Category Archives: Travel

Field Radio Kit Gallery: K4ZSR’s Xiegu X6100 Field Kit

Many thanks to Zach (K4ZSR) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page. If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, read this post


K4ZSR’s Xiegu X6100 Field Kit

by Zach (K4ZSR)

My primary portable radio station is based around the Xiegu X6100. This was the first HF transceiver I bought after getting my ticket, and I have taken it on well over 100 POTA and SOTA activations across ten countries. Over time, I have learned what does and does not work for me and my operating style, and my field kit now has exactly what I need.

I have used several different packs to hold my portable radio gear, but my current favorite is this Quechua NH Escape 500 from Decathlon (I bought mine in Romania, but you can order them online). While designed as a laptop bag, this pack has all the features I need to carry for radio gear: full-opening main compartment, padded laptop/tablet sleeve, waist belt, good internal organization, and extra room. My field kit always stays in this bag, unless I am going on a long hike or camping.

The heart of this field kit is a fully self-contained station in a semi-hard side case (meant for a portable projector). As long you have a tree or other antenna support, everything you need is in this case. I always have more equipment with me, but this is the bare minimum. Two modifications I made to make the kit smaller was replacing the stock mic coil cable with an ultra-slim CAT 6 cable, and making a 6-inch power cable.

Gear

[Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.]

  1. LTGEM Hard Case
  2. SP4 POTA/SOTA Paddles
  3. Xiegu X6100
  4. Panasonic Earbuds and Moleskine Cahier notebook
  5. K6ARK 20w EFRW Antenna (laser-cut winder, 26g PTFE wire)
  6. GPS/GLONASS Receiver and USB cables for digital modes
  7. Bioenno 3Ah Battery
  8. “QRP” sized Weaver 8oz bullet throw weight with braided fishing line
  9. 10ft RG-316 Feedline

Since I do no always have a tree handy, and you should never be without at least two antennas, I always have a mast and an antenna accessory pouch with me as well.

Gear

  1. DIY spike base, tent stakes, and guy lines for mast
  2. K4ZSR 20m EFHW “Credit Card” antenna
  3. SOTABeams Carbon-6 Mast
  4. Solognac medium organizer pouch – purchased in Europe
  5. Miscellaneous antenna gear (compass, wire ties, extra stake, bungee cord, carabiners, etc)
  6. 80m extension for 6-band EFHW
  7. K4ZSR 6-band EFHW (40-10m, with 30 & 17m links)

Adding my Microsoft Surface Go 2 tablet for logging and running WSTJ modes, and my field kit comes in at just over 9 lbs (ignore the scale, the tablet case was empty in this picture).

If I am going to be operating in an accessible and open area, I may bring my vertical whip antenna system. This is one of my newest additions, I assembled this antenna over Christmas 2023. I wanted a ground mount system for a 17 ft whip antenna, but I needed it to pack down relatively flat to be able to carry easily in a back pack. My solution was a modular base designed like a pedestal mount used for soccer flags. Even in somewhat soft ground, this base is incredibly stable despite the small size of the ground spike.

Gear

  1. Wolf River Coils 17’ SS whip
  2. 25ft RG-8X coax
  3. Tent Stakes
  4. Wolf River Coils Sporty 40 coil
  5. Faraday cloth
  6. K4ZSR ground spike vertical antenna mount

Assembled, the mount is inserted into the ground until the disk makes firm contact. The spike and the 3/8-24 mount are removable for packing, and the aluminum boss has 4mm holes for inserting banana plugs to ground the faraday cloth, or to attach ground radials.

Here is the antenna system assembled and in use at K-2949, Harpeth River State Park.

My true passion for amateur radio is portable operations, and as I add to my collection my field kits will grow and evolve. The most important lesson I have learned operating portable is to have simple, durable kit that you are very familiar with. That way when the situation is different than expected, or conditions change, you are prepared to adapt and overcome.

73, de K4ZSR

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:

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

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

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

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

Field Radio Kit Gallery: Micah’s Flight-Ready Compact MTR-4B Field Kit

Many thanks to Micah (N4MJL) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page.


Mountain Topper MTR-4B Field Kit

by Micah (N4MJL)

I am a very, very new CW operator! I’m also an airline pilot who travels quite a bit. Many times when I’m out flying my company provided hotel rooms are within walking distance of POTA parks.

The MTR-4B is my travel radio. It lives in my suitcase nestled in a Magpul DAKA Utility Organizer pouch.

The DAKA pouch holds:

Everything has to fit nicely in my 22″ roller board.

As flight crew, our roller boards are typically from Luggage Works or StrongBags. I have found that I can always make room for more radio gear in my luggage by packing less undergarments. I mean, you can always make your underwear and socks last another 24 hours by turning them inside out for another wear. Lol

The SOTA beams Tactical Mini Mast fits diagonally in my 22″ roller board. Wrapped around it are some rubber coated heavy wire for securing it to a post/shrub if available.

The SOTAbeams Band Hopper III is my go to antenna. This antenna does it all!

  • rated 125W
  • it’s a a full size half wave dipole
  • with 33ft RG174 coax
  • guying system
  • resonant on (20m 30m 40m) no tuner needed
  • has a balun
  • only weighs 14oz

The wire/guying winders are awesome. I have used this system in the sand on a beach and on a mountain top above the tree line. I replaced the aluminum tent pegs with some plastic ones to keep TSA a bit more happy with me.

I use a Talent cell battery [affiliate link] everyday for a recharge while on the go. It is large enough to power my cell phone/iPad while also powering my MTR, and the voltage output is safe for the MTR to handle.

My CW skills are not yet to the point that I am able to activate a park by running a pile up, so I do a lot of hunting. If one day you have me in you log book from California and the very next day I’m sending from Massachusetts that’s not a mistake, that’s just my life. 73!

~ Micah J. LaVanchy N4MJL

For Conrad, DC Travel = DC POTA!

Washington, DC Field Report

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

January 30, 2024

Periodically, I travel to Washington, DC for my job. On my latest trip, I carved out some time to activate some parks. The hotel I was staying at is just a few minutes away from the National Mall, which provides many activation options on the POTA website. After scoping it out on Google Earth and researching trails using the National Parks mobile app and web sites, I settled on the Jefferson Memorial, K-0792 as my first stop which is a two-fer with the National Mall, K-0655.

Photo of Jefferson Memorial

Just steps away is the George Mason Memorial where the Potomac Heritage Trail National Scenic Trail, K-4564 passes right through and is located along the East bank of the Lower Potomac River. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, K-4567 runs by as well. The bench I found on the shore of the river met the minimum 100’ rule for both trails and was also located in the National Mall park, so this location was a three-fer.

Photo of George Mason Memorial
View of the Potomac River
Bench along walking path near George Mason Memorial

I tried to travel as light as possible this trip. The gear I chose to bring was the Elecraft KX2 along with the AX1 antenna and my laptop with the USB sound card and CIV cable.

Samsung laptop with Electraft KX2 and AX1 antenna

The January winter weather was mild, in the low 40’s F so setting up and activating outside wasn’t a problem. With it being off season for tourists, I had the park almost all to myself.  There were signs posted at the memorial asking visitors to be quiet and respectful, so the last thing I wanted to do was set up on the steps and draw attention to myself. I found a wall near the Tidal Basin’s water’s edge and was able to set up out of the way of anyone wanting to photograph the memorial, but still be on the property. Continue reading For Conrad, DC Travel = DC POTA!

The Final Fling in Florida

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It is Sunday, December 31st, the final day of 2023 and, coincidentally, my winter-break Florida POTA trip. Time to return home. But, as I promised at the end of my last article, the journey is not yet done. A POTA Babe is not going to squander the opportunity to fit in another activation or two on the way home.

Google Maps

Joseph and I loaded up the car one final time after our stay at an Airbnb in Umatilla. I found two parks at which to attempt activations – Lake George State Forest (K-4627) and Pellicer Creek State Conservation Area (K-8367). I chose Lake George because I had yet to activate a state forest and Pellicer because of its proximity to Interstate 95, my route back home.

Lake George State Forest is named (unironically) for Lake George, the second largest lake in Florida. The forest is formed from lands previously used for timber, production of naval stores, cattle grazing, and hunting. It consists of over 20,000 acres of land that offer trails for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding as well as access to hunting, fishing, and birding.

I was unclear as to where to easily access Lake George State Forest. We found the Dexter/Mary Farms Tract entrance at which is a checkpoint for hunters. I learned I needed to purchase a pass before accessing the property and could do so via an off-hours phone number. I really didn’t want to set up shop in proximity to hunting, partially because it seemed like a bad idea (duh) but also I didn’t bring my blaze orange vest on the trip.

We learned of another entrance for the forest and headed that direction. Along the way, we ran into the Barberville Yard Art Emporium who billed itself as offering the largest variety of unique handcrafted outdoor art. I believe it judging from what I saw. Anyone for a giant chicken?

