Field Report: How I evaluate a new POTA site plus serious QRP fun with my new-to-me Elecraft KX1

On Friday, October 7, 2022, I had a couple of errands to run in/around Morganton, NC. Of course, I always have POTA in mind so squeezed in an activation at nearby Tuttle Educational State Forest that morning.  That activation took longer than expected due to swapping out antennas and radios, but it was a success and quite fun.

After Tuttle, I knew I could fit in one more activation if I made it quick, so I set my sights on Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012), but first I had a couple of errands to run in Morganton!

I visited my friend Hamilton at his ceramics studio, popped by another store to pick up a couple of items, then (on Hamilton’s advice) grabbed lunch at the The Grind Café.

I must say that Hamilton was spot-on. My wrap was delicious!

Just what I needed to fuel another POTA activation, right? Right!

After lunch, I drove to Table Rock Fish Hatchery. The weather was ideal and the leaves were beginning to show color.

At our home in the mountains, we were almost at peak leaf color, but the fish hatchery site is much lower in elevation. The weather was simply ideal.

On days like this, driving to a site is half the fun.

POTA site evaluation

I parked on site and, before setting up, decided to spend some time behind the camera talking about how I evaluate a new POTA site prior to setting up.

I make a lot of activation videos–they’re all unedited (at least the activation bit)–but I rarely think to add information about some of the things I do on site that are simply a part of my set-up procedures.

As I pulled into the parking area at Table Rock Fish Hatchery, I remembered the first time I activated the site and how I gave it a good once-over before deploying my antenna and setting up the radio.

This is a process I do each time I’m either at a new park or choosing a different set up location at a familiar park. I got a lot of practice doing site evaluations in Canada this summer since almost each park I visited was an ATNO (All-Time New One) for the POTA network.

I would encourage you to check out the first portion of my activation video (below) for details about how I evaluate a site which includes:

  • Scoping out the site on foot
  • Checking for power lines
  • Checking for dead branches in trees
  • Looking for the best area to deploy my antenna
  • Finding a spot to set up that won’t interfere with others’ enjoyment of the site
  • Looking for trash/rubbish that others have left on-site (always leave a site cleaner than you found it!)

Sometimes this process may also include seeking approval to operate if at a site that is historical, archaeological, or even a site devoted to strict conservation. Of course, Table Rock is a very ham-friendly site and I’ve spoken to staff here on several occasions.

After the site tour, I deployed my MM0OPX EFHW antenna and set up my still then new-to-me Elecraft KX1 “Ingrid.”


On The Air

Twenty meters had been so productive as of late, I decided to start there then work my way down the band.

I started calling CQ POTA and within eight minutes, I worked the ten stations necessary to validate the park. Amazing!

I spent another ten minutes on 20 meters and worked an additional eight stations.

Next, I moved to the 30 meter band and was incredibly pleased to find that the KX1 internal ATU could find a match on this 40 meter end-fed half-wave!

In two minutes on 30 meters, I worked four more stations then the band was quiet, so moved down to 40 meters.

Turned out that 40 meters was almost as productive as 20 meters. I logged a total of 12 stations in eleven minutes. What fun!

Having completely run out of time, I then called QRT.

Here are my logs:


Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view and subscribe on YouTube.

KX1 love

This KX1 has performed perfectly in the field. I’m so pleased.

As I mentioned in this post, this particular unit was built by someone I know who is an incredibly talented engineer. This is, in truth, what lead me down the path of buying a second KX1.

My first KX1 (Ruby) is in need of a bit of surgery this winter, but no doubt I’ll have her back on the air as well!

I’ll admit that my new KX1 (Ingrid) internal ATU does a much better job finding matches than Ruby. This might mean pulling apart Ruby’s ATU at some point and checking those ATU coils and connections as well.

Canine welcome committee

If you’ve seen previous field reports from Table Rock Fish Hatchery, you’ve no doubt met the two inseparable members of the canine welcome committee.

As I was packing up and checking the site, they both popped by for a quick visit.

They’re such sweet dogs and it’s not a complete Table Rock activation without them.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them. It’s truly an honor to be able to share these radio excursions with everyone.

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.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

If you’re studying CW and still find copy a little difficult, this is perfectly normal. Be persistent and continue to listen to CW as often as you can. You will be able to master CW to the point of doing field activations. It may seem like it’s taking a long time, but once your brain starts recognizing elements your speed will increase quickly. Keep the faith! You can do it!

Thank you so very much!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

3 thoughts on “Field Report: How I evaluate a new POTA site plus serious QRP fun with my new-to-me Elecraft KX1”

  1. Nice activation report.

    I agree, adding cw to your POTA activations is well worth the effort. Easy to master the limited exchanges. Plenty of great operators.

    Careful, it is adictive!

    73 de Gil K4 JST

  2. Great write up Thomas.

    I am always amazed at your thinking: “I’ve got 13 minutes, if I hurry I can get an activation in”. It takes me longer than that just to get out of the car and to the picnic table. Your enthusiasm for fitting an activation into your schedule is inspiring.


  3. Thank you Thomas for the encouragement and your comments and thoughts about what goes into a POTA activation. I’m still a newbie, though will keep working at it. So far I have done all CW except one 2m contact, when I did a SOTA in SNP along the AT a couple of weeks ago. I am now starting to carry my FT 60R, which is new to me.

    I also, just 2 minutes ago, ordered my Spec-Op bag as you suggested and use, MC as the OD were not in stock. They are offering no shipping fee currently.

    One of these days, we’ll actually have a CW QSO when one of us is out and about. I have heard you on, we came close one time……. I’m not the best with CW these days, but keep plugging along as CW is in my blood and been with me a long time……. so thanks agn and 73, God Bless

    Fr Richard

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