Category Archives: Hams

From Hamvention to History: A POTA Excursion with friends through Indiana’s Past

You might recall that my friends Eric (WD8RIF), Miles (KD8KNC), Brian (K3ES), Kyle (AA0Z), Charlie (NJ7V), and Joshua (N5FY) all played hooky on the final day of the 2024 Hamvention (Sunday, May 19) and instead activated a couple of POTA sites.

I wrote a short field report about our first activation at Pater State Wildlife Area (US-9492). It was a lot of fun despite the rough bands.

Our next stop was Whitewater Canal State Historic Site in Metamora, Indiana, about an hour’s drive from the first park.

Only four of us continued to the next park; Kyle and Charlie needed to head to the airport, and Joshua needed to start his drive back to Georgia.

Whitewater Canal State Historic Site (US-6977)

I was excited about visiting Whitewater Canal because it would be my first official POTA activation in Indiana.

We arrived around 1:00 PM and opted to grab lunch at a nearby pizzeria before activating.

Around 2:00 PM, we grabbed our gear from the car and walked across the road to the park grounds.

The Whitewater Canal State Historic Site offers a glimpse into the 19th-century canal era.

Built between 1836 and 1847, the Whitewater Canal was a 76-mile waterway that connected the Ohio River to Hagerstown, facilitating the transport of goods and agricultural products.

This engineering feat played a vital role in the economic development of the region, contributing to the growth of towns and industries along its path.

Today, the preserved section of the canal, along with the historic grist mill and other structures, stands as a testament to Indiana’s rich industrial and transportation heritage.

I’ve always been fond of railroads and canals, so this site was brilliant as it featured both running parallel to each other!

Eric, Brian, and I (Miles didn’t activate) were careful to set up within the actual park boundaries.

In this case, it was a little difficult to determine the exact boundaries because the town and park blend together.

I used the Parceled app on my phone to confirm our location.

Eric set up his Elecraft KH1 station at a picnic table under a large tree.

Brian set up his KX2 on a covered bench next to Eric, using his Elecraft AX1 antenna mounted on a clamp secured to the bench.

Brian’s site was super stealthy behind the sign–since he operated with earphones, you couldn’t hear him and barely could see him!

Can you spot K3ES in this photo?

I wanted to put some space between my station and theirs, so I set up under the shade of a tree (it was blazing hot that Sunday) and deployed my Helinox camping chair.

Local ducks enjoying the shade–I picked a different tree.

I then deployed my Chelegance MC-750 vertical for 20-meter operation since Brian and Eric were on other bands.

I connected the MC-750 to my Elecraft KX2, which I mounted on my kneeboard, and was ready to play radio! My hope was that band conditions would be decent. Continue reading From Hamvention to History: A POTA Excursion with friends through Indiana’s Past

Post-Hamvention Activation with Friends

The 2024 Dayton Hamvention is in the books!

This morning, I’m still at our hotel in Dayton, Ohio, but about to pack up and head out. Eric (WD8RIF), Miles (KD8KNC), and I are heading for a day at the Armstrong Aerospace Museum, then, hopefully, a POTA activation on the way back to Athens, Ohio, where I’ll spend the night.

Tuesday morning, I’ll be up early and hit the road for North Carolina. Really looking forward to seeing my wife, daughters, and Hazel.

I thought I’d share a very brief POTA activation I enjoyed yesterday with friends.

Pater State Wildlife Area (US-9492)

Yesterday morning (May 19, 2024), Eric, Miles and I met up with Kyle (AA0Z), Brian (K3ES), Joshua (N5FY), and Charlie (NJ7V) at our hotel.

Eric, Miles, Brian, and I had planned to activate a park in nearby Indiana that afternoon, as Brian and I had never activated in that state. Joshua, Charlie, and Kyle were planning to join us on an activation in southwest Ohio en route. Unfortunately, Joshua was driving back to his home in Georgia, and Kyle was dropping off Charlie at the airport on his way home, so they couldn’t join us in Indiana.

Eric’s first POTA activation with his Elecraft KH1!

We arrived on-site a little after 10:00 AM local. Eric immediately set up his Elecraft KH1 in desktop mode using his new Tufteln KH1 Right-Angle adapter.

Brian set up under a tree with his Elecraft KX2 and a Tufteln random wire antenna.

