Beginner’s Corner September 2018

Taking your Radio on the Road

   Autumn and cooler weather will soon be upon us.  This means we no longer have to sweat it out when going outdoors.  Time to take that new radio of yours outdoors!

   It’s nice to go to a local park and see who is on the air.  Gwinnett County had a plethora of parks.  The XYL (wife) and I have a desire to work all of the Gwinnett County Parks.  This is an undaunting task, but it brings us outdoors and we have a lot of fun talking to each other from different parts of the park, or talking to others when they have joined us.  I am hoping for a “Worked All Gwinnett county Parks Award”. Would anyone care to sponsor it?

   The author has finally been able to get his base station ready to go portable.  We have batteries and antennas galore to do this.  Going portable is fun, and it does provide expertise during an emergency.  With my handy-talkie, I can throw a J-pole antenna up in the air and work several VHF and UHF bands.  I can also get on HF as well. 

   There are also several awards available for activating certain sites.  For those of you who had your license in 2016, there was a National Parks on the Air (NPORA) program, sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. it was an outstanding success!  Many individuals and clubs (including GARS) activated national parks all around the country.  Contacts were made on HF, as well as VHF and UHF, including satellite contacts.  It was fun to do.  The author went to the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area twice.  It was a lot of fun.

   Someone decided that one year of national park activation was not enough.  Now we have Parks on the Air (POTA) This program is bigger than the original NPOTA, in that it includes state parks, as well.  Wanna see what it’s like?  Go to YouTube and in the search box, type in “parks on the air”. There are many well documented park activations. The author can watch them for ours.

   If that isn’t enough, there is a Summits on the Air program,, too.  This one started in the UK and has spread worldwide.  There are several places in Georgia that count as summits.  A recent trip to the Kennesaw National Battlefield was a good site survey for a qualifying summit.  Again, YouTube had a lot of fun videos of summit activations.  Activate enough of them and you can become a “Mountain Goat”.

   The fun continues, because there is an Islands on the Air,, and a Lighthouses on the Air,, sponsored by The Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society.  I hope to go into more detail about them in future columns.

  “But wait,” you say, “I am a new ham and I only have my handy-talkie (HT).  How can I activate all these sites?”  if you can rig some kind of external antenna, do so.  Many contacts have been made on VHF and UHF frequencies.  Going to a summit or the top of a lighthouse (Get permission first.) gives you a very high antenna.  That will dramatically increase your range.  Plan your activation ahead of time and notify whatever “ota” group you plan to activate.  Tell your friends and notify people on the club reflectors that you are going. There is also a web site called DX Summit, where you should be able to “spot” yourself.  I don’t know if they will accept VHF/UHF spots, but it’s worth trying. Stay on the calling frequencies of whatever bands you are authorized.  Remember, technicians have 6 and 10 meter privileges, so those bands might work as well.

Happy activating!

David Harden, KJ4CMY