by William Eric McFadden

From the park's website:

Located in Pleasant Valley of Richland County, Ohio Malabar Farm is representative of the diversity of the glaciated Appalachian Plateau region and was the dream of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Louis Bromfield. Today, visitors can see the house and farm existing just as they did in Bromfield's time. The outbuildings and pastures still house chickens, goats and beef cattle. The hills are ribboned with strips of corn, wheat, oats and hay while the scenic trails are adorned with nature's bounty.



Two members of the Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team succeeded in performing a valid activation of Malabar Farm State Park, K-1974, in Ohio as part of the the Parks on the Air (POTA; link) program. Eric McFadden, WD8RIF, and Miles McFadden, KD8NKC, visited Malabar Farm State Park on a cold, snowy afternoon following the Mansfield Mid*Winter Hamfest. They were joined by Eric's father and Miles's grandfather, Tom McFadden, W8EOG.

After leaving the Mansfield Mid*Winter Hamfest an hour before the major door-prize drawing, the trio arrived at the picnic area at Malabar Farm State Park about fifteen minutes prior to Eric's announced on-air time of 1800 UTC. Eric and Miles quickly deployed Eric's 28½' end-fed wire as a vertical on a 31' MFJ-1910 telescoping fiberglass mast and arranged the three counterpoise wires on the ground. Because of the cold temperature and the threat of freezing rain, Eric deployed his KX3 inside the van, hanging the transceiver on the glovebox door (photo). Eric was on the air by 1808 UTC.

It being the CW weekend of the ARRL International DX Contest, Eric's plan was to begin operations on 20m and use hunt-and-pounce to work at least ten contest stations. This plan worked well and within about forty minutes Eric had made his required ten contacts, logging contacts with stations in Alaska, Aruba, The Azores, Curacao, El Salvador, France, Mexico, Scotland, and Spain. Eric switched to 40m and tuned around to find and make a part-to-park QSO with N2CX who was activating Valley Forge National Historical Park, K-0761. Eric then found a clear frequency on 40m and began calling CQ but only made one more QSO there before contest activity chased him from his frequency. Switching to 30m, Eric'c CQs resulted in four additional QSOs including one with big-time POTA Hunters KO4SB and KD1CT. After activity on 30m seemed to dry up, Eric switched to 15m and made four more DX contest QSOs, this time with stations in Aruba and Curacao. Eric finished his operation with twenty QSOs.

While Eric was running a frequency on 30m, two unusual things occurred. The first thing was the discovery that the van's battery had been completely discharged; Eric had turned the van key to the "on" position in order to be able to run his antenna wires through the van's power window and he forgot to turn the key back off. Miles used his smartphone to arrange help through Nationwide Roadside Assistance but was told the rescuer would take 109 minutes to arrive. Fortunately, just a few minutes after Miles finished with coordinating with Nationwide, a kindly passerby arrived at the otherwise deserted picnic area and was able to provide a jump-start, whereupon Miles canceled the requested Nationwide Roadside Assistance. The second strange thing was that during a short but heavy sleet-storm, Eric's KX3 suddenly exhibited very strong wideband noise and Eric received a static-electricity shock each time he touched his KX3. As soon as the sleet stopped, so did the noise and the static electricity shocks. Eric and his father were forced to conclude that the precipitation had generated a strong static electricity field that was picked up by Eric's antenna, something neither operator had experienced before. Fortunately, Eric's KX3 appeared to have survived the episode unscathed.

In addition to the enjoyment that came from sharing Parks on the Air with his father, the highlights of the operation for Eric were the park-to-park QSO with N2CX and the QSOs with K8RAT on 40m and 30m.

Eric also submitted his log to the World Wide Flora and Fauna in Amateur Radio (WWFF; link) program although his twenty QSOs were not sufficient to achieve a valid activation within the program which requires 44 QSOs be made. However, the WWFF program allows these 44 QSOs be made over any number of visits so a valid activation within WWFF is still possible if subsequent visits to the park are made.

All Eric's QSOs were made at the 5-watt level. Neither Miles nor Tom operated. Miles helped with set-up and tear-down and both he and Tom helped with activation photography.