by William Eric McFadden

From the Cowan Lake State Park website:

Cowan Lake State Park offers a peaceful lake setting complete with scenic inlets and wooded shoreline. Swimming, fishing, sailing, and kayaking are popular here. Trails wind through mature woodlands. Overnight guests can choose from deluxe family cabins or the cozy campground — all within a short walk or bike ride to the beach, nature center, and camp store.



On Sunday, May 21, 2023, three members of the Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team performed successful activations of Cowan Lake State Park (K-1943) in Ohio as part of the Parks on the Air (POTA; link) program.

Following a Friday and a Saturday spent at Hamvention (link) at Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia, Ohio, on a day with dismal-looking solar numbers, Eric McFadden, WD8RIF; Thomas Witherspoon, K4SWL; and Miles McFadden, KD8KNC, visited the dam on Cowan Lake and were joined by Charlie Brown, NJ7V (YouTube), and Vince d'Eon, VE6LK/AI7LK (website). The group arrived at the location at about 1400 UTC and quickly scouted out locations to set up three HF stations.

Eric found a shady, level spot near the parking lot, strapped his 31' Jackite telescoping fiberglass pole to his folding camp-chair, deployed his 28½' wire vertical on the pole, set up his Elecraft KX3 on the camp-chair's flip-up table, and was on the air at 1412 UTC. Eric began his operation with a lovely touch-paddle which he had unexpectedly been given as a gift from the builder, Brian Manley, K3ES.

Thomas found lovely shaded spot on the edge of the lake, threw a line over a tree branch, pulled up a 40m end-fed halfwave antenna, deployed his Elecraft KX2 on his 3D-printed folding knee-board, and was on the air about 1420 UTC.

Deciding to operate under the open hatch of his rental car, Vince deployed an end-fed wire antenna and set up his Elecraft KX3 in the trunk of the car. Vince was on the air about 1421 UTC.

While station set-up was underway, and while Eric, Thomas, and Vince operated, Charlie filmed the activity for his YouTube channel and Miles made still photos.

As they had hoped, cell-signal was good at this location and the operators would be able to spot themselves on the POTA Spots website and to use POTA Spots to identify possible Park-to-Park (P2P) QSOs. What no one had hoped for or even anticipated was the loudness of the car, truck, and motorcycle traffic on the nearby County Rd 730; it was so loud that it would, at times, be hard to hear the stations the operators were trying to work.

Eric began his operation on 20m by finding himself a frequency to run and calling "CQ POTA", and he was pleased to be auto-spotted on POTA Spots. Eric's first QSO came at 1416 UTC with K1EBY in Connecticut. This was followed at 1419 UTC by a QSO with KI5TLY in Texas.

Noticing that Thomas had begun his operation on 17m, Eric called him there at 1422 UTC for a quick P2P QSO. Then, noticing that Vince had begun his operation on 40m, Eric called him there at 1424 UTC for a second P2P QSO.

Returning to run a frequency on 20m, Eric's first QSO in this run came at 1426 UTC with Thomas for a third P2P QSO. QSOs on 20m came steadily, with Eric's fifteenth QSO in this run coming at 1447 UTC with W5OIM in Louisiana. This run included QSOs with operators located in Ohio, New York (2), Texas, Prince Edward Island in Canada, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Florida (2), Idaho, California (2), Nebraska, Maine, and Lousiana. During this run, Eric found he was making too many keying errors with the K3ES touch-paddle due to unfamiliarity and switched to his regular Whiterook MK-33 paddle. (Eric is confident he can get better with the touch-paddle through practice.)

Pausing to check POTA Spots for P2P opportunities, at 1450 UTC Eric made a P2P QSO on 40m with KD3D who was activating Allegheny National Forest (K-0619) in Pennsylvania.

Noticing that Charlie had taken over Vince's car-boot station, at 1453 UTC Eric made a quick P2P QSO with Charlie on 40m.

Finally, after again checking POTA Spots, at 1459 UTC Eric made a P2P QSO on 20m with AC4BT who was activating nearby John Bryan State Park (K-1964) in Ohio.

In all, Eric made twenty-two QSOs, including three P2P QSOs for Cowan Lake State Park and two P2P QSOs for other parks. All of Eric's QSOs were CW and were made at five watts output. Eric also submitted his log to the World Wide Flora and Fauna in Amateur Radio (WWFF; link) program.

Thomas completed his activation with ten QSOs; he has published a report about this activation: QRP POTA with Friends: Two Park Activations with VE6LK, NJ7V, WD8RIF, and KD8KNC!.

Vince completed his activation with eleven QSOs.

Charlie completed his activation with ten QSOs; he has published a video featuring this activation: POTA Park Qualification: The Struggle to Reach 10 Contacts.

Eric, Thomas, Charlie, and Vince were pleased that inter-station interference wasn't a problem so long as each took care to not operate on a band another was running. Likewise, despite the elevated solar K and A indices, none of the operators found it terribly challenging to validate their activations.

Miles did not operate but helped Eric with station set-up and tear-down and did all of the activation photography.