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

Elk Neck State Park (KFF-1569)

My XYL and I took our “QRP” travel trailer down to Maryland over the weekend. We stayed in one of our favorite campgrounds, Elk Neck State Park. I did a brief Parks on the Air activation on Saturday.

Elk Neck State Park is located on a peninsula bounded by the Chesapeake Bay to the west and the Elk River to the East. Besides camping, there are numerous hiking trails, a beach on the Chesapeake side for swimming and access for boating. The park is home to the scenic Turkey Point Lighthouse, which overlooks the Chesapeake Bay.

Our campsite in Elk Neck State Park. Once again, I used a lantern post to secure my Jackite pole.
Our campsite in Elk Neck State Park. Once again, I used a lantern post to secure my Jackite pole.

Our campsite was located on the Elk River side near Stony Point. For this trip, we chose a campsite without electrical hookups. Since the trailer was powered only by battery, I didn’t have any noise to contend with. This made for some nice, quiet conditions on the bands.

The view of the Elk River from Stony Point.
The view of the Elk River from Stony Point.

I operated on Saturday afternoon for about an hour. I made a few contacts on 40M but interference from an RTTY contest made it tough. When I moved up to 20M, things perked up a bit. To the west, I worked British Columbia and California. To the east, several of the European regulars showed up. I worked stations in Sweden, Poland, Germany, and Croatia.

Later in the evening, I got on 80M for about 20 minutes. I worked a few relatively local stations plus two in Michigan. It was starting to get dark so I shut down for the night and got a campfire started.

I ended the weekend with 19 stations in my log. Not too bad, considering the short amount of time I invested.

73, Craig WB3GCK

 

Pine Grove Furnace State Park (KFF-1398)

The XYL and I made the 2+ hour trip to spend the weekend at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, one of our favorite campgrounds. It’s a beautiful park and is the halfway point on the 2000 mile Appalachian Trail. It had been 2 years since our last visit here, so we were definitely overdue.

Located in south-central Pennsylvania, Pine Grove Furnace is one of Pennsylvania’s gems.  The park features the remains of the Pine Grove Iron Works, along with two mountain lakes, hiking trails (in addition to the Appalachian Trail) and a beautifully wooded campground.  If you stop by the camp store, you might see Applachian Trail “thru hikers” celebrate reaching the halfway point by taking the “Half-Gallon Challenge”.  The challenge is to eat a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting.  Pine Grove is also home to the fascinating Appalachian Trail museum.

Although it wasn’t my primary focus this weekend, I got a little radio time in. The monthly SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contest was going on and I wanted to squeeze in a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation of KFF-1398.

Our campsite at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.
Our campsite at Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

We had almost no cell phone service at our campsite, so I was concerned about not being able to spot myself for the POTA activation. Fortunately, while we were out getting a few supplies, I managed to post my operating plans on the POTA Facebook group.

WB3GCK making some straight key contacts from the trailer.
WB3GCK making some straight key contacts from the trailer.

When I got back to our campsite, I called CQ for about 30 minutes on 40, 30 and 20 meters with no success. Eventually, KG8P found me on 40 meters and gave me a call from Michigan. After he spotted me on the DX reflector things picked up for a bit. I wrapped up my one-hour session falling a few short of the ten contacts needed to qualify my activation. The good news, however, is that the SKCC contacts I made pushed me well over the top.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park is also home to the Appalachian Trail Museum. They have some fascinating exhibits on the history of the trail and some of the early hikers.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park is also home to the Appalachian Trail Museum. They have some fascinating exhibits on the history of the trail and some of the early hikers.

It was a nice weekend with some great Fall weather. We won’t wait so long for our next trip to this great park.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Norristown Farm Park (KFF-4363)

wwff_logo_200_transparentI took some time on Labor Day to do a quick Parks-on-the-Air (POTA) activation from Norristown Farm Park. This nearby park has only been activated one other time. In fact, KFF-4363 was activated for the first time yesterday by K0BAK.

Earlier this year, our local ARES-RACES group provided the communications for a March of Dimes event at this park. In preparation, I spent some time running communications tests around the park.  Being familiar with this park and its terrain, I set up today in a parking lot across from the park office. This spot is the highest elevation in the park that you can get to by car.

My location at Norristown Farm Park. You can see the corn fields behind my truck.
My location at Norristown Farm Park. You can see the corn fields behind my truck.

I operated from my truck today, using my trusty KX3 and a 29.5-foot vertical. I started out on 20M and things were a bit slow at first. After people noticed my spots, I worked enough to qualify my activation including a couple of the European regulars. I dropped down to 40M and picked up several more stations but came up empty on 30M. I went back to 20M and picked up two more to finish out the day. I was hoping to work some West Coast stations but Kansas was as far west as I got today.

Norristown Farm Park is a working farm in continuous use since colonial times.
Norristown Farm Park is a working farm in continuous use since colonial times.

At one point, a couple of curious Park Rangers rolled up to see what I was up to. They were familiar with ham radio since the park hosts several public service events each year. After chatting for a few minutes, they wished me luck and moved on.

I wasn’t out very long but I had a great time today. I hope all of my U.S. friends also had a happy and safe Labor Day.

73, Craig WB3GCK

Kids and POTA Fun at KFF-1355

My XYL and I took our little camper up to nearby French Creek State Park (PA) for the weekend. In between entertaining our visiting grand-kids and grilling hotdogs, I managed to get in a brief Parks on the Air (POTA) activation (KFF-1355).

We usually camp at French Creek several times each year. It’s a great campground and just a short drive from home. It’s an easy weekend getaway for us. This weekend, our two daughters and our three grand-kids came up on Saturday to visit our campsite for the day.

My "portable hamshack" at French Creek State Park near Elverson, PA.
My “portable hamshack” at French Creek State Park near Elverson, PA.

At one point, everyone headed down to the playground with the kids. I stayed behind and got on the radio for about 20 minutes or so. I spotted myself on the Facebook POTA group and on the DX cluster. Twenty meters must have been in pretty good shape because I was soon met with a mini pileup of European stations. I wasn’t expecting that.

After I worked my way through the calling stations, I had worked Sweden, Belgium (2 stations), Croatia (2 stations), Italy and Spain. There were also two Texas stations and one from Oregon. My trusty 29.5-foot vertical wire had really gone the distance for me.

My trusty 29.5-foot wire vertical. It's supported by a 31-foot Jackite pole and fed with a homebrew 9:1 unun.
My trusty 29.5-foot wire vertical. It’s supported by a 31-foot Jackite pole and fed with a homebrew 9:1 unun.

I got on again later in the evening and picked up a few more POTA hunters before re-joining my better half at the campfire. I worked a few more the next morning (including EA1DR in Spain for the second time) before packing up and heading for home. There were a lot of familiar callsigns in the log.

I didn’t have a lot of time for radio this trip but the dedicated POTA “regulars” came out to play and made it a lot of fun.

73, Craig WB3GCK

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