Fox Point State Park

Fox Point State Park sign

I drove down to Delaware this morning to do a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation of a new (to me) park. Fox Point State Park (K-1738, KFF-1738) is located along the Delaware River near Wilmington. The park is in an industrial area, with busy railroad tracks on one side and cargo ships navigating the river on the other side.

I parked my truck near a picnic pavilion and a large playground. The park was mostly empty today. At times, I was the only one in the park.

WB3GCK at Fox Point State Park in Delaware
WB3GCK at Fox Point State Park in Delaware

I went with my go-to setup: my Elecraft KX3 (5 watts) and my homebrew 19-foot vertical. The hunters showed up en masse on 40M a minute or two after posting a spot. The activity was steady for about thirty minutes, netting me twenty-five contacts..

The higher bands weren’t quite as productive. I only picked up three on 30M and one on 20M. The 17M band yielded another four contacts. I headed back to 40M for another thirty minutes before packing up.

A cargo ship making its way up the Delaware River at Fox Point State Park
A cargo ship making its way up the Delaware River at Fox Point State Park

I finished up with forty-eight contacts today, including seven park-to-park (P2P) contacts. The park-to-park contacts included QSOs with KØBWR in Kansas on three bands. I also had a P2P contact with K3RTA, who was at another Delaware Park down the river from me. The best DX of the day was EC1R in Spain on 17M. Alfonso gave me a 339 report. I’ll take it!

It was another good day in the state of Delaware. I always enjoy operating from the “First State.”

73, Craig WB3GCK

Weekend Sprintathon in the Park(s)

This weekend was the monthly running of the Straight Key Century Club’s (SKCC) Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contest. I took part in this month’s contest from two state parks, combining both the WES and Parks on the Air (POTA).

Marsh Creek State Park (POTA K-1380, WWFF KFF-1380)

I went to Marsh Creek State Park on Saturday. It had been about six months since I last activated Marsh Creek. Today, I had two goals in mind. First, since the World-Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF) program requires 44 QSOs to qualify an activation, I needed 19 more contacts from this park. Second, I needed 4 more qualifying SKCC contacts to achieve the Senator x2 level. 

The view of the lake at Marsh Creek State Park from my "shack"
The view of the lake at Marsh Creek State Park from my “shack”

I started on 40M and picked up 17 QSOs. When things started thinning out, I moved up to 20M, but my 5-watt signal wasn’t being heard by anyone. I checked the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) and found that I wasn’t getting a single spot on this band. With no luck on 20M, I went back to 40M. I couldn’t get the SWR below 3:1, and that was highly unusual. Time for some troubleshooting.

Although the temperature today was moderate for Pennsylvania at this time of year, it was cloudy and very windy. My 19-foot vertical had been whipping around with the wind gusts. The wind had moved the antenna around enough to disconnect the ground connection to the body of the truck. After I remedied that issue, I went back and logged a few more on 40M. My last QSO was with F6HKA on 20M.

My session ended with 18 contest contacts and 2 POTA park-to-park contacts. Although I had enough to meet my WWFF goal, I fell short of my SKCC goal. I still needed one more qualifying contact for the Senator x2 level. I picked up that last elusive contact after I got home.

Ridley Creek State Park (POTA K-1414, WWFF KFF-1414)

This morning (Sunday), I drove down to Ridley Creek State Park to work a few more SKCC stations. The weather was different this time out. The temperature had dropped to 32°F, and there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground. Fortunately, there wasn’t much of it sticking to the roads.

My parking spot at Ridley Creek State Park. There was a huge change in the weather from the day before.
My parking spot at Ridley Creek State Park. There was a huge change in the weather from the day before.

I drove to a picnic area on the top of a hill and got the antenna and radio set up. There weren’t as many WES stations as yesterday. As I was operating, the snow started coming down steadily. I had to get out a few times to clear the snow off the exposed connections on my antenna matching box.

I didn’t stay too long today, but I made 14 WES contacts, plus one POTA park-to-park contact. Among those contacts were W7GB in Washington State on 20M and F6EJN in France on 15M.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad weekend. My SKCC WES score won’t set any records, but I always have fun participating in this contest.

72, Craig WB3GCK

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