Category Archives: POTA

Teri: A Request from the POTA Babe to QRPer Readers

For those regular readers of QRPer.com, you know that this POTA Babe has a goal of 60 new-to-me park activations for 2024. I am planning a POTA trip this summer to North Carolina and/or Virginia. I will be on the road for eleven to twelve days with nine to ten of those days potentially available for activations. I’d like to hear from y’all what one park you think I should visit and why.

You can either leave your suggested park in the comments below or email me via the address on my QRZ page. As summer will be here before we know it, I’d like to nail down my plans soon. Please share your suggestions by Wednesday, March 6th.

For safety reasons, I will not share my itinerary before the trip; however, I will give credit in the articles I write from the trip to the op (or ops if the park is suggested by more than one person) who suggested that park.

Thank you in advance for your assistance! Keep having fun with your QRP adventures!

QRP & Coffee: Late-Shift POTA using the new Chelegance MC-750 80 Meter Coil!

I mentioned in a previous post that Jesse at Chelegance had sent me some antenna goodies to evaluate. One of them was the MC-599 portable dipole antenna which you might have read about in my previous field report.

Another item he sent, which I was equally excited about, was an 80-meter coil for my beloved MC-750 vertical antenna.

In the spirit of full transparency: he sent this at no cost to me, and, as a reminder, Chelegance is also an affiliate of QRPer.com.

I’ve been eager to take the 80-meter coil on a POTA activation because 1.) if it proved effective, it would be great to have such a low-impact, low-profile antenna for 80 meters, but 2.) it’s been very difficult to fit in an evening POTA activation with my family life.

It would have been difficult to gauge how effective an 80M antenna performs in the late morning or early afternoon when I typically activate local parks/summits.

On Wednesday, February 6, 2024, a two-hour window of opportunity opened. One of my daughters had a dress rehearsal that night, and I knew of a nice, quiet, secluded POTA spot only 25 minutes away.

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Game Land (K-6937)

My original plan was to arrive at the Looking Glass Falls’ picnic area, deploy the antenna, fire up the stove, make some coffee, eat on-site, then begin my activation after the start of the UTC day.

So why wait for the new UTC day?

Mainly because once you hit the new UTC day, it counts as a new activation. That really works in your favor as an activator if your goal is to complete a valid activation (with ten contacts) and you’ve enough time to do that before the UTC rollover. If you time it all correctly, you could activate double the parks with a minimum of 20 contacts (split 10/10). In my case, that would mean a total of four parks activated in one evening (since this was a two-fer).

I decided fitting in an activation prior to the UTC rollover simply wasn’t worth the rush.

Once I arrived on-site, however, I was already changing my mind.

I started my activation video, deployed the MC-750, and looked at my watch. I had roughly 15 minutes before the UTC rollover.

It would be tight, but I decided to give it a go and try logging ten contacts before 18:59:59 local (or 23:59:59 UTC).

If I couldn’t log ten before the UTC day, who cares!? It would be a fun challenge for sure, but I wasn’t going to cry if I couldn’t gather enough contacts for a valid activation.

There was another factor, too: operating 80 meters with a 17′ loaded vertical isn’t exactly “efficient.” My theory, though? It doesn’t need to be efficient. It’s crazy portable, convenient, and as a POTA activator, I only need enough performance to get the job done.

Time to hit the air!

Radio Gear:

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Coffee Gear:

Photo from the Fall of ’23.

On The Air

I’d scheduled my activation on the POTA website, so was relying on it to spot me via the Reverse Beacon Network.

I started calling CQ POTA and the contacts started rolling in… very… slowly.

Well, it felt slow because I had a goal of ten contacts in fifteen minutes. Continue reading QRP & Coffee: Late-Shift POTA using the new Chelegance MC-750 80 Meter Coil!

QRP POTA and testing the new JNCRadio MC-599 portable dipole antenna!

In late December 2023, I received a package from Jesse at JNCRadio/Chelegance. It was their new MC-599 portable dipole antenna. They sent it—full disclaimer: at no cost to me—for evaluation, but shortly after receiving it, life got crazy and I was delayed in taking it to the field.

