Category Archives: Videos

From the Activation Archives: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and MPAS 2.0 at Babcock State Park

In May 2022, my buddy Eric (WD8RIF), his son Miles (KD8KNC), and I opted to skip Hamvention that year and, instead, plan an extended weekend POTA campout in West Virginia.

Although attending the 2022 Hamvention was a tempting idea, I had already committed to a two-month family camping trip to Québec, Canada, scheduled to begin just a week later. Fortunately, the camping trip provided us with ample opportunities for field radio and was a more budget-friendly alternative.

During a recent review of my videos, I uncovered two videos from my West Virginia journey that had previously remained unpublished.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of Hamvention 2024 (happening now), I’ve decided to shake things up by publishing these two videos. With my schedule packed to the brim during Hamvention weekend, I’ve arranged for these posts to go live automatically.

Abbreviated field report

Indeed, as I prepare this report, I’m only two days away from heading to Ohio and I’m pressed for time. In lieu of my regular in-depth field report, I’m keeping these two reports simple and short so that I can fit them in my tight schedule.

Babcock State Park (US-1798)

My second archived POTA activation is from Babcock State Park where Eric, Miles, and I (along with Theo the dog) actually camped for several nights.

On the final day of our West Virginia “RATpedition”–Sunday, May 22, 2022– we set up at the Sugar Run Camp Picnic Area. This particular picnic site is quite large and we had the place all to ourselves that morning.

Watching the activation video now, I remember how much I loved the dry-stacked stone picnic shelters.

As I say in the video, I’d love to build something like this at my QTH!

Gear:

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

QSO Map

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

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.

Looking Back…

It’s so much fun reviewing these activations from nearly two years ago. We faced similar propagation challenges as we have recently (mid-May 2024), with numerous CMEs impacting our planet.

During some of the previous activations, we struggled to log even 10 contacts. In contrast, I’m pleased to have logged a total of 15 contacts during this activation. Although it was slow-going, it was a significant improvement over previous attempts.

Watching the video reminded me of my love for camping in West Virginia. We might consider organizing another WV RATpedition soon.

If you’re interested in reading Eric’s field reports from this camping trip, please visit his website using this link.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining us during this 2022 activation!

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 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 makes 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)

KK4Z: Achieving Another Kilo Despite Solar Interference

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


By the Hand of God at US-2173

by Scott (KK4Z)

I book my campsites often months in advance to ensure I get a good campsite. This particular trip was postponed twice due to typical life events that take precedence over having a little fun. Even this trip was not without its own issues. My wife and I forgot that this weekend was also Mother’s Day and unknown to us at the time of the booking was that there was going to be a 4 major Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) making an earth strike during the trip.

The last time I witnessed solar storms of this magnatude, I was in Gulfport MS doing EmComm for my Church in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was a humbling experience and it shaped my EmComm Philosophy.

I use the same gear for EmComm and FunComm. The equipment gets tested and exercised, and I remain proficient in its use. I also have an understanding of its strengths and weaknesses.

Most trips I take my go box.

It stays packed and contains everthing except a battery or generator to operate. I do keep a small switching power supply for mains power when it is available. Here is a look at the inside.

I have built rack mount or shelf type go boxes and in general, I do not like them. I have deployed to real disasters and found what I have here works the best for me. I do this enough that I am up and running in minutes. One thing I like is the versatility of being able to adapt my radio to the space I have to set up in. Your Milage May Vary, but for me and my 26 years in EmComm; this works best for me.

This weekend was spent at F.D. Roosevelt State Park (US-2173) near Warm Springs GA. The park was named after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He suffered from Polio and often would travel to Warm Springs GA for hydrotherapy. He built a residence there often referred to as “The Little White Hose”. During his presidency, he established the Civilian Conservation Core (CCC) during the Great Depression. This provided jobs to young single men to help families who had difficulty finding jobs. The CCC built much of the park.

The park contains 9,049 acres (largest in GA) and is built along the Pine Mountain Ridge. It is the southern most moutain range east of the Mississippi River. The highest point is Dowdell’s Knob at 1,395 ft and is a popular POTA and SOTA (W4G/CE-004) site. I took the Radio Flyer and stayed at the campgrounds near Lake Delano.

