by Teri (KO4WFP)
It is Sunday, December 31st, the final day of 2023 and, coincidentally, my winter-break Florida POTA trip. Time to return home. But, as I promised at the end of my last article, the journey is not yet done. A POTA Babe is not going to squander the opportunity to fit in another activation or two on the way home.
Joseph and I loaded up the car one final time after our stay at an Airbnb in Umatilla. I found two parks at which to attempt activations – Lake George State Forest (K-4627) and Pellicer Creek State Conservation Area (K-8367). I chose Lake George because I had yet to activate a state forest and Pellicer because of its proximity to Interstate 95, my route back home.
Lake George State Forest is named (unironically) for Lake George, the second largest lake in Florida. The forest is formed from lands previously used for timber, production of naval stores, cattle grazing, and hunting. It consists of over 20,000 acres of land that offer trails for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding as well as access to hunting, fishing, and birding.
I was unclear as to where to easily access Lake George State Forest. We found the Dexter/Mary Farms Tract entrance at which is a checkpoint for hunters. I learned I needed to purchase a pass before accessing the property and could do so via an off-hours phone number. I really didn’t want to set up shop in proximity to hunting, partially because it seemed like a bad idea (duh) but also I didn’t bring my blaze orange vest on the trip.
We learned of another entrance for the forest and headed that direction. Along the way, we ran into the Barberville Yard Art Emporium who billed itself as offering the largest variety of unique handcrafted outdoor art. I believe it judging from what I saw. Anyone for a giant chicken?
After gawking at the sculptures, we headed to the Fawn Road entrance for Lake George State Forest. This entrance looked more like what I expected.
My brother Joseph donned his bright orange rain poncho and headed up the road for a hike. I, on the other hand, looked for a place to set up and get on the air. I’d need to stick to the road as it was flooded on both sides and I didn’t bring the footwear to tromp through water. Most of the trees were very tall pines. I didn’t think I could get a line on their lowest branches.
Thankfully, I found a few trees of lower height. Once the Tufteln EFRW was installed and my station set up in the road (it was closed to vehicular traffic), I commenced my activation. I ran later than my original estimated start time but the RBN still picked me up.
As usual, I was tight on time. In 30 minutes, I had 20 contacts on 20 meters. Two days ago, I had a contact from Etor F6VMN in France. I figured why not hop onto 17 meters to see if he would hear me again today. Guess what? He did hear me and we logged another contact. The band gave me nine contacts in 10 minutes for a total of 29 contacts at this park.
By this time, Joseph had returned from his hike. We packed up and were off to our next destination – Pellicer Creek State Conservation Area.
The park is named for Pellicer Creek, a blackwater stream that joins the Matanzas River. It was named for Francisco Pellicer, an early Spanish settler. The park is next to what was known as the King’s Road built around 1766 when Colonel James Grant was governor of British East Florida. It became a major artery of travel and ran as far north as Georgia near the St. Mary’s River.
This park didn’t appear to offer much. Other than the entrance off the side of the road, there is a pond around which one can access locations for fishing.
The entrance area was more open and less likely to have people running into my antenna so I set up there. It was a similar set up to the Lake George activation. Rather than dropping the antenna on the ground, I attached the feed-end to my POTA sign.
Daisy and I moved into the shade of the car. The sun was out and the temp had warmed up considerably.
At this point in the trip, I was ready to head home so the activation was short and to the point. I set up shop on 40 meters and logged 20 contacts in 25 minutes.
It was now time to drive northward on Interstate 95 back to Bloomingdale, Georgia. Interstate driving is my least favorite kind of driving. However, I enjoy traveling between the Georgia/Florida border and the Savannah, Georgia area on Interstate 95. One sees lots of marsh and open areas as inland rivers near their destination of the Atlantic Ocean.
During the drive, I reflected on the trip. I traveled over 1,000 miles in eight days and had twelve valid park activations, all at parks with which I was unfamiliar. The trip re-exposed me to camping as well as traveling with my POTA pooch Daisy. And, I didn’t drive my brother Joseph completely nuts. What a rewarding and educational experience!
At this point, I had activated thirteen parks (including Jack Hill State Park right before the trip) toward my 60 new-to-me park activations goal for 2024. I now knew this kind of trip is doable and salivated at the thought of my next opportunity – spring break the first week of April. Where would I head and how many parks would I activate then? Stay tuned…
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