by William Eric McFadden

From the Carter Caves State Park website:

The Carter County region has the highest concentration of caves in Kentucky. Enjoy a subterranean adventure, created by nature over millions of years.



On Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25, 2023, one member of the Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team performed two successful activations of Carter Caves State Park (K-1276) in Kentucky as part of the Parks on the Air (POTA; link) program while participating in ARRL Field Day.

Eric McFadden, WD8RIF; his wife Vickie; and their two small dogs were to spend Friday and Saturday nights in the Lewis Caveland Lodge at Carter Caves State Resort Park before continuing west to Lexington for the annual McFadden Family Reunion on Sunday. While staying at the park, Eric participated in Field Day in class "1B KY" and performed two activations of Carter Caves State Park.

Exploring Carter Caves State Park:

On Saturday morning, Eric and Vickie enjoyed a tour of the fascinating Cascade Cave, one of the "commercialized" caves within the park that features lighting and mobility-enhancements.

Saturday (UTC); POTA activation #1

Eric's station Field Day began at 1800 UTC on Saturday, June 24. Eric's plan was to deploy his station on their lodge room's balcony so that he could operate on Saturday UTC and again a few hours later on Sunday UTC without needing to travel. Toward that end, he deployed his Elecraft KX3 and logging laptop on a folding table on the balcony. This was to be the first time Eric had ever participated in Field Day or performed a parks activation from a lodge room.

Initially, Eric thought Field Day would be the perfect test for his small and easy-to-deploy Elecraft AX1 antenna; after all, during Field Day weekend there were sure to be so many stations on the air it would be a cinch to make the ten QSOs required to validate his POTA activation, right? Eric was on the air with the KX3 and AX1 shortly after 1830 UTC Saturday.

Eric began his operation on 20m and quickly discovered that were essentially no signals at all to be heard on that band. Reconfiguring his AX1 antenna for 40m, Eric heard a few signals on that band but none were strong enough for him to try to work. It quickly became very apparent that the Earth's dayside was experiencing radio blackout conditions from solar flares or a CME.

Not yet wanting to give up, and confident he could make the required ten QSOs for a valid POTA activation even during a radio blackout, Eric swapped out the AX1 antenna for his tried-and-true 28½' wire vertical, running the wire up from the KX3 to a pipe below the ceiling, and then dropping the remainder of the wire over the balcony railing—the balcony was about 20' above the ground, and there were no rooms below this one, so the there was little chance of anyone coming into contact with the antenna— and laid out two 17' counterpoise wires on the balcony.

With the larger antenna, Eric could hear more stations and began working Field Day stations, hunt-and-pounce style. His first QSO came at 1854 UTC with W0BM, 1A MN. Eric continued the slog for about an hour, and finished this first part of his Field Day operation, and his first POTA activation of Carter Caves State Park, with sixteen QSOs on 20m and one QSO on 40m. Eric later told a friend that the conditions he experienced during this hour were the worst conditions he had ever experienced during Field Day.

Freq  Md Date       Time MyCall        Exch       Call          Exch              Pt 
14002 CW 2023-06-24 1854 WD8RIF        1B     KY  W0BM          1A   MN             2
14005 CW 2023-06-24 1855 WD8RIF        1B     KY  N4OX          1E   NFL            2
14034 CW 2023-06-24 1906 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K7SS          1D   WWA            2
14019 CW 2023-06-24 1912 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K1IMI         1E   ME             2
14027 CW 2023-06-24 1913 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K7LED         6A   WWA            2
14006 CW 2023-06-24 1915 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K5RM          2D   AR             2
14039 CW 2023-06-24 1918 WD8RIF        1B     KY  W8TK          2E   AZ             2
14042 CW 2023-06-24 1921 WD8RIF        1B     KY  W7SW          1D   AZ             2
14046 CW 2023-06-24 1922 WD8RIF        1B     KY  W0CET         2F   KS             2
14057 CW 2023-06-24 1923 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K5M           6A   LA             2
14016 CW 2023-06-24 1927 WD8RIF        1B     KY  N5YA          2D   STX            2
14021 CW 2023-06-24 1929 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K5PN          2A   MS             2
 7039 CW 2023-06-24 1936 WD8RIF        1B     KY  N4ZZ          1D   TN             2
14031 CW 2023-06-24 1939 WD8RIF        1B     KY  KD5C          3A   WTX            2
14034 CW 2023-06-24 1942 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K4PV          1D   NFL            2
14056 CW 2023-06-24 1949 WD8RIF        1B     KY  W0AA          3A   MN             2
14064 CW 2023-06-24 1951 WD8RIF        1B     KY  N5CXX         2D   NTX            2

