Sunday, December 20, 2020

POTA and QRP - Six Months In

This morning I was greeted with the fact that I now have 201 unique parks confirmed as a POTA hunter. That took me almost 260 POTA contacts.  Interestingly enough, today is exactly 6 months from my very first POTA experience at Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area back on June 20th.   Wayne AC9HP, Ivin W9ILF, and Paul W9PDC, showed me the way to POTA and I got my first activation and POTA contacts that day.  Since then I have managed 10 park activations,  hunted 201 unique parks in 33 states, handed out 221 contacts from K-4183, and had the most fun I've had in years with amateur radio.  

My primary activation setup is shown below, my beloved almost 20 year old Elecraft K2, LDG auto tuner, Parkwood paddles built for me about 20 years ago by Richard WB9LPU, a Chinese Li-Ion battery pack from Imuto Inc, AYL Brand powered speaker, and good old pencil and paper logging.  My max power has been 15w on SSB and 10w on CW.  My antenna is the Eagle One portable that I use mounted to the trailer hitch on my SUV.  The hitch mount allows my truck to be used as a counterpoise and I can tune it 10-40 with no issues.  If I add my 4:1 balun I can get a narrow match on 80m as well. 

KB9BVN typical QRP activation station

Here is a picture of my SUV with the Eagle One Antenna deployed for POTA activation. 

SUV mounted Eagle One portable vertical 

My hunting station setup is a little bit different.   Usually I hunt using my almost 20 year old Elecraft K1, it is setup for 15, 20, 30, and 40m.  If I am hunting on 17m or 30m, or using SSB, I pull out the K2 and use that.  The paddles are old Ten Tec single lever paddles (Model 607), and I use a LDG auto tuner,  cheap headphones, and a pair of 10 Amp hour SLA batteries.  The antenna from my home hunting location is a half wave 40m dipole in my attic.  With the antenna tuner I can get it to match and work on best on 40m and 15m, worst on 10m and 20m.  My hunting station is shown below. 

K1 Hunting Station used by KB9BVN 

On occasion I have also used this hunting setup, swapping out the K1 for the Hilltopper 40 or Hilltopper 20 QRP CW transceivers.   The Hilltoppers make 7 watts of output and have a great receiver.  This little rig was designed by Dave Benson K1SWL and packaged and sold by the 4 States QRP Group. 

Hilltopper 40 with Nye Viking Master Key 

I have really enjoyed POTA this year and I look forward to warmer weather in the coming months.  Tomorrow is the first day of Winter...which means the days will start to get longer and summertime weather is on its way back to the Hoosier Hinterlands.  I can't wait to get out there and do more activations in 2021.  I am by no means lighting the POTA world on fire, but I have been having a lot of fun with it.  Some ops this year have over 1000 unique parks hunted, and over 1000 parks activated.  I like the fact that I can be relatively successful using QRP CW and SSB, who knows, maybe next year I'll give some of the digital modes a try! 

The Enrubio Award is issued by POTA for hunters that have contacted at least 200 unique park locations, here is what it looks like.

Enrubio Award from POTA 

If you haven't given POTA a try yet, you are really missing out on the chance for some great amateur radio fun.  Whether you like making contest style contacts, or love operating from the great outdoors, there is something in POTA for everyone!  <-- Sign up here (it's free)  <-- This is the spotting page for the hunters (it's free)

POTA also has a active site on Facebook, and a channel on Slack. 

Best DX es 73 - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! 

Friday, November 20, 2020

It was a dark and blustery night...

I got off work at 4:00PM yesterday, grabbed my gear and drove to K-4183 Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area, and was on the air by 4:50PM.  It was about 60F degrees but a bit windy.  I setup at Stone Arch lake this time, operating from inside my 2006's very cramped but I need to figure out a way to do this so I can keep activating in the winter time.  

My run last night was cut short when the winds caused my Eagle One to collapse, plus since we are no longer on daylight savings time it was getting dark by 5:30PM. I manage to operate about 28 minutes before the mast came down and I decided to pack it in. I did make 20 regular contacts and two Park to Park contacts.  I operated on 7065 Khz the whole time I was on the air.  

I was also getting some very strong QRM, voices and I am pretty sure they were coming from the Camp Atterbury military base just south of me.  So between dealing with QRM, the wind, and cramped quarters in the truck, I was ready go. 

Anyway, here's my QSO map from last night, 40m was working well. I was running the K2 at 10w. 

And here is the Reverse Beacon Network report for my last 15 or so minutes on the air. 

So far I have never had a bad activation, any time I get to go play radio like it's field day, I am one happy camper.  Looking forward to maybe getting back out there this weekend.  This was my tenth activation of K-4183.  

Best 73


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Morning in November - POTA!


I woke up this morning and looked outside, it's the 7th of November, the pandemic is still here, the election is a mess, and I decided that what I needed was a trip to the closest POTA Park and some RF therapy.  What a beautiful morning, it was 47F in the Hoosier Heartland when I left the house.  By 10:20AM I was at the location and setup and ready to roll.  Temperature had started rising and it was 55F when I got started. 

I was at K-4183 again, Atterbury Fish and Wildlife is right next to the military camp called Camp Atterbury. This morning I was treated to the joyous chirping of birds, artillery practice a couple miles away, and full auto machine gun fire at the Army range about a mile up the road.  The rumblings were not too loud because of the distance but they went on the whole time I was there.  Good to know they are keeping in practice! 

