As mentioned in my last field report, on January 26, 2022, I decided to fit in multiple park activations in one day as a RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) run. My hope was to activate four or five sites between 14:00 – 21:30 UTC.
The first activation at Lake James State Park went so well, it started me out a little ahead of schedule.
After packing up my gear at Lake James, I began a 40 minute drive to the second site–Dogback Mountain–where I hoped to do a POTA two-fer along with a Summits On The Air activation.
The drive was beautiful. Only twenty minutes into the trip, I came to the forest service road that lead to Dogback Mountain. For a six mile drive, Google Maps was telling me it would take about 20 minutes, so I knew the dirt road would require slow driving.
The road was actually in pretty good shape, but there are rocky and rough spots that pretty much require good vehicle ground clearance. My Subaru had no issues at all–in fact, I love driving on back roads like this!
Three or four miles into the forest service road I reached an impasse.
While there hadn’t been snow in the area for at least a week, the north slope portions of the road were quite icy. The thaw and night time freezing pretty much meant that there was no snow to navigate–only ice, and I’m not a big fan of ice.
I already passed through two sections of ice where I could still manage a little traction on the side of the road (at least half the car had traction). At one point, though, I saw a large section of icy road ahead, so I parked the car to investigate what it looked like over the crest of the hill.
It was so icy, I struggled to find a spot to walk on to peek over the hill and almost slipped once. That hill was pretty steep and I could see no spots for the car to get traction. Remembering what my wife said that morning (“Don’t do anything crazy, okay?“) and knowing that the worst thing for my RaDAR run would be getting stuck in a spot recovery vehicles might struggle with, I chose the option of forgoing the summit activation.
Frankly, if the summit activation was the only thing on the schedule that day, I would have likely parked, then hiked 3 miles to the summit along the forest service road. But my RaDAR run left no time for this.
Fortunately, where I parked was firmly in the two-fer zone of Pisgah National Forest and Pisgah Game Land!
Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Land (K-6937)
I parked the car on one of the many roadside camping areas right there on the ridge line. It was an ideal spot for a field activation: good altitude, no obstructions, and lots of trees.
I mentioned in my previous post that I also decided to use a different antenna and radio combo at each park. For this activation, I chose my Elecraft KX2 and a prototype PackTennna linked 40M End-Fed Half-Wave antenna George (KJ6VU) sent me for my thoughts and evaluation.
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Packtenna Mini EFHW antenna (note: this is a linked prototype version that is not yet on the market) & PackTenna 20′ RG-316 BNC/BNC
- Muji A6 Notepad and hotel ball point pen (affiliate link)
- Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera (affiliate link)
- My fingerless gloves (affiliate link)
Setup was quite easy.
I deployed the prototype linked EFHW in a tall tree without any problems. The deployment was basically in an inverted vee shape with the broad sides roughly facing northeast and southwest.
I set on my REI three-legged backpack stool and used Carolanne’s (N0RNM) brilliant 3D-printed knee board to hold the KX2.
I did my best setting up the camera, but it struggled to capture the notepad with good clarity–it was a little too bright outside.
To make it easier for operators who like following along and copying code in my videos, I included the full log spread sheet below.
On The Air
I hopped on 40 meters hoping the bands might be favorable. Was it ever!
From the very first CQ, I started working station after station. It was so busy, I never switched to 20 meters as I had planned. In 28 minutes, I logged 26 stations.
Here’s the full log sheet:
And here’s what the PackTenna EFHW did with 5 watts:
I made a real-time, real-life video of the entire field activation. As always, these videos have no ads and there are no edits during the activation (in other words, you get to see all of my mistakes!):
Click here to view on YouTube.
After going QRT, I packed up quickly so I could head to the next park in my RaDAR run: Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012). I’ll link to it once the activation report has been published.
Thing is, I packed up a little too hastily after this activation and made a mistake I’ve never made before.
When packing up, the very last thing I do (if I’ve deployed a wire antenna) is to wind up my throw line and pack it away. Somehow, I skipped the step of packing up the antenna after this activation. I packed up the feed line, then started reeling in the throw line and realized a little too late that it was still connected to the antenna!
There was no going back. The feed point of the PackTenna was a good 25 feet into the tree. The only way I could get it out was by brute force. I had to yank it al the way through the tree to get it out. I used enough force that I broke the radiator off of the winder and the winder fell to the ground.
This is not a terribly complicated fix–I just need to re-attach the radiator line. Still…
I’ll admit: these PackTennas are seriously strong antennas.
Because of this little incident, I’ve locked in my workflow of packing up the antenna, then the feedline, then the throw line. I try to learn from my mistakes.
The trip down the forest service road was a lot of fun and offered up some stunning views. Even though I was in a hurry, I had to stop a few times to take it all in.
If you missed the first activation in this RaDAR run, click here to read it and view the video.
Thank you so much for reading this report and coming along with me on this RaDAR run!
As always, 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 truly appreciate the support.
I hope you have some time this week to play a little radio! If you’ve been working on your CW skills and feel you might be ready to hit the air, consider chasing a few parks and summits to get your feet wet. It’s a brilliant way to get used to the flow of the exchange and use your skills on the air! You can do this!
8 thoughts on “POTA RaDAR Run Activation #2: Pisgah National Forest & Pisgah Game Land”
Great report and video Thomas.
That was some pileup from the start. I noticed several QSOs where the dits and dahs were very distorted like from a blown speaker. We’re they just overpowering the front end on the KX2 or were they not zero beating you and maybe a little too far of your carrier frequency?
On a personal note I’m beginning to distinguish the dits and dats from your code though I don’t know the alphabit yet. It’s encouraging.
Looking forward to the rest of the RADAR,
Perfect timing! I’m drinking coffee this AM pondering my radio kit for a backpacking trip in June as you released this. This exact pairing is in the running. I’ll have the antenna later in the week. I have some testing to do between now and June. Looking at Georges SWR info, I plan on adding a length of wire if needed to tune the 40m section to the CW portion on the band. Thank you Thomas for having all this fun for everyone to watch and learn.
You live in such a beautiful area of the country. Always enjoy the videos of the scenery. I live in SW MO so always fun to see the mountains.
Really like the noise free conditions. Make QRP easier, hi. I have been working station barely moving the S-meter, but Q5 copy. Operating in the winter can have it’s advantage.
Thanks for the good video.
73, ron, n9ee/r
Just noticed my callsign was incorrect. Its showing AE8EV instead of AD8EV.
That was definitely a pile up.
Noted! I’ll fix that if it’s incorrect int he logs. (Ping me if I forget–I’ll need to do this when back at the shack PC)
Oh my golly, Thomas, yes I am a newbie….. with field activations, though, I was hoping to see how you got your antenna up in the trees and set it up. I know, I know, easy and everyone knows how…… but I wanted to watch this one. I just purchased the Packtenna 20/40 EFHW, so I was thrilled you were using similar and setting it up. Then into your video, you said, you were not going to show the antenna setup……. ok maybe next time.
You really have beautiful spots to head to up there, I’m close to Skyline Drive in VA, though it gets crowded and not many back roads to take.
Thanks for your blog and videos, I enjoy and hope soon to be out there and ‘setting up’ and getting on the air!!
No worries, OM! I’ve got another video in the works where I deploy the 20M version of the antenna. It’s identical in deployment, the 40M version is simply longer.
Thank you as always for the kind compliments!