Skeeter Hunt 2017

NJQRP Skeeter Hunt LogoAnother NJQRP Skeeter Hunt is in the books. This year, stations operating from Parks on the Air (POTA) entities earned bonus points. So, I did a repeat of last year’s contest and operated from Valley Forge National Historical Park (POTA designator KFF-0761).

I operated from my truck in the Varnum’s Picnic Area of the park. I like this spot because it’s quiet, RF-wise, and has decent elevation. Most importantly, it has a restroom, which is important for us old guys.

In my haste to get set up and on the air, I made a huge mistake by parking in an area without shade. (More on that later.) As I was mounting my 31-foot Jackite pole on the back of my truck, an elderly gentleman approached and inquired about my antenna. He was very curious about ham radio, so after I got set up, I let him listen to some signals on my KX3. After about 10 minutes, he wished me luck and moved on.

My unshaded site at Valley Forge. It's hard to see, but my 31-foot Jackite pole if mounted is mounted on a bike rack on the back of my truck.
My unshaded site at Valley Forge. It’s hard to see, but my 31-foot Jackite pole if mounted is mounted on a bike rack on the back of my truck.

Propagation was weird today. At times, 40M seemed to be very long. I worked stations in Michigan and Wisconsin while struggling to work my friend Carter N3AO down in Virginia. The bands seemed to be up and down all afternoon.

In the course of nearly 3 hours of operating, the sun was baking me and my radio inside the cab of my truck. At one point, the KX3 rolled its power back to 3 watts. I never had that happen before. After rearranging some things, I got the KX3 out of the direct sunlight and things eventually went back to normal.

Towards the end of my operating session, I was struggling to find stations I hadn’t already worked. Since the heat was taking its toll on me and the radio, I decided to pack up and head home.

My lucky Skeeter Hunt t-shirt.
My lucky Skeeter Hunt t-shirt.

Even though I was wearing my lucky Skeeter Hunt t-shirt, I only ended up with 19 QSOs in the log. Four of those were park-to-park QSOs, though. I didn’t do as well as last year but it was still a fun event. Thanks for Larry W2LJ and the NJQRP Club for putting the Skeeter Hunt together.

72, Craig WB3GCK

 

Cunningham Falls State Park (KFF-1566)

My better half and I took our little camper down to Cunningham Falls State Park for the weekend. Located in central Maryland, Cunningham Falls has always been one of our favorite campgrounds. While I was there, I did some ham radio, including a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation of KFF-1566.

I did all of my operating outside under the camper’s awning. My antenna was my usual 30-foot vertical wire fed through a 9:1 unun. I strapped my 31-foot Jackite pole to a wooden lantern stand. With the bands being a bit flakey, I cranked my KX3 up to 10 watts for the POTA contacts.

Operating from our campsite in Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, Maryland. My 31-foot Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.
Operating from our campsite in Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, Maryland. My 31-foot Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.

Despite some solar storming and generally poor propagation, I managed to squeeze out more than enough contacts to qualify the POTA activation. I certainly appreciate the effort put forth by the “hunters” to dig my low-power signal out of the noise. In particular, W6LEN in California was particularly persistent in tracking me down. Although our signals were only slightly better than ESP levels, we managed to connect on both 30 and 20 meters.

I also had a few nice rag-chew QSOs, too. On Saturday afternoon, I heard NA1CC/2 calling CQ and gave him a call. As it turns out, Wes was running QRP while camping near Cranberry Lake in New York. It always fun to have a campsite-to-campsite QRP QSO.

We also took a ride over to Catoctin Mountain Park.  This national park is right across the road from Cunningham Falls and is also where Camp David is located.  I activated Catoctin Mountain Park during the National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) event last year but had no time for a POTA activation there on this trip.

We had great weather for camping this weekend, although the space weather could have been better.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Susquehanna State Park (KFF-1601)

My better half and I headed down to Susquehanna State Park in northeastern Maryland for a relaxing weekend of camping. My plan for the weekend was to make some contacts in the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES). I also wanted to set some time aside for a dedicated Parks on the Air (POTA) activation of KFF-1601.

Our campsite was heavily wooded but in a bit of a low spot. It was a great site for camping but probably not ideal for ham radio. Undeterred, I used my 30-foot wire vertical, fed through a 9:1 unun and did most of my operating outside in a comfy camp chair.

WB3GCK hard at work operating from our campsite in Susquehanna State Park.
WB3GCK hard at work operating from our campsite in Susquehanna State Park.

I made most of my contacts on Saturday morning working WES stations. After that, things slowed down and my little 5-watt signal was struggling to get through. On Saturday afternoon, I spotted myself on the POTA Facebook page and called CQ for nearly an hour on 40 and 20 meters. The net result was a meager 2 contacts. I made a few more WES contacts on 80 and 40 meters on Sunday morning before packing up for the trip home.

When the bands start to fade, it's good to have a backup plan.
When the bands start to fade, it’s good to have a backup plan.

Fortunately, I ended up with more than enough contacts to get credit for the POTA activation. Even when the bands aren’t conducive to QRP, it’s still fun operating outdoors.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Father’s Day Weekend Camping

As is my usual practice, I spent Father’s Day weekend camping with my XYL. One of my Father’s Day “gifts” is a relaxing weekend with some occasional ham radio.

Our camp sign. A local artisan made this for us many years ago.
Our camp sign. A local artisan made this for us many years ago.

We took our travel trailer up to nearby French Creek State Park. On our maiden voyage with the trailer, I encountered some noise issues. Not this time. Since the trailer was only on battery power this time, I didn’t have the noisy 12V converter to contend with. Plus, I used my Jackite ground mount to mount my antenna further away from the trailer.

My 31-foot Jackite pole. This time I located the antenna about 10 feet away from the trailer.
My 31-foot Jackite pole. This time I located the antenna about 10 feet away from the trailer.

For this trip, I used the 31-foot Jackite pole to support a 30-foot wire and fed it with a 9:1 unun. Inside the trailer, I used my KX3 with a small LiFePO4 battery. Using the KX3’s internal antenna tuner, I was able to load up on all bands from 80-6 meters. The KX3’s tuner never ceases to amaze me.

Operating on and off over the weekend, I made a dozen or so casual contacts. Some of them were pretty interesting:

  • On Saturday, I worked WB2LQF in New York. Stan was running 1W to his attic dipole and was delivering an amazing signal into southeastern Pennsylvania. On Sunday, I worked Stan again. This time he was operating WW2DEM aboard the USS Slater in Albany. Like me, Stan is a former Navy Radioman.
  • I worked N2CX who was doing a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation from Big Pocono State Park (KFF-1333) in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I was monitoring his usual 40-meter frequency and caught him when he first came on the air.  After working Joe, I decided to start submitting my POTA logs.
  • I worked K1ZK as he was testing his new MTR rig on 20 meters. Zack and I had a nice two-way QRP chat. I was pleased to be his first contact with the new rig.
  • I wrapped up the weekend by working the NAQCC guys operating NY3EC aboard the USS Requin.

I also had a chance to do a quick test of the vertical antenna I have been working on. It’s getting better but the 30-meter band is still resonating a bit low. I’ll be doing another loading coil tweak this week.

My experimental vertical antenna set up on our campsite for some quick SWR measurements.
My experimental vertical antenna set up on our campsite for some quick SWR measurements.

Next weekend I’ll be out with the Boschveldt QRP gang for Field Day. If you hear W3BQC on the air, give us a shout.

72, Craig WB3GCK