I arrived there right at 1300 hrs eastern (check-in time) and quickly got myself settled and ready to go. I knew the solar storms were coming and that my time maybe short. I wanted to finish my kilo here (#6) and needed 310 QSO’s. I had already postponed this trip twice so I was a little edgy. My gear for the trip was my 28.5′ Random Wire Antenna with the Peter my IC-7300. I had my Lenovo Thinkpad T-14 laptop and used mains power. The nice part about the antenna besides it performance, is I get zero complaints from park employees. No wires in the trees nor holes in the ground.

Friday’s band conditions were okay. There was lots pof QSB and I stuck with FT8 (35 watts). CW in these more rural parks can be iffy and this go I needed quantity. I started at 1430 hrs eastern and by oooo hrs Saturday (Friday Night) I had 134 QSO’s and when I quit at 2315 hrs I had a total of 230.

Saturday morning, after a quick breakfast I started up again at 0730 hrs. I operated until 1140 hrs when the bottom dropped. Luckily, I ended up with 338 QSO’s including 3 that were mader after the CME hit.

I decided my time would be best spent at home to spend Mother’s Day with my Lovely Bride so I packed up and headed for the house. My stats refelected band conditions and even though I made quite a few contacts, I only had three DX entities: Alaska, Canada and Mexico. I made contacts in 40 of the 50 states.

Operating this weekend reminded me that as reliable as HF commnications can be, it does have its Achilles Heel. For those in EmComm, never stop practicing, refining your techniques, or keeping your gear in order. For everyone else, it’s just another day in paradise.

73 de Scott

Video:

From the Activation Archives: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and MPAS Lite at Little Beaver State Park

In May 2022, my buddy Eric (WD8RIF), his son Miles (KD8KNC), and I opted to skip Hamvention that year and, instead, plan an extended weekend POTA campout in West Virginia.

Although attending the 2022 Hamvention was a tempting idea, I had already committed to a two-month family camping trip to Québec, Canada, scheduled to begin just a week later. Fortunately, the camping trip provided us with ample opportunities for field radio and was a more budget-friendly alternative.

During a recent review of my videos, I uncovered two videos from my West Virginia journey that had previously remained unpublished.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of FDIM and Hamvention 2024 (happening now), I’ve decided to shake things up by publishing these two videos. With my schedule packed to the brim during Hamvention weekend, I’ve arranged for these posts to go live automatically.

Abbreviated field report

Indeed, as I prepare this report (and the following one), I’m only two days away from heading to Ohio and I’m pressed for time. In lieu of my regular in-depth field report, I’m keeping these two reports simple and short so that I can fit them in my tight schedule.

Little Beaver State Park (US-1815)

Photo Credit: Little Beaver State Park

My first archived field report is from Little Beaver State Park.

We activated this park on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

I didn’t take a lot of photos at Little Beaver–I find that when I activate with others, I often simply forget to take photos.

The site was very pleasant. In fact, it was ideal for POTA on a hot sunny day since there were so many trees and some well-spaced picnic tables flanking a disc golf course.

I set up my Elecraft KX2 and paired it with my Chameleon MPAS Lite.

Gear:

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

QSO Map

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

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.

Post Activation

Of course, it’s been two years since Eric, Mile, and I performed these activation, but it’s funny what details I do remember.

For one thing, I remember enjoying a brilliant meal and ice cream at Dixie’s Drive-In post-activation.

I also remember taking this photo of Eric and Theo:

Good times!

If you’re interested in reading Eric’s field reports from this camping trip, please visit his website using this link.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining us during this 2022 activation!

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 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 makes 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)

POTA at South Mountains: Wet Weather, Flaky Bands, but Brilliant Field Radio Fun!

On Friday, April 26, 2024, I dropped in on a POTA site I hadn’t visited in months: South Mountains State Park (US-2753).

The Clear Creek Access area–on the north west side of the park–is the quickest POTA detour for me as I travel from Asheville to Hickory along the I-40 corridor.

