Tag Archives: Blue Ridge National Parkway (US-3378)

K4AAC & K4RLC: SOTA Babe in the Clouds at Mt. Jefferson

Many thanks to Bob (K4RLC) for the following field report:


SOTA Babe in the Clouds at Mt. Jeff

de Bob (K4RLC)

Two weekends ago, Alanna K4AAC & I took a short trip to the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina to combine a POTA Weekend and Summits-on-the-Air. We stayed at the New River State Park, a small newer state park that the New River (actually the oldest river in North America) transverses. New River SP is also near some SOTA peaks and the idyllic Blue Ridge Parkway, an almost 500 mile highway that follows the Blue Ridge mountains, starting near Cherokee, North Carolina and ending in Northern Virginia.

Courtesy: National Park Service

This was a needed trip to the fresh air and incredible vistas, as this year brought health problems for both of us, especially an Emergency Room visit for Alanna Easter weekend. Fortunately, with great physicians from UNC and med changes, she was able to rebound fairly quickly.

Friday, we set up a trap Inverted-V on a push-up pole, lashed to the campsite split rail fence. For the radio part, the goal was to put the new Elecraft KH1 through it’s paces. While most rave about this new hand-held CW rig, I still prefer my KX2. Anyway, Friday night with 3 watts on 40 CW with the KH1 and the inverted-V. As it was rainy, I ran the coax inside our Winnebago Solis and set up at the kitchen table (the Winnebago Solis is their smallest vehicle, really just an ergonomic camper van built on a Dodge RAM Promaster chassis).

With a 140 watt solar panel on top and two 100-ampHr batteries, you can boon dock off the grid for several days. Had a productive run of Qs sitting at the table, and with several other LICW members.

As the weather report for Sunday was bad, we decided to do a Summits-on-the-Air activation Saturday on near-by Mount Jefferson, a nearly 5000 ft peak named  for its original owners, Thomas Jefferson and his Father. This is a partial drive-up south of the town of West Jefferson (named for ?).

There are several trails on the top, including the Mountain Ridge Trail and the Lost Province Trail. The trails are incredibly well maintained, flat gravel trails, not like the rock scrabble of the AT, but a definite steep incline. Alanna did great climbing  the steep trail, only having to stop a few times to catch her breath.

About half way up, we were in thick clouds, with visibility only a few feet. It was ethereal. At the SOTA activation zone, there is a rock ledge where you can set up….but be careful, as you don’t want to tumble off the ledge, way down to the valley below. At first, Alanna operated in the clouds. She looked like a spirit SOTA babe emerging through the clouds.

Mt Jeff overlook in the clouds

A few hours later, a cold front came through and blew the clouds away. What a difference! We could see 70 or more miles, down the valley and into the nearby state of Tennessee.

Mt Jeff overlook in the clear

Unfortunately, there was a major solar flare, with an A Index of 12, so conditions were very rough. At first, I tried the KH1 as a hand-held with the attached 4 foot whip and one 13 ft counterpoise. To make conditions better, I set up the Elecraft AX1 miniature vertical on a tiny tripod and attached four 13 ft radials, in the trees and over the rock ledge. It was still an effort, but managed to get the required SOTA contacts. As Mt Jeff (W4C/EM-021) is both a SOTA peak and a NC Park natural area, it’s a two-fer. Unfortunately, my luck capped below the required number of POTA contacts. Thanks to all who tried to dig me out. The Reverse Beacon Network spotted  us around the country, but with very weak signals on 20 CW.

Mt. Jeff with KH1 & whip antenna
Mt. Jeff with KH1 & AX1 on mini-tripod

Sunday, the weather was hit and miss, so we decided just to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway (US-3378), stopping at breath taking overlooks and hiking some on the Mountains-to-the-Sea trail. The MST runs almost 1200 miles from the Great Smoky mountains in the western part of NC to Jockey’s Ridge State Park in the Outer Banks, where North Carolina meets  the Atlantic Ocean. We’ve section-hiked the MST, just as we’ve done on the Appalachian Trail.

Cooking  over an open campfire is the only way to get that great wood smoke flavor. Our hot dogs and hamburgers by campfire, with guacamole, were delicious.

K4AAC Alanna with guac & campfire

Looking forward to trying the KH1 in decent propagation conditions, as it may be the go-to for SOTA and overseas travel.

