Evansburg State Park

After a particularly challenging week, I desperately needed a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. I made a return trip to nearby Evansburg State Park (K-1351, KFF-1351), and it was worth the trip.

Entrance sign at Evansburg State Park

My location in the park was exactly the same as the last time I was here. I once again used my KX3 (5 watts) and homebrew vertical mounted on the back of my truck. After a few minutes of setting up, I was ready to go.

The 40M band (CW) was really hopping. When I turned on the rig, I came across a POTA activator in Massachusetts and quickly had them in the log. When I started calling “CQ,” the calls came in non-stop for the next 45 minutes. 

I had some excitement at one point. As I was working fellow QRPer, N4DJ in Virginia, I heard a loud bang, and the radio suddenly went quiet. I got out of the truck and noticed that the 20-foot pole holding my vertical wire had collapsed. 

The pole in question is a 20-foot Black Widow pole from B’n’M that has served me well for over 25 years. When it collapsed, the impact broke and bent the little eyelet at the top of the pole. Using the little multi-tool that I always carry, I did a quick “MacGyver” repair. After untangling the antenna wire, I had the antenna back up in less than 10 minutes. By that time, N4DJ was long gone. I emailed him later to let him know he was in my log. 

Back on 40M, the pile-ups resumed. Right before I changed bands, it surprised me to hear a call from KL7E in Alaska. I had a grin on my face as I logged our QSO. I don’t think I have ever worked Alaska from Pennsylvania on 40M, let alone with 5 watts in broad daylight.

The 20M band was also in good shape. I was pleased to work my QRP friend, Fred KA4RUR in St. Louis. He had a weak copy on me, but we got it done. Not long after that, I had back-to-back QSOs with CU3DI and CU3HY in the Azores. I finished with a handful of QSOs on 17M.

After an hour and a half, I had 55 contacts in my log. Sometime this week, I’ll take a closer look at my Black Widow pole to see if I can do a more permanent repair. After 25-plus years of use, I certainly got my money’s worth out of that pole.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Winter Field Day 2022

Thanks to a snowstorm and some personal matters, my Winter Field Day effort was limited this year. The snow didn’t stop until midday Saturday, so I waited until Sunday morning to get out and make some contacts. Wanting to stay close to home, I drove over to Black Rock Sanctuary, a county park about 15 minutes away. 

When I arrived at the park, the County had done an excellent job of plowing the parking lot. It was no surprise that I was the only one there. The temperature was 17° F (-8° C) with a windchill of 7° F (-14° C), so I raced to set up my vertical on the back of the truck to avoid numb fingers. Fortunately, the sun shining through the truck’s windows helped to warm up my operating position.

My mobile QRP shack at Black Rock Sanctuary for Winter Field Day 2022
My mobile QRP shack at Black Rock Sanctuary for Winter Field Day 2022

I spent about 45 minutes on 40M CW, doing all “search and pounce”. Normally, there isn’t much noise at this location. Today, however, the noise on 40M was S4-S5 at times. The 20M band was much quieter, so I spent the rest of my time there. Before packing up, I plugged in my microphone and made a couple of SSB contacts.

I was on the air for just under 2 hours, using the exchange: 1O EPA. In the end, I had 30 contacts in the log. The best “DX” today was California.

I was glad I could take part again this year, if even for a short time.

72, Craig WB3GCK

NK9G Skeeter Hunt Video

If you have ever taken part in a QRP field contest, you have undoubtedly heard Rick NK9G’s big signal coming out of Wisconsin. Rick produced a great video on the 2021 Skeeter Hunt QRP contest to mark the 10th running of this annual event.

Rick’s video shows the equipment and planning that goes into producing that loud signal from the field. The video also includes a picture of yours truly (at the 1:42 mark) operating from the Outer Banks of North Carolina for last year’s Skeeter Hunt.

The Skeeter Hunt is one of my favorite events, and I look forward to it every year. If you haven’t yet operated in a Skeeter Hunt, jump on in and join the fun.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Boschveldt Winter Outing 2022

The Boschveldt QRP Club has a long-standing tradition of getting together each January for a winter get-together. For years, we rented a cabin at the Mohican Outdoor Center in northern New Jersey. This time we tried a different location: the Daniel Boone Homestead in southeastern Pennsylvania. We weren’t able to make this trip last year, because of the pandemic, so we were all excited to try this new (to us) location.

