First a little history about the park from WIKIPEDIA…
Eisenhower State Park is a state park in Osage County, Kansas, United States, located 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Emporia and 35 miles (56 km) south of Topeka. The park was formerly known as Melvern State Park, due to its location on the north shore of the 6,900-acre (28 km2) Melvern Lake, was renamed in 1990 to honor former president Dwight D. Eisenhower. The park includes 1,345 acres (5.44 km2) of prairie, 440 acres (1.8 km2) of woodland, and various areas for recreational activities.
The 10,008-acre (40.50 km2) Melvern Wildlife Area adjacent to the park is home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, bobwhite quail, squirrels, various furbearers, and waterfowl making it a great place to observe or partake in hunting (by permission only). Hunting is allowed throughout the park except on the 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) waterfowl refuge, which is open to wildlife viewing from January 15 to October 1.
Sounds great…. Right?!!
For me this year, it was a first on so many levels. I activated a park in Kansas, the Eisenhower State Park K-2335. This experience which happened to be my first POTA activation ever was an experience that I will never forget. As stated by Lee, N5SLY about MURPHY in an email, Murphy did visit me in Kansas. For me, going to Kansas was a spur of the moment decision to travel and work POTA using the call KW5CW for the first time and implementing our special event – W5K call at the same time from out of state. I did have high hopes to meet my friend Kurt – AD0WE from Manhattan Kansas who lives about 1.5 hours from Eisenhower park, but due to his present physical health, we both made the conscious decision after making it to Kansas that it would be best for him to stay at home and that we would not meet at the park on Saturday.
I visited the park on Friday afternoon, with high hopes I would be able to find a spot at the park to hang up some really neat antennas that I took along. At the entrance point, there were 5 cars in front of me going through the checkpoint at around 2 PM in the afternoon to get into the park. I thought nothing of it until after I had entered and started driving through the park. The park was packed, and the park was considerably smaller than I envisioned it would be. The wildlife areas which consumed most of the park were available for hunters and also for access from the lake. All prime locations were taken, and absolutely none were accessible that were near any kind of structures including the trees that were spread across the park that I could use for stringing up antennas. All of the spots still available were listed as “Prime” which meant it would cost to reserve the spot, anywhere from $10 to $22 per night, depending on the spot and the hookups needed if you had a camper. There were no ‘freebee’ spots. Immediately, I knew I was in trouble. I had high hopes of activating the park during this trip, but where would I set up?
I didn’t give up, as I hoped one of the prime locations that I did locate where I had a desire to operate from would open up and I’d be willing to pay for it, maybe on Saturday or Sunday. But MURPHY confirmed that this would not happen, as all likely spots for me to set up were secured in advance by other campers and goers to the park. (MURPHY EVENT #1)
Prior to returning to the park on Saturday, I dropped my iPhone and destroyed the screen on concrete at the motel in Emporia Kansas, 35 miles from the park. (MURPHY EVENT #2)
There was absolutely no place to stay near the park. MURPHY again visited me and left me with no way to navigate through Kansas as I no longer had maps to look at on my phone, so my next stop was at a TMobile store. I purchased a Samsung tablet on Saturday, October 10 in Emporia, Kansas. But I still decided my bad luck would not deter me so I continued to go to the park to operate, now very late in the afternoon on Saturday. I found an open field in the park in front of a pond known as the “Eisenhower fishing pond” that would be the location of my very first POTA event ever. (Too bad I didn’t bring my fishing polls. Maybe I could have loaded it up while fishing). It was extremely windy and brisk, so I decided to operate CW from my car as I have done hundreds of times before, using my IC-7100. MURPHY struck again.
My radio, the IC-7100 would only transmit on SSB, and not on CW. Really ?/!@#$?@ (MURPHY EVENT #3) My hopes for running POTA on CW from the park were dashed. Luckily, I did bring the microphone for the radio, and it worked. So on Saturday afternoon, I made my first POTA SSB contact, and I must tell you that I had a blast on SSB. From the very first moment that I called CQ, it was like I was in a contest. But I was out of my element. I was on SSB, not on CW. Murphy was challenging me yet again. But I had to adjust to the circumstances that MURPHY handed me. I worked my IC-7100 in my car, using a mini-TarHeel screwdriver antenna and a SDC-104-I Automatic Screw-driver Controller/Tuner. I operated for a few hours and I must say that after just a few hours…
I was losing my voice, and I had to stop. (MURPHY EVENT #4)
Before I ended for the day, I worked a VE8 station located 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle or approximately 124 miles north of the circle. The actual conversation was caught in a recording by my son Christopher – K5KDE back in Texas who was following me using Parks-On-the-Air spotting. The following is the recording of the KW5CW POTA and W5K SPECIAL EVENT contact with the artic station…
The next day on Sunday, October 11, I decided to return to the park again, and try and find a spot to set up. Again, the only thing open was another open field, but this time I did find a tree in the backdrop that I could use to string up an antenna. I considered myself lucky, thinking that I dodged MURPHY’S law again. But soon I found out that I didn’t dodge MURPHY at all.
