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Visiting new parks to activate in the parks on the air program has been a very rewarding experience. I have seen many places that I would never have ventured to otherwise, and some are quite remarkable. Alaksen is a beautiful area and likely would never have been seen by me. My story of getting there however has been a long one in its own right. The park has the distinction of being park number 1 in the system (VE-0001) which is sort of special. Though it isn’t far away, it is awkward to get to. It also overlaps the Reifel Bird Sanctuary, but it is much less known that it’s sibling park.
Ralph and I had been planning to visit the park for a couple of years but it always seemed to not work. We wanted to avoid the main migration periods for the birds, we wanted to go on a nice day. Then a day came and we were about to leave when I checked the access to the area and learned that the single lane wooden bridge was under repair and was closed for most of the day! So, the trip was delayed again, then migration started and now finally we had a nice day and the season was mostly over and even the bridge was sporting alternating but continuous traffic. So off we went.
The parking area is really quite small, holding only perhaps 10 cars. When we arrived, there was a single spot open, I pulled in and we got out to walk around. A staff person was parked there monitoring the lot. We went and said hello, we explained our plans and he seemed quite interested in the program especially with them being number one! Ralph and I then wandered around the area where the buildings were looking for good spots to operate. The whole area is quite impressive in many ways, even if a bit run-down. The roadway to the main building was lined with massive cedar trees that was quite impressive in their size. We eventually spotted a nice sunny grassy area where one of us could set up. I decided to use it. We continued along the main walking road to the marsh area and there we found a flat field to set up in. Returning to the car we loaded our gear and set off for the area I would be using and then Ralph continued on to the other.
I soon had my antenna in the air and my radio set up. I took out my cell phone to check for other parks being activated and though it was showing some cell coverage it was not enough to get any internet action. That was very concerning and disappointing. How was I going to spot myself so people could find me. The cell coverage looked OK as we walked in but here it was not enough. Ralph seemed to have a bit better situation. Remembering the band conditions from when we left home, I decided to move to the 17m band and see if I could find some park activators. There were two that I could hear and I was able to work them giving me two log entries, so I was on the way.
Being on 17m and having seen that the band looked fine for use when I checked at home previously, I moved to a clear frequency, there were actually a few other groups spread out just chatting. I started calling, and kept at it for some time but no one came by which was very disappointing. I decided to move to the 20m band when there likely were more park activators I could hear. Once on 20m I heard a chap calling CQ so I responded, he was in California and we had a longer chat about how things were down there and the type of equipment we were each using. After a few minutes I excused myself saying I needed to move on and find the remaining contacts I needed to complete my activation. I worked soon another park which gave me four. Then at the very top end of the band I heard a loud park but just as I was about to call him, he said he was QRT which is to say he was done. I tried a call but heard nothing.
Well, I missed that chap but he had just vacated the frequency so I started calling on it, hoping that his now outdated spot would still attract a hunter. Sure enough, one came by, a chap in Utah with a very strong signal. I asked him if he would spot me as I had no internet access. He agreed and a couple minutes more and I was getting people coming by. The next chap also checked to make sure the spot was good. Over the next 10 minutes I managed 10 contacts. I finally got some response. The park was now activated and I could relax.
Ralph meanwhile already had more than enough contacts as well, but we decided to keep going another 20 minutes to try and get a few more in our logs. By the end of which I had made 18 contacts including the station from Poland that I had worked on my last trip out. The day ended with another park activator finding me, which gave me 4 park to park contacts. I had been operating for almost an hour - contacts were slow without the spot but once it was in place a number of hunters came by quickly. We packed up and just as I was finishing Ralph came by with the cart and we loaded it up and returned to the car.
At the parking lot the same chap was back and we chatted telling how we did. He was interested to learn about our adventure. Then we drove the road back to the wooden bridge and arrived when there was no traffic so we were able to proceed directly onto the bridge. The day was a lovely success in the sun and we both enjoyed our time at the wildlife reserve. Park number 0001 was now in our logs.