Fast-forward to February, and I was eager to take it to the field and see how it might perform. On February 5, 2024, a nice window of opportunity opened in the afternoon while one of my daughters was rehearsing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with her cast. Pisgah National Forest and Game Land were a 20-minute drive from her meeting site, so I headed there to deploy this new antenna.

The JNCRADIO MC-599

On-site, I pulled out the two main components of the MC-599 dipole system: the bespoke padded bag holding the antenna and the portable mast.

I knew the basics about assembling the MC-599 because I had watched a video on the Chelegance website that morning.

However, this was the very first time I had deployed the MC-599. I had never even removed any of the antenna components from the padded bag.

With this antenna, it’s best to have an open area for the two sides of the dipole (two telescoping whips) to fully extend without touching tree branches, etc. I had one particular picnic site in mind at the roadside picnic area I chose, but a couple was having a picnic there when I arrived. I waited to see if they might be leaving soon, but they weren’t, so I chose a site I had used before, even though it was flanked by trees.

Assembly was easy: I simply attached the center of the dipole to the 13′ mast, then attached the two telescoping whips to either side and extended them to the 20M position silkscreened on the whip (identical to the MC-750 vertical markings—see below).

Next, you simply attach your coax to the center of the dipole, then extend the mast all the way up.

I had to avoid touching tree branches, but it actually fit quite easily into this small space.

Since it was a bit breezy, I used some line to guy the mast. Ideally, you’d want a minimum of three guying points, but I only had two lines with me, so I made do, and it worked fine—the antenna was stable.

Next, I set up my radio: the Yaesu FT-818ND. Since the MC-599 was, in theory, resonant, I didn’t need an ATU for a match.

I turned on the FT-818 and discovered that the SWR was a perfect 1:1. Amazing.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised because my Chelegance MC-750 is always perfectly resonant (without needing a transformer) simply following the whip markings for guidance.

I should note here that the MC-599 can handle up to 200 Watts PEP—I was pushing 5-6 Watts. Also, the frequency range using the whips is from 20-6 meters. Chelegance also includes two 7 MHz wire elements that can be deployed in an inverted vee shape to play radio on the 40-meter band. It’s an efficient system and has many fewer components than a Buddipole systems I’ve used in the past.

Gear:

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On The Air

Keep in mind that my POTA site was in a deep valley, flanked by high ridge lines–I wasn’t sure what to expect as I hopped on the air.

I started calling CQ POTA and the first station I heard was DL1OK operating in Spain as EA8/DL1OK. Logging Dmitrij was a good sign indeed for this portable dipole!

Stations kept flowing in. I worked my first ten contacts in ten minutes.

I continued working stations in a continuous pileup until I ran out of time. I ended up logging a total of 46 contact all within 50 minutes. I did spend a few extra minutes (as I always do) trying to pull out weak stations and slower code stations.

What fun!

QSO Map

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

Note that this map does not include my contact with EA8/DL1OK in Spain:

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.

MC-599 notes

I’ve got to admit: the MC-599 made a great first impression.

As with the MC-750, I’m most impressed with the build quality. The components are all sturdy and nicely machined. The padded case was custom made to hold the MC-599 and its components. Everything fits together as it should and—again—was resonant when deployed according to the whip markings.

Even on this inaugural deployment, it didn’t take long to set up. The next time I deploy it, it will go even faster. Packing it up afterward (as you can see in the video) went very quickly.

Keep in mind: the MC-599 is a low-impact, high-profile antenna.

If you’re at a site that doesn’t allow antennas in trees, the MC-599 could be an excellent option. Other than using optional guy lines that would require tent stakes in the ground, it would have no impact on park grounds.

I love the fact that the MC-599 is self-supporting. This would be an absolutely brilliant antenna to use at parks with wide-open spaces and few trees for support.

That said, it is not a stealthy antenna. In fact, portable dipole antennas are some of the most conspicuous portable antennas you could deploy. They’re maybe slightly less conspicuous than a hex beam or Yagi. Even though I was cloaked by a few trees, the couple that was occupying the picnic site I had hoped to use couldn’t help but stop by on their way out and ask what it was I was doing. I bet if I had been using a wire antenna, they wouldn’t have even seen it.

