Monday, February 8, 2016

My Home Park, Crater Lake National Park, NPOTA Activation

January 1st began the year long event known as NPOTA (National Parks On The Air) sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). So far, it's a huge success with several National Park Service (NPS) units activated by ham radio operators across the country. This even hits home for me as it combines my two passions, my professional career and my hobby, ham radio. I'm excited to be part of this event, both professionally and personally. 

Find Your Park 
You can help celebrate the National Park Service Centennial by visiting an NPS site near you! These are YOUR lands, and normally the NPS will have several "fee free" days where you can enjoy NPS areas without paying an entrance fee. But even if you have to pay a fee, it's well worth it, and those fees support operation of the park unit. 

AK7DD at Crater Lake National Park 
 On February 7th, 2016, I operated from Rim Village at Crater Lake National Park. I chose a parking area across from the Rim Cafe and Gift Shop. This was a quick, last minute decision to operate as the sun had finally come out and the weather, something other than snow, had arrived. As you can see from the photo to the left, the snow is much higher than my truck. Since October 1st, 2015, Crater Lake had received well over 200 inches of snow. And this amount of snow is certainly welcomed as this drought stricken area needs every inch it can get. This amount of snow is a first for me personally, never living or working where accumulations reached this height.

AK7DD Activation Location - Big Picture
The pin on the Google Earth snapshot at right shows where my location was in relation to the lake. With the snow depth, you actually have to get out of your vehicle and climb up on the snow to get a view of Crater Lake this time of year. Crater Lake is a popular destination even during the winter months. It's a favorite to skiers and snowshoe'rs alike. Crater Lake has something for everyone, even during the off season. Even though you are not able to drive around the lake as you could during the summer, you can still see breathtaking views of the Caldera. You will never forget the beautiful blue color of the lake once you see it for the very first time. 

Buddipole Vertical (20 Meters)
 I have to admit I was a bit unprepared for my activation. I needed to familiarize myself once again with my Yaesu FT-857D. I also had just purchased a new laptop, so I had not completely finished getting it set up with software, etc. And I can honestly say that it had been a long time since I used my contest program, Win-test. And of course, my CW was a bit rusty and trying to pick out a call in a small pileup without headphones was a bit challenging. Sending Morse Code with the key in my lap was not the best place either. But, thankfully those who called appeared patient and I was able to make 57 contacts with fellow ham radio operators across the country. Earth shattering operation? No! But, since I'd never operated from the Rim, I did not know what to expect in the way of propagation. I had operated from the housing area previously but being surrounded by mountains, propagation was very challenging at that location. But for my parking lot spot, I found it worked very well and I will probably utilize that location again. I have full intentions of operating in several different locations throughout the rest of the year, so this was a successful first attempt. 

Historic Rim Village - View From My Truck
The weather, propagation and equipment, all played a vital role in my first successful operation at Crater Lake National Park. I was not the first person to activate NP13, but I'll be here all year activating as time permits. I did not video any of my actual operation (even though I had my GoPro camera with me) but I will make sure that I do video any future activation's. I did however video my trip to Crater Lake and a bit of my departure. I've since uploaded that to my YouTube channel and it's available for viewing. The video documents (shows proof) of my activation and shares a bit of my portable station setup and what Crater Lake looked like on February 7th, 2016.

Any of my future activation's will be better planned and I'll be a bit more prepared. It's important to make a dry run with your equipment to make sure all is working correctly. Thankfully, Murphy did not follow me to the Rim and even though I had some minor technical issues, all went well. This operation was only Morse Code and on 20 meters, but I'll work more bands and modes in the future. I have to say, it's been fun reading the ARRL National Parks On The Air Facebook page and all the stories that other hams are sharing of their activation's. What a great idea for an event from the ARRL. Again, what better way to celebrate than to promote not only ham radio, but getting out and Finding Your Park!  


  1. Hi Phil, I enjoyed the video. Great views in your part of the country. And wow, what a snow. Nice activation I can see you enjoyed it a lot. 73, Bas

  2. Thanks, Bas!!! I'm looking forward to several more. If I had a mobile set up permanently in my truck, I'd probably take a lunch break every day and operate. I hope all is well on that side of the pond. Thanks for commenting my friend! 72/73!