With only 1 month to go in the ARRL NPOTA event and some free time this Thanksgiving weekend, Fred and I decided to hit the road to activate some new parks. We activated two nearby parks, each less than 1 hour away from our home, Lamprey Wild and Scenic River, WR23, near Epping, NH, and Minuteman National Historical Park, HP27, near Concord, MA. There were close to 900K QSOs made overall in the NPOTA program as of Thanksgiving day and we also wanted to help the cause to get to 1Million NPOTA QSOs by year’s end.
On Saturday, we drove to Epping, NH, where we activated Lamprey Wild and Scenic River. It was a rainy day, but we still enjoyed the scenic drive along the river. We drove along the river until we found a place by the river to park and operate. The bands were not great, with a K-index of 4 and a high A-index. Despite the conditions, our activation was a success. We operated on both 20m and 40m SSB and made a total of 307 QSOs over 3 hours.
I work in Burlington, MA and often travel between Burlington and Waltham, MA for meetings. Each time I passed by Lexington on I-95 I saw the sign for Minute Man NHP and thought it would be fun to do a NPOTA activation from there. We activated the park on Saturday. We entered the park from the Concord, MA end and were pleasantly surprised to see some nice countryside in the middle of a suburban area of Massachusetts, not far from Boston.
We operated from a parking lot in the park from mid afternoon until dark. The bands were a little better on Saturday and we were able to get 239 contacts into the log, mostly US but also worked stations from Spain, Jamaica, Aruba and Puerto Rico.
We have enjoyed activating 8 National parks so far in the NPOTA event. We are planning another activation between Christmas and New Years of multiple parks before the end of the event on December 31.
Ever since we built our Mobile HF Station, we’ve talked about taking it to Acadia National Park in Maine and operating from the top of Cadillac Mountain. The 2016 ARRL NPOTA event gave us the motivation to plan the trip for the week before Labor Day. The week before our trip, we saw an article in the ARRL Letter encouraging operation from the newly declared National Monument, Katadhin Woods and Waters in Maine, which had just be designated as NPOTA MN84. Visiting the NPS website, we learned that the park is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from Bar Harbor, where we are staying. We decided to accept the challenge to be the first to activate the new park.
Tuesday August 30 was our first full day of vacation, we left our hotel room and parked by the Acadia visitor center and called “CQ National Parks”. We ended up with 76 contacts in the log from NP01.
After that we got on the road and headed toward Katadhin Woods and Waters, activating counties along the way including the county line between Penobscot and Aroostook Counties.
As a newly designated National Monument, Katadhin Woods and Waters does not yet have a visitors center or any signs showing you when you enter and exit the park. We just had the map (above) to determine where the park boundaries were. All of the roads in black on the map are gravel roads that are also used for logging trucks.
We entered the park from Swift Brook Road off Rt 11 in the lower right corner of the map. We drove through the lower section by the entrance and then headed north along the Eastern Branch of the Penobscot River and operated near the Loos camping area. The sign above confirmed that we were within the park boundaries.
The scenery along the river was beautiful with views of the mountains in the distance.
We started operating on 20m and the pileups were huge! Everyone was excited to get this new NPOTA into the log. Fred, AB1OC/M ended up going split on 20m due to the size of the pileups. After a while, he moved to 40m to give the close in folks a chance at MN84. We went back and further between 20m and 40m until the pileups thinned out. We also made 18 QSOs with the club callsign N1FD to also give the club credit for the activation. We really enjoyed activating the park and the people we talked to were great! We made a total of 350 QSOs from MN84.
We took turns operating as two person teams with an operator and a logger. The IC-7000 radio which we use in our Mobile HF station is easily accessible for connection and we brought a laptop running N1MM+ which we connected to the radio. This made logging accurate and easy. We made a little over 210 QSOs in about 2 1/2 hours in Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller on Saturday.
We arrived early on Sunday and began our operation by setting up and tuning a 20m Inverted-V antenna for our portable station. We were able to get the feed point of this antenna up higher (about 35 feet) this time and the antenna performed better as a result.
We setup our 20m portable station in a shady spot at the bottom of the park’s meadow. This gave us a nice view while operating.
We used our 20m portable setup which is based upon the 100w Icom IC-7300 again for our second activation and it worked very well. We had a laptop computer running N1MM+ for logging.
The 20m portable station tent was our main “hangout” during our NPOTA activation on Sunday.
We also had our Mobile HF station at Saint-Gaudens and we operated it on 40m. We were QRO at 500w from the Mobile.
We used the new bandpass filters from DXEngineering on both the 40m Mobile HF and 20m Portable stations. These filters have very low passband loss and very good filtering characteristics. We had no problems with interference between our 20m and 40m stations during our activations.
The park staff rolled out the red carpet for us during both of our NPOTA activations. They displayed our signage and shared the information that we provided about the NPOTA program and our club. They really made us feel at home in the park.
There was a large crowd of visitors at the park during our activation. The combination of great weather and live music was a huge draw for folks. This gave our club and our NPOTA activation some nice public exposure.
Saint-Gaudens was a renowned culture in his time and there are many impressive pieces of sculpture on the park grounds. The park recently commissioned this impressive sculpture of Abraham Lincoln which has become one of their centerpiece works in the park.
The park has many beautiful gardens and they offer a wonderful set of surroundings for the sculptures in the park.
This is my personal favorite spot in the park – a Birch tree-lined walkway!
Our NPOTA operations kept us pretty busy all afternoon on Sunday. We operated as two person teams – an operator and a logger. This gave more of us a chance to operate and the teamwork made it easier to handle the steady stream of callers.
I got a chance to operate both the mobile and portable stations. It was great fun handling our contacts with NS60!
It seems that every Amateur Radio operation that I have the pleasure to be part of manages to hand our a nice surprise or two. This one was not exception. I worked a local HAM, Jeff Katchen WB2NWR, in Cornish, NH which is very near the park. He came by afterwards to visit and share his QSL card and a nice eyeball QSO!
Our operation was a lot of fun – a success by all measures. We made a total of 570+ QSOs between our activations on Friday and Saturday.
There was some discussion at the end of the day on Sunday about doing one more NPOTA activation this year. Our final one would be a high-power operation with both stations running QRO 500w! We will discuss this at an upcoming club meeting and we’ll certainly do a third activation if there is enough interest and support.
We took a lot of nice pictures between this last and our previous activations. You can look at them in the gallery which follows.