I would always ask permission before setting up an antenna like the MC-599 at, say, a small historic site or urban park.

I could also see using the MC-599 for SOTA (Summits On The Air), but primarily on summits that are either drive-up, or where the hike is minimal. The aluminum alloy mast is lightweight for its size, but it’s quite large to consider taking on an extended hike. However, for a nice drive-up summit, I imagine you could work some serious DX. Just bring a few guy lines in case it’s windy.

I do think the MC-599 would make for a great Field Day antenna. Since it can handle up to 200W PEP and is easy to lower and switch bands, it would be a brilliant portable option for those operating a multi-band 100W rig.

But obviously? It’s an exceptional performer with QRP power. It’s hard to beat a dipole even when it’s only 13′ off the ground.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this fun 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 certainly 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 make 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!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Chasing Bands: Two Truck Activations take Brian closer to the James F. LaPorta N1CC Award

Parked in the lot at PA State Game Land 074

Two Truck Activations:  Racking up Bands and DX

by Brian (K3ES)

One of the things I like best about living in Western Pennsylvania is that after a stretch of heavy winter weather, we always seem to get a bit of a break.  The break never lasts long, but the sun comes out and the temperature warms enough to hold a promise of spring.  The first week of February 2024 gave us one of those respites.  With rising temperatures, the snow melted, a strange yellow disc appeared in the sky, and this operator’s thoughts turned once again toward POTA activations, and a free Sunday afternoon provided a perfect opportunity.

A Long-Term Goal

For just over a year, I have been working slowly toward POTA’s James F. LaPorta N1CC Award for activators.  I am under no illusions.  This goal may take me another year to complete on my terms.

The award requires an activator to complete QSOs on ten different amateur bands from each of ten different Parks on the Air entities.  To the extent possible, I am working to finish all of the needed contacts using CW mode and QRP power levels.  So, one specific part of my afternoon outing would include an attempt to make a QRP CW contact on my tenth band from PA State Game Land 283, K-8977.  Two previous activations of K-8977 had given me contacts on each of the nine HF bands from 80m to 10m.  So this afternoon, I would attempt to make a contact on top band, 160m.

Molly supervises many of my activations, and even when the weather warms into the 40s, she prefers to activate from the truck.

The Activation Plan

With a little bit of advanced planning, POTA Dog Molly and I packed the truck on a Sunday afternoon and headed out to attempt two activations.  First, we would set up at K-8773, Pennsylvania State Game Land 074, a new park for me, where we would have about 2 hours on the air before the time would be right to move to the next park and attempt an activation including 160m.  It would be just a short drive to K-8977, and we hoped to arrive there and set up around 2100Z (4pm EST).  The goal at K-8977 was to get enough contacts for a successful activation, then shortly before sunset move to 160m and get at least one contact to complete activation of the the tenth band.

Parking areas at Pennsylvania State Game Lands are mostly unpaved, but they are well marked.

Activating K-8773

With temperatures running in the low 40s Fahrenheit, I decided Molly would be most comfortable operating from the truck.  She appeared to be quite pleased with that decision.  So we pulled into one of the parking lots at K-8773 and parked along the tree line.  I tossed my arborist line over a branch near the truck, and used it to pull up my Tufteln 9:1 35 ft random wire antenna into a near-vertical configuration.  After connecting the 17 ft counterpoise wire and laying it out along the ground, I attached the 15 ft RG316 feedline and routed it into the truck through the driver’s side door seal.

I clipped the feedpoint of my Tufteln random wire antenna to the 2m antenna on the front fender of the truck.
I threw my arborist line over a tree branch, and used it to pull up the far-end of the antenna.  A few wraps around the handle for the back window of the cap kept it secure for the activation.
The RG316 feedline runs through the door seal into the truck.

Once inside the truck, I set up my KX2, prepared my log book, and made the decision to work my way downward through the amateur bands.  Conditions proved to be amazingly good that Sunday afternoon, and my 5 watt signal yielded 54 CW contacts, including 13 DX contacts spread across 7 European countries.