This site in Berks County, Pennsylvania, is the birthplace of Daniel Boone, the legendary American frontiersman. The Wayside Lodge is one of several buildings on this 579 acre historic site. Our intrepid band of QRPers rented the lodge for the weekend to use as our base of operations.

During the wee hours on Friday, Mother Nature provide some wintertime ambiance for the weekend. She replaced the moderate temperatures we have been having with temperatures near freezing and a few inches of snow. It was enough snow to make everything look nice, but not so much to complicate my drive later in the day.

I arrived at the lodge mid-afternoon on Friday. Wayside Lodge is a large, rustic log cabin. There are two separate bunking areas and a large “great room” between the two. Despite its rustic nature, it has some modern amenities. There’s a small kitchen with a refrigerator and stove, and there are three bathrooms. 

The Wayside Lodge at the Daniel Boone Homestead
The Wayside Lodge at the Daniel Boone Homestead

A few Boschveldt members arrived the day before, and there were radios and antennas up and running when I got there. The attendees this year included Ed K3YTR, John NU3E, Walt KB3SBC, Ed K3BVQ, Rob KE3TI, and me. After settling in and catching up with old friends, we enjoyed a lasagne dinner courtesy of Ed K3YTR. Walt brought a projector and screen, so we had some movies for entertainment. 

It quickly became apparent that we were in for a cold weekend. On Friday night, my thermometer showed that the great room was around 45° F (7° C). There was some heat in the bunk rooms, but it was only about 55° F (13° C) where I was staying. A fireplace provided some warmth in the great room, and we went through quite a bit of firewood over the weekend.

Walt KB3SBC stoking the fireplace
Walt KB3SBC stoking the fireplace

John set up his 20M QRP rig in one of the bunk rooms and ran his end-fed half wave wire out to a tree behind the lodge. Ed K3BVQ ran a 40M half wave wire up and over some beams in the great room. The far end of his antenna ended in one of the bunk rooms. His unusual antenna configuration worked great for him with his QRP rig.

Walt brought his military shelter trailer and parked it in the parking lot near the lodge. This little trailer contains a complete ham shack—with heat—and room for sleeping. He was on the air from there hunting some Parks on the Air (POTA) stations.

The KB3SBC shelter
The KB3SBC shelter

Saturday morning, the temperature in the great room was only 35° F (1.7° C). Stoking the fire, along with plenty of hot coffee (courtesy of Walt), helped warm things up. We also had an outstanding French toast breakfast, courtesy of Rob. 

Later on Saturday, I drove to a picnic area about a mile away from the lodge. I wanted to take part in the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contest, while avoiding interference to the other stations back at the lodge. Operating from my truck, I made 20 contacts, including two K3Y stations. I also contacted K3BVQ back in the lodge.

WB3GCK at the North Picnic Area at the Daniel Boone Homestead
WB3GCK at the North Picnic Area at the Daniel Boone Homestead

Bill KA3RMM and Chris W3CJW stopped by to visit on Saturday. Chris was kind enough to drop off a load of firewood for us. We certainly appreciated that!

Saturday night, five of us went out for dinner—and some warmth—at a local restaurant. After dinner, we went back to the lodge to watch another movie before turning in for the night.

John’s Belgian waffles have become a Sunday morning tradition at our winter outings. As always, John didn’t disappoint. The waffles were incredible.

We spent the rest of the morning packing up and cleaning up the cabin. Before heading out, we posed for a group picture. 

Boschveldt QRP Club members at the Wayside Lodge. L-R standing: KE3TI, NU3E, WB3GCK, K3YTR, KB3SBC. Seated: K3BVQ.
Boschveldt QRP Club members at the Wayside Lodge. L-R standing: KE3TI, NU3E, WB3GCK, K3YTR, KB3SBC. Seated: K3BVQ.

Despite the cold temperatures, it was a fun weekend. We’re already planning to return to the Daniel Boone Homestead next year. It’s always great to spend time with some old friends and get on the air with our radios. 

72, Craig WB3GCK

A Late Start for 2022

Once again, I postponed my traditional New Year’s Day portable outing. It rained most of the day yesterday with some periods of heavy downpours. The weather forecast for today showed improvement, so I headed back down to Delaware for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation.

The entrance sign for the Possum Hill parking area in White Clay Creek State Park, Delaware

I have operated from White Clay Creek State Park (K/KFF-1743) a few times over the years, but not as a POTA entity. I chose the Possum Hill Parking Area, which is towards the eastern end of the park. My parking spot had a scenic view of one of the paved multi-use trails that looped around a pond. The parking lot was mostly empty when I got there, but it was crowded by the time I left.

