potomac), Star Spangled Banner NHT (on the Potomac), and the Potomac Heritage NST (on the Mount Vernon Trail). That made this activation a 4-fer.


I brought my QCX mini and my Icom IC-705 so I could operate on other bands as well. Gersohn was also interested in getting more familiar with FT8, so I made sure I could operate my station digitally to show him how I've activated on FT8 as well. We got an early start and quickly got our antennas up into the trees. I used my throwline and got a nice inverted-v setup and Gersohn used his air cannon and got his line into two trees using all 175' of line! You can see the tree he used in the picture above and he got to the very top of it. He used his Nelson 49:1 matching network into an end-fed half-wave and it performed like a champion with low SWR on the bands. Shortly after getting up and running Gersohn made an SSB contact with Alaska! Can't beat that.

I used my trusty MFJ 1984-MP end-fed half-wave antenna and was pleased to see that on 40m I was getting an SWR of around 1.3:1 -- plenty good to go direct into the antenna without a tuner for my QCX mini. I got everything connected, programmed the keyer, and started calling CQ. I got my first two responses to my CQ in relatively short order with my first coming from Ohio and my second coming from Pennsylvania. Not bad for 5 W. I kept calling and got a response from a station that QRZ says was in California -- a bit of a surprise on 40 m, but I'll take it. Finally after calling CQ for another 10 minutes I got contact number 4 in Tennessee. I kept calling, but the band seemed pretty dead, so I decided to take a pause with the QCX and setup my IC-705.

I wanted to see if it was the 5 W or the band, so I gave 40 m SSB a go and made contacts with New Mexico, Virginia (about 6 miles away), Ohio, Ontario (Canada), and North Carolina. The going was slow, with those contacts taking about 29 minutes, so I had my answer: it was the band. So I decided to move over to 20m and start calling CQ on CW and was answered by Georgia, Texas (x2), Oklahoma, and after a bit of a delay Pennsylvania. I had made my activation, so the pressure was off a bit. I mentioned to Gersohn that I had been able to make contacts on 60 m at other parks using a tuner and a 40-10 EFHW, so we gave it a try on his antenna and sure enough, it tuned up and I was able to make a contact with North Carolina bringing the number of bands I had worked in both Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and the Star Spangled Banner NHT to 9.

Next I took a break in operating to try to lend a hand to Gersohn in getting his digital setup on the air. He was having some really strange noise coming in on his receive audio, and we weren't able to figure out what was going on. We went back to my IC-705 and I showed him my setup for FT8, this time on 40 m as I had some RFI issues on 20 m causing my radio to disconnect from the USB connection when I was transmitting. FT8 has a bit of a learning curve as the user interface isn't the most intuitive, so I was happy to show how I operate. I was able to make contact with stations in Connecticut, Virginia (this time just 4.4 miles away), Ontario (Canada), Texas, Ontario again, New York, and Tennessee. We tried to get things rolling on his FT8 setup after working those stations, but for this day it was not to be.


Emboldened by the success on FT8 on 40 m I decided to hook up my QCX mini one more time and see if I could get enough contacts to have had a full activation on it, if I had not brought the IC-705 along -- maybe the band had improved. And quickly I had my answer, it had gotten better. I had a park to park with Ontario (Canada), followed by contacts with South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina again, Georgia, New Hampshire, Quebec (Canada), Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and another Michigan contact. A great run on 40 m with just 5 W. What a great little rig.

Before we packed up, Gersohn and I pulled out our VHF radios and made a couple park to park contacts (from the same park) for fun. I tried calling out on the calling frequencies as well, but today there were no takers aside from Gersohn. All told I made 22 contacts on CW, 7 on FT8, and 7 on SSB for a grand total of 36 contacts. Of course, since this was a 4-fer 36 becomes 144 contacts in all. A fun day out in the park with a good friend.

QCX Mini 5W Activation Map: Green Pins = CW, Green Lines = 40m

Complete Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB, Green Pins = CW, Blue Pins = FT8 / Black Lines = 60m, Green Lines = 40m, Blue Lines = 20m

Gear used in this activation
  • Icom IC-705
  • QCX Mini (40 m version)
  • Leadsound Crystal 3W Speaker
  • MFJ 1984 MP End-Fed Half Wave Antenna
  • Nelson 49:1 End Fed Half Wave Antenna
  • LDG Z100 Plus
  • CW Morse Pocket Double Paddle Morse Code Key with Magnets
  • CW Morse Steel Base for Pocket Paddles
  • RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
  • Icom LC-192
  • Bioenno 12V 6Ah LiFePO4 Battery
  • Sony Headphones
  • Dell XPS 13 Laptop
  • Rite in the Rain Notebook
  • Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil

POTA Activations #24 and #25: Lake Anna State Park (VA) (7/26/2022 - 7/27/2022)



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
  • Icom IC-705
  • 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
  • Icom LC-192
  • Bioenno 12V 6Ah LiFePO4 Battery
  • Sony Headphones
  • Dell XPS 13 Laptop
  • Rite in the Rain Notebook
  • Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil
  • Hcalory 50L Portable Fridge/Freezer