Tok River State Rec. Area K-7239

Failed: 2021-05-08

When you operate from the field sometimes you do activations, and sometimes you learn how not to do activations. This trip was more of the latter . . . .

After my first POTA activation life got in the way for a while, and it wasn’t until the following May that I was able to get out again. My chosen park was Tok River State Recreation Area, a nice campground and picnic area located up near Delta Junction, Alaska.

A basic HF portable/field operating station consisting of the radio, power supply, and tuner.
A few accessories go a long way towards making HF voice enjoyable. Here a tuner, headset, logbook, and backup power supply makes for a well-equipped station.

A lot of things were going my way on this trip:

  • I had added an LDG tuner to my arsenal, allowing easier tuning of field setups.
  • My dual battery packs were well tested and reliable.
  • I had worked the bugs out of my solar setup, allowing recharging in the field.
  • I could recharge batteries on the road using a power pole tie-in to my truck’s electrical system.
  • My familiarity with the Yaesu 891 was getting better

What didn’t go my way were the band conditions, and timing.

Antenna of a tripod base
Here I have set up my loaded vertical antenna on a tripod base.
Antenna loading coil and vertical element
Operating in the park was challenging since I couldn’t get to a good location out of the trees.

Basically I didn’t have a solid strategy as far as band conditions, power usage, and activation times. On the first morning of operating I burned up a bunch of battery power calling CQ on 40 meter SSB, and when I finally switched to 20 meters the bands were not cooperating at all. I had a few contacts, but not the required ten.

Antenna ground wires connected to a vertical antenna
For ground wires I use multiple lengths of speaker wire (very flexible) connected together at the antenna base
MFJ loaded vertical antenna with manual clip for changing the antenna's inductive loading.
Inductively-loaded verticals are an excellent option for field antennas. Just be sure to test the antenna at home with your Nano VNA first, and write down what coil turn to tap into for each chosen band.

Another thing which I’m sure hurt my chances was where I set up the antenna. I had brought a tripod which allowed more freedom in where I set up, since I wasn’t tied to the truck. However, I still set up mostly within the trees out of convenience, rather than taking my gear out to a truly clear area. A vertical antenna set up among vertical trees is a sure recipe for problems.

Operating for Parks on the Air at Tok River State Recreation Site, in Alaska
With an appropriate length of coax you can remove your operating location from the antenna site. In this case I am back in the campsite working SSB contacts while my antenna is 30′ away in a clearing.

For my next attempt I recharged my gear during the day, and then planned to operate in the evening. The UTC clock had ticked over to a new day though, and so I was starting from zero QSOs again. Band conditions were not great that night either (trees were probably still a factor), and I came up short a second time . . . just as my batteries died again.

All in all I was able to snag 11 QSOs over two UTC days, which didn’t qualify for a clean activation. Still, it was fun, and a worthwhile learning experience.

Updated 2022-11-28