Parks on the Air AAR — Niangua State Recreation Area (K-10214)

The contact map from my activation of K-10214, Niangua SCA.

Wednesday morning I knew that I would have a hydraulic model running for several hours later in the day. After a couple of test runs, I started the first full run and sat at the computer for a few minutes, watching for an error/warning and listening to the fans run.

That was not going to do. So I looked at the map to see what nearby parks I have not yet activated. I found a small conservation area (Niangua State Conservation Area, K-10214) about 45-minutes out and decided that would do. The sun had come out and I wanted to be outdoors.

I got The Girl ready and we walked out normal loop. I stuffed her into the rig while I went upstairs to retrieve my radio bag. Then we were off.

I called my buddy Dick on the way and we chatted about radio stuff until I got near where I thought I should exit the Interstate (dead reckoning). I pulled off the highway and looked at the map on my iPhone. My intuition was correct — I had exited on my turn instinctively.

So we drove the few short miles to the parking area, where I parked the rig and got out to survey. I decided to pull the rig forward a few feet and deploy the drive-on mast mount. I then retrieved the antenna bag from the back of the rig and the SOTAbeams 10m travel mast. I selected my end-fed half-wave antenna from the kit and the matching transformer.

This was my operating position and station for the K-10214 activation. The KX2 is a great radio and the Begali Traveller key outstanding.
The radio was the Elecraft KX2 barefoot and I affixed the matching unit directly to the radio. I draped a short counterpoise wire off the front of the rig and connected it to the radio. I thought about using the factory paddles, but decided that I wanted the better feel of the Begali Traveller set.

Setup time was about 20-minutes, with some of that spent hunting the antenna bag in the back of the rig. Hmmmph…

I listened on the 10m band for a few minutes and checked the spots. One other activator was working 10m. So I decided to try. I picked a frequency, called QRL (is the frequency in use?), and listened. Nothing heard, so I punched the memory button and started calling while I spotted myself on the Internet.

After calling a few minutes there was no response. The 10m band was not open (for me). I listened for a couple of minutes on the 12m band and heard other stations operating, but every time I picked a frequency someone started calling.

“?#%@$# that” I thought, “I’ll just move to 15m.” So, I did.

I setup near the 21.060 QRP (low power) watering hole, listened, called QRL? again, and started calling while I respotted myself on the Internet.

In just a couple of minutes the callers started trickling in. What followed was about 1.75 hours of working stations. The 15m band provided a few contacts, then the 17m band filled out my quota. I worked both until I fished each hole dry.

Then I switched to the 20m band. I then spent the next hour working an almost steady pile-up of callers. About five minutes into the 20m band, my KX2 suddenly turned itself off. It would not restart.

“Battery died!” I thought. I dashed to the drivers side of my rig and grabbed the spare KX2 battery. I dashed back to the radio and plugged in the spare. I turned the radio back on and finished working my buddy Dick (he was the contact I was working when the battery died).

K7ULM? BAT DIED” I sent. He repeated his exchange and I logged the contact.

I had noticed that the KX2 was only putting out about 5-6 watts although I had it set for 10 watts. The battery was running low and I did not realize it. Fortunately I had a ready spare and it took only a few seconds to grab it and be running again.

I was logging on my iPhone (HAMRS), which works for me when I am in the field. I saw a text message banner pass at the top of the screen. It was my buddy Dick who said “20m is not working very well today…”

The drive-on mast mount was made by a maker friend, Tim W7ASY. I used the 10m SOTAbeams Travel Mast to deploy my 40m end-fed half-wave antenna for this activation.
“Ha!” I thought, funny guy.

The contact counter on my logging software said I had more than 65 contacts. I had worked through the pile-up, catching a fragment of a call or getting lucky when an operator called in the clear (between jumbles). My brain was pretty fried after working on the hydraulic model and then a number of big pile-ups.

I decided i had enough. The frequency was quiet — no callers. I sent DE AG7TX QRT SK (my call sign and I am signing off). Another caller appeared, so I worked that operator. (He was loud; it was an easy exchange.) I sent QRT again and turned off the radio.

I finished with 68 contacts in the log. I was the sixth activator of the park and the first code activator. Of course, there were lessons learned:

  • The end-fed half-wave is a much better antenna than the AX1/AXE. Of course I knew that, but fast deployments have been a thing for me lately. I had the room for this activation and took advantage of a superior antenna.
  • I thought the battery in the KX2 was in better shape. I thought that it was charging or at least not being used because I had used an external battery for the previous activations. I was wrong.
  • The lesson is to always check battery state of charge before going to the field.
  • Always have a spare battery handy. Things go bad.
  • Working a big pile-up is part of the fun of radio. Park activations provide that opportunity. But it is hard brain work and requires focus.
  • Expect to be tired after a park or summit activation. I was.

It was a good day. I chatted with Dick on my way home. I had 68 contacts in the log over an hour and three quarters. When I arrived home, Older Son was going through his workout. We went to supper after he finished and cleaned up.

I then showered and readied myself for bed. As I wrote, it was a good day. I am grateful. Life is good.

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