Caregiving and QSOs: Returning to a Favorite POTA Site

Those of you who’ve been following my field reports for a few years might have noticed something different:  I haven’t been activating some of my favorite POTA sites as often.  Here’s the reason why, and how I’m working to get back on the air at these special locations:

Most notably:

  • Lake James SP (US-2739),
  • South Mountains SP (US-2753),
  • Lake Norman (US-2740),
  • Fort Dobbs (US-6839),
  • and Tuttle Educational State Forest (US-4861)

These parks are all in or around Hickory, NC, where I used to travel weekly to care for my mom and take her to oncology appointments.

Sadly, she passed away in January. Since my sister has moved in with my dad, my trips to Hickory are now often day trips with the family, squeezed into busy afternoons.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t left much time for radio activations.

I’ve been longing to return to these parks! As an activator, you get attached to familiar spots–at least, I do–they become a home-away-from-home. These parks have definitely been calling me.

Two weeks ago, however, I started driving to Hickory again daily. My father was hospitalized, and I needed to be there for him. Thankfully, he’s much more stable now, in physical therapy rehab, and making progress.

These trips back to Hickory have allowed me to fit in some “radio therapy” at my favorite POTA sites.

On Thursday, April 25, 2024, I finally returned to the one I miss most: Tuttle Educational State Forest (US-4861).

Tuttle is an ideal POTA site: plenty of setup spots, a two-mile loop trail, and incredibly supportive staff. They’ve encouraged me to put up any antenna I want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with other visitors. Plus, Tuttle is usually quiet, which I also love.

It was nice to see Tuttle’s entrance sign again!

Once on-site, I picked out a picnic site with shade. It was a sunny spring day and I forgot to bring my wide-brimmed hat (it was in the other car!).

It wasn’t a problem, though, as most of the picnic area at Tuttle is shaded.

That morning, I loaded one of my radio packs with gear and packed my Index Labs QRP Plus.

I was eager to put my Index Labs QRP Plus back on the air at a park. This radio holds sentimental value, taking me back to visiting my first amateur radio field activity in 1997! I paired it with my MM0OPX End-Fed Half-Wave for multi-band operation (40, 20, 15, and 10 meters).

You can almost see the MM0OPX EFHW in this photo!

I decided to pair the QRP Plus with an End-Fed Half-Wave which would give me 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters without needing an external ATU (I had packed my Elecraft T1 as well, but I really didn’t need it).

I had a little over an hour to perform this activation, then head back to the QTH to be with my wife and daughters. It was “Star Trek” night, so I couldn’t be late (priorities–!).


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On The Air

Even though propagation has been very unstable lately, I’ve gotten some surprising openings on the higher bands, so I decided to start this activation on 10 meters, then work my way down the band until I hit activity.

I called CQ POTA on 10 meters and eventually worked one station: WA7BRL in Washington State. Not bad! There was no other activity on 10 meters, so after a while I moved down to 15 meters.

After spotting myself on 15 meters, I worked a little rush of four hunters, two in California and two in Texas. If you look at the QSO Map below, it’s interesting to see how the band opened to the same part of both states.

Finally, I moved down to the 20 meter band which was actually pretty healthy.

On 20 meters, I worked a total of 21 stations in 21 minutes. Many thanks to K5LE for that Park-To-Park!

I eventually had to call QRT and pack up as it was time to head back to the QTH.

Here are my logs:


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.


This summer, I hope to do some camping during my Hickory visits.  That should give me ample time to really enjoy Lake James, South Mountains, Lake Norman, and nearby POTA/SOTA sites.

Fingers crossed the plan works out!

Curious if any readers have plans to combine POTA/SOTa and camping this summer? Please comment!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me during this activation! It was a lot of fun.

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 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 makes 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! Have a brilliant week ahead!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

18 thoughts on “Caregiving and QSOs: Returning to a Favorite POTA Site”

  1. Thomas,

    First, I’m sorry for your loss last January. Dealing with grief is an individual thing, but for those of us who care about and for others it can be hard to ensure we do enough “self-care”. It’s very obvious you love your family and do everything you can to care for them, and I’m glad to see you ensuring you are caring for yourself as well. As Steven Covey says in his books, if you don’t exercise self-care, you won’t have the resources to care for others.

    One other thing: as my father-in-law started losing mobility, he found that “grab bars” installed in various places around the house were very helpful. I ended up installing them near the bed, near doors, etc. They helped extend his independence quite a bit.

    Take care,


    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Ben.

      Thanks so much for the grab bar suggestions. I installed quite a few in his bathroom, but I sneed to consider adding them in other parts of the house as well. It would only help extend his mobility!

      Thank you!

  2. Thomas, sorry to hear of your mom’s passing. Sincere condolences. Glad you’re back on the air. I’ll listen for you!
    Eric AC6NT

  3. I would love to get some POTA camping in this Summer, but I fear there just might not be time for it this year.

    Perhaps, I could sneak away for an overnighter nearish to home.

    1. I hope you can make that happen, Matt. Camping is such a rewarding outdoor activity. I love it.

  4. Thomas, to your camping question, I bought a “Cheep Jeep” recently from my brother (‘95 Grand Cherokee) and have been working on it to be my camping/SOTA/POTA rig. Small lift for added clearance, winch, expected repairs for a 30 year old vehicle, etc. It’s been taking more time than radios the past few weeks, but I’m looking forward to getting out in it with the family to places I couldn’t play radio before!

    1. Oh wow! I’d love to see some photos once you you’re in the mood to snap some shots. Sounds like it’d be a great choice for some off-road boon-docking and POTA/SOTA.

  5. Thomas, Thanks for sharing your video on the QRP Plus with POTA. I have not tried this yet but only at home in my shack or in my back yard. This is my second QRP Plus that I have owned and it is a great little Qrp radio

  6. Never have been to western US so XYL and I finishing up tour of 5 states there and several POTA sites as wx and sightseeing permitted. Sure is different from my native Middle TN!!!

    1. Oh wow! What a great trip. The US is so vast, there’s always something to discover. 🙂

  7. That’s a neat old radio, Thomas and it’s fun to operate non-state-of-the-art rigs from time to time. Why is that?!

    To keep it in good operating condition, please disconnect it from the antenna when not in use. More than any other rig I’ve ever owned (or heard of) the QRP+ front-end is extremely sensitive to static discharge. High wind on a clear, cloud-free day, can induce enough electrical static into a dipole to damage a connected QRP+. I know from experience, twice. Now on my 3rd QRP+.


    1. Noted, John! Thank you.

      I have left it hooked up to my QTH antenna for a couple days at a time. I’ll stop doing that pronto!

      These rigs are awfully fun to operate.


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