A Last-Minute, Late Afternoon New Year’s Day Activation!

Photo by K4TLI

I’ve always believed that the first day of the year should be symbolic of the whole year.

At least, that’s the excuse I was using to fit in a quick activation on New Year’s Day (Jan 1, 2022).

I have had the new Xiegu X6100 on loan and planned to take it to the field, but that afternoon waves of rain were moving into the area in advance of a weather front. Since I don’t own this X6100, I didn’t want to risk getting it wet.

In fact, I had almost talked myself out of going on an activation, but my wife encouraged me to head to the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we jumped into the car and hit the road.

Our options on the parkway were very limited as they often are in the winter. In advance of winter weather, the National Park Service closes off large sections of the BRP because they have no equipment to remove snow/ice. Plus, you’d never want to drive the BRP in slippery conditions. There are too many beautiful overlooks to slide off of.

Thankfully, the Folk Art Center access is always open and incredibly convenient.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

We arrived at the parking lot and I very quickly made my way to a picnic table while my wife and daughters took a walk.

I knew this would be a short activation even by my standards but hopefully, it would represent the first of many meaningful field outings this year!


Setup was quick.

One of the great things about the little PackTenna random wire is that it’s not terribly long. I think mine may be 31 feet in length (you can trim it to be shorter, of course). That means it can be deployed in low tree branches so it’s effortless to shoot a line when we have old-growth trees like those at the Folk Art Center.

On The Air

Knowing time was limited, I was hoping 40 meters would provide enough contacts to at least validate my New Year’s Day activation.

I used the Elecraft T1 ATU and quickly matched the PackTenna on 40 meters.

I started calling CQ POTA and only heard crickets for a couple minutes. That worried me.

I had scheduled the activation moments before we hopped in the car and was relying on the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) to spot me. I thought, perhaps, RBN functionality might be down (it does happen, quite rarely). I checked the POTA spots page on my smart phone and could see that not only had I been spotted but the RBN actually gave me a good signal report. Hmmm…

Then, all of the sudden, everyone found me…all at once!

I started working stations and within 10 minutes had my 10 contacts.

I continued working stations until my wife and daughters came back from their walk, then I signed QRT.

In total, I made 23 contacts on 40 meters in 25 minutes.

Based on the number of CW hunters I was logging, I think I could have easily worked 40+ stations on 40 meters that evening within an hour.

This was one of those rare times when I had to send QRT even though there were still hunters out there calling me, but I couldn’t impose on family time. I had dinner to prepare back home!


Here’s how my 5 watts into a PackTenna random wire performed on 40 meters:

Activation video

I made an unedited/unscripted real-time video of the entire activation. Due to time limitations, I didn’t film deploying the antenna. As always, my videos are ad-free!

Click here to view on YouTube.

Fitting in activations

Since I’m not retired and have an active family life, rarely are my park and summit activations longer than one hour. More often than not, they’re only 45 minutes or so.

I remember speaking with a fellow at the WCARS hamfest last year who told me that if he doesn’t have enough time for three solid hours on the air, he doesn’t bother packing the car and doing a park activation.

There are times I wish I had as much as three dedicated hours to activate a park or summit, but the only time I get that experience is when we’re camping in a POTA park.  I’ll admit: it’s wonderful having what feels like an unlimited amount of time on the air!

My style is built around having around 45-60 minutes on the air. Sometimes I fit in a wee bit more time, then again there are days like this one where I don’t even have 30 minutes.

In truth, though? I also get a small thrill out of a rapid deployment activations. I feel activations like this actually build emergency communication skills as well: you get to know your gear, how it’s packed, and how to reliably deploy it in short order. In this case, I was on the air within five minutes of pulling up to my parking spot that day.

Doing this multiple times a year also gives you a good sense of what your radio, the battery, and the antenna is capable of doing.

Looking forward to 2022

I think all of us are a little hesitant to be hopeful this year. This pandemic has been a persistent battle and has complicated more involved travel plans.

Still: my family is determined to travel to some interesting places in 2022 and my hope is that I’ll be able to do little rapid activations like this along the way and document them here on QRPer.com and the YouTube Channel.

Thank you, in advance, for coming along for the ride!

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. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

Here’s wishing everyone an amazing 2022!

Cheers & 73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Bonus Photos!

My daughter, Geneva (K4TLI), snapped a few photos as I was packing up. Enjoy:

7 thoughts on “A Last-Minute, Late Afternoon New Year’s Day Activation!”

  1. Cool pics. I think I was on my way home from my parents and ham alert popped up. I knew I wouldn’t make it home in time.

    Now on to the vid

  2. Happy New Year, Thomas!

    You are absolutely spot on about the value of your activations with respect to emergency preparedness and effectiveness. As a former county Emergency Coordinator and Section Emergency Coordinator in ARES, I preached that the active and regular pursuit of our daily interests in amateur radio can lead to the kind of experience and expertise that’s most valued in an emergency resource. In 2006, I created a video presentation to make that point, and I wish I could have added your POTA/SOTA activations as a prime example. I admire how your videos are inspiring others to get out and “do.” That’s what great ops and a great service and resource are made of.

    ALSO, I worked you during your December 30 POTA activation (Sandy Mush). Though it appears you are not posting a video of that one, I would love to know what gear you used that day and what your setup environment was like. I’ve been watching your videos and reading your posts with great interest. With your gear and setup info being so much a part of what makes them great, now having worked you, I cannot quell my curiosity about what was behind that fine 20m signal from NC.

    Thanks and Best Regards!

  3. I am so jealous of you east-coasters! I have tried to activate a few times in the late afternoon out here in the PNW (Washington) and gotten crickets. I’d love to operate out there someday and enjoy your population density and European DX!

    1. I could see operating 20M in the late afternoon/early evening and catching JA stations.

      But you have a big point there. It’s all about population density where your signal footprint falls.

      You’re welcome top come out here any time!

  4. Those pictures your daughter took are awesome. It takes me back to when I was about her age and playing with photography. Finding some really cool shots, and just having fun with it.
    I really want to get out and play radio in the field this year. You have inspired me. So I’ve rethought my whole portable setup from the antenna to the batteries. I’m just waiting for decent weather. I am not a fan of cold at all. 🙂
    I look forward to seeing more of your activation’s, And thank you for sharing.

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