I just completed the CWOps Basic Course and decided to take my new and improved CW skills (or lack thereof) to the field

Afton State Park (K-2466) is the closest state park in my part of the Twin Cities suburbs, so I packed up my KX3 and Wolf River Coils vertical and headed out the door this morning.

A beautiful early fall day awaited me along the St. Croix river which forms the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

After arriving, I quickly setup my Wolf River Coils antenna which had already been tuned from earlier use for 40m. This was mistake number 1 – knowing that 40m is not particularly great for mornings, I chose convenience over propagation.

Live and learn.

I setup the radio on a park bench close to the pavilion and restrooms area in the above picture. Being fall, I had to first cleanup the walnut husks the local squirrels dissected and left everywhere. Without thinking I sat down on the bench and didn’t think about the walnut oils which make excellent stains.

Mistake number 2.

I only called CQ for a couple of minutes before I had my first contact – KA0WKG gave me a 579 in Colorado. I started to think that maybe 40m wouldn’t be too bad today and I might get this activation done in no time.

Mistake number 3.

It was another 30 minutes of calling CQ before I landed another QSO. I did have one station come in between the first and second, but after giving a signal report they mysteriously vanished with no report back to me, so I’m not counting that one.

K9IS in next-door Wisconsin came in with a 559.

Another 20 minutes before my third and final completed QSO for the morning happened, with K0NIA in Iowa (also next door) providing a crisp 599.

With time running out for me today, I packed up and headed down the road towards home. Activated or not, it was a great day to get out of the house among the trees while still enjoying a great hobby.

Wolf River Coils 80-10m Vertical

So lessons learned:

  • Be ready and willing to change bands in order to match the conditions. This is obvious and something that I recognized at the start, but chose convenience instead – especially after getting the first QSO in short order.
  • A longer wire antenna or even a taller vertical might have increased my ability to both get out and be heard. RBN wasn’t showing great propagation for me – even at full output on the KX3.
  • Watch where you sit 🙁

Get out and get on the air!