After an hour-long drive, I rolled into a parking area near the park office. As I began setting up my homebrew vertical, the eyelet at the top of my Black Widow pole snapped off. This pole has seen heavy use over the past 25 years, so something like this was bound to happen sooner or later.
So, I rummaged around in the truck for something that would temporarily attach my antenna wire to the top of the pole. Searching through a plastic milk crate that I keep in the truck bed, I found something that would do the trick—a roll of duct tape. Unfortunately, this roll of tape has been in the truck bed for years through freezing cold and scorching heat. As a result, this sad-looking roll of tape was stuck fast to the bottom of the crate. With the help of a large screwdriver, I pried it loose. Eager to get on the air, I tore off a piece of tape and secured the antenna wire to the top of the pole.
With my antenna finally installed, I got started with my trusty TR-35 (5 watts). The bands didn’t seem very strong this morning, but the hunters still heard me. After a little more than an hour, I had 38 contacts, including five park-to-park QSOs. Up on 17M, I also heard from stations in Italy and Puerto Rico.
As I was taking the antenna down, things got interesting again. Remember that sad-looking duct tape? Well, it didn’t want to come off the antenna pole without a fight. With considerable frustration and a few choice words, I got the tape off of the pole. Unfortunately, my antenna wire (#26 stealth wire) incurred some damage in the process.
I guess I have a few repairs to add to my to-do list.
For most of this year, I’ve fallen into the habit of activating the same familiar parks. Today, I wanted to go out to a park I haven’t been to before. After looking at the map on the POTA website, I chose Big Elk Creek State Park (K-9721/KFF-6093) as today’s destination.
Big Elk Creek received its state park designation back in September, making it one of Pennsylvania’s newest state parks. I did a little Google Earth reconnaissance to get a feel for the area. There are no amenities to speak of, but it has some trails and two trailhead parking lots. I entered both trailheads into my navigation app before heading out.
After driving about an hour, I stopped first at the Springlawn trailhead. Being a low-lying area, it didn’t look promising for radio. A sign showed that the trail was closed temporarily because of hunting in the area. I moved on to the second parking area shown on the park map.
I pulled into the Fair Hill Trailhead. This spot was wide open, had good elevation, and I was the only one there. I set up my usual Penntek TR-35 (5 watts) and my homebrew vertical.
I started on the 40 meters CW. Right after I spotted my location and frequency, I was greeted by a large pile-up that took a little while to work through. Being a new park, Big Elk Creek has only been activated a handful of times. I’m guessing that’s what attracted all the hunters.
During my activation, I also spent time on 30, 20, and 17 meters. After about an hour and 15 minutes, I had 42 stations in my log. I had three park-to-park QSOs, and I also worked England, Italy, and Portugal.
Right as I was reaching for the power switch to turn off the radio, I heard PG4I calling “CQ SKCC” on 17M. I quickly grabbed my straight key and called him. We exchanged our SKCC info, and Jo gave me a 559 from the Netherlands. That brought my total to 43 with four DX contacts today.
A car pulled into the parking lot as I was taking down my antenna. The driver walked over to inquire about my antenna. I gave him a brief explanation of the Parks on the Air program, and we had a nice chat about the park. He told me about the trail that heads south for about a mile to the Maryland state line. The Fair Hill State Natural Area (K-6387) is just across the state line.
I’m planning to come back at some point to do a little hiking and activate both Big Elk Creek and Fair Hill.
Traditionally, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. is the start of the Christmas shopping season. People flock to the stores looking for bargains. This time of year is typically when stores start turning a profit (operating in the black), hence the name “Black Friday.” Wanting to avoid all of that craziness, I went a different way and headed out to a nearby park for a POTA activation.
For a variety of reasons, I haven’t been on the air much this month. I was overdue for some QRP-portable operating, so I headed to nearby Evansburg State Park (K-1351, KFF-1351). It was rainy here in southeastern Pennsylvania this morning. When I arrived at the park, I was the only one there for a while.
I set up my TR-35 (5 watts) inside the truck and installed my trusty 19-foot vertical on the back. The hunters quickly showed up after I spotted myself. I had my required ten contacts in about ten minutes. After I had logged 16 contacts on 40M, a station came on frequency and started CQing. I figured that was a good time to check some other bands.
Up on 20M, the signals didn’t seem as strong. Nevertheless, I picked up 15 more contacts. I made four more contacts on 17M before pulling the plug.
After a little more than an hour, I ended up with 36 contacts. Among those were four park-to-park contacts. I also logged four DX contacts: DL1AX (on two bands), SP6GNJ, and F4ILH.
It felt great to be back out activating. Hopefully, I can get back out again over the weekend.
I had a rare free day today. The only thing on my agenda was to drive out to see my grand-kids in central Pennsylvania. I made a last-minute decision to activate a park on the way there.
