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

POTA at White Clay Creek Preserve

The last time I was in the White Clay Creek Preserve (PA) was in 2016 during the National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) event. I used this park as the starting point for a hike into Delaware along White Clay Creek. This time I was back to activate the Preserve as a Parks on the Air (POTA) entity (K-6433).

One of the entrance signs at White Clay Creek Preserve
One of the entrance signs at the White Clay Creek Preserve

Although the preserve is in my home county, I had to drive an hour to get there. I pulled into the parking lot near the park office, and I was on the air in less than five minutes. I used my typical setup: KX3 (5 watts, CW) and my 19-foot homebrew vertical on the back of my truck. 

My location near the park office at the White Clay Creek Preserve
My location near the park office at the White Clay Creek Preserve

Despite the spotty cell service, I spotted myself on the 40M band. During my third contact, N4EX asked me to confirm my park designator. When I sent what I had written in my notebook the night before, Rich informed me that the designator I sent was for a park in Florida. I asked him to stand by while I checked the POTA website. Yep, he was right. I had transposed two numbers. Thanks for catching that, Rich. I corrected my faux pas and proceeded with my activation.

Things slowed down on 40M after 22 contacts, so I moved up the 20M. I only had three contacts there, but one was a park-to-park with a Texas station. The last 20M contact was with K4NYM in Florida. Bill was activating a “two-fer,” so his contact was good for two park-to-park contacts.

Finishing up on 30M, I made another 11 contacts before shutting down. I walked around a bit to take some pictures before leaving. 

In the end, I had logged 36 contacts with four park-to-park QSOs. Among those was my local friend, Frank N3FLL, who worked me on two bands. 

Although I thought about driving across the state line to activate White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware, I had some other things to do today. I’ll save that one for another time.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Some Recent POTA Wallpaper

When I checked my personal statistics on the Parks on the Air (POTA) website the other day, I found that a recent activation enabled me to cross two award thresholds. I’m far from the most active POTA participant, but I was pleased to see these listed among my awards. Especially since I run QRP and CW-only.

I received the Gold Activator for activating 30 unique parks.

The Gold Activator award is for activating 30 unique reference areas in the Parks on the Air (POTA) programs.

The nice folks at POTA also updated my original Park-to-Park certificate to reflect the 50 QSOs I have made. (Thanks to my fellow activators for making those QSOs happen.) 

This award is for making 50 park-to-park contacts in the Parks on the Air (POTA) program.

It looks like I should have another award coming soon for hunting 200 parks; that award has yet to be processed. I made the majority of those contacts running 5 watts into my rainspout.

My meager achievements pale in comparison with those of more serious POTA activators and hunters. There are many folks who activate more parks in a day than I do in a month. But one of the things I like about POTA is that anyone can join in at any level of participation.

73, Craig LaBarge

Update (11/28/2021): My award for working 200 parks as a “hunter” arrived today.

The POTA Enrubio Award is for contacting 200 parks as a hunter.

POTA at Alapocas Run State Park

I haven’t been on HF much lately, so I made another trip down to Delaware for a Parks on the Air activation. My destination today was Alapocas Run State Park, just north of Wilmington.

I parked in a section of the park that has some multi-use trails, a picnic area, a large playground, and a couple of athletic fields. I chose a parking spot between some trees to avoid problems with my antenna. More on that later. 

The trail and picnic area at Alapocas Run State Park
The trail and picnic area at Alapocas Run State Park

After paying the $8.00 parking fee for an out-of-state vehicle, I set up my KX3 (5 watts) and 19-foot vertical. I started on 40M and logged 31 contacts with one park-to-park QSO. Needless to say, the band was in good shape. 

The 20M band wasn’t bad either. I logged 20 contacts there, including CU3BL and G3WPF. I also made it out to the West Coast, working a station in Oregon. Finishing up on 30M, I made five more contacts there, bringing my total to fifty-six.

On the drive down to the park this morning, I talked to my friend Frank N3FLL on the local repeater and told him where I was going. Frank was listening for me and worked me on all three bands. 

Although I had a successful activation, there was some drama as I was taking down my antenna. Remember when I said I parked to avoid the trees? Well, somehow I got my antenna wire caught in one of those trees. I pulled and pulled until my wire finally came loose. I thought for sure that I had broken the wire. The wire is #26 stealth wire, which is made of copper-clad steel. Fortunately, the branch gave way before the wire, and the wire came down intact. That sure is some tough wire.

My parking spot at Alapocas Run State Park. The tree on the right is the one that tried to eat my antenna.
My parking spot at Alapocas Run State Park. The tree on the right is the one that tried to eat my antenna.

Delaware parks have always been good to me, radio-wise. I have a few more parks in the First State that I want to activate in the near future.

I wish all those who celebrate a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

73, Craig WB3GCK

POTA at Auburn Valley State Park

I made a trip down to Delaware to activate a new—for me—park. My Parks on the Air (POTA) destination this morning was Auburn Valley State Park. Despite needing to leave early to attend to something at home, it was a successful activation.

