Tag Archives: Blue Ridge Parkway

NPOTA: Photos from weekend “two-fer” activation

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As seen from the Overmountain Victory Trail: The Revolutionary War encampment at the Museum of North Carolina Minerals.

As I mentioned in a previous post, what I love about the National Parks On The Air program is that it combines two of my favorite things: national parks and ham radio. My family visits national parks regularly, so it’s easy for me to pack a small radio, do a quick NPOTA activation all while incorporating non-radio activities that the family loves.

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On Saturday, I activated both the Blue Ridge Parkway (PK01) and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (TR10)–a “two-fer” activation.

Normally, I would set up my station somewhere close to the Museum of North Carolina Minerals which is situated at the junction of these two National Park entities. Saturday, however, was a special event at the museum: a Revolutionary War Encampment.

Blue Ridge Natural Heritage describes the annual event:

The Museum is located at Gillespie Gap, an important stop for Revolutionary War fighters on their way to the Battle of Kings Mountain. Each September the Museum hosts an encampment of re-enactors who assume the role of the Overmountain Men, primarily Scots-Irish settlers from Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina who came “over the mountains” and ultimately defeated the left wing of Cornwallis’ army at Kings Mountain, South Carolina. Many historians mark this victory as the turning point in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War.

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My family loves living history events.

Radio time!

The Park Ranger kindly gave me permission to do the NPOTA activation, but not at the museum itself.  She was trying to keep the site set in the Revolutionary War period–a ham radio operator using a portable transceiver doesn’t exactly fit that description. Instead, around 15:30 UTC, I hiked up the Overmountain Victory Trail in search of an operation site near the Blue Ridge Parkway road.

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The trailhead was a little rough and overgrown. I didn’t have to trail-blaze, but I did have to wade through a lot of weeds with my gear and my canine companion, Hazel, on leash. It’s times like this I truly appreciate such a compact, lightweight, and packable station.

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Can you find the trail in this photo?

Once we entered the woods, though, the trail improved. I found a fantastic spot to operate between the museum and the parkway.

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Hazel the dog is a welcome companion does a wonderful job keeping my site free of black bears. She’s patient, too. I typically tie her leash to a small stake or tree next to me and she promptly takes a nap. Here she is admiring my new REI Camping Stool:

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You can see part of the EFT Trail-Friendly antenna hanging in this photo.

Setup was quick. I managed to raise the EFT Trail-Friendly antenna in record time. I connected the antenna to the Elecraft KX2 and was on the air, calling CQ on 20 meters in a matter of minutes. npota-tr10-pk01-qrp-elecraft-kx2-clipboardIn the space of 15-20 minutes, I only managed to work a few stations on the 20 meter band even though I had been spotted several times on the DX Cluster.npota-tr10-pk01-qrp-elecraft-kx2-logs

I moved to the 40 meter band and logged contacts quickly, however.

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My full station and my ferocious guard dog, Hazel.

Hazel, as I mentioned, is a great companion that’s sweet to everyone she meets. She’s happy to hang with me even if I’m just sitting there operating radio for an hour. She’s quiet and doesn’t bark unless she notices a true disturbance.

Still, Hazel does get bored. After I had logged about 20 stations, I heard her gnawing on something. I turned around and discovered that she found the reel of fishing line I use to hang my antennas.

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Note to self: next time pack Hazel a bone.

She didn’t even look apologetic or guilty! Oh well…fishing line is pretty cheap to replace and I’m sure she assumed it was a chew toy I had placed there for her.

All in all, it was a very successful activation. In less than one hour, I put 22 stations in the log. The weather was perfect and the whole family had a blast.

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A photo I took prior to watching a reenactment of the Battle of King’s Mountain.

What a wonderful day to play radio, take in our national parks and re-live some of our history!

National Parks On The Air: Activating two sites simultaneously today

I'll hike to the point where the Overmountain Victory Trail meets the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I’ll hike to the point where the Overmountain Victory Trail meets the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Today, I plan to activate both the Blue Ridge Parkway (PK01) and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail (TR10) two-fer for the National Parks on the Air (NPOTA).

