I think we have to keep in mind, that for many of the Activators, this is not a "free" exercise. Maybe they have to pay to get into a National Park, perhaps not. Destinations a long way from home involve gas, wear and tear on the car, perhaps even lodging and meals. There are also other considerations that don't involve money, but still involve expense. Time away from home, friends and family. These all factor into the equation.
Yes, Activators are putting the Parks on the air, because they want to. No one is holding a gun to their heads. So they pretty much ignore the personal expense because they're having a good time and are getting some personal satisfaction from doing their activations. At the same time, they are giving all the Chasers something invaluable, too. They are giving you a good time! They are providing you with something fun, something exciting, and new.
There have been anecdotes told of those who have their dwindling interest in the hobby rekindled because of NPOTA. In my own personal experience, I had a dormant Ham come up to me while I was activating the National Gateway (RC08) at Sandy Hook, NJ. He saw my antenna and me, sitting at my little table, putting The Hook on the air. He bicycled up and introduced himself with this name and call and proceeded to ask me "What's going on?" He then proceeded to tell me how he was licensed, but was inactive. I in turn, explained all about NPOTA and portable ops. Not only was his interest in the hobby rekindled (you could tell by "that look" in his eyes), but he also brought his young son over to take a look. You could almost see the light bulb go off over his head. To him, the idea of not being stuck in a Ham shack, but being able to be operate outside in the sunshine, with the breeze in his hair struck a resonant chord with him. It was almost like he never thought of the possibility before.
Let's also not forget that NPOTA is not a contest. Yes, there's a Leader Board and yes, stats are being kept; but that doesn't mean that NPOTA is radio sport and nothing else. If anything, it's an operating event - designed by the ARRL to put a new, shiny face on our wonderful hobby.
With that, I'm going to go off on a tangent here, and am going to state my personal opinion that Amateur Radio has gone somewhat off the rails and has become too much "radio sport". We worry too much about DXCC tallies and contests in general. Look, I'm as guilty as anyone else in that regard, as I run a QRP contest each August ........ but what's happened to the rag chew? When was the last time you had a QSO with a DX station that was more than "599 TU"? When was the last time you talked about the weather with a foreign Ham, or about some other subject not related directly to radio?
I remember when I was a Novice in the late 70s, and actually had conversations with DX stations! I know, unheard of, right? And the QSL cards I received actually contained friendly letters, sometimes with photos of the DX Ham's station or hometown. Why have we largely gotten away from that? That was the best part of the hobby!
Before I get accused of contest bashing - let me state that radio sport has its time and place. There are people that exist only for that - and that's fine. That's another facet of this hobby that is perfectly legitimate. However, it seems to me that we've let a little bit too much of that mentality creep into the rest of our hobby. We worry too much about scores, standings and results. I think what we need to do is slow down and enjoy the journey and not worry so much about the destination.
The journey is the fun part and the destination should be the fond memories of the things we enjoyed along the way. We need to exist for each other, not just for standings, results, wallpaper and trophies.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!