After returning home from Hamvention, I had about three days to prepare my truck, our small travel trailer/caravan, and pack for one week of camping in Huntsville, Alabama.
We had a great excuse for hanging around Huntsville: my daughter was attending Advanced Space Academy (Space Camp) at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.
The drive to Huntsville is about five hours and we decided that it would fun to go camping with not a whole lot to do for a week. Proper relaxation!
I looked at the POTA map in advance and plotted out at least four or five parks I could activate without driving too far. I planned to fit in activations on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Thursday, we planned to spend the full day at the Space and Rocket Center and Friday was my daughter’s graduation.
My truck, though, had other plans!
About half way on our journey to Huntsville, my 1997 Dodge Ram 2500 started to have issues. Without going into too much detail here, there seemed to be a problem with the accelerator.
We drove to Huntsville on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, so not an ideal time to have mechanical issues. I limped to truck to Alabama and waited for a diesel shop in Huntsville to open on Tuesday morning.
In the meantime, I was able to hunt POTA and SOTA stations from our campsite which overlooked the Space Camp model rocket launching station. No kidding: we probably witnessed some 300 model rocket launches during the day that week and it was an absolute blast (pun intended).
Fortunately, the diesel shop was able to sort out the issue and fix it in one day–I was super pleased with that. However, that only left Wednesday to play POTA–we’d already plotted out a visit to Monte Sano State Park. That was fine by me because, turns out, almost the entirety of Monte Sano State Park is also within a SOTA activation zone! A SOTA/POTA two-fer!
Monte Sano State Park (K-1048 & W4A/HR-002)
We arrived at Monte Sano in the morning and took one of the longer loop hikes around the park. It was a beautiful day; the weather couldn’t have been more ideal.
After our hike, we made our way to the main picnic area to enjoy lunch together then my wife and daughter planned to do a little water color art while I played radio!
It’s funny, but I have the most difficult time deciding where to set up when I have a lot of options. At the Monte Sano picnic area, there were loads of great spots where I could have set up. This would be an ideal spot for a club to host Field Day.
I picked a site with a tree that would be ideal for my PackTenna 9:1 End-Fed Random Wire because I would be able to orient the radiator vertically. The only trick was that the branches were short and close to the tree trunk, so it wouldn’t be the easiest to snag with my arborist throw line. Note that I actually take you along for the ride in my activation video below.
Fortunately, I had the good fortune of snagging the best branch on the first throw! Woo hoo!
I used my 8oz throw weight to hold this super lightweight antenna in place.
Now to set up the radio, key, logs, and hop on the air!
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- Elecraft KX2
- Elecraft ES60 Pack (Note that mine is a discontinued LowePro CS60 pack, the ES60 is identical and Elecraft branded)
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- Bamakey TP-III
- PackTenna 9:1 UNUN EFRW antenna
- Homemade 20′ RG-316 feedline BNC/BNC
- GoRuck GR1 USA
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Rite In The Rain Top Spiral Notebook
- Rite in the Rain Weatherproof Black Metal Clicker Pen
- Camera: original OSMO Action Camera (the OSMO 3 is the current version) with with Joby tripod
On The Air
I decided that my time would be best spent on the higher bands since 30 meters and below seemed to be suffering. Twenty meters had been the most productive the previous day.
I started calling CQ SOTA on the 20 meter band first.
Side note: When I activate a spot that’s both a POTA and SOTA site, I tend to call CQ SOTA because that program is much smaller than the likes of POTA. That and POTA hunters are very much used to logging SOTA activators that are doing dual activations.
I then logged eight more stations on 20 meters before QSYing to 17 meters where I logged nine more stations.
I also tried calling CQ on 10 meters, 15 meters, and 12 meters. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to log any contacts on those bands.
In the end, I walked away with a total of 27 logged contacts. What fun!
Here’s what this 5 watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map. Thanks to 8P9CB, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve logged Barbados during a SOTA or POTA activation!
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.
We had such an amazing time in Huntsville despite the truck issues.
Unfortunately, on the way home the following Saturday, the truck started experiencing yet another issue–a much more expensive and serious one. It’s in the shop now, in fact, awaiting a new fuel injector pump. I suppose this is par for course with a 27 year old vehicle. The straight six, 12 valve engine is bullet-proof; it’s everything else under the hood that needs to be replaced!
Here are a few photos from the displays at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. If you’ve never visited this fine museum, I can highly recommend it. We’ve visited perhaps four times in the past 10 years and there’s always something new to see.
The Saturn V building is spectacular. What’s even more amazing is that many of the docents are museum volunteers who actually worked in the Apollo program. If you see a man or woman walking around in a white lab coat and holding a notebook, make time to introduce yourself and ask about their experiences. I promise: it’s the best part of the museum experience.
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 weekend!
Cheers & 72,