The Activation Log is a new series that reports on my Parks on the Air (POTA) activations. These are write-ups that share additional content, thoughts, and images of portable operations that may or may not make it into a video.

Rib Mountain State Park (POTA K-1473) is located only a few miles from my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin and for the most part I feel like this should also be my ‘home park’ as it comes to Parks on the Air activations. I like to come out to this park on a regular basis and so far I’ve managed to rack up 1129 contacts over 12 activations, making me the park leader.

My latest activation at the park was on the afternoon of Thursday June 29, 2023. For much of the week we’ve been dealing with the smoke and generally poor air quality as a result of a massive series of Canadien wildfires. The air quality was so bad, the I couldn’t see the Rib Mountain hill from home, which is highly unusual. So when the weather pattern changed and the air cleared out, it was only fitting to head up to Rib Mountain and put the park on the air.


I set up at my favorite summer spot, at a picnic table located at the top of a ski run. A ski operation is run on the north side of the hill during the winter months. Hot tip: if you want to activate from this spot, and I encourage you to do so, take the first right after passing through the park entrance and proceed straight ahead instead of turning towards the amphitheater. You’ll see a gravel spot for a few cars to park. There’s usually a picnic table off to the left that’s shaded.

I like this location as it affords an awesome view of the city of Wausau, is shaded in the afternoon, and usually doesn’t have a lot of foot traffic (which is important when erecting an antenna).

I went with my vertical setup in this case, the Wolf River Coil Sporty Forty and the 213 inch whip. I use bypass wire when using the whip on bands above 40 meters and disconnect the bypass to engage the coil. For a ground network, I used the aluminum mesh window screen (36×84 inches bright aluminum) instead of ground radial wires. The stand is a base from a feather flag you commonly see in front of businesses. I have a video on my vertical antenna setup that goes step by step through my process. For transceiver, I had the FT-891 set at 50 watts phone and 20 watts digital, 20ah LiFePO4 battery, and 50 feet of RG-8x cable. Logging is done on Hamrs with my old Lenovo laptop.

Feather Flag Base:
Wolf River Coils:
MFJ-1979 whip:
Chameleon SS-17 Whip:
Jaw Mount Antenna Clamp:
SO-239 stud mount for jaw clamp:


I started out on 20 meter phone. Band conditions were ok, but not amazing. I picked up 25 contacts in about 40 minutes. I could feel things slowing down, so I switched over to 20m FT8 to break things up. There I grabbed 32 contacts in little over an hour. On a numbers standpoint, I can work a lot more stations on phone than data, but switching modes gives me a chance to relax during a longer on-air session. I then switched back to 20 meter phone and grabbed another 28 contacts in about 40 minutes.

I’m really glad I chose to use the window screen for this activation instead of laying radials all over the ground. During the course of my time there, I had no less than four sets of visitors walk through the area, including one guy huffing and puffing as he just hiked up the face of the hill. I believe the biggest benefit of using the window screen for vertical deployments is the small footprint it occupies and the reduced risk of people tripping over your antenna.

I then moved down 40 meters. during the winter months I can’t work 40m at this park because the ski lift equipment totally wipes out the band, but in the summer it is usually very quiet on 40 meters. But in the summer 40 meters brings its own challenges like higher noise and static crashes. There wasn’t any severe weather in the area, so static crashes were minimal and it was getting close to 4pm which I find that band usually starts to shape up again. I operated phone for a short time, only 10 minutes and grabbed 9 contacts. Since contacts were slowing down, I switched to 40m digital to round out the activation with 18 contacts in 30 minutes.


All in all, I spent 2 hours and 20 minutes on the air and received 112 contacts (62 phone and 50 digital) on 20 and 40 meters. 40 had static but was decent, 20 was a roller coaster with big fades with almost every transmission. The vertical antenna with the window screen tends to work very well in this park, which is good as I don’t like to string wire for a short afternoon activation.

K-1473 Rib Mountain State Park Phone Contacts – June 29, 2023

K-1473 Rib Mountain State Park Digital Contacts – June 29, 2023

If you plan on going

Rib Mountain State Park
149801 State Park Rd
Wausau, WI 54401
State Park Pass required
Park open 6:00am to 11:00pm