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 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
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!):
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.
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!