Braving the Polar Vortex at Yuchi WMA

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It has been two and half weeks since the final activation of my winter-break Florida POTA trip. Despite a polar vortex dumping frigid weather into Georgia, I was determined to activate and continue working on my 60 new-to-me park activations goal for 2024.

Google Maps

About an hour and a half from my home QTH is Yuchi Wildlife Management Area (K-3778). The property is managed by the Georgia Department of Wildlife Resources and located next to the Savannah River, the border between the states of Georgia and South Carolina. The site consists mostly of pine uplands and hardwoods with some acreage of openings for wildlife. One can hunt for deer, turkey, small game, and doves as well as utilize the public shooting range located on the property.

Given the time of year, I pulled out my copy of the GA Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Hunting Regulations booklet to see what might be in season right now. Looking at the specific regulations for Yuchi Wildlife Management Area (WMA), only dove season might be an issue while I activated the park. Just to make sure, I contacted the appropriate DNR office and spoke with a helpful employee. He assured me I was not likely run into anyone hunting on a weekday for doves or small game. Of course, Daisy and I would wear blaze orange just to be careful when outside the car.

My time for an activation was tight given my previous commitment as a K3Y/4 operator for the Straight Key Century Club the same afternoon. However, if I got an early enough start, I could make it work.

Daisy and I left the house around 7:30 AM with a quick stop at Lowe’s. I really didn’t want to sit outside in the chilly temperatures; it was 26 degrees according to the weather app. The stop at Lowe’s was to take advantage of an idea generated by a comment from John KK4ITX, an idea I hoped would keep me warm in the car during my activation.

The drive to Yuchi WMA was pleasant. I enjoy driving in rural Georgia. This particular drive went through the towns of Oliver, in which I found another diminutive and cute U.S. Post Office, and Sylvania. Sylvania had that typical small-town feel. I snapped pics of the two murals I saw, something I look for and often find in these communities.

Daisy and I finally arrived at the WMA about one and a half hours after departing Bloomingdale. Before we reached the site, its neighbor, Plant Vogtle, revealed itself.

The plant is a four-unit nuclear power plant managed primarily by Georgia Power. The first two units went online in the late 1980s. Units three and four were the first nuclear units in the United States approved since 2016. Unit Three is operational and Unit Four is supposed to be up and running this year. When all four units are operational, Plant Vogtle will be the largest nuclear power plant in the United States.

Daisy and I found one of the open dirt roads on the property and begin our search for a suitable QTH. Thankfully my Subaru Crosstrek has four-wheel drive as there were soft spots on the road. I wouldn’t want to drive here after a heavy rain.

We drove past plantings of pine as well as areas of hardwoods. After rounding a corner and driving up a slight incline, a wider opening in the canopy appeared. On one side next to a planted pine field, there were several taller deciduous trees now devoid of foliage. It looked to me like a perfect QTH for today’s activation with abundant sunshine.

It wasn’t long before the Tufteln EFRW antenna was installed. Now for my idea for keeping warm. John KK4ITX commented on my Collier-Seminole article for that he uses a pool noodle to run the coax into the car and avoid smashing it when rolling up the window. The foam noodle also keeps out pesky insects and rain.  Today I wanted it to keep out the intense cold.

No one is selling pool noodles this time of year. However, Lowe’s would have the foam insulation that goes around pipes. These tubes have a slit partially cut in them running their length. That I would fit over the top of the window glass. Then I would cut another slit perpendicular to that slit and run the coax into the car. When I rolled up the window, no crimped coax but cold weather sealed outside. Score! I know there are devices you can put on your car windows and connect coax to on each side but this worked just fine and cost me less than $2 for a six-foot length.

Note the blaze orange vest

Feeling pleased with myself, I climbed into the backseat with Daisy who curled up for a nap, set up my equipment, and hopped onto 20 meters.

I was pleasantly surprised – no RFI from the power plant. I worked 31 contacts (including Italy!) in 45 minutes. I then switched to 17 meters and worked 12 contacts (including Sweden and Puerto Rico) in 20 minutes. I still had a few more minutes before I had to call QRT so I moved to 40 meters, to please closer-to-home hunters. I had four callers on that band and still no significant RFI!

Well, now I have a new favorite park here in the states – Yuchi WMA – one which I hope to revisit when I need to scratch that POTA itch. The lack of RFI and other people combined with pretty scenery on the drive and in the park won me over. After the activation, Daisy and I, with our blaze orange vests, took a quick and pleasant walk along the dirt road.

I now stand at fourteen activations toward my goal of 60 new-to-me park activations for 2024. Where will I head next? Stay tuned…

Equipment Used

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8 thoughts on “Braving the Polar Vortex at Yuchi WMA”

  1. Hello, dear Tery,
    I’m very happy with your stories. You are telling your expeditions in a very exiting and informative way and so you give me a rich understanding of the ham radio as well as of the places you and your companion visit.
    Best 73s from
    OZ6GQ Gorm in the Western part of Denmark.

  2. Another great post Teri. I enjoy reading about your activations.

    I love the small towns in my area. The three small towns near me have a combined 14,000 in population and some beautiful downtowns areas. Can’t beat free parking on Main Street in the middle of town.

    73 from the Blue Ridge foothills of NC.


  3. I had missed the comment by John previously so great to hear about and see the foam tube tip in action. Cheers to you for braving the cold snap. And glad it proved to be well worth the time and effort.

  4. Very clever idea with the pipe insulation, Teri. I’ll probably steal that!

    I use the same stuff to seal the ventilation ports into the engine room on our boat, during the hard freezes. Multiple uses…

    Really enjoying your saga…best wishes for good condx & sunny skies!

    Vic – KB7GL

  5. Great idea with the pipe insulation! When I operate from inside the vehicle I usually just close the door (gently) on the coax, hoping that just the weatherstripping puts the squeeze on the coax and it doesn’t get pinched.

    At this rate, you’ll hit 60 by the beginning of summer!

    1. Alan:

      We’ll see about reaching 60 before summer. Life has a way of interrupting our plans as I learned last year – hi hi. That would be a nice problem to have, though, wouldn’t it – having to increase one’s goal. At least right now I have some wiggle room.

      Teri KO4WFP

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