Moreover, I made at least one of these contacts on each of 8 amateur bands, from 10m to 60m.  Unexpectedly, getting contacts on 8 bands during a spectacular afternoon at K-8773 also puts that park well within striking distance for completing 10 bands, just not on this particular afternoon.

Not a bad afternoon’s work at the first park, not at all!

The KX2 sits on the console of the truck, with its feet straddling one of the cup holders.  This leaves plenty of room for my log book (yes, I’m one of those dinosaurs who uses pencil and paper for logging).
Another view of the operating station.  Note the home made VK3IL pressure paddles above the log book.
Supervising this activation was a particularly difficult task.  Molly has decided that a rest is needed.  She has tucked her nose in the blanket, a definite signal that serious napping is underway.
At K-8773, I logged 56 contacts across 8 bands.  I was delighted that 13 of those contacts were DX from Europe.

Activating K-8977

Packing my gear at K-8977 went quickly.  As a most excellent POTA companion, I rewarded Molly with a short walk along a Game Land road, then a 15 minute drive on some rugged back roads brought us to K-8773.  I had operated from one particular parking lot during previous activations, but a quick look around for places to set up my antenna caused me to head for a  different parking lot.  I would be using a wire antenna that was much longer than normal, and a nearby power line was too close for comfort.

ALWAYS watch for and avoid power lines when deploying your antennas in the field!

To activate on the 160m band, I intended to use my VK160 antenna.  The VK160 is a homebrew 9:1 random wire antenna with a 144 ft radiator and three – 17 ft counterpoise wires.  At the new location it went up quickly in an inverted V configuration.  With counterpoise wires spread out on the ground, and my 15ft RG316 feedline connected and run through the door seal of the truck, it was time to get the station assembled and on the air.  This time the rig would be a KX3 with built-in wide-range tuner.  The KX3’s spectacular tuner matches the VK160 on all bands from 10m to 160m.

I was easily on the air at 2100Z (4 pm EST), and had about 90 minutes before sunset.  My plan was to begin on 40m, and collect enough contacts to assure the activation before moving to 160m around 2200Z (5 pm EST), about 30 minutes before sunset.

Activating on 40m was a safe bet, even running 5 watts CW.  Once spotted, I was working a steady pileup for about 40 minutes.  When 40m callers tailed off, I switched over to 30m for 20 minutes and picked up a bunch more contacts on the new band.  Then, at 5 pm local, I switched over to 160m.  It did not take long to start making contacts.  It was not a pile up, but the three 160m contacts were very satisfying:  eastern Pennsylvania, western Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

I called QRT at 2215Z (5:15 pm EST), packed up my gear in the remaining daylight, and drove home.  I was home in time for dinner, and Molly didn’t say a word about being late for her normal 5 pm dinner time.

At K-8977, I logged 54 contacts.  Since I worked them on 30m, 40m, and 160m, it was entirely expected that most would be located in the eastern US and Canada.  Logging 3 contacts on 160m made it a perfect outing.

I do owe an apology to QRPer.com readers, because in the pace of the second activation, I failed to take pictures during my operation.  If you are interested in visuals, please take a look at previous QRPer articles on building the VK160 and testing it during Winter Field Day 2023.

Gear

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Equipment at K-8773

Equipment at K-8977

“Three Watts and a Wire: Seizing a Last-Minute POTA Opportunity with the Elecraft KX1!

I woke up a little too early on the morning of Saturday, February 3, 2024.

The previous evening, we recorded a Ham Radio Workbench podcast episode with my dear friend Ara (N6ARA) as a guest. It was a load of fun, and we ran over time (no surprise there). Since we started recording at 18:00 Pacific Time, it means that it was 21:00 here in the Eastern time zone. By the time the episode ended, it was well after midnight my time.

For some reason, my body clock only allowed me to sleep for five hours, but I planned to sneak in a nap at some point during the day. Our plans were modest that Saturday (only to visit my father-in-law in the hospital), and I had no intention to fit in a POTA activation.

Around noon, my daughters asked if I’d drive them to watch one of their friends in a Shakespeare performance at 2:00 PM. We quickly sorted out plans, and I grabbed my GoRuck GR1 pack, which (due to a crazy January) had hardly been touched since my activation with Hazel nearly a month prior.

