In NE Ohio, real winter is in January and February. The world gets cold. The skies are grey. That giant orb of light in the sky that we see all summer? It fades into memory. The stuff of stories for small children. When the wind is cold and it keeps people locked into the house long enough, something does eventually have to give. And so we do POTA.
Or I do.
Over the weekend, there wasn’t a whole lot on the family calendar. Saturday was the start of POTA’s quarterly Support Your Parks weekend. My local club, PCARS was setting up a trip to a park that was just far enough of a drive that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off given the timing of the few events we did have. So I called up my dad, AC8NT, and asked if he might want to sneak in an activation of Cuyahoga Valley National Park – K-0020. He was excited to come along. What’s better than father/son bonding over nerd radio? Not much!
We got to the park and it was mostly muddy and grey and a bit breezy. The temperatures were in the high 20sF and there wasn’t any precipitation on the agenda according to my pocket supercomputer. We went to a picnic table near where I normally set up. Everything was soaked. Rather than struggle with it, I grabbed my portable camp table that I keep in the back of the Jeep. It made for a quick, dry setup for my gear.
We got set up and made some decent contacts pretty quickly. 40m seemed dead. But 17m was on fire – as it has been lately. Probably every QRP POTA activator gets used to the calls that come across. On FT8 there’s definitely a pattern and rarely do I see DX coming back to me. So when something came across from “SP” I sat up. We were able to make a contact with Poland on that grey day. Thanks to SP6GNJ for sticking with us! The antenna on that end was doing all of the lifting.
Standing around in the grey breeze on a day like that wasn’t pleasant, but the focus on the radio and all of the action definitely took our minds off of the cold. When we hit our number and a few extra, we decided to pack it in.
Here’s what the activation of K-0020 looked like:
Sunday rolled around with nothing on the docket and I decided to go for activation number two. This was partly because I didn’t get any Park to Park contacts on Saturday and that meant that I wasn’t gonna get the Hunter portion of Support Your Parks. That was the flimsy excuse I used to get outside. It’s also how POTA “Gets You.” That sweet, sweet addiction to The Next Thing on the awards page.
Unlike Saturday, there was snow on the agenda. There was already a nice dusting by the time I was heading out for West Branch SP – K-1999. By the time I got there, the ground was covered. Much like the previous week, the park was all but empty. I picked out a shelter nearer to the water up in the picnic area. Even when the water is open, there’s almost never anyone there on the weekends.
With the snow coming down rather heavily, I got to work setting things up so I could get on the air. I have a habit of making a note of the time and weather when I start an activation in my log. The new habit for 2023 will be to mark the time I start setup. It would be interesting to see how long it takes. Probably under 10 minutes.
It was so very quiet. Just the strange 60s synth whistling of FT8 on the radio and the chattering of geese in the distance. The water and everything around it was silent. I heard no cars. No people milling around. It was just me and the snow.
The contacts came quickly. I got 9 on 40m without a lot of effort. I bounced through 30m and eventually to 17m. On 17m, I got another surprise! OM3CND from the Slovak Republic came booming in. Another great antenna from a distant land to put a smile on my face.
A move to 20m rounded it out and closed the activation at 20 contacts. By this time, the snow was really starting to pile up. It was highly unlikely that the plows would be running on a Sunday afternoon out this far from town, so it was better to leave plenty of time for the drive so it could be done slowly. Which it was.
Here’s what the activation looked like on a map:
The old saying goes, “There’s no bad weather. Only bad gear.” And that stands. To add to that, one has to qualify the activity. Standing around and trying to make contacts on a radio isn’t exactly burning calories and keeping a body warm. It would be nice to find a shelter situation that allowed for a fire. For that kind of thing, it might be fun to set up for 6 hours or so! I will have to keep searching. Or go camping for a weekend.
Winter activations are still some of my favorite. It’s quiet. There’s a sense of solitude when one is out alone. And when you bring someone along? That’s good fun for people who are stuck inside for a lot of the winter.
Regardless of the weather, I’ll be out in it for the rest of the winter. Even in the cold it feels great to get out and play radio.