One Watt, Low-Profile QRP: A Labor Day POTA Activation at Lake James State Park

I realize that I’m fortunate, in many ways, that I perform POTA activations at times when parks are relatively quiet: weekdays, mostly, and during that 9-5 window when many are at work. On the flip side, I’m also activating when there are fewer hunters out there.

The upshot, for me, is that I rarely have any competition for picnic tables or activation spots at state and national parks. In general, as you’ll see in my activation videos, the park is quiet and sometimes I literally have the place to myself.

I actually take this for granted until I activate on a busy weekend or a holiday. Something like…

Labor Day!

While traveling back to the QTH on Monday, September 4, 2023, I decided to pop by Lake James State Park (K-2739) for a quick POTA activation.

Lake James State Park spans about 3,743 acres and is divided into two areas: the Catawba River Access and Paddy’s Creek Area.

Typically, I play radio at the smaller Catawba River area because there are so many excellent picnic sites with loads of trees.

The Paddy’s Creek area is much larger and (big bonus) has many more trails.

Paddy’s Creek also has a large beach and swimming/boating area with a huge parking lot and large covered picnic shelter (that is often occupied or reserved).

On Labor Day, the weather was gorgeous and, as you might imagine, the park was packed!

So why did I choose Paddy’s Creek on such a busy day?

I might have mentioned in a previous video that we recently purchased a used Volvo C40 Recharge EV (Electric Vehicle). While I normally charge it up at home, I’m trying to familiarize myself with charging on the go as well.

I’d read that Lake James has two (free!) convenience chargers at the Paddy’s Creek area. I drove to the site mainly to see where the were located. On such a busy day, I didn’t assume either of the chargers would be available–my plan was to find them, then head to the Catawba River access.

But turns out, the only available parking spot I could find at the Paddy’s Creek lot was one EV charging spot right there at the beach access and shelter! What!?! That’s an omen, I told myself, so I pulled into the spot, plugged in, and by golly, the car started charging.

I’m still new at this stuff, so it’s all a bit of magic to me. Forgive my excitement.

But where to activate?

The park was teeming with people all out enjoying the weather, the water, and the food and drinks. Truth is, I love seeing parks being enjoyed on this scale.
As I loaded my radio backpack in the trunk of the car, I looked around and quickly realized that I’d need to go into the woods to find a spot to set up. Every free picnic spot was taken already and, frankly, even if I could have found a table, I wouldn’t have wanted to displace a family that could be enjoying their time at the park.

This, my friends, was a convenient excuse to find a quiet spot in the woods!

I walked down one of the lake shore trails about 75 meters or so and spotted a site that looked almost ideal.

It was only about 15-20 meters off the path, but gave me enough buffer to easily deploy a 40 meter end-fed half-wave without worrying about someone running into it.

I started filming my activation video, deployed the MM0OPX EFHW, then set up the Elecraft KX2 on my knee board.

Oh yeah, one watt!

After powering up the KX2, I checked the voltage level on the internal battery which, by the way, had already logged quite a few activations on one charge.

The voltage was a little on the low side and, while I had a fully-charged 5Ah external battery in my pack, I thought it might be fun to lower the KX2 power output to one watt and see if I could squeeze one more activation out of this charge!

A nice excuse to QRPp!


Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support at no cost to you.

On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA and, as soon as I was spotted on the POTA spots page, hunters started calling!

Within nine minutes, I worked my first ten contacts thus validating the activation.

I continued operating on 20 meters and worked four more stations in three minutes, then the first rush of stations died down.

Next, I engaged the KX2 ATU and moved up to the 17 meter band which turned out to be dead. Eventually, I moved to the 30 meter band which was in much better shape.

I logged nine more hunters on 30 meters within the span of ten minutes!

Woo hoo!

Looking at the time, I decided to call QRT so I could pack up and head to the QTH.

Honestly, looking back at this activation at the logs and the QSO map, there would be no way I could guess I was only running one watt.

This is why I love QRP!


Here’s what this one watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (pay no attention to the polyline heading into the Pacific):

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.

Note: Going off-trail

I should add here that if (like me) you like going off-trail for your activations, just make sure that it’s allowed at the park you’re activating.

Some parks will specify that going off-trail is not allowed. I find this most on trails to summits where the park is trying to mitigate any damage to the flora between switch backs in the path. They don’t want cut-through paths to be created, damaging sensitive plants and mosses.

I’ve also seen this in some urban parks as well–in spots where they’re trying to protect the green spaces between paths.

Going off-trail isn’t typically an issue in our larger recreational parks, but when in doubt, ask the park staff.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this 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 simply amazing week ahead!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

9 thoughts on “One Watt, Low-Profile QRP: A Labor Day POTA Activation at Lake James State Park”

  1. Great Report Thomas!

    You know Thomas, with those rails, a bit of paracord, and that knee board, you can lash that thing down. It makes for a safer, more stable, operations.

    Thread a single length of paracord through a paracord clamp forming a loop. Then, from the back of the board, thread the loop through the slots on each side of the knee board. Take those loops and place them over the rails. Pull to tension. Then sinch that baby down using a paracord clamp. Easy.

    I’ve broke my share of cell phone screens and know how expensive it can be. A friendly tip from the sidelines…

    If that new Volvo says anything, it says, ‘Fancy-smancy & Safe!’ Thanks again my Eco-Friendly friend!

    72 de W7UDT

  2. Thomas,
    Great write up. I, too, like to activate during the week. I was out yesterday and had a big pile up on 20 meters. My ears are still ringing from using ear phones. 73 de W0Hl

  3. I enjoyed the article. I am have only had my general a few months, and I am just getting into POTA. One picky grammer comment … it
    should be “fewer hunters” not less. Sorry, but that is a pet peeve.


  4. Glad to make my first contact with you on this one. I was using my attic dipole.

    I am normally working during the week, so I miss a lot of your activations, though I definitely understand the appeal of having more weekday elbow (antenna!) room at a park. Labor Day saves the day!

    Thanks for inspiring me to pick up a KX1 and get out there to activate my nearby park!


    1. Thank you, Derrek! So brilliant to put you in the logs!
      Maybe someday we can P2P KX1 to KX1! 🙂
      Take care and thanks for the comment!

  5. At first I did not know what you were talking about? Then I figured it out. I had a Technician class my renewal paper blew out the window of my car and so did ham radio.

    1. I think you’d find getting your license back wouldn’t be too difficult if you decided to go down that path again. Amateur radio has only gotten better with time! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.