Where the Heck is the POTA Babe?

by Teri (KO4WFP)

Okay. Y’all haven’t heard much from me lately and may be wondering, “What the heck is the POTA Babe up to?” Actually, a lot!

Earlier this year, I asked QRPer readers for suggestions as to parks to visit for a summer POTA trip to either North Carolina and/or Virginia. I appreciate all the suggestions I received. In evaluating the time I have and that I’ll be driving by myself, I have opted to visit North Carolina. I’ll be on the road for eight days mid-July camping with Daisy. I hope to activate ten to eleven parks as well as successfully complete four SOTA activations. It is a lot to bite off but then I enjoy being challenged.

I originally planned for a twelve-day trip but decided to nix the second week near the Charlotte area due to obligations at home. I am bummed at missing out on those parks. (Thank you Bob K4RLC for the recommendations in that area.) However, now I’ll have those parks to activate on a future trip.

Preparing for this trip is no slap-dash endeavor. At least not for this POTA Babe. As I mentioned in the articles of my last trip to southwest Georgia, I am tweaking my camping equipment as well as how I organize and access those items.

An item I’ve added is a fan because camping in July might be a bit toasty, even in western North Carolina. My partner Glenn W4YES came across a helpful video on the CheapRVLiving Youtube Channel discussing USB-charged devices. The Koonie 8” rechargeable fan was mentioned. As it received favorable reviews on Amazon and I can charge it using my Jackery, it is now in my arsenal for summer camping.

[Note: all Amazon.com links are affiliate and support QRPer.com at no cost to you! Thank you!]

Koonie USB-charged 8″ fan

I also added an ultralight shelter I may use on a summit or for POTA in general. While researching summits to activate, I came across a picture on the SOTlas website and reached out to that op as to information about the tarp he was using for shade. Patrick WW4D introduced me to Mountain Laurel Designs, a company that makes ultralight shelters (tarps and tents). They aren’t inexpensive, but then I’ve learned to purchase good quality where I can. In a shelter, good quality counts.

I purchased the Trailstar. It can be used as a tent or a shelter. Before the trip, I need to seal the seams. What I didn’t realize until the other day is that I will also need to cut the guylines as well as figure out what knots to use in securing the guylines to the stakes included. Then I have to learn how to set it up using my hiking poles. The learning never ends, does it?

I couldn’t believe how light the Trailstar is having never experienced a shelter like it. It will be a welcome addition to my SOTA backpack since it weighs hardly anything.

The Trailstar by Mountain Laurel Designs. source: Outdoor Gear Lab

I’ve also undertaken re-waterproofing my tent. Sierra Designs sent me instructions and information about the products they recommend which I ordered. I thought to myself “how hard could it be to re-waterproof a tent?” Those of you who have done this know it is a time-consuming process! You have to remove the old waterproofing substances before applying the new ones. The substances used for waterproofing fabric are meant to not come off easily, especially after being on there for 30 years (the age of my tent). I’ve spent more time in the bathtub scrubbing and smelling rubbing alcohol than I care to admit. However, when this process is finished, my tent and its rainfly will be clean and good to go for another eight years or so.

waterproofing products for tent and rainfly
Washing tent with unscented detergent and ammonia
old waterproof coating to be scrubbed off
section of tent floor with new coat of waterproofing barrier

I am also researching how to do a SOTA activation. I’ve found quite a few helpful videos on Youtube and plan to reference them in a future article. For my pack, I am using a Six Moons Designs ultralight pack (the Flight 30 Ultra) I purchased about four years ago. As it was not being used, I’ve been employing it as my POTA pack for several months now.  Given I’ll be hiking to activate summits, I need to rethink what I’ll take in the pack since, in addition to ham gear, I’ll need emergency supplies one should take when hiking.

While preparing for this trip, I’ve had a new addition to my shack that is sharing my focus as of late. Nearly two years ago, I ordered a Frattini Magnetic Evolution bug. I didn’t hear anything further for the longest time and figured it wouldn’t ever arrive. Then, about four weeks ago, Alberto Frattini sent me an email the key was ready and, oh by the way, was I still interested in it? You bet I was! “The Frattini” (as I call it) is now in my shack and I am resuming my pursuit of the Straight Key Century Club’s (SKCC) Triple Key Award. (When I’m not scrubbing the tent, mind you.) My fist is a work in progress but what a great challenge!

my Frattini Magnetic Evolution bug
Hummer on the Frattini plate – a nice touch given my POTA Babe logo also has a hummingbird on it

My goal is to run at three speeds eventually – 16, 20, and 25 wpm. Right now I am concentrating on 16 wpm as that is a good speed for SKCC QSOs. At that speed, I am more relaxed and the more relaxed I am, the better I can focus on making my characters correctly with good spacing. My goal with the Frattini is that the dits and dahs be proportional and timed well enough it doesn’t sound like I am using a bug. With continued practice off and on the air, I will eventually get there.