The amazing Brian (K3ES)

I grabbed my Elecraft KH1 and we coordinated frequencies. Brian took 30 meters, Eric took 40 meters, and I took 17 meters (thinking either Joshua or Eric might move to 20 meters).

This was another instance where having a fully handheld, pedestrian mobile station truly offered a level of activation freedom.

The bands were in rough shape, but I kept my KH1 in hand and walked around the entire site with the CW Message memory sending out my “CQ POTA DE K4SWL.”

Over the course of 13 minutes, I worked five stations. All the while, I was holding the KH1, chatting with my friends, and petting a sweet local dog that instantly made friends with us.

This pup was a hoot!

This activation also gave me an excuse to try out the new Tufteln KH1 Antenna Angle Adapter which makes it a breeze to keep the antenna nearly vertical while holding the KH1 at a more comfortable angle. Thanks, Joshua!

Eventually, I moved to 20 meters and we all started working each other to help with our QSO count and to simply get each other in the logs. I logged two more stations, plus Charlie, Brian, and Joshua to make my 10.

Kyle (AA0Z) and his brilliant Toyota Tacoma POTA machine.

The idea was to hop off the air quickly so that Kyle and Charlie could use Kyle’s KX3 station to activate the park as well.

L to R: Kyle, Joshua and Charlie

Conditions deteriorated further, so we did rely on a few P2Ps with each other to help Charlie and Kyle finish and hit the road.

Charlie calling CQ POTA

Here’s my QSO Map, but keep in mind that several of the pins are incorrect as Charlie, Kyle, Brian, and Joshua were all on-site:

All in all, we had an amazing time and it was a nice, relaxed way to wind down after an incredibly active 2024 Hamvention and FDIM conference.

Joshua working us P2P with his KH1 and the the most compromised–yet completely effective–antenna of all: a dummy load!

I will report more on Hamvention and share a few photos later this week.

For now, I need to wrap up this post and hit the road! There’s an aviation museum and POTA in my future today!

Heartfelt Thank You

I will add this one extra note: I’m simply overwhelmed with the kind comments and conversations I had with so many of you who took the time to catch up with me these past few days. Thank you so much!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

Building Positive Park Relations: Elevating Our Role as POTA Activators

Our Parks On The Air (POTA) community has experienced exponential growth since my introduction to POTA activations in 2019. Today, POTA boasts over 500,000 participants, including both hunters and activators.

Gone are the days of awkwardly explaining our hobby to park staff who were unfamiliar with amateur radio, let alone park activations. Nowadays, when I approach park staff for permission to operate, they often direct me to areas where other POTA activators have set up in the past, showcasing a growing acceptance and understanding of our community.

Goal: Positive Impact

With such a large and expanding community, we have the potential to significantly impact our park systems positively. It is crucial for POTA activators to not only leave a positive impression with park staff but also actively support and contribute to the well-being of our parks.

Why now?

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for several months. I hesitated to publish it because of my inclination towards positivity and reluctance to dwell on the negatives.

However, recent conversations with park rangers and staff from three different sites between June and November last year prompted me to share these insights. While acknowledging that interactions with POTA activators are generally positive, all three shared some concerns and criticisms.

I was surprised, in one case, that they hadn’t banned POTA activators from their site entirely. (I detail two examples at the end of this article.)

I imagine each and every one of these park rangers has had more negative interactions with the general public, but we POTA activators and amateur radio operators are a cohesive community that they lump into one group for better or for worse.

For instance, while a rowdy family gathering might disrupt the peace in a park, it doesn’t lead to a ban on families. However, repeated negative interactions involving POTA activators could result in our exclusion from parks or even escalation to wider park networks since many individual parks are tied to state, provincial, or national park systems.

Indeed, this has already happened at National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia. Check out the following message posted to Facebook this week from John (AB0O) who is a US mapping volunteer for POTA:

Time to be a positive force!

As John states in his message above, it’s time for us to proactively become ambassadors for POTA and good stewards of our parks and public lands.

I could have easily titled this post, “Ask not what your park can do for you; ask what you can do for your park!”

Let’s delve into some simple suggestions that I personally follow. This list is not exhaustive, so I invite you to share your strategies for promoting POTA positively in the comments below.

1. Obtain permission before operating

Despite the temptation to activate first and ask questions later, it’s essential to seek permission before setting up your station in a park. Some parks may require written permission for activations, regardless of the setup’s profile or impact (remember Leo’s recent field report?).

While most POTA sites allow activations as long as park rules are followed and other visitors aren’t disturbed, it’s prudent to confirm with park staff or experienced activators when in doubt.

In my experience, asking for permission is particularly crucial in parks with historical or ecological significance and limited facilities.

A piece of advice: When seeking permission, showcase your most portable, low-profile radio gear to help park staff understand the minimal impact of your setup. Over the years, this approach has resulted in successful activations for me, with only one instance of declined permission, primarily due to supervisor unavailability.

2. Choose inconspicuous locations

At the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, I received permission to operate and I set up my station well outside the viewshed of the lighthouse.

When setting up your station, avoid obstructing viewsheds or high-traffic areas within the park. Instead, opt for spots away from major attractions or foot traffic, ensuring minimal disruption to other visitors’ experiences.

Most POTA sites offer designated picnic or parking areas that are suitable for activations without interfering with scenic views. When uncertain, seek guidance from park staff to identify suitable locations.

3. Default to low-impact, low-profile gear

Unless you know in advance that a park allows wires in trees, stakes in the ground, or other antenna support structures, default to your most portable, low-profile, low-impact field setup.

Unless explicitly permitted, refrain from deploying antennas in trees or using stakes that could damage park grounds.

I believe every POTA activator should possess a compact, self-supporting antenna system to minimize environmental impact. Additionally, consider operating from your vehicle if uncertain about setup requirements.

An NC State Park ranger told me last fall, “I like to see POTA activators that aren’t taking up a lot of space and yelling at their radio.

Let’s not be the guy or gal he described!

4. Leave No Trace

Adhering to the principles of Leave No Trace is paramount during POTA activations and other outdoor adventures. Always dispose of trash properly and, if at all possible, pick up any litter you encounter at your operating site. My goal is to always leave the site cleaner and tidier than I found it.

In my backpack and car, I keep small litter bags along with nitrile gloves so that I can pick up and dispose of any trash I find.

Over the years I’ve operated POTA, park rangers and game wardens have caught me in the act of collecting trash and thanked me. I made a point of telling them that I’m an amateur radio operator doing a POTA activation. I feel like this can only leave a positive impression in their minds and help future activators who might seek permission to operate at a particular site.

Want to go a step further?  Consider organizing group clean-up events with your amateur radio club. This collaborative effort not only benefits the park but also strengthens park and community ties.

5. Support your park financially

Show your appreciation for park access by contributing financially, especially at smaller locations with visitor centers or donation boxes. Whether purchasing items from the gift shop or making direct donations, your support is invaluable in maintaining park facilities and programs.

For instance, during a recent visit to a historic site, I made a point to purchase items from the gift shop and donate to the park.

The park rangers thanked me and noted that another frequent POTA activator also donates a bit of money or buys something in the shop each time he visits.  They pointed out how much they appreciate that type of support.

While I usually prefer inconspicuous contributions, I intentionally inform park staff of my status as a POTA activator during these interactions. This transparency reinforces the positive image of amateur radio operators as park supporters.

6. Respect park operating hours

Ensure that your activations align with park operating hours to avoid overstaying your welcome. Familiarize yourself with park schedules and plan your activities accordingly to minimize disruptions and inconvenience to park staff.

I learned this lesson firsthand during an activation at Lake Norman State Park in 2021, where I unintentionally extended my stay past park closing hours. This happened during the week they shifted from more liberal summer hours, to winter hours. I was apologetic to park staff. Since then, I make a conscious effort to wrap up my activities well before closing time and communicate my intentions with park staff if I feel like I might cut it a bit close.

Be a POTA Ambassador

Vlado (N3CZ) draws a crowd on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

By following basic guidelines like these, POTA activators can cultivate positive relationships with park staff and demonstrate our commitment to responsible outdoor recreation.

As POTA Ambassadors, let’s engage with park staff, address any concerns they may have, and showcase the respectful conduct of our community. Listening to their feedback and acknowledging past issues can help mitigate negative perceptions and foster mutual understanding.

Real-word example

During a visit to a new-to-me urban park last year, I proactively sought permission to operate, considering the site’s limited space and popularity among POTA activators. Park staff appreciated my courtesy and expressed gratitude for my considerate approach.

Our conversation revealed previous negative experiences involving POTA activators. These included instances where operators failed to comply with park rules and even exhibited disruptive behavior. For example:

  • One operator tried to set up an antenna by tying a short 2×4 to fishing line and attempting to throw it into a tree. However, this park prohibits the use of trees for antenna support, and his “method” was causing damage to small branches. When asked to refrain from using the tree, the operator became confrontational, insisting on his ‘legal right’ to do so. Despite the staff’s polite explanation of the park rules, the operator angrily packed up and left.
  • Another incident involved a mobile activator who parked his truck in the park’s small lot, occupying three parking spaces, while deploying a hitch-mounted vertical. With a public event underway and all parking spaces occupied, park guests raised complaints. Despite staff requests to reposition his truck to free up space, the activator responded angrily, rolled up his window, operated for a few minutes, and then departed.

Despite these incidents, the staff emphasized that they were exceptions rather than the rule. They mentioned several regular activators whom they enjoy interacting with during their visits. Undoubtedly, these individuals serve as POTA ambassadors, exemplifying our community’s respect for parks and public lands.

Privilege and Responsibility

Wiseman’s View in Pisgah National Forest (K-4510)

While our tax dollars support public lands, park staff retain the authority to regulate activities that may impact park ecosystems or visitor experiences.

The recent notice regarding National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia serves as a reminder of this privilege and responsibility.

Let’s strive to represent POTA activators positively and proactively contribute to our parks’ well-being. Together, we can ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of our public lands.

What are your strategies? Please share your tips and advice in the comments section!

Part 1: N2YCH and K1PCN’s Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the first of a three-part field report series outlining his 2023 Hamvention rove with Peter (K1PCN). Look for Part 2 next week!


Part 1: Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove

By Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

Peter, K1PCN and I are both avid Parks On The Air activators here in Connecticut and neither of us has ever been to the Dayton Hamvention in Xenia, Ohio. At the urging of others who have attended in the past, we made the decision to attend this year and while we were making the trek out, we wanted to activate parks along the way to add to our activated US states award. We originally planned to activate six states and ended up with one bonus state for a total of seven. This is how things looked before and after the trip.

 

I would like to begin by saying that attending the Hamvention was a great experience. If you have not been to it, I would like to encourage you to attend if you can.

You may have heard about the flea market, the vendor booths, the forum sessions or the food trucks, which are all good, but the best part for me was being in the presence of other hams with similar interests. I struck up conversations and shared stories with many other hams. Everyone was very nice and willing to share their experiences, which is a great way to pick up some good tips.

I am extremely glad I went. If you are on the fence about going, I would recommend you plan to go next year. Oh, and I got to meet this guy in person….

Now on to the rove…

I planned the trip to get as many states as possible. Both Peter and I had already activated CT, NY and NJ, so we did not need to stop in those states as we passed through. I had scoped out some parks near the Delaware and Maryland border, so I looked at those first.

My main criteria on park selection was to pick parks that would be easy-off/easy-on to the main highways we would be traveling to save time on driving. Here is the route map we followed.

We strategized on how we would activate the parks when we got to each one. Peter is an SSB activator, and I am a digital activator. We would not be colliding on the mode of operation. We did need to be on different frequencies though.

In the mornings, Peter took 40 meters and I used 20 meters. Later in the day when the bands opened up, Peter moved up to 20 meters and I bumped up to 17 or 15 meters. Using this strategy, we had no problems getting our minimum ten QSO’s to activate while operating at the same time. Peter also reminded me to bring a handheld and we did park to park QSO’s on 2 meters and 70cm.

As for equipment, I used my Elecraft KX3 transceiver, but I did bring an IC-705 as a backup.

On the first stop in Delaware, I used an Elecraft AX1 antenna but for the rest of the trip I used a Buddipole tripod equipped with a Versa-T with a 17’ MFJ whip tuned to the frequency I was operating on with 50’ cable and an above the ground counterpoise. Continue reading Part 1: N2YCH and K1PCN’s Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove

QRP POTA with Friends: Two Park Activations with VE6LK, NJ7V, WD8RIF, and KD8KNC!

Sunday, May 21, 2023, was the final day of Hamvention.

I traveled to Hamvention with my buddies Eric (WD8RIF) and his son Miles (KD8KNC). We decided in advance that instead of attending Hamvention that Sunday (after having spent all day Friday and Saturday there) we’d opt for a relaxing day playing POTA near Dayton/Xenia.

