Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:
Field Report and Lessons from Torrey Pines State Beach (K-3580)
by Rich (KQ9L)
As you can tell from my call sign, I am a W9er, but recently had the opportunity to travel to California and specifically to the San Diego area. I thought it would be fun to try to activate a park near my hotel. I consulted the POTA website and found one park which was within 5 miles of my hotel, perfect!
While planning for the trip, I carefully chose and packed my gear to minimize added weight and bulk of my carry-on luggage. Because on this requirement, I chose my Elecraft KX2 with built in battery, my KXPD3 paddles, a K6ARK end-fed half-wave and the telescoping fishing pole from the PackTenna portable mast system.
Everything fit perfectly into a Lowepro CS40 case and Tom Bihn HLT. I did not bring the tripod from the PackTenna system to cut down on weight and bulk.
The hardest part of traveling with this setup was the fishing pole as I could not fit it diagonally in my carry-on legal luggage and I ended up having it sticking out the top of my soft side Patagonia MLC carryon backpack / travel luggage.
I received a few odd looks from passengers and airline personal but to my relief I did not get hassled for the odd looking thing sticking out of my luggage. To minimize the space my luggage occupied in the overhead storage, I simply pulled the pole out of the luggage and stowed it in the bottom of the overhead bin. Easy! Everything made it safely to my destination and no the got destroyed.
This morning [October 15, 2022] I decided to go out early to activate Torrey Pines K-3580 which is just north of San Diego.
I ran into a problem which I guess I should’ve anticipated. Being from the central time zone and normally a 5 AM riser, I found myself ready to go by 3 AM Pacific time. I dillydallied for a few hours and watched a few of your YouTube videos to get me psyched up and ready for the activation.
I got out to the site right at sunrise and set up without much difficulty. I found the vegetation to be conducive to setting up the fishing pole by leaning it up against some of the shrubbery.
Needless to say, the scenery was fantastic and there was a pretty well worn trail along the coast which made it very easy to navigate to my operating position looking over the beach and on top of the cliffs. Breathtaking!
I learn a few things which I thought I would share.
Number one and probably most important, seating and station ergonomics can make or break an activation.
While planning, I figured I could just sit on the ground and have my radio on my lap and notebook there as well. Well that doesn’t work too well especially when you’re sitting in sand. Also the effects of Mother Nature on the body aren’t too kind especially if you are not accustomed to sitting on the ground without proper back support! I learned that next time, no matter the weight or bulk penalty, I will either bring a small ultralight stool to sit on, a work surface like a clipboard to hold the radio or perhaps find a location with a table / parkbench. The latter was not an option since I could not pass up the incredible view.
What I ended up doing was to put the radio on top of its case and to sit on my jacket on top of the sand.
This resulted in lesson number two. If there is sand, it will get into everything and get everywhere where it should not be. Somehow I got sand in between the contacts of the paddles and this made for erratic sending and I bet the folks I worked found it difficult to copy my code, sorry, I’m really not that bad!
Lesson number three, no matter what always bring some form of back up for things that are likely to fail. I should’ve brought an extra set of paddles, and this would’ve made the activation go much more smoothly and without hiccup. what makes it even more silly oversight is that I have a number of paddles, which are very small, and could’ve easily been tucked into a corner of my bag. Despite this handicap, I was able to get the site activated but I think it could’ve been a lot more pleasant and fun for both me and the ham on the other side had I had more foresight and brought an extra paddle.
Finally, in public areas you need to be very mindful of passersby who may inadvertently run into your antenna or antenna wire. From this point forward, I will always mark my antenna wire with some form of “flag” or brightly colored ribbon of some sort. Although I thought I was far enough off of the side of the path, I noticed a couple people who went off path to check and view and almost walked right into my antenna! Luckily, at the last moment, they saw the stealth 26 gauge wire, and avoided getting hit by the wire on the top on their head. I would hate for somebody to get injured or trip and fall because of my antenna and poor planning.
Trying this on my own, especially traveling far away from my QTH makes me appreciate much more how organized you are and how smoothly you get your activations done. Kudos to you, and I’m gonna watch your videos more closely and learn a little bit better how to activate parks, more smoothly, and efficiently.