It was bound to happen; POTA activities have been getting increasingly popular, so it was a matter of time before I dipped my toe into these waters.
Several aspects and rules make it easy for anyone to participate. For example, you can drive up to a park, and operate from your vehicle. Obviously, there is more fun to be had if you take your gear out to a picnic table, or to the tailgate of your truck, put a wire antenna up into a tree, and power your radio off a portable battery pack. Of course, your location and local weather conditions will play a major role in your plans and activations.
One of the exciting aspects of POTA is to be able to drive into an entity, make your minimum 10 contacts, pack up and drive to another park or entity, and operate there for a while.
Or you can set up and spend hours at a park. There are operators who log hundreds of contacts from one park.
You can operate any mode on any band, and can mix and match as you see fit and as band conditions dictate.
Go to ParksOnTheAir.com for all the rules, and guidance to help you jump into this exciting on-air activity. Also, POTA.app has live, real time spot and activation information for finding stations that are activating parks to you can work as a ‘hunter.’ The site allows you to ‘spot’ (advertise) your activation. These spots help bring hunters to you
For my introduction into this activity, Vince VE6LK came up with the idea of doing a string of parks southwest of Calgary. We planned a route for up to six parks in a row, including several new ones. It was going to be a POTA marathon, a #POTAthon as it were. Look up that hashtag on the ‘Bird Site’ to see how it went. We activated 4 parks that day. We operated phone, FT8, and CW (Vince).
A couple of weeks later, I was driving home from Montana, and planned to make a couple small detours off the main highway into some parks. My setup was moderately simple; I’d put up a ham stick antenna, and operate my Yaesu FT-897 sitting on the center console and powered off my battery pack. Setup took all of 10 minutes once I was parked.
I called ‘CQ POTA’ on 20m SSB and got a number of responses, and logged the mandatory 10 minimum contacts, packed up and drove away to the next location. I activated 4 parks that day, one in British Columbia and two in Alberta, including one Alberta park that had never been activated before. I put 51 contacts in the log that day. These never-been-activated-before parks are known as an ATNO (All Time New One). The drive home usually takes 3-1/2 hours; this trip took almost 6 hours. I uploaded my logs the next day.
At that point, I really started to think I was onto something.
A few days later, Vince and I went out again for another POTAthon on a day off work. This day we activated 5 sites, with one being a two-fer (two overlapping designated parks at one location.)
Late December, during days off work after Christmas, presented new opportunities to do more POTA activations. On Boxing Day, two park locations in Banff Alberta, covering one two-fer and one three-fer were activated by Vince and myself that day.
Two days later, Vince and I did three more activations.
To close out the month, we headed south to two more parks.
We operated mostly on 20m, but moved around the bands as conditions changed during the day. Some of our operating methods included the ‘pass the mike’ technique. This is where one operator calls CQ, completes and logs a QSO, then announces to the remote station to stand by for a second operator, passing the mike to the other operator, who then makes a contact with the same remote station. It’s a rapid fire method for both operators to make nearly identical contacts. I say nearly, because from time to time, the remote station doesn’t stick around for the second operator for some reason. Then the second operator starts to call ‘CQ POTA’ until another station responds, and the cycle repeats and alternates between operators.
For logging, I’ve been using HAMRS software. It is available for MacOS, Linux, Windows, and also for Raspian for Raspberry Pi.
If you have Internet connectivity at your park during your activation, HAMRS will look up callsigns and parks in real time. It is also clever enough to allow you to enter multiple parks when the remote park to park station is activating a two-fer, and generates two log entries with that station, one for each of their parks.
As weather and family obligations permit, I’m looking to a bunch of activations throughout the year.
Here are my current statistics: