POTA and WWFF at Colonel Denning State Park

Our camping season is rapidly drawing to a close. My (far) better half and I took our little camper out to Colonel Denning State Park (POTA K-1343, WWFF KFF-1343) for our next-to-the-last trip of the year.

Located in central Pennsylvania, Colonel Denning was a new park for us. Our campsite for the weekend small but more than adequate. This section of the campground was along a creek and in a valley. There were steep hills directly behind our site. Given the terrain, I didn’t have high hopes for my radio waves getting out.

The WB3GCK "QRP Camper" at Colonel Denning State Park. My antenna is that white object to the rear of the camper.
The WB3GCK “QRP Camper” at Colonel Denning State Park. My antenna is that white object to the rear of the camper.

We arrived on Friday afternoon. After getting the camper situated, I set up my antenna and gave the radio a quick test. Tuning around, I could hear some strong signals. That gave me some hope.

I didn’t get on the air until Saturday morning. It was only 35F overnight, so I hunkered down in the camper to operate. I made a few contacts, so I appeared to be getting out OK. On 40M, I worked WB9WIU in Indiana, some New York QSO Party stations, and had a 2-way QRP QSO with WA1LFD in New Hampshire.

Doubling Gap Creek in Colonel Denning State Park.
Doubling Gap Creek in Colonel Denning State Park near our campsite.

Later in the day, I spotted myself on the POTA and WWFF websites and spent an hour or so working park chasers. I worked a lot of regulars including W6LEN in California. I had park-to-park QSOs on two bands (20M and 17M) with N4CD in Texas. At one point, I received a call from EA2IF in Spain, who mistakenly thought I was a SOTA activator. In any event, I was happy to add him to my log. I ended my brief POTA/WWFF session with 23 stations in the log.

We awoke Sunday morning to a steady rain. According to the local forecast, the day was going to be a washout—they were right. I made one final contact with K9FW on 80M before tearing down and packing up for the trip home.

The bands were in good shape over the weekend. Despite the terrain, my QRP signals seemed to have found their way out of the valley. Colonel Denning is on our list for a return visit next year.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Father’s Day Camping in Maryland

I spent Father’s Day camping in Maryland. My (far) better half and I took our little camper down to Susquehanna State Park (POTA/WWFF K/KFF-1601). It was a beautiful weekend and our first time camping this year without rain.

Susquehanna State Park is relatively small but it’s one of my favorites. Our campsite this time was large, heavily-wooded, and secluded. It was just what we needed after a busy weekend — a peaceful place to relax.

When I wasn’t just goofing off, I was on the radio. My original plan was to put up an inverted L but there were just too many trees (and I was too lazy). So I stayed with my usual 29.5-foot vertical and 9:1 unun.

A conveniently-placed tree stump made a great operating table.
A conveniently-placed tree stump made a great operating table.

Instead of doing a formal POTA/WWFF activation, I focused on making SKCC contacts towards my “Senator” award. The bands were up and down but at times they were pretty good. Since we were “dry camping” without hookups, I didn’t have to contend with a bunch of noise from the trailer.

Breakfast time at the "QRP Camper" in Susquehanna State Park (MD).
Breakfast time at the “QRP Camper” in Susquehanna State Park (MD).

One of my first contacts on Friday was Florida on 40M. So, that was a good sign. On Saturday morning, there was some good SKCC activity on 30M. I worked several mid-West stations, including AK9A in Wisconsin. Bob was running 1 watt and putting out a great signal. Later in the day, I caught a good opening on 20M, netting me 579 reports from Louisiana and Manitoba, Canda. At the end of the weekend, my casual operating netted me 19 contacts. Six of them counted towards my SKCC “S Quest.”

Other than that, we caught up on much-needed sleep and ate lots of good food. Now, it’s back to the real world.

Life is good...
Life is good…

I’ll be busy this weekend getting stuff together for Field Day next weekend. I’ll be operating with the Boschveldt QRP Club (W3BQC). Give us a shout if you hear us!

72, Craig WB3GCK

WES Portable in Valley Forge

This weekend is the SKCC‘s monthly Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contest. When I can, I like to go out and operate portable for at least part of the contest. I headed to Valley Forge National Historical Park for a couple of hours to take advantage of the great weather.

On arrival, I headed for a shady spot that I’ve used a few times before. I mounted my 19-foot vertical on the back of my truck and set up a small table behind my truck. I fired up my KX3 and got on the air.

My set up in Valley Forge
My set up in Valley Forge

In short order, I logged several stations on 40M, including a POTA park-to-park QSO. (Valley Forge is POTA/WWFF K/KFF-0761.) Moving up to 20M, I made a few more contacts.

I decided to check 15M and I’m glad I did. I found several very strong stations who easily heard my meager 5-watt signal. I called CQ for a while and picked up a few more stations. I seemed to have a pipeline to Indiana and Illinois. It was great to hear some WES activity on 15M.

After a couple of hours, I started to run out of shade. I was getting hot and so was the KX3. I decided to pack up for the day. Besides, I had to do some preparations for a public service event early the next morning.

It was a great day for portable operating and I added a few more QSOs towards my SKCC Senator award.

72, Craig WB3GCK

The Passing of a QRP Legend

Browsing through my Facebook feed this morning, I was sad to learn of Joe Everhart’s passing. If you are at all involved with QRP or Parks on the Air, Joe’s callsign, N2CX, should be very familiar to you.

I first met Joe back in the early 90s, while we were both employed by the same company. With our common interest in QRP, we continued to cross paths through the years.

Joe was a talented engineer and freely shared his extensive technical knowledge with his fellow hams. Joe’s articles appeared in a variety ham radio publications. I particularly enjoyed his ongoing series of “Technical Quickies” in each issue of QRP Quarterly. The next issue of QRP Quarterly will contain his 109th and final “Quickie.” Joe was a tireless tinkerer and we all benefited from his experiments.

Joe Everhart N2CX during an NPOTA activation at Valley Forge National Historic Park. I took this picture during an "eyeball QSO" with Joe in April 2016.
Joe Everhart N2CX during an NPOTA activation at Valley Forge National Historic Park. I took this picture during an “eyeball QSO” with Joe in April 2016.

As an activator in Parks on the Air (POTA) and World-Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF), Joe was a machine. He traveled all over, activating countless parks at a dizzying pace. As of this writing, Joe was number 3 on the POTA list of Top Activators of All Time. I always enjoyed reading the recaps of Joe’s activations on Facebook or the QRP-L mailing list. He was a natural story teller with a great sense of humor.

So, thank you, Joe, for the advice and guidance you provided to me and others over the years. Looking back at our many QSOs in my log, it’s sad to think there won’t be any more. It was an honor to know you and you will be missed.

Rest in peace, my friend.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Leaf Peepers QRP Contest

I was pleased to be able to participate in the first-ever running of the Leaf Peepers QRP Contest. This new contest is the brainchild of Tim W3ATB. Although the Fall colors are barely getting started here in southeastern Pennsylvania, it was a good reason to get out and do some portable operating.

In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, I headed up to Evansburg State Park (K/KFF-1351) near Collegeville, Pennsylvania. I figured I would work the contest while making Parks on the Air (POTA) contacts. Although this park is only about 25 minutes away from my home, I have never done a POTA activation from there. Today was the day.

The Skippack Creek Loop Trail in Evansburg State Park
The Skippack Creek Loop Trail in Evansburg State Park

I found a nice parking spot across the road from some restrooms. (This is a major consideration for us old guys.) There were very few others nearby so I practically had the place to my self. I put my 19.5-foot vertical on the back of my truck and set up my KX3 in the cab.

My parking spot in Evansburg State Park
My parking spot in Evansburg State Park

I started out on 40M and found some fellow Leaf Peepers but the QSOs were coming at a “relaxed” pace. Given that there were 180 registered Leaf Peeper stations, I thought I would hear more activity. However, I was able to work stations from New Hampshire to Florida and out to Michigan on 40M. The band yielded 7 Leaf Peepers before I switched over to 20M.

On 20M, my CQs yielded one more Leaf Peeper. Since the SKCC QSO Party was underway, I put the KX3 in straight key mode and flipped my paddles on their side to create a straight key. It’s awkward but it works. I picked up two SKCC contacts before pulling the plug.

Here are some of today’s highlights:

  • My second QSO was with Tim W3ATB, creator of the contest and Leaf Peeper #1.
  • I had a park-to-park QSO with Joe N2CX. Joe was at Washington Crossing State Park (K-1634) over in New Jersey.
  • I had another SKCC QSO with Bert F6HKA. He always has a great signal and is usually able to pull my QRP signal out of the noise.

After a little less than 2 hours, I had to pack up to run some errands before heading home. All in all, it was a fun outing and my 10 contacts were enough to qualify as a POTA activation. I don’t know why I waited so long to activate this park.

Thanks to Tim W3ATB for coming up with this contest. I always enjoy these QRP field contests and I’m looking forward to operating in this one again next year.

72, Craig WB3GCK

Fall Camping in Elk Neck State Park

My XYL and I took the “QRP camper” back down to Elk Neck State Park in Maryland for the weekend. We had a couple of days of nice Fall weather but that did little to offset the mediocre propagation. By the end of the weekend, the weather became as bad as the band conditions.

When we arrived on Friday I set up my usual 29.5-foot vertical. I initally gave some thought to putting up an inverted L but I didn’t see a conveniently-placed tree to support the far end. In hindsight, having more wire up in the air would have been a good idea this weekend. I made a couple of contacts to make sure things were working before getting a campfire started.

On Saturday, I worked an assortment of stations (SOTA, special events, SKCC, etc.) but it seemed like almost every QSO was a struggle. With an A Index of 27, that wasn’t too surprising. After several attempts, I finally got through to N8N in Michigan on 40M for a park-to-park contact. Hank N8XX was operating with a special event callsign for National Trails Day. He was operating from the North Country Trail (KFF-1555).  (Elk Neck State Park is KFF-1569.)

The WB3GCK camper on a rainy morning in Elk Neck State Park in Maryland. My Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.
The WB3GCK camper on a rainy morning in Elk Neck State Park in Maryland. My Jackite pole is strapped to the lantern post on the left.

The beautiful weather was short-lived. By Sunday morning, a steady rain had moved in, so I hunkered down with the KX3 in the camper to give the bands one more shot. I ended up with a very nice chat on 80M with NS3X. Mark is located in north-central Maryland and was a new SKCC number for my log. After I signed with Mark, I packed up the radio and began the unpleasant task of breaking camp in the rain.

I only logged a paltry 8 contacts over the weekend but that was enough to reach the 44 contacts needed for a WWFF-KFF activation.

We have two more trips planned for October before it’s time to winterize the camper and put it into hibernation until Spring. Time sure flies…

72, Craig WB3GCK

Recuperating at Codorus State Park

My XYL and I spent the weekend camping at Codorus State Park (K/KFF-1342) in south-central Pennsylvania.  When we were here last year, we had a weekend of bad weather.  This year, it was a tale of bad traffic, bad knees and bad propagation.

With a late start and heavy traffic, it was dark by the time we arrived at Codorus on Friday. After setting up the trailer it was getting late so I decided to wait until morning to set up my antenna.  We were in a heavily-wooded camp site, so my antenna wound up surrounded by large trees.

My antenna at Codorus State Park. The trees helped to maintain a low profile but probably didn't do much for its efficiency.
My antenna at Codorus State Park. The trees helped to maintain a low profile but probably didn’t do much for its efficiency.

The day before we left for Codorus, I injured my knee and paid a visit to the local urgent care facility.  The doctor said I needed to stay off of it for a few days and ice it several times each day.  Following my doctor’s orders, I spent much of the weekend relaxing in my reclining camp chair with my KX3 on a table next to me.

Icing my injured knee while making contacts.
Icing my injured knee while making contacts.

I didn’t do an announced activation at Codorus; instead, I just tuned around making contacts where I could find them.  Along with some Ohio and Kansas QSO Party stations, I worked an interesting assortment of stations.   On Sunday morning, I woke up to the news that there was a geomagnetic storm in progress.  The dead bands confirmed that; I only managed a few more contacts over the rest of the weekend.  Fortunately, I made more than enough contacts on Saturday for a qualifying POTA activation.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • I made park-to-park contacts with Joe N2CX at K/KFF-1461 and K/KFF-1452 in Wisconsin.
  • On Saturday afternoon, Ron WB3KVR answered my CQ on 40M.  It turned out that Ron was also camping in Codorus and operating QRP.  After we signed, I drove over to his campsite for an “eyeball QSO.”  Ron stopped by my campsite the next day to see my set up.
  • On Saturday evening, I worked LZ1146SPS in Bulgaria on 30M.  The unusual callsign is for a special event by the Bulgarian Radio Club Blagovestnik.
  • I wrapped things up on Monday morning with a contact on 30M with K0RU/M in Kansas City, Kansas.  Rob was operating while driving to work.  I’m always amazed by hams who can carry on a CW conversation while driving.  Very impressive!

Although the bands could have been better, I still enjoyed my lazy weekend resting my ailing knee and playing around on the radio.

72, Craig WB3GCK