Paul Butzi |||

A challenging activation at US-3216 Lake Sammamish State Park

view from activation site

Good weather and a day of rest from training were calling me into doing a POTA activation, but when I checked propagation, it was in the dumps, especially 20m. But I was resolved to get some radio play time, and had hopes of maybe firing up the new KX2, so I piled some antennas and the KX2 into the car along with the G90, and headed to Lake Sammamish State park.

activation station

I am starting to get the hang of this sort of activation, and having learned this lesson from previous experience, I hit the bathroom before starting up the radio. I was hoping the activation would be swift and leave enough time to perhaps hit another park, but that was not in the cards, because propagation was really bad. I started out trying to hunt other activators, which is a nice way to get Park to Park contacts into the log, have a few QSOs in the log when you start calling CQ, and also get a feel for which areas you can hear and perhaps which ones can hear you. I got zero Park to Park contacts, which was not a good sign.

At about 2040Z (1:40pm PDT) I was on the air calling CQ. It took me about 5 minutes before I got a response to calling CQ, and after that I was snagging one QSO about every 6-8 minutes - not exactly running a pileup. I was almost resigned to not being able to get a valid activation when I caught K7SPR, who was working me through a remote station in AZ and, being a club call, was working multiple operators and thus gave me 4 QSOs in a bunch. In one minute, things went from hopeless to hopeful. One of the delightful things about POTA is the extent to which hunters will go to help an activator clear that 10 QSO threshold. POTA contacts, even on SSB, are pretty formulaic, but I have made it my practice to always thank the hunter for hunting, and to end every QSO with both a 73 and a reminder don’t forget to smile and have fun.”

Clearly other activators were struggling as well, as I had several times I heard park to park” faintly, but QSB was heavy and often they would fade out even before I could get a callsign. I am finally learning that when there’s heavy QSB, best practice is to get the callsign, signal report, and any park number at a brisk clip with great dispatch, and then afterwards, relax into a more chatty style.

Once I had 10 QSOs in the log and the activation in the bag I turned to hunting other activations. I got 5 more QSOs by hunting three parks (two of the parks were two operators) in California, and then tried calling CQ on 17m and 15m with no luck at all.

Then I returned to 20m, where propagation was merely horrible instead of impossible, and netted two more callers from California as well as one park to park contact with VA3MPJ, who was activating CA-5082 in Ontario.

During all this, I watched a Bald Eagle snatch a fish out of the lake and enjoyed the sunny, warm day. The tough band conditions and heavy QSB could easily have made for a very frustrating day, but my early decision to just relax, focus on appreciating that I had the free time to do an activation and enjoying each contact resulted in an activation that came out about a 7-7.5 on the Fun-O-Meter. It turns out you can choose to view bad propagation as an enjoyable challenge, rather than a barrier to a good time.

Just because the Sun had a hissy fit and propagation is awful doesn’t mean you can’t go out, smile, and have fun.

Up next Resonant versus Non-resonant Antennas One of the things I hear is that, especially for QRP operating, resonant antennas are greatly preferred. Some of this seems to stem from some Thin Radio
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