by William Eric McFadden

From the nature preserve's website:

Rockbridge's natural arch or bridge is more than 100 feet long and 10 to 20 feet wide, and gracefully arches 50 feet across a ravine. It is considered the largest natural bridge in Ohio.



Eric's FT-817ND/Z11 station On Saturday, February 11, 2023, two members of the Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team performed a successful activation of Rockbridge State Nature Preserve in Ohio as part of the Parks on the Air (POTA; link) program.

Eric McFadden, WD8RIF, and Miles McFadden, KD8KNC, stopped at Rockbridge State Nature Preserve while on the way home from Columbus, arriving at the nature preserve at about 1940 UTC. They were accompanied by little dog Theo. Eric and Miles set up the 28½' wire vertical on a Jackite 31' telescoping fiberglass mast and drive-on mount. Because of the cool temperature, Eric chose to operate inside the car and he set up his Yaesu FT-817ND and LDG Z11 on the passenger-side dashboard. Eric was on the air at 1948 UTC.

Eric's station As at his previous activations of this park, Eric had good cell-signal at this location. However, he was greatly disappointed to find that his new smartphone had no connection to the internet, so he would be unable able to spot himself on POTA Spots (link) or to use POTA Spots to identify possible park-to-park (P2P) QSO opportunities. (Eric suspects his phone's recent update to Android 12 somehow broke his mobile-data connection and anticipates an hour-long call with TracFone Tech Support in India to fix the issue.) Fortunately, Eric had previously announced his activation on POTA Spots so that auto-spotting via the Reverse Beacon Network should spot him once he started calling CQ. Also, since his phone did work properly, Miles was able to use his phone to verify Eric's spots on POTA Spots and to identify possible P2P QSOs.

Eric operating With direction provided by Miles, Eric began his operation by looking for P2P QSO opportunities and at 1949 UTC he made a P2P QSO on 10m with KL7AC who was activating Salcha River State Recreation Area (K-7238) in Alaska. This was followed at 1957 UTC by a P2P QSO on 20m with N5ILQ who was activating American Horse State Fishing Lake (K-7685) in Oklahoma.

Since the Solar Flux Index had risen above 200, Eric chose to begin running on 15m. Finding himself a frequency, he began calling CQ and was pretty quickly auto-spotted on POTA Spots. Unfortunately, several minutes of calling failed to produce a single QSO.

A view of Rockbridge State Nature Preserve Changing to 20m, Eric found himself a frequency to run, began calling CQ, and was quickly auto-spotted on POTA Spots. Eric's first QSO in this run came at 1957 UTC and was a P2P QSO with W8EO who was activating John D. MacArthur Beach State Park (K-1884) in Florida. QSOs came very quickly, with Eric's thirtieth QSO in this run coming at 2032 UTC with W0GIB in Minnesota. This run included a QSO with EA1FIC in Spain, a QSO with IK2ODD in Italy, and QSOs with operators located in Florida (4), Texas (3), South Dakota, Wisconsin (3), Massachusetts (2), New York (2), Arkansas (2), Tennessee (2), Louisiana, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina (2), Arizona, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.

In all, Eric made thirty-two QSOs, including three P2P QSOs, in forty-four minutes of on-air time. All of Eric's QSOs were CW and were made with five watts output.

Eric was pleased with how well the FT-817ND/Z11 combination worked although he was a bit disappointed that the best match the Z11 could find for the 28½' wire vertical on 20m was about 2:1. He plans to test the antenna/tuner combination on all the bands to see how well the Z11 can do.

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