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This trip to Victoria had seen less radio activity than normal but come Friday I had good weather and a choice of a number of parks which I hadn’t activated before in the Parks on the air program. Before leaving on vacation, I queried the local Parks group and a chap suggested the East Sooke Park as being a great spot and easy access. There are several access points and he suggested the South-east area where there are some open fields and covered tables. I had visited the park once before when activating Mt Maguire for summits-on-the-air but that was on the north side and had no open areas. The suggested spot sounded ideal and so I decided to head for that location.
I left the room around 10:15 arriving in the park’s parking lot about an hour later. Traffic was light but the distance was deceiving when looking at the map. It was a pleasant drive though and soon I was at the park gate reading the warning signs about the lot being small. Though less than half full, it had more cars than I was expecting. I picked an open stall near the end where the pathway is I would be following. After a brief walk-around and photos, I loaded my gear into the cart and made my way along the walkway. It was about 300m to the tables. I gathered a few more photos of the open areas as I made my way.
Once at the tables I selected the one at the far end and then set about deciding the location for my OCF dipole. The orientation of the shelter was exactly what I wanted for my antenna so I just moved to its side and set up parallel to it. Once up I went to check the bands. It was then that I realized I eft my cell phone in the car. The area was not busy with people so I decided to just walk back and get it. The phone was likely the most attractive thing in the car to invite a break-in so getting it was important and I also needed it to spot myself on the POTA site.
Having retrieved the phone, I completed setting up my gear and turned back to the phone to check the web. No cell reception! The weak cell coverage I had just before entering the park was gone and I had none at this spot. That may be a concern but the upper bands had looked good before I left so I assumed if I stayed on 15m near another station I would be found. I dialed in the 15m band and quickly came across a strong station from the Canary Islands. I called back and he responded, I now had my first contact it was 12:07 local. The band was clear a few KC’s up and I was sure this guy would attract attention so I started calling. A few minutes later I had my first POTA contact. The chap mentioned that he noticed that I wasn’t listed. I explained the lack of cell and so he spotted me.
I was now spotted and sure enough, a few minutes later the hunters found me and I had a good stream of responses for the next hour. It was going really well with the low noise floor; I was picking out most stations that called though I do think I missed a couple very weak ones. After an hour of operating a chap came by and started asking about my set up. He had been a radio operator for work and knew a fair bit about my set up I encouraged him to get his amateur license which he didn’t seem to know he needed. Hopefully he will pursue it with the local club like I suggested. Back to the radio, I was sure I missed a few while talking with him as I noticed my repeat calling function has been active and there was a station waiting when I put on my headset! – Sorry guys if I missed you.
I called for another 5 minutes but I decided it had slowed down and I was getting tired. I felt I could finish off with a bit of park-to-park hunting, and so I dialed across the 15m band looking for another activator. I found one just up from me and worked him. Then I moved to the 10m band to try and do a bit more hunting before packing up. I found another activator in Michigan and worked him. Then I heard a few CQ’s from non-POTA stations and managed to work a few more 10m contacts. It was now 1:35 and I felt I had had enough for the day having made 57 contacts. A good run and lots of activity over the hour and half. Before packing I decided to gather some photos. It was a short distance to the beach and there were few people around so I decided to just leave the station set up while I wandered to the beach.
The walk to the beach followed a couple of switch-backs as it descended to the water. On the beach I saw a few families with their kids playing on a rope swing. The water looked pleasant though cold. A number of birds were sitting on logs and rocks and a fair number were circling out a distance from the shore. An idyllic few moments of enjoying nature before heading back. I gathered a number of scenery photos and then made my way back to the tables. Packing up went quickly and soon I was pulling the cart back to my car. The drive back went smoothly though as I passed the road to the Mt Matheson summit, I had some urges to drive up and do a quick SOTA activation. I guess my stomach won the day as I was getting a bit hungry and so I continued along to my room where I had some snacks available.
Once back to my room I checked my log and the activations for the park. I saw that I had managed to become the park leader with my 57 contacts though I am sure it will be short lived. The location is very nice for POTA though the parking lot could fill up quickly in finer weather or when a bird migratory event was under way. The lack of cell coverage could be an issue under poorer band conditions. Overall, a very pleasant location and time in the park. I recommend the location not just for POTA but also for scenery and hiking.