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Game Land (K-6937)

As you’ll hear me mention in a number of my field reports, the venue where my daughters rehearse Shakespeare and perform is a short drive to Pisgah National Forest/Game Lands. In the past couple of months, I’ve enjoyed numerous activations in Pisgah.

The weather was perfect for playing radio outdoors. It was chilly, yes, but not so cold that I needed to wear gloves.

I was looking forward to putting the Elecraft KX1 on the air again. As I state near the end of my video below, it’s one of my all-time favorite QRP rigs.

My trusty GoRuck GR1

I decided to pair the KX1 with my KM4CFT end-fed half-wave that I built for 30 meters, with a linked 40-meter extension.

On this particular afternoon, I wanted to focus on 30 meters, so as I deployed the antenna, I unhooked the 40M link.

Gear:

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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA, and it didn’t take long for the RBN to spot me, and Evan (K2EJT) was the first to call (thanks, OM!). Continue reading “Three Watts and a Wire: Seizing a Last-Minute POTA Opportunity with the Elecraft KX1!

SOTA and POTA in Japan: Ara combines travel and radio with a little help from friends

Abroad in Japan: SOTA and POTA

by Ara (N6ARA)

Getting the License

Several months ago, my wife and I were planning our first trip to Japan, and I couldn’t help but look at all the nearby SOTA summits and POTA parks and entertain the idea of activating one of them. While stunned by the sheer number of high point summits and local parks (many of which are easily accessible via Japan’s incredible public transport system), I realized one question I hadn’t asked myself yet: Can I even operate in Japan?

I recalled the concept of a reciprocal licenses from the ham test, but never really looked into it. A quick Google search yielded the JARL (the ARRL equivalent in Japan) foreign amateur radio license website, which details the process for submitting your documents to obtain the license.

However, I quickly learned that the application must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the date of operation. Problem was… I was 58 days out.

Around this time, I let my friends, Waka-san (JG0AWE), Kazuhiro (7N1FRE), and Ted (JL1SDA), know that I would be visiting Japan. They leaped into action and helped me figure out if there would be a way to obtain my reciprocal license in time, and advised me on which summits and parks would be doable with my constraints.

Thankfully, Waka-san was very generous and offered to make an appointment with Japanese government to apply for the reciprocal license on my behalf. I was absolutely stunned by this. I struggle to make appointments at the DMV office for myself, let alone for someone else!

Two weeks later, I was surprised to learn that my license had arrived. I was now JJ0XMS in Japan. This news fittingly arrived around Christmas, making it easy to remember the “XMS” part of my call. The reciprocal license I received was classified as “1AM”, meaning 1st Amateur license for mobile. This meant I could operate on all bands at power levels below 50W, which is perfect since I tend to operate QRP most of the time anyway.

It helps to have friends around the world, but please learn from my mistake, submit your JARL-96-04 application at least 60 days (plus margin) prior to your trip and obtain your license the right way. If you have any questions about the form or the process, contact Mr. Ken Yamamoto (JA1CJP) via email at [email protected] 

Band Plan

With my license sorted, the next step was to familiarize myself with the Japanese Band Plan. After careful review, I learned it is entirely possible to accidentally transmit out of band or mode if you are not careful. For example, in the US the 2m band ends at 148 MHz, but in Japan the band ends at 146 MHz. So in theory, an operator with a US radio could accidentally transmit on a forbidden frequency.

It’s also important to note that the calling frequencies are different for all bands and that some bands have dedicated emergency communications frequencies. Thankfully, the translated Japanese Band Plan covers these extensively.

Planning the Activations

I started planning my activations by setting the goal of activating at least one SOTA summit and POTA park. I figured I’d gain the experience of doing both to see how they differ from what I’m used to in the US (and writing this blog post).

For this trip, we mainly stayed with our friend in Tokyo, so I was limited to the summits and parks near the city. To start, I figured I’d take a look at the POTA map since Tokyo is a flat city (read as, no SOTA summits to be found within the city itself), so worst case, I’d only do a POTA activation.

Much to my delight, I learned that Tokyo has 146 POTA parks within the city alone… and best of all… they are accessible via Tokyo’s public transportation system! Overwhelmed with all the options, I figured the best thing to do next is to try and see which nearby parks had the most space and activation count. I figured that would improve my odds of activating without any issues.

