Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) for the following guest post:
The Dipole Does It for Wheeler NWR (K-0161)
by Teri (KO4WFP)
After my last activation, I was hankering to try the AX1 and Pacific Antenna 2040 trap dipole during the same activation for a comparison. Now, I know some of you are saying, “Well Teri, there would be no contest!” Yes, however, in the interest of learning first-hand, I headed to K-0161, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge while visiting a friend, Glenn W4YES, and his wife in Decatur, Alabama.
Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 as a wintering area for ducks, geese, and other migratory birds. It is a 35,000 acre refuge located along the Tennessee River near Decatur, Alabama. Today, the refuge attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl and cranes each year and is a winter home to the endangered whooping crane who first arrived in 2004.
I opted to set up in a parking lot on the north side of US Highway 67 which runs through a small portion of the refuge. As there were no picnic tables present, I chose a spot where the trees would shade me from the early morning sun while sitting in my Subaru Crosstrek. Since the last activation, I had given some thought as to how to set up better in the car. My code buddy Caryn KD2GUT sits in the backseat for POTA with one seat flipped down providing a ready-made table for equipment. Even better, I discovered the back of the rear seat in the Crosstrek has a rubber surface and I could secure the key to it with fun-tak!
Since the last activation, the more I worked with the Mini Palm Paddle, the more I realized I did not like it. It just felt too “squishy” for my taste and I had difficulty feeling the characters. Glenn has a solid state CW paddle by 9A5N he was not using. I worked with it a bit and really liked the stiffer feel. He removed the heavy base in which it was mounted and built a lighter base out of the back of a old diskette so I could take the key with me to Nova Scotia. (True ham radio – making use of whatever we have on hand to solve a problem!) I find the more I use this key, the more I like the feel of it.
This was Glenn’s first POTA activation and I was happy to have him along. We arrived around 8:05 AM and began setting up, first putting the AX1 on the roof of the car and then the trap dipole on a mast on a hitch mount given to me by Jack NW4TF of my local club.
It was a good thing I had Glenn with me. When I use the dipole at Wormsloe K-3725, it is set up on the grass near the beach. I had not realized just how much real estate the antenna takes up. In the parking lot, the antenna blocked off six or seven parking spaces! So Glenn ran interference for me when cars pulled up during the activation. (I did remember the flagging tape so the antenna was at least easily noticeable.)
Once set up, I began the activation with the AX1 starting on 40 meters, the band on which I always begin. After eight minutes with no nibbles, I switched to the dipole and within two minutes, BANG! The first contact came in. Within 30 minutes, I logged eight contacts.
Around this time, a US Fish and Wildlife van pulled up and out came a refuge employee and several teens with the Youth Conservation Corps. Glenn went over and spoke with them. This happened to be the time I was ready to switch to 20 meters anyway. I walked over, introduced myself, and spoke with Ms. Jones, the refuge employee. She noticed the dipole and began asking questions about it. Upon learning Glenn and I are hams, she asked if the kids could learn about what we were doing. Well, of course! I had just read Mark W8EWH’s field report on QRPer.com and here I was doing the same thing!
I climbed back into the car with the kids on the other side watching, unplugged the headphones, prayed 20 meters on the dipole would cooperate, and began demonstrating what we do as hams. I called QRL to clear the frequency and then called CQ and waited for the first contact. It didn’t take long – in two minutes Dave KQ4CW responded. I worked through the exchange translating for the kids each character of the code they were hearing. And before I knew it, it was time to send 72 and the demo was done.
After Ms. Jones and the teens left, I continued to work 20 meters with the dipole for 40 minutes at which point I switched to the AX1. Nothing. After seven minutes of no nibbles, I went back to the dipole and, again, within two minutes, Lee WB1DYR responded to my CQ. I worked another 20 minutes and decided to call it a day with 29 contacts, eight on 40 meters and 21 on 20 meters. Not bad!
Where do I go from here? The performance of the AX1 was lackluster today. I am disappointed in its performance but…it is still an important piece of my arsenal because of its small size and portability and it works in situations in which I cannot use a dipole or EFRW antenna. But, a wire antenna obviously rocks! So, in deference to the strength of wire antennas, the next step is learning to get antennas in trees in order to deploy and use an EFRW antenna as recommended by other hams. Oh boy! Stay tuned…