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…