Sunday (UTC); POTA activation #2

Eric's station Later that evening, after exploring the state park and the nearby town of Olive Hill, and after enjoying the dinner buffet at Tierney's Cavern Restaurant in the lodge, Eric returned to his station on the balcony for what was to be his second of two POTA activations of Carter Caves State Park. After re-arranging his station a bit by changing the way his 28½' wire vertical was hanging and by deploying three counterpoise wires instead of the previous two, Eric began hunting on 40m and his first QSO in this phase of his operation came at 0009 UTC Sunday with K8RYU, 1B OH. Band conditions had markedly improved, and it was easier to make QSOs this time around. Eric hunted for about an hour and finished this second part of his Field Day operation, and his second POTA activation of Carter Caves State Park, with twenty QSOs, all on 40m.

Freq  Md Date       Time MyCall        Exch       Call          Exch              Pt 
 7005 CW 2023-06-25 0009 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K8RYU         1B   OH             2
 7007 CW 2023-06-25 0010 WD8RIF        1B     KY  N8KD          1E   KY             2
 7015 CW 2023-06-25 0018 WD8RIF        1B     KY  NN3SI         3A   MDC            2
 7016 CW 2023-06-25 0020 WD8RIF        1B     KY  W4EZ          5D   NC             2
 7021 CW 2023-06-25 0023 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K3II          2A   EPA            2
 7022 CW 2023-06-25 0025 WD8RIF        1B     KY  KE8G          1D   OH             2
 7022 CW 2023-06-25 0025 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K4QS          1D   VA             2
 7023 CW 2023-06-25 0026 WD8RIF        1B     KY  W9SU          4A   IN             2
 7024 CW 2023-06-25 0030 WD8RIF        1B     KY  W2SO          5A   WNY            2
 7025 CW 2023-06-25 0035 WD8RIF        1B     KY  N4CRC         4A   GA             2
 7065 CW 2023-06-25 0039 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K3MJW         4E   WPA            2
 7062 CW 2023-06-25 0041 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K8EEN         4A   OH             2
 7045 CW 2023-06-25 0048 WD8RIF        1B     KY  KY4KY         2F   KY             2
 7044 CW 2023-06-25 0050 WD8RIF        1B     KY  W4NNK         2F   VA             2
 7044 CW 2023-06-25 0054 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K3WU          1E   EPA            2
 7043 CW 2023-06-25 0055 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K4TS          8A   VA             2
 7042 CW 2023-06-25 0057 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K4OO          2A   NC             2
 7037 CW 2023-06-25 0058 WD8RIF        1B     KY  K8NQW         2A   OH             2
 7037 CW 2023-06-25 0100 WD8RIF        1B     KY  N3IC          3A   MDC            2
 7036 CW 2023-06-25 0101 WD8RIF        1B     KY  N8BC          5A   OH             2

All of Eric's QSOs at Carter Caves State Park were CW and were made at five watts output.

At this point, Eric's Field Day QSO count was thirty-seven QSOs in about two hours of on-air time. Eric's plan was to do one more Field Day session and a POTA activation of Daniel Boone Natural Forest (K-4484) on Sunday morning (local-time) during the drive from Carter Caves State Park to Lexington for the reunion.

Eric also submitted his log to the World Wide Flora and Fauna in Amateur Radio (WWFF; link) program for his operations of Carter Caves State Park, KFF-1276.