I didn’t have a lot of radio gear with me on that trip, but I had the right gear: my Elecraft KX2 transceiver and AX1 antenna. If I could activate a park under a covered picnic shelter, I knew I would stay dry while playing radio.
There are only two parks within a reasonable detour that have covered picnic shelters: Lake James State Park and Tuttle Educational State Forest.
Lake James was the shortest detour, but they tend to be busier than Tuttle and last time I was there? Yeah, the picnic shelter was occupied.
On the other hand, I was nearly certain that I would have the picnic shelter all to myself at Tuttle. It would be a slightly longer detour, but worth it.
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
As I pulled into the Tuttle parking lot, I could see that I had the entire park to myself.
I had never used the picnic shelter at Tuttle for an activation, but I had scouted it out during my many previous activations. It’s a very large shelter with a large double-sided fireplace in the middle.
The entry was roped off, but having spoken with Tuttle park rangers in the past, I knew I was welcome. That and, frankly, the likelihood of a large group arriving mid-afternoon on a rainy Thursday was all but nil.
There are really only two negatives about the Tuttle picnic shelter from a POTA activator point of view: 1.) it’s in a bit of a depression in the land and 2.) it has a very large metal roof.
A metal roof can certainly have a negative effect on antenna performance and I did worry that–the AX1 already being such a small antenna–I knew might struggle to get a signal out.
The only way to find out, though, was to try!
I found the perfect spot to set up.
But first, coffee time!
Over the past few years, I’ve assembled a compact, portable coffee kit that I take on camping trips and most of my POTA and SOTA activations.
The kit is incredibly lightweight and built around a small alcohol burning stove.
Sometimes when I do an afternoon activation, I crave a good cuppa’ coffee or tea; this kit always comes to the rescue.
Someday, if there’s interest (let me know in the comments) I’ll make a post detailing each component of the kit.
I do speak about this kit to some degree in the activation video below.
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Elecraft AX1 packed in a Maxpedition Fatty Pouch
- Muji A6 Notepad and Koh-I-Noor 2.0 mm Mechanical Pencil (affiliate links)
- GoRuck GR1 USA
- Field Coffee Kit
Instead of brewing a cup of coffee off-camera, I actually boiled the water as I set up the KX2 and AX1 antenna.
Yes, my videos have reached an all-time low by giving you an opportunity to watch water boil in real time!
Side note for fellow coffee snobs: in the video you’ll note I’m using an instant coffee during this outing. While I have a pour-over filter in my coffee kit, I hadn’t planned to make a cup during this trip, so I defaulted to the least objectionable instant coffee I know (made by Starbucks). It’s nowhere near as good as proper coffee, but much better than other instant coffees and it has a good shelf life. If I’m going on an outing where I know I’ll likely brew a cup of coffee, I grind beans in advance and use the drip method instead. I prefer this instant coffee over coffee grounds that have been tucked away for a few weeks.
On The Air
I started calling CQ on 40 meters with 5 watts of power. In eight minutes, I had already worked the ten stations necessarily to validate this activation.
I worked five more stations in six minutes on 40 meters before moving up the band.
On 20 meters, I worked an additional five in eight minutes, including one Park-To-Park (thanks, K5TER!)
I’m sorry, but I still have a hard time wrapping my head around this kind of performance from such a super compact portable antenna; especially operating under a large metal roof.
Here’s the QSO map from this activation. (Note that I believe K7REL was in New York instead of California.)
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation, coffee included!
I’ll admit that this was a lot of fun. Something about a chilly day, playing radio, while sipping a hot cup of coffee and listening to the rain fall under that big metal roof…
My Danish friend, Mads, might even call this feeling “Hygge.”
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 as my content will always be free–I really appreciate the support.