Testing the HF Waters: A High Band Bust During this Parkway POTA?

Gorgeous weather and a bit of free time? Perfect chance for a POTA activation!

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, I was enjoying a break before picking up my daughter from French class – why not grab my rig and head for the Parkway?

No picnic tables today–I wanted a simple setup under the trees with my camping chair, kneeboard, and the KX2.

I drove to one of my favorite spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway (US-3378).

This site’s always a winner: unoccupied, plenty of trees for hanging wire antennas, and right on the Mountains to Sea Trail (one of my favorite local hikes!). Unlike some of the pull-offs along the BRP, this site allows a bit more distance from the passing cars.

Sadly, I found trash scattered around my operating spot–even a shoe! I picked the trash up to dispose of after the activation.

I quickly deployed one of my Tufteln “no-transformer” random wire antennas in a tall tree. This antenna’s just a 28.5-foot wire attached to my BNC’s center pin, and a 17-foot wire on the shield. Simple, but effective, and my Elecraft KX2’s built-in ATU tunes it right up. This type of antenna–one that lacks a transformer–relies heavily on an internal ATU’s ability to match the impedance.

While some folks think this antenna type isn’t efficient, I haven’t found that to be true. Any losses are probably offset by the direct connection to the radio–no coax run in the way for the ATU to match.

Time to set up my radio.

I unfolded my Helinox chair, got out my N0RNM/Tufteln kneeboard, set up the KX2, connected the antenna and my KXPD2 paddles, then prepared my logs.


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On The Air

Propagation has been pretty rough the past few weeks. There have been moments with excellent DX openings, but also times when the higher bands were wiped out or quite unstable.

I thought I’d test the waters during this activation by starting on 10 meters, then working my way down the bands.

I tried 10 meters first. I called CQ POTA with absolutely no replies, so I QSY’d down to 15 meters.

15 meters, however, was just as dead. Not a single reply to my calls there either.

Next, I moved to the 17 meter band. I was hopeful I might work at least one contact, but again I was wrong: no replies to my calls.

Note that if I had a couple of hours to do this activation, I might have stayed on 17 meters ten minutes longer, and even gone back up the band an hour later, but I was operating on a schedule, so I QSY’d to the 20 meter band.

20 meters, fortunately, was pretty productive. I started receiving replies as soon as I started calling CQ POTA.

I worked a total of 14 stations in 13 minutes on 20 meters. Then I had to call QRT to allow enough time to pack up, pick up the trash found on the site, then head into town.

It was good timing, though, because that seemed to be when the short run of contacts ended anyway.

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.

High-Band Openings

I was hoping those higher bands (10, 12, 15, and 17M) might have had a little life in them because it’s so fun to work stations there when they’re open. Sometimes, the DX can be amazing.

Then again, when those bands are dead, they are dead. Closed for business.

Maybe later in the day they’d pick up some life with the right solar activity. Still, I say it’s always worth checking them out in this part of the solar cycle!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me during this fun roadside 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! I hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

2 thoughts on “Testing the HF Waters: A High Band Bust During this Parkway POTA?”

  1. My new motto is “No such thing as a failed activation.” Hour and a half calling CQ, RBN hearing me loud and clear with only three contacts. Then I hear the VK3 through the QSB. Thanks to VK3YV for hunting me down at US-1368 in NEPA. Five contacts total but I am still stoked. I’m ashamed to be of the same species that trash beautiful places for folks like you clean up. I do the same when I see trash.

  2. I’ve had mixed results with directly feeding a wire in this manner, and I’m puzzled as to why this is. I used to use a 33 foot wire, then after doing some reading I added on an additional three feet. I use a single counterpoise that has inline connectors so I can “tune” it to any band from 40 through 10 meters. (I have found that adjusting the counterpoise length can result in a significant increase in received signal level.) The thing I like most about this setup is that I can quickly change bands thanks to the KX2’s internal ATU.
    Sometimes this works quite well, but other times not. On a recent outing I put up my directly fed wire and it seemed like no one could hear me. I took down the wire and put up my end fed half wavelength wire, fed through a QRPGuys 49:1 transformer, and immediately had success.
    Interesting to note, three days later I went to the same spot and that time I just connected my AX1 directly to my KX2 and made twice as many contacts, including getting called by SM3NRY. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with wires at all! 🙂 (Yes, I know that band conditions make a huge difference, and the “other guy” having a lot of aluminum up in the air is a big help too.)

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