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My first POTA Activation

On 2 October 2021 I activated my first Parks on the Air (POTA), actually, 2 parks were activated. The Shenandoah National Park (SNP) (K-0064) and the Appalachian Trail (AT) (K-4556) were my first parks to activate, both in Virginia. On this day, the 100th year of the AT was being celebrated by hams across the East Coast, Appalachian Trail on the Air Day.

I have been a Ham for a number of years, first licensed in 1967 as WN8YXH, eventually and finally receiving WB8YXF and progressing through the ranks and in 1994 became an Extra Class. There were a number of years here and there that I was inactive. I moved several times over the past many years, way too many. Always using wires in the air and whatever gear I had at the time. Well we finally have maybe settled down for a few years. Though in a HOA, and I still have a wire in the air.

I bought an ICOM 706MKII G last year. I had one before and sold it. The call for going mobile keeps hitting me though the XYL is not sure about that. So what is just as great, POTA! So this year I finally purchased an UBitx v6. I obtained an EFHW wire in a small package. The UBitx is not ready to go out to the parks yet, but soon.

I really wanted to get out there and be on the air. So finally decided it was time to gather my gear, see what I needed, and get out there. I had my 706MKII G and I had my vehicle, a 2016 Jeep Cherokee, though not a Grand one, but one that will do the job. I ran my power cables to the battery and am able to bring them into the vehicle from the outside. Wow, so much in these ‘newer’ engine compartments, couldn’t even see the panel to get into the compartment. So am able to run it outside, and then back in, through the door.

Antenna! Well I thought I had a mobile antenna and my mag mount, but as it turns out, I bought the wrong antenna several years ago. So I decided to purchase a couple of Hamsticks, for 40m and 20m to start with. They arrived and I was able to get them tuned and ready to go. SWR was below 2:1 for them both. I have an AT 180 to work with my 706MKII G. I had used the tuner and the 706MKII G as a base station.

The day had finally arrived. I was heading up to SNP early morning. The entrance is not too far from where we now live. The AT crosses Skyline Drive in several places in the SNP. So I picked a parking area I was familiar with and began to set up the 20m Hamstick, plug in the radio and tuner and microphone. I was ready to activate my first POTA.

I turned the radio on, pressed the tune button, and all was well in the air. I heard several DX stations calling CQ as they were participating in a European contest. I tried to respond to their CQs. Nothing! I tried several, heard them Lima Charlie, but they could not hear me. I then decided to call CQ myself and get going with QSOs. Nothing! OK what was going on? Maybe my location was not a good one. It was around 3000 ft. up, next to the Trail head. But nothing. So being ‘frustrated’, I moved down to the next crossing of the trail, still within the 100ft rule and in the park. Set up everything again, and what could happen next? My mic stopped working, nothing again.

Well I did bring my straight key and I had maybe planned on doing some CW work, though a little worried about being on the receiving end of a ‘pile up’. Plugged the key in, and headed to the CW portion of the 20m band. Began calling CQ POTA. Oh my golly, I was heard out there in the world. A couple of spots came through on the POTA app, from way south. I was really getting out there. Then, heh, someone was calling me. Let the fun begin, praying I’d get at least 10 QSOs.

As it turns out, in a couple of hours I ended up with 39 good QSOs, all CW. I was on 20m and 40m. I was so thrilled….. I wanted to keep going, however, I did have an obligation to get to, Church. So I packed up and headed down the hill to home.

I had used a pen and paper for my log. I entered them all into ACLog as requested and the POTA video showed me. There were a couple of calls that did not match any known callsign, so I must have transposed letters or missed the dis and dahs. I did end up with 39 QSOs, 4 of them P2P, 3 of them were DX stations. Thank you to all who heard me and responded. I know there were a few more that tried, but either I couldn’t pull them out, or I took too long. I still was happy with what I had accomplished.

A couple of lessons learned: have spares with you, such as another mic. Someday purchase a bigger portable battery for the 706MKII G in order to not use the vehicle battery. Practice my CW more. Get more organized, everything was all over in the vehicle. Learn to pack properly to be able to move the gear to the outdoors. Soon my UBitx will be ready to go out there with me, I already have the battery. Instead of using my straight key, which I will take again, maybe get a portable, smaller key. I’m sure I will think of other things as I think more about all this.

I have already planned my next trip for this coming week. There is a lake nearby that has a National Fishing area.


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