Father’s Day Camping in Maryland

I spent Father’s Day camping in Maryland. My (far) better half and I took our little camper down to Susquehanna State Park (POTA/WWFF K/KFF-1601). It was a beautiful weekend and our first time camping this year without rain.

Susquehanna State Park is relatively small but it’s one of my favorites. Our campsite this time was large, heavily-wooded, and secluded. It was just what we needed after a busy weekend — a peaceful place to relax.

When I wasn’t just goofing off, I was on the radio. My original plan was to put up an inverted L but there were just too many trees (and I was too lazy). So I stayed with my usual 29.5-foot vertical and 9:1 unun.

A conveniently-placed tree stump made a great operating table.
A conveniently-placed tree stump made a great operating table.

Instead of doing a formal POTA/WWFF activation, I focused on making SKCC contacts towards my “Senator” award. The bands were up and down but at times they were pretty good. Since we were “dry camping” without hookups, I didn’t have to contend with a bunch of noise from the trailer.

Breakfast time at the "QRP Camper" in Susquehanna State Park (MD).
Breakfast time at the “QRP Camper” in Susquehanna State Park (MD).

One of my first contacts on Friday was Florida on 40M. So, that was a good sign. On Saturday morning, there was some good SKCC activity on 30M. I worked several mid-West stations, including AK9A in Wisconsin. Bob was running 1 watt and putting out a great signal. Later in the day, I caught a good opening on 20M, netting me 579 reports from Louisiana and Manitoba, Canda. At the end of the weekend, my casual operating netted me 19 contacts. Six of them counted towards my SKCC “S Quest.”

Other than that, we caught up on much-needed sleep and ate lots of good food. Now, it’s back to the real world.

Life is good...
Life is good…

I’ll be busy this weekend getting stuff together for Field Day next weekend. I’ll be operating with the Boschveldt QRP Club (W3BQC). Give us a shout if you hear us!

72, Craig WB3GCK

The “QRP” Camper Rides Again

It seemed like an eternity since our little travel trailer went into storage for the Winter. This past weekend we were finally able to take it out for a weekend of camping. Of course, ham radio was a part of that.

My (far) better half and I went to nearby French Creek State Park for our inaugural trip of the 2019 season. We arrived on Friday night ahead of a line of severe thunderstorms. We had just enough time to get the trailer parked and leveled before the storms rolled in. My antenna would have to wait.

After the storms passed through, I was able to set the antenna up before it got too dark. I went with my trusty 29.5-foot wire vertical and 9:1 UNUN. It was too wet for a campfire so I got on the radio instead. There was a fair amount of SKCC activity on 30M. I made several QSO there before calling it quits for the night.

The WB3GCK QRP Camper at French Creek State Park. If you look closely, you can see my vertical antenna back along the tree line.
The WB3GCK QRP Camper at French Creek State Park. If you look closely, you can see my vertical antenna back along the tree line.

Saturday brought clear blue skies but also gusting winds and chilly temperatures. Two of our grandkids were visiting for the day, so my radio time was sporadic. During the course of the day, I made a variety of QSOs. Here are some of the highlights:

  • I ran into an old Polar Bear QRP friend, Mark NK8Q, on 60M CW. Mark was doing a SOTA activation in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania.
  • I worked a special event station, WA1WCC, on Cape Cod. WA1WCC was commemorating International Marconi Day and the Centennial of RCA. This was the third time I’ve worked WA1WCC while camping at French Creek.
  • I worked a special event station, KM0RSE/8, commemorating Samuel Morse’s birthday. The operator was fellow SKCC and FISTS member, Larry KA8HFN.
  • Some of my Boschveldt QRP buddies were on an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail. They were camping at a shelter on Peters Mountain in central Pennsylvania. Glen NK1N texted me to let me know he was on the air. I met Glen on 60M CW for an SKCC QSO. Shortly afterward, I worked both Glen and Ron WA8YIH on 60M SSB. It sounded like they were having a great time up there.

Fortunately, the winds eventually calmed down later in the day. After cooking some burgers and hanging out at the campfire with the grandkids, I made one more SKCC QSO before calling it a day.

On Sunday, we awoke to a somewhat rainy and dreary day. We usually do our cooking outdoors but today we opted for a leisurely breakfast in the camper. After breakfast, I made a few more QSOs before packing up for the drive home.

After a long Winter, it felt great to be back out in my little “QRP” camper. I’m looking forward to the next trip in a couple of weeks.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Zombie Shuffle 2018

Once again, the Zombie Shuffle QRP contest coincided with the last trip of the year with our little travel trailer. I did slightly better than last year.

