Gazebo Portable! A quick hike and speedy QRP POTA activation with the Elecraft KX2 and a 28.5′ random wire

On the morning of Friday, February 3, 2023, I wanted to fit in a quick hike and activation as I made my way back to the QTH.  Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861) is my go-to when I want to hike and play radio but don’t have enough time to fit in a proper SOTA activation.

That morning, the park was very quiet–mine was the only car in the parking lot. This being an educational state forest, they tend to get large groups of visitors all at once (typically, bus loads of school kids). In the winter, however, the park is quiet because their restroom facilities and water points are all winterized.

I grabbed my SOTA pack–which contained my Elecraft KX2 field kit, Tufteln/N0RNM folding knee board, and a throw line–then hit the trails!

Although it was a windy day, I headed to the gazebo at Tuttle (one I’ve used for activations in the past) which is on a hill and has a brilliant view of Grandfather Mountain.

Trust me, Grandfather Mountain is out there, my iPhone just can’t easily capture it:

The only issue with the gazebo is that the trees behind it are short and very dense with branches. In the past, I’ve launched a line over the top of the tree, but it’s not easy because then there’s always the possibility your throw weight will land on the roof of the gazebo. You also need a 10oz or heavier throw weight on trees like this, else risk getting your line caught in the tree.

There are a number of pines immediately behind the smaller ornamental trees, but to get to those, I’d need to lay my feedline across a service road the park staff use regularly, so that’s a no-go.

Of course, I could have easily deployed one of my vertical antennas, or the AX1/AX2, but I was in a random wire mood especially since the AX1 has been in such heavy rotation as of late!

The view from my shack was first class!

Oh yeah: This one’s for you, Andi…

A few weeks ago, Mike (W5RST), reached out to me via Patreon (thank you for the Patreon support, Mike!) and sent the following note:

“Interestingly enough, my cat loves watching your live POTA videos. She’ll sit in front of the TV for an hour watching.”

A couple days later, he posted this photo on his Twitter feed:

His kitty’s name is Andromeda but he calls her “Andi” for short. She’s gorgeous and obviously loves CW.

A cat who enjoys watching my videos? I don’t think there’s a higher compliment in this world. Seriously! I have reached peak YouTube.

Andi: I’m absolutely chuffed that you enjoy my videos and I’ve dedicated this activation video to you!

Okay…where was I? Oh yeah…


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On The Air

I knew this would be a quick activation because, once again, I still had a 90 minute drive to the QTH and needed to take my daughter to her Friday afternoon volunteer work.

I started calling CQ POTA on the 20 meter band and within ten minutes worked the ten stations needed for a valid POTA activation.

In total, I worked 19 stations in a very short 18 minute window on the air. Even though my antenna deployment (as I show in the activation video below) was less than ideal, it worked brilliantly.

It was fun seeing that my 5 watts made it all the way to K7ULM (a regular around here) in Montana. And many thanks to WN5C for the Park-to-Park!


Here’s what this 5 watts-into-a-wire activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map. Note that QSO Map pulls location information from a database with QTH information. I believe N6HK was actually in Texas:

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 on YouTube.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this short activation! Andi, I hoped you enjoyed this one, too!

It was a lot of fun to fit in a hike and an activation at the same time. My hope is that I’ll be able to free up my schedule enough that I can fit in some proper SOTA activations this spring.

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me! Have a wonderful week ahead!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

6 thoughts on “Gazebo Portable! A quick hike and speedy QRP POTA activation with the Elecraft KX2 and a 28.5′ random wire”

  1. You must have the most understanding family in the world. I love how all these reports start the same way. “I was on my way to do chores at my parents and thought I would fit in a quick activation”, “My wife asked me to go to the store and pick up some milk and I realized I drove right past the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way and thought I would fit in a quick activation”, “I got up in the middle of the night to take Hazel out and decided to do a quick activation.” LOL, you are almost as awesome as your family.

    1. I do have an amazing family. They also know how good POTA and SOTA is for me.

      The story of my life these days is all about fitting in short activations in my schedule gaps. 🙂

      Thank you so much for the kind comment, Jeff!

  2. I love the “speaker wire” antenna. I have one made from Monster speaker wire and I am making one made from 26GA silicone wire.

    It the real question is; when will the AX2 get some love?


  3. I really enjoyed your activation and the nod to Andromeda. You may want to consider another tool for antenna deployment. The extendable fiberglass poles from sources like Jackite and others are light and collapsible. I own both a 20 foot and a 28 foot pole. Simply attach the wire, push up the pole and two small bungee cords could hold it to the gazeebo or a post. A wire can also be put in a vee with the apex at the top of the pole as an alternative. Thanks for mixing it up with antennas and rigs. Fiberglass poles could add one more option to your stable of antennas.

  4. You were my first contact that day, too. Just tuning around before calling, using my TR-35 and a 20-meter EFHW. We sounded pretty good for 5 watts and a wire, thanks for posting videos like this.

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