After gawking at the sculptures, we headed to the Fawn Road entrance for Lake George State Forest. This entrance looked more like what I expected.

My brother Joseph donned his bright orange rain poncho and headed up the road for a hike. I, on the other hand, looked for a place to set up and get on the air. I’d need to stick to the road as it was flooded on both sides and I didn’t bring the footwear to tromp through water. Most of the trees were very tall pines. I didn’t think I could get a line on their lowest branches.

Thankfully, I found a few trees of lower height. Once the Tufteln EFRW was installed and my station set up in the road (it was closed to vehicular traffic), I commenced my activation.  I ran later than my original estimated start time but the RBN still picked me up.

As usual, I was tight on time. In 30 minutes, I had 20 contacts on 20 meters. Two days ago, I had a contact from Etor F6VMN in France. I figured why not hop onto 17 meters to see if he would hear me again today. Guess what? He did hear me and we logged another contact. The band gave me nine contacts in 10 minutes for a total of 29 contacts at this park.

QSO Map for Lake George State Park http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

By this time, Joseph had returned from his hike. We packed up and were off to our next destination – Pellicer Creek State Conservation Area. Continue reading The Final Fling in Florida

N2YCH: January POTA Travel in Frozen Alaska!

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


Conrad’s January Alaska Activation

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

Why would you go to Alaska in January?” is what everyone asked me.

I’ve wanted to see the Northern Lights for as long as I can remember. The best time to see the aurora borealis is between late August to late April in Fairbanks, Alaska. Days are short in January, sunrise is at 10:24am local time and sunset is at 3:38pm. It’s twilight before the sun comes up and after it sets so it’s not pitch dark, but it’s mostly dark for about 19 hours a day in Fairbanks at this time of year. Once I began researching, I learned that peak viewing times for the aurora are between 10p and 2a local time even with the extended darkness. Check aurorasaurus.org for more information.

So, the answer to the question is, “The odds are better to catch the Northern Lights in the winter.”

Cold weather and snow doesn’t bother me having lived in Syracuse, New York for ten years. I have experience with winter weather and driving. Fairbanks is one of the best places in the state to see the aurora since it is directly below the “Aurora Oval” and it has over 100 days a year when the aurora is visible. Except for January 12th through the 15th, 2024, when the sky had 98% cloud cover and it was snowing. Aurora viewing was not happening during my visit.

However, this trip was not a total loss by any means. There are things to see and do here, including activating parks! I activated three parks in three days, Denali National Park (K-0022), Chena River State Recreation Area (K-7228) and Creamer’s Field Wildlife Refuge (K-9697). I’ve heard stories from hams in Alaska that propagation can be spotty, that there can be total radio blackouts from solar flares and that bands we don’t usually worry about in the lower 48, like 20 meters, can be useless at times. I packed enough equipment and antennas to activate on any band from 40 meters to 6 meters, up to 100 watts using my Elecraft KX3 with the Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier. On the first day at Denali, I used the amp for the entire activation, but I realized at the end of the day that Thomas, K4SWL, who runs “QRPer.com” wouldn’t be too happy with a field report from “QROer.com” Conrad, N2YCH. To remedy that, I activated my second park using just my KX3, no amp. At K-7228, my first 11 QSO’s were QRP and the park was officially activated using only QRP power. I activated my third park QRO, read on and I’ll explain why.

[Thomas here: For the record, readers, I gave Conrad a Special Use Permit to mention QRO on QRPer! Ha ha! Of course there’s no problem going QRO from time to time!]

Back to propagation, I emailed one of the most active POTA activators in the area prior to my trip to get a sense of what to expect. I highly recommend doing this for anyone planning to travel somewhere and activate. Look at the POTA pages for the parks you want to activate and you’ll surely see a repeat activator with a Kilo award or many visits to those parks. They know the parks the best and also what to expect for propagation. They also share your passion for POTA and are usually very happy to help. The advice I received was that it would be difficult to make contacts on 20 meters and that watching the MUF (maximum usable frequency) charts would serve me well. (Check out hf.dxview.org) The activator said 10 meters would probably be the best band during daylight hours. He was exactly right. Even with QRO power, 20 meter reception in Alaska was noisy and my signal did not get out very far on FT8 watching the pskreporter.com spot map. I moved to 10 meters and quickly had a steady pile up. I stayed on the air until I depleted a 9ah and a 3ah battery I brought. What fun!