We again wrapped up our camping season at nearby French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pennsylvania. After setting up the trailer, my XYL and I had an errand to do. As a result, I got started a little later than I wanted to.

The WB3GCK mobile zombie hunting command and control center
The WB3GCK mobile zombie hunting command and control center

When we got back to the campsite, I hastily set up my 29.5-foot vertical about 25 feet away trailer. Since the weather was a bit breezy and chilly, I ran the coax into the trailer and set up the KX3 in there.

The campground was a little noisier (RF-wise) than usual but it didn’t stop me from making contacts. Fittingly, my first contact was with W0UFO on 20M. I managed to find 8 more zombies on 40M, including my friend, Ed WA3WSJ who lives fairly close to French Creek.  I dropped down to 80M and bagged two more zombies there.

My Zombie Shuffle operating position inside the WB3GCK QRP Camper
My Zombie Shuffle operating position inside the WB3GCK QRP Camper

With 11 zombies in the log, I had my best year yet. Among those 11 zombies were 4 “Elvis” stations. This silly, laid-back contest is one of my favorite QRP events of the year. Many thanks to Paul NA5N and Jan N0QT for organizing the Shuffle. It’s always a fun time.

On a sadder note… It’s now time to Winterize the QRP camper and put it into hibernation until Spring. Hopefully, the Winter goes by fast.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Fall Camping in Elk Neck State Park

My XYL and I took the “QRP camper” back down to Elk Neck State Park in Maryland for the weekend. We had a couple of days of nice Fall weather but that did little to offset the mediocre propagation. By the end of the weekend, the weather became as bad as the band conditions.

When we arrived on Friday I set up my usual 29.5-foot vertical. I initally gave some thought to putting up an inverted L but I didn’t see a conveniently-placed tree to support the far end. In hindsight, having more wire up in the air would have been a good idea this weekend. I made a couple of contacts to make sure things were working before getting a campfire started.

On Saturday, I worked an assortment of stations (SOTA, special events, SKCC, etc.) but it seemed like almost every QSO was a struggle. With an A Index of 27, that wasn’t too surprising. After several attempts, I finally got through to N8N in Michigan on 40M for a park-to-park contact. Hank N8XX was operating with a special event callsign for National Trails Day. He was operating from the North Country Trail (KFF-1555).  (Elk Neck State Park is KFF-1569.)

The WB3GCK camper on a rainy morning in Elk Neck State Park in Maryland. My Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.
The WB3GCK camper on a rainy morning in Elk Neck State Park in Maryland. My Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.

The beautiful weather was short-lived. By Sunday morning, a steady rain had moved in, so I hunkered down with the KX3 in the camper to give the bands one more shot. I ended up with a very nice chat on 80M with NS3X. Mark is located in north-central Maryland and was a new SKCC number for my log. After I signed with Mark, I packed up the radio and began the unpleasant task of breaking camp in the rain.

I only logged a paltry 8 contacts over the weekend but that was enough to reach the 44 contacts needed for a WWFF-KFF activation.

We have two more trips planned for October before it’s time to winterize the camper and put it into hibernation until Spring. Time sure flies…

72, Craig WB3GCK

QRP Afield at Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Our reservations for a weekend of camping at Pine Grove Furnace State Park (K/KFF-1398) in south-central Pennsylvania coincided nicely with the New England QRP Club‘s (NEQRP) QRP Afield contest. Although I didn’t hear much QRP Afield activity there was a lot going on this weekend, radio-wise.

We had a great campsite this time. It was large and isolated from our neighbor campers. Behind our site, there was nothing but woods. This site was screaming for a larger antenna. I put up a 53-foot inverted “L” antenna about 25 feet tall. I ran the horizontal section back into the woods and tied it off in a pine tree. It only took two attempts to get my line where I wanted it. I’m embarrassed to say I missed the tree completely on my first toss!

The WB3GCK QRP camper at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. If you look closely, you can see my antenna behind the picnic table. The white object is a plastic bag protecting the 9:1 unun from the rain we had on Friday night. The horizontal part of my inverted L runs back into the woods.
The WB3GCK QRP camper at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. If you look closely, you can see my antenna behind the picnic table. The white object is a plastic bag protecting the 9:1 unun from the rain we had on Friday night. The horizontal part of my inverted L runs back into the woods.

