POTA Activation #61: A Post-Concert Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts Activation (VA) (6/8/2023)

My beautiful wife has been on a bit of a concert kick of late, so she's been looking out for shows of interest that the family can enjoy together. She and I have been long-time fans of the Indigo Girls, so when she heard they were going to be performing at Wolf Trap she jumped at the chance to get tickets to the show for the three of us. Wolf Trap is a beautiful venue situated in Northern Virginia near Tysons Corner surrounded by a beautiful park.

You may be guessing where this is going ... Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts just so happens to be the one and only National Park dedicated solely to the performing arts. It also happens to be one of the parks that is a part of Parks on the Air. So once we had tickets in hand, I was excited to see the show, and to get the park on the air as we waited in the long lines that always are present to get out of the parking lots after the show. For once waiting in a line was a feature and not a bug ...

The three of us arrived at Wolf Trap with time to spare on a pleasant late Spring afternoon from a temperature perspective, however, from an air quality perspective it left something to be desired. Due to wildfires in Canada, the air quality was quite terrible and the air was heavy with the vague smell of a campfire and the acrid byproducts of combustion. We made it into the Filene Center fairly quickly and after getting some snacks and souvenirs made our way to our fantastic seats a short distance back from the stage.

The show was excellent. Emily Saliers and Amy Ray performed all their hits and some of their newer material and the audience was enjoying every second as they were dancing and singing along to the songs they all knew by heart. The venue was nearly sold out and the hazy skies were unable to put a damper on the spirits of the thousands assembled. After a two hour set capped by a 3 song encore, the Indigo Girls bid us good night and we made the slow trek back to the car. I was excited to get an activation in the books from a new (to me) park, but looking at my watch I noticed that the show had gotten us past the eleven o'clock hour, and I worried that all the hunters might have called it a night already. There was only one way to find out ...

Since it was in the evening, I gravitated toward the 40m band, thinking that would give me the best shot of making my 10 while I waited for the parking lot to clear out at Wolf Trap. So I spotted myself, notified some friends, and called CQ. And then I called CQ again ... and again ... and again. Crickets ... is this thing on? Since I was using HAMRS, I saw spot after spot coming in on the RBN, but SDR receiving stations don't make contacts.

So I moved up to the 30m band and called CQ again. Wow, the spots really were coming in. I was killing it in Europe ... but it seems most of them were asleep. I kept calling, and silence was my only response. So I decided to move on over to the 20m band. As I was searching for a spot I heard A LOT of activity there. Quickly I realized I was in the middle of the CWops CWT, a regular weekly contest held by CWops for an hour where the operators who run tend to absolutely fly at speeds that can be in excess of 35wpm. Usually they hang out in the .028-.045 region, so I went a bit higher and started calling CQ POTA.

Where I was spotted on the RBN

For several minutes I heard no replies to my CQs. I contemplated calling QRT and going back to watching cars not move around me. Then I got my first reply. A station in Texas was hearing me at 559, so now if I called QRT it would be a failed activation. Time to redouble my efforts. Next I got another call, and then after 4 minutes a third, this time in Oklahoma. Then I had 6 minutes of nothing at all. Was this going to be my first failed activation? Looking at the RBN I was getting out like crazy across 3 continents ... they just weren't looking for me.

So as I was sitting there, I realized something. I had heard dozens of stations when I switched to the 20m band. The CWT was on. Then a light bulb went on in my head. Any QSO is a valid QSO for POTA. Hunters are hunters, even if they don't know they're hunters ... Contesters will work to make contacts with me if I call them, they want the QSO just as badly as I do. And the CWT has a quick and easy exchange just like POTA. If you can't beat them ... join them. And so I did.

Scrolling down the dial I heard a station in the Czech Republic blazing at the speed of light. I threw my call out and got an immediate response. 4 in the log. Next I heard a station from Alberta burning that paddle like the wildfires plaguing us all. I called him and boom, 5 in the log. Then I heard an Illinois station running at speed. Number 6. Next was a Texas station for 7, then some Hungarian DX for 8, Kansas for 9, and finally Georgia (the state, not the country) for 10. Not a second too soon, as the parking lot had started to clear and the Park Police were starting to circle the parking lot which meant that it was time for us to head on home.

With 12 minutes until midnight I called it an activation and got my 36th unique park on-the-air. It was certainly an unconventional activation, but a lot of fun. I didn't realize I could hang with guys going at double the speed I usually activate at, but I was able to get it done. Perhaps I'll participate in more CWTs in the future. A good reminder to not give up. Sometimes one operator's contest is another's activation. Dit. Dit.

International Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Blue Lines = 20m

Domestic Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Blue Lines = 20m

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