Many thanks to Henry (K4TMC) who shares the following:
Rumor has it that you are considering selling your KXPA100. I offer for your consideration the following use – a solid support for a QRP radio. See the attached pictures. Something similar could be crafted for a KX3/KX2. Not exactly a good option for a long backpacking trip.
No…I did not use Alien Tape or Velcro to attach the TX500 to the KXPA100. I used longer Hex Key screws into a 1/8 inch aluminum plate.
Planning to use this during the upcoming Jan NA QSO Party SSB contest from Atlantic Beach, NC on Jan 16.
Henry – K4TMC
This is brilliant, Henry! It’s as if you have a TX-500-100!
I have decided to keep the KXPA100 and, frankly, might even pair a TX-500 with it in the future! Thank you so much for sharing! I’ll listen for you in the NA QSO Party!
Many thanks to QRPer, Curt, who recently left the following comment on a recent post and noted:
I too was a NPOTA activator. My first HF contact ever was on 9/10/2016 and then I threw myself to the wolves so to speak activating my first park on 11/12/2016.
When NPOTA was over I went into withdrawal and I thought POTA was going to fill that void but here in Western PA there’s not much to pick from. We have a lot of parks but none that fall into the park list. One of the local parks I’ve been told not to bother because it’s in the middle of the city and the local police don’t seem to like any activations there for whatever reason.[…]
You’re right, Curt, and I totally understand. Many local, county, and private parks are not included in the Parks On The Air (POTA) program. POTA tends to include parks that are on a state, provincial, or national level. Not always in every country, but it’s the general rule of thumb.
I don’t know the POTA scene in western PA well because I’ve never thoroughly researched it. With that said, I’m willing to bet there are more accessible parks in your neck of the woods than you might realize at first blush.
Historic sites and parks–both state and national ones–tend to have very defined borders with conspicuous entry points. They’re, in many senses, “low-hanging fruit” for POTA because they’re super easy to find and usually have picnic and camping areas.
You simply locate one on the POTA map, tell your smart phone to take you there, arrive, find a picnic table or parking area near trees, setup,…et voilá! You’re on the air and activating. Typically, a very straight-forward process.
I would suggest new POTA operators start with these types of parks to give their field radio kit a good shake-out.
There are so many other POTA entities out there, though, and the POTA map (while an excellent resource) can’t represent them well.
I should add here, that POTA is an international radio activity and I do not know the various types of parks and POTA entities in other countries. There’s a lot of variability.
Here in the States, aside from parks and historic sites, we have other POTA entities like:
Wildlife Management Areas & Refuges
These types of public lands can be vast with many possible parking areas and entry points. Some have multiple, disconnected tracts of land and the POTA map only typically represents them as one clickable geo point because it would be incredibly difficult to represent them otherwise.
It requires the POTA activator to do a little planning and research.
Here in North Carolina, we have a lot of state game lands and they’re some of my favorite spots to activate.
Some game lands may only be a couple hundred acres large, others may encompass hundreds of thousands of acres.
Case in Point: Nantahala Game Land is only one entity on the POTA map, but it is located in no less than six western North Carolina counties–dominating the majority of them, in fact.
If you have lived the majority of your life where you are now, you’ll likely recognize some of the names associated with the park entities in this list.
Regardless, comb through this long list carefully. Do an internet search on the park names and you’ll quickly discover roughly where the land is located
2. Make a spreadsheet of potential parks
On this sheet make column headers for at least:
The park name
The POTA designator for that park (K-6937, for example)
The travel time to the park
The geo coordinates of potential activation spots
I also added
How “rare” the park might be (how many times it’s been activated)
How easy access to the park might be
If it could potentially be a two-fer (meaning two POTA entities overlapping)
3.) Find an activation site with Google Maps satellite view
Now that you’re developing an activation plan (via your spreadsheet), and you’ve located all of the nearby parks, game lands, wildlife management areas, trails, refuges, etc. it’s time to research each entity and find activation sites.
Most states (and provinces, counties, regions) have sites that will help you find access points to public lands. Each state is different–some (like North Carolina) have amazing online resources, others may not.
If you can’t get the details you need online, don’t hesitate to call those public departments in charge of the lands and ask them about access points. They’re experts on the subject and often your taxes pay their salary. 🙂
To find game land activation sites in North Carolina, I first go to the WRC Map and click on a site. The WRC site will offer up maps and even indicate obvious parking and camping locations.
I then find public roads in/around the game lands and do a Google Map search (you can pick your favorite mapping tool).
I compare the WRC map with the Google map (side by side) and search for parking spots using a satellite view.
Here’s how to find the satellite view on Google Maps using a sample POTA site:
Find the park area based on public roads, then click on satellite view:
Now you’ll be able to see a bird’s eye view of the land:
When you zoom in, you often can identify a nice parking spot:
That’s how I do it.
Important note: of course, it’s incredibly important that you compare public land boundaries with your activation site and make sure you will, indeed, be on that POTA entity when you activate. While there are no POTA police–nor will there ever be–I personally want to be 100% sure I’m activating entirely within the boundaries of my chosen park. Google Maps can’t be trusted to indicate unit boundaries–one needs to compare the state or federal maps of the unit to be sure.
Next, I take those geo coordinates (map links) and embed them in my POTA spreadsheet.
Later on, when I decide to activate that park, all of my research is done! I simply grab my gear and go.
If you’re like me, you may be surprised how many potential activation sites there are in your region when you take a closer look at public land boundaries and access points.
I found at least five POTA sites within a 90 minute drive of my home that were ATNOs (All-Time New Ones) that no one had activated.
How do you research parks–?
I probably should not call this a “Pro Tip” because I’m not a professional!
There are many different ways you can find great POTA sites within your region. Please feel free to share your POTA procedure with us in the comments!
Many thanks to Curt (WU3U) who recently contacted me and mentioned he had built an IC-705 control interface for his Elecraft T1 ATU. This is a homebrew project based on others’ work and uses the FT-817 control port on the side of the T1 tuner.
I asked Curt if he could share a little more about his tuner to post here on QRPer:
Hi Thomas, I can’t take credit for the interface, as a guy in Japan designed it. When I built mine the entire instructions and notes for code for the PIC controller were in Japanese. I used Google translate to translate all of the information and I was able to successfully program the PIC chip and build the circuit. He has since released the details and code in English.
There are two designs: one with an on/off switch, and a newer version without an on/off switch that has auto power save. Both circuits are the same but the software for the PIC chip is different. If you build the one without the on/off switch there is a very specific sequence of connecting and disconnecting the device and it’s my opinion that the one with the on/off switch is the version that makes more sense to build. It shouldn’t matter which order you connect everything up and you simply throw the on/off switch to turn the device on and off.
Building the interface takes an understanding of a fairly simple electronic schematic and acquiring the parts. You also have to have a PIC programmer and the software to write his .hex file into the PIC controller chip.
The parts for the interface are all very common parts. The resistors are standard values. My build cost me about $30 in parts but I had to buy many of them in bulk from Amazon like the enclosures, switches and 3.5mm jacks and circuit boards to name a few. Individually the parts were $30 but my bulk order cost me much more. I also had to buy a PIC programmer for $25 and figure out what software I needed to download to program the PIC chip with the author’s code. It takes an experienced builder about two hours to build the device but it’s not out of the realm of a semi-novice as long as they can get the PIC chip programmed.
Here is his newer version with the same circuit design eliminating the on/off switch by using a different PIC program allowing the interface to have auto power shutdown (low power standby) but there is a specific order for connecting and disconnecting the interface. With this version there is still drain on the battery but the designer thinks that drain is less than the normal self discharge of the battery. I feel that any discharge combined with the self discharge of the battery will be more discharge than using the design with the on/off switch. https://amateur-radio.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2020/11/post-591d17.html
I think this is a brilliant project and certainly one worth considering for those of us who already own an Elecraft T1 ATU and would like full control from the IC-705.
Since I had already set up my phone to record the video above, I decided to make a couple more.
I thought there might be some value in making real-time videos showing what it’s like operating CW and SSB during a POTA activation. The videos have no edits and haven’t been trimmed. It’s as if the viewer were there at the activation sitting next to me at the picnic table.
Operating CW with the IC-705
After setting up my station, I first started on the 40M band in CW. I meant to start the camera rolling during tune-up, but forgot to hit record. The video begins after I’d made a few CW contacts, but shows what it’s like changing bands and relying on the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) to pick me up then the POTA website to auto spot me.
My video cut off abruptly due to a low battery message. I had to give my iPhone a quick power charge to make the next video.
Operating SSB with the IC-705
After operating CW for a while, I plugged in the hand mic that ships with the IC-705 for a little SSB action. My main goal with this video was to show how I call CQ and use the voice keyer memories in order to manage the field “work flow” process. I also speak to how important it is to either self-spot or have a friend spot you to the POTA network while operating phone.
I spent so much time setting up and running the camera, I wasn’t actually on the air for very long, but I easily managed to achieve a valid activation and had a lot of fun in the process.
I’m not a pro “YouTuber” as I say in one of my videos. I much prefer blogging my experiences rather than “vlogging,” I suppose.
Still, I think I’ll do a few more “real-time” videos of POTA activations and speak to the various techniques I use to activate parks. Since these videos aren’t edited for time, they may not appeal to the seasoned POTA activator or QRPer–that’s okay, though. My goal is primarily to assist first-time POTA activators.
Have you been activating Parks or Summits lately? Do you have any advice or suggestions I failed to mention? Or do you have suggestions for future topics? Please comment!