To be honest, my main concern was putting up an antenna in a park which I’m not allowed to in, or folks approaching me to ask what I’m doing, only to run into a language barrier issue. After looking through several options, I landed on Yoyogi Park JA-1255. The park was near where I was staying, fairly large, and had almost 100 activations. 

Next was planning the SOTA activation. Since there are no SOTA summits in the city proper, it meant I would have to travel a little to get to one.

Coming from Los Angeles, one of the most car-centric cities in the world, I did not expect to find that most Tokyo residents (including my friend) don’t own a car. Renting one is an option, but I figured it’s not worth the effort. Especially since Japan drives on the left hand side of the road – which I’m not used to. That meant driving to a trailhead was out of the question for this trip. Thankfully, that wasn’t as much of a problem as I initially thought.

Looking through the SOTA map, I found several trailheads to the east of the city that are easily accessible via train/bus and short walk. Again, I looked at the activation count to get a sense of what is attainable and found Mt. Arashiyama JA/KN-032. The summit had 84 activations with a relatively easy 762ft gain across 2.25mi and the trailhead is a 15 minute walk away from the train station. The only downside was that the train ride itself was about an hour and a half away from Tokyo. But as those who do SOTA know, the commute to the trailhead is part of the journey. (I think there’s something wrong with us.)

Packing

With a game plan settled, it was time to configure the kit. One important thing to note here is that when I submitted my paperwork to apply for the license, I forgot to include the radio make/model I planned to use (required for the application process). Thankfully, Waka-san registered the ICOM IC-705, an HF/UHF/VHF all mode transceiver (which I so happen to have). This afforded me the flexibility to work a wide range of bands and maximized my odds of having a successful activation.

With the radio figured out, I thought to pair it with a portable antenna that strikes a good balance between volume/mass and performance. My hope was to cover 10/15/20m for DX and 40m for working locals, so naturally I gravitated towards my trusted K6ARK End Fed Half Wave EFHW with an added load coil, making it resonant on 10/15/20/40m. I like to use this antenna in an inverted-V configuration using a 7.2m fishing pole. Since I had one shot at each activation, I figured it would be wise to pack a back up antenna just in case something broke mid-transport, so I also decided to pack my Elecraft AX1 vertical whip antenna and T1 tuner.

For CW paddles, I couldn’t resist packing my recently acquired Ashi Paddle 45 from Mr. Haraguchi 7L4WVU in Japan. Only seemed fitting! Finally, I thought to print out copies of my US and Japanese ham radio license, and a translated note describing ham radio, SOTA, and POTA just in case someone asked what I was doing.

Packing List:

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Welcome to Japan

As soon as we landed in Japan and settle in at our friend’s apartment, we couldn’t help but go out for a nice bowl of warm ramen at Ichiran. It was a cold night, I was jet lagged, and this was exactly the “reset button” my body needed to adjust to the new timezone. I slept like a log that night. Highly recommend. 

Since this was my first time in the country, I tried my best to absorb as much of the food and culture as possible. From the Yakitori, to the Tonkatsu, to all the various Japanese curries, and Onigiri, I was glad to be walking around the city to burn off all the calories I was consuming. Everything we ate tasted incredible!

One of the first orders of business was to visit Akihabara, the electronic town I had heard so much about. Walking through shops, I found every possible component imaginable. Want a transformer? There’s a small shop that has every variant you can think of. LEDs? There’s a shop with a selection that will make you see floating dots when you close your eyes. It was like living in a Digi-Key or Mouser warehouse.

Walking through streets and multi-story markets, I was constantly running into small radio shops. Some selling commercial radios, many selling various ham radios and ham radio accessories. One golden nugget I found was a shop that sells home-brew radios, one of which was a 47.1GHz Transverter! Where else are you going to find something like that for sale in a shop?!

One last stop in Akihabara was Rocket Ham Radio, one of the largest ham radio shops in Japan (think HRO in the US). I couldn’t help myself from buying a 2m/70cm whip antenna for my IC-705 for portable VHF and UHF operations while in town. Would feel wrong leaving without buying *something*!