All-in-all, the clear clean mountain air and great mountain vistas were really therapeutic for our health, and the kind of medicine you can’t put in a bottle.

73 de K4RLC Bob

Field Report: Elecraft KH1 for a Quickie POTA Two-Fer!

On Wednesday, March 27, 2024, I had a number of errands to run in town. Before leaving the house that morning, I looked at my schedule and honestly couldn’t see a wide enough opening for an activation.

In the latter part of the morning, however, I was miraculously ahead of schedule en route to a meet-up in Asheville. I decided to take a scenic route option along the Blue Ridge Parkway (US-3378). It was misty and foggy that morning; a beautiful time to drive the BRP.

Of course, any time I’m on the grounds or within the boundaries of a national or state park, it feels odd not to activate it (do you feel that way too–?) even though I drive the BRP.

I looked at my watch and realized I had about 15-20 minutes max to perform an activation.

I only had one radio in the car: my Elecraft KH1. I didn’t have any of my camera gear which was fine, because it would have been very difficult to set up a video and complete the activation all within 15-20 minutes.

I pulled over to quickly schedule my activation on the POTA website. I then drove about 5 minutes up the BRP to a larger pull-over with a short path to the Mountains To Sea Trail (US-8313).

Instead of setting up on the MST, I just walked down the bank and stopped within a few feet of the MST. This would yield an easy POTA two-fer!

I set up the KH1, sporting some new pressure paddles via K6ARK (one’s I’m testing), and I hit the air.

Gear:

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

I called CQ POTA and started receiving replies slowly. Well, in truth, it wasn’t that slow, but it felt like it when I was in such a rush.

After working five stations, I checked the POTA spots page and discovered that I had not been auto-spotted. Sometimes the connection between the POTA spots page at the Reverse Beacon Network is down. Indeed, several times lately, I’ve tried to activate when it’s been down–my timing has been impeccable.

I had a little mobile phone service, so I self-spotted and the rest of the contacts rolled in quickly.

I called QRT after logging 10 contacts with apologies to those who were still calling me. I had to get back on my schedule.

My QSO Map:

Screenshot

This quick activation did make me realize how the KH1 seems to be fitting into my POTA/SOTA routine.

I never intended going pedestrian mobile 100% of the time after I got my KH1. Instead, I find it to be the radio that gives me the most freedom and flexibility when I need it. The KH1 allows me to seize radio opportunities I’d otherwise miss.

In this case, setup and pack-up time was really no more than 40 seconds in total.  It took me a minute to walk down the bank to the spot next to the trail to do the activation. All the rest of the time was radio time. I feel confident that had I been spotted properly, I would have validated the activation (10 contacts) in less than 15 minutes.

It’s fun to realize you can play radio anywhere (almost literally) with a handheld transceiver like the KH1. It almost feels like cheating!

Eclipse Time!

As I write this post, I’m in our hotel’s breakfast area. We’re in Dayton, Ohio to view the total solar eclipse tomorrow. I hope to fit in a couple of activations– the only radio I’ve brought along for the ride is the KH1 (well, save my SW-3B Headrest kit).

Traffic yesterday (en route to Ohio) was pretty heavy. I imagine it’ll be much worse today and even crazier tomorrow.

We took a break from traveling, yesterday, to visit my father-in-law’s alma mater. Can anyone recognize this beautiful campus? Bonus points for correctly identifying it!

Our family is meeting up with Eric (WD8RIF) and his wife, so I’m sure we’ll manage to hit at least a couple of parks!

I must admit: it feels odd to be in Dayton a few weeks prior to Hamvention.

Maybe I should camp out at the Greene County Fairgrounds for the next five weeks just to be the first to grab a good deal in the flea market–!?!

[Sinister laugh slowly fades…]

72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Thank you!

As always, I’d 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.

Let’s Give it a Go: Pairing the Elecraft AX1 and Emtech ZM-2 Manual ATU

Last month, I received a comment and question from Gordon (KO4AYC) here on QRPer.com:

“I am curious if anyone has used the AX1 with the AXE1 40 meter extender and tuned this antenna for 40 meters using the Emtech ZM-2 tuner?”

For the life of me, I couldn’t remember if I’d tried this combo before.

