Staying active, staying safe

An unexpectedly tough semester is now over, and I’m happily back to writing from time to time. While the year was off to a great start, things soon changed when the global COVID-19 pandemic erupted. My multiple travel plans were cancelled, including a 5-day road trip to Arizona and Utah in March that included deploying my ultraportable station in several parks, as well as my hopes to work from a few Canadian parks for the first time later in May.

With all the challenges that came together with the pandemic, it is important to stay grounded, and retain some elements of your normal life – while using best practices to keep yourself safe, and be respectful to everyone’s desire to remain healthy as well. In my experience of the past two months, maintaining my workout routine was a tremendous help – even though it was harder once the gyms got closed.

Thankfully, the warm weather brought me a long-awaited opportunity to ditch the treadmill and set my feet back on the trail. Soon after, when it warmed up a little more, I was already happily planning my first outing to a local park with my field radio station.

Enjoying the afternoon at K-5647 Branched Oak State Recreation Area: with nobody around, excellent terrain to deploy the antenna, with a pretty view of the lake!

After an exciting and successful first year of being active with field radio, I was eager to keep going. Thankfully, parks in Nebraska were never closed due to the pandemic. There was an episode of about 2 weeks when parks were closed within the city of Omaha – otherwise, they remain open for day use, with the caveat that all public facilities such as visitor centers, playgrounds, group shelters, etc, are off limits at this time.

Soaking up some sunshine (both myself and my station’s solar panels) at K-5658 Zorinsky Lake Park. It is within the Omaha Metro – thus people are always here, but mostly respecting each other’s goal to enjoy outdoors at a safe distance.

Personally, I see nothing wrong in going out and enjoying your time outdoors: this helps to keep your spirits up, and also to keep yourself in good shale and strengthen the immunity. Of course, you have to abide by all the directives of social distancing and otherwise use common sense – and that also concerns amateur radio activities. For example, as much as I love setting up my station on the picnic table by the lake, I gave up doing it this spring. I keep my outings as self-contained as possible: park in relatively remote areas, and work from the back of my car. This, unfortunately, also means abandoning one of the aspects of amateur radio that I enjoy the most: talking with people and being an ambassador to our hobby.

The latter, however, is compensated with joy from hearing familiar voices on the air. In almost 10 park activations that I’ve done since the beginning of spring, more and more often I hear calls that I recognize, and I never miss an opportunity to spend a minute for a quick chat with fellow operators.In addition to that, sometimes we do get calls from people who think we are running a contest, or just testing their equipment and heard a CQ. This provides a great opportunity to slow down, acknowledge the other party’s need, and engage in a short conversation explaining how exciting field radio is, and how awesome the Parks on the Air community is! And I’m thankful to all the amazing hunters who wait patiently while I have such conversations (like during my latest activation on May 1st).

Trails around the lakes are usually more fun for me to run. The larger part-loop perfectly met my 5k workout goal for that day!

Another aspect that I enjoy greatly is an opportunity to combine a few hours on the air with a nice run around the lake! The trails are not too crowded, and people, in my experience, are usually very respective of safe distance. I usually enjoy loop trails more than out-and-back ones – much like I prefer a loop route over a simple return trip when planning road adventures.

Even though you can meet people – walking, running or biking – on the trail, everyone is very respectful to each other and gives plenty of space when passing.

Success! Now an easy cool-down walk back to the car – and drive home to get those logs submitted!

Lake Zorinsky Park and Chalco Hills Recreation Area became my to-go spots if the weather is good, and I have a few hours to spare. They both offer ample space for parking, so that I can deploy my station and avoid being in the crowd. Conveniently for the radio activities, both have generous open spaces with no obstructions for the radio wave propagation. Conveniently for running, they both have great trails around the lake, with various distances possible in smaller and larger loops, depending on everyone’s needs.

K-4011 Chalco Hills Recreation Area has become one of my local go-to parks. Thankfully, it also has a very nice trail around the lake – so much to rack up my miles along with getting closer to the Kilo award!
Another 5k in the log – and I can’t wait to come back for a longer run (and a good pileup on the air) soon!

With the weather being nicely warm more often, it is increasingly tempting to go out. For many like me, it is also an important way to keep up with the daily routine, and maintain a positive attitude. And there are plenty of ways to do it safely and responsibly – just respect the others’ right to enjoy it as much as you want to!

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