KO4WFP: The Countdown Begins with Jack Hill State Park

Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) who shares the following guest post:

The Countdown Begins with Jack Hill State Park

by Teri (KO4WFP)

Having completed my kilo for Wormsloe State Historic Site (K-3725) and earned the Marathon Award for the Straight Key Century Club, I needed a new goal into which to sink my teeth. I’ve often set goals in my life as they motivate me to learn and step outside my comfort zone. So what better goal than to activate 60 parks new to me over the next year! I admit it is ambitious; however, goals should excite you as well as make you a little nervous because then you know you are stretching yourself.

How do I plan to accomplish activating 60 new parks? The weeks my son has a break from school offer the perfect opportunity to travel. I can also work in overnight trips to locations in Georgia or South Carolina throughout the year. To save money, I’ll drive on these trips and camp. Most state parks which offer camping are also a park on the POTA list, an easy win-win. For safety, my “POTA pooch” Daisy will accompany me if I am alone, offering an opportunity for the two of us to strengthen the bond we have and work on her training.

My first break-week trip is to Florida during the second week of winter break, December 24th through January 1st. I have nine to ten parks I plan to activate that week, depending on the weather. Daisy and my brother Joseph (no, he is not a ham) will accompany me. Joseph and I took a cross-country trip out west in my twenties and spent six weeks on the road. We mostly camped but also visited friends and relatives along the way.

However, before I leave on my Florida trip, I began my pursuit of 60 new parks with Jack Hill State Park, a park that is only an hour from my new QTH in Bloomingdale, Georgia.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of winter. (Spot me this as I live in the Deep South.) However, I am determined to not miss out on POTA because of a little cold weather. Thinking the temperature would be warmer in the afternoon, my dog Daisy and I headed out later than usual on Wednesday, December 13th for our activation.

I enjoy driving in rural Georgia. You never know what you’ll see. Daisy and I went through the town of Bellville, a whistle stop in the middle of nowhere. The town was established in 1890 along the tracks of the Savannah & Western Railroad and was a regional transportation hub for agricultural and timber products. A mural in the town across from the old depot pays homage to the town’s railroad past.

Jack Hill State Park is located in the town of Reidsville, Georgia. It offers amenities that include boating and fishing on the park’s lake, accommodations in the form of camping as well as cottages to rent, a splash pad for kids, and even a free miniature golf course! The park was originally named Gordonia-Altamaha State Park as it is near the Altamaha River. However, it was renamed Jack Hill State Park in 2020 in honor of Senator Jack Hill who was instrumental in the local community.

I often struggle deciding upon a place to set up for an activation. Obviously I want to avoid power lines and areas with lots of pedestrian activity. I opted to set up at the front of the miniature golf course. That seems counterintuitive to my previous statement; however, there was plenty of room for anyone to maneuver around me, the park seemed deserted this afternoon, and the course presented an open, sunny location with benches.

If you’ve read my past articles, you know I usually opt for a wire antenna. However, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try the AX1 today. I know other ops have good success with this antenna but I have not in the past. However, maybe I needed to try it again.

I got Daisy settled on one of the benches. She loves lying down somewhere and watching everything around her.

Then I went to work setting up the AX1 which I had forgotten how to set up at first. I opted for 40 meters to start (as usual) and set out the counterpoise.

Once everything was ready, I turned on the KX2 and pressed the tuner button. Whoa! I had difficulty getting the SWR down to a manageable level and keeping it there. When I began tuning around, I didn’t hear any signals. That didn’t sound right. I began problem solving, looking back over my setup. I finally concluded the metal bench on which I was sitting was the problem even though I suspended the counterpoise under the bench so it was not touching the metal.

Out came my trusty Helinox chair (I love this chair!) and I relocated to it. Now I could hear signals on 40 meters. But oh, the noise level! S4-6. Ugh! It was sufficiently noisy I only worked one station before switching to 20 meters. (Maybe a nearby temporary office was the source of the noise on 40 meters.)

While I swapped out the 40 meter for the 20 meter counterpoise, I noticed Daisy asleep. Apparently my activation was not exciting enough for her!

I have to agree with her as the activation proceeded slowly, taking 40 minutes to log thirteen contacts. At that point, I was ready to finish and resolved to return to the use of the Tufteln EFRW antenna at my next activation.

Jack Hill State Park is a park to which I’ll return if I need to work in a nearby activation one week. Next time, though, I’ll look at setting up down by the lake which may present less noise for the 40 meter band. So, for my goal, one down and only 59 more to go! Stay tuned…

11 thoughts on “KO4WFP: The Countdown Begins with Jack Hill State Park”

  1. Daisy is such a cutie! She’s a lot like Hazel–three minutes into an activation and she’s out like a light unless there are squirrels around. 🙂

    We’ll be looking for you during your travel rove as you pick up those new-to-you parks. I believe your goal is very doable–especially if you consider that some of those parks you activate will also be multiples (2fers, 3fers).

    It’s very likely, by the way, that the metal bench could have affected the impedance of the AX1. Small loaded verticals like the AX1 have a very high Q (thus narrow bandwidth) and almost anything in the environment will have an affect on SWR.

