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It had been over a week since my last park excursion and I was feeling a bit antsy to get out. The weather had been quite unsettled and there had been a major solar storm earlier in the week which closed off the bands. Today I had a coffee meeting in the late morning in central Surrey so heading out to the north made sense if I had lunch at the coffee shop. After my lunch I continued the 20-minute drive to the park and found it quite busy but there was still over half of the lot empty. I picked a stall and parked. Next, I grabbed my camera and set out to explore the closer portion of the park.
Gates Park has very extensive ball fields that are well maintained and fenced. They even have an artificial turf field that was being used by kids from the next-door high school. Around the perimeter of the park are walking trails that follow the Coquitlam River. The walkway is well maintained and seemed to be very popular this afternoon. The weather was warm and ideal for getting outside. I wandered through the ball fields and spotted a bench in the middle that was next to an open grassy area. I then returned to the car to get my radio gear.
Once the gear was loaded into the cart I walked back through the fields and stopped at the bench I had seen earlier. There I set up my small table and proceeded to erect the mast and antenna. Soon I was ready to check out the bands. The location I had selected was alongside a main waking route and there were several people asking about my activity as they wandered past. I rechecked the band conditions and they still didn’t look great, in fact the summary had worsened now saying the 20m was poor and the higher ones were closed completely! Well, I was here so I guess I just had to try and see what I can do.
I scanned the 20m band for other park activations and though a number were listed I could not hear any well enough to contact them. I found a frequency near the top end of the band and spotted myself on the list and began calling. After a longer than normal period I heard a chap in Colorado, though weak we got the info exchanged and I was on to the second. A couple minutes later I heard another Colorado station, this one was a bit stronger. Then I heard a huge signal, this from a chap in Guildford! Just across the Fraser River! Over the next 10 minutes I worked a station in Arizona, another Colorado and one in South Carolina, but then things stopped cold. After about 20 minutes I scanned the band again for other parks but heard none. I then moved down the band and started again, after another 10 minutes I heard another very strong station. This time the chap was just up the hill from me in Coquitlam. I was his very first HF contact, he having just become a ham. I then asked him if he could try me on 2m, he said he would try. A moment later we were chatting on our handhelds, so that now gave me 8 of the 10 contacts I required to activate the park.
Another 10 minutes of calling and I heard another Colorado station, then another chap in Coquitlam. He also was able to talk to me on 2m. That was immediately followed by a Nevada station. I had been operating for an hour and only managed 12, but it was enough and I could finally relax. The day was pleasant and so I decided to keep going for awhile. I also felt it was time to try the 17m band just to see how it would do. I spotted myself and started calling but after 10 minutes I had nothing and was about to pack up when I noticed that the antenna mast had fallen over! I put it back up and decided to give 17m a proper try. I soon had a station in Texas with a decent strength, that was followed by Louisiana, and Michigan. But it was now 3pm and I felt it was time to pack up and head out into the traffic before it became worse. Things went quickly and I was soon walking across the area to the car. For the drive home the navcom had me drive along the road next to the park and unfortunately it was during the time the kids were being picked up, so the initial start of the drive was delayed by 10 minutes of slow progression. Once past the schools, things picked up and I made good time to the house arriving home at 4pm. It had been a slow day on the radio getting just 15 contacts over 90 minutes but it was a very nice time outside and I did get enough to qualify the park adventure. I sure hope the bands improve soon.