An Awesome Day for Parks On The Air

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It is Wednesday, December 27th, the fourth day of my winter-break Florida POTA trip. The night before, we left the rainfly off the tent and were treated to a gorgeous view of the waxing gibbous moon. My brother Joseph was delighted and, while I worked on my article for that day, he lay back on his new Thermarest sleeping pad and took in the night sky.

Full moon through tent top: Collier-Seminole Photo by Joseph Leffek

I opted to sleep in until 8 AM enjoying the cooler morning air. Then it was time to get a shower and rid myself of four days of grunge. Breakfast was a leisurely affair. The mosquitos were less prevalent so I let Daisy relax on the tarp next to us and watch the comings and goings of our neighbors. But by 11 AM, I was getting antsy – time to head out and attempt two activations.

Google Maps

We drove east on the Tamiami Trail/US Highway 41 heading toward Big Cypress National Preserve (K-0659). The road is straight with guardrails on both sides as there is either wetlands or a canal on either side of it.  Occasionally there is a break in the foliage and the mangroves come into view.

Bird life is abundant in the area. We saw egrets, wood storks, cormorants, anhingas, and, my favorite bird, kingfishers. At my previous QTH in Savannah, I heard kingfishers at times but rarely saw them. On this drive, I saw eight or nine perched on the utility wires beside the road and gleefully noted each one.

We stopped at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center to pick up a map and figure out a place for my activation.

Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center

I chose the H.P. Williams Roadside Park as it was the closest place to the visitor center and had the opportunity for wildlife viewing. The parking lot was crowded and it was easy to see why. The site has a boardwalk from which one can view alligators and a nice picnic area in which several families ate lunch.

I found a tree away from the crowd and set-up the Tufteln EFRW. In the process of doing so, a little girl came up and peppered me with questions. Then her father and sister joined us. As soon as I was set up, I let them hear my callsign as well as the two girls’ names in Morse Code. It was nice to share my love of the hobby as well as Daisy, on whom they lavished some attention. What I think was a yellow-rumped warbler also paid Daisy and I a visit during the activation.

My QTH at Big Cypress National Preserve
Photo by Joseph Leffek

This was the first time I used my POTA flag, a gift from Gil K4JST. I met Gil in Savannah when he and his XYL stayed at Skidaway State Park (K-2198). We’ve stayed in contact and periodically update one another as to the happenings in our lives. He hunts me whenever he can which I appreciate.

Finally ready, I tried logging into the POTA website to hurriedly schedule my activation and spot myself. Imagine my horror when there was insufficient cell service at this location! I hadn’t scheduled the activation the night before either because the cell service in Collier-Seminole State Park was insufficient to access the internet there as well. There was no way I was scrapping this activation. It was time to reach whomever I could to assist me.

I texted Gary W5GDW, another op who frequently hunts me. He was home and happy to spot me on the POTA page on 40 meters at 7.057. This got me two contacts and then nada.

I switched to 20 meters and had two park-to-park (P2P) QSOs. I texted Scott KW4NJA, a good friend in north Georgia, and he spotted me on 14.059. In half an hour, I logged another 12 contacts including the two P2P contacts. By this time it was 2 PM. If I wanted to fit in another activatIon today, I needed to call QRT and head to my second destination.

QSO Map for Big Cypress National Preserve

On the way, we passed the smallest post office in the nation – the Ochopee Post Office – whose  present structure has been in service since 1953 serving the Micosukee Indians who live in the area. I have a fascination with and love of post offices though I have no idea why. When my ex-husband and I visited Yellowstone Park one winter to take a snowmobile excursion as well as view wolves with a guide, I made sure to visit the post office there.

Heading back toward Collier-Seminole State Park, we diverted northward to Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park (K-3618). Even though we hadn’t seen any panthers or bears, they were obviously in the area as we saw advisory signs for both along the highway. At our campground in Collier-Seminole State Park, we were encouraged to leave no food in our tent.

I had no idea what to expect at Fakahatchee State Park as I did zero research on it prior to the trip except note on the POTA site it was a potential activation site close to Collier-Seminole State Park. The park turned out to be a pleasant surprise for both my brother and me.

Fakahatchee Visitor Center

After purchasing a day pass, we drove further into the park to find a place for me to set up. We spied an area off to the left near a body of water. Joseph decided to head out to hike the main drag (a dirt road speckled with pot-holes) while Daisy and I looked for a place to hoist up the EFRW antenna.

What a pretty QTH!

