Monday, October 10, 2016

National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) NM12 Jefferson Expansion National Memorial (STL Arch) Activation

On Oct 8th, myself, Scot (ND9E/0), Chris (WX5CW) and Sterling (N0SSC) activated the St. Louis Gateway Arch.  It was my 2nd activation of the arch with Scott, the first was back in April 2016.  Go check out my blog post & YouTube video back in April for that activation report.

Our permit started at 7am, as I was there a little before.  We arrived on site and wheeled everything to the south end of the Gateway Mall.  We were not able to drive a car on to the concrete area because the ballards were not able to be lowered, so we had to cart all of our equipment.

The setup was basically the same we had in April except for the push up mast we used to deploy the dipole antenna.  The military push up tripod mast I bought at Dayton as been busy this radio season.  I've used it during Field Day, Grant House NPOTA and this Arch NPOTA.  That was a great purchase.  We pulled some construction barrier around our area so the public would not walk into our space and setup the usual table, canopy and equipment.  Our radios ran on battery and solar provided by Scott.

It was a beautiful day, as the weather was perfect.  The high was in the mid 70's with very mild wind.  If you stood in the sun, it was a little warm with jeans and a long sleeve shirt on, but in the shade it was nice.

We had lots of visitors, asking which way to the arch that is.  It's amazing how many people miss the signs on how to get to the arch.  Makes me wonder how all those clueless people got around the other 362 days of the year we didn't activate the arch?!?  

Before today, the Arch (NM12) had been activated 9 times for a total of 583 contacts, so it is pretty rare.  Compare that to the top activation of the Lewis & Clark trail at 273 activations at 12,700 contacts.

Chris (WX5CW) was first up on 20m running CW.  I believe the arch had only been activated a few times with CW, so I knew he was going to have the pileup, and he did.  He worked 68 stations in about 2 hours.

As Chris was working CW, we tried to setup my Alpha vertical on 40m nearby.  Scott (ND9E/0) threw out his call but didn't make many contacts even after we spotted him.  That Alpha vertical works great on digital, so-so on SSB.

Someone snapped a picture from the top of the arch during our activation.  Can you spot us in the picture below?  I'll give you a hit.  Look for the top of a canopy and some orange construction fence.

Next up was Sterling (N0SSC) on SSB 20m.  He got the prize for the most contacts, and the MVP, as we switched out computers half way through his run.  He had to log a few QSO's on paper, had a few on Chris' computer and the rest on my laptop.  Now he's going to have to combine 3 logs together before uploading to LotW.  Sterling ran 20m phone for close to 1.5 hours racking up 115 contacts before going QRT.  Sterling made a lot of contacts on each of the coasts, as I heard CA and NY in there several times.  Band conditions on 20m were good for the first part of the day, which lead to some really large pileups.

Next up was Scott (ND9E/0) on 40m.  We had enough badgering on the NPOTA Facebook page on "when are you going to 40?", "Need you on 40m STAT!".  I love those demands!  We lowered the 20m dipole and raised the 40m dipole.  The top of the mast was only 20ft off the ground.  Our 40m dipole ends were maybe three foot off the ground on the ends, so it really was a tall NVIS antenna, but we picked up some distant stations.

Scott worked 59 stations on SSB for about an hour.  Conditions where good on 40, but the band was full of noise as the PA and AZ QSO parties where all over the band, therefore getting a clear frequency was tough.

About 2pm I finally got on the mic and started calling CQ, but the bands were slowing moving south and propagation was not good.  I made 11 contacts total.  I think 4 of them were from running, the rest were from S&P.  It's ok that I didn't get a run in, as I was tired from setting up and being in the sun/outdoors all day.

It was a very successful activation and I'm glad we boosted the contacts by 50% from the previous numbers.  Great weather and great operators made it even more enjoyable.

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