The ZM-2 ATU is a simple manual antenna tuner that you can purchase either as a fun-to-build kit or fully assembled and tested.

I’ve owned my ZM-2 for many years, and I believe every QRP field operator should have one. They do a brilliant job of matching random wire antennas and taking your resonant antenna to a non-resonant band. Being a manual ATU, they require no power source. If you’d like to read a quick tutorial on tuning the ZM-2, read this previous post.

I figured the easiest way to answer Gordon’s question was to give it a go!

The AX1 does require a counterpoise, so before hitting the field, I did check to make sure there was continuity between the shield of the ZM-2’s BNC connector and the black binding post when the ZM-2 was switched to “GND” for coax antennas. Fortunately, there was! I loved this idea because it meant that no matter the radio, I knew I’d have an easy connection to ground for the AX1 counterpoise.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

On Wednesday, February 21, 2024, I grabbed the ZM-2, AX1, and AXE 40M coil (since Gordon specifically asked about 40M) along with my Yaesu FT-818ND. It was time to see just how effectively the ZM-2 might match the AX1.

I store my AX1 in this Maxpedition pouch (see link in gear section below).

Upon arrival, I began setting up the station.

Even though it was approaching 2:00 PM locally, I wanted to see if the ZM-2 would match the AX1 (with AXE coil) on 40 meters first. I didn’t expect a lot of activity on that band so early in the afternoon, but I figured I could hopefully work a couple of stations.

I attached the AX1 directly to the ZM-2 antenna port and deployed the whip and 40M counterpoise.

It was a bit gusty, and I quickly realized that the AX1 might topple over in the wind. To secure the antenna, I used the handle of my GR1 backpack. It was a semi-effective arrangement (actually, the handle sort of pulled the antenna toward the pack, which wasn’t ideal either–I eventually removed it).

In calm conditions, I wouldn’t worry about the antenna toppling over; the ZM-2 provides enough of a base that it’s stable. In the wind, though, you’ll definitely need to secure the ZM-2/AX1 combo to keep it from being blown over.

My plan was to start on 40 meters, then also hit 30, 20, and 17 meters. This would give me an opportunity to see if the ZM-2 could match the AX1 on multiple bands.

Side note: I can’t remember if I mentioned this in a previous field report, but one sad bit of news for me is that there’s a new source of QRM at the Folk Art Center. It’s likely coming from the VA medical complex next door, but it raised the noise floor to at least S5 on most bands. This will make it more difficult for me to work weak signals from this particular POTA site.

Then again? My buddy Alan (W2AEW) recently pointed out to me that compromised antennas like the AX1 don’t feel the effects of local QRM as a higher-gain antenna would. I’d been thinking the same thing.

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 hopped on the air and started calling CQ POTA on the 40-meter band. I worked one station quickly (thanks, W5GDW) and then silence. I didn’t expect 40 meters to be active this time of day, but I didn’t think it would be completely dead either.

I checked the POTA spots page and discovered that the connection to the Reverse Beacon Network was down. Even though I scheduled the activation, the system hadn’t spotted me.

Once spotted, I worked three more stations in quick succession.

I didn’t hang around on 40 meters. Continue reading Let’s Give it a Go: Pairing the Elecraft AX1 and Emtech ZM-2 Manual ATU

Elecraft KH1 Tabletop Mode: The new KHRA1 Right-Angle Adapter makes for a super-portable POTA machine!

It’s funny how sometimes one small accessory can have a huge impact on a field radio kit.

When I first learned about the Elecraft KH1 (basically, the day I was invited to join the volunteer testing group), I felt like Elecraft had designed my ideal QRP radio. The KH1 is super compact, weighs 13 oz completely loaded, covers my favorite bands, and has features I would expect in much pricier radios. It reminded me of my beloved KX1, but even more portable with more features.

The KH1 caters to handheld or pedestrian mobile operating–at least, that was the overarching design objective. It accomplishes this amazingly well. It’s so easy to operate handheld, and there’s nothing else quite like it on the market. I suspect that when others copy the design (I’m sure they’re already doing so–!) it won’t be as versatile, functional, and lightweight.

