Rich activates the very POTA-friendly Santa Fe Prairie State Nature Preserve (K-7839)

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:

Activating K-7839 with lessons learned from my last portable POTA activation

by Rich (KQ9L)

Here in Chicago, we have been blessed with unseasonably warm weather these past two days. I decided to build on my last successful POTA activation and apply some of the lessons I learned from that activation while working this one.

Close to my home is Park K-7839, the Santa Fe Prairie State Nature Preserve (K-7839) in Cook County, IL.

The preserve was established in 1997 and is staffed and maintained solely by volunteers. The park’s mission is to preserve a section of land for people to observe and admire the natural Illinois Prairie Landscape before it was altered by man.

The park itself is a thin sliver of land west of Chicago and is boarded by the Des Plaines River to the south and the rail yard / industrial park on the other there sides. If you look carefully in the second picture below, you can see some Sante Fe trains in the distance.

The park is easy to reach by car and right off the main park road are several picnic tables which I’m sure a ham in a wheel chair can easily access.

There are a number of features of the park which facilitate a POTA activation.

For example, in the picnic area, a Boy Scout Eagle Scout project resulted in the building of a 22ft flagpole. The flags are long gone, but the sturdy pole has been made available to hams for the hoisting of antennas. There are pulleys and easy tie down points to erect and inverted vee antenna.

To the east most section of the park is a lookout deck and at the east and west of the deck are trees with pulleys and lines permanently mounted. I’ve been told by the staff that the distance between the trees is a perfect fit for a 20m dipole.

The staff are great and are present most weekends. I met Don today for the first time and he showed me around the park. What a great guy!

Probably the neatest feature of the park is the old retired train caboose. It serves as the park office and volunteer hangout and for our purposes a dedicated operating station. I’ve been told there is a permanent 20m antenna mounted to the roof of the caboose and all hams are welcome to use it and the cabooses 12v power supply anything when a park volunteer is available!

I opted to do my activation outside, it would have been a shame to sit inside which the sun was shining and the temps were in the mid to upper 70’s— a rarity for Chicago in late October.

I strolled through the picnic area, around the prairie to a little park picnic table on the north side of the park.

With me today was a new backpack, the Mystery Ranch Spartan.

For bag geeks, you’ll recognize this as one of the “holy grail” backpacks. Only a little over 1000 of these were ever made and they are highly sought after. Recently Mystery Ranch did a limited re-issue of the bag and I was lucky to snag one!

My kit was essentially the same as my last activation with very slight modifications. I used my KX2 with KXPD3 paddles but this time I bought a second paddle which happened to be a CW Morse straight key. Lesson learned about redundancy from my Torrey Pines POTA.

I was also very mindful to set up my station off the beaten path so that passers by would not inadvertently stumble into my antenna— lesson two learned.

Finally, I chose to do my activation mid day versus my beloved early morning hours, this proved to be probably the most impactful lesson I learned from my last activation. In no time, I logged about 15 Q’s with several P2Ps thrown in there. I did re-learn a lesson about QRM in an urban environment.

The QRM made copy extremely difficult at times. I think the noise source was from the nearby electromotive trains that where moving about in the rail yard to the north. I did engage the Noise blocker and Noise reduction with helped to an extent. The most effective combo however was noise blanker on about 9 and the Audio Peaking Filter with a signal pass band set on 400 Hz. If I made the passband too narrow or matched the APF 30Hz, signals were more difficult to copy…lesson learned.

I’m pretty happy overall with the activation and I got to play in the warm outdoors before winter really sets in here in the Midwest. I guess the adage “practice makes perfect” certainly applies to POTA activations.

I’m getting more comfortable with deploying a lightweight, but still highly effect station and doing so in a portable ie: pack in and not drive in fashion. I hope you enjoyed reading this and I look forward to sharing with you my next POTA adventure!


2 thoughts on “Rich activates the very POTA-friendly Santa Fe Prairie State Nature Preserve (K-7839)”

  1. WOW! Thank you, Rich, for sharing this field report. Most impressive–I love how you’ve taken lessons from the last activation and incorporated them in this one.

    I’m not sure if you could have found a more POTA-friendly site. I mean, they invite you to set up in their vintage caboose that’s outfitted with both 12V power and a vertical? Wow! And the flagpole? Unheard of! This park is on my list to activate next time I’m in the area. Knowing QRM might be an issue, it’s probably a great park for a mag loop antenna. I’ve been plotting to build one.

    I should also add…WHAT!?!?! You got a Mystery Ranch Spartan? You must know people! 🙂 That is indeed a Holy Grail bag. I’d love to get my hands on one someday.

    Thanks again, Rich and we look forward to your future field reports as well!


  2. Great Report Rich!

    QRM not withstanding, I’d say that was an excellent activation. 15Q’s & 2 P2P’s, very nice!

    And seeing your propagation, and your longest QSO, being AZ, maybe I could of worked you from my QTH here in Boise (1,500 miles).

    The Elecraft KX2 boasts of your expertise! (I know, I own one too! HiHi)

    72! de W7UDT (dit dit)

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