Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) for the following guest post:
Braving the Heat at Spring Creek Forest Preserve in Texas
by Teri (KO4WFP)
The last week of July, my family and I visited my husband’s sister and brother-in-law who live in the Dallas, Texas area. Of course, as soon as the decision was made to make the trip, I immediately checked to see if there were any POTA sites nearby. And wouldn’t you know, there is one roughly 12 miles away – Spring Creek Forest Preserve (K-4423). This would be my chance to activate my first Texas park.
Spring Creek Forest Preserve is a city-owned nature preserve in Garland, Texas. The forest contains old growth trees and several rare and unique plants. Seven miles (four dirt and three paved) of trails traverse the property. The park is named for the creek that runs through it. Today, the creek was deceptively quiet and the water level low. However, given the sculpted chalk cliffs that run above the creek and the flood stage signage, the waterway obviously has its wilder moments.
The morning of July 25th, I headed out early for the easy forty-minute drive from my in-laws to the preserve. The weather forecast predicted a high of 101 degrees, easy to imagine as by the time I arrived at the park, around 8 AM, the temperature was already 80 degrees.
I scoped out the parking lot. It was mostly empty on this day. Having no idea how busy the park might become, I looked for a place less likely for people to encounter my antenna. At first I chose a tree on the edge of the parking lot. However, there was nowhere to park my car close by and I wanted to sit inside the car during the activation.
In the middle of the circular parking lot was a tree surrounded by weedy growth. I figured no one would choose to wander through those weeds and thus my antenna would be safe and not need to be flagged.
I soon discovered why no one would want to wander through the weeds – they were full of little oval-shaped stickers! Thankfully they didn’t have long needle-like spikes on them and instead of being painful, were just annoying. They ended up all over my socks, shoelaces, and the hem of my shorts.
It took several tries to get my arbor line successfully in the tree as its branches were mostly aimed upward rather than outward. But on the third throw, I successfully snagged a branch of sufficient height for my EFRW antenna to slope toward my car. Just as it took several tries to snag the right branch, it took several adjustments to get the right amount of tension in the antenna. Rather than retie the arbor line every time I adjusted it, I just tied another slip knot and as such it ended up looking a mess. But I finally got the amount of tension and height I wanted. (By the way, the weeds made for a mess untangling my arbor line after the activation, too!)
To anchor the feed-end at the car, I employed my windshield-wiper arrangement. The counterpoint I ran perpendicular to the antenna and anchored to some tall plants. As I searched for a piece to which to attach the S-carabineer, something moved. Upon closer inspection, amongst the plants were many large insects which I think were Differential Grasshoppers. The grasshoppers are considered a pest species in Texas and usually encountered in grasslands and heavily weeded areas.
My counterpoise ran right along the edge of the weeds in front of the parking spaces. I didn’t figure anyone would walk into it here but placed some flagging tape just in case.
Two weeks ago, I came across the Tufteln/N0RNM knee board in one of Thomas’ videos. I plan to dabble in SOTA later this year and figured the knee board might be a great addition to my kit. Today’s activation was my first opportunity to use it. The knee board would allow me to sit in the front passenger seat comfortably during the activation.
I haven’t figured out exactly how I want the knee board set up yet. I’d like to find a way to attach my SP4 CW Morse paddle so I don’t have to hold it. I am still learning to hold the key loosely yet firmly enough that my hand doesn’t cramp after 45 minutes of use. Transitioning to the knee board also means I didn’t use my laptop for logging. Instead I purchased notepads that would fit the smaller surface size for writing.
The band conditions forecast I viewed earlier in the morning warned 40 and 20 meters were poor. However, given the early hour I usually begin my activations, I almost always start on 40 meters and decided it would be my starting point again today.
The first thing I discovered when I turned on the rig was the noise level was horrible – S5 to S7 – on 40 meters. I am not sure if this was because of the power lines far across the street or just the fact the park is located in an urban environment (probably the latter).
Thankfully the filters on the KX2 are awesome and, once engaged, I could listen without frying my ears. And 40 meters did not disappoint; in 35 minutes, I had eleven contacts – a successful activation!
I could have called QRT at this point. However, why not try 20 meters and see who else I could get in my log since I could potentially reach a wider range? The noise on this band wasn’t much better – S3 to S7 – but again, with the filters engaged, I could still hear calls strongly enough. I was really glad I opted to try this band as I had three ops I know contact me. After 15 minutes on 20 meters, I added six more contacts. By this point the temperature was 87 degrees, the sun was now shining on the car, and I could feel the heat building. Time to call QRT.
Despite the noisy conditions and hot weather, this was a fun activation and added Texas to my POTA park profile!