This has been a busy summer.
In fact, “busy” is an understatement.
We have a number of DIY projects going on at the QTH, I’ve a long list of things I need to fix (this has been the year of everything breaking), we’re scoping out a new PV system, and family life has been at an all-time high in terms of activity.
It’s funny: Matt mentioned in his recent field report that my POTA/SOTA catchphrase is, “I don’t have much time for this activation.”
It’s so true! I say and think that all the time.
My schedule is such that I so rarely have more than one hour tops to spend at a park or on a summit. At this point in my life–being the father of two amazing teenage girls, a husband, and checking in on my sweet parents regularly–my days are packed pretty darn full.
That said, I get a small thrill out of doing fully portable park activations even with a little time pressure. Perhaps it’s because it’s what I’ve gotten used to? Regardless, it’s fun.
My hope, by the way, is to add a bit more camping at parks into the mix this fall so I can spend long relaxing evening sessions on the air. We’ll see if that becomes a reality!
One thing I know for sure: activating parks and summits is proper radio therapy.
I know I probably sound like a broken record on this point.
Something about hitting the field, deploying an antenna, hopping on the air, and using the “sacred language” (i.e. CW) just takes me away from all of my worries and obligations. It clears my headspace.
I liken it to the same feeling I get when mountain biking. When I mountain bike, I rarely think of anything other than the path in front of me, preparing for roots, rocks, and other things that could otherwise flip me off my bike.
With POTA and SOTA? I listen to the ether, pull out contacts, and connect with friends via magical wireless links. That’s where my mind goes.
After a good ride or a good activation, I feel a million dollars.
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
The days leading up to Wednesday, July 12, 2023, had been particularly hectic; I was in need of some proper radio-active therapy, so I stopped by one of my favorite spots–Tuttle Educational State Forest–for a little POTA.
This particular day, I had a little over an hour to perform an activation and I was very much looking forward to it.
I started recording my activation video the moment I parked the car.
My goal–as it pretty much always is–was to have fun and enjoy the experience.
Although I love shaking up my activations by testing new antennas, new gear, new locations, etc. etc. this particular time it was all about using a predictable radio (my KX2), with a predictable antenna (the PackTenna EFRW), at a predictable park (K-4861). In other words, setting up this gear at this park is about as easy as it gets for me!
First thing I did after picking out a picnic table was to deploy my antenna.
My goal was to set up the PackTenna EFRW as a vertical which would require launching my throw line into a branch at least 31′ high. I way over-achieved that goal! Herein lies the amazing thing about throw lines: with a little physics on your side, it’s simply effortless to launch a line 40+ feet into a tree.
I deployed the PackTenna’s 31′ radiator vertically, and laid the 17′ of counterpoise on the ground. I’m often asked if a separate counterpoise is necessary with antennas like this. The short answer is no, it’s not. The antenna will use the shield of your coax as a counterpoise, but it is a better practice to add a proper counterpoise or two if you can–the antenna will be more efficient.
With the antenna deployed, the only thing left was to set up my KX2, logs, and CW paddles!
- Elecraft KX2
- Elecraft ES60 Pack (Note that mine is a discontinued LowePro CS60 pack, the ES60 is identical and Elecraft branded)
- Packtenna 9:1 UNUN Random Wire Antenna
- ABR Industries 25’ RG-316 cable assembly with three in-line ferrites (Part# 23316-BM-25-3FERRITE)
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- CW Morse CNC Machined Aluminum Paddle
- GoRuck GR1 USA
- Elecraft KXBT2 Li-Ion Battery Pack
- Weaver arborist throw line/weight and Folding Arborist Throw Line Cube
- Zebra Mechanical Pencil, Del Guard, 0.7mm
- Rite In The Rain Top Spiral Notebook
On The Air
I suspected band conditions were poor and I was right. I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters and worked five stations in 13 minutes. Signals were weak, the band was noisy, and QSB (fading) was pronounced.
That said, the amazing Mike (N7CCD) somehow worked his magic to contact me all the way from Washington State. Indeed, his signal was comparatively strong. I’m convinced Mike must have steerable Rhombic antenna.
Next, I QSY’d to the 30 meter band which was in better shape. Herein lies the advantage of pairing a random wire antenna with my KX2 ATU: this combo gives me effortless frequency agility to find the bands that are most productive on any given day.
I logged seven more hunters in six minutes on 30 meters! Not bad at all!
When activity on 30 tapered off, I moved to 40 meters. Even though my PackTenna EFRW’s radiator is only 31′ long, I can easily get an impedance match on 40 meters. To be clear, it’s not an efficient antenna on those lower frequencies, but it’s still very effective!
Here’s what this 5 watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:
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.
The perfect escape!
My afternoon radio-active therapy session was just what the doctor ordered.
I left Tuttle feeling a bit lighter than I did walking in.
If you’ve been reading my field reports but haven’t yet performed an activation, do yourself a favor and don’t over-think it all. Just get out there with the gear you have, have no expectations, and simply enjoy the time on the air.
Whether or not you achieve a “valid” activation is truly inconsequential. For me, it’s all about playing radio outdoors and the positive energy I get from the experience.
I suspect you might feel the same way.
Of course, the only way to find out is to try!
Do you find field activations therapeutic? Tell us more in the comments section of this post!
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 and as my buddy N6MTS says, “be good humans”–!
Cheers & 72,