3 (not 4) Activations in the Beaver Valley

The great November weather continues and so does my enthusiasm for getting out into the Big Blue Sky Shack and doing some more Parks On The Air activations. A few days ago my wife and I took a short drive to Ontario’s beautiful Beaver Valley. My target was to activate Old Baldy Conservation Area (VE-5654). And as a bonus, the Bruce Trail (VE-5628) runs right through the park making it an ideal “two-fer” opportunity.

(A “two-fer” activation is one in which the activator is inside 2 parks simultaneously and earns credit for two activations for the same log).

I had in mind that if time allowed I would go on to the nearby Epping John Muir Lookout Conservation Area (VE-5657) and do another activation the same afternoon. The Bruce Trail also runs through that park making it another two-fer for a total of four activations in one afternoon – or so I thought before I gave my old grey noggin a good shake and realized that wasn’t so.

The Bruce Trail is about 900km long (it runs from Niagara Falls to Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula) and can be activated from literally hundreds of different spots – BUT, they are all part of the same POTA entity – VE-5628! So, even if I completed two “two-fers” I would only earn credit for three activations.

Old Baldy

It’s a steep climb on a gravel road up to Old Baldy. As we neared the top I put the truck into 4-wheel drive to maintain traction. “Old Baldy” is a bare rock outcrop 500 feet above the bottom of the valley. The conservation area sits on the top of the east valley wall where a short hike takes you to a spectacular view of the valley way down below.

I surveyed the trail to see if there was a suitable area to do my activation. There wasn’t and the trail wasn’t an easy one for my wife so I setup in the parking lot beside my truck. Just like my last activation at Wasaga Beach I opted to use my FT-891 manpack with the MFJ-1979 17ft telescoping whip directly attached.

As I wrote in my post Flirting with Radiation at Wasaga Beach I was in two minds about the RF exposure of this arrangement. I would be sitting three feet away from an antenna radiating 20 watts. But this time I brought extension cords for my paddles and DIY FH-2 remote keypad clone. The extension cords would at least let me sit a little further away from the antenna – mistake of the day number 2!

POTA Activation Tip: Always setup your complete field kit and make sure you have EVERYTHING you need before setting out for the park.

What did I forget? My earbuds have a fairly short cord, so I had to sit close to the antenna again anyway! I have now added an extension cord for the earbuds to my pack.

The activation went very well. I self-spotted at pota.app and started receiving calls on my very first CQ. One of my regular hunters CU3AA in the Azores came in at RST 599. He gave me a 599 too. I’m not sure if his report was real or a “contest RST report”.

Ten minutes into the activation I had the required 10 contacts for a valid POTA activation. After 22 minutes I had 21 QSOs in the log and called QRT during a lull in the action. I really wanted to move on to the next park.

It was a busy day in the small parking lot. There is a fee for parking there and as I was sitting with a clipboard on my knee and logging pencil in hand, somebody came up behind me and inquired if I was selling “parking tickets”. He must have then spotted the radio and said “oh, I guess you’re not selling parking tickets!”

We drove back down the big hill into the valley, then climbed up the west valley wall to Epping John Muir Lookout Conservation Area. I had activated this park a couple of months before, but it’s a very pleasant, quiet spot with a great view over the big valley below.

Once again I self-spotted at pota.app and started calling CQ. Responses were a little slow in starting this time. I guess hunters probably saw my callsign on the spots page and thought they had already worked me. It was a fairly short interval between the two activations. But the pace of action quickly picked up and another 20 QSOs were in the log in just 23 minutes.

If I operate for too long my keying goes a little haywire so I knew it was time to stop. Operating CW paddles is effortless if you have a good rhythmic action. Once you lose the rhythm though it becomes a challenge to send clean code. Maybe I should switch to SSB when that happens; something to think about!

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