In my previous field report, I mentioned that my trips to Hickory have become less frequent compared to before, when I would go at least once a week. Now, when I do go, it’s typically not an overnight stay, which limits my opportunities for activations.

That Friday, the weather was predominantly wet. As I drove up to the Clear Creek parking area, clouds had rolled in and it was lightly raining. It was one of those days I wish I had packed my TX-500.

Fortunately, I typically set up under a large oak tree at this site and I knew it would offer pretty good protection from the rain.

Upon arriving at the site, I was surprised by the number of parked vehicles. Ordinarily, I would expect to see only one or two other vehicles besides my own, but on this rainy day, there were about a dozen. This is the largest number of vehicles I’ve ever observed at the Clear Creek access.

I was a little worried that the one lonely picnic table at this site would be occupied, but fortunately, it was not.

I later learned that the bulk of the cars were there because a homeschool group was visiting. In fact, at one point, you’ll hear me speaking to one of the homeschool moms about amateur radio in the activation video below. That’s what I love about homeschoolers: they’re always ready to approach and ask questions!

I reached the picnic table and started setting up my field kit.

I had a simple, but effective pairing in mind for this activation: my Elecraft KX2 and Packtenna 9:1 random wire. In the past, I’ve used this combo numerous times with great success.

What I love about a good random wire is just how easily I can hop from one band to another.

Setup was simple and pretty speedy. Also, the tree did keep me pretty dry while it rained lightly.

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

Propagation has been very flaky as of late, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I hopped on the air. Continue reading POTA at South Mountains: Wet Weather, Flaky Bands, but Brilliant Field Radio Fun!

Caregiving and QSOs: Returning to a Favorite POTA Site

Those of you who’ve been following my field reports for a few years might have noticed something different:  I haven’t been activating some of my favorite POTA sites as often.  Here’s the reason why, and how I’m working to get back on the air at these special locations:

Most notably:

  • Lake James SP (US-2739),
  • South Mountains SP (US-2753),
  • Lake Norman (US-2740),
  • Fort Dobbs (US-6839),
  • and Tuttle Educational State Forest (US-4861)

These parks are all in or around Hickory, NC, where I used to travel weekly to care for my mom and take her to oncology appointments.

Sadly, she passed away in January. Since my sister has moved in with my dad, my trips to Hickory are now often day trips with the family, squeezed into busy afternoons.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t left much time for radio activations.

I’ve been longing to return to these parks! As an activator, you get attached to familiar spots–at least, I do–they become a home-away-from-home. These parks have definitely been calling me.

Two weeks ago, however, I started driving to Hickory again daily. My father was hospitalized, and I needed to be there for him. Thankfully, he’s much more stable now, in physical therapy rehab, and making progress.

These trips back to Hickory have allowed me to fit in some “radio therapy” at my favorite POTA sites.

On Thursday, April 25, 2024, I finally returned to the one I miss most: Tuttle Educational State Forest (US-4861).

Tuttle is an ideal POTA site: plenty of setup spots, a two-mile loop trail, and incredibly supportive staff. They’ve encouraged me to put up any antenna I want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with other visitors. Plus, Tuttle is usually quiet, which I also love.

It was nice to see Tuttle’s entrance sign again!

Once on-site, I picked out a picnic site with shade. It was a sunny spring day and I forgot to bring my wide-brimmed hat (it was in the other car!).

It wasn’t a problem, though, as most of the picnic area at Tuttle is shaded.

That morning, I loaded one of my radio packs with gear and packed my Index Labs QRP Plus.

I was eager to put my Index Labs QRP Plus back on the air at a park. This radio holds sentimental value, taking me back to visiting my first amateur radio field activity in 1997! I paired it with my MM0OPX End-Fed Half-Wave for multi-band operation (40, 20, 15, and 10 meters).

You can almost see the MM0OPX EFHW in this photo!

I decided to pair the QRP Plus with an End-Fed Half-Wave which would give me 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters without needing an external ATU (I had packed my Elecraft T1 as well, but I really didn’t need it).

I had a little over an hour to perform this activation, then head back to the QTH to be with my wife and daughters. It was “Star Trek” night, so I couldn’t be late (priorities–!).

