POTA Activation #21 - Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (VA) (7/16/2022)

The weekend of July 16-17, 2022 was the Summer Support Your Parks Weekend for Parks on the Air as well as the annual Plaque Event. What that means is that there are extra awards to be awarded, and a a result, a lot more parks (and hunters) on the air than usual. Support Your Parks Weekends happen quarterly, but the Plaque Event happens only during the Summer Support Your Parks Weekend and gives you a chance to get a plaque in various different categories. I was not aiming for any plaques with my QRP setup, however, I definitely wanted to get on the air in some parks during the special event.

I was nearing the next award level with individual parks activated, so I wanted to see if I could activate a new (to me) park over the weekend. I had not activated Leesylvania State Park yet, and looking at maps it appeared that not only would it be a new park, but depending on where in the park I set up my station it could be a 3-fer or a 4-fer, so all those contacts would be multiplied by 3 or 4. This was exciting, and I reached out to my buddy Gersohn, KO4IUK, to see if he was interested in joining me. He was, so I found some time for us to meet up after the birthday party of my daughter's friend. I picked up Gersohn, we drove down to the park, and came upon a road block. The park was closed due to being at capacity. I did not see that one coming.

The Rolling Stones had a song about this ... you can't always get what you want ... We had to think quickly for a plan B. We were just a few miles from where I had activated the previous Sunday, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I wouldn't get a new park on the map, but we could still have a lot of fun, so we headed to the NWR and almost had the place entirely to ourselves.

We ended up setting up under the shelter that I operated next to the previous week and since there was only one good tree to use, I elected to use the Buddistick Pro for my antenna while Gersohn used his end-fed half wave over the tree and tied off to my car. We situated our antennas as far away from each other as we could, and for the first time we didn't interfere with each other's reception, even though he was running a full 100W.

In addition to using our radios, I was also trying out a new bit of gear that added a bit of luxury to our operation. I had picked up a 50 L electric cooler from Hcalory that runs off 12V power for a deep discount online. My intent was to run it through its paces and see how long it would run with my Jackery Explorer 500 (which has about 500 Wh of battery). I had it loaded with some ice cold seltzers and Gersohn put in his water to keep it cold. Having cold drinks on a hot day was quite the luxury. After 10 hours on the Jackery it still had 75% of its power remaining. I'm looking forward to using it more in the field for activations, for car camping trips, and for long car trips as well. So far it has been working very well.

But we weren't there just to drink cold drinks in the shade. We were there to make some contacts. I set my Buddistick Pro up on 20m and Gersohn started on 40. I started on CW and gave myself a self-spot and I was off. Contacts came in from Minnesota, Florida, New York, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Illinois, and Oklahoma. I decided to give SSB a try and made contacts with Oklahoma, Ohio, and Ontario (Canada). After things dried up on SSB I went back to CW for a couple contacts with Florida and Illinois before the winds picked up and the skies darkened and distant lightning threatened our activation.

We decided to break down the station after about 2:39 on the air to get ahead of the weather. All told I made 28 contacts (23 CW, 2 FM, and 3 SSB). Once we got everything packed away, we decided to take advantage of being in the park together and made two Park to Park contacts from the same park on 2m and 70cm.

We celebrated another fun activation together with dinner at the Bar J Chili Parlor in nearby Occoquan and another joint activation was in the books. Activating with Gersohn is always fun and it was great that we weren't interfering with eachother's stations. I'm not sure if it was the antennas chosen or the distance between them (or both), but it was a great time.

Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB, Green Pins = CW / Blue Lines = 20m, Yellow Lines = 2m/70cm

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
  • Jackery Explorer 500
  • Hcalory 50L Portable Fridge/Freezer