One of the closest parks to my parents’ home in Hickory, North Carolina (where I travel most weeks) is South Mountains State Park.
Despite its convenient location, I haven’t activated South Mountains many times and, in fact, the times I have activated it, I’ve always found it a struggle to log the ten contacts needed for a valid park activation. I suspect it’s had less to do with the physical location of my operating spot (which has admittedly been in a bit of a “bowl” surrounded by hills) and much more to do with the fact that propagation has been crappy on the days I tried to activate.
Ironically, I’ve activated the adjoining South Mountains Game Land numerous times with wonderful success. It’s funny how that works.
South Mountains State Park (K-2753)
I had a good reason to hit South Mountains on September 9, 2021. My buddy Max (WG4Z) had just purchased an Elecraft KX3 at the Shelby Hamfest (at an incredible deal, I might add). He plans to pair it with a Chameleon CHA TDL (Tactical Delta Loop) he has on order.
I happened to have both my KX3 and the CHA TDL in the car on this trip, so we agreed to meet up at South Mountains so he could set up the TDL and check it out in person.
Max suggested we meet at the equestrian parking area closer to the entrance of the park. Unlike the rest of the park, according to Max, you even have a slight chance of getting mobile phone reception there when spotting is needed. That’s a proper pro tip!
I drove into the park and immediately found Max who had not only set up his own station, but had even completed an activation already.
After checking out his new-to-him KX3 kit, I handed Max the CHA TDL and he deployed it between our picnic tables. Since I brought along a 50′ coax feedline, the TDL could be used with either station.
For my own station, though, I decided to use my 28.5′ speaker wire antenna. I felt like I was tempting fate, though, using this modest antenna and given my struggles at South Mountains in the past!
On The Air
Since Max had already completed his activation, he volunteered to log for me using the HAMRS app on my phone. What a luxury to have a dedicated logger! (Thanks again, Max!)
- Elecraft KX3
- Elecraft T1 ATU
- Chameleon CHA TDL (Tactical Delta Loop)
- 28.5 foot speaker wire antenna using one BNC Binding Post Adapter (affiliate link)
- CW Morse Single Lever “Pocket Paddle”
- GoRuck GR1 USA
- Bioenno 3 aH LiFePo Battery (Model BLF-1203AB)
- Ham Radio Workbench DC Distribution Panel
- Arborist throw line
- Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- Jovitec 2.0 mm Mechanical Pencil (affiliate link)
- Muji A6 Notepad (affiliate link)
- Breadboard Radio 9:1 End Fed Antenna (this is the one on Max’s table in the video)
I deployed the speaker wire antenna into a small tree next to my table. The great thing about a 28.5′ antenna is that you don’t need a tall tree to properly deploy it.
With Max at the logs, I started the activation on 40 meters and, as always, running 5 watts.
In short? The speaker wire treated me very well.
On 40 meters, I managed to log 18 stations in 20 minutes! (Woo hoo!) It doesn’t get much better than that.
I then moved to the 20 meter band where I worked John (AE5X). It’s always great to put him in the logs (if you recognize his call, it’s because he has an excellent ham radio/astronomy/photography blog!).
Finally, just to make Max happy, I moved to 30 meters and logged one more contact to have a nice round figure of 20 stations logged! We must keep our loggers happy, I say! 🙂
There were a number of friends and regulars in my logs that morning. I was very pleased to work Dave (W4JL) who is truly the king of South Mountains State Park. He lives nearby and has activated it (as of this morning) a total of 41 times! I obviously worked him on ground wave. While he was strong on my end, I was weak at his QTH.
I should note that at one point during the activation, I did switch over to the CHA TDL (I’d have to go back in the video to sort out exactly when that was).
Here’s the real-life, real-time video of the entire activation:
Click here to view on YouTube.
Although I tend to be a solitary activator, it’s nice to enjoy an activation with a friend.
If you live near other POTA/SOTA activators, I’d encourage you to meet up with them and do a few activations together. It makes for an excellent opportunity to trade notes, share hints/tips about local sites, and to try out new antennas and gear. In my case, I also scored a jar of pickles that Max’s 97 year old mother made–they were absolutely incredible!
Also, if you know of someone local–licensed or not–who would like to try a field activation, invite them to log for you. As the control operator, you can have them give the microphone a go and they can certainly log for you. In fact, my very first ham radio field experience was logging for a friend and I learned a lot that day!
As always, thank you for reading this field report and 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 will always be free–I really appreciate the support.
Have an amazing weekend!
Cheers & 73,
7 thoughts on “POTA Field Report: Conquering South Mountains State Park with Max!”
My radio club did a SOTA/POTA activation at Cheaha Mtn State Park, AL. We had 5 or 6 different stations set up and we had a blast. We are trying to get another get-together going next month once it cools off.
Thomas, do you have the “enhanced” heat sink from Elecraft on your KX3? It’s flat, but it also wraps around the back of the radio.
I ask because I have an aftermarket heatsink, which is nice because it lets me run digital at longer durations, but it adds quite a bit of bulk. In reality, I don’t operate much digital. It’s more of a “what if” sort of accessory for me at this point. I’m thinking about slimming back to either my stock heatsink, or picking up the enhanced one from Elecraft.
Did either of you bump into issues with heat dissipation running CW?
My KX3 is actually a pretty early serial number and I’ve never added a heat sink mainly because I don’t operate digital modes with it. I’ve never had an issue with CW or SSB so never added it. I did add the side panels and I’m glad I did so. Within only a few weeks of buying those, I dropped the KX3 in the field and it landed on those side panels instead of the controls! 🙂
I think I’m going to not worry about it and scale back to my original heatsink, then. It’s too tempting to keep the KX3 in the “do anything” mode, but the extra weight is a little bit of a drag. I agree on the side panels (and the lexan cover), I dropped my KX3 in an airport once while in a padded case, and the rails/cover definitely saved the day!
Good to work you Thomas – I was in TX but we are thinking of moving to Ocala so maybe you channeled the “FB” into “FL” due to some special power you have…? Pretty impressive that you are able to copy Subconscious Morse!
Of course! Man oh man…
Your XYL asked that I drop a subtle hint and I thought FL might hit your subconscious. Being the CW master I am, there’s no possible way I would have ever confused a “B” with “L”–the thought is absurd! 🙂 Ha ha!
Now when you travel to FL I’m going to second guess myself. You realize that, right?!?! 🙂