We weren’t, in fact, the only ones who skipped Hamvention that Sunday–our friends Vince (VE6LK or AI7LK State-side) and Charlie (NJ7V) did as well, so we decided to play POTA together!

Both Charlie and Vince were leaving the Dayton area that afternoon, so they needed to finish up their activations by noon at the latest. We decided we could fit in two activations that morning before Charlie and Vince headed back, then Eric, Miles, and I would hit a third park in the afternoon. Actually, Miles never planned to hop on the air, but he was both our ride and valuable POTA support!

Vince and Charlie in the rear view mirror!

Charlie and Vince met us at our hotel around 9:00 AM and we drove to the first of two parks we’d activate together.

Cowan Lake State Park (K-1943)

Charlie (NJ7V) and Vince (VE6LK/AI7LK) ready to deploy their gear.

The weather was beautiful that day, but the space weather, much less so. We knew in advance that it would be a struggle based on the propagation forecast and numerous reports from other activators.

Vince set up his Elecraft KX3-based station in the trunk/boot of his rental car.

He deployed his “low-slung” wire antenna (read more about that here) and hit the air.

Vince’s low-slung antenna

Eric described the POTA station he deployed in his field report on WD8RIF.com:

Eric found a shady, level spot near the parking lot, strapped his 31′ Jackite telescoping fiberglass pole to his folding camp-chair, deployed his 28½’ wire vertical on the pole, set up his Elecraft KX3 on the camp-chair’s flip-up table, and was on the air at 1412 UTC. Eric began his operation with a lovely touch-paddle which he had unexpectedly been given as a gift from the builder, Brian Manley, K3ES

Eric’s station

Note that Eric carefully documents each and every one of his field activations and field contests on his website. His field reports date back to Field Day in 1995!

I found a spot to set up next to the lake under the shade of a large tree. I deployed my Tufteln no-transformer 28.5 foot end-fed random wire.  This antenna is simply two lengths of 28.5′ wire: one wire for the radiator and one for the counterpoise. The KX2’s internal ATU does all of the heavy lifting. Continue reading QRP POTA with Friends: Two Park Activations with VE6LK, NJ7V, WD8RIF, and KD8KNC!

Mark finds an opportunity to introduce students to the world of POTA and Ham Radio!

Many thanks to Mark (W8EWH) who shares the following field report:


Right Place – Right Time

by Mark (W8EWH)

This is the story of how I was able to introduce about 40 elementary school kids to Ham Radio and more specifically, POTA.  All by just being at the right place at the right time.

I was activating K-1518 (Maybury State Park) on the morning of May 16th while my wife was at the dentist. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw a yellow school bus (Holy Redeemer), but no kids.  I figured they must be on a hike or already at one of the many shelters.  So, I parked, grabbed my gear, and walked to the spot where I wanted to activate.  This is a spot I’ve used before – a picnic table under several tall, mature trees with great branches for hoisting a wire antenna.  The location is on the top of a rise at the far end of an open field surrounded by forest. Turns out the shelter at the near end is where the students were, busy with whatever the teachers had them doing.  My activation spot seemed available, so I walked back to it staying well clear of the class.

Set up was straight forward (KX3 and EFHW) and I was quickly on the air on 40M.  Band conditions were good, and I quickly had my 10 contacts to make the activation.  After about 20 contacts there was a break in the action, so I switched to 20M and decided to speak to one of the teachers which, while I was activating, had brought a group of about a dozen students to my end of the field for some sort of activity.  I waived to her and introduced myself, first asking if I was in their way.  She said no, and asked if she was in my way.  Of course not.  I explained what I was doing and offered a demonstration if she wanted to bring some or all the kids over.  She enthusiastically agreed to this.

So about 10 minutes later, the teachers brought the class over to me.  I had them stand behind me in a way that kept them from getting tangled in the antenna and coax.  I introduced myself and explained that I was an amateur radio operator using a portable radio and antenna to contact other people like me as part of an activity called Parks on the Air.

In this case I said, I’m set up here in this state park which makes me the “activator”, and everyone else the “hunters”.  They thought that was funny.  I then told them about the contacts I’d already made to various states around Michigan, and this seemed to get their attention.  I then explained that I was not speaking with them, but instead using Morse Code.  They all seemed to have heard of this before.  OK I said, I’m going to unplug my earbuds, turn up the speaker, and let’s see if we can make a couple contacts.

