POTA Activation #37: New Year's Day Activation 4-fer in Mason Neck State Park, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star-Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage Trail NST (VA) (1/1/2023)

After the damp and dreary weather on New Year's Eve, we were treated to some unseasonably warm weather (around 65 degrees F) with a whole lot of sunshine. I have always liked the idea of a first day hike, so I convinced the family to join me at one of our favorite local parks, Mason Neck State Park, on beautiful Mason Neck in Northern Virginia. We love the trail network in the park and with my annual state parks pass, we're frequent visitors. One of our favorite trails is a short mile-long route called the Bay View Trail. As its name implies, it takes you along the banks of Belmont Bay at the confluence of the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers.

The trail is a real gem with incredibly varied scenery for such a short route. The trail starts at the parking lot for a picnic area where you're greeted by signage that reminds you that you're along the Star-Spangled Banner NHT and points out some history for you to enjoy. The trail also coincides with a stretch of the Potomac Heritage Trail NST and the water that it borders is part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT. Of course the State Park itself is a listed POTA entity, so if you're in the right place, you get 4 parks for the price of one. As you walk beside the bay you cross over the outlet of a marshland and come to a boardwalk that takes you to a beach on the bay that is quite beautiful. Then the trail goes over the marsh via a boardwalk, up a hillside to a point with a observation blind overlooking another part of the marsh, and then into a forest area that provides yet another ecosystem to enjoy. We have done this hike numerous times, but it never gets old.

After we finished our hike, the family was ready for a late lunch, but allowed me to get in a super-fast activation. Luckily, our parking spot was within range of all 4 parks, so we were able to get a 4-fer going with my mobile setup. I didn't want to make them wait a long time, and I also didn't want to annoy them with too much beeping, so I set up for 20m SSB and after some trouble finding a spot on the band spotted myself and started calling CQ POTA. It didn't take long to get a call back from a station in Illinois, followed by Georgia, a Park to Park contact with Stones River National Battlefield in Tennessee, another Park to Park contact with Tishomingo State Park in Mississippi, another contact with Georgia, a Park to Park contact with Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, and another Georgia contact who let me know that I was being crowded in a bit by some stations in Texas. So I decided to move up 2 kHz and after re-spotting and calling CQ for a couple minutes I was back in action with a contact in Arkansas, followed by Illinois, Georgia, Illinois again, another Park to Park contact with Elk River Lodge State Park in Alabama, a contact with Tennessee, and two contacts with Missouri. Next up I had another Park to Park contact with Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park in Florida, followed by contacts with Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas, and finally another with Florida.

For the first time in a while there was no answer to my CQ, so I decided to call it an activation so we could head to a nearby chili parlor for a hearty post-hike repast. This was probably my fastest activation ever with 20 contacts in 14 minutes. Not bad at all, and since it was a 4-fer, that technically 80 contacts in 14 minutes. This park holds a special place in my heart as it was also the first park I ever activated. That activation probably could have been a 3-fer based on where I set-up, but I didn't know that at the time, so it is in the logs just as the one. It was good to get it back on the air again. I was chatting with some friends tonight who also activated today and they saw me in the spots, but I was a bit too quick for them to be able to make the contact. They are frequent activators and we're in each other's logs several times, so we'll get it done next time. We really do have a great community doing Parks on the Air.

Happy New Year to you and yours and until next time, 73.

Activation QSO Map: Red Pins = SSB / Blue Lines = 20m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App