POTA at South Mountains: Wet Weather, Flaky Bands, but Brilliant Field Radio Fun!

On Friday, April 26, 2024, I dropped in on a POTA site I hadn’t visited in months: South Mountains State Park (US-2753).

The Clear Creek Access area–on the north west side of the park–is the quickest POTA detour for me as I travel from Asheville to Hickory along the I-40 corridor.

In my previous field report, I mentioned that my trips to Hickory have become less frequent compared to before, when I would go at least once a week. Now, when I do go, it’s typically not an overnight stay, which limits my opportunities for activations.

That Friday, the weather was predominantly wet. As I drove up to the Clear Creek parking area, clouds had rolled in and it was lightly raining. It was one of those days I wish I had packed my TX-500.

Fortunately, I typically set up under a large oak tree at this site and I knew it would offer pretty good protection from the rain.

Upon arriving at the site, I was surprised by the number of parked vehicles. Ordinarily, I would expect to see only one or two other vehicles besides my own, but on this rainy day, there were about a dozen. This is the largest number of vehicles I’ve ever observed at the Clear Creek access.

I was a little worried that the one lonely picnic table at this site would be occupied, but fortunately, it was not.

I later learned that the bulk of the cars were there because a homeschool group was visiting. In fact, at one point, you’ll hear me speaking to one of the homeschool moms about amateur radio in the activation video below. That’s what I love about homeschoolers: they’re always ready to approach and ask questions!

I reached the picnic table and started setting up my field kit.

I had a simple, but effective pairing in mind for this activation: my Elecraft KX2 and Packtenna 9:1 random wire. In the past, I’ve used this combo numerous times with great success.

What I love about a good random wire is just how easily I can hop from one band to another.

Setup was simple and pretty speedy. Also, the tree did keep me pretty dry while it rained lightly.

Gear:

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On The Air

Propagation has been very flaky as of late, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I hopped on the air.

I decided to begin my activation on 20 meters. I started calling CQ POTA and fortunately, a few intrepid hunters found me!

I logged a total of eight stations in 16 minutes. Many thanks to WB0RLJ and WI5D for the Park-to-Parks!

Next, I moved to the 30 meter band where I worked an additional five stations in five minutes before it went quiet.

Finally, I decided to cap things off on the 17 meter band knowing that it would likely be less active and (unfortunately!) I was right. I owe my thanks to N7CCD and NB7O for finding and working me there!

This goes to show that even when propagation is a little rough and unstable, you can still work distant stations between those QSB dips.

All told, I logged a total of 15 contacts in 35 minutes. Not too bad!

Here’s my log sheet:

QSO Map

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

Screenshot

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.

9:1 Random Wires

I’ll admit that each time I use this particular radio and antenna combo I realize that it’s hard to beat.

A 9:1 random wire with about 31’ of radiator will provide at least 40-6 meter coverage when paired with a decent ATU. Since it’s about half as long as, say, a 40 meter EFHW, you can also deploy it more easily.

I’m a huge fan of the PackTenna 9:1 random wire and the Tufteln 9:1 random wire. In the spirit of full disclosure, both George (KJ6VU) of PackTenna and Joshua (N5FY) of Tufteln are dear friends. But at the end of the day, I believe they also make the best portable random wire antennas on the market (and, believe it or not, this isn’t the only reason they are my friends–!). Ha ha!

If you have a radio like the KH1, KX1, KX2, KX3, X5105, X6100, or any other portable radio with a built-in ATU, you really should do yourself a favor and add a random wire antenna to your field radio arsenal. There are many options on the market and they’re also easy to homebrew.

I honestly think I could do all of my activations with this particular combo.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me during this 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 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 an amazing week ahead!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

2 thoughts on “POTA at South Mountains: Wet Weather, Flaky Bands, but Brilliant Field Radio Fun!”

  1. Hi Thomas….I went “kicking & screaming” to a random wire….having being a 65’ 40/20 Par EFHW guy for my previous SOTA activations (SOTA Goat#1).

    But this year I went 58’ Random wire as an Inverted-L….and I would say there is no going back. I love it…

    I explain it on my QRZ page…

    Thanks for all you do for portable ops…

    73, AC3B
    https://www.qrz.com/db/AC3B

  2. Hi Thomas, As always another great video of POTA in action. Hope that I will be able to get some of my health back so I can do the same in the future! Please keep the POTA videos coming! 73, 72, Richard, K0RDS

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