Before I started calling CQ POTA, I explained what I was going to be sending in morse code.  That I was letting anyone listening know that I was operating from a park, so please call me, and here is my call sign – my amateur radio name.  I also warned them that just like when you go fishing, you don’t catch a fish with every cast.  You must be patient.  They understood.  I was nervous – I’ve never had an audience like this before.  But then I thought, they won’t know if I make a mistake!

It took about 5 or 6 CQ’s before I got bite.  Yes, I was starting to get a little worried!  But then we had a catch and after I finished the back and forth of the contact I said – that was Georgia – and was greeted with a cheer.  Another I said?  Yes!  I sent another CQ and right away another bite.  The kids listened to the back and forth and then I said – Kansas!  Another cheer.

I this point I answered a couple of questions (including one about how I was it that I could understand the noises they were hearing) and then the teachers called an end to the demo so that they could start a nature hike.

I finished up the activation with a handful of additional contacts on 20, 30, and 17 meters, then called it a day.  See Figure 1.  My wife was on her way home from the dentist and she would stop by so we could go for a hike before going home.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to conduct this demonstration.  I’ll never forget it.  I hope a least a couple of the kids will remember this and become hams in the future.  I only wish I had a handout or two that I could have given the teachers so if they wanted to explore amateur radio with the class later, they’d have some background info and links.  I’ll be ready next time.

Figure 1.  QSO Map for POTA activation of K-1518, via HAMRS..  The contact in Idaho was my one and only on 15M.

Mark Yergin

W8EWH

Join Brooks (KO4QCC) on his First CW POTA Activation–!

Friday, March 24, 2023 was a very special day for Brooks (KO4QCC) and for K4SWL.

I’m so excited to share this with you.

You might recall that, last year, I met up with Brooks at Tuttle Educational State Forest as he performed his very first POTA activation in SSB. He did such an amazing job!

Since I first met Brooks, he’s always had a goal of learning CW and activating parks and summits using Morse Code.

I’ve been in touch with Brooks regularly over the past year and have followed him as he progressed on his CW journey.

Though, like me, he has an active family life, Brooks has found the time to practice CW both through lessons and actual on-the-air contacts. Fortunately, this is all possible because–again, like me–his wife and family are very supportive of his amateur radio adventures!

Early this year, we met on 80 meters and had a good one hour rag chew at about 12 words per minute. I could tell he was ready to do his first POTA activation in CW.

To give him a little real-world practice, we decided to hit the field on a day when I was performing an activation and he could log for me in real-time.

I could tell by how well he was logging as I worked stations at 18WPM  that he was ready to perform his first activation, so we made it a goal to do so within the next couple weeks.

Fast-forward to 8:30 AM on March 24 when Brooks and I met at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Coincidentally, this is the same location where I performed my first CW activation!

We deployed his MFJ-1984MP 40 meter EFHW (End-Fed Half Wave) and connected it to his Xiegu X5105 transceiver in very short order. Brooks also chose his lucky CW Morse paddle for this activation.

But before hopping into the field report, let’s back up just a bit…

First CW Activation: Getting there…

Brooks very kindly wanted to share a bit about his CW journey in this field report. He writes:

From the moment I knew of its existence, becoming a POTA activator using CW has been at the top of my “radio bucket list.”

It seemed like the ultimate challenge and I knew I would never be satisfied until I was able to confidently activate parks using CW. There is also a bit of mystique to CW that other modes lack, making it inherently more interesting to me. In this article, I am going to share the path I took to learn CW and how it culminated in a very successful CW activation.

Continue reading Join Brooks (KO4QCC) on his First CW POTA Activation–!

POTA for the Soul: Lee’s “Fishing Hole Reflections”

Many thanks to Lee (K2LT) who shares the following guest post:


Fishing Hole Reflections

by Lee (K2LT)

Last week, I completed my 80th activation of a state forest very close to my home – Deer River State Forest (K-5199). That earned me what in POTA is called the “Fishing Hole” activator award. Compared with the achievements of other activators within POTA, it’s not at all a big deal. Yet as I sat on my camp stool in the snow in the middle of the woods last week with my radio, I realized how big of a deal it has been for me. There was no wind, I was surrounded by huge Red Pine trees, and the only noises were an occasional airplane, woodpeckers, ravens, and my CW signals. I was happy!

