Lake Norman: An amazing hike followed by a POTA activation with the TEN-TEC R4020

Somedays, I just need to stretch my legs with a good hike and Tuesday (June 6, 2023) was one of those days!

I had the afternoon wide open to do a POTA activation or two and since I was visiting my folks in Catawba County, I thought about hitting Fort Dobbs State Park and Lake Norman State Park. It would make for a fun two-park rove and would be very doable that afternoon.

Then it hit me that what I really wanted to do that afternoon was to take a nice, long, leisurely hike–fitting in both parks wouldn’t allow enough time for a proper hike.Thus, I ditched the idea of hitting both parks and chose to activate only Lake Norman because it has an amazing six mile “Lakeshore” loop trail that I love.

I arrived at the park a little after noon, parked at the spot where I planned to do my activation later, then walked to the trailhead and started my hike.

It was a gorgeous day–fairly hot and humid (we’re talking June in the Piedmont of NC) but still perfect for a hike.

The trail follows the winding lake shore and is a very easy hike. I’m used to taking more mountainous trails, so to hike along a lakeshore is just pure fun.

I hiked at a decent clip and by the time I made it back to my car, I was pretty darn sweaty. The humidity made sure of that!

Still: the hike was just what the doctor ordered!

Lake Norman State Park (K-2740)

I grabbed my radio gear from the car and found a picnic table under the shade of trees.

I make an effort to show antenna deployments in all of my videos when I have the time, but I didn’t on this particular day. Frankly, I was so drenched in sweat, I had no desire to be in front of a camera. 🙂

Besides, I used the same antenna (my mostly homemade 40 meter EFHW above) that I showed being deployed during two previous activations: Yatesville Lake State Park and Stonelick State Park.

I chose to run the TEN-TEC R4020 QRP transceiver which is a perfect fit for a 40 meter end-fed half-wave.

Since the 40M EFHW is resonant on both 40 and 20 meters, there’s no need for an ATU.


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On The Air

I decided to start this activation on the 20 meter band thinking it might be the most productive based on the time of day.

I started calling CQ POTA and very quickly worked three stations…then…quiet.

Evidently, 20 meters was in rough shape.

I QSY’ed to the 40 meter band and discovered that it was in much better shape.

I ended up adding 25 more hunters to the logs in the space of 31 minutes for a total of 28 logged.

It goes to show that in these days of unstable propagation, you must be frequency agile. When one band is suffering, another might be energized!


Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click to enlarge).

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.

Doing POTA on a dime!

I think one of the reasons I’m fond of the R4020 is because I purchased it for about $125 and it’s such an effective, affordable little POTA/SOTA rig. True…they’re simple, lack advanced filtering, have no separate sidetone control and they’re very much discontinued, but they also sport a capable receiver and have excellent audio characteristics. I see these on tables at hamfests all the time.

If you ever find an R4020–or the original YouKits equivalent–for a good price, grab it! You can do like me and build a full dedicated radio kit around it and have a blast in the field!

Doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation, I believe my entire field kit cost about $250. Frankly? That number could easily be cut by an additional $30-40 by opting for a less expensive pack, notepad, and pen. The price includes a full throw line kit–I could have easily used my barebones throw line and weight which only costs about $27.

You don’t have to spend a mint to enjoy POTA and SOTA to the max!

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.

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! Have an amazing week ahead!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

4 thoughts on “Lake Norman: An amazing hike followed by a POTA activation with the TEN-TEC R4020”

    1. That is Gaia GPS:

      Until this year, I had been using AllTrails. I started a subscription with Gaia, though, because their maps are so detailed and I just prefer the interface.
      So far, I really like it.

  1. Thomas,
    DO you have a link to the 3D print design for the EFHW? I have seen a lot of different designs, but yours looks great!

    Mike, KL7MJ

    1. Hi, Mike,

      So I can’t take credit for this particular one.
      This EFHW is a bit cannibalized. 🙂 It started out life as a Par End-Fedz EFT TRail-Friendly. I broke mine in 2020 and re-discovered the matching unit and winder when I was putting together the pieced to build an EFHW from scratch.

      I, too, have been looking for a good 3D-printed matching unit enclosure.


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