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

Even though propagation has been very unstable lately, I’ve gotten some surprising openings on the higher bands, so I decided to start this activation on 10 meters, then work my way down the band until I hit activity. Continue reading Caregiving and QSOs: Returning to a Favorite POTA Site

KK4Z: The Happenstance Rove

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


The Happenstance Rove

by Scott KK4Z

Happenstance: a chance circumstance.

That is how it started out.

I recently sold one of my radios and, for giggles, I thought I would check out QTH.com to see if there was anything I just had to have (Danger Will Robinson). I stumbled across a nice IC-7100 and thought I could install it in my truck to make quick POTA activations a little easier. The ad looked good and the call sign sounded familiar. I checked the seller out on QRZ.com. I do this with every ham radio transaction to reduce the opprtunity of being scammed.

Low and behold! the seller John KX6F, is an old army buddy of mine. We served together in the 101st Airborne Division in C/158 TF 160. That was 40 years ago and I hadn’t seen him in at least 15 years. John is a good guy and was a major influence to me becoming a ham. I served with him from about 1980-1983 when I was transferred to Germany. Life and stuff took over and I was finally able to get licensed in 1995.

I sent John an email asking if I could pick up the radio in person and take him out to lunch. He told me that he suffered a severe stroke a couple of years ago and that dining in would be a better option. No problem. On Monday 04/22, I asked when would be a good time to come. He said Tuesday would be good. I had one night to plan a trip. He lives about 5 hours away from me so I thought I would turn this into a rove. I decided on two nights of camping and 5 parks in 5 states. The XYL had a hip replaced so I hadn’t been out in a while, it was time to stretch my legs.

Here is a map showing the stops.

Blue is day one, red is day 2 and green is day 3 and the trip home.

#1 Clarskville, TN. First stop was John’s. We had pizza for lunch and reminisced about old times. John looked good and was as jovial as ever. I was glad I made the trip. He and his wife were very gracious. After about an hour and half, I could tell it was time to go. The radio is in great shape and I am sure I will enjoy it.

KK4Z with KX6F
My new radio at the QTH

From John’s house I drove to Lake Barkley State Park (US-1284 and #2 on the map). I spent the night there in a very nice campsite. Right at dusk, a Barred Owl flew into my campsite. He was less than 20 feet away from me at eye level. Once we made eye contact, he flew off to another perch – silent as a ghost.

All the states on this trip were new activation states for me so I made sure I had enough contacts for a valid activation. I was prepared to do either CW or FT8 but due to band conditions, it looked like FT8 was going to be the weapon of choice. I made 20 contacts and managed to work Australia, Canada and France.

Wednesday morning I broke camp and headed toward Ft Massac State Park (US-0993 and #3 on the map) just over the line from Kentucky. It was a nice park inside of the town of Metropolis. I found a spot with clean restrooms nearby and enough room for my truck and camper. There were a lot people using the park to exercise. I used FT8 to make 20 contacts on 30 and 10 meters and the only DX was Canada.

From Ft Massac State Park my next destination was Big Oak Tree State Park (US-1749 and #4 on the map) in MO about 1 1/2 hours away. Along the way near the town of Omstead, IL, I spotted a Bald Eagle having lunch with Vultures at the roadkill cafe.

The park is located in rural MO. and surrounded by farms. There was no cell service here but the park and the views were great. I set up near the picnic area. Ten meters was hopping. DX stations included: Hawaii, Belize, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Sardinia, and Spain. I was running 25 watts. I made 20 contacts before packing it up and moving to my next park.

Stop #5 and my second overnight was Mississippi River State Park (US-1102). This was a very nice park and I managed to reserve a campsite on the water. It also had zero cell service, even my cell phone went SOS.

My money band was 10 meters again making DX contacts with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, and New Zealand. Ten meters acted like 20 meters, and 20 meters acted like 40 meters. I ended up with 33 contacts total.

Thursday morning had me heading toward home with Georgia on my mind (I even heard the song on the radio). I made a stop at Trace State Park (US-2554 and stop #6) just outside of Tupelo, MS. I stayed long enough to make 20 contacts and one DX into Canada.

