Nail-Biter of a Quickie POTA Activation on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Monday, July 3, 2023, was a day absolutely chock-full of running around town. I had projects that morning to take care of, a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, and I needed to chauffeur my daughters to/from a meet-up with friends.

I didn’t even have time to properly debate if I could squeeze in an activation. Before I left home, I simply grabbed a radio backpack and put it in the car just in case. If a window of time opened, I’d be at the ready, but there was no real way to predict in advance.

Even though I always have a radio at the ready in the car, I don’t carry all of the things necessary to film activation videos. That’s where my POTA pack comes in.

Since Hamvention, I’ve been using my GoRuck GR1 as a POTA backpack. It easily holds my radio and camera gear.

During the early afternoon, I could see a very short window of POTA opportunity opening: about 30 minutes (start to finish…or set up to take-down) to complete an activation.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

Since time was so limited, I also chose to hit the closest predictable site: The Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Center. I could have easily set up at a slightly closer spot on the parkway, but if I wanted to include an activation video it would have taken longer to set up the chair, tripod, etc. Those minor details would eat up valuable on-the-air time, especially since I knew in advance that propagation was once again in the dumps (our local star has been in quite an activate state of flaring and spewing CMEs!).

So that I wouldn’t have to do an introduction once I arrived on-site, I started the activation video in the car as I was driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the video, you’ll see the full set-up, activation, and pack-up.

The Goal

The goal was to see if I could possibly log ten contacts–to validate this activation–in the short amount of time I had available. Of course, if I couldn’t log ten, that would have been fine, too. But in this particular case, it really felt like a little challenge.

Earlier this year, band conditions were much more stable and I could have easily collected ten contacts in 10-15 minutes, but these days? One never knows until one tries!

I deployed the PackTenna End-Fed Random wire and paired it with my Elecraft T1 ATU to give me ultimate frequency agility. I figured that would be the key to snagging my ten contact in short order.


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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters and initial results were promising: I logged my first eight contacts in ten minutes:

  • K1EEB
  • N7CCD
  • N0MPM
  • KB5EDR
  • KE0YDN
  • W5RML
  • KI5WA
  • and KC2PSA

This was feeling very doable!

Then? The band simply died…

It took ten more minutes of calling CQ POTA to snag one more contact. Thank you, AC1NO!

I felt stuck into 20 meters and assumed it might actually be the best band, so I continued calling CQ POTA for a few minutes with no calls.

My time was running out very quickly.

I then moved to the 30 meter band hoping it might have some life in it.

After calling CQ POTA a few more times and only being seconds from calling it quits and packing up, Julia (N1XV) came to my rescue!

Woo hoo! Thank you, Julia! You saved my bacon!

After finishing my QSO with her, I hopped off the air immediately and packed up my gear.

Again, I was chuffed to have hit my goal of 10, but I wouldn’t have been upset had I not validated the activation. POTA isn’t a contest and there’s no real pressure to always validate a site. We often forget that. And with the way propagation has been lately, those of us working within tight activation schedules have to assume not all activations will be validated.


Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.

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.


Oh, and during this short activation? A father and his two daughters popped by to ask about my activation. It was fun chatting with them and the timing was great because I wasn’t working stations at the same time.

Also, an elderly couple sat on the bank above me and watched the entire activation from start to finish. They watched me jump out of the car holding a camera, launching a line in the tree, hopping on the air and hearing CW, then packing things up as if my life depended on it.

I felt so pressed for time, I didn’t walk up to where they were sitting to explain what I was doing–I suspect they heard me speak to the other visitors anyway.

I did imagine this couple later talking with friends and saying, “We saw the most peculiar thing happen today on the parkway!

Ha ha!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this short 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 a wonderful week ahead!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

4 thoughts on “Nail-Biter of a Quickie POTA Activation on the Blue Ridge Parkway!”

  1. Great video, showed the setup especially putting up the antenna. I have similar coaxial cables. Got short one, 1ft, from AliExpress and use longer 10ft or 50ft as needed RG58 from T1 to antenna. thanks, 73, ron, n9ee

  2. Out in Colorado, even QRO has been tough.
    Monday we headed for a state park which was a two-fer in the White River NF. At first I couldn’t even QSL a single contact with 80 watts into a GRA-7350TC vertical that tuned up nicely with my elevated radials.

    We were in a canyon with narrow tall walls in a shaded day-use area with a gentle breeze @ 91 deg & 10% humidity. I had to learn how to shoo flies with my shoulder so as to not screw up my CW sending. I kept switching bands, but the POTA spotting was spotty at best, I had no cell signal to spot myself & I was way past the time I said I would activate. An hour later I had one contact on SSB to Glacier NP. I kept telling myself that a bad day of POTA was better than a good day at work. Finally about 2 hours later just as I was about to pack up I got a run of 13 stations in 15 minutes & then it dried up again. At least I activated, lol. Cheers, Davey – KU9L

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