POTA Activation #54: A Rainy Day 4 Park 3 Band Activation Before Work (VA) (3/24/2023)

My car had been in the shop for 10 days for some repairs and I very quickly was reminded how much I've gotten used to having a mobile HF setup in the car. Suddenly, my impromptu activations before work were no longer an option, and I missed getting on the air on the way to the office. Thankfully, I got the call last night that my car was ready and I was able to scratch the POTA itch that had been calling to me for so long.

This morning was a dreary one, so it was especially nice to be able to activate from the car. As frequent readers here know, I like to activate in DC on these early morning excursions, but there was a potential wrench thrown into the works. The cherry blossoms by the Tidal Basin and Hains Point are in full bloom. While I love seeing them, so does everyone else, so finding a parking spot, or even getting around down there within the parks I frequent in DC would be a distinct challenge. So I decided to make a stop at Gravelly Point on the George Washington Memorial Parkway which is just before the turn-off into DC at the end of the runway of Washington National Airport in Virginia. Due to its location it is also in 3 other parks: Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, Star-Spangled Banner NHT, and Potomac Heritage Trail NST. A 4-fer right off the parkway.

I had been listening to the bands on the commute and heard another activator on 40m CW calling, so once I was safely parked I gave him a call to his park Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area in Georgia. I gave him a 599 and he gave me a 559, and I was off to the races. I decided to move up to the 30m band to get a bit less noise and more distance. After tuning up and sending a few CQs I was answered by a station all the way over in California with a 599 both ways. Next up was Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia, and Minnesota. The going was slow, and there was a station 1 kHz below me that moved in shortly after I started and was blasting so loud that he could have been transmitting in the same parking lot. So I decided to move up to the third band of the day, 20m.

After re-establishing myself I got a solid 599 signal from Florida, followed by Oklahoma, and Florida. Then I heard a weak signal at 559 (although at times lower) just down the road in Woodbridge. We were probably just on the edge of shooting our signals over each other, but with some persistence we got it done. Then I got a beautiful signal booming in from an LICW friend, Greg KD5HIZ, in Texas. It was great to get him in the log. Next up was Dan, WD4DAN, who also had a booming signal from Georgia. Nice to get 2 familiar calls back-to-back.

Next up was a signal just down in my noise floor from Maryland, I heard him 539 and he heard me 339, but we did it. Given his location in Northern MD, I am surprised we didn't skip over each other, but we made it. That contact was followed by a pair of strong signals from Florida both with 599 both ways. Finally the last contact of the day was a weak one from Georgia, 539 for me but 599 for him. I looked up at the clock and realized it was time to may my way to the office. 16 contacts in the log on 3 bands and 4 parks in 34 minutes.

The low number of contacts was curious -- it seemed contrary to everything that has been happening with the setup. So I scratched my temple and got into the office and then decided to look at solar conditions. The A index was 60! That explains the challenge right there. I feel lucky I was able to make my activation. I'm glad I didn't look beforehand, as I might have skipped it, and this was definitely a fun one, even if it was at a more leisurely pace. Interestingly enough though, I was getting out. Looking at the Reverse Beacon network, my CQs were heard in Australia (6dB), New Zealand (16dB), Samoa (15db) and Germany (6dB) on 20m, and in Samoa (8dB) on 30m! Interestingly enough, the path for Australia and Samoa were almost completely coincident, even with Samoa being on 2 bands. Now, if only it wasn't the middle of the night for them maybe we could have made a contact.

Reverse Beacon Network Map (Where my signal was being heard by the network)

Shortly after the activation, I received an award that I had been working toward, the Early Shift Activator award. I didn't realize that I was activating during that window today, but I guess with the change in Daylight Saving time, it must have shifted by an hour. Nearby parks have it set for 1300 Zulu, so now that is until 9 AM. I suppose that means I will have more Early Shift contacts in my future. This activation also was my 20th activation of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, so I was also awarded another Oasis Repeat Offender Award for the park. It is always fun to reach the goals you set for yourself.

I guess it goes to show, you can only trust the propagation numbers to a certain extent. The only certainty: if you don't give it a try, you won't make the contacts. This was a fun one, and I'm looking forward to more activations in the future.

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