NPOTA Saint Gaudens NPS Centennial Activation

Yesterday, August 25, 2016, I had the pleasure of activating Saint Gaudens National Historic Site with Barry Green, W1JFK and Frank Towle, KC1AAQ. It was my fourth time at this delightful jewel National Park Service (NPS) property.

It was even more special because the three of us were there on the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. It was created by presidential order on August 25, 1916.

You can see my official stamp in my NPS Passport book. Photo credit: Tim Carter

You can see my official stamp in my NPS Passport book. Photo credit: Tim Carter

The three of us decided to do an activation of this site weeks before. Frank had activated it with me two months earlier and it was Barry’s first NPOTA activation. Barry is an expert DXr and does SSB. Frank gravitates to digital HF radio and I’m the CW junkie. So the three of us were able to work together in an attempt to make a handful of chasers happy on this historic day.

Barry is hanging the NPOTA banner just eight yards from the sidewalk leading to the front door of the visitor center. Frank is walking over to help. Photo credit: Tim Carter W3ATB

Barry is hanging the NPOTA banner just eight yards from the sidewalk leading to the front door of the visitor center. Frank is walking over to help. Photo credit: Tim Carter W3ATB

But as with all best-laid plans, the ionosphere had other things in mind for us. We all struggled to make contacts over the three hours we were on the air. With the help of gracious spotters and us transmitting endless CQs, the three of us garnered only 40 total contacts.

Barry and Frank are on the air! The weather was grand and we got a small sprinkle of rain just before we were going to go home. Photo Selfie credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Barry and Frank are on the air! The weather was grand and we got a small sprinkle of rain just before we were going to go home. Photo Selfie credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Barry and I got the requisite minimum of ten QSOs each to officially activate, but Frank didn’t make it even though he logged an operator in Liverpool, England.

My Elecraft KX3, BioennoPower Powerpack and 29-foot wire with a 9:1 unun allowed Barry and I to communicate. Frank brought his own radio, power supply and computer to make his digital magic possible. As usual, the Bionenno Powerpack did the trick. Even after three hours of nearly continuous operation, the LCD screen still showed the lithium-iron-phosphate battery as full!

This is our setup with the view towards the mansion. The visitor center is just to the left of the operating table. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

This is our setup with the view towards the mansion. The visitor center is just to the left of the operating table. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

It was a busy day at Saint Gaudens as the park was open to the public for free. While we were very visible to the park visitors as they explored the visitor center, none came over to inquire why a fluorescent green string and black wire were doing hanging down from the tree just above us.

While I didn’t realize it at the time, I got an omen from the band god as I was attempting to get my halyard line up into the trees. It took me four attempts to get the perfect branch and my first errant throw came dangerously close to hitting the greenhouse you see in the above photo.

Ranger Paul is patiently watching as I try not to damage NPS property. Photo credit: Barry Green - W1JFK

Ranger Paul is patiently watching as I try not to damage NPS property. I’m swinging a small water bottle that’s attached to a 3-foot piece of parachute cord. That cord is then tied to the smaller fluorescent green halyard line. Photo credit: Barry Green – W1JFK

Barry and I switched off doing SSB and CW and after we both gave it two shots, a few rain drops started to descend from the sky. It was about 1:35 pm and we had decided to leave at 2 pm to get back home by 4 pm. Water hitting expensive electronic equipment was reason enough to call it a day.

Cake, champaign and contacts. What a great day! BURP! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Cake, champaign and contacts. What a great day! BURP! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

We packed up and Rick the head ranger invited us inside for some birthday cake. We graciously accepted. What a surprise to find champaign there as well!

Barry, Frank and I all agreed it was a day well spent. Thanks to the NPS and the ARRL for making the fun NPOTA event possible. Happy Birthday National Park Service!

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