POTA Field report from Fort Dobbs State Historic Site

It’s funny: when I started my POTA journey in earnest during February 2020, I plotted out all of the state parks in the part of western North Carolina where I travel the most.

At the time, POTA had only a wee fraction of the community it does now and many of the parks and game lands were still ATNOs (All-Time New Ones)–parks that had never been activated. Fort Dobbs was still one, in fact, and I had marked it on my POTA game plan spreadsheet.

My mission back then was to rack up unique-to-me parks as I explored the region; in doing so, I ticked off quite a few ATNOs. It was fun!

I focused on parks a little further afield first. This provided me with a sense of adventure and travel during the first round of Covid-19 lockdowns.

At the end of 2020, I realized I had never activated Ft. Dobbs State Historic site which was, ironically, one of the lowest hanging fruit sites around. It’s only, perhaps, 30 minutes from where I travel each week.

I suppose Fort Dobbs has been “out of sight, out of mind” until I saw a tweet from Andrew (N4LAZ) who activated Dobbs on August 6, 2021. I mistakenly assumed that the only spots to set up on site were around the periphery of the parking lot. This time of year, in the middle of the hot and humid summer? I’m less enthusiastic about open parking lot activations.

Andrew mentioned that the site actually has an excellent covered picnic area where he was allowed to perform his activation.

That’s all I needed to know!

Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)

On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, I traveled to Fort Dobbs State Historic Site and quickly found the covered picnic area Andrew had mentioned. It was, indeed,  ideal for POTA!

This is a very small state property staffed by employees and volunteers who are often dressed in period clothing and actively give tours and demonstrations.  Unlike many of the large state parks I visit, this is one site where you’ll definitely want to introduce yourself to the staff and ask permission to set up your station.

Last thing I want to do is interrupt their 1700s vibe!

I walked to the small visitors center which is located next to the fort.

The staff were incredibly friendly and welcomed me to set up my activation at the picnic shelter.  They had no plans to use the shelter that day and no tours in that part of the park.

The visitor’s center, of course, has detailed information about the history of Fort Dobbs including a number of artifacts. Allow a little time to take in the history!


On The Air

For this activation, I set up the Xiegu X5105 and paired it with my PackTenna 9:1 UNUN random wire antenna. This has been an effective combo in the past–and makes for a very quick deployment–but had I known how poor propagation was that day, I would have chosen a much larger resonant wire antenna like my MFJ-1984LP or Chameleon CHA LEFS.

In short? The contacts were few and far between, but the miles-per-watt very respectful.

It took nearly 1.5 hours to collect a total of ten contacts (one P2P–thanks KW5CW!), but the stations I did work spanned from California to Nova Scotia. Not bad for a 31′ random wire antenna using my 5 watts of peanut power with horrible propagation.

Had I not been so stubborn, I could have taken down the PackTenna and deployed the CHA LEFS. That might have taken me a total of ten minutes, but I was determined to stick with the PackTenna.

In truth? I was fully prepared to walk away from Fort Dobbs without having logged the ten contacts needed to validate the activation. There’s no shame in doing this, but of course we activators always see ten contacts as a goal and I stretched my available time to make it work.


I made one of my real-time, real-life, no-edit videos of this activation. Note that my camera played a trick on me (a dialog box prevented the recording from starting first go) so this video actually starts during a second take. At this point, I had logged a few stations already.

Click here to view on YouTube.

I walked away from Fort Dobbs feeling pretty good, actually. Not only had I discovered another very accessible park, but also an idea spot to activate in the shade. It was also brilliant that the park staff were so friendly and accommodating.

I returned to the site two weeks later when conditions were much better (look for that activation report soon!).

Thank you!

Thank you for reading this report and kudos to anyone with the will power to make it through my activation video! A special thanks to those of you who are supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement–my content is always free–I really appreciate the support.

Cheers & 73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

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