Three Parks, 4 Days, 4 Degrees

By: Mike KD9KMV

Last week I decided to set myself a challenge. The challenge was to operate from 3 new (to me) State Parks within a week, as part of the POTA (Parks On The Air) program.

Activation 1 – Monday March 4th 2019

Chain-O-Lakes SP, IL – K-0986

With winter temperatures still with us, the gauge in my car measured the outside temperature at 4 degrees F. “Why am I doing this?” I thought as I drove to my destination. Well, I want to prove to myself that I can. Simple as that.

Arriving at any State Park for the first time is interesting. Not knowing the layout of the park, suitable operating positions, etc., especially when the snow often seems to block access to certain sections. Google Maps and its Streetview feature can help for some pre-planning, but it is not a failsafe.

I found a suitable spot that had a picnic bench in just about the perfect place, so I decided to setup.

Here are some photos of the deployment:

I used my FT-891, with a homebrew ammo can battery box (12v 18Ah), and a 20m LNR Precision endfed. The antenna was supported by a 31’ Jackite pole mounted to a hitch support on the back of my vehicle, and then sloped down towards to the picnic table. No need for a tuner, the antenna is resonant on 20m.

I operated for about 2 hours (my typical deployment), and made 44 contacts, all in North America. 3 of those were Park to Park contacts, making contact with operators also activating other national/state parks.

Activation 2 – Wednesday March 6th 2019

Volo Bog State Natural Area, IL – K-4160

Less to write about for this one. I didn’t get much in the way of photos either. I used the same deployment, just concentrating on 20m.
This time I setup and operated from the passenger seat of my vehicle. This park is much smaller with just one parking area, most of which was blocked from all of the snow plow pileups. Unfortunately that was the only kind of pileup I encountered that day!
I made 32 contacts, all within North America.

Activation 3 – Thursday March 7th

Illinois Beach State Park, IL – K-1000

Saving the best till last! I wanted to try a different band this time, so I setup as normal with my 20m antenna, but then also deployed my LNR 40m endfed with the help of an additional tripod/20’ mast combination. This allowed me to setup an inverted L, with the feed point near the ground and the coax running towards my operating position. Again, I operated from the passenger seat of my vehicle.

The best part of this activation was the contacts I made. On 20m, I had a pileup from Europe as well as North America, with a total of 79 contacts.

Below is a neat map (courtesy of showing all the contacts that I made that day, and all within a 2 hour period.

As you can see from the map, I worked into Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium. One important reason for the pileup was that I was activating a park that people needed, as part of Parks On The Air. With band conditions as they are, having a reason for people to reply to my CQ calls helped immensely.
I had never been on the ‘good’ side of a pileup before. It was fun and stressful at the same time.
Best of all, challenge successfully completed, 3 parks in 4 days,
73, KD9KMV