One thing I’ve found that helps is having either Word List Trainer up and running or my Morserino in the shack. Just like a choir conductor will play a note on a pitch pipe for a choir, I’ll play the letter “o” at 16 wpm to get that dah cadence in my head before I get on the air. Eventually, I’ll fall into that rhythm naturally at that speed but in the meantime, I find that trick extremely helpful with my timing of the dahs.

If you’d like to hear my bug fist (a work in progress, mind you), click on the video link here to access it on Youtube.  Also, if you’d like to follow my progress on earning bug QSOs for the Triple Key award, check out the goals section on my QRZ page.

Well, there you have it – my ham radio related doings since my southwest Georgia POTA trip. For those interested in hunting me while I’m in North Carolina, I will not release my itinerary in advance for safety reasons. However, Glenn or I will schedule my activations each morning so keep an eye out on the POTA and SOTA Watch pages beginning July 14 if you are keen to work me and support the trip.

I am a little nervous about the trip.  I’m going to be out of my comfort zone and sure to make mistakes. However, this is how we learn – making mistakes. This is a part of ham radio and such a trip – the unknown! Who knows what I’ll learn and discover along the way. I hope to work many of you that week and look forward to sharing with you those adventures on QRPer.com after my return. But before I leave next Sunday, I plan a POTA activation Monday, July 8 to get my head back in the game. What park will I pick? Stay tuned…

7 thoughts on “Where the Heck is the POTA Babe?”

  1. Your tarp/shelter is like the Ray Jardine tarp.
    Google him and you’ll find a wealth of information on lightweight camping gear. I sewed his backpack, tarp and head covering without much previous experience and with a tremendous cost savings.
    He is an incredible adventurer with his with too!
    That said it’s been nine years since I sewed the gear. Hopefully, he and his website are still around.
    Best of luck on your trip!

  2. Your Frattini looks awesome and the double lever may be a significant advantage for you! Please, don’t believe you have to “master” the bug before you can enjoy daily on air contacts!!

    1. Jay:

      Yes, you are correct. I don’t have to wait for daily on-the-air contacts with the bug. I am not on the air daily right now as my shack is not at my home but rather my parents’ house. However, when I do go there to get on the air, I am using the bug for my SKCC and some code buddy QSOs. The more I use it, the better I’ll become. Thank you for the encouragement!

      The POTA Babe

  3. Hi Teri,
    Missed you lately but know how busy we all get. I will make a note to look for your activations starting July 14.
    The NC Mountains will not disappoint you.
    I am originally from Charlotte (Huntersville) and am disappointed that there are not very many sites there. I lived in Carteret County for 4 years and was spoiled by all the sites in the county.
    I hope you enjoy the bug. I worked a fellow who was sending with a bug and it was a job to copy, in the 13 Colonies event, as I was a K2J op. His letters were drawn out and different from anything else that you ever hear.
    Well, have a great trip!!! Looking forward to finally putting the POTA Babe in my log 🙂
    73 de NG9T dit dit

  4. Looks like a really nice trip you have planned. Make sure Glenn carries all the heavy stuff to the mountain peaks – Boat anchor Rig, 12V car battery and 20M Beam 🙂
    I’m sure you and Thomas have worked out a great itinerary for the mountains. POTA is about the same anywhere, as far as logistics, radios and car camping. SOTA can be a different animal. It’s not just the different radio equipment for SOTA, but treating it just like a Day Hike and having all the necessary equipment for that – Hydration, snacks, first aid ( and first aid knowledge), compass or GPS (no cell service in some places we go), proper clothing (including rain gear), & more. Day hikes can be easy for SOTA, like Mt Mitchell or Mt Jefferson, but some are really rigorous. I’ve had experience as a former wilderness back packer and rock climber, so I’ve learned to be prepared. Here’s a link to my story of “activating” the Emergency Room in Elkin, NC a few years ago: https://qrper.com/2023/08/k4rlcs-december-2022-adventure-at-stone-mountain-state-park/

    REI has been my friend for about 50 years – in addition to the best equipment, they have knowledgeable staff who can help and many classes (some online) about all aspects of hiking, camping, safety, etc. If not a REI near you, there will be a similar store that can help with technology & knowledge.

    The weekend of July 19th, our W4 SOTA Tennessee group will be having a group campout in NE Tenn. Roan Mountain is near the Appalachian Trail and has lots of SOTA peaks. Hope we can work yall Summit to Summit S2S. Dean K2JB and I worked abt 65 miles S2S on 2meter simplex from Tenn to VA with HTs.

    Don’t feel bad about not coming to the Piedmont of North Carolina. It was 101.5 F in our tent for Field Day (but it only felt like 100  ). Fall and Winter bring better camping experiences here. A few weeks after the Tenn SOTA campout, Alanna & I are going to Nova Scotia – Cape Breton Island to chill out. In addition to activating along the Cabot Trail, we are going to operate the Marconi Memorial amateur Radio station at Glace Bay, site of Marconi’s 1902 station: https://parks.canada.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/marconi
    Hope you and Glenn have a great time, enjoying the beauty of Western North Carolina.
    Bob K4RLC

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