Wrapping Up Vacation
During my time off for the holidays, I got in 6 activations. I’ve been writing them up in pairs and so it only makes sense to put out this last report for 2023 and the first of 2024 in one post. Two different parks, two different years, but still in that Ohio Winter Style.
The Last of 2023
On 29-Dec-2023 I went to West Branch SP – K-1999 for what would be my last activation of 2023. We had a lot going on with the end of the year and the weather was getting worse and worse per the forecast. The last Friday of the year was set to be overcast and chilly. It delievered on those promises.
There was no precipitation and only the lightest of breezes when I got to the point near the water. What was most noticeable was how quiet it was. I rolled out my tarp and got the IC-705 up and running with the AX1. There was just a touch of sunlight and the clouds weren’t the dense sort that produce that nasty “wintry mix” that we’d have for the next two or three days.
I decided to start on 40-meters despite the time of day. As expected, I only pulled in about 2 contacts before it became apparent that that I had to change frequencies. Someone on Phone in the CW portion of the band kept repeating “My toes…my toes…my toes…” which is something that is vaguely familiar to me from the 40-meter lore, but I wasn’t really in the mood to think about it. I shifted a bit and managed to wrangle 10-ish contacts before moving to 20-meters.
On 20-meters, things moved a lot faster and the contacts were coming in more and more like a pile-up. Lots of operators calling on top of one another. I felt like a popular kid for a bit there! I even made contact with a couple of friends from the Ham Radio Mastodon world. That was really cool!
When I closed up for the day it was because I was out of coffee and the wind was starting to pick up. I was dressed for it, but my desire to be out in it was dropping fast. It’s a hobby, so I packed it all in.
As I wound up my counterpoise wire, I looked around. For the first time, there were no boats. I hadn’t seen a disc golfer all day. In fact, I saw no other cars. Moments like this take us to a very different place. With 24/7 connectivity and the constant presence of other people, it stands out when we’re truly alone. I studied the water for a bit and drank in the solitude of the moment. It was so quiet. Perfectly so. This part of the park – as far as I knew – was only me. I walked back up to the Jeep and left the park in its stillness.
Here’s what the QSO Map looked like:
Nothing Changes On New Years Day
My wife and a group of her peers have set up a hiking club. That club is participating in a challenge that is pulled together as a fund raiser by the volunteer conservancy group that serves Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The challenge starts on the first of the year and runs through the end of June. Since the team she’s on is mostly overextended mothers of teens and younger, they need to be DONE quickly. That means a lot of hikes are going to happen in rapid succession. To start the whole thing off right, my wife wanted to take the puppy and head out on a longer stretch of the trail on the first day of the year. It sounded like a good enough reason to hit the park for an activation.
The day was not great for hiking. There had been significant rain for the previous two days or so and it was still coming down on and off in that lovely stuff we call “Wintry Mix”. I had a feeling it was going to take longer than expected to finish the hike and that meant a longer time on the air. But…see also, “Wintry Mix”.
Still Love That Tarp
Once again, my tarp was bound to save the day. I set my gear up on a very wet table that I did my level best to dry off about as well as could be expected. I then proceeded to make a Radio Taco with my tarp keeping the IC-705 and my Begali out of the rain.
Being ready for weather is something that I don’t think about much. My little backpack has almost everything that I would need to be in the outdoors. Look up the Scouts BSA 10 Essentials for more on that, but there are radio-specific items that I keep on hand as well. In this case, I had the cool picnic table mount for the AX1 and a 6 foot run of coax. Recently, I’ve been putting the AX1 straight onto the ATU. In this scenario, that wouldn’t have worked out as I needed to keep the radio covered. Having the mount in my bag with some extra coax (which I’d never leave home without anyway) made the activation possible.
The other item that probably doesn’t get enough press is my Rite In The Rain notebook for logging. Having paper that is seriously resistant to water comes in handy whether it’s raining or you’re spilling coffee. I’ve dealt with both. I will also admit that I love notebooks. I have a Field Notes subscription and I’ve often thought of using them for log books. Every time I think about that, I get out in some weather and we’re back to Rite In The Rain.
And back to “Wintry Mix”.
On The Air
The AX1 is set up to run 40/30/20/17-meters if you have the 40-meter extension. I decided that I’d just walk the bands and see how it went. Overall, it was good!
Given the time of day, 40-meters wasn’t going to be a thing. With that expectation in place, I got one contact in about 20 minutes and moved on to 30-meters. That was a lot better! I don’t do nearly enough with the WARC bands and I’m going to change that. 17 was equally good. Finally, I brought it home to 20-meters and picked up my bulk of the contacts for the day in a flurry of activity.
An Awesome Surprise
There was one station, however, that stood out. The operator was sending their call very slowly. I scribbled it down and it was more than a little familiar. It was KC1SRI Joe from over on the Ham Radio Mastodon world! Now Joe isn’t a CW operator. He’s a ham freshly minted in 2023 and he’s been going on about how he wired up his raingutter as an antenna. His signal was weak, but readable. Definitely 339. But he was getting the important stuff. I got his call and his state. And most of his signal report. Sending numbers takes a lot more practice than most people think. He did a fantastic job! Checking on Mastodon later, we cleared up what it was that I sent and what the experience was like on his end. It’s exciting to be a first CW contact for someone. And it’s even better when that person is just jumping out there and taking a stab at it. After all, it’s radio and we’re all friends here. We should be able to take a chance or two.
More Weather Talk
The weather didn’t get better. The rain did transition fully to snow but snow isn’t much better when everything is wet from rain. My wife was making good progress on her hike and I was finally deciding that sitting outside was getting old. We exchanged texts and I pulled my gear together so I could go pick them up at a more convenient location. With all said and done, I had 40 CW contacts across 4 bands for a banner start to the year.
Here’s what the QSO Map looks like:
This week off brought many opportunities to get outside and play radio in the parks. I’m glad I could take advantage of them. Although the days are getting longer, they aren’t going to get warmer soon and given my experience with this state, there will be lots more weather to navigate. What’s important is that any day playing radio is better than a day when you don’t.
Thanks for reading and 72!