Started out on 15m at 21040 Khz, hung there for about 20 mins calling CQ POTA and never heard a peep, so I switched to 40m, heard lots of signals, and tuned to 7065 Khz and started calling there.  It did not take long to have 10 contacts in the book, like less than 15 minutes.  I pretty much stayed on 40m the whole time I was there with one exception, I worked WI2X on 10.125 Mhz for a Park 2 Park contact. 

My station this morning was my Elecraft K2 at 10w, an LDG autotuner, Parkwood Paddles I bought from Richard WB9LPU about 20 years ago, and a Imuto Brand Lithium something battery pack from China via Amazon.  That battery can run my CPAP machine for 16 I take it camping!  Antenna was my ever trusty Eagle One vertical mounted to my trailer hitch. When I am in the field I log to paper and then enter it into N3FJP logger on my laptop at home.  

For the last half of my operating, the Reverse Beacon Network had me with great signals all over the US, which explains my contacts in California (W6OUL) and Utah (KN7D) today.  It is SO GREAT to see the SFI over 90's been awhile!  Take at look here:

SSN:35 SFI:94 A:8 K:2 

So by the time my session was finished at about 11:40AM EST, I had logged 37 contacts, and was getting hits from hunters from all over the US/Canada.  I did not hear any Europeans today or any other DX. 

The one red one was a SSB park to park on 40m.  All in all I had 37 contacts, with six of them being Park to Park contacts.  A great way to spend a Saturday morning in the beautiful fall weather. 

Best 73 

Friday, October 2, 2020

October Activation

Friends, I am no fan of cold weather.  Tonight I headed out to K-4183, Atterbury Fish and Wildlife and got set up by 21:00Z.  I was there with Paul W9PDC (over 100 SSB contacts tonight), Wayne AC9HP, and Tim NW9F. We were testing out some filters that Paul had created and Tom was checking out an assortment of different Yaesu radios he had.  I was there just trying to activate the park with my QRP set of the K2, LDG tuner, and Eagle One vertical mounted on the hitch of my SUV.  I am glad I got there early, because by 7:35PM it was dark, and the park closes at dark.  When I got here according to my truck temperature sensor, it was 55 F degrees...three short weeks ago it was in the upper 70's and lower 80's.  We will be down in the 30's tonight.  UGH. 

I managed to make 20 contacts this outing. 18 were QRP CW and 2 were QRP SSB.  The best part was I picked up two more states tonight, W7HJL out in Washington, and N7MSI out in Montana.  N7MSI was a double bonus,  he was also at park K-2589 in Montana. 

The bands were odd tonight, as usual. I started out on 17m and had no luck, then I moved to 30m and started making a few, I eventually ended up on 40m and finished up there.  Check out my QSO Map. 

Here is what my signal looked like on the Reverse Beacon Network for the last 10-15 minutes of my activity.  

I was at it for just under 2 hours, and had a whole lot of fun.   If you are not involved in POTA, you are really missing out on some fun action. 

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Quickie Activation!

KB9BVN at K-4183
I had about two hours to kill this late afternoon so I grabbed my Activation gear and headed out to K-4183, Atterbury Fish and Wildlife.  I am lucky that I can get there in about 25 minutes.   Once I arrived I saw some other people were in my spot, eating dinner at my picnic table...not a biggie.  I went down the road a bit and found a nice new spot to try out. 

It takes me about 15 minutes to get setup, including raising the vertical on my trailer hitch and attaching the feed line and a couple of radials.  I had a weird pattern tonight on 40 meters, it seems like all my signals were heading due east.  I thought that was interesting but I was hoping for some 7 landers tonight to help my WAS efforts.  None to be had.  

I was running the K2 at 10w this evening and as soon as I spotted my location on the POTA spotting page, I started working contacts within seconds. POTA requires 10 contacts to be considered as a qualified Activation.  I ended up with 18, including one SSB contact to a Park in North Carolina, thanks to Paul K2PMD down at the Fort Raleigh Historic Site (K-0820),

The band was doing pretty well. I was on the air from about 21:20Z to about 22:15Z. Here's a shot of my RBN report.  I started out on 7065 Khz and moved to 7068 Khz for the last 20 mins or so. 

Like I mentioned above, my signals were all heading east tonight, not sure if it was just the way I had my radials laid out or what, but this is a neat QSO map of the evening.  The one in red is the Park to Park with Paul K2PMD.  Working VE9VIC up in New Brunswick was a new province for me, and N1HN in Maine was sounding great! 

Anyway that's it for tonight, it was fun to make a quick run down to the park and activate it again.  This is my 6th activation of Atterbury Fish and Wildlife Area.  Four more and I think I get a certificate! Wall paper baby!

Best 73

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Another POTA Milestone Achieved!

About a week and a half ago I found out that I had earned the Arizona Agave Hunter Award from Parks on the Air.  This is for working (hunting) 100 different reference areas (parks). I started hunting on June 22nd of this year and it took me about 2 months to get 100 different parks in the logs.  I have the activators to thank as my contacts were all QRP.  94 were QRP CW and 6 were QRP SSB.  Some of these activators have bionic ears, and for that I am thankful. 

If I get time I am going to write up an article for the QRP Quarterly about working POTA successfully with QRP.  It's been a blast so far!

Best DX to all!