POTA Activation and Logging

POTA activation day was finally here, and much to my delight, Mr. Haraguchi (7L4WVU) reached out to say he was available to meet me at Yoyogi Park for a joint activation. Continue reading SOTA and POTA in Japan: Ara combines travel and radio with a little help from friends

Roadside POTA: Pedestrian Mobile with the Elecraft KH1 at Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve WMA

My family decided to take a short pre-Christmas break on the coast of South Carolina in mid-December.

It had been a hectic month, so we looked at our healthy hotel points balance and decided to burn up a few of those on an impromptu four-night getaway.

We decided to stay at the same Myrtle Beach hotel where I stayed only a couple of months prior to attend a family funeral in Georgetown, SC. You might recall my activations at Lee State Park, Myrtle Beach State Park, and Huntington Beach State Park during that particular trip.

In truth, we’re not big fans of Myrtle Beach—we prefer more secluded, less commercial spots along the coastal Carolinas. In the summer, Myrtle Beach is jam-packed with visitors—the traffic is a little insane—but in the winter, Myrtle Beach is relatively quiet. Getting around is a breeze, and accommodation is easy to find.

This trip was all about family time, so I didn’t pre-plan a single activation, and I didn’t pack several radios. In fact, the only radio I brought was my Elecraft KH1, which lives in my everyday carry backpack.

The KH1 is a constant companion these days. It was really fun to take it on one of the balconies of our room and hunt parks and summits. Despite a little QRM, I was able to make a number of contacts just using the KH1 whip and dangling the counterpoise.

I remember working my friend Alan (W2AEW) while he was activating a park in New Jersey. I sent him the photo above. What fun!

Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve Wildlife Management Area (K-3903)

On Wednesday, December 20, 2023, we decided to spend part of the morning and afternoon in Conway, South Carolina, which is about a 30-minute drive from Myrtle Beach.

My wife asked, “Surely, there’s a park you can activate along the way?” (She and my daughters fully support my POTA addiction.)

After a quick glance at the POTA Map, I determined that indeed there was!

Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve WMA was essentially on the way to Conway, and I could tell based on a quick Google Map search that one of the access points (a huge gravel parking lot) was conveniently located next to the highway. Score!

I grabbed my backpack and camera (of course I brought along the camera just in case!). We drove 25 minutes to the access point which was easy to find.

As luck would have it, as I parked, I noticed that a motor grader was resurfacing part of the parking lot and the main WMA access road. This wouldn’t affect my activation, of course, but it was incredibly loud—especially the constant back-up alert.

So that my KH1 audio would be audible over the grader noise and the highway noise, I connected it to my Zoom H1N recorder.

Setup was quick despite setting up the audio feed and arranging the camera position under the shade the open hatch of my Subaru provided.

Gear

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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA on the 20 meter band and it didn’t take long before hunters started calling back. Continue reading Roadside POTA: Pedestrian Mobile with the Elecraft KH1 at Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve WMA

The Georgia Wildlife Management Areas Continue to Deliver

After my last activation at Oliver Bridge Wildlife Management Area (K-3764), I considered heading to South Carolina for park #16 toward my 2024 goal of 60 new-to-me parks. However, after looking at the weather forecast, I reconsidered. I’d need to activate earlier in the day due to my schedule and, given the chilly weather, I’d prefer to sit in the car for the activation. That would not be a good option for the park I considered.

So, I began looking at more wildlife management (WMA) areas in Georgia not far from home. I chose Hiltonia WMA (K-8794) which is an hour’s drive for me. This WMA is 500 acres mostly of hardwood and long-leaf pines and is owned by the State of Georgia. The property offers hunting of deer, turkey, dove, and small game.

I did not know before my visit that longleaf pines existed on the property but figured it out when I discovered their needles while walking with Daisy after the activation. You know longleaf pine needles when you see them because they are much longer than other pine needles. In fact, they have the longest needles of the eastern pine species and can grow up to 18”. The needles I found were 14” in length!

