POTA Activations #14, #15, and #16 - Shenandoah National Park 3 Day Activation (VA) (6/18/2022-6/20/2022)

After the four-fer earlier in the week, I was energized and eager to get back out in the field and see what I could do. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long this time. In fact, technically, it was the next Zulu day. My daughter has a sleep-away camp scheduled for later in the Summer in the Shenandoah valley and they were having an open house so that parents and campers could see what is in store. We decided to make the nearly 3 hour trek down to the campground and then backtrack for a three day, two night stay at Skyland Resort inside Shenandoah National Park. The open house was fantastic -- I wish I was able to go to this camp! My daughter was excited too. We ended up spending most of the day there exploring all the different campsites and facilities. We got to shoot a slingshot, see the archery grounds, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. When we headed back to our car we saw that it was getting close to the end of the Zulu day. We made our way to Shenandoah National Park's Swift Run Gap entrance and headed North on the Skyline drive in search of a place to get in a quick activation.

Just up the drive from the entrance station was South River Picnic Grounds. When I got out of the car I noticed it was surprisingly chilly, so I put on a jacket and got started setting up. I got my gear onto a picnic table by a grand old tree and tossed my line up to a high branch to pull up my MFJ 1984 MP End Fed Half Half Wave antenna. I was up and running pretty quickly and decided to start with CW on 20m, but heard nothing but crickets. I then called CQ on 40m and started getting answers. My cell phone was not working, so I was completely reliant on the Reverse Beacon Network to hear me and to report me on the spots. I got replies from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Then nothing for several minutes. I had 7 contacts and I had less than an hour to make 3 more to have a valid activation, so I decided to fall back on FT8 to save the day and in short order I had 5 more contacts from Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. 12 contacts in 49 minutes -- longer than I had hoped, but it worked. With the first activation validated, I quickly broke down the station and we made our way to dinner at Big Meadows Lodge as everyone in our crew was quite hungry.

6/18/2022 Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW, Blue Pins = Digital / Green Lines = 40m

After dinner we checked-in to our accommodations further up the drive at Skyland Lodge. It was already dark, and we quickly unloaded our car and got situated in our room. Although we could only see the lights in the valley below that night, our room had a commanding view. After everyone else was ready to retire for the evening, I set up my station on the balcony our room had. I didn't want to mess with shooting my wires up into the trees at night, so I decided to use the pole I use for my Buddistick Pro to keep the antenna off the ground, albeit not very far. I doubled up on jackets as the temperatures were going down into the lower 40s and got out my paddle and started calling CQ. At 2:32Z I got my first call and the calls kept coming. Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire answered my calls on 40, 30, and 20m. In all I got 20 contacts in 1:09 of operating during the late shift. I had a few times where my sending was not the best due to cold fingers, but I had a lot of fun. With more than double the amount of contacts needed for a complete activation in the books and the midnight hour fast approaching, I decided to call it a night.

6/19/2022 Activation QSO Map A (0:00-4:00Z): Green Pins = CW, Green Lines = 40m, Orange Lines = 30m, Blue Lines = 20m

The following morning we got up and had breakfast up at the lodge and enjoyed the beautiful blue skies and a bit of a chill in the air. We got back to the room for a little after breakfast break and I made a handful of contacts doing a little hunting on 40 and 20 CW and SSB along with some calling CQ. After getting 5 more contacts we decided it was time to go for a hike and opted for a quick trip up to Stony Man Summit as a family. The hike from the trailhead was 1.71 miles according to my Strava app with 297 feet of elevation gain. The view from the summit at 4,011 feet was spectacular. We were surprised to find that the puddles in some of the rocks at that elevation had what appeared to be tadpoles in them. Life definitely finds a way, even on the summit of a mountain. We savored the views for a bit before heading back down to the trailhead.

After our hike we made our way back to the hotel and I also got my antenna higher up into a tree using my throw line kit. I decided to give 20m a go on CW and made 8 contacts in quick succession, then I decided to head over to 40m where I got another 11 quick contacts. After a 50 minute operating break I decided it was time to give SSB a try, so I got onto 40m, found a clear frequency, and had an absolute blast. Very quickly I got into a rhythm and was having fun with the ensuing pileup. When the dust cleared I had 38 contacts in 49 minutes on SSB. With 50 minutes left in the Zulu day we decided to get some dinner up at Skyland Lodge. For the non-late shift part of the activation I was able to work stations in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Ontario (Canada), Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey, and Virginia.

6/19/2022 Activation QSO Map B (4:00-23:59Z): Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB, Green Lines = 40m, Blue Lines = 20m

After dinner we made it back down to our hotel for the evening and I got back on the air at 1:19Z on 40m SSB. Almost immediately I got a bunch of hunters responding to my CQ. I got 28 SSB contacts in 27 minutes before deciding to make the switch over to CW. On CW I hunted a Park to Park and then set up shop calling CQ. I ended up making 24 more contacts while calling CQ in 39 minutes and then I called it an activation to get some sleep. In all my second late shift of the trip had 53 contacts (28 SSB and 25 CW) with Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Ontario (Canada), Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, and Illinois. Not bad for 1:17 on the air!

6/20/2022 Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB / Green Lines = 40m

I had an absolutely wonderful time up in Shenandoah National Park with my family and was very pleased with all three activations and two late shifts during my time on the mountain. In total I was able to make 147 contacts over 3 Zulu days in the park -- 75 CW, 67 SSB, and 5 FT8. Operating from the hotel balcony inside the park was a wonderful treat, and the South River Picnic Grounds had their charms, too. The QSO map for the entire trip is down below.

Entire Trip QSO Map (6/18/2022-6/20/2022): Red Pins = SSB, Green Pins = CW, Blue Pins = FT8 / Green Lines = 40m, Orange Lines = 30m, Blue Lines = 20m

Gear used in this activation
  • Icom IC-705
  • MFJ 1984 MP End-Fed Half Wave Antenna
  • LDG Z100 Plus
  • CW Morse Pocket Double Paddle Morse Code Key with Magnets
  • CW Morse Steel Base for Pocket Paddles
  • RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
  • Icom LC-192
  • Bioenno 12V 6Ah LiFePO4 Battery
  • Sony Headphones
  • Dell XPS 13 Laptop
  • Camp Chef Mesa Folding Aluminum Table
  • Rite in the Rain Notebook
  • Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil
  • Fellow Carter Move Mug (12 oz ... for coffee)