Yesterday I found myself just north of Mendocino, CA. I was in the middle of an extended business / pleasure trip in Oregon and California. The pleasure part of the trip was to include as many Parks on the Air (POTA) activations as I could squeeze into each day as I wandered down the California Coastal Range and coastline.
I had decided to try to do four activations in one day. There happened to be four California state parks within a one-hour’s drive of one another. My plan was to start at Russian Gulch, go to Mendocino Headlands right on the coast, head east to Mendocino Woodlands State Park and finish up at Van Damme State Park.
I arrived at this fascinating state park on the coastline around 9:30 am. After paying my day-use fee I found a secluded picnic area high on a bluff right next to the ocean.
A major stream / river enters the ocean at this state park and a magnificent concrete-arch bridge carries US 1 over the large ravine.
Just after I threw my water bottle up into a tree next to the picnic table, a young boy and his grandfather appeared from the edge of the bluff. There must have been a hiking trail there.
As happens most of the time, they were intensely curious and asked what I was doing.
“I’m about to get on the air and do some amateur radio. Could you do me a favor and take my photo? No one is usually around to see how I put up my antenna.”
Jack was the young boy’s name and he didn’t hesitate to grab my camera. I was thankful that he took several photos.
Within minutes I was on the air while Jack and his grandfather watched with great delight. To send invisible radio waves up into the sky, I use an Elecraft KX3 radio, a simple 29-foot wire that has a 9:1 unun at the bottom and a small mini Pico Paddle to send Morse code. I power the radio with a BioennoPower power pack.
I do carry a microphone if I want to talk, but since I use only 10 watts of power or less most of the time it stays hidden it its box most of the time. The radio propagation has been so dismal this summer that it’s quite hard to do voice communications at low power.
It didn’t take but eighteen minutes to acquire the ten required conversations with other radio operators to officially activate the park. I got several more and decided to move on.
I thanked Jack for his help and told him to contact me if he wanted more information about amateur radio.
I felt like Mary Anne the steam shovel as I sat at that table. If you’ve read the classic children’s book Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, you know how Mary Anne worked harder and faster the more people that watched her dig.