Speaker Wire SOTA & POTA: Another rendezvous with Rendezvous Mountain!

I get a little thrill out of checking out new parks and summits.

When going to a new-to-me site, I typically do quite a bit of research in advance. With parks, I look up directions to the entrance, hiking trails, park boundaries, and try to sort out the best potential activation sites on a map. With a summit, it can be much more complicated, but reading previous activator notes really saves a lot of headache. That’s especially the case here in the States where many summits are on private/gated land and/or could require bushwhacking off trail with no mobile phone service.

Then again, returning to a site I’ve been to before is also quite nice. I know what to expect and that often opens up the door to more confidence with time planning, antenna choices, and what to pack in terms of gear.

 

On Friday, March 25, 2022, I re-visited a site I hadn’t been to in nearly a year: Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest.

 

What’s great about Rendezvous is that it’s both a POTA and SOTA site.

On top of that (no pun intended) the activation zone of SOTA summit 2543 (W4C/EM-082) is on a road where Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest (K-4859), and Rendezvous Mountain State Game Land (K-6941) overlap. One activation yields two parks and one summit!

Last year, it took a bit of research to make this discovery. I studied both the park and game land maps, then compared those with a Cal Topo map. If interested, check out that field report here.

Rendezvous Mountain

I arrived on site around 12:45 local. The park was void of visitors–I almost felt like I’d arrived on a day when the gates should have been closed.

As I grabbed my SOTA backpack out of the back of the car, a ranger pulled up in his truck and  asked if I was planning to hike. I told him about my plans and asked if it was okay that I hike the forest service road to the summit. He said, “Sure. But when you reach the prison crew doing brush cutting on the road, make sure one of the guards sees you before you attempt to pass them.”

Okay then.

I thanked him and double checked that it was actually not a problem to hike the road and he said, “Go for it!”

I also asked him why the park seemed partially closed, but the gates were open. He explained that the park is currently in a state of transition from an educational state forest to a state park. He said the process might take nearly a year and they’re transitioning everything now.

So when I re-visit the site in the future, it’ll likely be a different POTA park entity.

I started walking up the paved portion of the road that leads to the fire tower. I could hear chainsaws in the distance so I knew the prison crew wasn’t far down the road.

Prisoners with chainsaws. What could possibly go wrong, right?

When I found the crew and got one of the guard’s attention I told him that I was just hiking through. He asked, “Does anyone know you’re here?” I mentioned that the park ranger gave me the all clear and he seemed to be satisfied with that.

I had to wait a few minutes for a tree they’d been working on to fall across the road before passing.

I mentioned in the last field report that there’s only one spot on the road where you could take a wrong turn. It’s a very obvious split (see photo above). Just bear to the right.

The forest service road takes you past what would have been an old homestead. The daffodils give it away.

This is a super easy hike and very enjoyable. The elevation changes are moderate and the road is in great shape.

This was early spring, so not a lot of wildflowers popping up yet, but there were some beautiful mosses and lichens along the way.

During my hike, I received a text from my wife. She asked if I might head home early as a friend was planning to pop by for a visit that evening.

I looked at my watch and did a little math in my head. If I kept the activation under 30 minutes and hiked at a steady pace on the way back, I calculated that I could be back at the QTH by 17:30 local.

I confirmed with my wife I could probably make it in time. I then picked up my pace.

In truth, I had been planning a pretty laid-back activation and hoped to be on the air at least 60-90 minutes–especially since the drive to the park from my parents’ house (where I’d been for a few nights) was a good 1.5 hours.

I reached the activation spot in short order and wasted no time to deploy my speaker wire antenna.

Gear:

Setup with the KX2 and speaker wire antenna was quick and easy!

On The Air

I started calling CQ on 20 meters; my first contact was Michael (N7CCD) about 2013 miles/3239 km away in Washington state. A very promising start!

Next, I worked Christian (F4WBN) in Urcuit, France about 4106 miles/6607 km from the summit.

Wow!

I continued to work stations for about 20 minutes. Twenty meters was productive, but I didn’t work a single station on seventeen meters.

All-in-all, I logged 12 stations with a total of three park-to-parks and one summit-to-summit!

I was very pleased with those results. If I had more time it would have been fun top play a little SSB, but it just wasn’t in the cards that day.

Here’s a screen shot of my logs via the POTA website:

QSO Map

Here’s what 5 watts into a speaker wire yielded in about 20 minutes on the air–keep in mind that, for some reason, the QSO map isn’t showing my contact with Christian (F4WBN) in France:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life activation video. As always, these videos have no edits during the actual activation (and no ads):

Click here to view on YouTube.

Hiking back

Post activation, I packed up my gear and hit the trail hiking at a brisk pace.

As I approached the fire tower, I did have to wait once again for the prison crew guards to acknowledge me and pause the crew.

I believe my hike back to the car only took about 30 minutes at most.

Thank you

Thanks so much for reading this field report!

Although I would have liked to spend more time on the air, this was a fun activation. It always blows my mind what can be achieved with five watts and some speaker wire!

After I uploaded my logs to the SOTA database, I noticed that my SOTA points are now 134. While I’m not a terribly awards-motivated guy, it would be fun someday to get “Mountain Goat” status with SOTA. Unless something really changes, I don’t see this happening for another 5 years or so at very best.

SOTA activation points only count once per year per unique summit. Meaning, I could activate the same summit three days in a row, but those points would only count for the first activation and only once per year toward SOTA Goat status. This certainly encourages motivated SOTA activators to explore new summits to earn SOTA Goat points.

