QRP Portable from Cedar Lake, Algonquin Park

By , August 5, 2013 1:15 am
Martin playing radio at a park bench, Cedar lake in the background

Playing radio by the lake side

Back in the middle of winter, when the snow was deep and the nights were short, Fariba and I discussed where we should camp this summer.  

One of the trips we booked was to the Brent campground on Cedar Lake in Algonquin Park.  

A fellow radio ham and QRP aficionado, Scott, had told me about Cedar Lake.   He had made a youtube video of his trip there 2 years ago.  This camp ground is reached by driving 3½ hours up past Petawawa and Deep River and then driving for another hour on a gravel forest road.  

The campground does not have electricity (other than generators) or phone/cellular service.   It does not have shower facilities nor flush toilets.  It does however offer campsites which are very large and secluded (in comparison with other Ontario Parks).  Our site (#28) and the site next to it were the only sites on that part of the lake shore and there was a beach at the sites for accessing the lake with the canoe.   The vault toilets were only a short walk from the site.

Canoe paddles up against park bench with KX3 radio, jerky and camping stuff, lake in background

The campsite, KX3 and paddles.

We arrived at 7pm on Friday evening and quickly set up our tent and grabbed dinner (3 bean chilli) because we knew rain was in the forecast;   we had driven though some fairly intense thunder showers on the way to the park.   Rain started out light as we cleaned up after dinner and sat by the fire.   By 10pm it had gotten a bit heavier.   Throughout the night, the rain intensified and was accompanied by thunder and a few strokes of lightning.   Our new car camping tent (A Eureka Bon Echo Tour 500) withstood the rain very well, we remained dry and comfortable.


I also took the time to set up an HF antenna before the rain started.  A W3EDP-esque inverted-L with an 84′ driven element up 31′ using a jackite pole and the remaining 53′ horizontal across the top of the camp site.  Along with breakfast (Mary Jane’s Farm Outpost Outrageous Outback Oatmeal and Nescafe 3-in-one cooked over an LPG stove and a banana) I tuned in the Ontario Amateur Service Net (ONTARS) on 3.755MHz SSB.  I checked in using 12W and started chatting with the net controller.  The KX3 speech compressor really makes the most of the 12W signal and using a Heil microphone helps to produce punchy audio.  I received very good signal reports on Saturday morning.

Martin playing radio, tent in background

CQ on SSB from VA3SIE/P

Another station (who was VERY strong – 59+30dB) popped in and asked:  “Did someone just check in from Cedar Lake in Algonquin Park?”   well…    by coincidence it was Scott, the same fella who had told me about Cedar Lake last year and he was out camping on one of the islands in the middle of the lake!   I hadn’t checked our local QRP club reflector recently so I did not know that our trips would crossed paths.  

It was a very pleasant surprise indeed.  

I was able to share a weather report which I had grabbed on my way through the park office the previous evening and after we finished chatting, the net controller provided us both with a freshly updated weather report right there and then.  Thanks for letting us monopolize the net frequency and for the weather reports, ONTARS!!

Fariba and I spent the day canoeing on the lake, collecting firewood for kindling.  We did not venture far because the weather forecast called for higher winds and isolated showers…  we didn’t want to get stranded.  Once we got back to the campsite, I fired up the radio again and spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying back country QRP (zero noise floor!).  The bands were in fantastic shape, 15m was wide open, 12m was also active though that was the limit.   One highlight of the afternoon operating was making 20m CW contact with a Summits-On-The-Air station, KX7L was on Mt. Gold in Western Washington State.  We exchanged 569/579 reports.

In the evening, we popped the cork on a lovely bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and as we were preparing dinner, I checked in with ONTARS again then listened along…  We received a visit from Larry and Sky, two of the Park staff who were doing a firewood run and while I was chatting to them about ham radio, I heard Scott check in to the net.   It was fun to demonstrate QRP radio to the park staff by making contact with Scott  8-).  We moved off the net frequency and reduced power to 1W with my KX3, Scott dialed his all the way back to 300mW and we still had a 5×9 contact  :mrgreen:    Scott confirmed that the winds were very strong, indeed near gale force in the Southern part of the lake.   I’m glad we never ventured far.   It was fun catching up…

I checked into another couple of 80m nets later in the eveing.   I caught the tail end of the sandbox round table net on 3.733MHz SSB and then the 3730 net on 3.730MHz SSB.  Waves of light sprinkles of rain started up around 10pm and after the 3rd time packing up the KX3 and then unpacking it again, I gave up and hit the hay.  

On sunday morning, over breakfast (Warm granola with raspberries and milk to which I added dried blueberries) I checked in to ONTARS again and the net controller passed along a rather surprising weather forecast.  The forecast overnight temperature was +4°C.  We did not encounter Scott on the ONTARS net on Sunday morning, probably just missed each other.  At any rate, we decided not to stay for the last night because we did not bring very much in the way of cold weather gear.  We were not expecting this kind of cold.  A huge THANK YOU to the ONTARS net for being there and providing us with weather updates.

We took the tent apart, drying it out in the sunshine, had lunch at the camp ground and then drove back to Ottawa.   On the way we stopped at the Brent Impact Crater to visit and also to log the earth cache.

Plus Four

Plus Four


Photo Gallery

Click pictures for larger versions.  Use the small icons at the left/right edges of the photo to navigate through these photos.

4 Responses to “QRP Portable from Cedar Lake, Algonquin Park”

  1. Jim W1PID says:

    What a lot of fun! Another great story and beautiful pics! Thanks for sharing Martin. vy best OM… Jim W1PID

  2. Excellent write-up Martin. It sounds like you had a great weekend in spite of the iffy weather.
    There is something incredibly satisfying about being out in the middle of nowhere with Ham gear. This is made even more so by a chance contact with someone you know. I have always said
    “one in the field is worth 10 in the shack”.


    Michael VE3WMB

  3. va3sie says:

    @Michael, you are so right! :-) Cheers, Martin.

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy