WES Portable in Valley Forge

This weekend is the SKCC‘s monthly Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contest. When I can, I like to go out and operate portable for at least part of the contest. I headed to Valley Forge National Historical Park for a couple of hours to take advantage of the great weather.

On arrival, I headed for a shady spot that I’ve used a few times before. I mounted my 19-foot vertical on the back of my truck and set up a small table behind my truck. I fired up my KX3 and got on the air.

My set up in Valley Forge
My set up in Valley Forge

In short order, I logged several stations on 40M, including a POTA park-to-park QSO. (Valley Forge is POTA/WWFF K/KFF-0761.) Moving up to 20M, I made a few more contacts.

I decided to check 15M and I’m glad I did. I found several very strong stations who easily heard my meager 5-watt signal. I called CQ for a while and picked up a few more stations. I seemed to have a pipeline to Indiana and Illinois. It was great to hear some WES activity on 15M.

After a couple of hours, I started to run out of shade. I was getting hot and so was the KX3. I decided to pack up for the day. Besides, I had to do some preparations for a public service event early the next morning.

It was a great day for portable operating and I added a few more QSOs towards my SKCC Senator award.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Winter Field Day 2019

Between errands and other obligations, I squeezed in a little time for Winter Field Day. I was only on for about 3 hours over the weekend but it was still fun.

On Saturday, I went to one of my usual Winter operating spots, Black Rock Sanctuary. (It’s one of a few local parks that have Porta-Potties year round.) I used my usual stationary-mobile set-up and operated from inside the truck.  I operated in category 1O from EPA.

WB3GCK operating in Winter Field Day 2019. If you look closely, you can see a microphone connected to my KX3. Yep. I actually made some SSB contacts.
WB3GCK operating in Winter Field Day 2019. If you look closely, you can see a microphone connected to my KX3. Yep. I actually made some SSB contacts.

I got off to a rough start, though. My trusty Palm Mini paddles gave me some problems. The connector at the paddles wasn’t making reliable contact. After fiddling with it for a while, I managed to get them working again. I’m babying these paddles since Palm is no longer in business and parts are unavailable.

After I got on the air, I found that 40M was wide open. I was able to work pretty much any station I could hear. In a little over an hour of operating, I logged 19 contacts — all on 40M CW.

I packed up and headed home to have dinner with my (far) better half, who had been out of town most of the week. I also went to work on my Palm paddles with some contact cleaner.

On Sunday, I headed back to Black Rock to make a few more contacts. This time my paddles worked right off the bat. (Note to self: Hey, Craig! Do some maintenance on your portable keys once in a while, will ya!)

The QSOs came a bit slower this time around. In two hours, I logged 20 contacts on 40M and 20M. I even made some SSB contacts for the extra multipliers. (That’s a fairly rare thing for me.) My best “DX” of the day was California.

When it starting getting tough to find “fresh meat” on the bands, I decided to pack up and head home. It wasn’t the most adventurous Winter Field but it was fun to get out there to make a few contacts.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Halloween Surprise

When I checked the mail yesterday, I found an envelope from my old QRP buddy, Ed WA3WSJ. Since yesterday was Halloween, the contents of the envelope seemed appropriate for the day.

WA3WSJ Zombie Shuffle QSL Card
WA3WSJ Zombie Shuffle QSL Card

As I mentioned in a previous post, I worked Ed a couple of weeks ago during the Zombie Shuffle QRP contest. The envelope I received contained a special QSL card and a certificate that Ed had made up.

WA3WSJ Zombie Shuffle Certificate
WA3WSJ Zombie Shuffle Certificate

Thanks to WA3WSJ for the Holloween surprise. He always does it up right for the Zombie Shuffle!

Be sure to head over to Ed’s webpage to see what else he is up to.

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

Leaf Peepers QRP Contest

I was pleased to be able to participate in the first-ever running of the Leaf Peepers QRP Contest. This new contest is the brainchild of Tim W3ATB. Although the Fall colors are barely getting started here in southeastern Pennsylvania, it was a good reason to get out and do some portable operating.

In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, I headed up to Evansburg State Park (K/KFF-1351) near Collegeville, Pennsylvania. I figured I would work the contest while making Parks on the Air (POTA) contacts. Although this park is only about 25 minutes away from my home, I have never done a POTA activation from there. Today was the day.

The Skippack Creek Loop Trail in Evansburg State Park
The Skippack Creek Loop Trail in Evansburg State Park

I found a nice parking spot across the road from some restrooms. (This is a major consideration for us old guys.) There were very few others nearby so I practically had the place to my self. I put my 19.5-foot vertical on the back of my truck and set up my KX3 in the cab.

My parking spot in Evansburg State Park
My parking spot in Evansburg State Park

I started out on 40M and found some fellow Leaf Peepers but the QSOs were coming at a “relaxed” pace. Given that there were 180 registered Leaf Peeper stations, I thought I would hear more activity. However, I was able to work stations from New Hampshire to Florida and out to Michigan on 40M. The band yielded 7 Leaf Peepers before I switched over to 20M.

