Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) for the following guest post:
An Unexpected, Speedy Activation at Tuscumbia WMA in Mississippi
by Teri (KO4WFP)
Some of the best things in life are unexpected.
My family, after spending two days in Dallas, Texas visiting in-laws, headed back east on Wednesday, July 26. We originally planned to drive Interstate 20 through Louisiana and Mississippi with a stop in Alabama to visit with friends. However, early Wednesday morning, I Googled our route and realized a shorter route through Arkansas and Mississippi would save us thirty minutes. That doesn’t sound like much but when you spend nearly all day driving in a car, thirty fewer minutes feels like a big deal.
Before the trip, I planned an activation in and purchased a permit for Louisiana’s Russell Sage WMA (K-4076). Well, now I wouldn’t even go through Louisiana on our way back. I was loathe to not activate a park at all on the drive home. (Those who know me well, know I don’t give up easily at anything.) So I looked at the new route and the POTA website and endeavored to find a park that would work as well as we’d reach later in the day due to the hot weather. I settled on Tuscumbia Wildlife Management Area (K-7092) in Mississippi along US Route 72.
The 2,600 acre Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located just outside Corinth, Mississippi and divided into two sections, one on either side of US 72. The section to the north of the highway is primarily swamp bottomland but the northeast corner of it is accessible to the public. The WMA is a great place for birding and I noted 104 species have been observed according to the website eBird. It was this northeast corner at which I would attempt my activation.
The weather during the day was hot! At the Arkansas welcome center, I noted the boat-tailed grackles in the parking lot panting to cool off in the heat. I planned to reach Tuscumbia WMA near the end of the day but whether it would still be too hot or not, I had no idea. Thankfully, as we reached the Mississippi state line out of Memphis, cloud cover appeared and I watched the temperature on the dashboard slowly descend from 99 degrees earlier in the day to a manageable 86 degrees.
The other potential wrinkle in my last-minute decision was whether accessing the park required a fee or not. I couldn’t tell from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks website. When we reached Memphis and had better cell service, I called one of their offices and spoke to a helpful employee who confirmed that yes, I would need a permit which I could purchase using their app. I also needed to use a second app to check in and out when actually at the park. Somehow I managed to get the apps downloaded, my account set up, and a one-year non-resident permit purchased during my husband’s turn at the wheel. Whew! One more hurdle surmounted.
Everything seemed to be falling into place. The last remaining wildcards were if I would arrive early enough before sunset and would I be able to find a place to set-up.
We arrived at the site a little before 7 PM. The most obvious place to activate, on the gravel pad next to the highway, had power lines running right above it as I had feared. There was no way to set up there. And I could not drive the car further into the property as gates prevented auto access. My only other option, with daylight running out, was to walk into the property, find a spot, and sit on the ground. To make space for our trip luggage, though, I left behind the bin in which I usually keep a tarp and other emergency supplies. (Note to self – next time keep at least a tarp in the car.) The only thing I could find for me to sit on was the windshield sunshade – not ideal but it would work.
I checked into the app, grabbed my POTA backpack, liberally applied bug spray for the gathering mosquitos, and headed past the gate to see with what I had to work. By the way, I’ve never seen mosquitos so large in size! They were at least three times bigger than the ones we have in Savannah, GA.
Just past the gate and line of trees by the gravel parking lot was an open field. My attire was not fitting for walking through the grass, however, I was determined to get this done. On the far side of the gate where I entered the field, I spied a tree that looked perfect for my EFRW antenna.
After several attempts, I snagged a branch. It wasn’t the one I wanted but as time was of the essence, I’d make it work. I looked at my watch – 7:10 PM. Sunset was scheduled for 8:05 PM in a little under an hour.
The feed-end of my antenna I attached to the loop on the top of my backpack and, as I had nothing to elevate the counterpoise, I left it on the ground. There were low-growing plants in the field to which I attached the S-carabineer to stretch out the counterpoise.
I called my friend Glenn W4YES and asked him to please spot me as soon as I secured my frequency. I wasn’t sure if the cell service at the site was sufficient to hurriedly schedule the activation on the POTA site so the RBN would pick me up. If I couldn’t do that, at least Glenn could spot me on the page.
As I sat on the sunshade in the grass and arranged my equipment, I was grateful for the N0RNM knee board now in my kit. Having an easily accessible and ergonomic place for my KX2 and paper was wonderful.
At this point it was 7:30 PM. It had taken only 20 minutes to set up. I chose 40 meters given the late hour. The site was noisy (probably those power lines) but once the filters were engaged, I was ready to go.
Wow – it wasn’t long before I was mobbed! (I later learned there were not many activators on the website that evening so slim pickings for the hunters worked to my advantage.) Several times I had pile-ups and worked them as best I could. My fist was not as steady as usual, not surprising given the crazy, hurried nature of the activation. In 20 minutes I had 15 contacts. It was now a few minutes before 8 PM and the sun would set in five minutes. Time to call QRT. I packed up my equipment and rejoined my OM sitting in the comfort of the air-conditioned car away from the bugs. (I am grateful he puts up with my crazy POTA shenanigans.) At 8:20 PM, we pulled out of the parking and resumed our journey toward Alabama.
As I drove, I couldn’t believe I pulled off this activation. It wouldn’t have happened without everyone’s help though. My OM, while I drove, had done some reconnaissance online trying to figure out what access point might be best at the park. My friend Glenn spotted me. And all those who hunted me enabled me to secure enough contacts quickly before sunset. What a rush!