Some days, things end up in such a way as to allow us a little more space. On other days, we have to make that space. In either case, when it’s time to take a minute, it’s time. So it was on this past Tuesday. I found myself with some time that I’d carved out and I headed out to a park that I don’t usually frequent.
I’ve been going to West Branch State Park – K-1999 since I was a kid. There is a beach on the reservoir and my mom would pack my brother and me up with some food and the neighbors and we’d head out there to swim and generally hang out. There were many summers where trips like that were weekly. It was a treat no matter what the weather was like and we always had fun.
It’s funny. The way we remember things as kids as opposed to how they are when we’re adults can be jarring. I remember the beach as enormous. It’s not. But from the standpoint of an elementary school kid, it’s as big as it could be.
Last year, I noticed that they’d torn down the shelters and bathrooms near one of the spots where it’s great to operate. I figured that by this time, they’d be replaced. They weren’t. It’s quite disturbing given that the structures that were destroyed were not in poor repair. It would be good to do some digging to better understand it, but as it is today, the shelter I liked to sit in is still gone. All that remains is a single picnic table and a bench looking out at the water. The massive parking lot serves no purpose as there are limited tables, no bathrooms, and no shelters. It’s all very post-apocalyptic.
I unpacked my gear and set up the Chameleon vertical whip. There were a few boats on the water, but it was quiet enough that I could hear the fish popping up to grab insects. From time to time, little voices from the beach would float my way, but it really felt like I had the whole place to myself.
The band conditions, as predicted earlier in the day when a North American blackout was expected, were not great. But I still managed to snag some contacts on FT8 and CW that were farther out than I would have thought I’d get. Given that the conditions were weird, I started with FT8 on 20m. That’s my Go-To for 10 quick contacts. And it did NOT disappoint.
I managed to pull off 13 FT8 contacts before moving over to CW. That’s when it got interesting.
I got a couple of contacts on 20m. Picking up Colorado and Rhode Island and NOTHING ELSE was a bit strange. The band itself seemed pretty dead. Rolling up and down the dial, I didn’t hear much non-digital traffic at all. With things quiet for a bit, I bounced over to 17m and things got spicy!
I called two or three times and someone came back. I was reasonably sure that I was screwing up the call, but after 3 repeats, it really did start with “I – Q”. Wow. I completed the very tightly scripted POTA contact that I do because I can’t do much more just yet and plugged the call into my tablet to make sure I got the QTH right. Yup. Italy! It really was my first CW DX!
I kept calling. I picked up an operator in Ohio and then one in Texas. A very odd spread. And then? Everything was silent on 17m. Nothing. There was nothing that I could pick up at all. Given that I’d been at the park for about an hour and a half, I took at as a sign to pack up in a leisurely sort of way.
The QSO Map for the activation looks like this:
Hobbies are important. Recreation is critical. When things get to be a bit much, it’s important to have a place to go to discharge and recharge. POTA has been a gift in the sense that it combines all of the stress relief of being outdoors with the fun and challenge of portable operation. For me? There’s no better way to unwind.
Catch ya next time. 73!