My last activation of 2021: It was a blast!

I’ve been so busy these past few weeks, it only hit me yesterday afternoon (Dec 30, 2021) that if I wanted to activate another park or summit in 2021, I needed to do it that same afternoon. I knew that we had plans for today and would visit with friends.

Looking back at 2021

As I’ve mentioned before, I really don’t follow my park and summit statistics with any regularity. For me, each activation and opportunity to play radio is a reward in and of itself.

I’m not a competitive fellow but I’ll admit that I’m in awe of those activators who are! Some have truly mind-blowing activation numbers. I’d encourage you to check out the POTA and SOTA leaderboards!

For SOTA, I set a vague goal of activating 12 summits in 2021–roughly one summit per month.

Yesterday, it hit me that I hadn’t checked my SOTA numbers and thought, “What if I’ve got 11 and need one more? Could I get one more summit before Saturday?!?

I checked my SOTA statistics and it turns out I activated 19 summits this year. Nineteen!

I seriously didn’t expect a number that high because my SOTA activations have felt so few and far between, but I remember each activation listed–and I’ve field reports for each–so they must’ve happened, right? Ha ha!

Then I checked my POTA statistics. I was curious how many individual activations (not unique parks) I’d completed this year. Turns out that number was 100 exactly.

Technically, the number could be a bit higher than that…

I could have submitted a few extra activations as two-fers or three-fers had I studied the maps more thoroughly.

As an example: my first SOTA activation of 2021 on Lane Pinnacle could have also counted as an activation of the Mountains-To-Sea trail as I was practically sitting on the trail during the activation. Two of my favorite Blue Ridge Parkway activation locations are also within the POTA boundaries of the Mountains-To-Sea trail so I’m guessing I could add a few more MST activations.

Keep in mind: if you discover that you missed out on including an additional park entity, you can always go back and submit a second set of logs with the other park designator. I don’t think there’s a time limit on that, either. I doubt I will, but I know I can if I decide to.

Technically, with seven more summits than my goal and sitting on the round number of 100 park activations, I had no numerical reason for doing yet another activation in 2021.

A good thing because frankly, I’ve been swamped [understatement] with work and family projects–I could use that afternoon activation time to catch up.

Oh what the heck…one more activation!

Funny how quickly I can dismiss what needs to be done and give priority to what I want to do!

I checked with my XYL and she gave me her blessing; she and my daughters had plans to bake cookies and bread, so she told me to hit the trail!

Hazel checked her schedule and fortunately had no other pending obligations, so decided she could accompany me.

Hazel got a new bandana for Christmas.

Which park?

I didn’t have enough time to find a summit to activate. In general, planning and plotting a summit activation takes dedicated time–more than I had yesterday afternoon.

In terms of parks, I could easily hit the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, and Pisgah Game Lands, but I’ve activated all of those parks numerous times this year.  I wanted to activate a local park that I might have neglected in 2021.

I checked the POTA map and realized I hadn’t yet activated Sandy Mush State Game Land (K-6949) in 2021.

In fact–looking at the POTA stats–I discovered that Sandy Mush had only been activated seven times ever! Two of those times (including the first activation) were mine.

Sandy Mush it would be!

Which radio?


I have two radios under review right now: the QCX-Mini and the Xiegu X6100.

Xiegu X6100

When I review a radio, I give it priority during the review period.

I’ve already completed two summit activations with the QCX-Mini (the second activation report and video are forthcoming) and I’ve only done one activation with the X6100 earlier this week.

The X6100 was the natural choice because this radio is also on loan, thus my time with it is limited (unless I purchase one–!).

I started to pack the X6100 then I looked at my Elecraft KX1 on the table.

My buddy Vlado (N3CZ) recently repaired it (he’s the best repair tech you’ll ever meet). I had been chasing parks and summits with it and the X6100 that morning.

The KX1 gave me puppy eyes and seemed to be saying, “Let’s go play radio outdoors!” so the KX1 it was!

I scheduled my Sandy Mush activation on the POTA site, then packed the KX1 and Hazel in the car and we started our 45 minute journey to the site!

Sandy Mush State Game Land (K-6949)

Photo of the Sandy Mush parking area taken the summer of 2020.

My choice activation site at Sandy Mush is pretty boring: it’s a small gravel parking lot flanked by young trees.

I like it, though, because of the trees and the fact that it’s never been occupied while I’ve been there before.


This activation gave me another opportunity to test my new mini throw line kit (see links above). In short: it works brilliantly and is even more compact than my small Weaver Throw Line pack/kit. I owe Mike (W4MAF) big time for making me aware of Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline. I’ll write more about this in a future report. I promise.

I paired the KX1 with my 28.5 foot speaker wire antenna.

When Elecraft first designed the KX1 and included an ATU, it was with this sort of dead simple random wire antenna in mind!

I forgot to bring my folding stool or chair, but fortunately, I could position the car so that I could simply operate from the front seat.

