New River Gorge: Pairing the TufteIn 9:1 Random Wire with the Elecraft KX2

When Eric (WD8RIF) and I hatched our plan to do a mini POTA expedition in West Virginia, there was one site I wanted to activate more than any other: New River Gorge National Park.

More specifically, I wanted to activate the park by way of the scenic one-way road that starts near the New River Gorge Visitor’s Center and descends down to the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge (the “old” New River bridge).

Why? Because in December 2016 during the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) program, I passed through West Virginia and activated some very rare parks on my way to a multi-day park run with Eric in Ohio. I fully intended to activate the New River at this very spot (underneath the “new” New River Bridge) after hearing how amazing the drive was from Eric.

Unfortunately, I happened to time my trip through West Virginia on a day when we received about an inch of snow. Even though (at the time) I was driving a Toyota minivan with nearly bald tires, the snow didn’t pose a problem at any other site, save this one. I had to change my plans and activate the New River in a spot where the access had less elevation change on a narrow snow-covered road. With my Subaru, this wouldn’t have been an obstacle in the slightest.

I was looking forward to going back to this site and was very pleased to see that Eric and his son, Miles, had already planned this trip in the draft itinerary!

New River Gorge National Park (K-0696)

On the morning of May 20, 2022, Eric, Miles, Theo the dog, and I left our campsite at Babcock State Forest and made our way to the New River Gorge Visitor’s center next to the New River Bridge.

If you’re ever in this area, I’d highly recommend checking out this visitor’s center as it has some well-designed exhibits detailing the impressive engineering that went into the construction of the New River Gorge Bridge.

There are also some fantastic views from the visitor’s center and from its short gorge overlook trail.

From the trail overlook at the visitor’s center we could see the spot where we planned to activate near the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge deep in the gorge (see photo above).

The drive into the gorge was quite scenic with a number of spots to park and take in the enormity of the New River bridge.At the bottom of the gorge, the view was pretty spectacular as well!

My partners in crime: Eric, Miles and “The Great Warg” (Theo the dog)

TufteIn 9:1 EFRW (End-Fed Random Wire) antenna

I mentioned in a previous post that long-time QRPer.com reader and supporter, Joshua (KO4AWH), runs an Etsy store with a wide range of products primarily designed for field operators.

Besides the Elecraft T1 protection case I mentioned previously, he also sent a couple of his QRP field antennas for testing and evaluation (to be clear: free of charge). Thanks, Joshua!

I decided to break in his EFRW QRP Antenna Long Wire at New River Gorge. Since Eric and I would be operating pretty close to one another, I wanted to use a random wire antenna that would give me a bit of frequency agility to hop around and avoid harmonically-related bands Eric might be using. This TufteIn antenna fit the bill!

Although Joshua sent a couple counterpoise options–which are very easy to attach to the 9:1 feed point–I opted to go without which meant the antenna would be using the shield of my RG-316 coax as the only counterpoise.

If I could go back in time, I would have added a 17′ counterpoise to the antenna during this activation, but frankly? I wanted to see how it might perform without. Turns out, propagation was pretty lousy that whole day, but the random wire antenna still worked a charm!

Gear:

Deploying the antenna was quite easy. Since the radiator is only 31′ feet long, it only took a gentle throw of my arborist throw line to snag the perfect branch!

I used one of Eric’s folding chairs during this activation as well. It was quite comfy and I believe I’ll need to grab one of these for myself in the near future!

On The Air

I fired up the Elecraft KX2 and started calling CQ on the 17 meter band. My first contact was a Park-To-Park with Eric some 30 meters away.

Turns out, 17 meters was pretty dead–after all, it was pretty darn early in the day–so I decided to QSY to the 20 meter band after working Eric. I worked two more stations before QSYing to the 40M band.

The 40 meter band was much more productive. In about 10 minutes, I worked 9 stations including yet another P2P with WD8RIF.

One common theme in all of our West Virginia activations was the length of time it was taking us to work the ten needed for a valid park activation. Conditions were pretty rough. This turned out to be one of the easier activations.

QSO Map

Although I was deep in the gorge and propagation was lacking, I was still very pleased with the contacts I made in short order with only 5 watts of power:

(WD8RIF was not in Ohio because he was with me on site. Not sure why the QSO map is showing a second contact with him in MI.)

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation on the banks of the New River:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Overall, I was super pleased with Joshua’s end-fed random wire antenna! Not only did it get me through this activation with relative ease, but it was also super easy to deploy and pack up.

I believe the best way to test an antenna is to put it on the air and see how well it works. “Proof is in the pudding”–right? Since this activation I’ve used Joshua’s random wire antenna numerous times with an attached 17′ counterpoise.

It’s quickly becoming one of my go-to antennas especially since it’s compact enough to fit in my KX2 field kit.

WD8RIF’s report

Make sure to check out Eric’s field report which includes details about his KX3 set-up that you’ll see in the activation video above.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me (and Eric, Miles, & Theo) on this POTA activation.

Although detailed field reports take a few hours to write-up and publish (along with activation videos), I truly enjoy the process. It gives me a chance to re-live an activation and share the whole experience with kindred spirits.

Of course, I’d also 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.

I hope you get a chance to play radio this week. Don’t wait on propagation to be ideal–just hit the air regardless. When conditions are unstable, you simply need to allot more time to complete an activation. You’ll still be able to obtain a valid activation, it simply takes more time and patience (as you will see in future field reports)!

Again, thanks for joining me!

Cheers & 72/73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

One thought on “New River Gorge: Pairing the TufteIn 9:1 Random Wire with the Elecraft KX2”

  1. Great location, Thomas! I’ve been across the high bridge a number of times, but have not taken time for the side trip down into the canyon. It was great to get you in the log for this activation. It becomes clear why I got you at 229, and it wasn’t just the change in distance from your normal locations, hi hi.

    Best 73 de Brian – K3ES

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