Exploring the Mountains-to-Sea Trail: QRP POTA with Hazel and a New KX1 Kneeboard!

On Friday, January 5, 2024, I looked at Hazel and could tell that, despite the chilly temps, she wanted to go on a late afternoon hike. I did, too, for that matter and why not combine the hike with a POTA activation?

In addition, we were expecting a winter storm to move in that night, so hitting the trail in advance of the snow and ice seemed to make sense.

Before I could get my boots on, Hazel was waiting by the car door to jump in.

Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (K-8313)

One of the closest long trails near my QTH is the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST).

At 1175 miles long, the MST stretches from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Great Smoky Mountains (see map above).

I can actually hike to the MST from my QTH, but it takes a good hour and half to do so. It’s much easier to drive to one of the numerous nearby trailheads, and that’s exactly what Hazel and I did. I drove to one of my favorite Blue Ridge Parkway POTA spots where a short manway connects to the MST.

Hazel was so excited to hit the trail. (I was, too.)

At the end of the day (because, it was nearing the end of the day) we couldn’t hike for long if I planned to also complete a POTA activation. Sunset was at 5:29 PM local and I didn’t want to pack up and hike back in the dark.

That said, if I needed to hike back in the dark, I could have because I never go on a POTA or SOTA activation without a fully-charged headlamp. FYI: I was packing a NiteCore NU25 (affiliate link).

I started my action camera and captured the last bit of hike before Hazel and I found a great spot to set up. There were enough trees around to deploy a 40 meter EFHW and a relatively flat spot to set up my Helinox chair and KX1 station.

Since much of this section of the MST is on the Blue Ridge Parkway grounds, I checked quickly to make sure my operating site would qualify as a two-fer with K-3378.

I opened the Parceled App on my iPhone to confirm that my site was indeed on Blue Ridge Parkway property..

A KX1 Kneeboard!

If I’m being perfectly honest, I had an ulterior motive with this trailside activation: I was eager to finally put my new KX1 kneeboard into use!

A few weeks prior, I received this kneeboard from my buddy Scott (K4VOR). Scott’s a contributor and supporter here on QRPer.com and, like me, a big fan of the Elecraft KX1. (You might recall his KX1 field kit.)

He designed this kneeboard to fit the KX1 like a glove. It firmly holds the KX1 in place and ensures that the KX1 paddles are stable. You can slap those paddles around all you want, but the KX1 will not budge as it’s so secure.

I don’t think Scott’s planning to do a production run of these kneeboards (correct me if I’m wrong about that, Scott) he just made one for himself and one for me. Thank you so much!

I took my sweet time deploying the KM4CFT EFHHW antenna. It was slightly tricky to find the right angle to launch the throw line.


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On The Air

I hopped on the air and called CQ POTA while Hazel sat next to me, keeping an eye out for bears and squirrels (mostly squirrels).

I logged my first ten contacts in nine minutes. The pace of contacts was quite steady! Many thanks to Matt (KN4YTA) for providing a P2P as my first contact!

I continued working stations (all on 40 meters) until I reached a total of 27 contacts in 24 minutes.

I would like to have continued plugging away, but the light was fading and needed to account for the time to pack up and hike back to the car, so I called QRT.


Here’s what this five-watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

What fun!

By the end of the activation, Hazel was getting chilly despite wearing her coat. When not on the trail, she’s very a much a sit-in-front-of-the-woodstove kind of POTA Pooch.

Little did I know at the time, but life got crazy the day after this activation and I believe getting outdoors and soaking in this “radio therapy” gave me a lot of strength to move forward.

Oh and, Scott, thanks again for the brilliant KX1 kneeboard. I absolutely love it!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this trail-side activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them!

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon, and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

11 thoughts on “Exploring the Mountains-to-Sea Trail: QRP POTA with Hazel and a New KX1 Kneeboard!”

    1. Hey Phil. I will have a limited run on etsy soon, due to popular demand. I will post a comment here when they are available.

  1. Awesome video as always Thomas! I actually have a new design tailored to the KX2! I had no idea these would be so popular. I have some travel coming up for work but I’ll be sending you a KX2 version in the coming weeks!

    Scott K4VOR

    1. Yes ,

      It is a very good idea for the KX2. I would be interested ….
      Do you know the price?? The same as the normal one??? Can you tell me when it will be available.. TNX a lot .73 qro HB9GUR

  2. So glad you got to do that activation in early Jan. Seems very peaceful. Hazel is such sweet puppy. Dogs know what their humans need. Lucy, our 14 yr old Lab, and I do a Vulcan Mind meld & she straightens me out. Always learn something from your activations – especially new is the Parcel App. MTS runs a few miles north of here. Question: do you use an external mic on your camera ? Your audio is always vy good. Hope you have many more activations this year.

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