On Thursday, 30 June 2022, The Girl and I visited to Parks On the Air parks — Mormon Station SP in Genoa, Nevada and Washoe Lake SP in Washoe Valley. After the intensity of the last several months, I did not get enough of other-than-work time on Field Day. My Field Day AAR still needs to be written. I will get to it, probably over the weekend.
I find Mormon Station difficult to activate. It is a small park. There is a lot of traffic at the park. There is a lot of traffic through Genoa. So there is not a good place for a good antenna and there is lots of audio noise from all the traffic.
For this activation, I set up on the south side of the park, just outside the timber wall. A handy timber in said wall provided an excellent anchor for a 10m telescopic mast. The random wire antenna I keep in my kit was the right length to connect directly to the Elecraft KX2 via a binding post to BNC adapter. The counterpoise wire was laid on the ground out of the way of any potential foot traffic.
When I turned on the radio, there was some noise. A quick look around revealed overhead power lines across the street. I already had noticed the electrical equipment 20 feet from my operating position.
I decided to try anyway. I ran the KX2 barefoot at ten watts. After a bit more than an hour, I made my required ten contacts. But I noticed the radio frequency noise and used earbuds to mitigate the audio noise (a bit).
The choice of operating position was not optimal. I need to find another place to activate Mormon Station.
The Girl and I drove up to Washoe Lake SP to activate that park too. I prefer the west side of the lake/park as there is less congestion there. For this activation, I set up the Elecraft KX3 and the KXPA100 amplifier. The antenna was the Wolf River Coils vertical with my own ground field.
Not long after I bought the WRC antenna, I read Rudy Severns’ series of articles about verticals and ground fields. So I built a set of 18 radials from cheap lamp cord for my ground field. They connect six into one and then to the base of the antenna via Anderson powerpoles. The entire systems is quick to deploy and quick to tune.
The antenna is not band agile. But if one is running a frequency (like activating a park), then agility is not the most important feature of the antenna. The antenna is resonant on the selected band, so no matching transformer is needed and there is no transformer loss. It will make SWRs of 1.5:1 or less in my location.
I used my 15Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 battery with a 30w PowerFilm solar panel and Genasun charge controller to keep the battery topped off. I planned to run phone first, then CW mode on each band. For phone I run 100w; for CW mode I typically run 50w or less.
The setup took me about 20 minutes. I then checked the solar conditions and decided to start on 40m to see if I could get some California contacts and then move up the bands.
I had a handful of 40m contacts not long into my activation. After I received no more calls in phone mode, I switched to CW and worked a few more stations.
I then moved up to the 30m band and made a few more contacts. Then it was on to 20m where I continued working stations until the well ran dry, or the hole was fished out. You can choose your preferred metaphor.
My buddy Dick texted me and ask “Should I call 911?” He was concerned when he saw me spotted using sideband.
“Not everyone knows Morse Code and phone operators might want to hunt this park. So I decided I might catch more fish if I also run phone.”
Yes, it felt odd calling CQ using my voice. But I got into the rhythm before long and I know there are hunters out there who only do voice comms. I think it was the right decision.
I was about to move up to 17m when I noticed it was about 1500h. I had an exam session last night to give a new operator a chance to earn her Technician class license. I wanted a shower before heading to the exam site. So I packed up the station and we returned home.
I forgot to make an image of my deployment at Washoe Lake. That is too bad as it was another simple setup. It would have made a nice image.
As usual, I learned a few things:
- I still have work to do to find the best operating point at Mormon Station. There has to be at least one good place to run the radio.
- It is better to activate Mormon Station away from the weekends. Genoa has a lot more traffic on the weekends when tourists come to town. The park is busier. Genoa is busier. There is a lot more audio noise as a result.
- I have to remember to make an image of my deployment. There is something elegant about a simple radio setup with the park or surrounding landscape in the background. Washoe Lake was really pretty Thursday. My bad…
- Including phone operation in my activation is a good idea. Although more and more amateur operators are learning Morse Code (it is part of being a well-rounded operator), there are a lot of POTA hunters that do not know code. That means there are missed opportunities for contacts if I only activate CW mode.
- I should allow more time to activate more bands. Thursday I did three bands — 40m, 30m, and 20m. While it is true that propagation is not as good on the higher bands right now, it was better and will get better as we move farther into Solar Cycle 25. The higher bands offer good opportunities for DX (long distance) radio contacts.
- Logging on my iPhone is a Pain-In-The-Ass. But so is setting up a logging computer, even if it is the little Surface Go 2.
- HAMRS is a useful logging software. It has a template for Parks On the Air (as well as SOTA). That mitigates, to some extent, the PITA nature of logging on my iPhone. (Yes, I know it runs on my Surface Go 2.)
I know there will be more lessons as I learn more about portable operations. Now I think I want to get The Girl out and go play radio for a few hours up at Washoe Lake.