The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 1

In pursuit of my 60 new-to-me park activations, I headed back to Florida for six days the first week of April. The weather forecast looked promising – high temps in the upper 70s falling to the upper 60s by the end of the week. Rain might dampen my spirits on Wednesday but otherwise, the sun was likely to shine during my journey.

Day 1 of my April 2024 Florida Trip

Daisy and I packed up the car and headed out early Sunday, May 31st. It was an easy journey – three and a half hours south down I-95 and then southwest across Florida. Of course, we stopped at the Florida welcome center and got our picture snapped, this time just the two of us.

Here we again in Florida!

We arrived in Branford which actually did look like a nice place to live. Lafayette Forest Wildlife & Environmental Area (US-6315) is just outside the town. Unlike the wildlife management areas in Georgia I’ve visited, this one looked more manicured. The road into the park could have been the entrance into some genteel Southern plantation.

Not far inside, we found a fenced-in parking area and kiosk. I figured this would be the easiest place to set up. Checking the kiosk, I confirmed we were out of hunting season though we would still wear our blaze orange items for our walk after the activation. (Before we arrived at the park, we actually saw a turkey crossing the road.)

Map of Lafayette WMA

I opted to use the Chelegance MC-750 on the tripod mount because I need more practice with it. That proved to be a good choice as I had to re-read the instructions to set it up – hi hi. This is what happens when you don’t use equipment on a regular basis. 

I sat in the front seat of the car and began with 40 meters. That only yielded two contacts in 5 minutes so I opted to move to 20 meters. Twenty meters was kinder to me, yielding 14 contacts in 25 minutes. I then hunted what activators I could hear. I had park-to-park contacts with Don W8PEN in Ohio, Rosti KC3FQF in Delaware, and Mark KA5TXN in Texas.

QSO Map for Lafayette WMA

At this point, Daisy was panting in the backseat. Time to call QRT and stretch our legs.

I originally thought we’d walk a large loop through the property but that route proved to be along the road we drove into the park. There looked like very little shade along the road and, due to the sunny skies, I opted to nix that idea. Instead, we took the Chorus Frog Loop by the parking area. It was a short (we did it twice it was so short) but nice walk through the woods.

We loaded ourselves back into the car and drove 30 miles down the road to Manatee Springs State Park (US-1901). We were greeted by friendly park staff who directed us to our site. It wasn’t long before the car was unloaded, tent set up, and Daisy sacked out for a nap.

Home away from home

I originally scheduled my activation for Manatee Springs around 5 PM; but dinner was a quick affair and I had time to kill, so I decided to jump on early. I was itching to return to the EFRW so I could jump between bands easily.

There were no restrictions on wires in the trees at this park so that antenna was up and running in no time.  As I planned to stay at Manatee Springs for three nights, I decided to leave it up and use the AX1 or Chelegance MC-750 for my other activations. Note: What I was told at the front desk was incorrect. I was asked Monday to take down the EFRW which I did.

There were not many activators (maybe the holiday had something to do with that) on the spotting page. Since I had my EFRW, I hopped from band to band in search of hunters.

The bands yielded 15 on 20 meters, four on 17 meters, three on 15 meters, and three on 30 meters. Twenty meters gave me my one DX contact – Thomas SM3NRY in Sweden. I also had the privilege of park-to-park QSOs with Martiros W0RMX in Virginia, Ken KG4BIG in Kentucky, and Tony KD2YJX in New Jersey before I called QRT.

QSO Map for Manatee Springs State Park on 3/31/24 Source:

I experienced something in this park I did not in other campgrounds during my previous Florida trip – noise! A neighboring campsite played loud music and even though I used headphones during the activation, it was a distraction.

The campers of a neighboring campsite arrived during my activation and, when they turned on a blower to inflate their air mattress, suddenly 40 and 30 meters were unusable. As I’ve said before, expect the unexpected with POTA.

settling down for the night
Jackery charging KX2 for tomorrow

Overall, it was a good start to the trip.

The next day, I planned  to activate the Nature Coast State Trail for which the AX1 might be a good choice and then, if I had sufficient time, Fanning Springs State Park which is adjacent to the trail. The weather promised to be sunny again! Did the AX1 turn out to be my friend? Stay tuned…

Equipment Used

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5 thoughts on “The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 1”

  1. Teri, I’ve been waiting for this first report! Thanks once again for your POTA updates from my home state! Looking forward to the next one. Meanwhile, I’m hammering away at home, working on my SKCC goals.

    73, Paul

    1. Paul:

      I am glad you enjoyed the first day’s report from the trip. I am not sure when the rest will publish so just keep looking for them.

      I’ve enjoyed my trips to Florida so far and may return during winter break at the end of this year. Given all the changes and unexpected events in my life, I may have to as I’m not sure I’ll make my goal of 60 new-to-me parks before the end of this year. However, if I don’t make the goal, that is OK. Ham radio is a hobby and sometimes life gets in the way. And that is OK, I now realize. It is the journey and not the destination that matters.

      Enjoy hamming away, especially with SKCC. I hope to resume my pursuit of Senator later this spring once my life settles down. Maybe I’ll see you on the air soon.

      The POTA Babe

  2. Great reading !
    I just started doing POTA in Crystal River FL and learning the ins and outs of the game.
    Such fun !
    Thank you Pota Babe for your writing and encouragement to get out there and activate.
    Jim W1FMR /4

    1. Jim:

      You are most welcome. I am glad you enjoyed the article. Encouraging others is one of the main reasons I write these articles. POTA is such a fun activity but I often find ops are intimidated to attempt it, especially with CW. As you are discovering, you have to jump in there and find the ins and outs yourself through experience. We all make mistakes and learn in the process. Hams are generally supportive of and patient with one another, so I am glad you are getting out and having your own POTA adventures!

      Keep having fun with ham radio!

      The POTA Babe

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