At the end of the day, though, I feel like I’m only using the KH1 pedestrian mobile about 30% of the time I have it on the air. Of that 30%, I’d say that only 10% of the time I’m pedestrian mobile while activating, and 20% of the time I’m doing little impromptu radio sessions in parking lots, ballparks, while visiting family, and even on my own mountain property.

While handheld operating is simply a game-changer, I knew I wouldn’t do this 100% of the time with the KH1. It’s for this reason that my very first bit of proper KH1 feedback to Elecraft, well before I had my hands on a prototype, was that a right-angle adapter for the whip antenna would truly round out the KH1’s field prowess.

This would basically give my KH1 the same functionality of my beloved KX2 and AX1 antenna combo, but in an even more portable package.

Turned out, Elecraft already had a right-angle adapter on the design board!

Fast-forward to present day…

Last week, Elecraft sent me a prototype of the right-angle adapter to test and evaluate. They’ve given it the model number KHRA1.

Full disclosure: Elecraft also gave me permission to post a video and article about this new accessory even though (at time of publishing) it’s not even showing up on their website. I will, however, link to it here as soon as Elecraft makes it available. This is an item I would otherwise have tested in private–thanks, Elecraft!

The KHRA1: Small accessory, big impact!

Illustration Source: Elecraft KHRA1 Instruction Manual

The KHRA1 is a simple adapter. Other than metal attachment hardware, most of it is lightweight and 3D-printed from a durable material (I assume the same material they use in the KH1).

Attaching it to the KH1 is very easy.

First, you unthread the large metal thumb nut from the KHRA1. You will need to hold together the remaining KHRA1 components (legs and attachment bracket) so that they don’t come apart before you attach them to the KH1. This is actually pretty easy to do, but users should know to follow the KHRA1 instruction sheet. If these parts fall apart in the field, it might require a bit of searching the ground for the pieces.

You simply thread the large thumb nut onto the KH1’s whip antenna antenna port, then thread the rest of the KHRA1 bracket/legs onto the large thumb nut.

Check out Elecraft’s illustration:

I then position the KHRA1 legs as shown above, then tighten the KHRA1 adapter so that everything is secure.

It’s super simple to do, and you can see this process in my activation video below.

Speaking of an activation…

On Saturday, March 2, 2024, (yes, only two days ago) I had my first small window of opportunity to squeeze in a POTA activation and test the KHRA1.

That day, my daughters and I had a number of errands to run, then a three-hour round-trip drive to pick up my wife. We were on a very tight schedule, but I had a 30-ish minute window of opportunity to fit in some POTA radio therapy.

I set my sights on the easiest-for-me-to-hit POTA site on the Blue Ridge Parkway: the Folk Art Center.

Amazingly, I discovered that morning, that the KHRA1 fits in my Pelican M40 Micro case along with my KH1, whip, counterpoise, key, spare N6ARA key, and earphones.

With the KHRA1, this means my M40 field kit can do both pedestrian mobile and tabletop operating. Woo hoo!

The weather that morning was simply glorious. A very wet front swept through the previous day leaving behind clear skies and warm temps. Frankly, it was a bit odd activating without wearing a jacket or hoodie.

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

Setting up was quick and easy, even though this was my first time using the KHRA1 in the field.

I hopped on the air and started calling CQ. Once spotted (for some reason the RBN auto-spotting feature wasn’t working again), the contacts started flowing in.

I worked a total of 18 contacts in 16 minutes. It hardly gets better than that for a CW activation!

I had to call QRT after my 18th contact. Even though I had a 30-minute window to POTA, nearly 14 minutes of that was taken up with my intro and summary for the activation video.

I called QRT with a small pileup still in place. I really hate doing that, but I had a schedule to keep!

QSO Map

Here’s what this five-watt activation with a 4′ telescoping whip antenna 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.

A super-portable, low-impact POTA machine!

The KH1 works amazingly well as a tabletop radio when combined with the KHRA1 adapter.

At the end of the day, the KHRA1 is a very simple piece of hardware, but it effectively transforms the KH1 from a handheld radio to a tabletop.

Of course, I’ve used the KH1 numerous times with wire antennas in a tabletop configuration (I’m a massive fan of wire antennas) but the ability to use the 4′ whip antenna and internal KH1 loading coils means that I can operate anywhere I have a surface.

As I mentioned in a previous post, in some cases, low-impact, and low-profile are key to positive park relations.