One of the antennas that I brought with me was an end-fed antenna. In anticipation to string up the antenna from a tree, I took along a sling-shot that I used to lob the one end of a fishing line over the tree. MURPHY said hello again. The weight I used to sling-shot the support line of the antenna dislodged from the wire and was lost in the high grass but of course, MURPHY let me find it just before leaving the park when I was done for the day. (MURPHY EVENT #5)
About 45 minutes later I finally found something I could use for the sling-shot. Pictures of the sloper installation are attached. As I said, MURPHY was still present.
Because of the very high winds that day, it took me about 2 hours to get the antenna up so I could use it. MURPHY became disgusted with me after successfully putting up the antenna and so MURPHY decided to blow down the antenna two times. (MURPHY EVENT #6) Reports show that the wind speeds were erratic but in access of 25-30 MPH gusts at times.
By that time, it was later in the afternoon and I really needed to rest so after just making 8 contacts and it was just too windy to full with antennas. I had to leave the park anyway, as it was getting dark as…
I didn’t have an overnight pass and was asked to leave by security. Security informed me that I had to pack up and leave the park because it was getting dark. It wasn’t even completely dark yet, but that meant that I did not successfully activate the park that day. (MURPHY EVENT #7)
- You must make a minimum of 10 QSOs for your activity to count toward a POTA activation. This must be done within the same day in Zulu Time 00:00 – 23:59. Hunters still gain credit, even if the activator hasn’t reached 10 QSOs. For hunters and activators to gain credit though, the activator MUST send the log in. In layman’s terms, if you start at 6:00PM CST and only make 8 contacts, then you must begin all over again at 7:00PM with another 10 contacts during the 24-hour period that starts at 7 PM CST to have a successful activation. That would also mean that I would have had to make 19 contacts before the activation was valid for that physical day.
I was dishearted, but I did learn allot. Here is what I learned.
Do not procrastinate doing what you need to get done to be successful in anything that you do, especially if you are going on an operating trip like this. Preparation is KEY. I called the park in advance, and was advised on what I could and could not do per instructions by Lee, who is now very familiar with working in parks, but I was also advised by the park that it may be too late to get a prime spot to set up. I thought nothing of it. I just thought to myself, ‘so what, I’ll find a spot’. If I were to do this again, I would plan months in advance. To say the least, I would have purchased over-night passes so I could stay. The park office suggested that I plan as early as December 2020 if I want to reserve a spot for 2021.
Second, bring a backup radio. Yes, I had my QRP radio – the Xiegu-G90, but I only used it for Digital, when I was at the hotel in the evenings. The bands were not good enough to use it for QRP CW at the park. I used this SDR radio for digital while using my magnetic loop antenna at the motel and the radio itself worked very well. One bright spot, I worked W5I from my station W5K from the motel room.
Shortly after working W5I, I had a few issues with the loop antenna. (MURPHY EVENT #8)
Again I was too tired that night to pursue fixing the antenna. Of course,
MURPHY would not allow me to make a PARK to PARK contact during the POTA event. With all that MURPHY was handing me the entire weekend, I kind of expected it. (MURPHY EVENT #9)
I was tired, and it was late on Sunday evening. I had every intention to revisit the park on Monday morning, but the weather reports were not good, and I elected to sleep in and leave the motel at 11 AM to drive back to Dallas, which was a 400+ mile drive. (MURPHY EVENT #10)
All in all, I made less than 200 contacts. If you were to ask me if I would ever do this again, the answer would be no unless I went on this trip with someone.
The best part of that last day was when I returned home and seen my wife Virginia after my trip. We embraced and I told her that I loved her and missed her. This is when I realized that it may be time for me to rethink my future with amateur radio and reset some of my priorities in retirement. I am a GCARC member through and through, but I may have to cut back a little more regarding my responsibilities with the club, at least for now. In time I will explain what that means because I don’t even know, but for now, I’m just in need of some rest and recuperation so that I can be ready to see everyone at the next meeting and put together another newsletter. See everyone soon!
Here are a few more pictures of the park and the end-fed antenna running up a hill to a tree.