Ahern State Park K-2641 POTA and KFF Activation – Wind and Mud!
Today was another rare late-winter stunning warm day here in central New Hampshire. After doing yesterday’s activation of Ellacoya State Park I knew I’d go out today. After all, Ahern is just across and down Lake Winnisquam from my house!
I pass the entrance to Ahern State Park on my way to church each Sunday. You need to drive about one-half mile to get to the beach. This time of year with mud season upon us you better have a 4×4 as I do.
Easy or Scenic? Choose Wisely
When I arrived at 12:30 PM or 1730Z, I thought I just might set up just south of the main entrance. A giant naked deciduous tree was stretching its limbs over the road making it so easy to get my antenna up in the air.
But I then thought, “Gosh, it’s such a beautiful day. Let’s see if the gate to the beach is open.” Off I went down the bumpy dirt road to the gate. Sure enough, it was open.
There’s still lots of frost in the ground and over the past three days, about four inches of the ground has thawed. If the ground was fully thawed there’s no way I would have chanced going down the road. It would have been impassable but for a National Guard 6×6 or bulldozer.
My Ford F250 Super Duty 4X4 with marginal tire tread could handle the 4 inches of mud, but not much more. I switched the truck into 4×4 High and off I went to the beach.
I got out of my truck and found myself in the middle of a fierce gale. Yes, you can have a gale with no rain and no clouds.
“No problem. I can get my water bottle up in the tree with no issues.” I’ve gotten pretty good at throwing my water bottle up 40 or 50 feet as my friend Jim Cluett will attest to. Here’s how I do it on a normal breezy day:
But today, Mother Nature decided to bat at it like a cat toying with a frightened mouse. Each time I’d throw it up, the wind would catch it and blow it sideways about 8 feet.
I lost count of how many throws it took. Four times the fierce wind carried the lanyard string onto the top of a chain-link fence. Its talons at the top grabbed the string and I had to use my walking pole to help get it off the fence each time.
I struggled for 25 minutes to get the antenna up. Each time the string from my Trident finger reel, water bottle, and antenna got more covered with mud. It was frustrating and had Jim been with me I would have no doubt asked if he had any suggestions!
Finally On the Air
I was in the truck setting up my Elecraft KX2 with the Elecraft paddles at 1805Z. My 3 Ah BioennoPower battery was called upon today to send my Cool Waves into the ether. The 29-foot wire antenna and the 9:1 unun once again delivered a perfect SWR of 1:1.0. Life doesn’t get much better. Well, I could have had two dark chocolate pecandes and a companion to log for me but I didn’t.
It didn’t take long for the hunters to find me. I started out on 20 meters on 14.058 MHz. That’s close to the 14.060 MHz low-powered watering hole. I always do low-powered, or QRP, radio for these activations.
Jim, W1PID, was my second contact and I put eleven other operators in my logbook while on 20 meters. Twenty meters was pretty good and I was having little trouble hearing operators today. What’s interesting about making contact with Jim is he was at home just about five miles as the bird flies directly across the lake. Normally my signal would have traveled over him so the only way, I think, we heard each other was by a ground wave.
One of my 20-meter contacts was Bill, K4NYM. He was out activating a park himself. He was at K-6297. The park-to-park contacts are getting more frequent as the POTA program continues to attract operators who love doing outdoor radio as I do.
Different radio frequencies tend to have different characteristics. Twenty meters is preferred by many for long-distance communications. A signal on twenty meters can easily travel many thousands of miles.
If you want to contact operators who may be within 1,000 miles of you it’s best to try a higher frequency like 40 meters. There were quite a few hunters at home who were waiting for me to make the move.
I switched to 7.030 MHz on 40 meters and ended up contacting eight other operators. One was Peter Kobak, K0BAK. I was thrilled to hear him! I’ve never met Peter in person but feel like he’s an old friend. Peter and I were pretty active in the National Parks on the Air event in 2016. He was, and still is, a true road warrior going out to activate countless parks. He’s even outfitted a used TV-news van for the purpose.
I was lucky enough to make contact with N8EU on 40 meters. He was also activating a park! He was at K-2940.
After 45 minutes I had exhausted the hunters and no one else wanted to work me. I decided to pack up and go get the mud off everything, including my truck. It really needed a bath.
I can tell you that I’m happy to be doing POTA and KFF activations again. It’s great to get familiar call signs in the logbook. As Jim taught me years ago, “It’s simply magic.” Yes, it is.