I ran my usual 5 watts into my homebrew vertical, and the bands were in great shape. The 40M band was really hopping; I worked 44 stations in just under an hour. The 20M band produced another 16 contacts. I ended up with a handful of contacts on 17M. 

The Possum Hill parking area in White Clay Creek State Park, Newark, Delaware
The Possum Hill parking area in White Clay Creek State Park, Newark, Delaware

I ended up with 65 contacts in a little over an hour and a half, including 3 park-to-parks QSOs. The best DX to the east today was CU3AA in the Azores on 20M. The best DX to the west was VA7AQ in British Columbia on 17M. 

It was also nice to log another contact with fellow QRPer, N4DJ, in Virginia. This was the third time I have worked him in the past month. His two-watt station puts out an impressive signal.

Although I missed my usual New Year’s Day outing, this was a pretty good way to start the year, radio-wise. What the heck, I’m usually a day late and a dollar short, anyway. Once again, Delaware has been good to me.

Thanks to everyone who stops by to read this stuff. I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year. Stay safe, and I’ll see you on the air.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Misadventures at Tyler State Park

Most of my Parks on the Air (POTA) activations go off without a hitch. Today was one of those days where I was tempted to throw in the towel. 

I made a trip out to Tyler State Park (POTA K-1430, WWFF KFF-1430), which is about a 50-minute drive for me. I’ve never been to this park before, so I did some online research beforehand to get familiar with the lay of the land. Using a map from the park’s website, Google Maps, and Google Earth, I selected a couple of locations that looked promising. Since I’m still over a month away from knee replacement surgery, I selected areas that have a restroom close by.

When I got to my first-choice location, the gate was closed, and a sign said it was closed for the season. I continued down the road to my second-choice location. That area was open, but the restroom was closed for the season. A map on the door showed the location of the only restroom open for the winter.

When I got to that parking lot, there was no restroom to be found. I asked a local, who told me to continue down the trail. As I hobbled away with my cane, he added it was about 200 yards away. Now ordinarily, that wouldn’t be an issue, but my orthopedic doctor has cautioned me to take it easy and not do any further damage to my knee before surgery. Nature was calling loudly, so I continued on.

The Lower Plantation Picnic Area is where I ended up for my Tyler State Park activation.
The Lower Plantation Picnic Area is where I ended up for my Tyler State Park activation.

After exiting the restroom, I started my trek back to the parking lot. After a while, things started looking unfamiliar. Somehow, I had taken a wrong turn and had gotten myself walking in the wrong direction. After asking some folks for directions and using Google Maps on my phone, I found I had a hike ahead of me to get back to my truck. After hobbling along for what seemed like an eternity, I made it back to my truck about 30-35 minutes after I had left. My aching knee was a reminder of my stupid navigational error. (Don’t tell my doctor.)

After all that, I considered heading home. However, I stuck it out and got my KX3 and my homebrew vertical setup. Just as I was ready to get on the air, I heard a loud thunk. My telescopic pole collapsed, and I needed to take it down and set it back up.

When I finally got on the air, the bands were in good shape, although there was a little man-made noise from time to time. I stayed for about an hour and ended up with 36 contacts, including two park-to-park QSOs. The real highlight was working Germany and Spain on 20M with 5 watts. 

Thankfully, I made it back home with no further incidents. Now I’m writing this post with my leg up and waiting for the Ibuprofen to kick in. 

73, Craig WB3GCK

Christmas Eve POTA

Evansburg State Park entrance sign

I wanted to get out to do a quick Parks on the Air (POTA) activation this morning before the Christmas festivities get underway. Although Evansburg State Park (K/KFF-1351) is only twenty minutes away, I’ve only been there once before, and that was three years ago. So, it seemed like an appropriate and easy target.

I found an excellent spot near a picnic area with heated restrooms. Score! Actually, this location has good elevation, and there was virtually no background noise. At first, I thought I had an antenna problem until a loud signal almost blew the earbuds out of my ears.

My Christmas Eve parking spot at Evansburg State Park near Collegeville, Pennsylvania
My Christmas Eve parking spot at Evansburg State Park near Collegeville, Pennsylvania

I only used 40M and 20M today. Things got off to a slow start, but the chasers soon came calling. After an hour on the air, I had 40 QSOs in the log. The best “DX” today was British Columbia. I was thrilled that my QRP signal made it out to the west coast of Canada. Unfortunately, there were no park-to-park contacts. Regardless, it was a good start to the holiday weekend. 

I want to wish you all Merry Christmas/happy holidays. Stay safe.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Brandywine Creek State Park

Brandywine Creek State Park, Delaware, entrance sign

I made another Sunday morning run down to Delaware for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. I activated Brandywine Creek State Park (POTA K-1732/WWFF KFF-1732), and the CW chasers didn’t disappoint.

I’ve operated QRP-portable from this park a few times over the years, but this was the first time as a POTA entity. In the past, I’ve operated from the main part of the park. Today, I tried something different: the Thompsons Bridge area.

My parking spot at the Thompsons Bridge trailhead and picnic area.
My parking spot at the Thompsons Bridge trailhead and picnic area.

The Thompsons Bridge parking lot was a busy place this morning. This is a trailhead and a picnic area. There weren’t any picnics going on, given the cold temperatures, but there sure were plenty of hikers.

I used my regular setup: KX3 at 5 watts and my homebrew 19-foot vertical. The 40M band was really hopping; my first call came less than a minute after I spotting myself. I logged 34 contacts on 40M before things slowed down. I only made 8 QSOs on 20M, but 30M was good for another 17 before I called it quits. 

Brandywine Creek at Thompsons Bridge
Brandywine Creek at Thompsons Bridge

After an hour and a half of operating, I ended up with 59 contacts in the log. Among those were four park-to-park QSOs. 

Once again, Delaware has been very good to me.

73, Craig WB3GCK

POTA at White Clay Creek Preserve

The last time I was in the White Clay Creek Preserve (PA) was in 2016 during the National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) event. I used this park as the starting point for a hike into Delaware along White Clay Creek. This time I was back to activate the Preserve as a Parks on the Air (POTA) entity (K-6433).

One of the entrance signs at White Clay Creek Preserve
One of the entrance signs at the White Clay Creek Preserve

Although the preserve is in my home county, I had to drive an hour to get there. I pulled into the parking lot near the park office, and I was on the air in less than five minutes. I used my typical setup: KX3 (5 watts, CW) and my 19-foot homebrew vertical on the back of my truck. 

My location near the park office at the White Clay Creek Preserve
My location near the park office at the White Clay Creek Preserve

Despite the spotty cell service, I spotted myself on the 40M band. During my third contact, N4EX asked me to confirm my park designator. When I sent what I had written in my notebook the night before, Rich informed me that the designator I sent was for a park in Florida. I asked him to stand by while I checked the POTA website. Yep, he was right. I had transposed two numbers. Thanks for catching that, Rich. I corrected my faux pas and proceeded with my activation.

Things slowed down on 40M after 22 contacts, so I moved up the 20M. I only had three contacts there, but one was a park-to-park with a Texas station. The last 20M contact was with K4NYM in Florida. Bill was activating a “two-fer,” so his contact was good for two park-to-park contacts.

Finishing up on 30M, I made another 11 contacts before shutting down. I walked around a bit to take some pictures before leaving. 

In the end, I had logged 36 contacts with four park-to-park QSOs. Among those was my local friend, Frank N3FLL, who worked me on two bands. 

Although I thought about driving across the state line to activate White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware, I had some other things to do today. I’ll save that one for another time.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Some Recent POTA Wallpaper

When I checked my personal statistics on the Parks on the Air (POTA) website the other day, I found that a recent activation enabled me to cross two award thresholds. I’m far from the most active POTA participant, but I was pleased to see these listed among my awards. Especially since I run QRP and CW-only.

I received the Gold Activator for activating 30 unique parks.

The Gold Activator award is for activating 30 unique reference areas in the Parks on the Air (POTA) programs.

The nice folks at POTA also updated my original Park-to-Park certificate to reflect the 50 QSOs I have made. (Thanks to my fellow activators for making those QSOs happen.) 

This award is for making 50 park-to-park contacts in the Parks on the Air (POTA) program.

It looks like I should have another award coming soon for hunting 200 parks; that award has yet to be processed. I made the majority of those contacts running 5 watts into my rainspout.

My meager achievements pale in comparison with those of more serious POTA activators and hunters. There are many folks who activate more parks in a day than I do in a month. But one of the things I like about POTA is that anyone can join in at any level of participation.

73, Craig LaBarge

Update (11/28/2021): My award for working 200 parks as a “hunter” arrived today.

The POTA Enrubio Award is for contacting 200 parks as a hunter.