Herein lies the thing I love about my KX2/AX1 pairing as well. It’s just with the KHRA1, the KH1 makes for an even smaller, lighter-weight field kit.

Any negatives? The only one I’ve come up with is that the KH1 is so lightweight that I realize I need to carry a small piece of shelf liner (something like this) to provide the KH1 with a bit more grip on a slick park table, especially those composite ones.

Again, I will update this post when Elecraft announces KHRA1 pricing and availability.

Thank you

I still can’t believe the entire kit fits in this small case. Even when I put the KHRA1 thumb screw on backwards!

Thank you for joining me on this quick little tabletop 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!

Have an amazing week ahead and play some radio!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

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:

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

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!

Exploring the Mountains-to-Sea Trail: QRP POTA with Hazel and a New KX1 Kneeboard!

On Friday, January 5, 2024, I looked at Hazel and could tell that, despite the chilly temps, she wanted to go on a late afternoon hike. I did, too, for that matter and why not combine the hike with a POTA activation?

In addition, we were expecting a winter storm to move in that night, so hitting the trail in advance of the snow and ice seemed to make sense.

Before I could get my boots on, Hazel was waiting by the car door to jump in.

Mountains-to-Sea State Trail (K-8313)

One of the closest long trails near my QTH is the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST).

At 1175 miles long, the MST stretches from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Great Smoky Mountains (see map above).

I can actually hike to the MST from my QTH, but it takes a good hour and half to do so. It’s much easier to drive to one of the numerous nearby trailheads, and that’s exactly what Hazel and I did. I drove to one of my favorite Blue Ridge Parkway POTA spots where a short manway connects to the MST.

Hazel was so excited to hit the trail. (I was, too.)

At the end of the day (because, it was nearing the end of the day) we couldn’t hike for long if I planned to also complete a POTA activation. Sunset was at 5:29 PM local and I didn’t want to pack up and hike back in the dark.

That said, if I needed to hike back in the dark, I could have because I never go on a POTA or SOTA activation without a fully-charged headlamp. FYI: I was packing a NiteCore NU25 (affiliate link).

I started my action camera and captured the last bit of hike before Hazel and I found a great spot to set up. There were enough trees around to deploy a 40 meter EFHW and a relatively flat spot to set up my Helinox chair and KX1 station.

Since much of this section of the MST is on the Blue Ridge Parkway grounds, I checked quickly to make sure my operating site would qualify as a two-fer with K-3378.

I opened the Parceled App on my iPhone to confirm that my site was indeed on Blue Ridge Parkway property..

A KX1 Kneeboard!

If I’m being perfectly honest, I had an ulterior motive with this trailside activation: I was eager to finally put my new KX1 kneeboard into use! Continue reading Exploring the Mountains-to-Sea Trail: QRP POTA with Hazel and a New KX1 Kneeboard!

POTA Postcard Field Report: Finally Snagging a Kilo on the Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

It’s funny: I’ve met POTA activators who’ve been hitting the field for only a couple of months and have already obtained a “Kilo” award for confirming one thousand QSOs from the same Parks on the Air entity. Most of my active POTA friends have multiple Kilos.

Me? Until December 29, 2023, I had never obtained a Kilo at any POTA site!

Something you should know about me: I don’t check my POTA stats or awards frequently…as in maybe once or twice a year–?  I’m the same with my YouTube stats and even website stats. I’m just not a terribly numbers-motivated person.

That said, I fully recognize that numbers give us a snapshot of how and where we activate. Only recently, I checked my awards page to see if I’d ever snagged a Kilo and was surprised to find that no, I had not.

I say “I was surprised” but truth is, my activations tend to be really short. I think my average number of logged hunters per activation is probably 20-25.

I checked the POTA website and I had 48 activations in the books for the Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378). My total number of contacts confirmed was 994.

Yeah, I was six contacts short of a Kilo. What!?! This needed to be remedied!

So technically…

The KX2 was my NPOTA companion (pictured here at the Carl Sandburg home during NPOTA).

In truth, I probably could have achieved a Kilo much earlier because POTA allows you to submit logs from 2016’s ARRL National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event. During NPOTA, I activated the Blue Ridge Parkway (guessing here) about 50 times; it was my most accessible NPOTA park and I hit it several times a week. However, I have not submitted my NPOTA logs to POTA, so my POTA numbers do not reflect my NPOTA activities.

Postcard field report

I’m still catching up after a challenging first few weeks of 2024. In fact, since I made that post, so much more has happened. January 2024 has been a tough month.

I’m nearly a month behind on email, so if you’ve written to me with questions, you likely haven’t received a reply. I’ve simply needed a break during this time.

Speaking of busy, I have a pretty hectic day in store, but I’m eager to post one of my field reports (I enjoy this) so we’re going to do it “postcard” style. I’ll let my activation video and logs tell the story of this brilliant little activation on December 29, 2023.

Spoiler alert: I got my Kilo!

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:

Logs

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.

Check it out!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Also, thank you for your patience while I’ve been offline and spending time with my sweet family. 

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! Have an amazing week ahead!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Elecraft KH1: A Quickie Pedestrian Mobile POTA Activation!

Thursday, November 9, 2023 was a typical “dad taxi” day for me.

By the time I got around to doing a POTA activation that afternoon (which was always on the docket) it was within 30 minutes of when I needed to pick up my daughters.

Fortunately, the Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Center was en route to town.

I had planned that day to pair up my Elecraft KH1 with a random wire antenna, but looking at the time, I realized that was being a little ambitious–the few minutes to deploy and pack up the antenna would cut into the activation.

Instead (since I had just received my KH1 logging tray/cover) I decided to put it to the test with a real pedestrian mobile activation using the KH1, its  whip antenna, the logging sheets I printed/cut, and the teeny space pen included with the logging tray. In theory, this all looked doable, but in practice I didn’t know if I would actually be able to log on a tray attached to the side of my radio!

I had planned to use my Zoom H1n recorder for the KH1 audio since I would be making an activation video (see below), but frankly, I simply didn’t have time to set it up. I had to make do with the KH1 wee speaker.

Speaking of the speaker…

After playing with the speaker for a few weeks now, I’ve found that it sounds much better when I run the KH1 with a wide CW filter.

I’d always assumed being a low-fidelity 1″ speaker that narrow audio would be best, but I was wrong about that. In the field, I tinker with the filter and attenuation settings for the best audio balance.

Still, it’s not perfect (the speaker is really a “bonus” feature) but it’s much improved over my initial POTA activation.

Of course, I would have been using earphones had I not been recording the activation on camera. Via earphones, the KH1 audio is excellent!

Gear:

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On The Air

I hopped on the air, started calling CQ POTA, and the stations started rolling in. Continue reading Elecraft KH1: A Quickie Pedestrian Mobile POTA Activation!

My First POTA Activation with the New Elecraft KH1 Handheld QRP Transceiver!

Yesterday, I posted some initial notes about the Elecraft KH1 and mentioned that I hoped to perform a POTA activation later in the day.

I’m pleased to report that I was able to fit in that activation!

I’m pushing this report and video to the front of the line because so many readers are eager to see how the KH1 performs during a field activation. Instead of focusing on the park, in this field report we’ll be taking a closer look at the KH1 and my initial impressions after performing a pedestrian mobile POTA activation with it.

Packing the KH1

I had a very hectic schedule yesterday and was on the road in/around Asheville from 8:00AM to 2:00PM before an opportunity opened to fit in an activation.

After a quick trip back to the QTH for lunch, I packed the Elecraft KH1 field kit in my EDC pack (a travel laptop bag).

Herein lies my first impression of the KH1: even though I knew I had packed the entire kit, I felt like I must have been leaving something behind.

Sounds funny, but even though I pride myself on making fully self-contained field radio kits, I felt like there must have be something else I needed. The KH1 field kit just seemed too small, too lightweight, and too compact to have included everything I needed for an activation.

Intellectually, I knew that it included everything needed, but I still did a mental inventory:

  1. Radio? Check.
  2. Antenna? Check.
  3. ATU? Check.
  4. Paddles? Check.
  5. Battery? Check.
  6. Counterpoise? Check.
  7. Log book and pencil? Check.

Hard to believe, but it was all there.

Trust me: the first time you take your KH1 to the field, I bet you’ll feel the same way I did.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

Because I was so short on time, I decided to activate the Blue Ridge Parkway which is the most convenient POTA entity when I travel into Asheville from Swannanoa.

