POTA Activation #59: A First Ohio Activation Returning from Hamvention at Buckeye Lake State Park with Gersohn and Nick (5/21/2023) (OH)

After a fun trip to Four Days in May and Dayton Hamvention, my buddy Gersohn, KO4IUK, and I made our way back home. While at Hamvention on Saturday, we met up with Nick, AJ4YB, a member of MVARC who recently moved to the Columbus area. While exploring Hamvention together we came up with a plan to meet up Sunday morning at Buckeye Lake State Park which was conveniently situated near Nick's QTH and also just off Interstate 70 on our way back home. Gersohn and I set the alarms for an early start and after having breakfast and packing up the car, we were off to the park. I had been hearing reports from friends that the bands were in bad shape the previous day. I had a friend who had a failed activation on the WA/OR border, although from the pictures I saw later on, it was a failure only in not getting 10 contacts ... his operating environment could not have been more beautiful, being on the banks of a lake with a mountain visible in the distance. So with no small amount of trepidation, we made our way to the park with some new equipment in tow to give a 3-op activation a try.

Gersohn was lucky enough to get one of only two Chelegance MC-750 verticals that Chelegance had on display at Hamvention. Reviewers including Thomas, K4SWL, have been singing the praises of this design, which features a collapsible whip with screen printed markings to aid in tuning. The display unit had a damaged 4th ground radial that we didn't have the tools to fix, so we made do with 3. Even with that 25% reduction in the radial field, we were able to get excellent SWR on the bands we tried almost instantly. With my RigExpert Stick Pro zeroing in on the perfect point of resonance was quick and almost effortless. For a radio we decided to use my Icom IC-705 as it has proven to be a capable performer in the field and very easy to use.

Nick arrived at the park shortly after we did on his motorcycle, and we showed off the new equipment while setting up camp on a picnic table on a creek that fed into Buckeye Lake. It was a beautiful morning and once we got everything set-up we decided to set ourselves up on 20m and hoped for the best. Scanning through the bands we saw a few stations on the waterfall, so we were hopeful and we spotted and called CQ on 14.312. It took several CQs, but after a while we got our first taker, a call from Colorado who boomed into our park with a 59 and heard our 10 Watt signal at 55. We then hopefully signed with a QRZ ... but our hopes were not met with success. Instead they were met with silence. We tried for a while, then switched to 40 m, where we got no callers for our efforts. After no luck on 40 m we returned to 20 m on 14.322 and let our recorded CQ save our voices. 19 minutes after our first CQ, we got a call back from a station in Louisiana, again at 59 for us and 57 from his side. Then we kept going and got no callers for another 19 minutes.

It looked like we were going to have a failed activation, so Gersohn and Nick insisted I do some CW to see if at least one of us could make some contacts, so I set up on 40 m at 7.044 and the calls started coming in. A pair of callers from North Carolina started things off with strong signals, then Tennessee, super hunter K9IS in Wisconsin, Virginia, Connecticut, super hunter Joe N3XLS in Pennsylvania. Then things stopped dead on 40, this activation didn't want to be complete. So I decided to go back to 20 m and I heard a quiet station who gave me a 339 in Texas and a pair of strong stations in Florida who got me to 12 QSOs and a successful activation with 10 CW QSOs in 17 minutes. If you need a reason to learn CW ... this definitely isn't a bad one. Gersohn and Nick needed 8 more and I didn't want to give up so easily. So we went to 14.320, spotted ourselves and gave it another go.

(Photo Taken by Nick Bloom, AJ4YB)

We heard from Rhode island first (SSB #3), then after a few minutes got a caller from Florida (SSB #4), and after 5 minutes heard back from a station in Pennsylvania (SSB #5). Interestingly, while the QSOs were slow and far-between we were getting solid signal reports and strong signals. We were getting close enough to be able to start doing some inside-the-park park-to-parks. Since we had 3 ops, each person could get 2 P2Ps on each band. Not the way we like to do things, but with only 5 needed we could do one 20m QSO, 2 on 2m, and 2 on 70cm and get it in the logs. Interestingly enough I had a conversation the previous day with Jason W3AAX, the founder of POTA, about this and my general reluctance to do it on anything other than 2m/70cm. He said in no uncertain terms it was okay, so I made my way to the mobile station to get one more HF contact before switching to the HTs. As I tuned to the frequency on my 891 I heard Gersohn chatting with a mobile station, just a few miles a way going down Interstate 70. They were surprised they got us on ground-wave -- they must have been super close (so alas their map locations are incorrect). I shut off the 891 and ran back to our operating position. The POTA gods smiled on us and the car had 3 ops in it. All 3 of us made contacts with all 3 of them for SSB contacts 6, 7, and 8. We thanked them profusely and now all we needed to get 10 was for each of us to make a contact on 2m. So we pulled out our HTs and called CQ POTA. We got no other takers than the ones we could see across the field from us, but that got us up to FM contacts 9 and 10. A successful activation for everyone.

From first QSO to the last we were on the air for 94 minutes. I got 20 in the log and Gersohn and Nick got 10. More importantly, the three of us had a great time together and Nick got his first POTA activation in the books. I had to reassure him that they're usually easier than this, but we still had a blast. We also got to test out that Chelegance MC-750 antenna and it was an absolute joy to use. While many of my antennas can theoretically go without a tuner, this is the only one that I can confidently say doesn't need one at all. I may have to pick one up myself.

After staying in the park longer than expected, we had to make our way back to the road. So Gersohn and I gave best 73 to Nick and headed back to Interstate 70 for home. We had initially planned on activating in Pennsylvania to get another state on the board, but with conditions like these we decided getting home before dark was the better plan. That will have to wait for another trip. Even with challenging band conditions, there is nothing like activating POTA with friends.

Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB, No Pins = FM / Green Lines = 40m, Blue Lines = 20m, Yellow Lines = 2m

Gear used in this activation
  • Icom IC-705
  • Chelegance MC-750 Vertical Antenna
  • 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
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App