Before heading down there, I did my usual online reconnaissance. The Yorklyn Bridge Trail trailhead looked like a suitable spot. It’s away from the main part of the park and, best of all, it has a portable toilet. 

The Yorklyn Bridge Trail trailhead at Auburn Valley State Park, Delaware.
The Yorklyn Bridge Trail trailhead at Auburn Valley State Park, Delaware.

Out-of-state vehicles have to pay $8 to get into the park. So, I spent the first fifteen minutes trying to figure out the payment system. There is a kiosk there that accepts credit cards, but it was out of order. I found some payment envelopes, so I fill it out and enclosed my money. It took me a while to figure out where to put the envelope. Once I resolved all of that, it was time to get on the air.

I set up in my truck and used my usual setup: my KX3 at 5 watts and my 19-foot vertical. I started on 40M. There was just enough of a cell signal to get a spot on the POTA website, and the hunters soon started calling. I stayed on 40M for about 45 minutes, logging 31 CW contacts.

After a quick break, I moved up to 30M. I had eight contacts logged when my cell phone rang. There was a situation at home that needed my attention. At that point, I had 39 QSOs, including 3 park-to-park contacts. So, after an hour on that air, I packed up for the drive back to Pennsylvania. 

I spent more time on the road today than I did operating. Even short POTA activations are fun.

73, Craig WB3GCK

POTA at Fort Washington State Park

I made an early morning visit to a nearby state park for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. Although Fort Washington State Park (K-1352) is only 30 or 40 minutes away, this was my first time there. I obviously need to get out more.

I did some online reconnaissance before leaving and headed for the Militia Hill Day Use Area in the park. After all, any location with “hill” in its name has to be good for radio, right? 

I arrived at the park around 9:30am (local). As it turns out, the elevation is great from this location. Although it was busy for a Sunday morning, I found a parking spot away from the rest of the visitors. I set up my usual 19-ft vertical and operated my KX3 from inside the truck. The cell coverage was excellent, so I could spot myself easily. Initially, I fat-fingered the park designator and my frequency, but I quickly corrected that. 

My parking spot in Fort Washington State Park (POTA K-1352)
My parking spot in Fort Washington State Park (POTA K-1352)

Almost immediately, I began receiving calls on 40M. I made my required ten contacts in the first eight minutes. I worked eighteen stations before things slowed down.

I moved up to 20M and had mixed results there. Right off the bat, I got a call from G0DJF in England. HB9BQB in Switzerland followed him and gave my 5-watt signal a 559. I worked one local station after that, then the band dried up for me. 

Down on 30M, I worked 7 more chasers. I went back to 40M before closing down and logged 8 more stations there, including two park-to-park QSOs.

The Militia Hill Observation Deck in Fort Washington State Park. Bird watching seems to be popular at this location.
The Militia Hill Observation Deck in Fort Washington State Park. Bird watching seems to be popular here.

I ended up with 35 stations in my log. For a Sunday morning, the number of chasers on the air was amazing. The Parks on the Air program sure has gotten popular. 

73, Craig WB3GCK

Putting the QRP Camper to Bed

It’s been a rough year for camping. With my physical issues, our camper has seen little action this year. Since we need to winterize the camper soon, my (far) better half and I took the camper up to nearby French Creek State Park for the weekend. We planned to use this last trip to clean out the trailer and get it ready for storage. Of course, I got on the radio over the weekend, too.

I set up my 29.5-foot vertical and KX3 after we arrived on Friday, but I didn’t get on the air until later that evening (around 0100Z). I started calling CQ POTA on 80M and soon had some chasers. Since the cell coverage is spotty in this campground, I entered my planned activation on the POTA website. The POTA system automatically spotted me, and seven chasers came calling. 

The WB3GCK "QRP Camper" in French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pennsylvania
The WB3GCK “QRP Camper” in French Creek State Park near Elverson, Pennsylvania

I jumped on 40M the next morning, while the coffee was perking. In less than an hour, I had ten more in the log. That qualified me for a late-shift activation. Thanks to all the nightowls and early risers for calling. I spent most of the day relaxing and doing some work on the camper.

By late Saturday afternoon, some heavy rain moved in, forcing us to hunker down in the camper for the rest of the day. I got on the radio again and worked some more POTA chasers and picked off a few New York QSO Party stations. I shut down around 7:30 P.M. (2330Z) with 35 QSOs in my log.

Back on the air Sunday morning (0800 local, 1200Z), I intended to make a few casual Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) contacts. I called CQ SKCC a few times and soon had a mini pileup. I had forgotten that the POTA spotting website would automatically spot me. So I quickly switched out my straight key for my paddles and proceeded with an impromptu POTA activation. After eleven quick POTA contacts, things slowed down, and I shut down to pack up. 

I ended the weekend with 46 QSOs, including two park-to-park contacts. Not too shabby for five watts, I guess.

So, that wraps up another camping season, albeit a short one. Now it’s time to finish winterizing the trailer and putting it to bed for the next five months. Hopefully, the QRP Camper will see more action next year.

73, Craig WB3GCK