2023: The Year In Radio
2023 was a really, really great year for me with Ham Radio. I was able to get on the air and spend time investing in the hobby. It was a continual source of rejuvenation and energy for me. In short, it was exactly what a hobby should be.
Parks On The Air!
The were a few areas that stood out and drove my participation this year. The biggest was, of course, Parks On The Air or POTA. I spent a lot of time in the parks and the vast majority of my contacts for 2023 were made from within park boundaries of some kind. I also managed to work radio into weekend cycling as well as family camping trips. Radio pairs nicely with trips into the field. It’s a natural thing to do and a fantastic extension of the hobby that opens up new areas to explore.
The thing that comes along part and parcel with POTA are the fun activities that they create. I think of them as little targets to engage with once in a while or statistics that might tell me where I’m spending my time and perhaps having the most fun.
Probably the weirdest POTA challenge I went for this year was the Warthog Rove. Taking a day off to hit 5 parks in rapid succession was a really good idea. I got to visit a few parks that I had never seen and thus expand my operating footprint a bit. It’s interesting to look back now and see that those were all Digital Mode activations with FT8. My thoughts on activations have changed a lot in the course of one year. I will have to do this rove again in 2024 to see it through a different lens.
Another big item was to score a Kilo at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. That’s been home base for many of my activations. That fact is in no small part due to my weekend cycling adventures with my wife. They always seem to dump us out at the park. Huh. Funny, that. Getting 1000 contacts there was a neat milestone for me. I’m almost up to 60 activations there. I’m not sure I’ll ever be “Done” with that place. It’s been too important to me over my lifetime. Again, it’s a wonderful place to spend time and play radio.
I also crossed the 400 mark for parks hunted. I’m not much of a hunter these days outside of Park To Park contacts or when friends online jump out and announce that they’re at a park, but the numbers keep ticking up. Again, it’s a fun thing to note from time to time.
Activations also occurred at new to me parks in Michigan and Kentucky while on family trips and Texas while I was traveling for business. POTA, like Elvis, is everywhere.
2023 was going to be the year that I really buckled down to learn The Code and got on the air with CW. It is perhaps surprising to me that I really knocked this one out of the park (so to speak)! The real start of the path for me was the introduction of the #cw100days tag on the Ham Radio side of Mastodon.
If you don’t know what Mastodon is, drop it in a search engine and go from there. It’s a federated social media platform. The Ham Radio community there is a blessing. It’s a diverse and inclusive group that wants nothing more than to have fun with radio.
When that hashtag started off, I was in. Daily check-ins with other members kept us all honest and the supportive comments meant the world. It was a direct result of the positive comments from other operators that inspired me to plug in the key and try it. The results had me smiling from ear to ear for quite a while. It was a definite turning point for me that eventually led to my first 100% CW Activation.
To be clear, I am not flying along and doing head copy at 20 wpm or more. I’m plugging away at about 15 wpm and scribbling in my notebook as I go. I can do a simple POTA exchange with enough skill to get the job done, but I’m not doing a big ol’ ragchew. That’s part of the goal for 2024. I will say that I am very pleased with my progress and I proudly note that every activation since 01-Oct has been CW only!
My local club is the Portage County Amateur Radio Service also knows as PCARS. I like the club and the membership. It’s a bunch of interesting hams who are into a wide array of radio interests. The club hosts multiple Special Interest Groups or SIGs and does a good job of pulling the community together for Big Fun. The club call is K8BF and the BF is, well, Big Fun, right?
The first thing I did this year to boost my participation was to get certified as a VE. Back in February, I did my first VE session and got a taste of what it’s like to mint some new hams. I’ve been to a couple of other sessions since. It feels good to be a part of that process.
Another fun event is Freeze Your Acorns Off. It’s the annual QRP contest hosted at Fred Fuller Park in Kent. It should be noted that this is not a POTA entity (bummer!). Operators from PCARS set up from within the park and run 5 watts or less trying to make Phone or Digital contacts. This year, my Dad (AC8NT) and I placed Third. We’re gonna do better this year! It’s a lot of fun to be outside in February in Ohio…kinda. But there’s good food in the shelter and lots of Hawaiian shirts to thumb our noses at the weather. This year, the contest is in March, so maybe it will be warmer?
The other event that I really got into was Ohio State Parks on the Air. This contest dates back to 2008 (which is before the big National Parks on the Air event that ARRL started that led to POTA as we know it today). It’s phone only and runs for 6 hours. It’s a blast! I placed somewhere in the middle this year, but had a great time doing it. The contest is run by PCARS members and as such the club has an interest in it. I will definitely be out there again next year.
My biggest contribution to the club is just starting. With the end of 2023 comes a change to the editorship of The Radiogram, the PCARS award winning monthly newsletter. The new editor is, well, me. I’m starting with the January 2024 issue and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a way to contribute in an asynchronous fashion which is good because it’s very hard for me to get to club events and all with the competing priorities within my family. We already have a lot of “Divide And Conquor” going on here. It feels good to do something for the club.
Other Things And Stuff
I picked up a few new pieces of gear this year. Probably the most impactful was the Elecraft AX1 antenna. It has totally changed the way I deploy in the field. Maybe I’ll write something about it someday, but I don’t know what I could say other than, “Wow. That’s a good portable antenna!”
My Dad AC8NT and I made the run down to Hamvention this year and it was a lot of fun! We got milkshakes and Young’s Dairy and bought some QRP Labs kits from our buddy Hans. It was worth the drive.
This year, I even grabbed a new rig for grins and have had a great time getting to know the TR-45L. It will see more air time in the new year for sure.
The addition of little bits and pieces that have maximized my enjoyment with radio were definitely noticed, though I will not enumerate them here.
What’s It Mean?
2023 was great! It started off with a challenge and some new ideas of how to help out the ham radio community and has ended up with a number of accomplishments that I didn’t expect. My engagement with the hobby is changing and that’s good. There are so many threads to tug on and interesting things to chase that I can only see 2024 being even more fun!
So with that, I’m back to the field. Thanks for reading and 72!