All of my activations of that spot haven’t been QRP but as I look back at my favorite memories from ham radio (I’ve been licensed for about seven years), they’ve been when I’ve put my gear into a backpack, found a secluded spot in the woods, sat on my campstool and operated from there.

This time of year is also my favorite. Our winters in Northern New York State (I’m only about 20 miles south of the Quebec border) are LONG. In late March when winter starts to lose its iron grip on our region, we’re all “chomping at the bit” for spring to arrive. Yet, as things get warmer in late April and May, the Adirondack black flies, mosquitoes, and deer flies will come out in force. In the fall, deer hunters populate the state forests and can make activations dangerous, and deep winter doesn’t often work unless I operate from my truck – numb fingers and CW operation don’t do well together. So, early spring is often the perfect time to be able to operate outdoors.

A couple of times, I’ve had POTA hunters inquire why I don’t post my activations prior to heading out. My wife and I have an adult disabled son in his twenties. We’ve made the commitment to keep him home with us as long as we can. As with all things in life, this decision comes with a cost. It means that I often only know at the last minute whether I’m going to be able to get out for a few hours. Having K-5199 so close has been a real blessing – I can get there and back quickly and do something that brings me a lot of enjoyment at the same time.

Learning CW in my fifties was a challenge, but the first time I saw a video of someone working an MTR-3B from a summit, I knew I had to try it. If I’m working a CW pile-up, I can’t be thinking about anything else. Deciphering signals and logging them correctly takes all the mental “bandwidth” that I’m able to muster; however, in an odd way, it’s also very refreshing – I get a vacation from the things that I’m usually preoccupied with.  I always come back mentally refreshed. I’m sure my wife and family appreciate the break I’ve had as well!

Even though I’m retired, I’ve been taking some online classes. One question that often comes up in the “Introduce Yourself” section is – “tell us something unique about yourself.” Years ago, I always struggled with this request, but not anymore. I sometimes respond by saying, “For me, being out in the woods with my radio making contacts is like an afternoon at the beach for someone else.”

Ham radio and portable operating have truly been a blessing for me and I’m thankful for them.

73, K2LT

QRPer Notes: Native PSK-31 on the KX2, DXers Lloyd & Iris Colvin, and Chameleon Factory Tour

Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format.  To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!


PSK-31 on the Elecraft KX2

Many thanks to Tony (K2MO) who writes:

I have no doubt that you’ve tried this in the field, but thought I’d send along a video I posted on working PSK31 using the CW-to-Data feature on the KX series rigs.

Great job on the latest TR-45 vids!

73 Tony -K2MO

Thank you, Tony!


DX and Travels of Lloyd & Iris Colvin

Many thanks to Don (W7SSB) who shares an article he has written for the Sierra Nevada Amateur Radio Club Newsletter. His article focuses on the lives of DXers and world travelers Lloyd & Iris Colvin.

Don’s article begins on page 10, but there are many others to enjoy in this newsletter as well!

Click here to download the Feb 2023 issue of the SNARS Newsletter (PDF).


Josh Tours the Chameleon Antenna Factory

Click here to view on YouTube.

Guest Post: Scott also names his radios

Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z) who shares the following post from his blog KK4Z.com:


Naming Radios

by Scott (KK4Z)

Men in general, have a habit of naming things. All sorts of things, cars, body parts, you name it, we will cast our own nickname on it. I thought I would share some of the names I have given my radios. Typically, I don’t just throw a name on something. I am around it for a while, before I decide what I am going to call it. My poor dogs, when I first get them, I go through a plethora of names until I find one that fits. My latest dog, a boxer mix from the pound was named Hawkeye by them. I got him home. I had to get to know him.

He ended up being Andy but likes to be called pup-pup. Maybe his last owners called him that. He’s still very much a pup but is going to be a great dog.

I will start with my main radio which is an Icom IC-7610. It is my workhorse radio. It is probably the best radio I have ever owned. I have worked the world on it and it does everything I need it to do. I call it Zeus, the king of all my other radios. I believe there is not a radio out there that can do anything that Zeus cannot do. Any improvements over Zeus would be marginal.

Continue reading Guest Post: Scott also names his radios