by William Eric McFadden

From the Blennerhassett Island State Park website:

Located on a small island in the Ohio River, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park features a Palladian mansion on the island and museum of regional history located in Parkersburg. This unique state park is visited by 40,000 people each year. This historical park is accessed by a sternwheeler riverboat from Point Park on 2nd Street in Parkersburg. Once on the island, visitors may enjoy tours of the grounds and mansion and horse-drawn carriage rides. Tours are offered when the park is open, from May through the last weekend of October.

From the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail website:

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail winds nearly 4,900 miles through the homelands of more than 60 Tribal nations. It follows the historic outbound and inbound routes of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-1806 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to the Pacific Ocean.



On Sunday, July 30, 2023, one member of the Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team performed successful simultaneous bicycle-portable activations of Blennerhassett Island State Park and Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail in West Virginia as part of the Parks on the Air (POTA; link) program while participating in the Adventure Radio Society's Flight of the Bumblebees field event as Bumblebee #42.

Eric McFadden, WD8RIF, performed his operation at the ruins of Neale House on Blennerhassett Island. Eric was accompanied by his wife, Vickie, and their two small dogs, Theo and Ginny.

Eric, Vickie, and the dogs arrived in Parkersburg in plenty of time to buy round-trip tickets to Blennerhassett Island on the Island Belle sternwheeler, and prepare Eric's bicycle and the dog trailer, before meeting the Belle at Point Park for the noon departure to Blennerhassett Island.

The Belle arrived at Blennerhassett Island at about 12:20 pm and the passengers, both human and canine, disembarked. While Vickie bought herself tickets and toured the Blennerhassett Mansion, Eric loaded Theo and Ginny into bicycle dog-trailer and began his short ride to the ruins of Neale House. Unfortunately, Eric made his departure at exactly the wrong time, and ended up being stuck behind one of the park's horse-drawn wagons as it slowly made its way up the road at 3 mph, with absolutely no opportunity to pass. No matter—the slow pace gave Eric time to pause take in the sights and make photographs, and it gave Theo and Ginny time to bark at the horses.

Eric and the dogs arrived at the ruins of Neale House at about 12:45 pm and, with ample shade and a well-placed picnic table, it turned out to be an even better location for field radio than Eric had had any reason to hope. Eric walked the dogs, then secured them and began setting up his station for Flight of the Bumblebees. Eric bungied his Goture Red Fox Super Hard 720 carbon-fiber mast vertically to his bicycle; sloped his Tufteln (link) 35' EFRW antenna up to top the mast; and deployed two 17' counterpoise wires, using the Tufteln Antenna Counterpoise Add-On Kit, directly on the ground. (Eric would have deployed three counterpoise wires had there been any way to do so without the third one becoming tangled up by the dogs.) Placing his Elecraft KX2 on the nicely shaded picnic table adjacent to the ruins of Neale House, Eric was on the air at 1708 UTC, only eight minutes after the start of the event.

As Eric had hoped, he had good cell-signal at this location on Blennerhassett Island and, if necessary, he would be able able to spot himself on POTA Spots (link) and to use POTA Spots to identify possible park-to-park (P2P) QSO opportunities.

With there being over 100 Bumblebees registered within Flight of the Bumblebees, Eric planned to perform his operation as a straight contest operation and easily be able to make the ten QSOs required to validate his Parks on the Air two-fer activation of Blennerhassett Island State Park (K-1803) and Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (K-4572) without having to resort to spotting himself to POTA spots. Since spotting is not allowed in Flight of the Bumblebees, if he were forced to have to spot himself in order to get his ten QSOs to validate his POTA activations, Eric would not count any of the QSOs made after he was spotted toward his Flight of the Bumblebees score.

Eric had been warned by his friend K8RAT that HF conditions were very poor due to an ongoing proton storm. Undeterred, Eric began his operation on 20m by searching for Flight of the Bumblebees participants calling CQ and, despite rapid and deep signal fading, he managed to work three station in about five minutes. Finding himself a frequency to run, Eric managed to make another four QSOs before band conditions briefly improved to reveal that there were at least three other stations running the same frequency.

Hoping 15m might be more stable, Eric switched to that band and succeeded in hearing and working one Bumblebee.

Returning to 20m, Eric managed to make five more QSOs, in a mix of hunting and running a frequency.

In all, Eric made thirteen QSOs in not quite an hour of on-air time. All of the QSOs were with other participants in Flight of the Bumblebees, and all were CW and were made with five watts output.

Time Band Station Exchange
1710 20m N0SS MO BB#23
1713 20m W4MPS NC 5W
1714 20m AD0YM MO BB#32
1717 20m W3PD PA 5W
1719 20m W0ITT MO BB#90
1723 20m K4UWG FL BB#49
1725 20m K2SQS NJ 5W
1737 15m AG7TX NV BB#35; POTA K-4391 + K-3389
1744 20m KG8YT MI BB#84
1747 20m KC3MIO PA BB#96
1754 20m VA3SIE ON BB#111
1755 20m K4BAI GA 5W
1803 20m NX1K MA BB#37

After tearing down the station, Eric and the dogs explored the group camping area immediately behind Neale House before loading up the bicycle and trailer and completing the short ride on the loop road back to the boat landing.

Back at the landing, Eric found his wife and together they enjoyed a bit of food from the snack bar and toured the gift shop before boarding the Island Belle for the 3:30 pm departure back to Point Park.

Back at Point Park, Eric loaded the dogs back into the trailer and, before returning to the car, did a short bike ride on the bikeway that parallels the Ohio River.

For Flight of the Bumblebees, Eric calculated his score as follows:

QSOs on 20m: 12
QSOs on 15m:  1
QSOs, total: 13
Bumblebees:   9
Bumblebees Multiplier: 9*3=27
Score: 13*27=351 points

Eric submitted his log to POTA for successful activations of Blennerhassett Island State Park (K-1803) and Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (K-4572). Eric also submitted his log to the World Wide Flora and Fauna in Amateur Radio (WWFF; link) program for Blennerhassett Island State Park, KFF-1803.

UPDATE: The official Flight of the Bumblebees results are available: 2023 ARS Flight of the Bumble Bees Tally.