July 28, 2023: I’ve said this before, but I’ve got two favorite local parks for POTA activations: Dells of the Eau Claire County Park in which the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (POTA K-4238) runs through and Rib Mountain State Park (POTA K-1473) located just on the edge of my hometown Wausau Wisconsin. The funny thing is, that considering the amount of time it takes me to wind through town to get to Rib Mountain, even through the Dells are a further distance, it takes about the same amount of time to get to one or the other.
So on this particular Friday afternoon, after about a 20 minute drive, I was at my favorite spot on the top of Rib Mountain. Rib Mountain isn’t exactly a mountain, at 1923 feet it can still be classified as a hill. It’s not even the tallest point in the state. Timms Hill, about 40 miles by how the crow flies is taller at 1954 feet. But Rib Mountain is the most predominate as it rises more than 600 feet from the local surroundings. So we call it a mountain, and it’s our mountain, gosh darn-it.
I think I’ve said this in a video too, but Rib Mountain geologically is a monadnock. That is, its an isolated hill of very hard quartz and granites standing above the plains as its surroundings have been eroded away over the course of billions of years. The quartzite on Rib Mountain is estimated to be 1.9 billion years old. The mountain is so resilient, even the glaciers didn’t erase it. The mountain runs predominately east west, the northern face is practically smooth and the southern is riddled with boulders, left behind from the glacial stopping point.
But enough of the mountain, lets talk about the activation
As seems traditional for this park, I’m using the 1/4 wave vertical antenna with the window screen ground plane. My extendable whip is the 213 inch whip from Wolf River Coils and I’ll pop in the Wolf River Sporty Forty coil for 40 meter operation. I’ve hung wire antennas in this park, most notably when I’m operating from the reservable picnic shelter, but I increasingly find that the vertical works really well here. I think it has a lot to do with the elevation. Being 700 feet above everyone else gives you a bit of a vantage point. Plus my preferred summertime location is at a picnic table at the head of one of the ski runs, and trees are a bit inconvenient. So the vertical it is.
For the rest of my setup, the equipment is pretty standard, I’m running the FT-891 at 50 watts sideband and 20 watts FT8 with a 20ah LiFePO4 battery. For digital modes I use the Digirig interface and I’m logging on my Windows PC with the Hamrs application.
Things started out on 2 meters of all places. As I got to my spot I received a message from Ryan, K9ZIE, that he was traveling through the area and was wondering if I was at a park. I told him Rib Mountain if he was interested in joining me. He didn’t have time for that, but said he’d meet me on 146.52 Mhz simplex. I had a quick chat with him as he moved through the area, and at the same time I picked up another ham on 2 meters 20 miles away. That’s the nice thing about 2 meter simplex when you are on the mountain, you don’t know who’s listening.
After that, I settled into 20 meters phone operation. The band was typical summertime crazy, deep fades and a bit of unpredictableness. But after spotting myself, I soon had a bit of a pileup and was able to maintain a decent run on 20 meters for about an hour and netting 74 contacts. With the exception of a few Canadian stations, everything was domestic; short skip into the midwest states, and the eastern seaboard, Georgia, Texas, and the like. As I operated, static crashes were increasing on the band. There was some thunder activity in the vicinity, but it was far enough away to not cause an immediate concern to me. But I was watch the radar on my phone and was prepared to disconnect if necessary. Being on Rib Mountain during a thunder storm can be a bit concerning as there are several large transmitting towers on the hill, but they will certainly be hit be I will.
At this point I did switch up to 20 meter digital. Somehow that feels a bit safer and I don’t have to listen to the static. I picked up another 34 contacts running digital, again in about an hour. In running phone vs digital, especially on the popular 20 meter band, it appears that my digital rate is about half of what I can do on phone. That seems pretty par for the course.
In total I got 108 contacts in about two hours time. Not bad for an afternoon in the park. I also didn’t get rained on, which is net. It took me less than 10 minutes to pack up and I was secured by 21:00 UTC. After a twenty minute drive back through town, I was home and uploading the logs.
As for King of the Mountain, I’m currently the park leader with the most contacts and most activations from Rib Mountain. If you are looking for a great summertime location to activate Rib Mountain State Park, my preferred spot is at the top of the large ski run in the day use area. From the park contact station. Take the 2nd right. (The first right turn takes you to the amphitheater). Right away you’ll see a clearing and a gravel parking area. There’s a picnic table tucked in on the left side that stays shady through most of the day. Enjoy!
Give me a buzz if you are heading up there, schedule permitting, I’d love to do a joint activation.