Falmouth Boat Launch

On the last day of a week-long trip to Central Pennsylvania to see my new granddaughter, I took a quick side trip to scout out the trailhead for the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail. This trail is on the list of trails I want to explore by bike this year. While I was out there I did a little QRP-portable operating (of course).

The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail is a 14-mile trail that ends at the Falmouth Boat Launch near Bainbridge, PA. From my parking spot at the boat launch, I had a wide view of the scenic Susquehanna River. This spot is just a couple miles downstream from the infamous Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station.

My parking spot at the Falmouth Boat Launch on the Susquehanna River.
My parking spot at the Falmouth Boat Launch on the Susquehanna River.

Since it was a dreary, rainy day (but better than the snow we had yesterday), I set up my 19-ft Vertical on the back of the truck and operated my KX3 from the cab of the truck. With Three Mile Island up the river and another power plant directly across the river, I thought it would be a noisy location. As it turned out, it was surprisingly quiet. My only issue today was some heavy, weather-related QRN on 40M.

Falmouth Boat Launch information board
Falmouth Boat Launch information board

I’m only 1 contact away from reaching the SKCC Tribune x 5 award, so I once again focused on making SKCC contacts. Being a Tuesday afternoon, there wasn’t a whole lot of SKCC activity. I still made some interesting SKCC contacts, though. I worked two mobile stations from Ohio on 40 meters, WJ8Y and KD8ZM. KD8ZM was operating while driving. I was impressed! I also worked Hal K7SAX in Oregon. Hal’s signal was so strong, I had to quickly reach for the volume control on the KX3. Hal gave me a 569 and said I had an “amazing signal for QRP.” That was very nice to hear from a West Coast station.

It started raining heavily again, so I quickly took down the antenna and packed up. I ended up with 6 SKCC contacts but, unfortunately, none of them counted towards my Tx5 award. The quest for that final contact goes on.

The northern end of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail
The northern end of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail

I’m looking forward to bringing my bike along on a future visit and exploring the trail along the river. I’m sure there will be some QRP-portable operating from somewhere along the trail.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Antenna Testing in the Park

Today was fun. I had a little time this afternoon, so I headed out to a nearby park to test a new antenna and ended up making a couple of interesting contacts.

I spent a couple of hours in Towpath Park, a nice little park along the Schuylkill River. It’s usually not very crowded, so it’s been one of my favorite places to test new antennas. Today, I was doing some initial testing and tuning on a Tri-Band Vertical from QRPGuys.

My "outdoor shack" overlooking the Schuylkill River
My “outdoor shack” overlooking the Schuylkill River

I set up the antenna and spent some time taking SWR plots on the antenna. The 20 and 30 meter bands were great without any adjustments. The 40M band is resonating too low, so I need to do some tweaking on one of the loading coils. I’ll do a separate post on this antenna when it’s finished.

My antenna today. My $9 telescopic pole from eBay is mounted on a screwdriver shoved in the ground.
My antenna today. My $9 telescopic pole from eBay is mounted on a screwdriver shoved in the ground.

I put the antenna analyzer away and got out my KX3. I made a few “CQ SKCC” calls on 20M and was answered by CT7AFN in Portugal. There was some QSB but we managed to exchange SKCC numbers. A few minutes later, I got a call from another station in Portugal, CT1BQH. Wow! Back-to-back Portuguese SKCC stations. This new antenna definitely has some mojo.

I worked stations in Texas and Florida before wrapping up. I neglected to bring gloves today and the wind chill was taking a toll on my fingers. I packed up my equipment and headed out happy with the contacts I made in a short period of time.

I have a little work to do on this new antenna but so far it looks like a keeper.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Is It Finally Spring?

After enduring the fourth nor’easter this month, I needed a little QRP-portable fix. Unfortunately, my bike is in the shop for repairs and the ground is saturated from melting snow, so I opted for quick trip to a local park and operated from the truck.

Charlestown Park is a beautiful community park just down the road from my home. I hadn’t operated from there in a while, so it was an ideal spot for a quick outing.

As I was setting up, a curious passerby walked up and asked about the 20-foot Black Widow pole I was getting ready install on the truck. I explained that it was a ham radio antenna. He watched to see how I  mounted the pole then resumed his walk.

My location in Charlestown Park.
My location in Charlestown Park.

Once again, I focused my efforts on making SKCC contacts. I started off on 40M and added a few new members to my log. On 30M I had two 2xQRP contacts. One with W9ILF in Indiana and one with KI4KGK in Georgia who was running 1 watt.

As I was operating, a security officer cruised by looking at my antenna. He drove down the road a bit and turned around. He slowed down in front of me, probably getting ready to approach me. I waved to him and he waved back and drove off. I guess he was satisfied that I wasn’t doing anything nefarious.

On 20M, I received a nice signal report from VE4MG in Manitoba. He was very strong into Pennsylvania. I made one more contact on 40M before packing up.

Today was a nice break from the snow we had this week but I’m looking forward to some warmer weather. Hopefully, it’s not too far off.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Working SKCC at Valley Forge

They were forecasting some rain and snow for the late afternoon today, so I decided to squeeze in a trip to Valley Forge Park before it started. I have already met my WWFF-KFF quota from this park, so I concentrated my efforts on making SKCC contacts.

It was chilly but sunny when I rolled into the Park. I quickly set up my 19-foot Vertical on the back of the truck and fired up the KX3. I spotted my 40M frequency on the SKCC Sked Page and I was soon met with some callers. I had seven contacts in the log before things thinned out. I moved up to 30M and worked two more stations there. The clouds were starting to roll in (and the restrooms were closed for some reason), so I decided to pack up and head home.

My location at Valley Forge. The National Memorial Arch is in the background. I took this right before I left for home.
My location at Valley Forge. The National Memorial Arch is in the background. I took this right before I left for home.

I ended up with 9 SKCC contacts. Four of those are new numbers I need for the Tribune x5 level. As a bonus, I also made 3 two-way QRP SKCC contacts.  It was a brief outing today but I had fun.

As I write this, the snow has started.  Hopefully, I won’t have too much shoveling to do tomorrow.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Mid-Week Outing

I had some free time today so I made a quick trip to a local park for some mid-week QRP-portable operating. My plan for today was to make some Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) contacts.

Upper Schuylkill Valley Park is one of my “go-to” places to operate. Today, my truck was the only vehicle in the parking lot. I set up my 19-foot vertical in the back of the truck, broke out my KX3 and MS2 straight key and got on the air.

All alone in Upper Schuylkill Valley Park
All alone in Upper Schuylkill Valley Park

I started on 40M near the SKCC calling frequency. My first “CQ SKCC” call was met with an immediate response. I like when that happens. I worked four more SKCC members (including special event station, K3Y/1) and had a nice rag chew with a non-member in Georgia before moving to 20M.

My 19-foot vertical has worked like gangbusters for me on 40M but I haven’t spent much time on 20M with it. While on 20M today, I worked SKCC special event stations in Nebraska (K3Y/0), California (K3Y/6) and Oregon (K3Y/7). Not too bad for QRP from eastern Pennsylvania. I guess the vertical gets out reasonably well on 20M.

Upper Schuylkill Valley Park
Upper Schuylkill Valley Park

After an hour and a half or so, I packed up and headed home to warm up (it was only 27° F today).

This was fun. I need to get out during the week more often.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Camp Run-a-MOC 2018

Mohican Outdoor Center is adjacent to the Appalachian Trail and is a popular stopover for hikersThe loosely organized group of QRPers known as the Boschveldt QRP Club made their annual pilgrimage to the Mohican Outdoor Center (MOC) for a weekend of radios and tall stories. Each year we rent a cabin and use that as a home base for hiking and QRP-portable operating. This year’s participants included Ed WA3WSJ, Ed K3YTR, Ron WA8IYH, John NU3E, Glen NK1N, Walt KB3SBC, Bill KA3RMM and me.

We all arrived Friday afternoon and it wasn’t long before a couple of stations were set up in the cabin. Friday evening’s activities included lots of socializing and a great dinner prepared by Ed K3YTR. KB3SBC set up a small projector and we looked at some pictures from the many WA3WSJ/KB3SBC NPOTA activations. We also saw a preview of WA3WSJ’s upcoming NPOTA presentation at the Four Days in May (FDIM) gathering.

The Boschveldt QRP crew. Seated (L-R): K3YTR, WA8YIH and WA3WSJ. Standing (L-R): KB3SBC, WB3GCK, NK1N, NU3E and KA3RMM. (Photo by WA3WSJ)
The Boschveldt QRP crew. Seated (L-R): K3YTR, WA8YIH and WA3WSJ. Standing (L-R): KB3SBC, WB3GCK, NK1N, NU3E and KA3RMM. (Photo by WA3WSJ)

The Club also had some door prizes, courtesy of Ed WA3WSJ. WA8IYH won a neat little QRPver 20M QRP rig. Other prizes included a QRPver antenna tuner, a set of Palm Mini paddles and a few other goodies. I was surprised when Ed presented me with a uBITX rig for making the most QSOs at past Field Days. (I later traded it to NU3E for the Palm Mini paddles.)

During the evening, we lost power to the cabin, including heat and running water. The Team channeled their inner MacGyver and collected rainwater for flushing toilets, firewood for the fireplace and battery-operated lights. Despite the sub-freezing temperatures outside, the cabin stayed remarkably warm through the night.

Ron WA8YIH inspecting the QRPver transceiver he won as a door prize.
Ron WA8YIH inspecting the QRPver transceiver he won as a door prize.

On Saturday morning, KB3SBC and KA3RMM made a much-needed coffee and donut run. A few folks stayed behind at the cabin, while the rest of us drove up to High Point State Park. At 1803 feet above sea level, this is the highest point in the state of New Jersey.  Since the rain from the night before was now ice, we opted to forego hiking on this trip.

WB3GCK operating from the cab of the truck.
WB3GCK operating from the cab of the truck.

The road up to the High Point Monument was closed and it was too cold and windy for hiking, so we stayed in the parking lots and operated from our vehicles. WA3WSJ did a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. NK1N set up his portable satellite equipment to work the “birds.” I put my 19-foot vertical on my truck and operated in the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contest. By this time, the temperature was in the teens with a wind chill in the single digits. Needless to say, putting up antennas was a real challenge. Despite the challenges, everyone had a successful day. After a few hours of operating, we packed up and made the hour-long drive back to the cabin.

Glen NK1N ready to work the "birds" at High Point State Park. My truck with my vertical is in the background.
Glen NK1N ready to work the “birds” at High Point State Park. My truck with my vertical is in the background.

On Saturday evening, power was restored to the camp and we all headed into town for a great dinner. The evening concluded with more tall stories and some more radio operating.

Ed WA3WSJ operating from High Point State Park.
Ed WA3WSJ operating from High Point State Park.

On Sunday morning, we had a huge breakfast before packing up and heading out. John NU3E made his famous Belgian waffles, while Ron WA8YIH made some incredible omelets. Needless to say, our little group includes some amazing culinary talent.

After packing up and saying our goodbyes, we closed the book on another fun Camp Run-a-MOC weekend. We’re all looking forward to coming back again next year.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Susquehanna State Park (Again)

I’ve been a little under the weather and haven’t done much radio stuff lately. A weekend of camping in Susquehanna State Park in Maryland turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. I worked some of the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contest and I did a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation (KFF-1601).

During my last visit a couple of months ago, my results were less than stellar. This weekend, the bands seemed to be in better shape. My results this time were much improved.

The WB3GCK "QRP" camper at Susquehanna State Park (KFF-1601)
The WB3GCK “QRP” camper at Susquehanna State Park (KFF-1601)

On the WES front, I worked a lot of the SKCC regulars and added a few new ones to my log. In particular, 80 meters was very active Saturday night and Monday morning.  Tony K6ELQ in California managed to hear my QRP signals on two bands.  One of those bands was 40 meters, so he really must have good ears.  It was also good to work Bert F6HKA again.  Bert also has great ears.

My POTA activation got off to a slow start. I had poor cell phone coverage from the campsite, so self-spotting on Facebook and the DX cluster was difficult. I attempted to post a spot on Facebook but I’m not sure if it actually got through the first time or not. I spent about 30 or 40 minutes calling CQ on 40 and 20 meters with no takers. I knew that Joe N2CX was activating a park up the Susquehanna River from me so I set up on a frequency just below Joe’s usual 40M hangout. My hope was that folks looking for Joe would also stumble across me. It worked! I started getting some calls from POTA regulars who spotted me on the DX clusters.

When I wrapped up for the weekend, my log included France (3 QSOs), Croatia (2 QSOs), Netherlands, Belgium and park-to-park QSOs with N2CX and F4GYG. Coupled with my earlier visit, I amassed enough QSOs to exceed the 44 QSOs needed for a Worldwide Flora and Fauna (WWFF) activation.

After spending a relaxing weekend in the woods playing radio, I’m pleased to report that I’m feeling much better now.

72, Craig WB3GCK