Tabletop QRP POTA: A Father’s Day Getaway to Mount Mitchell State Park

When our family needs a change of scenery without a long drive, Mount Mitchell State Park is our go-to destination. I’ve mentioned before that it’s my “happy place” here in North Carolina. Mount Mitchell is only about 6 miles from our home as the crow flies, but it takes about 50 minutes to drive there, and it’s not in the direction of any of our usual destinations. Heading up the Blue Ridge Parkway and watching the flora change with elevation makes it feel like a proper getaway.

On Sunday, June 16, 2024, we wanted just such a getaway, as my wife and daughters were treating me to some Father’s Day fun. After visiting my father-in-law in the hospital in the early afternoon, we drove to Mount Mitchell.

Mount Mitchell State Park (US-2747)

Sundays on Mount Mitchell tend to be busy, especially in the summer. However, on this particular Sunday, it was rainy, foggy, and there were storms in and around the area.

Weather like this never bothers us on Mount Mitchell, as it can shift in an instant, as long as thunderstorms don’t intrude.

As soon as we arrived, I grabbed my radio bag from the car and found an empty picnic shelter. I’d been hoping for a free shelter since it was raining, and fortunately, we got our pick!

One of the first things I did after dropping off my pack was to tie Hazel to a picnic table because she was laser-focused on a chipmunk she saw run up a tree next to the shelter. That dog drives chipmunks and squirrels crazy, I’m sure.

My wife and daughters dropped off some art supplies at one of the shelter tables, then went on a short hike while I performed my POTA activation.

Note that Mount Mitchell is also a SOTA summit, but the picnic area is not within the activation zone. I could have easily gone to one of my go-to SOTA spots on the summit and knocked out a SOTA activation quickly (only four contacts are needed), but I wanted to save that for another day. Plus, being in the shelter meant that I could have a nice leisurely, dry activation!

I brought along my Penntek TR-45L and planned to pair it with a random wire antenna for the activation. However, since the weather was iffy—again, my primary concern was any thunderstorms that might sneak up on us—I decided to skip the wire antenna and go tabletop instead.

Fortunately, my Elecraft KH1 lives in my EDC bag at all times, so I set it up for tabletop mode.

New Tufteln KH1 Right Angle Adapter

KH1 “tabletop mode” gave me the perfect excuse to try out an accessory my friend Joshua (N5FY) sent me: his version of a KH1 right-angle antenna adapter.

You might recall that I have used the Elecraft KH1 adapter in previous activations and I think it works brilliantly. The first version of Elecraft’s adapter had one issue: the parts would fall apart if you weren’t careful with how you attached it to the KH1.

Joshua designed his right-angle adapter with captive components so that it’s all in one piece and can’t come apart.

I should note here that Elecraft actually updated their right-angle adapter design so that it also has captive components as well—so you have two choices! I’ll use the new Elecraft adapter in a future video and field report.

Joshua’s Tufteln design works really well (it’s also less expensive than the OEM adapter), and I like that it’s bright red, which means I’m less likely to leave it in the field!


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On The Air

I assumed that 20 meters might be the most productive band that afternoon, so that’s where I started calling CQ POTA after snagging a Park-to-Park with K9NUD.

Overall, the band was reasonably healthy. At least, we weren’t experiencing a radio black-out like I have been on some of my most recent POTA outings!

The KH1’s wee antenna and five watts was certainly putting out a signal, but QSB (fading) was deep, showing that the ionosphere wasn’t terribly stable.

I worked my first ten stations in 13 minutes. Not bad at all!

In that first ten, I snagged local stations as well as some in Washington State.

I continued calling CQ POTA until I’d logged a total of 15 stations–only one of which (at the end of the activation) was on 17 meters.


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

For fun, I also added the mileage of each contact. It’s impressive so much can be done with so little (click image to enlarge):

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.

Feels So QRP

Although operating with a four foot whip attached to a 13 ounce radio on a tabletop under the roof of a picnic shelter feels like a lot of compromise (hint: it is), it also embraces what I love about QRP.

It makes those stations on the other side of the continent feel that much more special.

Had I been using earphones instead of an external speaker (for the benefit of my YouTube video) this would have been about as stealthy and low-impact as a POTA activation could be. No one would have known that the guy hanging out with his family and dog was using Morse Code to make contacts with his radio family some 2,100 miles away!

I like that.

Post-Activation Hike

My daughters, Hazel, and I took a quick hike in the rain after the activation.

Mount Mitchell is a beautiful park when it’s rainy and foggy.

Also, I do love the no-nonsense trail warnings at the head of the Black Mountain Crest Trail.

Here’s the best part:

FYI: I fully intend to hike the length of the Black Mountain Crest Trail sometime in the future and, likely, with a SOTA friend. We’ll pack for overnight camping.

Here are a few extra photos I snapped:

Thank you–!

Thank you SO MUCH 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 fun out there, stay safe, and play radio!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

9 thoughts on “Tabletop QRP POTA: A Father’s Day Getaway to Mount Mitchell State Park”

    1. Fabulous, Paul! Well-done!

      I look forward to logging you some day when the stars align. Let us know if you need any assistance along the way!

  1. Nice field report and glad to see some UK weather 😉

    If you didn’t know you were in the wilds then that warning certainly rams it home.

  2. Nice report of your POTA! I haven’t been to Mt. Mitchell in years, but it is one of my favorite motorcycle rides. That hike sounds tough! I’ve hiked Linville Gorge which is very difficult so I fully respect that warning sign! I’ll watch your video later on today. 73.

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