The trees near the site were located further back in brush but one cypress tree was more accessible and I opted for it since I hadn’t seen any rules in the park prohibiting putting anything in a tree. The tree was lower in height than I preferred but would work. Besides, I had spotted myself about 30 minutes ago at the Big Cypress Preserve Visitor Center as I had some cell phone access there. I had given myself a tight window and needed to get on the air ASAP.

To my surprise I had internet access at this park but not sufficient access to schedule the activation. I could, however, spot myself. The frequency I posted from the Big Cypress Visitor Center – 14.059 – was occupied. I moved to 14.058 which was available, spotted myself, and quickly had hunters find me. In 35 minutes, I had 25 contacts. What a difference it makes scheduling your activation and using the spotting page!

While putting away my equipment, I noticed a small centipede as well as a neat shell with ridges. Nearby was a rock in which one could see impressions of a variety of shells.

The day had turned out to be an awesome day for POTA. With two more activations under my belt for the trip, my mood improved. I appreciated the help of my friends to get the word out for my first activation. (This is what hams do – help one another!) The second park was a really nice place to have an activation, one to which I’d be happy to return in the future, partially due to the lack of crowds but also the gorgeous surroundings.

It was time to head back to the campground and wind down for the evening. Tomorrow a rainy forecast threatened to cancel my two planned activations. However, for today I was content with my “score” so far – eight parks activated toward my 60 parks-new-to-me activation goal. How would tomorrow play out for this POTA Babe? Stay tuned…

Equipment Used

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11 thoughts on “An Awesome Day for Parks On The Air”

  1. Thanks Teri, I have enjoyed reading your series. Unfortunately I don’t do CW but I will add you to my alerts and maybe I can catch you on SSB someday.

    Florida has some great state parks. I was born there and lived there my whole life until 2022 when we moved to the NC mountains. I still have a house there and it is my home of record.


    1. Marshall:

      I wasn’t sure what to expect when I planned the trip to Florida. I was pleasantly surprised. How fortunate for me I live nearby in Georgia. I enjoyed the park sufficiently that I am planning a return POTA trip to Florida for spring break the first week. of April.

      Sounds like you went from one pretty place to another. North Carolina is another state (again, not too far of a drive for me) I’d like to visit for radio time. Before I was a ham, I traveled several times along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Maybe one day I’ll make it back and actually activate the area.

      Teri KO4WFP

  2. ps … couple more I’ve had the pleasure to visit

    Bethlehem, MD … on DELMARVA Peninsula
    CFS Alert, NWT … HIGH Arctic You will need a C130 for this one


  3. Terri,

    Once again a really nice posting on POTA activations.

    Also nice to see the POTA flag! Note to others, I sent Terry my POTA flag so she would have it in time for the trip with her brother (realized if I just ordered her one, would not arrive in time).
    de Dr Gil K4JST

    Nothing does an 80 year old cw op’s heart as good as meeting a POTA activator doing a fine job with her self taught cw and handling a pile up better than I could!

    1. Gil:

      Thank you again for the flag. It is nice addition to my kit. It makes a wonderful outreach tool. It is only natural a POTA Babe should have a POTA flag!

      Teri KO4WFP

  4. Great writeup, Teri. While you weren’t aware of it, your P2P contact with me (W2AEW at K-1635) from your Big Cypress activation was part of my self-imposed Park-to-Park Activation Challenge (also written up here on QRPer). So, thank YOU for that!

    1. Alan:

      Thanks for your comment. I just bookmarked your kit article that published on October 10. I missed lots of the kit articles due to the turmoil going on in my life at the time. This is a good reminder for me to check them out. I love learning tips from and how other ops execute their craft!

      Happy to help you out with the P2P challenge. I will file that idea away for a potential future goal. There is so much room to grow in this hobby if one looks for those opportunities.

      Teri KO4WFP

  5. Hi Teri;
    It was great to make a contact with you at Big Cypress National Preserve (K-0659. 20m was good here and you were stronger. I love the POTA flag and your POTA shirt. I think it really helps not only POTA, but Ham Radio Just like the time you spent with your visitors. Now you will have to get a POTA sign for your tent! Looking forward to your next post.
    72 Tim VA3UZ

    1. Tim:

      Yes, it was nice to hear you during the Big Cypress activation. I’ve thought about a magnetic sign for the side of my car. One of the Canadian ops I contacted before my Nova Scotia trip sent me some pics of his activations at those parks. In them, he had a sign for his car from a Canadian Parks on the Air event. Given how often I activate near my car, close to home or on a trip, it would be a natural addition to my kit at some point.

      Teri KO4WFP

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