by Teri (KO4WFP)
As many of you know, my personal life has been tumultuous these past five months. I thought maybe it would settle down after the first of this year but no such luck. My son and I moved into a townhouse the third week of January. While I appreciate my parents upending their lives to accommodate the two of us during my divorce, there were too many people in too small of a house with too much stuff. Also, my son needed a room of his own which he didn’t have at their place.
Moves are never convenient and this one was no exception. I needed to be packing the Sunday prior to my early Monday morning move. However, I had already committed to and scheduled an activation at Oliver Bridge Wildlife Management Area (K-3764). The weekend of January 20th and 21st was the winter Support Your Parks weekend and, as a POTA Babe, there was no way I would miss the event!
Thankfully, Oliver Bridge Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is only 40 minutes from my parents’ home. That meant another pleasant drive in rural Georgia on GA Route 17 through the communities of Guyton, Egypt, and Oliver.
This WMA consists of 1,560 acres and offers hunting for deer, small game, and turkey. Checking the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Hunting Regulations guide, the only item in season this particular weekend was small game. I would make sure to take the blaze orange vests for both Daisy and me again.
The WMA is bounded on one side by the Ogeechee River, one of the few free-flowing streams in Georgia. This blackwater river runs southeast 294 miles to empty into the Atlantic Ocean at Ossabaw Sound near Savannah. It played an important part for trade and commerce as well as was a source of freshwater and food for communities along its banks. In present day, kayaking and canoeing are popular pastimes on the river as well as fishing.
Daisy and I arrived at the WMA a little before 11 AM. We took River Road in the park to find a place for the activation. The road was in rough condition in some spots and was another one I’d not want to drive immediately after a heavy rain. I was thankful, once again, for my four-wheel drive Subaru Crosstrek nicknamed Kai. (My family has a funny habit of naming all our cars.)
On the map, there appeared to be a clearing about two-thirds of the way down the road. Tall, skinny pine trees lined either side of the road, not great for getting an arborist line into them. Thankfully, the canopy opened up for a small clearing as I surmised from the map and it was here I decided to set up.
Because of the opening, the pine trees near the side of the road had some lower, reachable branches on them. After a few tries, I snagged the branch I wanted and began hoisting the Tufteln EFRW antenna with the arborist line.
In past activations, I would usually get the antenna up however I could. But, at this point in my POTA journey, I am beginning to think how I want the antenna oriented with propagation in mind. I wanted it to run at a diagonal – northwest to southeast. To do that, I’d have to get it across a wide ditch that was partially frozen due to the cold temps. However, if I just tossed the line across, it was light enough it would likely end up in the ditch where I couldn’t easily retrieve it.
I usually carry a second arborist line and throw weight. I attached the second throw weight to the antenna winder with a shock bungee cord and then tossed it across the stream. Bingo! It worked and soon the antenna was fully deployed.
Then I had to deal with the coax. It had to be tossed back across the ditch. I didn’t want to tie the weight to it. Instead, I kept most of it wrapped up and secured with a tie. I tossed it back across the ditch and then ran it into the car using pipe foam insulation to help secure it on the rear left passenger window.
The cell service at this location was lacking. I could text but had poor internet access so I could not spot myself easily. I checked HamAlert to see if the RBN was spotting me but didn’t see anything in the app. However, I couldn’t be sure if the RBN didn’t hear me or I just couldn’t access the app at this park. (I discovered after the activation that it indeed had spotted me.)
I texted my friend Glenn W4YES and asked him to spot me on 40 meters. I received no responses to my CQ and learned from Glenn that there were almost no signals on that band. So I tried on 20 meters hunting my code buddy Caryn KD2GUT who activated Trail View State Park (K-2152) earlier in the day but she had already called QRT. I asked Glenn to spot me once more, this time on 20 meters. It wasn’t long before I heard Francis WA4ZYN answer my CQ. The band appeared to be opening up for me.
I stayed on 20 meters and ended up working 18 contacts in 35 minutes. By this time, it was 1 PM and I needed to call QRT.
I packed up my equipment and decided to drive to the end of the road to see how close Daisy and I could get to the Ogeechee River.
Whew – The river was overrunning its bank. We walked in both directions on the boundary road that ran parallel to the river floodplain. One side was flooded and we could only walk a little ways in that direction. Daisy had a great time being off leash and behaved well.
At 2 PM, it was time to get on the road and head back home for more packing (ugh). Though I didn’t enjoy this WMA as much as Yuchi WMA, I considered it another viable option if I needed a quick, close-by activation one day. There is another fork on the dirt road I may explore in the future that might reach a parking area and another clearing.
This particular activation put me at 15 parks toward my 60 new-to-me park activation goal for 2024. (I am one-quarter of the way!) I have a lot going on as I settle into my new home and develop routines for this new chapter in my life. However, I might be able to work in one more activation toward my goal before putting it on pause during the early part of February. Will my next park be in Georgia or will I go northward into South Carolina? Stay tuned…
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