Longleaf pine forests are special because they are rich in bio-diversity and provide habitat for the threatened gopher tortoise, a keystone species because it provides burrows in which other species, like the threatened Indigo snake, live or shelter. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker is another species that benefits from longleaf pine forests because it lives in the cavities of mature longleaf pine trees. The species dwindled when many of the old-growth longleaf pine forests were felled and/or replaced with commercial forests of loblolly or slash pine in the southeastern US.

Gopher Tortoise. Source: https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/forestry-wildlife/celebrating-the-gopher-tortoise/
Indigo Snake. Source: https://www.oriannesociety.org/priority-species/eastern-indigo-snake/?v=400b9db48e62
Red-cockaded woodpecker. Source: https://ebird.org/species/recwoo

You access the Hiltonia WMA via a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. The property has an information kiosk right near the entrance with a map giving you the lay of the land. I usually look at whatever maps are available online from the state of Georgia or Google beforehand. For Google maps, I usually use the topographic layer as this is the default and shows me roads to access the property. But before this trip, I played with the layers setting and discovered the imagery layer will give me a better idea of what is forested and not. Hence I could easily locate an open area to set up my antenna.

The dirt road to the park
https://gadnrwrd.maps.arcgis.com/
Google Maps – imagery view

Just past the information kiosk is a dove field and it was there my Subaru Crosstrek Kai and I set up shop. What a gorgeous day! Crisp air under clear, blue skies. Daisy explored and sniffed to her heart’s content while I installed the Tufteln EFRW antenna in the perfect pine with one toss!

The perfect pine tree!

It was not long before Daisy and I were installed in Kai and ready to get the party started. And what a party it turned out to be! Not long after I called CQ on 20 meters, Joseph KB1WCK responded. After we finished our QSO, I was buried under a massive pile-up. However, pile-ups do not intimidate this POTA Babe! I did the best I could to pick up bits and pieces and work through it. Did I make mistakes? Sure I did, but there are no CW police and this is how we learn, through challenges. Continue reading The Georgia Wildlife Management Areas Continue to Deliver

Pairing the KX2 & AX1 for my first POTA activation in weeks!

On Thursday, February 1, 2024, I managed my first POTA activation in weeks.

As I mentioned here on QRPer, January was a crazy month. Not only did I lack the time to activate parks, but I also wasn’t in the right frame of mind to make activation videos.

However, on February 1, things were looking up, and a nice little POTA activation was just what the doctor ordered!

I grabbed my KX2/AX1 pack as I headed out the door.

On the way into Asheville, I stopped by the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)–my go-to site for convenient activations. I had a one-hour window of time to fit in an activation.

BRP & MST Two-Fer

You might recall that in my last field report (from January 5, 2024), Hazel and I hiked the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (K-8313) and found a trailside spot that was also within the Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378) property boundary. The activation counted as a two-fer!

You don’t have to hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST), however, in order to activate it and the parkway at the same time.

In the activation video, below, I show where one of the picnic tables at the Folk Art Center is close enough to where the MST passes that it counts. Makes for an easy drive-up, two-fer activation.

New Tufteln Cover!

A few weeks ago, my friend Joshua (N5FY) sent me a new protective cover for my Elecraft KX2. He’s now made these covers a part of his product line at Tufteln.com.

Like my Tufteln KX1 cover, the KX2 cover locks onto the front of the radio with rare earth magnets. It only requires that you replace the stock screws around the KX2 display with the ones Joshua provides. His replacement screws have a slightly higher profile, which allows the cover to attach magnetically.

What I love about Joshua’s covers is that they do a brilliant job of protecting all of the controls of the KX2 without taking up as much space as, say, the stock clear cover that came with my side panels.

Also, it fits the KX2 perfectly whether you have side panels or not!

Setting up

Of course, the glory of the KX2/AX1 combo is that it takes almost no time to set up in the field.

Within a minute or two, my gear was deployed, and I was on the air seeking a clear frequency.

I opted to use my Begali Traveler (over my KXPD2) key since it was also packed in my GoRuck GR1.

Gear:

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On The Air

On this occasion, I decided to work the lower bands of the Elecraft AX1 antenna.

I started calling CQ POTA on 40 meters and, fortunately, the band was alive. Continue reading Pairing the KX2 & AX1 for my first POTA activation in weeks!

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!