The Red Button and the Conservation Officer

A few kilometers south of MacGregor Point Provincial Park (where we were camped and successfully activated the day before) is an unusual Parks On The Air (POTA) entity called Stoney Island Conservation Area (#VE-1646).

A Most Unusual Park
POTA designations in Canada are usually reserved for National and Provincial Parks. But this park is a day use area with a lot of trails used by Nordic skiers and snowshoers in winter. In summer the trails are open to hikers. We drove into the small parking lot and ventured a short distance along one of the trails looking for a place to operate for a POTA activation.

This area is a high risk zone for deer ticks and Lyme Disease. Since XYL had spent several hours in the Emergency room at a local hospital with a tick bite just the day before we weren’t taking any chances. The grass was already quite long and there were a lot of bugs in the air so we opted to operate from the truck in the parking lot. I had considered cancelling the activation but decided to proceed.

The small parking lot at Stoney Island CA. The grey truck to the right is mine and that is where I operated for the activation of VE-1646.

Hello, Hello, What’s Going On Here Then?
I setup the home made vertical antenna that has served well in previous outdoor ops and adjusted the coil and counterpoise for the 20m band. SWR was good and I started calling CQ. My truck hitch mounted antenna attracted the attention of a conservation officer from the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority who had been working in the park. He came to investigate. I explained about ham radio and the POTA program and he seemed satisfied and drove off.

Hit the Red Button
I must have hit the red button on my home made Yaesu FH2 remote keypad at least a dozen times before the calls started rolling in. The red button sends out the CW message “CQ CQ POTA DE VA3KOT VA3KOT K” at 18wpm. That speed is a little slow but I have found it is a good compromise speed for most POTA hunters and besides, my 3D printed paddle key just isn’t good for higher speeds. Eventually the hunters started responding. It was a Tuesday afternoon so the only stations on the air would have been hams who didn’t have to go to work.

Make it a Dozen
It was a bit of a hard slog to get up to the required 10 QSOs – thank goodness for the red button! After about a half hour the required 10 QSOs were in the log and I hit the red button a couple more times to get one or two “insurance” contacts. After 12 QSOs were in the log the red button wasn’t working its magic so I sent my callsign + QRT and switched off the radio.

DX Spots
I couldn’t get an Internet connection in the park but checking my callsign in RBN (Reverse Beacon Network) later revealed that my 35 watts was heard as far away as the US Virgin Islands. The log of the activation included several stations in states such as California, Arizona and throughout the mid-west. So, another POTA activation was in the books. POTA has become extraordinarily popular and I can attest as to why – it’s a ton of fun.

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