Okay, so for the QRP activation, I was at a trailhead parking area out near the Chena Hot Springs resort. Before the activation, I stopped and did the tour of the Aurora Ice Museum and took a dip in the natural hot springs. I do recommend the hot springs if you ever go to Fairbanks. It was -10F degrees when I was there, quite an experience.

Chena Hot Springs

I intentionally wanted to delay my activation from early morning to closer to sunset to see if operating during the evening gray line passing over would help improve the number of contacts I could get. The short answer is that it was worse…way worse. I went back to activating closer to sunrise on my third day and had similar results as I did the first day, much better. Sunrise wins.

The map above shows my initial ten QRP QSO’s from K-7228.

What really continues to amaze me is just how far my signal can reach with the portable equipment I was using. I brought the Buddipole so I could configure it as a vertical or a dipole. I tried it as a vertical on 20 meters on my first day and as I said, the reception was poor. The beauty of the Buddipole is that I could quickly reconfigure it to a 10 meter dipole. With the tripod, it’s roughly 10’ off the ground. There was no wind to speak of, so I didn’t need to guy it. If there was, I would have used a bungee cord to secure it to the car bumper or side mirror.

It breaks down and fits in the bag I bought with the Buddipole tripod and I tossed it into my checked bag on the plane. With the tripod and mast, it’s just a little too long for the carry-on bag. I could have brought a fiberglass push up mast and wire antennas in my carry-on, but I decided on the checked bag and brought the Buddipole to have as many options as possible. After all, I was traveling all the way to Alaska. Continue reading N2YCH: January POTA Travel in Frozen Alaska!

More Surprises in Florida

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It is Friday, December 29th and my winter-break POTA trip is drawing to a close. My brother Joseph and I are spending Friday and Saturday nights at an Airbnb after six days of camping. However, before we do that, I have two more parks to activate today – Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve (K-5330) and Lake Apopka North Shore (K-8353).

Google Maps

Overnight, a cold front began its march through Florida. We woke to temperatures in the low 50’s and a brief glimpse of the rising sun before clouds took over the sky again.

The drive to our first park – Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve – was a pleasant one. The preserve is divided into five management districts. We ended up in the West Tract as that is what I chose in Apple Maps. There are 65 miles of hiking trails though the tract is also used for hunting, canoeing, fishing, camping, and equestrian activities. There is a variety of habitats in the preserve – sandhills, flatwoods, oak hammocks, river swamp, and cypress ponds.

I chose an oak tree just inside the West Tract entrance perfect for the Tufteln EFRW antenna. A sunny location was necessary as the temperature was chilly in the breezy conditions. As I set up, two ladies rode in with their horses. Salty, a red roan, was unsure of Daisy and I at first. However, he eventually settled down enough to walk by and check out my POTA flag. Being a horse owner previously, I have a soft spot for these intelligent and sensitive creatures.

Salty and his owner

When Salty moseyed on, Daisy and I got down to business. I went straight to 20 meters which had no noise at all. In 35 minutes, I had 20 contacts. I needed to wrap up the activation soon to have sufficient time to fit in the second activation today but thought I’d check 17 meters for any DX contacts. I had four contacts on that band including Etor FH4MN in France!

QSO Map for Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

In short order, I packed up my equipment and we headed to Lake Apopka with a stop at Costco for gas. On the drive, we saw five sandhill cranes. I had heard sandhill cranes at Little Manatee River State Park while walking Daisy one day. But I never spied them. These cranes were wary of me and the pictures I snapped weren’t great.

We finally arrived at Lake Apopka North Shore which features an 11-mile wildlife drive. The park reminded me of the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge back home in which I’ve spent some time. Lake Apopka is the headwaters of the Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes. The North Shore area consists of former farmlands that are now used to clean up Lake Apopka’s waters by circulating the lake water through restored wetlands thereby filtering it before it is returned to the lake. Those former farmlands polluted the lake with phosphorous which caused a host of problems. Continue reading More Surprises in Florida

The Fun Continues at Alafia River State Park

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It is Thursday, December 28th, the fifth day during my winter-break Florida POTA trip. The day began way too early. The rain was forecast to be a steady downpour where we camped. We woke at 3:30 AM to the light pitter-patter of rain on the tent fly and decided to get on the road before conditions worsened. Before heading to bed, we had put the bulk of our stuff already in the car. It wasn’t long before we had everything packed and were headed north.

Google Maps

I’ll admit it is an obsessive compulsive behavior that I like everything neatly organized. Because it was raining while we decamped, I had hurriedly bundled up the tent & fly and dumped them into the back of the car. That wet tent sitting back there really bothered me. About twenty minutes up the road, I found a shopping center with a covered area just begging to be used to repack that tent neatly as I desired. Now we could resume our trek northward.