Just minutes before I left the house, I looked at the map of parks on the POTA website and selected Swatara State Park (K-1426/KFF-1426). I’d never been there, so I took a quick look at a map of the park and spotted a trailhead with restrooms. So, I put the address for the Trout Run Trailhead in my GPS and took off.
I rolled into the parking lot about 90 minutes later. Except for a park maintenance truck, I was the only one there. I quickly set up and got busy. The rig today was my TR-35 (5 watts) and my trusty 19-foot vertical.
The cell coverage was great, so I easily spotted myself. A minute or two later, the hunters came calling. I spent most of my time on 40M, but I also made contacts on 30M and 20M.
After about 90 minutes, I had 54 CW contacts in the log. Among those were six park-to-park QSOs and one DX contact (CU3AA).
Swatara State Park is another park worth further exploration. There aren’t many amenities, but there are lots of trails. It appears to be a popular spot for mountain biking.
There was a trailhead for the Appalachian Trail just down the road from where I was. If I hadn’t been so hasty with my planning, I could have gone there and activated a “two-fer.” Maybe next time.
Normally, my (far) better half and I do a lot of camping in French Creek State Park (K-1355/KFF-1355). This year, because of medical and other issues, we didn’t take the QRP Camper out at all. In fact, it’s been about a year since our last camping trip there. So, I paid a visit to French Creek this morning for a long-overdue POTA activation.
Virtually all of my activations in this park have been from campsites. This morning, though, I operated from a parking lot near a picnic area and boat launch. I operated from my truck, using my TR-35 (around 5 watts) and my 19-foot homebrew vertical.
My cell coverage wasn’t very good, so I had trouble spotting myself. Fortunately, the Wi-Fi in my truck uses a different carrier and allowed me to get my spot posted. Almost immediately, the hunters started calling.
After an hour, I had 36 in the log, including two park-to-park contacts. I also worked Germany and Poland on 17M.
Hopefully, we’ll be getting back to camping at French Creek again next year. In the meantime, I’ll be doing some more activations here for sure.
I haven’t activated a park recently, so I made a point to get out today. This weekend is the Parks on the Air Fall Support Your Parks weekend. What better time to activate?
I made a last-minute decision to head back to the western boat launch area in Marsh Creek State Park (K-1380, KFF-1380), a site I’ve been to a few times in the past year. Looking at the surrounding terrain, you would think this is a terrible location. It’s down at water level near the lake, and you have to descend a large hill to get down there. Despite the terrain, I’ve always had good luck from there. Today was no exception. Not to mention there’s a beautiful view of the lake.
Using my TR-35 and my 19-foot vertical, I started out on 40M. Initially, I had a little trouble spotting myself. Even before I was spotted, a station in New York stumbled upon me and got things started. Eventually, my spot went through, and things really picked up. I made 28 contacts on 40M in the first 45 minutes. Up on 30M, I picked up 11 more contacts.
Before I left, I checked 17M, and I’m glad I did. I was getting some very strong Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) spots from Europe. In short order; I had three contacts, with the last two being SP6GNJ and CU3AA. Happily, my puny five-watt signal was making the trip across the pond.
I ended up with 42 contacts, including two park-to-park QSOs, and the two DX contacts. Right after I uploaded my log, I received a certificate for activating a park during Support Your Parks weekend. I made a few contacts as a hunter yesterday, so I also received a hunter certificate.
The bands, especially 20M, were in good shape, and I made a half-dozen SKCC contacts. There were a lot of Parks on the Air (POTA) activators, so I spent most of my time hunting them. The Pennsylvania QSO Party was also going on, and I logged a few of them, too.
On Sunday, I went for a bike ride on the Schuylkill River Trail and stopped in a park for a little radio time. This time I used my newly acquired (tr)uSDX with my ground-mounted 19-foot vertical.
The bench I was sitting on was getting full sun from time to time, which made reading the radio’s display a challenge. There were some loud signals on 20M that seemed to overload the radio’s front end. I could have used some attenuation, but, not being able to read the display clearly, I didn’t attempt to navigate the menus. (Note to self: Stay in the shade next time.) Despite these challenges, I logged three SKCC stations receiving good signal reports from each of them.
Nothing really exciting this weekend, but it was great to get back out portable again.
When I arrived at the trailhead, it was nearly full. Fortunately, I grabbed one of the last remaining parking spaces. After loading up my radio gear, I hopped on the bike and took off down the trail. As the trailhead parking situation would suggest, the trail was getting lots of use from walkers and cyclists.
I didn’t hear much contest activity, but I seemed to have a pipeline to Prince Edward Island in Canada. I made SKCC contacts with the special event station, VC3Y/VY2, on both 40M and 20M. I also worked VA3DXQ/VY2 who was doing a POTA activation. KS9KCC was booming in from Indiana, but they didn’t seem to hear my five-watt signal. (Later in the day, I logged KS9KCC from home on 40M.) After making seven contacts, I packed up and continued on my ride.
