On Friday, January 27, 2023, I dropped off one of my daughters at the library for a creative writing session.
Hazel was along for the ride, so we decided to hike on the nearby Mountains To Sea Trail (MST) while my daughter was in the meeting.
During the hike, I realized that I should have taken my field radio pack along because it would have been so easy to activate both the MST and Blue Ridge Parkway as a two-fer.
Instead, Hazel and I enjoyed our hike and got back to the car with about 35 minutes or so to do an activation–including set-up, on-air time, and pack-up. That would leave me just enough time to pick up my daughter at the library before they closed for the day.
Because I had been using the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 recently, I had both packed in my Spec-Ops EDC backpack. In theory–even filming a video at the same time–I knew I could probably fit in a whole activation with 25 minutes on the air. I only needed 10 contacts, and I’ve never been in a situation where the AX1 couldn’t achieve that goal.
Hazel and I grabbed my bag from the car, I started recording a video, and we made out way to the nearest picnic table at the Blue Ridge Parkway HQ parking lot!
- Elecraft KX2
- Elecraft AX1 packed in a Maxpedition Fatty Pouch
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- VK3IL Pressure Paddle V2
- Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch
- Moleskine Cahier Journal
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera with Joby tripod (affiliate links)
On The Air
Within nine minutes, I logged the ten stations necessary for a valid park activation. That included one Park-To-Park from KD5ICE!
I continued working stations until I reached a total of 22 contacts in 22 minutes. This also included my first contact–another P2P–with K1NGZ who only started doing CW activations a few months ago. He’s become quite the CW activator in that time! Amazing!
I had to cut the activation short to allow time for packing up, hopping back in the car, and driving to the library to pick up my daughter. It was one of those days, though, I felt like I could have achieved WAS on 20 meters if I only had enough time! It was so much fun!
Here’s what this 5 watt AX1 activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.
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.
AX1 well-suited for this location
As I mentioned in a previous field report, one of the AX1’s strongest points is speed of deployment.
As I mention in the video, the AX1 is also a great antenna for this particular location. I’ve performed numerous activations at the BRP HQ, but in truth, it’s not an ideal spot for a portable operator. For one thing, in the spring, summer, and fall, it’s a busy place. I spoke with a ranger once about operating and they were fine with using the picnic tables, but didn’t want antennas anywhere else because of the traffic patterns of guests walking around.
In fact, should you ever use the picnic tables at the Blue Ridge Parkway HQ and Visitors’ Center, note that people walk on both sides of each table to go to the main building and the trailhead. If you have wires on the ground or in a tree, you must make sure people don’t walk into them. It wasn’t a problem for me on January 27 because it’s off-season. In peak season, I don’t bother setting up at the center because there’s simply so much foot traffic to mind. There are much better places along the parkway.
That said, the AX1 is well-suited for this location because I can put the entire station on the picnic table. The only thing I have to be mindful of is the short 13′ counterpoise laying on the ground.
Speaking of the ground, even though I was pressed for time, I found a lot of trash around the picnic table, so I collected as much as I could and deposited it before leaving the site. I feel like we activators should try to leave sites even cleaner than we found them. Not only does it make our public lands that much cleaner, but it certainly can’t hurt our public image as POTA activators!
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.
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.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me!
Cheers & 72,