POTA Activation #20 - Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (VA) (7/10/2022)

The day after I returned from my vacation in South Carolina we were having a particularly pleasant day in Northern Virginia (especially when compared to the humid swelter of South Carolina). I saw myself nearing 20 distinct parks activated on the POTA web site and was in the mood to spend some quality time outside. The family was enjoying a rest day after the travel of the previous day, so I decided to explore a new-to-me park less than a half hour from where I live.

The Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge sits across Belmont Bay from the first park I ever activated, Mason Neck State Park. The NWR is tucked on the Northeast corner of Woodbridge, Virginia and is a densely vegetated 642 acre refuge for wildlife near the confluence of the Potomac and Occoquan rivers. There are 4 miles of trails through wetland areas and along the banks of the Occoquan. Within 100 feet of the river the activation would be a two-fer with the Captain James Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, so I decided to hike on the trail before the activation to scout for a potential operating position near the water. Unfortunately, there weren't many good places to operate since the vegetation was fairly dense along the trail and I didn't want to be blocking part of the trail to activate.

I did find one potential location at a point jutting out into the river, but I would have had to bring in my table and equipment nearly a mile and it was getting hotter, so I decided to loop back to my starting point and set-up near a pavilion (but not in it, as it was already being enjoyed by other visitors). One park was just fine for me.

I assembled my table in front of a bench behind a tree so that I would not be in anyone's way and used my arborist throw line to get my end fed half wave up and over the top of the tree. I was actually able to tie off the end of the line to my antenna to my car, which was quite convenient. Using that trick the line was out of the way of other visitors and I was able to get a nice slope on the antenna.

I decided to start the fun on 20m CW. I have been finding in my last few activations that the RBN spotting for POTA has been a bit (pardon the pun) spotty. So after it became clear it wasn't picking me up I spotted manually and I was off. My first contact was with Wisconsin, then Texas, New York, Alabama, Tennessee, Colorado, Florida, and Kentucky. Then I gave 20m SSB a go and made a contact with Kentucky and then the contacts dried up. So I switched over to 40m SSB and made a contact with Connecticut and then had a bit of silence again. I moved down to the CW portion of the band and made contact with Maine, Ohio, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Ohio.

After another lull in contacts, I made a move to the 30m band and had contacts with Illinois, North Carolina, Ontario (Canada), and Missouri. Hopping to yet another band I gave 17m a try, but got no replies, so I went to 15m and made a contact with a station in Arkansas. I gave 12m and 10m a go, but didn't get any takers, so I went back to 20m to hunt some Park to Park contacts and call CQ as well. Calling CQ I made contact with Oklahoma and Wisconsin. With Park to Park contacts I contacted parks in Nova Scotia (Canada) and a pair of activators in Wisconsin. Next I went for a CW Park to Park contact with a station in Ohio.

Next I decided to give calling CQ on SSB another go on 20 and my first contact was a Park to Park in Delaware (although as of this writing, he hasn't posted his logs yet). That contact was followed with contacts in Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina.

With my cache of cold drinks nearly depleted and 36 contacts in the log (24 CW and 12 SSB) I decided to call it an activation and head back home. I am glad that I decided to visit the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it is a hidden gem right in my back yard. Once you're inside the refuge, it is easy to forget you're adjacent to considerable suburban sprawl and get lost in this green oasis for wildlife. The activation was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed being able to linger for a while and explore different bands.

The picture above shows the pavilion by the parking lot that could be used for future activations. My operating position was behind the tree that is next to it.

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