It’s a good thing I went for my ride yesterday. The weather today is raining and dismal.
Also, on the 21st anniversary of the 9/11, please take time to remember those lost in that tragedy.
After a long drive home from North Carolina yesterday, we were still unpacking from our vacation and getting caught up on things today. I couldn’t pass up the annual Skeeter Hunt QRP contest, so I snuck out to make a few contacts. Besides, I was issued a single-digit skeeter number (#7) this year, so I couldn’t let that go to waste.
I drove a few miles over to Valley Forge National Historical Park, hoping to catch enough skeeters for a valid POTA activation (K-0761). The area I was in was busy with folks enjoying their picnics, so I parked my truck well away from them.
I didn’t plan to stay long, so I operated from the truck. I used my Penntek TR-35 and my trusty homebrew vertical. That turned out to be a wise move, since the truck provided some shade and an occasional cross-breeze through the windows.
When I turned on the rig, the 40M band was buzzing with QRP skeeters, and I made most of my contacts there. Conditions, at times, seemed pretty good; I worked stations in WI, MO, and GA on 40M from here in southeastern PA. After running out of new ones on 40M, I moved up to 20M and picked up a few there.
At the end of my 1.5 hour session, I had worked 16 skeeters, one non-skeeter QRPer. There were other skeeters operating from POTA entities; I had at least four park-to-park contacts I know of.
The Skeeter Hunt is always a good time. I’m glad I could take part, even if just for a part of the contest. A big shout-out to Larry W2LJ for organizing this fun event.
We arrived on Saturday, after a long drive from southeastern Pennsylvania. After unloading and getting organized in the house we rented in Corolla for the week, I went outside and set up an antenna.
For the past two years at this house, I used a 29-foot vertical fed through a 9:1 unun. During both trips, I struggled with noise issues. I had a couple of antenna options I wanted to try this year.
This time around, I went with a Rybakov-type antenna. I strapped a 28-foot Jackite pole to the railing of the 3rd floor deck. I used a 26-foot vertical wire fed through my recently built weather-resistant 4:1 unun. My 26-foot counterpoise wire ran out to the side of the antenna and down the side of the deck stairs. It was a weird configuration, for sure. I ran 25 feet of RG-8X coax down to the second floor, where I could operate in the shade—in the morning, at least.
I didn’t test the antenna until early Sunday morning, and my KX3’s tuner matched it on every band from 40M through 10M. The noise levels on 40M and 20M were down around S2, a dramatic improvement over previous years and completely workable. The higher bands were dead quiet.
My first contact was an interesting one. Fellow Boschveldt members, Glen NK1N and Rob KE3TI, were on an overnight backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. I sent Glen NK1N a text message to let him know I was on the air, and we connected on 40M. We chatted for a bit and exchanged SKCC numbers. Conditions were rough in the beginning but, towards the end of our contact, our signals improved.
Before quitting, I logged 10 SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contacts. There were bonus points for using a homebrew key, so I used a straight key I cobbled together a few years ago. I also worked Greg WA3GM, who was doing a POTA activation at a park near to my home in Pennsylvania. So, my jury-rigged Rybakov seemed to get out OK.
Monday morning, I got set up on the deck to make a few contacts. I noticed the antenna was acting up a bit on the 40M band. The KX3’s tuner showed it found a 1:1 match, but the SWR went up when I transmitted. I had no issues with the other bands, just 40M. It seemed like I was getting some RF on the coax shield, so I added a common mode choke at the transceiver and changed to a shorter length of coax. That cleared up the issue. I’m guessing there was some interaction between the antenna’s counterpoise and the coax on 40M. Even before I resolved the antenna issue, I logged a half-dozen contacts.
With six adults, four grand-kids, and two grand-dogs, there was always something going on in the house. However, I managed to get on the air for about an hour each morning after breakfast to make a few contacts.
Thursday evening was busy. I kept track of Winlink check-ins for an ARES-RACES net back home. Using DMR, I checked into another ARES-RACES net in Pennsylvania. When I’m down here, I always like to check into the Outer Banks Area Wide Net. Then, it was out to the dock to join my grand-kids for some crabbing.
As I was finishing up breakfast on Friday, I got a text message from my friend, Frank N3FLL, asking if I was on the air. I quickly moved my radio out to the deck and had a nice QSO with him. I also worked a few POTA activators including Greg WA3GM. I worked Greg on the first day, so it was only fitting that I work him on the last day, too. After that, it was time to take down the antenna and pack up the radios.
I didn’t spend as much time on the air as in previous years, but I worked some fellow SKCC members, chased a few POTA activators, and had a couple of nice ragchews. All in all, it was a great vacation with excellent weather. I’m already looking forward to next year.