When I fired up the KX3 Friday night, the bands sounded great. I made several SKCC contacts, including KA4RUR out in Missouri. Fred is a retired Coast Guard Radioman and a fellow Field Radio member. I also had a nice chat with Jim WT2W in New York on 60M. Jim told me he was a Navy Radioman on a “tin can” (destroyer). It was great to work these fellow former military radio operators.

The next day, I set up outside the trailer and got ready for the contest. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much QRP Afield activity on the bands. I only worked two stations — W0UFO in Minnesota and W1C at the Chowdercon QRP gathering. I briefly heard another station but couldn’t connect.

WB3GCK operating at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.
WB3GCK operating at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

Despite the lack of QRP Afield activity, there was plenty of other stuff going on to keep me occupied. I worked several stations in the Washington State Salmon Run, Iowa, and New Jersey QSO parties. I had park-to-park contacts with VE2DDZ (VEFF-0365) and K5KJ (K-3031) and also worked 3 SOTA stations — N0TA, KX0R, and AC1Z.

My favorite QSO of the weekend, though, was a two-way QRP chat with UR5FA/MM. I heard Oleg calling CQ on 30M and gave him a call. He was aboard a Ukranian cargo ship in the Atlantic, west of Gibraltar and bound for Canada. After chatting for a bit about our respective set-ups, I wished Oleg a safe voyage and he wished me an enjoyable camping trip. I was pleased to add UR5FA/MM to my log once again. That contact sure brought a smile to my face.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Flight of the Bumblebees 2018

Flight of the Bumblebees (FOBB) has always been one of my favorite QRP contests. Although I didn’t think I was going to be able to participate this year, I managed to get in on the first hour or so of the contest.

My (far) better half and I took our “QRP camper” up to French Creek State Park (PA) for the weekend. I figured we would be packing up and heading home about the time FOBB started, so I never signed up for a Bumblebee number. We ended up packing up most of our stuff in the morning, leaving my ham radio equipment for last. So, I was able to get in a little operating time before we had to vacate our campsite.

The WB3GCK “QRP Camper” at French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pennsylvania. The Jackite pole supporting my 29-foot vertical wire can be seen on the right in the photo.
The WB3GCK “QRP Camper” at French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pennsylvania. The Jackite pole supporting my 29-foot vertical wire can be seen on the right in the photo.

Without a Bumblebee number, I operated as a “Home” station, despite being portable.  Although the bands seemed a little weak, my hour of work yielded 8 contacts, including 6 bumblebees. One of the highlights was working Ed WA3WSJ who was using the Boschveldt QRP Club callsign, W3BQC. Ed hiked up to Pulpit Rock on the Appalachian Trail for the event. Having operated as W3BQC during Field Day several times over the years, it was fun to be on the other end for a change.

Hopefully next year I’ll have more time to spend in the contest.

72, Craig WB3GCK

 

Father’s Day at Elk Neck State Park

My better half and I took our little travel trailer down to one of my favorite campgrounds for the Father’s Day weekend. Although rest and relaxation was my main objective, I also worked in some QRP, too.

Our destination for the weekend was Elk Neck State Park in northeastern Maryland. After getting the trailer set up on Friday night, I strapped a Jackite pole to a lantern post and set up a 29.5-foot vertical. I did a quick test and found the area to be very quiet from both an audio (i.e., quiet neighbors) and an RF perspective.

On Saturday morning, I fired up the radio while the coffee was brewing and made a few SKCC contacts. I also had a nice CW chat with Butch NM1I in Massachusetts.

After lunch, I decided to do an impromptu Parks on the Air activation. Despite having poor cell service, I managed to post my plans on POTA and WWFF-KFF Facebook pages.

Things got off to a slow start on 40M until Emily KB3VVE found me and spotted me. After that, things began to pick up a bit. Most of my contacts were on 20M but sadly, I didn’t from any of the European regulars. Before wrapping up, I dropped down to 30M and picked up a couple more.

WB3GCK activating Elk Neck State Park from outside the camper.
WB3GCK activating Elk Neck State Park from outside the camper.

After about an hour, I had 13 contacts in the log, including WB9OWN in Wisconsin who worked me on both 20M and 30M. I made another 7 contacts over the course of the weekend. That’s more than enough for a valid POTA activation but I’m still about 6 contacts shy of the 44 needed for a WWFF activation. We’re planning to visit Elk Neck again in the Fall, so I should be able to make the remaining WWFF QSOs I need.

It was nice to finally have a camping trip this year with decent weather and no rain. I more than satisfied my rest and relaxation objective for the weekend.

72, Craig WB3GCK