On 20M, my CQs yielded one more Leaf Peeper. Since the SKCC QSO Party was underway, I put the KX3 in straight key mode and flipped my paddles on their side to create a straight key. It’s awkward but it works. I picked up two SKCC contacts before pulling the plug.

Here are some of today’s highlights:

  • My second QSO was with Tim W3ATB, creator of the contest and Leaf Peeper #1.
  • I had a park-to-park QSO with Joe N2CX. Joe was at Washington Crossing State Park (K-1634) over in New Jersey.
  • I had another SKCC QSO with Bert F6HKA. He always has a great signal and is usually able to pull my QRP signal out of the noise.

After a little less than 2 hours, I had to pack up to run some errands before heading home. All in all, it was a fun outing and my 10 contacts were enough to qualify as a POTA activation. I don’t know why I waited so long to activate this park.

Thanks to Tim W3ATB for coming up with this contest. I always enjoy these QRP field contests and I’m looking forward to operating in this one again next year.

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

Skeeter Hunt 2018

NJQRP Skeeter Hunt LogoBzzz… All that buzzing you heard on the bands on Sunday was the annual running of the NJQRP Skeeter Hunt contest. Happily, I got home from my recent vacation in time to join in the hunt.

The theme of this year’s contest was “water – the breeding ground for Skeeters!” In the spirit of the theme, I headed down to Upper Schuylkill Valley Park along the Schuylkill River near Royersford, Pennsylvania.

It had been raining all morning and it was drizzling when I got to the park and started setting up. Because of the inclement weather, I opted to operate from inside my truck.  I put my usual 19-foot vertical on the back of the truck and fired up my KX3. I tested the rig on 40M by working a SOTA station in Vermont and a special event station in Illinois.

This was my view of the Schuylkill River during the Skeeter Hunt contest. This was taken shortly before it started raining again.
This was my view of the Schuylkill River during the Skeeter Hunt contest. This was taken shortly before it started raining again.

As I was operating, a fellow was curious about my antenna and walked over to ask about it. As I started to explain what I was doing, we both recognized each other. As it turns out, we were childhood friends and grew up less than a block away from each other. He happened to be visiting in the area and took his grand-kids fishing in the river. We hadn’t seen each other in more than 40 years, so we spent a half hour chatting and getting caught up. If he hadn’t been curious about my antenna, we never would have noticed each other. What an amazing coincidence!

My "stationary-mobile" set-up. You can see the antenna that attracted both skeeters and a long-lost childhood friend.
My “stationary-mobile” set-up.  My antenna attracted both skeeters and a long-lost childhood friend.

Back to the contest… I operated for about an hour and a half. There was some deep fading on the bands but 20M eventually seemed to open up a bit. I bounced between 40M and 20M, alternating between CQing and search & pounce.  When it started raining again, I figured it was a good time to wrap things up. I ended up with 20 QSOs (18 skeeters) in 11 SPCs.

Here’s my log:

UTC  BAND  CALL   MODE RST-S RST-R SPC  SKEETER NUMBER
1703 40M   N3AQC  CW   559   449   PA   Skeeter #77
1713 40M   KD3CA  CW   589   579   PA   Skeeter #44
1720 40M   VE2DDZ CW   569   559   QC   Skeeter #35
1723 40M   N8RVE  CW   559   559   OH   5W
1727 40M   WF4I   CW   579   559   NC   Skeeter #70
1733 40M   WQ4RP  CW   559   559   NC   Skeeter #11
1804 20M   W5IQS  CW   559   559   TX   Skeeter #170
1807 20M   KF5RY  CW   559   559   TX   Skeeter #26
1811 20M   NN9K   CW   599   599   IL   Skeeter #64
1817 20M   AD0YM  CW   599   449   MO   Skeeter #16
1821 20M   NE5DL  CW   559   559   TX   Skeeter #25
1825 20M   NQ3N   CW   599   579   FL   Skeeter #141
1829 20M   WB4OMM CW   579   579   FL   Skeeter #98
1841 20M   N5GW   CW   599   569   MS   5W
1844 20M   KD0V   CW   569   559   MN   Skeeter #99
1851 20M   W3HZZ  CW   559   559   GA   Skeeter #131
1907 20M   N0JBF  CW   559   559   MO   Skeeter #37
1913 20M   K4BYF  CW   599   549   FL   Skeeter #107
1915 20M   K4BAI  CW   559   589   GA   Skeeter #163
1920 40M   NK9G   CW   559   559   WI   Skeeter #6

As always, the Skeeter Hunt was fun, even with the lousy weather. Thanks to Larry W2LJ and the NJQRP Club for once again putting on this great contest!

72, Craig WB3GCK