POTA at Lake Norman: Beautiful day for a TR-45L trailside activation (and hunting VE6LK)!

I’m getting used to having an electric vehicle for my weekly travels including POTA and SOTA excursions.

My Volvo C40 has a published range of about 226 miles on a 90% charge, but I find that I actually get more than that. I almost never need to recharge from a public charger–I just plug it in at home.

At least once a week, I visit my parents in Hickory, NC and that round trip (including errand running in town) logs a good +/- 200 miles. By the time I return to the QTH, I typically have a comfortable 20% charge left on the battery.

Many of the parks I activate in that travel corridor are 20-30 minute detours off of Interstate 40 (for example: Lake James SP, South Mountains SP, Tuttle Educational SF). They have no negative impact on my ability to make it back to the QTH with battery capacity to spare.

Parks, however, that are still close to Hickory, but in the opposite direction of home, may necessitate a quick charge at one of the many public charging stations along the road. Not a big deal, but it’s kind of fun when I can do a full trip on one charge.

Flag at half staff in memory of September 11, 2021

On Monday, September 11, 2023, I had a full afternoon open and really wanted to fit in a proper hike. One of my favorite easy six mile loop trails–the Lakeshore Trail– is at Lake Norman State Park.

Lake Norman, however, is in the opposite direction of the QTH and is about an 80 minute round trip. I fit in errands along the way, but going there means I’ll need a bit of a charge to get back home the following day.

After a little research, though, I discovered that Lake Norman (much like Lake James) has free EV charging at their visitor’s center! Woo hoo!

Lake Norman State Park (K-2740)

I arrived at the park in the early afternoon and–whew!–both of the EV charging stations were free. In fact, the visitors’ center parking lot was almost empty–I would have expected a few more cars. I found that curious.

I plugged in my car, put on my hiking boots, grabbed my hiking sticks, then made my way to the spur trail that connects the visitors’ center parking lot to the Lakeshore loop.

Only, when I reached the trailhead, there was a notice stating that all of the trails were temporarily closed. Wait…what?

This may explain the lack of visitors.

I was bummed to say the least. My backup plan would be to hike the road at Lake Norman, but that’s not nearly as fun as a proper trail.

I then walked to the visitors’ center and asked the staff inside about the trail closures. They pointed out that there was one small loop trail–next to the visitors’ center–that was still open.

I was pleased to hear that and decided that instead of hiking one long loop, I could simply hike the same small loop several times.

I thanked them then gave them a donation (which I was going to do anyway) especially since I was getting free EV charge!

I walked out the side entrance of the building and onto the Alder Trail.It was a very nice little loop trail and long enough that I didn’t feel like I was walking in circles.

In fact, I discovered some fantastic spots to play POTA in the future like this lonely picnic table at the end of the peninsula!

After my hike, I walked back to the car and grabbed my radio pack.

I made use of the water bottle filler in the visitors’ center then started my activation video as I walked out the side doors (see activation video below).

I walked the short distance to a cluster of picnic tables at the beginning of the loop portion of the trail.

The picnic tables were surrounded by trees which was brilliant because I needed the shade that hot/humid day.

Oddly, though, even though there were a lot of trees, very few were ideal for an antenna deployment; the branches were either too low or too high.

After scoping it out a bit, though, I found a suitable tree and launched a line to suspend my PackTenna random wire as a vertical.

Next, I only needed to set up the Penntek TR-45L and prepare my logs.


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On The Air

Since my car was soaking up a charge and I had no other plans that afternoon, I wasn’t in a hurry to complete this activation. Typically, my activation windows are much shorter, so it was nice to indulge in more on-the-air time!

I started my activation on 20 meters. In eight or so minutes, I logged six stations. Not bad, but I felt like 20 meters was in rough shape, so I QSY’ed to the 30 meter band and tuned the TR-45L’s Z-Match ATU.

30 meters was in much better shape. Within 26 minutes, I logged a total of 27 contacts.

Next, I decided to move a little further down the band, to 40 meters,

40 meters was also in good shape. I worked a total of ten contacts in nine minutes!

Looking at my watch, I knew it was time to start packing up. With a total of 44 contact, it was a good run indeed!

Then I received a text from my good friend Vince (VE6LK) who was activating a park in Alberta on the 20 meter band.

That’s a very long shot with 5 watts, but I had to give it a go–I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to P2P with the Vincester!

I matched 20 meters once again with the built-in ATU and after a few calls, I worked him! I was as pleased as punch!

Later, I found out that I was barely above his noise floor.

Funny: as I was calling him, I sent a text so he’d know to listen for me. The phone reception is so poor at that part of Lake Norman that Vince didn’t receive my text until I’d already worked him, packed up, and was on my way home!


Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click image to enlarge):

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.

All charged up!

I was very pleased with this relaxing activation. It was just the icing on the cake that I managed to work Vince P2P at the end (thanks for straining your ears to copy me, Vince!).

I walked back to the parking area and checked the charge on my car.

I found that the charging station more than made up for the range needed to do the Lake Norman activation. What a nice bonus!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this fun little activation!

I hope you enjoy the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoy creating them. I do love going back through each activation and reliving it as I prepare my reports.

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 and have an amazing weekend!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

6 thoughts on “POTA at Lake Norman: Beautiful day for a TR-45L trailside activation (and hunting VE6LK)!”

  1. I noticed that you seem to have a counterpoise on your Packtenna. How long is it and what size plug are you using?

    Thanks Anderw KD5CQ

    1. Hi, Andrew–I’m not certain what the size of the plug is, but it’s 17′ long. I have a load of those plugs at home but will need to see if I can find the original receipt. I’ve had them a really long time.
      Of course, the PackTenna works fine without a counterpoise, but I attach it anyway. 🙂


  2. Hello Thomas,
    In this activation I noticed that during you QSO with W1CN, he/she sent “Q Q” instead of a state abbreviation and you wrote it down as Massachusetts. I listened a few times and I never heard “MA” did I miss something there?

    1. Hi, John,

      You heard correctly. Quite often, POTA hunters send their state so much that it starts to sound like a prosign (two letters together). Instead of QQ, Bob was sending MA MA. I’ve also heard ZZ before and realized it was MI MI. 🙂


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