This was to be my first ever Parks on the Air activation . . . if it worked. As luck would have it, the radio gods were kind to me that day and it turned out to be a fun outing.
Willow Creek State Recreation area is a nice spot in the lower Susitna Valley, with access to the river, forests, and plenty of picnic spots. Of course, that’s in summer. In winter it pretty much all shuts down, and it them becomes a snowmachine playground.
I felt confident about my ability to do a portable activation, but still didn’t quite know what to expect from POTA. With that in mind I decided to keep things simple. I would operate from the back of the truck, using a 100 watt radio, a known good antenna, and would run SSB voice.
My antenna was still new to me at the time: an MFJ telescoping stainless steel whip, with loading coil and alligator clip tap point. I added ground wires cut for both the 40 meter and 20 meter bands (two of each). Electrically, this antenna is a simple ground plane. The only complexity is that if you tap into the coil at some point (rather than bypass it entirely) you now have a base-loaded vertical.
After some fruitless calling on 40 meters I decided to switch over to 20. Fortunately, I had a cell connection and so could self-spot. With just a little bit of calling I managed to stir up quite a pileup. This park had never been activated before, and there are not very many Alaska activators – two factors which I’m sure helped stir up interest.
After a solid 27 contacts m batteries were dying fast, so I packed it in and headed home. Not bad for a first timer in a never-before-active park, in the middle of winter. Go POTA!