There are plenty of jokes about POTA devotees checking maps before going on vaction for new parks to activate along the way. In this case, my family decided that we’d spend spring break at Mammoth Cave National Park – K-0050 which meant that I didn’t even need to play any weird games to land a new activation. We’d be there anyway!
The park is a beautiful place. Being that we’re new to the camper thing (but certainly not new to camping) we did a lot of scouting around to figure out what the sites would be like. No hookups at all. That’s a blessing and a curse. For us, we have a good set of solar panels that keep the batteries topped off to run the fridge (highly efficient to begin with) and keep other electronics charged up. The downside is that parks with no hookups allow for generators. In this case, 8 AM to 8 PM daily. Which meant there was something buzzing most of the day. Not the best for ambience and afternoon naps!
All told, the site was great for us and our weird camper.
There was no chance to get in an activation on our first day at the park. We pulled in just in time to get set up and get a couple of us off to a cave tour leaving the remainder of the party to nap and get camp established. But on our second day, the Chameleon vertical came out and was set up next to a tree by the camper. It was invisible to everyone else in the park, which I do enjoy. I like being unobtrusive.
Given that it was Wednesday, I decided to go for my Winlink Wednesday check-in. I was a bit nervous given the issues I’ve had in the past, but my recent rebuild on my Surface Go 2 made me confident. And it worked! I got my message sent out via KC0UUF in under 2 minutes of connected time. Not bad!
Given that it was a bit early and I didn’t feel like being the weird guy talking in close quarters, I got out the FT8 and tried to get in an activation. I managed to pull 20 contacts before I had to break to help with things like dogs and hiking and food. Radio is very much a secondary activity on a trip like this.
Here’s the map of the contacts from Wednesday.
Thursday, my son and I grabbed a self-guided tour of the big cave. It was stunning. I really didn’t know what to make of it. Such enormous rooms tucked away under the ground. We had a great time wandering around and taking pictures of the big, dark empty.
After our tour, we headed back so that the other half of our party could go on a hike. It’s important to note that my radio partner, The Mighty Nacho, is getting on in years. He doesn’t do so well with the long hikes these days as he did when he was a pup. Nowadays, he’s happy to sit with me and hang out in the trailer. The puppy, well, she’s still a puppy at 90+ pounds, went off to do a proper hike and be tired out.
All of this meant that my son would nap and I could get in an activation with 54 contacts on FT8 while roving across 7 different bands. It was fantastic fun – as radio should be!
Here’s a map of what that looked like.
A few thoughts about this trip and the related radio activity…
The setup I have with the IC-705, Chameleon, and Surface Go 2 is rock solid. It performs on every outing. The gear that I take with me on these camping trips in the RV can be reduced to the antenna (which takes up very little space and can be deployed anywhere) and a single waterproof dropcase for the radio and gear. I have a Pelican case for the tablet as well. All told, this doesn’t take up much room at all in the camper and provides me with every mode of operation that I use.
I’m also more and more aware that I want to get on with doing CW operations. I didn’t practice for #CW100days while on vacation and I will be back on it this week. The reason I keep falling back to FT8 is that I don’t want to disturb other people at the park. I don’t know that it’s annoying to hear someone calling CQ, but I want to respect people’s ability to spend time in the silence of a park. It makes me crazy when there is music blasting at a campground where there are 20 other families trying to enjoy being outside and maybe don’t love the idea of a loud speaker screaming at them. CW operations with headphones in the field make me less objectionable as a neighbor and require a different set of skills from digital modes. This all means that CW operations need to bump up in my list of things to do every day. Here’s hoping I can do an activation this summer via CW and get myself to a level of proficiency.
Being outside and playing on the radio is a ton of fun. It’s very relaxing. It has just the right number of challenges and is so much fun even when the bands aren’t cooperating or there’s some kind of technical shortfall. It’s always good to be outside.