Tales from Michigan’s State Parks

My friends Tom, W8TAM, and Julie, K8VOX, are the top Michigan State Parks on the Air (MSPOTA) activators. Here’s their account of a recent series of activations. I hope that if you hear them on the air, you’ll give them a shout…..Dan

We recently had an epic Michigan State Parks on the Air run and activated 10 parks in 6 days!  Bands were rough during this time, but running 100 W and a good antenna allowed us to make every activation qualify (at least 10 QSOs per park).  The trip was multi-purpose for us.  Radiosport, camping and exploring more of our great state!

Our gear included:

  • Yaesu FT-450D
  • MFJ-949e or Johnson Matchbox
  • 84’ Wire vertical w/ 9:1 unun or 80M doublet fed with 300ohm twin lead
  • 40’ (12 meter) Spiderbeam mast
  • Hitch mounted flagpole holder
  • 2 40AH LiFePo4 batteries
  • nanoKeyer and American Morse Porta-paddle

Wilson State Park MSP323/KFF1557

We arrived late and set up camp in this nice little park with lots of trees and a beach on Budd Lake.  It’s pretty close to the road, but the noise did die down considerably at night.  We had many shady spots to choose from to hang our hammocks, and chose one that had clearance for the vertical antenna.  We went on the air the next morning and managed 46 QSOs in about an hour.

South Higgins Lake State Park MSP319/KFF1541
It was about an hour drive to the second largest park in the state, and we activated from the upper parking lot area.  This is a very busy park, but we were there on a weekday and had the lot to ourselves.  Using the inverted V we operated for a short time, getting a total of 33 QSOs before we called it due to the heat and sun!  Our Prius V is notoriously RF noisy, so we are unable to run the A/C when we operate portable from the car.

Fisherman’s Island State Park MSP202/KFF1497
We stayed here overnight, in one of the last spots available adjacent to the lake.  We arrived in time to set up camp and get a fire going, but some rain showers kept us from activating that evening.  We operated in the morning, just barely making our activation at 22 QSOs due to the bands being bad, but were able to roll out the solar panels to recharge our LiFePo battery packs.  We lost track of time and were a few minutes late getting out of the spot, and new campers were already cruising in looking to set up!

Burt Lake State Park MSP302/KFF1490
We set up the vertical in the day use parking lot area of this very family friendly park.  27 QSOs in the log here before we packed up to head north across the bridge.  We had a great time chatting with the ranger on our way out of the park, he had driven by during our activation and knew all about MSPOTA!

We then spent an evening at Tahquamenon Falls Rivermouth campground, but did not activate this park due to time constraints.  It’s near our annual July vacation spot, so we knew we’d be back here soon and we’d activate it then.  Off to the LARS Hamfest Saturday morning to check in with our radio friends in the Newberry area, along with an afternoon of touring around and restocking the cooler.

Muskallonge State Park MSP115/KFF1524
We stopped to see about activating here, and were so charmed by the people and the place we decided to stay the night here. T-Mobile has virtually no service above the 45th parallel, so we were thrilled to find out this park has wi-fi at the HQ!  But by the time we got our hammocks hung and showers taken and the dog fed and walked – the wind started up pretty brisk from the southeast.  By dinnertime it was gusting to 40-45mpg, and it continued until 2 a.m.  We had a late morning activation that netted us 32 qsos.

As we were headed back downstate, a storm came directly over us.  We were only 30 miles from the Mackinaw Bridge on US-2 when we had to pull off the road due to hail and rain.  Thom was able to get us checked into the Skywarn net out of Petoskey (W8GQN repeater) to report our conditions.  It was over pretty quickly but the bridge was now closed due to a camper trailer being flipped over.  We headed back north to avoid the miles of cars waiting to cross and took back roads over to the eastern side of St Ignace and took in foggy views of the Mighty Mac.

Straits State Park MSP118/KFF1543
Waiting for the bridge to open, we decided to throw an antenna up at Straits!   We set up in the unused Organizational Campground with plenty of room for the inverted V.   This is where we experienced some fun short skip on 20m to locations in Michigan.  From North Central Lower Penninsula and down to metro Detroit.   We managed 86 QSOs during this short activation, the most action so far this trip!  It helped that it was ~6p EDT on a Sunday evening.

Father Marquette Memorial Scenic Site MSS106/KFF3308
Back to our very first NPOTA activation site, some of you may remember as AA07!  The day use areas of all state parks close at 10p so we had to work quick, we had just over an hour to set up and take down, but we put 70 QSOs in the log here!  This spot is not busy at all, and only had one visitor – a Honda that caused all kinds of RF interference.  The weather forecast called for more rain, and we stayed in the Upper Pinninsula longer than expected, so we overnighted at the Voyagers Inn in St. Ignace, it was clean, inexpensive and most important – dog friendly.

Hoeft State Park MSP307/KFF1506

Heading down US-23 on the Sunrise Side of the state, our first stop was this beautiful park that was one of the first in the state.  There are many unique campsites and it is close to the lake.  They have a very small day use parking lot where we set up the vertical.  We were able to put 29 Qs in the log here before setting out for our next stop.

Rockport Recreation Area MRA316/KFF3326

This is definitely one of the most unique spots we’ve seen.  The water was blue like a tropical lagoon!  This Freep article does a great job introducing what they call Michigan’s Strangest Park.  We struggled to get 24 QSOs in the log here, with a very high static level on 40m.  We were directly across from the old deep water pier and its possible we were experiencing the rusty bolt effect.  This property was also once owned by DTE so there could have been high power lines that we were not aware of.   A fascinating location and if you want to learn more friendsofrockport.org is a great resource.  We already have plans to go back with our kayaks!

Harrisville State Park MSP305/KFF1501

We ended our last day of activating at this popular park on Lake Huron.  There are many spots along the beach that appear to get booked solid through the summer.  A very modern bath house and toilet facility is centrally located just steps from the sparkling beach.  Biking is very popular here, with rentals available.   We chose a spot away from other campers so we could do a late shift activation and finished with 70 QSOs.  I had a thrilling pileup on 20m that reminded me of activating a national park.

Just as we were headed to bed, one last listen to NOAA indicated that strong storms with possible damaging wind and hail were enroute.  I was able to see it on the radar (a good reason to burn up some roaming data) so we quickly took down the mast and the hammocks and started the four-hour drive home near midnight.

Trip total – 444 QSOS!  All but two of them were SSB, and all on 20/40 with some good DX to Finland, Sweden, France, Italy, Guatemala & Belgium.  This was our first attempt at a multi-day, multi-park activation run.  It was exciting and exhausting.  We had chasers that followed us through the entire trip, and we can’t thank them enough for their friendship and spotting assistance.  

If you’d like to join in the radiosport fun or just follow along, join the MSPOTA & POTA Facebook groups!

73 & Safe Travels, Julie K8VOX & Thom W8TAM


The post Tales from Michigan’s State Parks appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

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