POTA Activation at Strouds Run State Park: A Rainy Morning and Ham Radio Memories!

On Tuesday morning, May 14, 2024, I hopped in my car and headed north to Athens, Ohio. It was in Athens, back in 1997, that my ham radio journey truly began, and where I met my friends Eric (WD8RIF) and Mike (K8RAT).

For over 14 years, Eric, his son Miles (KD8KNC), and I have made the annual pilgrimage to Hamvention and FDIM, with few interruptions. My routine is to drive to Athens, catch up with Eric and his wife, Vickie, stay overnight, and then head to Dayton the next day with Eric and Miles. I enjoy this because it breaks up my travels and usually allows for some POTA activating along the way.

This Wednesday morning, Eric had an appointment and a meeting, so our plan was to leave for Dayton around noon. This gave me the morning free to play radio!

Breakfast at Miller’s Chicken

I left the house around 8:00 AM with the goal of activating Strouds Run State Park, conveniently located near downtown Athens. But first, breakfast!

I try to avoid chain restaurants when traveling, preferring local spots. I was delighted to discover that Miller’s Chicken, an Athens institution, served breakfast. I had no idea!

Miller’s Chicken holds fond memories for me. When my wife was a graduate student at Ohio University, for a brief period of time, she lived within walking distance and we often ate there. She even acted in a student film shot at the restaurant!

Walking in, I realized it had been 23+ years since my last visit. I ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit with coffee as a group of students left, leaving me with the place almost to myself.

POTA at Strouds Run State Park (US-1994)

I arrived at the park around 9:15 AM. It had been raining all morning, so I sought cover under a picnic Shelter.  Eric, a frequent activator of Strouds Run, had told me where to find all of Strouds’ shelters.

Check out Eric’s standing on the park’s POTA page:

You can also read all of Eric’s hundreds of field reports on his website.

I found an empty shelter by the lakeshore (no surprise given the weather). I brought several radios with me on the Dayton trip: my Elecraft KX2, KH1, Index Labs QRP Plus, Venus SW-3B (always in the car), and my Yaesu FT-818.

Propagation has been a hot mess lately. I figured 40 meters and 20 meters would be the best bands to try, and the EFHW is resonant on both, eliminating the need for an antenna tuner.

Setup was easy, with trees near the shelter providing ideal suspension points for the EFHW.

(Note about audio: As I prepared this activation video, I discovered that my wireless mic wasn’t connected, so you won’t hear me when I walk away from the camera. My apologies! There’s also more wind noise than usual. However, you’ll hear plenty of waterfowl and other birds enjoying the park.)

Jeweler’s Bench Block

Only a couple of days prior, I received a Jeweler’s Bench Block that I purchased on Amazon.com (affiliate link). Several friends had recommended I pick up one to pair with my lightweight, portable keys that have embedded rare-earth magnets.

The key I paired with it was my BamaKey TP-III. You’ll hear me rave about this combo in the activation video.

It weighs 13.7 ounces and has a silicon base: I found that with the TP-III (which has a light action), it was rock-solid on the picnic table.

I wish I would have purchased one of these ages ago!


Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

On The Air

I started calling CQ and, fortunately, hunters started replying!

I worked my first ten stations in seven minutes! With the way propagation had been, I certainly wasn’t expecting that!

I continued working stations on 40 meters until I’d logged a total of 28 hunters all within 27 minutes.

Next, I QSY’d to the 20 meter band and it, too, was in pretty good shape.

I logged an additional 11 contacts in about 9 minutes.

I also tried calling CQ POTA on 10 meters, but as I suspected, it was completely dead.

Before calling QRT, I checked the spots and was able to hunt KY4DF at Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve (US-7848).

Nice to get you in the logs, Andy!


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.

Memories and a First-Time Activation

It had been the better part of 26 years since I’d last set foot in Strouds Run State Park. My wife and I used to visit frequently when we lived in Athens County, as it was practically on our way home. I’d forgotten just how beautiful it is.

This was also my first time activating it for POTA. Usually, on our Hamvention trips, I don’t have a full morning to spend in Athens, so this was a rare treat.


Post-activation, I made my way back to QTH WD8RIF, where Eric, Miles, and I packed the Subaru with our gear. We hit one park en route to Dayton, but as you’ll find out in the next field report, we weren’t as lucky with propagation. These days, you can’t assume propagation will remain steady throughout the day!

Still, it’s all good radio fun!

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!

I’ve really enjoyed re-living this particular one because I remember hanging with friends and my anticipation leading up to the amazing 2024 FDIM and Hamvention events. I’m still recovering from all of that activity! Worth every moment.


That evening, at the FDIM hotel where I registered, I got to meet this amazing Basset Hound named Lola.

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 day!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

6 thoughts on “POTA Activation at Strouds Run State Park: A Rainy Morning and Ham Radio Memories!”

  1. The KH1 has been getting all the love recently on account of it’s new. But, this post and activation video inspired me to take my FT-818 out for a little exercise.

    She still works great 😉

    1. I love operating the 818/817. I think it’s a brilliant radio and it certainly gets the job done.
      The audio is pretty exceptional–hard to believe the price was so low when new!


  2. Hello Thomas:
    Just a note to let you know that I enjoy your QRP videos. Little background: I have been a ham since 1961 with most of my operations CW QRP. Durning the huge sun spot high in the 1970s I worked 234 countries on 10 and 15 meters with a Ten-Tec Century 21 at QRP level. Today I am operating QRP CW mobile POTA as a hunter with a Ten-Tec Argonaut V and a short MFJ 20 meter mag mount antenna. Best contact was a VK from I-75 just north of Knoxville. By the way, I live just across the Smokies from you in Pigeon Forge. I was service manager for Ten-Tec for 25 years until it changed hands.

    Reason for the note: I noticed that you were using a magnetic base for your paddles and took note of your nice wrist watch. I have a digital watch with sweep second hand, compass etc.. First home brew project after buying the watch I was using a magnetic tray to hold my screws and small parts. After a few minutes in close proximity to the strong magnet I discovered that the analog hands and the digital readout on the watch were out of sink. After about an hour of completely resetting, and reprogramming the watch everything worked again. I then read the manual for the Casio watch and found a precaution about using the watch in close proximity to a strong magnet! Of course like most hams, I operate first and read directions later!! The magnet may not affect your watch but your audience might aporicate a warning in case their watch is affected by a strong magnet as many are. Good luck on your POTA activations. I listen for you but have not heard you on an activation.

    Paul R. Clinton
    Service Manager, retired
    Ten-Tec Inc

    1. Hi, Paul,

      That is a very good note of caution. You’re right: it won’t affect this watch, but those with analog hands it would indeed!

      By the way, I remember you well. At a Ten-Tec hamfest in…2010 or so (?)…I bought one of your homebrew manual ATUs. Served me for many years! I eventually gave it to a new ham who needed a trans match for his QRP radio. I bet it’s still in service!

      Great to hear from you, OM, and I hope to work you on the air soon!


  3. I’ve been past there a thousand times (including two weeks ago for Hamvention), and have never stopped there. I live about 45 min. east, and worked in Parkersburg for more than a decade at a radio shop and we had several customers over there, including Athens PD and Wayne National Forest. I was over there quite a bit.
    Hop less than an hour east, to North Bend State Park sometime for POTA. I live about 5 miles away. Pretty little park, and good elevation in places.
    73’s John WS8C

    1. You’ve got to stop by Strouds sometime–it’s a wonderful little state park!I will have to give North Bend a go!


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