October 18, 2023 – It’s been a long time coming. For the last two years, Parks on the Air hunters and activators in the US have been waiting for the moratorium to lift and new parks to be added to the list. Since 2021, POTA had paused the addition of new United States parks in order to concentrate on the development of the International program. But as time went on, the vast majority of parks had been activated at least once and people were clamoring for new entities.
In September, POTA administrators announced that they would open up the addition of new parks on December 1st. But, almost by surprise, they moved up the opening to Wednesday, October 18. Knowing that the Wisconsin mapping coordinator had a list of parks ready to drop into the system, I wanted to have a head start and be the first person to activate a new park that was local to me: POTA K-9806 The Mountain-Bay State Trail.
Mountain Bay Trail
The Mountain-Bay Trail is a part of the vast network of bicycle trails in the State of Wisconsin that have been built from abandoned rail corridors. The trail runs from Weston Wisconsin to Green Bay and the 83 mile trail gets its name from linking Rib Mountain on the west to The Green Bay to the east. The Chicago Northwestern railroad ran along this path until the Union Pacific purchased the assets and interests of the CNW in 1995 and closed the line. The tracks were pulled up and in the early 2000’s the Mountain Bay Trail opened.
The trail is not strictly confined to bicycle use, in the winter months snowmobiles run on the Marathon county segment and the nearby Shawano county segment sees equestrian use. Brown county’s segment which ends at the Village of Howard, near Green Bay, traditionally sees bicycle use. I’ve ridden the Marathon County segment, but haven’t ventured further east. Riding the entirety of the trail is on my bucket list. A possible bike mobile activation may be in store for next summer.
I choose a particular spot to activate the trail, the trailhead located at the Hatley branch of the Marathon County public library. This is the spot were the Ice Age National Scenic Trail intersects with the Mountain Bay trail, giving me the Two-fer. The IAT actually runs for several miles on the Mountain Bay, there is a 2nd intersection to the west where the two trails merge, but here at the library has better parking. From the point the IAT leaves the Mountain Bay as it heads south along the county highway to the next segment.
Weather was overcast with light sprinkles, so I would be confined to the vehicle. This was going to be a quick activation to get a few dozen in the log, so I set up the vertical ¼ wave whip with the window screen ground plane. I then ran my coax into the car and set the FT-891 on the dash of the car. This is my typical winter activation setup. Since it was raining, I decided to use the window screen instead of the Farady cloth.
This was going to be a digital only activation. I had to review some documents for an upcoming city council meeting, so I ran FT8 in the background while doing my other work. Band conditions on 20 meters were pretty good, and I was getting good copy and responses. After about 30 contacts, I was done with my work and decided to step it up with a bit of lightning round: FT4. For me, FT4 usually tends to peter out about about 6 or so contacts as everyone has been worked, but surprisingly, I was about to sustain a nice run of 26 contacts on the mode. More than a few of the stations I contacted FT78 made the second contact on FT4, which was really nice.
All in all, I got 56 contacts in the log, all on 20 meters, and all with a combination of FT8 and FT4. Band conditions were good and I managed three DX contacts, two of which from FT4. I’ll be back to this spot in the future and will be sure to get some phone operation in.
I’m sure I will be back to the Mountain Bay State Trail. Being that it is less than a 20 minute drive, I can set up in the library parking lot, and it’s a twofer with the Ice Age Trail makes this spot a no-brainer. It’s certainly a good spot for a quick weekday activation. The trail is beautiful too, so expect a bicycle activation next summmer (There’s another intersection on the trail that I want to share with you, but I’m saving that for a video).
If you go
Mountain Bay State Trail passes through the communities of Wausau, Weston, Hatley, Norrie, Eland, Bowler, Shawano, Bonduel, Pulaski, Anston, Howard, Green Bay. A State Trail Pass needed for bicycle and horseback riding
Hatley, WI Trailhead
Marathon County Public Library, Hatley Branch
435 Curtis Ave
Hatley, WI 54440
Open weekdays and Saturday, hours vary