Due to the early hour of our departure, we arrived at Alafia River State Park (K-1829) much earlier than time for check-ins. We found our tent site and while driving by, noted the two individuals in it were attempting to do what we did at 3:30 AM. We twiddled our thumbs in the car until 10 AM, grabbed our check-in tag, and headed to our site. Though it was still drizzling a bit, the tent was up and we were installed soon after checking in.

The rain was the harbinger of a cold front headed through Florida. With no sun to warm us, we bundled into our sleeping bags and Daisy into hers and fell asleep for an hour or so.

As I traveled through Florida, I asked myself, “Are there any of these parks to which I’d return?” Alafia River State Park is one for which I’d say “Yes.”

Alafia River State Park is a former phosphate mine, particularly for pebble phosphate.  Because phosphate is found relatively close to the surface in the state, Florida is a leader in phosphate mining.  The mining at Alafia River State Park created the topography making the park an awesome mountain biking destination with 17 miles of trails from beginner to advanced. The park also offers hiking and equestrian trails.

The campground in this park was the nicest we’d encountered. The sites were well spaced apart and, if so inclined, one could even glamp at this park. The bathrooms were sufficient though from our site, we had to walk the furthest to reach them. However, having that little bit of exercise was good for us and the walk pleasant. The park felt so open because of the topography but the high grasses characteristic of the area also gave the landscape a sense of privacy. The park was not crowded like other locations we had visited. Continue reading The Fun Continues at Alafia River State Park

More of the Unexpected at Collier-Seminole State Park

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It was Tuesday, December 26th, the third day of my winter-break Florida POTA trip. As my brother Joseph and I were moving at a leisurely pace this morning, I decided to work in a quick activation at the campsite as the antenna was already in the trees from the prior night’s activation.

Even though this second activation at Little Manatee River wouldn’t count toward my 2024 goal, it was still a valid activation. POTA is like eating potato chips – You can’t do just one! I had five QSOs on 40 meters to begin and then 14 on 20 meters before calling QRT. We needed to get on the road and head south.

QSO Map for Little Manatee River SP Day Activation http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

My brother desperately needed a new Thermarest as the old one he brought on the trip was not working for his back. He had always wanted to visit an REI store. We found one in Sarasota-Springs and stopped by. He found a better sleeping pad and I found a few items I needed to add to my arsenal – a small brush for cleaning sand off items, a camp pillow so I didn’t have to lug my pillow from home in the future, more bug-repellant wipes, and a smaller quick-dry towel. Happy with our purchases, we resumed our journey southward.

We had lollygagged enough in the morning there wasn’t sufficient time for an activation on our way to the next camping destination – Collier-Seminole State Park (K-1847). The drive was nearly all interstate and not that exciting. It never ceases to amaze me how many people live in Florida!

Google Maps

Collier-Seminole State Park is located in southern Florida as you head toward the Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area and Everglades National Park. The Big Cypress Swamp was the last refuge of the Seminole Indians. Collier-Seminole State Park lies along the Tamiami Trail, a road from Tampa to Miami that was constructed in the early 1900’s and runs through the Big Cypress Swamp. An advertising mogul Baron Collier (for whom Collier County and Collier-Seminole State Park are named) was a significant investor in the Tamiami Trail and, in fact, bankrolled the completion of the east-west portion of the road.

After you enter Collier-Seminole State Park, on the right is the last existing Bay City Walking Dredge. This dredge was used to build the Tamiami Trail and would follow drilling and blasting rigs. The dredge dug a canal which provided rock fill for roadbed drainage of the completed road. It is a unique and huge piece of equipment.

Some parks are easier to activate than others. This was not one of the those. My first hint should have been when I was asked to read the rules when checking in. The first rule is nothing in the trees. I mentioned I am a ham radio operator and asked if it be ok to put an antenna up with an arborist line that won’t damage the tree. That request was met with an immediate and emphatic “No!” Rules are rules and, as I brought my hitch mount and SOTABeams mast on the trip, I could work around that restriction.

I planned to set up my antenna and get on the air in the comfort of my tent as I had at the previous park – Little Manatee River State Park. However, running right in front of our site and all through the campground were power poles. This campground was also much larger than our previous one. I wasn’t sure how much RFI I might get from the surrounding RVs and power lines as we appeared to be the only tent at this site. Continue reading More of the Unexpected at Collier-Seminole State Park