(February 14, 2024) In the social forums, I often see the question posed by a newer POTA enthusiast asking if anyone does any Parks on the Air activations on the 80 meter band. This is a great question, as 80 meters is excellent for getting those local and regional contacts and it often is a band that is needed if you are interested in your N1CC award. But there are certain challenges with that band and they are multiplied when you go portable.

Being at the top of the solar cycle, 80 meters is relegated to being a night time band. During the day the noise floor is just too high for the weaker signal of an activator to compete. This is often compounded by the highly compromised antennas we end up using on the lower bands. There’s a reason why 80 meter aficionados use amplifiers: it’s to overcome the limitations of band noise and antenna losses. To top all that off, many parks close in the evening hours, making it even more challenging to activate a park on that band.

With all the challenges of 80 meters, I found myself in a spot where I had the time and ability to do a late shift at a local park, Rib Mountain State Park (POTA K-1473).

Late shift for Parks on the Air purposes is defined when Zulu day (00:00) rolls over. Here in the midwest in the central time zone, we are 6 hours behind GMT, Zulu, or Universal Coordinated Time, so at 6:00 pm local time (7pm when daylight saving time begins) is the start of the new POTA day. This late evening activation period is affectionately called the Late Shift, as it happens during the evening hours and the contacts count towards the next local time day.

On February 14, Christine was flying back from a business conference and her plane was expected to arrive at 9:00pm. I could have stayed at home and snoozed on the couch before picking her up at the airport, or I could make myself useful and activate a park. Fortunately my favorite local park, Rib Mountain State Park, is only 15 minutes from the airport, so I could be out until 8:30 or so, get on the air, and make some late shift contact. I grabbed a quick dinner and traveled up the hill for a couple hours of late shift.


Being it was the evening, my plan was 40 and 80 meters, two bands I don’t operate much from the mountain and two that will have good performance after sunset. Being this is winter and the ski hill is operating, I knew that I would have some noise on the 40 meter band from the chair lifts. Checking the schedule, the hill was operating until 9:00pm. My only hope was that they wouldn’t be operating the lift on the far west side of the hill. If it was, my only recourse would be to operate digital on the 40 meter band as the chair lift noise all but blanks everything out.

Sure enough, when I got to the top of the hill, there was plenty of activity near the park entrance and the two large high speed lifts were running, but driving to the other end of the park, everything was dark. The parking area was unlit and the 3rd high speed lift was not in operation. Excellent! That meant 40 meter phone operation was on.

For My setup, I used the 213 inch whip paired with the Wolf River Coils Silver Bullet 1000 coil. I needed the extra length of the SB1000 for 80 meters, so that was the perfect choice. The longer whip meant that the coil would be somewhat efficient as I wouldn’t have to drop the collar all the way to the bottom to get a match. Sure enough, on 40 meters, I only needed about an inch or so of coil and on 80m, the collar was at about the 3/8 point, of just under half way down. I had both my window screen ground network and length of Faraday cloth (magic carpet), so I laid both down under the antenna to increase the surface area of my ground network. This was an excellent choice as the SWR on both 40 and 80 meters was under 1.5:1.

For transceiver, I put the FT-891 on the dash of the car, set the power of 50 watts, and started calling CQ on the 40 meter band.

The Activation

I was on the air 00:49 (6:49pm) and made my first contact 2 minutes later. To say that hunters weren’t looking for late shift activators is an understatement. For the next hour I averaged about 2 contacts a minute and racked up 95 contacts for the almost one hour period that I was on the air. Propagation was quite good and I easily worked stations on 40 meters that I often hear on 20 meters during the day, including a few west coast stations: California, Oregon, and Arizona.

Since the purpose of me being on the hill at night was 80 meters, and since I also had a hard deadline to keep, at 7:45pm I changed bands. At this time it has started snowing on the hill. We were expecting some rain/snow mix but the forecast said it would start after 9:00pm. Evidently it got here a little early as my ground screen and cloth was covered by a light dusting of snow. Moving the collar down to 80 meters, I got a good match, and the snow didn’t seem to affect anything. I was ready to rock and roll.

Band conditions on 80 meters was excellent that evening. My noise floor was about S2, which is amazing, and many of the hunters I got on 40 meters followed me down to 80 for another contact on that band. I operated for 40 minutes and got 26 in the log. A little slower pace than 40 meters, but expected with the shorter coverage the 80 meter band offered. By this time is was 8:30pm and my wife was expected to land in 30 minutes.

But as I mentioned, it was snowing, and that same snow delayed her flight out of Minneapolis. I now had about an extra half hour before I needed to be at the airport. There was only one reasonable thing to do, work another band. I needed 30 meters at the park for my N1CC, so I retuned the coil, hooked up the Digirig, and got 8 30 meter FT8 contacts in the log. Signals were really good on 30 m that evening and the passband was full of activity. I secured at 8:54pm. According to Flight Aware, she would arrive at 9:20, so I had just enough time to pack up, head down the hill, and get to the airport.


Late shift on Rib Mountain was a lot of fun. Getting down off the hill in the snow was not. By this time it was snowing pretty good, but taking things easy and the confidence of the Outback’s all wheel drive made the day. I arrived at the airport at 9:24pm and only had to wait a minimal amount of time while Chris got her luggage.

There is no camping on Rib Mountain, but the park is open until 11:00pm. Until this point I never really thought much about going up there for a late shift activation, but with the results of this one, I certainly am going to do it again. The vertical with the SB1000 coil was an excellent choice and I feel adding the second screen to the ground network made a big difference for the low bands. I will certainly do that trick again when I use the vertical on 80 and even 40 meters.

I got 129 contacts that day: 95 on 40 meters, 26 on 80 meters, and 8 on 30 meters FT8.

K-1473 Rib Mountain State Park 40 meter Late Shift Phone contacts

K-1473 Rib Mountain State Park 80 meter Late Shift Phone contacts

Map visualization of contacts courtesy of qsomap.com

If you go

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