Well, the last remaining Florida NPS unit has now been officially activated! April 1st I made the drive up to northern Seminole county to the Wekiva National Wild and Scenic River. This “park” is a little different than most others, as there are only about 41 miles of waterway that have been designated as a Scenic River. I had to do a little digging ahead of time to figure out exactly what portions of the river would count for my activation. Through the NPS web page for the river I found the Wekiva River System site, where they have a nice aerial map showing the “park” area. Not much detail, but enough to figure out where I was on Google Earth and find a few likely looking locations. As you can see from the map, most of the river runs through swamps. You have to be within 100 feet of the water for the ARRL to consider your activation to have been within the “park,” so that narrowed my choices down considerably.
I settled on Katie’s Landing, which is a Florida state park on the upper portion of the Wekiva. It turned out to be a great choice. It’s a small park, and on a Friday afternoon wasn’t busy at all. There were three or four picnic tables right near the water, and plenty of cypress trees to hang antennas from.
I got to the park about 1:30 in the afternoon, and spent twenty or so minutes getting my station set up on on of the picnic tables, about 25 feet from the water (taking no chances with a DQ on my activations lol)
I used the same EARCHI end fed antenna that I used in my previous activations in Utah, and it didn’t disappoint. With one end tossed 30 feet up in the cypress tree behind me, and the counterpoise laid out on the ground, I tuned up on 40m and got ready to go.
I was very hopeful that 40m would net me a bunch of in state contacts. I was pretty disappointed… Propagation was actually pretty good, but the noise levels were terrible. I did get 5 Florida contacts, and 5 from Georgia, along with a couple other nearby states. After about 45 minutes with not a lot of contacts (wound up with a total of 19 on 40m), then I switched to 20m. WOW! What a difference. K5RK was my first contact, and it was full speed from there. 86 contacts in 58 minutes before propagation finally seemed to quit on me… it was a blast! It always amazes me how much fun you can have with only 5w, that little ft-817 does a great job. Propagation was supposed to be marginal at best on 20m that day, but it was definitely wide open. I had enough stations calling that I started running by numbers, with a call for QRP stations at the end of each round. What surprised me was the number of stations that had already worked me called again, after turning their power down to 5 watts – and they were still coming in just as strong as they had been before…and some had been running KW stations!
Moral of the story: even when the forecast says band conditions are bad, throw your call out there. The models might just be wrong 🙂
QRP: Lower your power and raise your expectations!