I got home about 1600 hrs eastern Thursday afternoon. I worked 5 parks in 5 states: Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi, in 2 days. I crossed 4 major rivers: Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi (twice). I added 5 new states to my POTA activations.

It was a good trip considering I only had about 2 hours to plan it. I learned some new things about my equipment and I have plans to make things better for next time.

My first rove proved to be a lot of fun. Usually I drive to a park, spend a couple of days and then drive home. I am hoping to try another rove before the year is out.

Video

See the YouTube video below. Until then — 73 de Scott

Testing the HF Waters: A High Band Bust During this Parkway POTA?

Gorgeous weather and a bit of free time? Perfect chance for a POTA activation!

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, I was enjoying a break before picking up my daughter from French class – why not grab my rig and head for the Parkway?

No picnic tables today–I wanted a simple setup under the trees with my camping chair, kneeboard, and the KX2.

I drove to one of my favorite spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway (US-3378).

This site’s always a winner: unoccupied, plenty of trees for hanging wire antennas, and right on the Mountains to Sea Trail (one of my favorite local hikes!). Unlike some of the pull-offs along the BRP, this site allows a bit more distance from the passing cars.

Sadly, I found trash scattered around my operating spot–even a shoe! I picked the trash up to dispose of after the activation.

I quickly deployed one of my Tufteln “no-transformer” random wire antennas in a tall tree. This antenna’s just a 28.5-foot wire attached to my BNC’s center pin, and a 17-foot wire on the shield. Simple, but effective, and my Elecraft KX2’s built-in ATU tunes it right up. This type of antenna–one that lacks a transformer–relies heavily on an internal ATU’s ability to match the impedance.

While some folks think this antenna type isn’t efficient, I haven’t found that to be true. Any losses are probably offset by the direct connection to the radio–no coax run in the way for the ATU to match.

Time to set up my radio.

I unfolded my Helinox chair, got out my N0RNM/Tufteln kneeboard, set up the KX2, connected the antenna and my KXPD2 paddles, then prepared my logs.

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

Propagation has been pretty rough the past few weeks. There have been moments with excellent DX openings, but also times when the higher bands were wiped out or quite unstable.

I thought I’d test the waters during this activation by starting on 10 meters, then working my way down the bands. Continue reading Testing the HF Waters: A High Band Bust During this Parkway POTA?

Antenna Versatility: Pairing my Linked EFHW and the TR-45L Skinny at Lake Powhatan!

On Tuesday, April 23, 2024, I had a bit of time in the middle of the day to perform a park activation, but I couldn’t go too far afield because I needed to pick up my daughters from school around 3:00 PM.

Where to go?

I didn’t want to activate the same spots I’ve been activating a lot lately; I wanted to find a new spot, but my window of time limited my options.

Here in the Asheville area, we only have a few POTA entities within, say, a 25-30 minute drive of downtown, but a few of the sites we do have are vast. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, and Pisgah Game Land are massive and it would be easy to activate every day of your life and set up at a different site each time if you’re willing to bring your own chair and table/kneeboard..

It was such a beautiful day, I ideally wanted to find a spot with a picnic table under the shade of a tree. I know of a couple sites on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I’d activated them recently. Also there was the Vance Birthplace, but again, I’d been there a lot lately.

Then it dawned on me that Lake Powhatan, in Pisgah National Forest (US-4510), might be a good option. It’s close to Asheville, a beautiful site, and I was almost certain I remembered seeing picnic tables there when I camped there with friends some two years ago. I made a quick call to the park office and confirmed.

Lake Powhatan requires a day use permit of $5 per person–you pay at the entrance and then have access to the lake and beach area for the full day. I didn’t mind paying this fee at all because I will typically leave that same amount in the donation box of many of the state parks I frequent anyway.

It’s a really short walk from the parking area to the lake and picnic sites.

I grabbed my TR-45L Skinny (in its padded camera pack) and my GoRuck GR1 backpack that had all of my antenna supplies and even my Elecraft KX2 inside.

Had this been a summer day, the lake would have been packed with families!

Why bring two radios? I really wanted to use the TR-45L, but I also thought about testing the waters on the 15, 12, and 10 meter bands. Since the TR-45L only covers 80, 40, 30, 20, and 17 meters, I needed another option.

