July, 4th, Independence Day. The day we, as Americans celebrate the signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But this was only the start of things, and it took seven long years, culminating with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, for our actual Independence. But I digress. July 4th is a convenient date in the middle of summer for a celebration.
So Chris and I decided to take a day trip somewhere fun. Somewhere scenic, and somewhere to do a Parks on the Air activation. Our choice: Mondeaux Dam located in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Taylor County. The Mondeux Dam has a few great things going for it. The location is on a lake (Mondeaux Lake) with a beach, concession stand, and two Parks on the air entities: Chequemegon-Nicolet National Forest (POTA K-4533) and the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (POTA K-4238). We’ll be able to work a two-fer.
The day was warm, with highs expected to be in the upper 80’s but there was a chance of rain later in the day. Our hope was that the rain would happen in the evening hours. So we packed a picnic lunch and drove about an hour to the lake.
We arrived shortly after 12:00 noon, and it was a good thing we got there when we did. The picnic area was mostly empty, but as I was setting up, cars starting filing into the parking area and soon all the picnic tables were occupied. We were able to snag a primo table under the trees with a beautiful view of the long slender lake.
Setup and Activation
I chose to set up the vertical antenna with the window screen ground. The beach/picnic area was going to be high traffic and I needed a small footprint. And good that I did, as no sooner did I get everything set up, people started short cutting through my area. Fortunately there were no ground wires trip over.
Cell coverage was non-existent and my plan was to start calling on the 20 meter band with the hopes that someone would spot me. As I was tuning around 20 meters, I noticed that the conditions weren’t the best- lots of deep fades and weak signals. I would listen to a spot and within a minute the band would come up and I heard a conversation in progress. In moving around, though, I did manage to catch two of the 13 Colonies special event station. One of then was one I needed, which was nice.
After about 30 minutes of messing around and calling CQ, and getting nowhere, I decided to cut my losses and start working digital. We were out at the lake to have fun, and at least if I’m working digital I can carry on a conversation. So I moved over to 20 meters FT8 and started to make contacts.
The highpoint of the afternoon was the concession stand. built in the 1930’s as a CCC project, the concession stand was more like a lodge with tables, chairs, and a full menu. They even served beer and cocktails. Chris got some french fries and a couple bloody marys so we could enjoy the 4th in style.
I find the lake interesting. More appropriately name Mondeaux Flowage, this long, slender body of water is created by damming the Mondeaux river on the north end. Now the interesting part, on the east and west sides of the lake are long slender mounds called Eskers. An esker is a hill or mound of sand and gravel. As the glaciers melted and receded the area, rivers of water under the ice were created. As the meltwater flowed, sands and gravel accumulated along the channels. The result are these long slender mounds or hills. Eskers come in all shapes and sizes, some relatively narrow and short, and others that can meander for miles. Since these pair of eskers are along the terminal moraine of the glacier, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail winds along almost the entire perimeter of the Mondeaux flowage.
The positive vibe didn’t last for long as by 2:30ish we started to hear rumbles of thunder and the breeze started to pick up. I was hoping that it would blow over away from us, but it appeared that we were going to get get. I made the last contact at 2:46 and we packed up. Shortly thereafter it started to rain. Mostly sprinkles at first, but then more steady. Most of the picnickers had either left or were waiting it out. We decided to hang for about a half hour to see what would happen. By 3:30, it was apparent that the tables and everything would be wet so hanging out at the beach would be a no go.
Getting in the car, we drove a bit northeast towards Timms Hill. I know the Ice Age Trail was nearby, so the hope was that we could finish the afternoon and activation there. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. while the rain had by then stopped, the trail was actually several miles to the south and only a local connector went to the county park. We ate our picnic dinner and got on the road again.
Evening Reclaimed and Conclusion
Not wanting to totally ruin the afternoon. I remembered a big ice cream stop north of Tomahawk at lake Nokomis called the Windmill Ice Cream Shoppe. A tourist favorite, this is an honest to goodness old school ice cream shop. We expected it to be busy, and it was. But the staff was efficient and we got our cones quite quickly. The ice cream was worth the trip. All told we put on about 150 miles.
But the activation, since phone was pretty much a no-go. I ended up with 2 phone contacts and 38 digital. All on 20 meters. We were planning on spending a couple more hours at Mondeaux, so if things went to plan, I probably would have doubled that. Still a fun afternoon, and a good way to celebrate Independence Day.
If You Go
Mondeaux Dam Recreation Area
Mondeaux Dam Lodge
W7969 Park Rd
Westboro, WI 54490