Cuyahoga Valley National Park has always been a special place. I spent a good amount of time in my youth at Camp Manatoc which is inside of the park borders. I also hiked and hung around in Virginia Kendall Park which contains The Octagon and Ledges areas where I did most of my activations. It’s a beautiful place that is bordered by the greater Cleveland and Akron areas. An oasis just outside of what used to be major rust belt hubs.
There are miles of trails and plenty of places to sit and enjoy an afternoon. The park is almost always busy. Of late, I’ve noticed a lot of campers and camper vans who stop through on their way to someplace else. Park collectors and the like. I can certainly understand wanting to stop and see Brandywine Falls or hike the ledges. But it feels like most of the folks who show up there are locals. It’s a place that feels very much like a community space. I will note that it is devoid of what I think of as “State Park Energy”. There’s no sense that anyone is more entitled to the space than anyone else. It’s a very respectful vibe on most days. It’s a great park!
On Saturday, September 23rd, I completed a sort of mini-goal that I’d set over the summer. I hit 1000 QSOs as an activator from Cuyahoga Valley National Park – K-0020. That means that I get the coveted Kilo award for the park.
It’s come up many times that POTA has a lot of gamification in it. For people who chase paper, it’s an endless supply ( perhaps that makes it less meaningful? Or more? Who can say?). And because it’s not a contest, there is no end point. One can simply go and keep going. The important thing, to my mind, is that when one is chasing these awards, one is out in the park and playing radio. It’s a wonderful level of engagement with the hobby.
I will admit that when I noticed that I’d crossed into the 750s, I kind of had to close it out. Setting a time limit for it made it a bit more urgent, but no less fun. Given that my wife and I love to bike there anyway, it was no big deal to toss the radio gear in the pannier and spend an hour making contacts.
Looking back on 1000 QSOs there are, naturally, some cool stats that go with it!
First Activation: 11-Mar-2022.
Last Activation: 23-Sep-2023.
Activation Attempts: 54
Activations Completed: 53
Modes: 28 CW; 969 Data; 3 Phone
I could probably derive, if I were so inclined, the average activation time (from first contact to last). That seems like more spreadsheet time than it’s worth. Might have also been nice if I’d kept weather or solar data for each activation. But that wasn’t really why I was out there anyway. Maybe I will add those to activations going forward.
Lessons On Gear
This summer I’m comfortable claiming expert level use of the IC-705 for digital modes. I have used it with the official ICOM software on Windows as well as with open source solutions like wfview on Ubuntu. There were also activations with the IC-705 tethered via USB. All of them using FT4/FT8 on either WSJT-X or JTDX. I can troubleshoot this software in multiple settings nearly in my sleep.
The X6100 made it out for one activation, but for this park, the IC-705 was the rig of choice. Antennas were a different story.
The EndFedz 10/20/40 end fed dipole made more than a few appearances. It was tossed into trees and used in conjunction with a mast clamped to my bike. It’s a great antenna, but getting it set up made it less and less attractive over time. I’ll come back to that in a minute. The downside of this antenna is the coil being on the top. Way too easy for that to get snagged on branches and it adds weight to the mast and makes it less stable. That’s my experience anyway. I’d still reach for it first for a backpacking trip.
The random wire antenna I acquired somewhere along the line was another one that got some use. Again, in a tree or on the mast, it was a great solution and very portable.
The bulk of the activations fell to various configurations of the Chameleon Vertical. Sometimes just the antenna. Then the whip. Then the extension. Mixing and matching the extention with the whip or antenna depending on what I wanted to grab that day. After the number of activations in question, I felt VERY comfortable with this setup. It never failed and was definitely rugged and up to the task. I would recommend it in any scenario that didn’t involve backpacking for multiple nights. That stuff is built to last and weighs a lot.
When it comes to gear, the IC-705, Chameleon vertical, and MS Surface GO 2 RUNNING UBUNTU are definitely the winners here. My confidence in this setup is high. I would recommend the combination to anyone.
The Kilo award was never the point. None of the awards are the point. The point was to be outside having fun with my hobby. Learning about radio and how it all works. That’s something that goes on forever, I think. But awards and experiments keep us engaged, right? It’s why I set habby related goals.
I mentioned that I only used the X6100 once or twice at this park. Well, I think I need to spend more time with my other (non-IC-705) radios. I have the X6100 and a (tr)uSDX that need to get out into the field more. There’s also the QMX and QDX that are on my bench. It would be great to do activations using rigs I’ve built from kits! So using other radios is high on the list for what’s next.
The other big thing is CW. I am proud to see that I have as many CW contacts as I do. That happened earlier in my learning process than I’d predicted. It’s not nearly enough and my skill level still isn’t where I’d like it to be. That comes with practice, right? Moving from digital modes to CW for my activations is the right idea. Might even taking along a mic to get some phone in there too. If there’s a theme here it’s Less Computer. That takes me back to why I went to Ham Radio as a hobby to begin with! I wanted to step away from the computer and all of the screens. The solar cycle and my available gear and QTH had other ideas. Now? All of that has changed. I believe I’m at the point where the computer can stay at home. That feels like a big step for me, but that’s where I’m headed.
The season for cycling isn’t over yet, so I expect a few more bicycle based activations. Probably even some from CVNP. There is a park very close to home that I’m eyeing for more activity. Of course there’s also the potential for yet another Warthog but this time all CW.
What’s that mean? It means more CW and more kit building. It means getting all of my weird radios into the field. That might drive interesting experiments with antennas and gear. And more fun!
Here’s what the QSO Map looked like for the activation: