POTA Activation #11 - Fairy Stone State Park (VA) (5/14/2022)

Over the weekend of May 14, 2022 my daughter's Girl Scout troop had a cabin camp scheduled at Fairy Stone State Park in Southern Virginia. I am the camp and cookout certified parent in the troop, so I was excited to be able to join them on the trip. Our family had visited Fairy Stone a few years ago and had a great time in our cabin enjoying some time away from it all and hiking on the trails that the park has to offer. For this outing, I decided to bring my portable radio setup and see if I could manage an activation while staying in the park.

The park is somewhat remote with spotty cellular service, so I made sure to schedule my activation window on the POTA web site so if I did FT8 or CW I would show up on the spotting section of the site. We made the five hour drive down to the park after the girls were done with school for the day and got settled in the lodge that we rented for the troop. The lodge was spacious and quite nice with a well equipped kitchen, a gas fireplace, and a dining room table that was able to accommodate the entire troop.

After getting situated I decided to setup under awning that went over the sitting area by the front door to keep out of the light rain that was a persistent companion. I was able to use my new aluminum Camp Chef Mesa folding table to set up my equipment and used one of the rocking chairs out front as my seat. Since it was dark, I figured it would be easiest to get on the air with my Buddistick Pro antenna, so I set it up in the clear and started trying to make some calls for my first attempt at a late shift activation. SSB was fruitless, but I decided to take my first attempt at using FT8 to make my activation. For those who may not know, POTA uses Universal Coordinated Time to determine the boundaries of a day. So even though I started on Friday night, any time after 8 PM Eastern is actually the following day in UTC. Also, any activation that happens between 0000-1200Z (8PM-8AM Eastern) is considered a "Late Shift" and is counted as that on the site.

I had to dial back the power initially as I was having some issues with RFI causing my sound card connection to fail on the IC-705, but once I got down to around 5 W, I was able to have a reasonably reliable connection. Later on I was able to shift some of the gear to reduce interference. I was able to get out on 40 m pretty well, making my first contact with Iowa. Next came New York, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Idaho, Colorado, Missouri, Florida, and Oklahoma. It wasn't the fastest activation, and I have to admit I missed the conversational nature of SSB, but I had successfully activated for the Zulu day, so the pressure was off to make my 10 on the local Saturday.

The girls had a bunch of activities planned, including working on the ARRL Radio and Wireless Technology badge program. When they had a break in their activities, they came out to see the radio setup. We talked about how the station worked and I told them about the contacts I had made at night. There was a lot of interest in Morse code, so I showed them my portable paddle and let them send some code using the 705 as an oscillator. They seemed to get a kick out of me sending their names in code to them. Next we tried to make some contacts, but it was in the morning and the bands were pretty dead. I decided to get my EFHW into a nearby tree to see if a change of antenna would do the trick, but we had nothing but crickets on SSB. Unwilling to give up, I hooked up the computer and got on FT8, this time on 20m.

Immediately we were able to make contacts, which I was able to show them on GridTracker so they could see how far we were going on our low power. Digital was able to save the day again. We contacted stations in Minnesota, Texas, Washington, and Florida and decided to call it a day on the bands. Since our activation had already been made for the Zulu day, we were happy for the contacts we made.

The rest of the trip we got to enjoy some truly wonderful ranger programs where we all learned a lot about the park and its inhabitants. We also got to go hunting for Fairy Stones, which are found in some dry stream beds on the outskirts of the park that have crystal formations that are distinctive. The girls loved getting their hands dirty and the park allows visitors to take the fairy stones they find home. I had a lot of fun scrambling over the hillside with them to hunt for the stones.

All in all it was a great weekend. We had a lot of fun at Fairy Stone State Park and I'm glad we got to get an activation in and work toward their Radio and Wireless Technology Patch. Maybe some of the scouts will be interested in pursuing their license someday. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the activation, but I did make a map of the QSOs below.

Gear used in this activation
  • Icom IC-705
  • Buddipole Buddistick Pro Antenna
  • MFJ 1984 MP End-Fed Half Wave Antenna
  • LDG Z100 Plus
  • RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
  • Icom LC-192
  • Bioenno 12V 6Ah LiFePO4 Battery
  • Sony Headphones
  • Dell XPS 13 Laptop
  • Camp Chef Mesa Folding Aluminum Table
  • Rite in the Rain Notebook
  • Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil