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 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

POTA at Nolde Forest

I activated a new (for me) park this morning. Although Nolde Forest State Park (K/KFF-4362) is only a 45 minute drive for me, I had never been there.

The Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center is located south of Reading, Pennsylvania. It’s a 725 acre park with numerous trails and diverse habitats.

I first pulled into the Sawmill parking area, which is a trailhead for some of the hiking trails. The parking lot was small and crowded, so I drove down the road to the main entrance. There, I found the gate partially closed with a sign that said parking was only for an event. Back to the Sawmill area I went.

Bulletin board in the Sawmill parking area at Nolde Forest Evironment State Park
Bulletin board in the Sawmill parking area at Nolde Forest Evironment State Park

I found a parking spot and got the KX3 and homebrew vertical set up. The area is in a low spot, so I wasn’t expecting much. Not long after I spotted myself, 40M came alive with callers. I made my first ten contacts in about 9 minutes. I stayed on 40M about 30 minutes until the hunters thinned out.

My parking spot in Nolde Forest State Park. The parking lot was crowded, but I managed to get a spot on the end.
My parking spot in Nolde Forest State Park. The parking lot was crowded, but I managed to get a spot on the end.

The 20M band was a different story, though. I only made two contacts up there, but one of them gave me a 559 from Nevada. Not too shabby for 5 watts in a gully, I guess. I tried 30M, but I only found one taker there. I went back to 40M and picked up a few more before wrapping up.

At one point, a young man walked up to my passenger-side window and asked what I was doing. I gave him my elevator speech about Amateur Radio and Parks on the Air (POTA). He gave me two thumbs up and said that was “rad.” I assume I suitably impressed him.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, I had 25 contacts in my log. No park-to-park QSOs this time, though.

Sadly, I didn’t get to see much of the park beyond the parking lot. My doctor hasn’t cleared me for hiking (or biking) just yet. I need to go back again sometime when I can do some exploring. Maybe some operating on top of the hill that was behind me.

73, Craig WB3GCK

POTA at Ridley Creek State Park

I did another impromptu Parks on the Air (POTA) activation this morning. This time I drove down to Ridley Creek State Park in Delaware County, Pennsylvania (POTA K-1414). 

Although it’s only about a 30-minute drive from home, this was my first visit to Ridley Creek. Before I left, I did some quick aerial reconnaissance using Google Earth. I picked out a spot near a trailhead that looked promising and happened to have restrooms. 

On arrival, I found a parking spot near some trees away from other visitors and vehicles. I used my trusty 19-foot vertical on the back of my truck and set up my KX3 in the cab. As usual, I kept my power to 5 watts and ran CW only. 

My parking spot at Ridely Creek State Park.
My parking spot at Ridely Creek State Park.

I spotted myself on the POTA website and started calling CQ on 40M. Within a minute, I began receiving calls. It took less than ten minutes to make the required ten contacts. After 40M slowed down, I moved to 20M for a while, later finishing up on 30M.

After 90 minutes—the apparent limit of my attention span—, I had 34 contacts, including three park-to-park QSOs. I worked KØBWR out in Kansas on all three bands. Thanks, Steve!  VA2NB (aka VE3WMB), my QRP friend to the north, worked me on 40M and 20M from Quebec. Thanks, Michael!

The equestrian facility located within Ridley Creek State Park
The equestrian facility located within Ridley Creek State Park

With that, I packed up for the drive home. Before I left, I drove around the park to do some exploring. On my way out, I stopped near a horse farm within the park to take a picture.

It was a fun morning at Ridley Creek. I’m sure I’ll be back to activate it again. 

73/72, Craig WB3GCK

Dodging the Rain at Marsh Creek State Park

I was in a Parks on the Air (POTA) mood this morning. I planned to visit Marsh Creek State Park, a nearby park that I have yet to activate. The weather forecast was dismal, and I almost talked myself out of going. 

Looking closer at my weather radar app, it looked like I might have a break from the rain if I got loaded up and on the road. It was pouring as I left the house, but it stopped when I was about halfway to the park. 

I haven’t been to Marsh Creek in quite some time. Years back, I did a lot of fishing and ice fishing on the lake. I planned to operate from one of the boat launch areas. I’m not sure I have ever been to this part of the park; It sure didn’t look at all familiar. As I pulled into the park, it was a downhill drive to the boat launch. Given the hilly terrain on this side of the lake, I didn’t have high hopes for making contacts.

WB3GCK at Marsh Creek State Park (POTA K-1380, WWFF KFF-1380)
WB3GCK at Marsh Creek State Park (POTA K-1380, WWFF KFF-1380)

I parked along the lake, and I was ready to get on the air in less than 10 minutes. I operated from my truck using my KX3 (5 watts) and my homebrew 19-ft vertical on the back. I spotted myself and started calling CQ on 40M. It took a few minutes before I started hearing from chasers. 

Despite the hilly terrain behind me, I had a pretty good string of contacts. It took me about 30 minutes to make my required ten contacts. But, it was on 20M where things got interesting. 

Up on 20M, things really got going. My first contact on 20M was a park-to-park QSO with EC1R in Spain, so my 5-watt signal was making it across the pond. I also worked F4HZR in France. It was nice to hear W6LEN calling from California, showing I was also making it out to the West Coast. 

After a little more than an hour, I logged my 25th contact. That’s when I started seeing some raindrops on the windshield. When I have my antenna on the truck, I have to keep the cargo cover open. I had some things back there that I needed to keep dry, so it seemed like a good time to shut down. I was happy with the 25 contacts (including 3 park-to-park contacts) during my short activation, so I declared victory and headed home. 

As I was leaving the park, the skies opened up, and it started raining like crazy. I timed this activation just right. My luck doesn’t usually run that way.

72, Craig WB3GCK