A Trailside, Low-Impact, Knee Board POTA activation at the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site!

On Friday, September 15, 2023, my wife and I had a few hours midday to enjoy the gorgeous pre-fall weather, so we decided to go on a hike with Hazel.

My wife was the one that suggested I pick out a hike that would open the door to a short POTA activation (isn’t she the best–?).

Carl Sandburg National Historic Site (K-0804)

Earlier that week, I made a note to activate the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site in the village of Flat Rock, North Carolina. I passed this idea by my wife and she agreed that it’d make for a perfect outing.

The mission of the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site is to preserve Connemara, the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and writer Carl Sandburg.

The park has a wonderful trail network and I hadn’t visited it since 2016, during the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) ARRL event.

Technically, I could go back into my NPOTA logs and upload my Sandburg activations to the POTA site because previous activations do count, but I’m not actually motivated by my park count so much as I am just having fun working new-to-me sites under the new POTA program.

That said, my somewhat flexible, non-committal goal of having at least 100 unique parks activated for POTA before the end of 2023 was also on my mind; a small motivator to expand my POTA footprint.

Admittedly, there really aren’t many parks that are within two hours of my QTH that I haven’t already activated for POTA. The ones left, like Sandburg, are just outside the corridors I normally travel.

The Sandburg site is a beautiful one, and I think Hazel may have even remembered this spot from so many years ago. My wife and I got a kick out of how giddy she was to hit the trails, smell the smells, and meet all of the other hikers.

Hazel: “Enough talking, Dad! More hiking!”

Time to hit the trails and find an activation spot!

Knee Board Portable!

Back in 2016, I got permission from a Sandburg park ranger to place a wire in a tree in order to perform my NPOTA activation. She only asked that I perform my activation on the trail network (not at the house and goat farm).

Wow…I just checked and I had forgotten that I made a short field report of that activation over on (my other blog) the SWLing Postcheck it out here.  Back then, my KX2 was still very new and shiny!

Not even a scratch on the KX2 back then! Today, Hedy looks a little more field battered! 🙂

And here we are seven years later and I’m still activating the Carl Sandburg site from my lap. This time, however, I don’t have my radio on a clip board, I’m using a folding knee board:

This is my Tufteln/N0RNM folding knee board and you’ve seen me use it in numerous activation videos.

Instead of just placing my logs and radio on the knee board, like I did back in 2016, I wanted to place my entire antenna system on it, too.

You see, although I’m sure the staff at the Sandburg home wouldn’t mind me putting a wire in their trees along the hiking trail, I couldn’t find a staff member to ask, so I used this as an excuse to try something I’ve always wanted to do: mount my AX1 on the knee board as well!

We found a park bench a mile up the trail and decided to set up there.

Set up wasn’t difficult because Joshua designed in bungee cord lashing points along the perimeter of the knee board. I simply secured the KX2 on the board with the bungees, then tightened the AX1 bipod so it wouldn’t move.

My buddy, Mike (KE8PTX), has made a 3D-printed AX1 support that replaces the bipod, but I didn’t have that installed on the KX2.

Time to hop on the air!


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On The Air

I hit the KX2 ATU button, got a great match on 20 meters, then started calling CQ POTA.

Within eleven minutes, I’d already logged the ten contacts necessary to validate this POTA activation!

Easy peasy!

I added two more stations for a total of twelve contacts in 13 minutes on 20 meters.

I kept my promise to my wife and made this a short activation–we still had more hiking and a lunch to enjoy together. Still, she gave me a quick nod when I suggested fishing around the 17 meter band for a couple of minutes.

Unfortunately, 17 meters didn’t produce a contact in short order, so I called QRT.


Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (note that KE5AN was in Arkansas and KF0GE was in Missouri when I logged them):

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.

Low-Impact Activating

Here’s what I love about operating the KX2/AX1 combo on a knee board: it’s incredibly low-impact and low-profile.

The only part of my radio field kit touching the park itself was my 11′ counterpoise wire draped on the ground behind the park bench.

Rolling up the counterpoise in a Figure-8.

And the funny part? That wee radio and antenna combination completes my activation just as quickly as a wire antenna in a tree (even more quickly because, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s so dang speedy to set up–!) .

Of course, the package is so small it fits in pretty much any backpack or field bag. No problem there.

I brought along my folding chair and 2L of water–those were the only things weight down my pack.

Hazel knows the pack-up procedure and was eager to hit the trail again with her mom and dad. We knew she was getting excited when she started doing her signature belly crawls!

Time to hike!

Thank you

Thank you for joining us 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!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

9 thoughts on “A Trailside, Low-Impact, Knee Board POTA activation at the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site!”

  1. Well Thomas, again you make it look easy.

    The AX1 & I haven’t had such success. But I do like that you’re securing your KX2 properly. The kneeboard seems a handy piece of kit now you have rails and elastic cordage (bravo!).

    Nice to see you three out on an activation. You’ve named each of your favorite radios, you can do better than ‘Camera Girl’ or XYL… but I understand. (HiHi)

    72 de W7UDT (dit dit)

  2. Once you start using the 3D part I sent you you will never look back to the Bi-pod. Now that you have side rails you not really sticking velcro to the radio. You have told me you could not get yourself to do it. Now you can with out feeling bad about it. LOL

    My next QRPPP SSB activation coming soon. 1/10 of a watt.

  3. In my humble experience (and observation of others), I have come to the conclusion that for success in ham radio, a good wife is more important than any transceiver and antennas combined)
    Which radio would you leave KX2 or KX3 if you had to choose?
    73 de US7IGN,

    1. Hear, hear!!!! 100% Wlod! 🙂 I couldn’t have found a better wife. She’s not only forgiving (important) but also encouraging (more important)!
      You would know because you’re blessed with an amazing wife as well.

      And the KX2 or KX3? Oh golly that’s a tough one. For the type of operating I do, the KX2 would be my pick.

      That said, if I could *only* have one radio for both the field and the shack, the KX3 would win because it does give me 160 and 6 meters plus roofing filters which are great for contest environments.


  4. Now I am down to watching these videos to see Hazel, what new bag is being used, and if you start to exhibit stroke symptoms from having the AX1 next to your noggin all the time. Hazel needs a QRP Therapy Dog jacket, patch or collar. Then you can take her to Xenia and set up a dog petting booth at FDiM. I’ll be first in line. Excellent content as usual.

    1. Ha ha ha!
      That’s a brilliant idea for Hazel. She could be the community emotional support dog for those who are struggling to cope witht he crazy that is Hamvention! 🙂
      Glad you like the videos, OM!
      And, hey! From RF exposure calculations, I’m fine business with the AX1 close by. It won’t be the thing that does me in (actually, buying radios and my XYL noticing might be the most dangerous thing I do!).


  5. Hi Thomas, greetings from Germany.

    Thanks a lot for your excellent & entertaining post. As somebody posted earlier, happy wife, good (ham) life. I find your setup interesting, with thesmall vertical & radio diectly attached.

    Cheers from DL7CW, Chris

  6. Hello from the home town of Gen. Carl A. Spaatz! Your signal was so weak here, I feared my 6 watt FT-818 would not make it back to you, so I sent painfully slowly. My xyl and I laughed out loud watching the video and hearing me boom in at a snail’s pace. I promise to send faster next time. Your work here is appreciated, and helps us newbies learn. Thank you. -Craig KC3TRT & Kathy KC3TRU

    1. Ha ha!
      Craig, your sending was perfect! No worries and no need to send faster. I like the change of pace! Great signal!


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