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