POTA Activation #41: A Mobile Late-Shift Support Your Parks Weekend 4-fer at George Washington Memorial Parkway, Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star-Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage Trail NST (VA) (1/21/2023)

I always like to participate in the Support Your Parks Weekends for Parks on the Air, but for the Winter 2023 SYP weekend I was going to be out of town on Saturday and flying back home on Sunday. I had the unfortunate realization that I would not be likely to be able to pull off an activation if I stuck to my normal activating hours. I had to get on the road early on Saturday, so the only window I had was actually on my Friday shortly after the start of the Zulu day.

I went out to a nice dinner with the family mere feet away from the George Washington Memorial Parkway at a restaurant called Cedar Knoll. When there is daylight it has commanding views of the Potomac. It was dark out, so all we could see were the headlights of cars making their way down the Parkway. Our dinner was delicious, and afterward I drove a little bit down the road to a pull-off that was right by the water and the trail, giving me a 4-fer from the car. My normal spots would not have worked as those parts of the park were closed. But in this particular location, it was right on the parkway itself, which never closes.

It was pretty dark out, so I don't have any pictures of this activation, but the stars were out in full force and we saw countless planes coming in to Washington National Airport on the Mount Vernon visual approach. We also saw the lights of a few boats on the Potomac slowly making their way to their destinations.

Before leaving the restaurant I had looked at the MUF map, and it looked like a 20m activation on CW might have been possible with the SFI being well over 200, so I decided to start (and I was hoping to end) there. This would be a quick one, I hoped. After setting up and spotting myself, I started calling CQ on 20m and after a couple minutes I got a call from Kansas, followed by Texas, Oregon, and Colorado. The going got slower and I got a contact in California, then Texas, and then I got nothing for many minutes.

Nothing on the East Coast followed by weakening signals on the West and then radio silence made me think that the band may have died on me as the country got blanketed in inky darkness. I moved down to 30m. I was re-spotted by the Reverse Beacon Network pretty quickly, so I was hopeful that I would get some luck there. I eventually did get a strong signal from Missouri, although he wasn't hearing me anywhere near as clearly as I heard him. After that I called and called to no avail. I had 8 contacts, but I needed 10.

Time to move down once again, this time to 40m. After finding a clear frequency (which was a bit harder than on 20 and 30 as this band seemed quite a bit more alive), I started calling CQ and after a slow start was greeted by a call from Brian from QRPARCI coming in 599 with a QRP signal from Indiana. It is always great to get him in the log (this was the second time he hunted me this week), and he always sounds super strong, even at QRP. I smiled when he sent a 72 letting me know he was low power. Next up I heard from New York and I had a valid activation, but now I had a mini-pileup. So I got contacts from Illinois, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois again, Michigan, and finally a contact with Woodbridge, VA that came in super quiet, so we must have had just enough groundwave propagation to make it happen, even though we were just a few miles apart.

In all, in just over 35 minutes I had 16 contacts on 3 bands ranging from the West Coast to the Canadian border and down to the Gulf of Mexico, all on the late shift. I had a few moments where I doubted whether I would make the activation, but perseverance prevailed. Since I had a tired and full crew, I called it an activation and headed on home. Another Support Your Parks Weekend activation (or 4) in the books.

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+
  • Flyboys Classic Kneeboard
  • Gasuuo College Ruled Spiral Notebook
  • Sharpie S-Gel Retractable Pen
  • HAMRS Logging App