    One thing I do that I feel helps is always keep the counterpoise coupled with the ground. I don’t elevate it.

    It is a shame about the QRM. While I enjoy the challenge of working weak signals, QRM is more like trying to hear a friend talk to you in a loud night club. 🙂 Very frustrating.

    Enjoy your travels and camping. I bet you’re going to have a blast!


  2. KO4WFP/Teri,
    Thanks for the post and in particular your struggles with the AX1 antenna. I have a KX2 as well and it’s been amazing using my Chelegance MC-750. However, I haven’t had any success with my AX1. Thomas, I’ve tried the Counterpoise on the ground and working from a concrete bench in a park but no joy with the AX1 on SSB. Again the Chelegance is amazing!

  3. Sixty? You don’t set the bar too high, do you Teri?

    But a rove with your rover (Daisy), car camping, and S/POTA sounds like a good time to get to know yourself, and your gear.

    Here ar my three tips on car camping:

    First use a light 9×9 rainfly. The cover is always a game changer… Always use a ridgeline with prusicks to pull it taunt & support it properly. Then stake it out.

    For safety & security, buy an airhorn. A load blast will drive away anyone. Keep it near you, next to your gun and growling dog. People are your greatest threat, not critters.

    For your morning coffee, I love Medagalia D’Oro instant espresso. It’s deicious, easy to make, and addicting. That and heavy cream, ‘Mucho Perfecto!’

    I’m betting you know your way around a campsite, so play it smart & safe. I always review post, the items I didn’t use on each trip, and note those I did, or wish I had. Always perfect your game.

    I’ll look forward to reading of your adventures afield. TU 72 de W7UDT SK E E

  4. Merry Christmas Thomas, fellow QRPers, and especially Terri as she begins her 60-park activation quest! That is a lofty goal for the coming year!

    Out of curiosity, I pulled up the POTA web page map of POTA sites … From Terri’s neighborhood around Savannah, GA, there are dozens and dozens of sites within a few hours drive that can be activated to add to Terri’s activation list. However, since Terri mentioned taking longer “road trips” for activations, may I suggest a tour this coming May??? Of course, I am talking about driving and activating your way to/from the Dayton (OH) Hamvention! Terri, depending on the route you lay out and the time you can get away, you can seriously add to your activation list while saying hello to the 30,000 ham buddies that will be at the Hamvention with you! ?

    Best of luck with your activations, Terri. Keep those of us on QRPer “in the loop” on your progress!

    73 and Merry Christmas!

    Nat Davis, N4EL

  5. Nice report, Teri. And, I love the shots of Daisy….my “shack manager” also quickly loses interest.

    Today, you popped up on HamAlert at K-3642, but FL continues to be just a bridge too far from up here in the PNW…I could hear stations working you, but not your call.

    Starting the CWI class in January…hope to connect at some point.

    Best of luck with your quest.

    73, Vic KB7GL

  6. What an excellent goal! A few weeks ago I managed 12 parks over a 5 day trip on the Oregon coast. Of course it doesn’t hurt that many are within easy distance of each other. Let me offer a different approach for the AX1 which you might find useful. I’ve found in my research that counterpoises tossed on the ground can be pretty inefficient unless the soil is really good-such as coastal/ marshes etc. What I’ve used with consistency excellent results is a lightweight tripod to mount the AX1. A camera tripod is fine assuming it has the 3/8×24 threaded stud or bolt to allow the AX1 tripod mount to attach. I use a lightweight camera light stand which is even more compact than a camera tripod. I mount the adapter and AX1 and use 2 or sometimes 3 13’ counterpoises angled at approximately 45 degrees. I use a pigtail to attach these so I only have one wire to attach to the thumbscrew on the adapter. Alligator clips on the end make for easy attachment to grass,trees or whatever is handy. I’ve never had any issues with high SWR and have managed a number of successful outings including DX/S2S and P2P both SOTA and POTA from the far left coast. I just use about a 6 foot chunk of RG 316 from the antenna to the radio. I can set this up in under 5 minutes. It’ll load easily on all bands -even 40 with the AEX1. Sometimes I’ll add a 33’ counterpoise for 40 depending on the situation and conditions. Everything fits in the C40 case except the tripod but it collapses into a small 18 inch length. I think elevating the AX1 closer to 5-6 feet really helps.

    1. Dan, good info. I have AX1, but have not had much luck with it. I have been using the MC750 vertical. For 20m and above can adjust so is full 1/4 wave, but would like to get the AX1 working for is easy to setup. Using tripod does make sense and then can get out in the open and have the rig under shelter.

      73, ron, n9ee

      1. Yes Ron,it should help to get the antenna out in the clear and if possible make sure it’s not close to any other metal structures that can affect both tuning and radiation efficiency. The 3 radials at a 45 degree angle really makes a big difference.

  7. Teri,
    Thank you and good luck on your endeavor. I like to hunt the activators when I get time and hopefully I’ll be able to get you on the log. Good luck and safe travels.

  8. Thanks for the report and all of the pictures, Teri, and most of all good luck with the year-long challenge!

    I hope to catch you on the air park-to-park a few times in the New Year!

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