The weatherman was predicting snow, sleet, and who-knows-what for my area today. I figured I get out for my QRP-portable fix before the weather got too bad.
My location was Schuylkill Canal Park in nearby Mont Clare, Pennsylvania. It’s just across the river from Phoenixville, and it’s been a while since I operated from there.
By the time I got to the park, there was a coating of snow on the ground, and it was still coming down steadily. Except for a couple of mountain bikers and joggers, I had the park to myself.
After putting the antenna on the back of my truck, I tuned around on 40M and found W8BJO calling CQ from Ohio. Our QSO was interrupted by QRM, and I lost him.
I went up to 20M and worked K0RO from Mississippi. Ralph was operating as K3Y/5 in the annual SKCC K3Y event. Next, I called F6EJN, who was operating in the K3Y event representing Europe. Bob was very strong into Pennsylvania, and he gave me a 589 report. My last QSO was with fellow SKCC’er, WD5BVQ, in Louisiana.
The temperature was about 20°F, and I was starting to feel it. I started the truck once or twice for some heat, but that caused some noise in the radio. The accumulation was over an inch, and the road into the park was untreated. I figured I had better head out before things got worse.
It was a short but fun outing, but it was good to get home and warm up.
As in past years, we rented a cabin at the Mohican Outdoor Center (MOC) near Blairstown, New Jersey. This year’s crew included Ed K3YTR, Glen NK1N, Ed K3BVQ, John NU3E, Ed WA3WSJ, Walt KB3SBC, and me.
On Friday, some of the early arrivals headed out to Crater Lake to do some operating. The road down to the lake was closed, so they operated from the nearby Blue Mountain Lakes Trailhead instead. I arrived mid-afternoon as NK1N and NU3E were putting up an inverted L antenna outside the cabin. Glen had already set up a station inside the cabin. After settling in and catching up with old friends, we all drove into Blairstown for dinner at Buck Hill Brewery and Restaurant.
I volunteered to provide breakfast on Saturday, so I made breakfast sandwiches for everyone. (I refer to them as Craig McMuffins—with apologies to a certain fast-food restaurant chain.)
After breakfast, everyone took off in different directions. NK1N and NU3E hiked up to Raccoon Ridge on the Appalachian Trail. WA3WSJ went over to the Pennsylvania side to operate from some scenic overlooks. K3YTR did some experimenting with antennas back at the cabin.
I operated stationary-mobile at the Blue Mountain Lakes Trailhead to make some contacts in the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES). I did a National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) activation from this spot back in 2016. K3BVQ and KB3SBC were parked about a half-mile down the road from me doing a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation of Delaware Water Gap.
I made about a dozen SKCC contacts, including K3BVQ down the road. (Ed was a solid 599, of course.) Later, while tuning around on 20M, I heard WA3WSJ calling CQ with the club’s callsign, W3BQC. Ed was across the river in Pennsylvania at a site overlooking Delaware Water Gap. We had some heavy QRM during our short contact, but we managed to complete the QSO.
Later that night, we went back into town for our customary Saturday night dinner at the Blairstown Inn. We had a few beers, great food, lots of tall stories, and plenty of laughter. That was a great way to end the day.
NU3E made his incredible Belgian waffles for breakfast on Sunday. John’s amazing waffles have become a Sunday morning tradition on these trips. After breakfast, it was time to pack up and clean up the cabin.
I always look forward to these Winter trips with my old QRP buddies. I think it’s fair to say everyone had a great time again this year.
I always try to start each year with some QRP-portable operating. In keeping with that tradition, I headed out to participate in the annual Straight Key Night (SKN) activities.
My destination was one of my usual Wintertime haunts, Black Rock Sanctuary. When I arrived, the temperature was about 35°F with cloudy skies and occasional flurries. I operated stationary-mobile from inside my truck with my faithful 19-ft vertical mounted on the back. My MS2 straight key was my weapon of choice.
There was enough activity on 40 meters, so I never changed bands. Band conditions were pretty good, and it didn’t take long to log my first contact of 2020. Thanks to Alan W4AMV in North Carolina for doing the honors.
At one point, a curious couple approached the truck. They were intrigued with my antenna, so I spent some time chatting with them about ham radio.
After I operated for about 2 hours—and exhausted my coffee supply—I decided to pack it in. I ended up with 10 QSOs in the log. All of them were fellow SKCC members.
So, another year is underway. I already have some interesting radio activities on my calendar. This year should be fun, ham radio-wise.
Today was the monthly Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Event (PBMME). While the weather had warmed up to a balmy 50°F, it came with a bunch of rain. The weather was lousy, but the bands were pretty good.
I headed back to Black Rock Sanctuary for today’s outing, and it rained the entire time I was there. So, I hunkered down in the truck for this one.
