My wife corrected me, “it’s not a hobby Paul, its a passion!”. She’s right it is a passion and one I’m enjoying immensely. The ARRL NPOTA program has “encouraged” me to get out and about in a way I almost never would have done without it. Kudos to the ARRL, the US Amateur Radio Relay League for organizing this. Participation is impressive with around 650 activators (people like myself who setup shop (a radio station) in a park entity) and the 7,500 chasers who want to communicate over radio waves with us/me. The propagation gods, who are in charge of everything to do with effective and ineffective communication, have been at times very supportive and others extremely fickle but then that is part of the fun. Gods aside the real science of HF propagation hinges entirely on the behavior of our favorite local star, the Sun. While many fret about the Sun’s impact on global warming, amateurs fret about sunspots and other esoteric galactic issues. It can be very stressful being an amateur.
Once upon a time I was a software engineer (aka programmer) and once a programmer, always a programmer and with that I felt very comfortable learning, refreshing, hacking and butchering my Python scripting skills in a quest to understand what the first 4 months of NPOTA look like for me. I’m quick to admit that while having been a licensed HAM (aka amateur radio) operator for 17+ years I had my first voice HF (long distance, as in hundreds of miles) 9 months ago and so all in all I am a neophyte. NPOTA has been a wonderful accelerator for me toward whatever goals I can articulate beyond having fun.
The basic stats;
41 activation “credits” having done about 35+ activations (you can get more than one credit if entities overlap (for example Fort Point (a Civil War era building in SF) is within another entity, the Golden Gate Recreation Entity) since Jan 1st 2016
17 unique NPS entities activated from the world recognizable Death Valley NP to the obscure Castle Mountain National Monument
2,400 separate two way communications (QSOs) between myself (an activator) and a chaser
1,700 of the above QSOs confirmed in the “official” repository (The ARRL, Log Book of The World).
737 unique chasers within the 2,400 QSOs and
- 51% were one time contacts (as in only one contact out of my 2,400)
- 19% had 2 contacts
- 11% had 3 contacts
- 5.5% had 4 contacts
- 2% had 10 contacts or more
Worked All States (WAS) award achieved within San Francisco entities using a portable station and 95% were 12 or 15 watt voice (SSB) connections.
9 SOTA activations from within NPOTA entities. All fun, all great and possibly the most “expedition like” was first time activation of White Top Mountain in Death Valley.
3 watt SSB connection with MW0ZZK in Wales, UK on 17m which is roughly 5,500 miles from San Francisco Maritime Park
12 watt SSB connection with JH1RFZ in Tokyo, Japan using 15m from Joshua Tree National Park for about the same distance to UK
Discovered a rare and hitherto unknown cactus that some suggested I should have used as an antenna
Operated all the way from a magnetic loop to an antenna strapped to my Jeep and plans to go bigger!!
Acquired far too many NPS mugs….
Miles driven….lots, probably greater than 4,000 miles with a few hundred off road and on dirt roads in my trusty Rubicon Jeep
Created some “old school” QSL cards used to confirm a two way communication with another Ham. In NPOTA, physical QSL cards have been replaced by LoTW
I’ve had a blast and learnt a lot.
Onwards and upwards!!
73 de W6PNG
Do those NPS cups accoount for the pleasant Brit accent? de K0BJ