The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 2

Day 2 of my spring-break Florida POTA trip began well. The night before, I left the rain fly off one corner of the tent, the one out of which I could look when lying on my Thermarest pad listening to the bird song all around us. There must be something about being outside because I had the soundest and most sleep I’d experienced in several weeks.

someone is not ready to get out of bed yet
Day 2 of my April Florida trip

We headed to the Nature Coast State Trail first as I was concerned about the temperature due to the sunny forecast. We found the Old Town trailhead, parked, and walked toward the trail’s bridge over the Suwannee River. Not far from the bridge, I spied a bench with an overhang and thought it would make a great QTH.

Old Town trailhead parking area
the trail
flowers along the trail
potential QTH

I had left the Chelegance MC-750 in the car as I wished to work with the AX1 today. It wasn’t long before I had it installed on the Joby Gorillapod ready for 40 meters. I turned on the KX2, put on my earbuds, and was greeted by NOISE, S5-S7 noise.

Well, noise happens and I typically find it on 40 meters than any other band when I activate. Undaunted, I tweaked the AX1 and moved to 30 meters. I found less noise (S3-S4) but no one answered my CQ. Now I was getting worried.

I removed the 40 meter coil from the AX1 and tried 20 meters. Now 20 meters didn’t sound that noisy; however, I had no callers. I found the same on 17 meters. What the heck?

And then I noticed the power lines across the road. How they had escaped my notice I have no idea. They weren’t just your typical power lines but also high-voltage power lines. That had to be the source of the noise. I felt like an idiot not even noticing them. The AX1 is a compromised antenna to begin with and, in those conditions, I don’t think it stood a chance.  Note: I later learned the band conditions were not great that morning either.

Deflated, I packed everything up and walked a little ways up the trail to the bridge crossing the Suwanne River. After a few moments to enjoy the view, I headed toward my second park – Fanning Springs State Park. It was but a 5 minute drive from the Old Town trailhead. I began  looking for somewhere to set up. Good news – not many power lines.

Suwannee River

I found a grassy field/parking area off to the side and set up there. My riding instructor would always say “Set your horse up for success.” Well, this I thought was a more successful situation for the AX1 (at least I hoped it would be). Once the AX1 was installed on top of my car, I got down to business.

AX1 on top of the car on Joby Gorillapod

I didn’t do well on 40 meters (only one caller in Florida) or 30 meters (no response). I removed the 40 meter coil and set up shop on 20 meters. Would anyone hear me today? YES! Over the next 20 minutes, I logged eight contacts including Dan N0ZT who is in my current Comprehensive ICR class for CW Innovations.

At this point, I only had nine total contacts, not enough for a valid activation. Hearing no more responses to my CQ on 20 meters, I headed to 17. After a while, Craig KC3TRT responded to my CQ. Over the next ten minutes, nine ops had a QSO with me including Raffaele IK4IDF in Italy. Whew – a valid activation.

QSO Map for Fanning Springs State Park
QSO Map (USA contacts) for Fanning Springs State Park
The springs (as close as we could get as dogs are not allowed near them)

By now I was worn out and decided to regroup back at the campsite. I felt kicked in the keister over the failed activation in the morning. There are five trailheads for the Nature Coast State Trail. Maybe I could find a section without power lines (not likely) and maybe the conditions in the late afternoon/early evening would be better.

After an early supper and a few minutes to read, Daisy and I headed back to the trail for another attempt. Yes, there were power lines (but not high voltage ones) near the trailhead I chose in Chiefland. It was peaceful on this section of the trail. We ambled along until I found another bench like I saw that morning.

AX1 with radials

I opted to sit instead in my Helinox chair on the ground with Daisy to my right and the AX1 to my left. There was thick foliage in front of me as well as a park area that I hoped would provide a buffer from any RFI from the businesses on that side of the trail. I took a breath and called QRL. I picked 20 meters thinking that might be my best bet this time of day, around 6 PM.

Guess what? The AX1 delivered!

I had 18 contacts in 30 minutes including a QRP-to-QRP QSO with Karl K5KHK in New York. I also had one park-to-park QSO with David WN1E at US-0897. I practically floated back to the car and then celebrated with a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone from Dairy Queen.

QSO Map for Nature Coast State Trail
Way more ice cream than I needed but it was good!

People don’t talk about the emotional component that comes with morse code. My life has been an emotional rollercoaster as of late and that failed activation felt like another punch in the gut.

You know the ops that I see make the most progress, in general and in the class I facilitate with CW Innovations? Those with determination.

They don’t give up but persevere despite their struggles. Life is really tough for me right now but I have to hang in there as I did with this activation. You never know when success or for what you are waiting will be around the corner.

For day 3, I’ll head south toward Cedar Key. What antenna will I choose to use and how will those activations go? Stay tuned…

Equipment Used

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16 thoughts on “The POTA Babe Goes Back to Florida – Day 2”

  1. An activation attempt with less than 10 QSOs is a batch of honor. If you don’t have one of those every now and then, you are not doing it right. As long as you enjoyed the fresh air, the smell of whatever was in the air and the view, then it was a success. And if you learned something in the process, it counts as double success.

