Paul Butzi |||

CW first activation of Lake Easton State Park (US-3214)

Park entrance

Propagation conditions continue to be crummy but I am resolved to continue to do activations anyway. I am not using the number of QSOs’ metric, I am working from the reading of the Fun-O-Metertm. Since weather here in Carnation was crummy, I figured I’d branch out and hit a park part way over the mountains, and I settled on Lake Easton State Park (US-3214)

My goal was to get a valid activation (at least 10 QSOs) using CW first, and then, if I was still up for it, try a little SSB.

Park map

I ended up setting out for the park a little later than I hoped, and after a drive of a bit more than an hour, arrived at the park just a bit before noon. I took some time to drive through the vehicle accessible areas (see map) and finally decided that the first place I’d examined closely was the best. The only downsides to the spot were that it was very exposed to the wind, and because the entire park is right next to I-90, there was a lot of traffic noise (both acoustic and RF).

Setup

Chelegance MC-750 on tripod I had several antennas on hand but in the end the simplicity of deploying the Chelagance MC-750 won me over, and in mere moments I had it set up on the Chelegance tripod (this was the first time I’d used the tripod). The tripod has a relatively narrow footprint and I was concerned it would blow over in the strong wind, but although it waved a bit in strong gusts it didn’t blow down. One tweak of the length of the telescoping whip gave me a measured SWR of 1.01 at 14.120 MHz, which was about as good at it gets for CW on 20m (I operated the entire day with the ATU in bypass mode). RigExpert Stick

With the antenna erected and adjusted I set up shop on the picnic table. I first set up with the laptop on the right before I realized this was going to put the key and radio opposite to how I have things at home, and moved the laptop over to the left. initial setup final setup

To conquer the traffic noise, I used the Heil headset with the mic boom swung out of the way over my head, which surely looked silly but worked fine.

CW

I quickly dialed through the current CW spots on pota.app, and was not hearing much, which was a little discouraging, as I had hoped to hunt a few park-to-park contacts before calling CQ. In the end I just picked a clear frequency, spotted myself (excellent cell service at this park!), and set the KX2 to calling CQ POTA on repeat.

Only a few minutes later N7XJ responded, and to my relief I got his callsign with just one ?’. I gave him a 579, he gave me a 549, and I had Utah in the bag.

25 more minutes got me up to six contacts, and then I hit a dry spell. After quite some time (20 minutes!) I decided to see if I could hunt a few park to park stations, and in short order I’d added KS4CR at US-7205 in AK and K5KUA at US-3028 in TX, so I now had a total of 8 contacts.

I was just about ready to throw in the towel and try SSB but went back to calling CQ on 20m, and ten minutes netted me two more contacts, for a total of 10, so now I’d done a valid activation, using CW only, solo, for the first time. Success at hitting my goal of a successful CW activation had me feeling mighty good, and Fun-O-Meter was at an all time high.

By this time I was quite cold from the low temp and the constant wind, and I was wishing I’d brought a thermos of coffee to celebrate with. Instead I was reduced to firing up a handwarmer, putting it in the pocket of my puffy jacket, and trying to warm up that way.

SSB

With the CW activation in the bag I thought I’d set up the Xiegu G90 and give SSB at 20W a whirl, because why not?

(In retrospect, I suspect I would have done better at 10W with the KX2) It took me about five minutes to switch radios, packing the KX2 away and setting up the G90.

In about 15 minutes I had three more contacts on SSB, tagging IL, TN, and UT. It seemed to me like I was being heard (both on CW via the RBN and on SSB) pretty far east and south, so perhaps condx were not as bad as I had feared, and my slow progress was more about a small pool of hunters at 1800Z-2000Z on a Wednesday.

At that point I was getting really cold and my brain was pretty much fused into slag from CW, so I packed it all back into the car and headed home.

Pragmatics

The MC-750 is incredibly easy to put up and take down; it takes me perhaps two minutes each direction. But I am wondering if I would do better with putting up a 40m or 20m EFHW, or even a non-resonant random wire. I had the drive on mast mount and a 30’ fiberglass mast, and the spot I’d selected would have been an excellent place to deploy a wire antenna, so if I return to this park, that will be my plan. But first I will practice setup and teardown of the drive on mount, the mast, and the antenna.

I’m a big fan of practice. I watched a video of someone setting up the MC-750 and it took them more than 15 minutes, which is how long it took me the first time I tried it. A little practice and a little thought about ordering the steps and I had my time down well below five minutes even if I’m loafing along as opposed to moving with deliberate speed. I’m pretty sure I can get the drive on mount, fiberglass mast, and wire antenna times into the same range if I put my mind to it.

My 50’ coax has been way longer than I’ve needed each time I’ve used it, and I’m wondering if a 25’ or even 20’ length would be more convenient and offer half the loss. I do like the brightly colored protective sleeving on the coax, which makes it easy to avoid tripping over it or stepping on it

Using the stock leg on the KX2 got me an angle where glare had it difficult for me to read the display, so I propped it up against my EDC bag, but a longer leg would be better.

I’m loving the KX2, though. I set the G90 up at a friend’s house and we listened to a few SSB signals and some CW, and I thought that compared to the KX2 the G90 sounded surprisingly bad, with a raspy quality which is very fatiguing. The noise blanker and noise reduction on the KX2 is surprisingly effective, it’s far less susceptible to front end overloading from local RF noise sources (I’m talking about you, Tesla), and because of the similarity to the KX3 I find the filters easy and intuitive to adjust.

On top of that, you throw in the small size, low weight, and built in battery, and it gets hard to see how you might improve the radio if you’re aiming at a general purpose all modes radio. I suppose you could throw in an internal soundcard, bluetooth, and some sort of spectrum display.

I got really cold. I can see why some activators bring a small campstove, billy, and fixings to make coffee or tea (or soup). Maybe next time!

Box Score

fun-o-meter

Total QSOs: 13
Total CW QSOs: 10 (Yay!)
Time spent operating: ~90 minutes
Battery drain on KX2: 0.650 AH Solo CW bonus points: 10

Things lost: 0
Things broken: 0
Vital gear not included in loadout: 0

Final Fun-O-Metertm reading: 10.2

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