I started on 40M and was greeted with loud static crashes from the storm passing by. Despite the QRN, I had two-way QRP QSOs with W9ILF in Indiana, WI8J in Michigan, and fellow Polar Bear, Mike VE3WMB, in Ontario.
I ventured out in the rain to configure my 19-foot vertical for the 20M band. The pipeline to the West Coast must have been wide open. I worked two California stations and had a two-way QRP QSO with K7QF in Washington state. I also had an SKCC QSO with K5DMC down in Mississippi for good measure.
There was a 10M contest going on, so I headed up there to see what was going on. My vertical was only giving me a 2:1 SWR on 10M, but that was good enough to work a contester 5 miles away.
I went back to 40M for a bit before packing up and ended up with a nice two-way QRP QSO with K4JJW in North Carolina. Dick was really booming in with his 5 watts.
After tearing down the antenna in the rain, I got back in the truck to head home. As my luck would have it, the sun was trying to break through the clouds. That figures!
Nonetheless, I had fun today. Now it’s time to go dry out some antenna parts.
We’re expecting some snow and sleet tomorrow, so I figured I head out for a little QRP-portable operating before the nasty weather moved in. So, I drove to nearby Black Rock Sanctuary for a quick outing.
The temperature today in southeastern Pennsylvania was a mild 42° F. I planned to operate from a picnic table using my AlexLoop clamped to the table. However, in my haste to get on the road, I neglected to put the AlexLoop in my truck. As Homer Simpson would say, “Doh!”
I had some antenna wires, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to mess with trees in a nature preserve. Fortunately, I always keep the necessary equipment for my stationary-mobile set-up in the truck. With my 19-foot vertical mounted on the back, I operated from inside the truck.
The bands were in great shape this afternoon. It didn’t take long on 40M to put 5 SKCC contacts in the log. I also had a nice rag chew with K8RQX in Michigan before moving up to 20M.
Up on 20M, I had a coast-to-coast SKCC QSO with WD7JS in Washington. Russ was booming into Pennsylvania and gave my 5-watt signal an “honest 539.” I’ll take it! I moved down to check out 30M and had a quick SKCC QSO with K5MP in Florida before packing up.
Despite my absent-mindedness, It was a nice outing. Next time, I’ll have to pay better attention to my checklist.
Although the Polar Bear QRP Club has been around for 13 years, the club hasn’t been very active in recent years. The club’s recent move from Yahoo Groups to groups.io prompted renewed interest among the members.
Mike VE3WMB/VA2NB organized one of the club’s Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Events (PBMME). The PBMME is an informal event where we get on the air—typically outdoors—on a Saturday closest to a full moon.
For today’s PBMME, I drove out to Upper Schuylkill Valley Park near Royersford, PA, one of my favorite portable locations. I was tempted to set up at a picnic table but, with the 39°F temperature (and a windchill of 29°F), I opted to operate from my truck. I went with my usual set up: my homebrew 19-foot vertical mounted on the truck and my KX3 up in the cab.
I started on 40M and almost immediately got a call from VA2NB. Mike was operating from his cottage in Quebec. This was the first Polar Bear QSO for each of us in a long time. Unfortunately, Mike would be the only Polar Bear in my log today.
After working Mike, I went on to make another half-dozen QSOs, including a couple of two-way QRP contacts and some nice rag chews. I also picked up a new SKCC number from NC7H Idaho. There were a few other Polar Bears on the air but, sadly, I never heard them.
I was only out for 2 hours but it was a fun time. Thanks to VA2NB for preventing me from getting skunked today. I’m hoping that activity in the Polar Bear QRP Club will continue to grow.
Years back, I regularly ran QRPp. It’s been a while, so I had some fun getting re-acquainted with QRPp during this month’s SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES).
On Saturday, I headed out to Black Rock Sanctuary, one of my favorite spots for a quick stationary-mobile outing. The temperature was in the 30s, so I operated from my truck. I mounted my trusty 19-foot vertical on the back of the truck and set up the KX3 in the cab. I turned the power down to 1 watt and got busy looking for WES stations.
The 40M band seemed to be in good shape, but there were RTTY stations all over the place. Despite the RTTY interference, I didn’t seem to have much difficulty making contacts. I didn’t have as much luck on 20M, but I did pick up two stations (Florida and Georgia).
After an hour and a half, I had to pack up to run some errands. I ended up with 8 contacts in the log. That’s better than I expected.
I didn’t have much time for radio this weekend, but I did pick up a couple more contacts from home on Sunday. It was a bit more of a challenge at home with my rainspout antenna. My final tally was 10.
It never ceases to amaze me what you can do with 1 watt. Thanks the great operators who managed to pull me out of the noise.