I used my Carolanne (N0RNM) designed kneeboard to hold the KX1. It worked perfectly! (Thanks again, Carolanne!)

I considered making a video of this activation, but I was getting some funky feedback in my Insignia amplified portable speaker–the audio sounded really garbled. I hope to remedy this soon as I found a “like new” Sony SRS-XB12 on eBay and it should arrive any day. I understand it’s a favorite among portable ops.

No video with this particular report though, I’m afraid.

I decided to put away the speaker and go it alone with earphones.

I say alone, but Hazel was watching from the back seat. She had no interest in being outside of the car for some reason. I think it’s because she was sleepy. By the time I hopped on the air, she was already snoring.

On The Air

I decided to start on 40 meters. I pressed the ATU button and the KX1 found a 1.3:1 match. Beautiful!

The POTA/RBN network spotted me quickly. I think I only called CQ POTA twice and chasers started rolling in. In ten minutes, I had worked the ten contacts necessarily to validate the activation.

At times, I had small pile-ups on 40 meters. In total, I worked 31 stations in 31 minutes on 40 meters.


I then moved up to the 20 meter band, hit the ATU button and got a 1.1:1 match. I started calling CQ and worked eight stations in short order.

Although I was already out of time, I wanted to see if the KX1 could load the speaker wire on 30 meters, so I move to 10,113 kHz. I pressed the ATU button and got a 1:1 match! Capital!

I spent seven minutes on 30 meters and worked seven stations. Having overstayed my welcome, I sent a QRT de K4SWL and turned off the KX1 before anyone else could call me.

What an activation!

Here are my paper logs:


Seeing the contacts on the QSO map sort of blows my mind! This was all done with 2.5 to a max of 4 watts of power and 28.5′ of speaker wire (click to enlarge):

The KX1 continues to impress

I absolutely love my KX1.

While it lacks the near surgical filtering of, say, the IC-705 or KX3, I can say that its strong suits are AGC (which is benchmark), full break-in QSK, portability, low current consumption,  and perfect, simple field ergonomics. It even has a dedicated RF gain control.

It even has a built-in logging lamp. Seriously!

How many radios have this indispensable feature?

I even found that the attached paddles work better than the ones I had on my original KX1. I think these may have been slightly upgraded–they worked flawlessly, in fact.

After I get the Sony speaker, I’ll make a proper activation video with the KX1. So many of you have asked for more reports and videos with it.

Thank you!

I hope you enjoyed this field report.

I’d like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund this year. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and I’m most grateful!

Here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and peaceful 2022! Our parks, our summits, our islands, and our great outdoors await! Let’s go!

73 es HNY,

Thomas (K4SWL)

15 thoughts on “My last activation of 2021: It was a blast!”

  1. Great article Thomas, What I really like about it, it shows does not take much to do POTA and QRP events. One can be very successful with low priced gear. thanks

    I received notice from Radioddity this morning my X6100 has shipped, should be here next week.

    73, ron, n9ee

  2. Happy New Year Thomas
    I really enjoy you videos
    My new years resolution really should be to learn CW.


  3. Wow, impressive number of activation’s. Thank you for sharing your POTA and SOTA journey with us. It’s inspired me to rebuild my portable setup. I plan on doing a lot more portable operations in 2022.
    I look forward to seeing what activation’s you do this next year.
    Happy New Year!

  4. Happy New Year, Thomas. This was a fine way to complete 2021 POTA/SOTA activations. How about an end of the year summary of your 5 watt challenge (will you continue it in 2022?), and of all of the radios that you have used over the year (good, bad, and ugly)?
    PS – Mercari has the Sony SRS-CB12 for $18 + $5.99 shipping; I just ordered one. Thanks again for equipment recommendations.

  5. Nice write-up Thomas! Thanks again for inspiring me to learn CW and add that skill to my park activations. The other day I was overnighting down in Adelaide visiting my Wife and Son, I had packed the IC-705 and a basic station “just in case” . I made time to activate one of the small suburban parks on my way home and ended up with 14 contact under very difficult band conditions and City QRM. CW got the job done! Happy new year ?

  6. Happy New Year.

    I done the same thing yesterday. One more time this year. 7 Parks and all new ones. Gave the old IC-7300 a work out at 40 watts. Last 5 activations have been with the Ziegu G90. Santa was good to me. May have look at the KX-3. Going to visit the Elecraft booth at Hamcation in Feb.

    Thanks for all you do to promote QRP, SOTA and POTA.

  7. Happy New Year Thomas to you and yours. Looking forward to working you again in 2022. Love following your adventures on your Blog and on YouTube!



  8. Thanks for all of the great videos and posts in 2021. They have been a tremendous resource for me as I learn.

    As a side note, I used my KX1 this morning and I agree it is a great radio. Great to see it getting some attention.

    Douglas K1GC

    1. Thank you so much, Douglas!

      And that KX1? Never let go of it! It’s a gem of a radio.


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