    Thanks for the two way QRP QSO.

    de Karl Heinz – K5KHK

    1. Karl:

      Your comment is spot on! I remember the two attempts I made for valid activations during my Nova Scotia trip. They were rough; however, they made me more determined than ever to get a valid activation. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I agree that any activation, whether valid with 10 QSOs or not, IS a success.

      Thanks for hunting me during the trip, Karl. Keep having fun with CW!

      The POTA Babe

  2. Teri,

    Those QSO maps are very impressive! You managed to get some great coverage out of that AX1! Congrats!!

    Conrad, N2YCH

    1. Conrad:

      Yes, the AX1 delivered. I am still amazed at the QSO with Italy – 5 watts and the AX1! Amazing. It may be frustrating at times but I think it is good there is an aspect of luck in this hobby. You can have all the skill in the world but none of us can control the bands. Struggling with them makes us better ops and appreciate conditions when they are great. It is also makes those amazing QSOs like I had with Italy feel like magic. I cannot ever imagine being bored with this wonderful hobby we all share.

      Thanks for your comment and keep having fun with ham radio!

      The POTA Babe

  3. Two valid activations, a walk with your dog and a Chocolate dipped ice cream cone. Priceless!

    73, Kevin K3OX

    1. Joseph:

      Well, if my article inspires you to get out and activate, then it is a success! I hope you have a great time.

      The POTA Babe

  4. Teri,

    Leave the AX1 in the backpack. It’s a fun antenna for times when one doesn’t have time, space or permission to set up a longer wire. Go for the longest highest wire you can set up in your circumstances. Then when you have made your necessary contacts for a true activation then get out the AX1 and have fun. It’s like the chocolate coating on your Dairy Queen cone that day.

    I have many different antennas but use the biggest one I can in most setups in my yard and the local park. My AX1 was all I could use on the balcony in our condo in Florida and it did what it could do….. but nothing exciting.

  5. Teri… first of all, that ice cream seems an HV powerline insulator (the glass ones) covered with chocolate, had you have it first, maybe you then noticed those darn powerlines above you 🙂


    when it comes to living for some time in a tent, the rule of thumb is eat cold in the morning and warm in the evening, try it

    and finally, always mind the time and the grayline, people works and sleeps at different times so, an “from the tent” activation may bring some surprising results 😉

    All my best Teri, and a heartly huge hug, if I can !

    1. Andrew:

      I had hoped for a “from the tent” activation at Manatee Springs; however, when I was told to take my EFRW down, that plan went out the window. (I suppose I could have left set up the Chelegance MC-750 in the campsite overnight; however, there were deer walking through the campground and I didn’t want to chance one getting tangled up in my antenna/feedline.) It is a luxury having a wire antenna up and operating from the comfort of your tent at whatever hour you want!

      Thanks for the comment and encouragement, Andrew. Keep having fun with ham radio!

      The POTA Babe

  6. Teri
    Wonderful accomplishments, and wonderful persistence. Good job. You might want to bring along a 17′ extensible whip to use when the AX1 is too much of a struggle.
    But you made it work with the equipment and antenna that you had, and that’s what great ham radio operators do. Congratulations!
    –72, N4GF

    1. Roger:

      I do have the Chelegance MC-750 in my kit and I could have used that antenna on this day. However, I wanted to work with the AX1 since I haven’t used it much. Maybe that wasn’t the best decision for that day; however, this is how we learn, right?

      Thanks for your comment. Keep having fun with ham radio!

      The POTA Babe

      1. Teri — Yes indeed; experimentation is the heart of ham radio, and you showed the AX1 will do the job. Best wishes !

  7. Hi Teri,
    I always love seeing a new blog post from the POTA Babe! Great work on trying multiple bands and being persistent. A failed activation is something that I try to look at as a learning experience. What worked, what didn’t. I had the same issue with overhead power lines at a three entity spot I found recently. They really put a damper on my activation. Finally I found another spot that was also in all three spots and managed to barely squeeze out 14 QSOs.

    Thanks for describing your experiences with tent camping combined with POTA. I turned 60 last year and am going through the same life changes that you have. Reading your posts give me hope and inspiration for the future and hopefully I will be sharing with you my own POTA adventures with my fur baby best friend Charli .

    Thanks Teri
    73 de NG9T

  8. Great series of posts, Teri! I grew up in W Central Florida (Brooksville) and attended U of FL in Gainesville for a while so I know that section of the state. You know from experience that it can go from sandy beach to tropical jungle to vast savanna with a huge 200 yr old oak tree every 100 yds or so.

    I’m slowly working up to doing some POTA as soon as the weather is better. SW Michigan here, frost both this morning and forecast for tomorrow, so I’m like Daisy, just stay inside my comfort zone and wait 🙂

    Keep ’em coming, I enjoy your posts!

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