Thompson-Nicola region of beautiful British Columbia, Canada - October 2023

Mike VE7KPZ and YL Jane VE7WWJ decided it was time for a little vacation. We would take our big Unimog truck named Ellie (with camper named the Lunchbox by Garry VE7EIY Garbutt) and visit some remote parks. Of course these parks would be activated for the Parks On The Air amateur radio programme, and if we didn't get first activation we would aim to get highest QSO count for the park.

Brake check view before heading down into Kamloops

We left Vernon late Wednesday afternoon with a couple of parks in mind for the evening stopover. Steelhead Provincial Park CA-4144 received us with open arms. This was the only park of our 8-park rove that needed payment to stay (but they also had nice hot showers included).

Steelhead Provincial Park in the morning light

We arrived at Steelhead in the dark, so early the next morning the antenna was erected and on the air we went. This park had previously been activated so top park QSOs was the goal. With 31 QSOs in the log we tore down and headed on to our next park and the pinnacle destination of the trip.

A bit of mud on the way in to Cornwall Hills Provincial Park

Cornwall Hills Provincial Park CA-3372 hosts an old fire lookout tower and makes it a big destination for 4WD folks. The road up was pretty fun (especially the mud sections). We setup a little bit downhill from the summit (to ensure we did not interfere with any of the radio infrastructure on the summit) and got to work on the air. A quick 37 QSOs were made including phone contacts from Laurent F5PYI in France, Rodolfo I4RHP in Italy and Manuel EA1GIB in Spain. The antenna was working great from the high elevation (2036 meters/6600 feet ASL) and with just 40 watts PEP power we were getting great reports from Europe.

Cornwall Hills fire lookout and mountaintop infrastructure

After the activation and lunch we spent a little time looking around the old fire lookout and enjoying the views.

The old Cornwall Hills fire lookout

Jane signs the guest book

Look for our entry next time you visit this spot

Great views from Cornwall Hills

Happy to have been the first activation for Cornwall Hills, we jumped in the truck and headed down and to another nearby park for another first activation: Bedard Aspen Provincial Park CA-1209. We arrived at dark (yeah, this is October in the Northern hemisphere and it gets dark early) and jumped on the radio for a good 82 QSO on both 20m and 40m.

Waking up to an ice-covered truck at Bedard Aspen Provincial Park

With frost/ice on the truck we decided to wait for the sun to rise (and melt it all off) before continuing on our POTA rove. We took a short walk into the lake and watched the sunrise come up over the water.

Sunrise at Bedard Aspen lake

We attempted to go direct to our next park but a farmer infomed us that the roads were private. We wonder about this. Could farmers be saying roads are private just to keep riff raff like us from using them? Anyways, we opted to oblige and take the longer way around. This was a boon, however, as we could stop at a park on the way that we had not really planned on operating from: Oregon Jack Provincial Park CA-3930.

The radio setup at the glorious Oregon Jack Provincial Park

We made a quick 24 QSOs at Oregon Jack and claimed another first activation. And then back on the road to our next park: Blue Earth Lake Provincial Park CA-3234.

The radio setup at the hidden treasure known as Blue Earth Lake Provincial Park

Twenty quick QSOs were made at Blue Earth and then we received a message via our ZOLEO satellite communicator that some friends of ours wanted to join our trip. A decision was made not to stay overnight at Blue Earth but to instead travel further to the next park on our list, a little closer to home, so we could meet our friends there the next day.

Our campsite at Tunkwa Provincial Park

We arrived at Tunkwa Provincial Park CA-4227 late in the afternoon and found our friends would be meeting us the following day. No worries though, as that meant lots of time to play radio. Tunkwa had already been activated a number of times so the goal was shifted to achieve the highest QSOs for the park. Over the next day 153 QSOs were put in the log. That doesn't sound like much, but it was now the weekend and the QSO parties and contests were taking up the bands. 40m and 10m bands were put to work with great results (versus the usual 20m workhorse band). 10m was especially fruitful.

A highlight at Tunkwa was working Mark VK1MK in Australia on 10m SSB. This was our first QSO with an Australian station. Thanks Mark for hunting us!

Tunkwa was a bit cloudy and windy so a decision was made with our friends to start making our way to a park that all of us had always wanted to visit. On the way to that park we stopped in at Lac Le Jeune Provincial Park CA-3720 for a quick activation.

The convoy setup for lunch (and some radio) from Lac Le Jeune Provincial Park

Right before tearing down the antenna, we were texted by radio club mate Howard VA7PWF that another club mate Colin VA7EEH was doing a SOTA activation from VE7/ON-005, Morton Peak 45-50. We were able make a QSO with Colin on 20m ground wave - that was very exciting.

Antenna setup at Lac Le Jeune Provincial Park

We then continued on to our main destination Roche Lake Provincial Park CA-4030. Arriving at 3 PM was a little close to the 5 PM local time UTC day cutover, so once the antenna was up, it was time for some POTA hunting. At exactly 5:01 PM local time (UTC 00:01) we started calling and within an hour had 78 QSOs in the log (and highest park QSOs). It was enjoyable to get such a pile-up on a Sunday evening. We expect the QSO parties were likely done so the band allowed for our 40 watts PEP signal to get to a lot more hunter ears.

Camp setup at Roche Lake Provincial Park

Our friends went for a little paddle and really enjoyed the lake. We will be coming back to this park soon.

Dusk kayak paddle on Roche Lake

It was finally Monday and time to head home. We packed up camp and proceeded home via as many backroads as we could find.

Our friends' Westy leading the way home

Looking back on the trip we did 8 parks in 5 days. We could have been a bit more aggressive (as some parks were simply passed by) to activate more parks, but this was a nice blend of a classic vacation with amateur radio.

Now, getting technical for a minute, we do have to comment that the antenna setup used for this rove was epic. These were the first operations with our new Spiderbeam 12m HD mast. From this mast, strapped with velcro to the side of the camper, we hung a HyEndFed Portable Mini EFHW 3-band antenna. This antenna is made with 11.8m of wire (with a coil for the -5dB 40m section) and we normally run another 2m of coax between the antenna match and a line isolator, and then the coax back to the camper. The aim for our setups was to keep the total 13.8m of radiator and first segment of coax above ground... so while not exactly a vertical, the antenna+2m coax was hung almost vertically, pulled out to the side from the camper and away from the truck to get super-low SWR on all bands. The result was impressive working a handful of European stations and Australia with just 40 watts PEP SSB phone.

Additionally, some settings on the Icom IC-705 were adjusted: mic gain down to 40% (for Mike's booming voice), the compression set to level 5 (just the right amount of compression) and the transmit bandwidth was set to narrow (1.8k) to optimize for DX. That with bass -2 and treble +1 AF EQ settings made for some optimized SSB signal... and unsolicited reports reflected that. Band conditions were reported to also be very good, so everything together made for a wonderful experience for our first major POTA rove.

Since Mike operated the entire trip with his OM voice, big thanks again to KN6STX for his active cooling adapter plate for the PA500 amplifier. Without those fans attached we would not be able to get the duty cycle we push the amp to for these activations (80/20 tx/rx when starting up and then 50/50 as the QSOs flow).

Finally, biggest thanks to Jane for her support of the radio activities and her great pics.

It was fun,
Mike VE7KPZ and Jane VE7WWJ

Ps: right-click on any image and open in a new tab to see a slightly higher resolution version.
Pps: if you have any questions about this trip, feel free to email me via my email address.