I should go on the air sometime between 16:00-17:00 UTC (12:00-13:00 EDT), weather permitting.

I’ll plan to start on the 20 meter band (14286 kHz) then move to the 40 meter band (7286 kHz). If I can’t operate on those frequencies, I’ll move to something clear +/- 6 kHz or so.

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I’ll be operating SSB, using the Elecraft KX2 transceiver and EFT Trail friendly antenna combo once again. Since I’m hiking to my operating site, this pair will offer the lightest multi-band option.

The REI Trail Stool

The REI Trail Stool

Side note: yesterday, I picked up an REI Trail Stool to replace my foldable camping chair.

The camping chair is fantastic if you don’t have to lug it very far, but on long hikes it becomes heavy and cumbersome. This stool will get me off the ground and hopefully allow me to operate with the clipboard and transceiver on my lap. The REI Trail Stool weighs next to nothing.

If you’re an SWL and hear me (K4SWL) on the air, please comment! Note that I’ll be transmitting a max of 10 watts–so pretty much “flea power.” Still, in the past, I’ve worked all corners of North America and into Europe with this same transceiver/antenna combo.

Propagation conditions are pretty favorable today as well. I just hope we have no pop-up thunderstorms–I’ll most likely be near a ridge line and can’t take any chances.

If you’re a ham radio operator, I hope to log you for this activation!

NPOTA activation on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A crowd gathers as Vlado (N3CZ) works station after station in CW!

A crowd gathers as Vlado (N3CZ) works station after station in CW!

I’m not sure what I’m going to do after the National Parks On The Air event is over at the end of this year. I hope the ARRL organizes something equally as fun for 2017.

Truth is, I love playing radio outdoors and I love National Parks. The two are a perfect combo.

Vlado (N3CZ) on left, and me (K4SWL) on right.

Vlado (N3CZ) on left, and me (K4SWL) on right.

My buddy, Vlado (N3CZ), and I decided to do an NPOTA activation on Sunday. The weather was fantastic–a little foggy with mild temperatures and the HF bands were open!

We arrived at our site–the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area (PK01)–at 14:30 UTC or so.

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We brought the following antennas and supports:

  • a self-contained  20 meter band telescopic fiberglass vertical (I recently purchased at the WCARS Hamfest for $40–!) and
  • a 31 foot fiberglass Jackite pole (the fluorescent orange on in the photos) which we used to suspend a homemade 40 meter doublet Vlado built the day before.

Setup was quick. We were both especially pleased the 20 meter vertical. It was so easy to install, even considering it was the first time either of us had used it.

I powered the LD-11 and the KX3 with my QRP Ranger.

The 20 meter vertical antenna.

The 20 meter vertical antenna (in foreground).

I operated SSB from a picnic table using the LnR Precision LD-11 transceiver, connected to the doublet on 40 meters, and the mono-band vertical on 20 meters.

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Vlado started by operating CW with his Icom IC-7000 which was installed in his car, but later moved to the picnic table and logged a number of contacts with the Elecraft KX3.

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We easily logged the number of stations needed to activate the site.

The 40 meter band was hopping and a good path was open into Ohio, Virginia and other surrounding states. The 20 meter band was serving up some excellent QRP DX.

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Vlado operating CW on the 40 meter band.

When I moved to the 20 meter band, the noise floor was so low on the LD-11, I thought perhaps the band was dead.  Not so!

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It’s hard to believe that with a mere eight watts in SSB  I worked Rhode Island, Texas, Montana, Manitoba, Washington, California and Slovenia from a picnic table on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Reports on the LD-11 audio were all very positive. I’ve used the LD-11 for eight NPOTA activations this year and can say with confidence that it’s a brilliant & fun little field radio. (FYI: I’ll be publishing a full review of the LD-11 in the October 2016 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine.)

Vlado and I are planning on several more activations together this year. Our next one will most likely be at the Carl Sandburg Home-. I can’t wait!

Any other post readers participating as an activator or chaser in the National Parks on the Air event?