Summits, in general, take much more time for me plot, plan, and activate.  For example, from my home I can activate a park and be back home within one hour. To activate the closest summit to me (Lane Pinnacle) I need at least 4-5 hours set aside in my schedule. There are some easily accessible drive-up SOTA summits with cell phone tower clusters nearby, but they just don’t get me excited for some reason.

This summer, when my daughters are on break from school, I hope to hit a few extra summits as family outings. At least one of my daughters seems eager to bag a summit activation soon!

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 really appreciate the support. It makes videos and reports like this one possible.

Here’s wishing everyone good health and good propagation!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

13 thoughts on “Speaker Wire SOTA & POTA: Another rendezvous with Rendezvous Mountain!”

    1. This is a length that, I believe, was originally suggested in the Elecraft KX1 manual. The important factor is that the length isn’t a half wave length on any frequency you plan to use. I also have one with a 31 foot radiator and 17′ counterpoise.

      1. More precisely, you want to avoid lengths that are an odd multiple of a half-wavelength on any frequency of interest. Thus, one would avoid anything that is 1/2, 3/2, 5/2, etc., wavelengths.

        Tom is correct–the 28-1/2′ length came from the KX1 manual. Well, it’s actually, found in the manual for the KXAT1, the internal antenna tuner option for the KX1:

        “Wire antenna length: Since the KX1 can only match a moderate range of impedances, a given random wire length is not guaranteed to provide an acceptable match on all three bands. Results will vary depending on the wire length, height, type of support, and ground system. But for backpacking use on 40/30/20 meters, a wire length of 24-28 feet will generally provide good results. For use on 30/20 m only, as little as 12 ft. can be used, and for 20 m only, as little as 8 ft. Avoid lengths which are close to a halfwavelength long or any multiple thereof, which will be out of the KXAT1’s matching range. For example, you should avoid using close to 33′ if 20 m operation is planned, or 46′ if you’ll be using 30 m.”

        I have found that a 28-1/2′ wire vertical fed against three counterpoise wires about 17′ long lying on the ground to work very well with my KX3 with KXAT3 ATU. I usually feed this through a 4:1 unun but I’ve operated with just a BNC-to-binding-posts adapter many times.

        Eric

  1. Great write up Thomas.

    I noticed that in the manuals for the AX1/AXE1 they mention using the counterpoise wires as a wire antenna. I am wondering if you have tried hooking the counterpoise wires to the banana plug/BNC adapter like you did with your speaker wire antenna. Seems like a way to save some weight and space in the pack. I’m always looking for multiple antenna setups with as few components as possible. Being able to use the counterpoise wires with th AX1 as well as the BNC adapter just seems like a great idea,

    W4MKH
    https://w4mkh-qrp.com/

  2. Haven’t had time to watch the video yet but enjoyed the write up. It’s funny the things you stubble up on in the backwoods. Looks like a stellar place! Catch ya soon Thomas

    1. It’s a beautiful park with loads of trails. It’ll be interesting to see what might change as the forest is transitioned into a state park.

  3. Great read, Thomas and always fun to work you!

    I was traveling for work from WA to MI last week and had time to pull off for two POTA activations (I always travel with my 705). I have not mustered the courage for a CW only activation, but did incorporate it into both activations by calling a little CW CQ, but mostly chasing.

    I forgot to pack the 3Ah Bioenno battery for 10W, but didn’t even need it as I worked England and Spain on the internal 5W (SSB to boot). That was the highlight I think…

    I have another work trip to OH next week and will be bringing the 705 of course. I have a coworker who has his Tech that is interested in seeing it and I want to encourage him to go for his General.

    Always looking forward to your posts and videos and thanks for your encouragement!

    Michael – N7CCD

    1. That’s just excellent, Michael!

      The 705 travels very well and you’ve discovered what I have: 5 watts works brilliantly for activations.

      Always great to get you in the logs–sometimes with a booming signal, in fact!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  4. I set up the Xiegu X6100 in my front yard today to chase some parks and I used three different antennas. I started with the AX1 then moved to the Spark Plug EFHW and closed out with my speaker wire antenna hooked directly to the radio.

    The speaker wire antenna outperformed the more expensive antennas and I ended up with contacts from RI, PA, and NJ to my north. Running west (I am on the east coast of Florida) I worked MO and AR plus Mike, K8MRD in Texas at K-3819.

    The speaker wire antenna was set up as a vertical using my 21′ telescoping fishing pole leaning up against my privacy fence.

    To be honest it kind of sucks that my homemade speaker wire antenna out performed the other two which combined set me back well over $300. But it is also very cool and satisfying to make contacts on something I built for less than $15.

    All of my contacts today were on 20 meters as 40 meters was just too short for any of the activators to hear my little 10W signal. If this combo works this well when hunting and trying to bust through the pile ups I can only imagine how well it will work when I am the activator.

    Thanks for your inspiration Thomas.

    W4MKH
    https://w4mkh-qrp.com/

    1. Speaker wire is hard to beat. My buddy Eric (WD8RIF) has performed hundreds of activations with a similar antenna and QRP power. His has a few counterpoises, but same setup.

      The AX1 is no miracle antenna, but it’s a valuable and effective tool for SOTA and POTA where I live. It always blows my mind with the contacts I make. It’s nice being the DX.

      Give that EFHW more air time, though. It’s a fantastic antenna design for field ops and likely the most efficient of the ones you’ve mentioned.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  5. Thomas, I missed the knee pad. Maybe it was in another post. Perhaps you could repost the link–or maybe one of your astute readers can point me in the right direction….

    73,
    Jack
    NG2E

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