Lots of picnic table options around the lake.

Turns out, the higher bands weren’t in great shape, so I didn’t need to use the KX2 after all.

I didn’t pair the TR-45L Skinny with an ATU, thus I needed an antenna option that would be resonant or matched on each of the bands I planned to operate. I decided to deploy my KM4CFT EFHW that I’d cut as a 30 meter end-fed half-wave with a 40 meter extension. This antenna would give me all of the bands of the TR-45L (save 80M). As a 30M EFHW, I’d have 30 and 17 meters, then by adding the 40M extension, I’d have both 40 and 20 meters as well.

Setup was quick and easy (even though it took several tries with my throw line to hit the branches I wanted).

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 deployed the antenna as a 30 meter EFHW and started calling CQ POTA on the 17 meter band.

I quickly found out that 17 meters was not in great shape. I did work N5PJ after a few minutes (thanks, Perry!) but didn’t hang around 17 meters much longer.

The poor state of 17 meters was likely a good indicator of what the higher bands might be like, so I abandoned the idea of going up to 10 meters. Instead, I QSY’d to the 30 meter band.

30 meters was in better shape. I worked five more stations in short order, then there was a lull in activity for several minutes. My thinking was that the bulk of the POTA activity would be on 20 meters, so I lowered part of my antenna, connected the 40M link, and raised it again.

Turns out, 20 meters was pretty active.

I ended up adding 16 stations to the logs including at least one Park-to-Park with AC9OT (thank you!).

All-in-all, I logged 22 stations on three bands. Propagation was a bit rough for sure, but the activation was a lot of fun!

Here are my logs:

QSO Map

Here’s what this five-watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click image to enlarge):

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.

An Idyllic Site

I’m so glad I decided to give Lake Powhatan a try. I’m very tempted to pay $40 for an annual pass.

There are several other picnic sites in/around the lake that I’d like to try and, frankly, next time I think I’ll bring my mountain bike! There are loads of trails on-site that also connect up to the (very popular) Bent Creek network.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me during this peaceful 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 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 makes 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! Have a brilliant week!

Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

Christian enjoys memorable QRP DX despite poor band conditions!

Many thanks to Christian (IX1CKN) who shares the following field report:


QRP Fun Despite the Conditions!

by Christian (IX1CKN)

The weekend passed without rain, nor snow, but with temperatures that didn’t exactly encourage spending too much time outdoors. It seems that, despite the date, winter has returned. Nevertheless, the POTA call was hard to resist. So, since the midday cold didn’t seem too harsh, I hopped into my car.

I wanted to avoid the surroundings of Aosta, the town in north-western Italy where I live, and explore less frequented references for a different experience. I chose IT-1196, the Xeric environments of Gran Brison-Cly.

The reserve consists of two “sub-zones”: one around Cly Castle (in Saint-Denis) and the other above it. I set up in the first one, partly because the view of the ancient castle ruins while I transmitted was charming.

I had the most minimal setup possible: a Xiegu G-106, pushing no more than 5 watts, and a quarter-wave vertical antenna planted in the ground.

This antenna comes as a single telescopic whip, over 5 meters long, supplied with a braid of radials to lay at the base. Despite the feeling it gave me when I took it out of the package, it positively impressed me with its performance.

Propagation conditions hadn’t been impressive for a couple of days, but not trying at all is the surest way to make no contacts, so there I was, making my first calls from the promontory on 20 mt.

The response rate wasn’t particularly impressive, indeed, but it confirmed what I had already experienced in February 2023 during the first activation of this reference. The northern path was open, as evidenced by several stations responding from the northern part of the UK.

However, the unexpected surprise came at 13:27 UTC when NL7V answered my call. It was Paul, from North Pole, a town in the Fairbanks borough, Alaska. He gave me a 22 signal report, but I still couldn’t quite believe my ears. I’m working with 5 watts, and I never would’ve thought my signal could reach that far (distance from here is about 7.532 km). I thanked him sincerely and told Paul he literally made my day.

Here’s a video clip of the Alaska QSO:

As for the rest of the activation, the 10 and 12 meters bands were far from lively, and even the attempt on 15 meters didn’t yield anything interesting. So, I switched back to 20 meters and resumed calling.

In the final log, there are 31 contacts (in about an hour and a half of activation), including 5 with colleagues in other references. As has happened before, just when it seems like nothing suggests going out to activate, that’s precisely when you need to go.

When Plans Change: A Relaxing “Plan B” POTA Activation at Lake James State Park

Lately, it’s been a proper challenge to get out and activate.

I’ve had a number of projects that have kept me at home working and when I do head out the door, my timing has been tight. While I love squeezing in park activations when I’m otherwise busy running around town, I also never activate if it’s truly inconvenient.

I’m a big believer in never feeling pressure to activate. Rather, I believe in enjoying the radio journey and therapy.

This is why I don’t pay close attention to my stats in either the POTA (Parks On The Air) or SOTA (Summits On The Air) programs. Maybe when I’m an empty-nester in a few years I’ll spend some time working on my numbers–for the fun of it–but for now, it’s just not in the cards. (Admittedly, when I have more free time, it’ll be fun to achieve my first Mountain Goat award!)

On Monday, April 15, 2024, I planned a trip to my hometown of Hickory, North Carolina, to take my father out to lunch at the airport café.

A 2020 photo from KHKY

If you’ve been a subscriber/reader for long, you’ll know that for the past five years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Hickory doing caregiving for my mother. I would typically spend a night or two in Hickory per week and take her to her frequent oncologist and specialist appointments. .

When she passed away in January, and my sister and her daughter moved in with my father, I no longer had a need to do weekly overnight trips. Indeed–I have no place to stay as the house is full. It’s all worked out really well and now our family trips to Hickory are mostly day trips with my wife, daughters, and Hazel.

It was during those overnight trips that I would fit in park activations–there are a number of parks around Hickory that I would frequent.

Thwarted Rove

I’d plotted a proper POTA rove en route to Hickory on the 15th. I planned to hit a number of parks I used to activate frequently–at least two parks on the way and one or two parks during my return home.

I packed my car with three different radios and a variety of antennas with the idea of using a different pairing at each park.

Twenty minutes into my journey to the first park that morning, I received a call from my daughter’s physician who reminded me that she had an appointment at 2:00 in the afternoon. Doh!

Somehow, that appointment didn’t make it into the family calendar and it was too late to shift it to another date.

I’ll admit: I was bummed.

This dramatically changed my schedule, but I was determined to fit in at least one activation and lunch with my father. As I was driving, I did the mental time math–if I activated Lake James, it would be a very modest detour and I would have an hour or so to play radio. I’d need to pick up my father no later than 10:45 to take him to a (now early) lunch.

This would give me just enough time to get back to the QTH and pick up my daughter no later than 1:30 PM.

I called my father and confirmed it all.

Lake James State Park (US-2739)

I arrived at the Lake James entrance around 8:45 AM. The weather was beautiful and ideal for POTA.

I knew I had about one hour to fit in this activation and I wanted it to be relaxed since the rest of the day would be pretty pressed, time-wise.When I first arrived at the Lake James parking area, I thought I was going to be the only visitor on the site. After hopping out of the car, though, I heard a group of people shouting and then noticed a load of cars and a school bus at the opposite end of the lot.

Turns out, at least two school groups were visiting on a field trip.

I made my way to the lakeshore and picked out a picnic site in the shade and with a nice antenna support (i.e. tree) just waiting to assist in my activation!

I decided to pair my Elecraft KX2 with an end-fed half-wave my buddy Steve (MW0SAW) built for me a couple years ago.

As I started setting up the antenna, a school group, led by one of the park rangers, moved to a site nearby to do some hands-on science. Part of me hoped they might venture past my site and I was ready to tell them all about amateur radio, if asked, but they remained at the same site during my entire activation.

Gear:

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On The Air

Again, since I had a fair amount of time to complete this activation, I thought I’d experiment by heading to the higher bands, knowing they’d have less activity. Continue reading When Plans Change: A Relaxing “Plan B” POTA Activation at Lake James State Park