It was cold and blustery afternoon the afternoon of November 1, 2023. At my QTH, I checked the temperature and it was about 34F. I knew it would be a bit warmer in town which is a good 1,000 feet lower in elevation, but I still grabbed my gloves on the way out the door. Glad I did!

As I mention in the activation video below, I wasn’t exactly on my “A Game.” I had received a couple of vaccines the previous day and my body was a bit achy as if I was starting to get the flu. But, of course, I wasn’t. Still… I didn’t feel 100%.

I arrived on site and set up couldn’t have been easier:

  1. Open the KH1 pack
  2. Remove the KH1
  3. Attach the counterpoise and string out on ground
  4. Remove whip from clips and attach to top of KH1
  5. Extend whip
  6. Turn on radio
  7. Find a clear frequency
  8. Hit the ATU button for a 1:1 match!

We’re talking a 30 second process even for someone who moves slowly.

Important notes about my KH1

Keep in mind the following notes that are relevant at time of posting this field report (November 2, 2023):

  • I am waiting on a firmware update to add:
    • CW Message Memories
    • CW Decoding
    • Internal Logging
  • I purchased the full “Edgewood” package but I don’t yet have my logging tray/cover yet. Elecraft plans to ship this within the next few days.
  • My KH1 is a very early serial number because I’m in the volunteer testing group.

The KH1 Speaker

The KH1 internal speaker is located on the bottom of the radio between the AF Gain and Encoder knobs.

I consider the Elecraft KH1 speaker to be a “bonus” feature. The speaker is small (1.1 x 0.65”) and limited in fidelity.

I had planned to connect my Zoom digital recorder to the KH1 and record audio directly from the headphone port during this activation. Continue reading My First POTA Activation with the New Elecraft KH1 Handheld QRP Transceiver!

Amazing POTA Fun: Pairing the Elecraft KX1 and AX1…but first, a little lunch!

I was speaking with my buddy Joshua (N5FY) in mid September. He’d recently acquired an Elecraft KX1 and the topic came up about pairing the KX1 with the AX1 antenna. I realized that in all of my experimenting with the AX1, I’d never paired those two. What!?!

Time to fix that!

On Thursday, September 28, 2023, I had a nice midday window to play radio. After dropping my daughters off at their classes, I stopped by the French Broad Food Co-op and grabbed a container of their chicken noodle soup from the refrigerator section.

I then made my way up the Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378) to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area at Bearpin Gap–one of my favorite spots on the BRP.

Despite stunning weather and the beginnings of fall foliage, the parking lot was pretty empty. After all, it was a Thursday and a good week or two before leaf-lookers descend upon western North Carolina.

I pretty much had the picnic area to myself (there was one other person there). I picked a picnic table at the top of the hill under the trees.

Mahlzeit!

When my wife and I lived and worked in Munich, the salutation I learned before any other was “Mahlzeit!” At Siemens, I remember walking through the hallways and people I’d never met before exclaimed “Mahlzeit!” as I passed by.

I quickly learned that Mahlzeit essentially meant “Lunch Time!” and I still say it today to my family when I’m about to make or grab some lunch. Funny how these things stick with you.

Now where was I–? Oh yes…

First thing I did at Craggy was set up my stove to start heating the soup. I show this in my activation video below.

If interested, here are the components of my stove kit:

Quick continuity check!

Next, it dawned on me that I would need to attach the AX1 counterpoise to the KX1. I didn’t bring one of my copper clamps to attach to the outside of the AX1’s BNC connector, so I needed to find another grounding point on the KX1.

I then remembered that the KX1 has two thumb screws on the bottom of the radio. Knowing Elecraft, I assumed that these screws could be used as an attachment point for a counterpoise, but I wanted to confirm that the screw itself had a direct connection to ground.

Fortunately, I keep a small multimeter in my supplemental gear bag in my car. It’s an inexpensive Allosun Pocket Multimeter. I use it for things like this: testing.

I set the multimeter to read continuity and then placed one probe on the outside of the KX1’s female BNC and the other on one of the thumb screws. Sure enough, there was a direct connection to ground. I didn’t need to worry about the KX1 chassis paint insulating the connection to ground because the thumb screw had a direct connection. Perfect! Continue reading Amazing POTA Fun: Pairing the Elecraft KX1 and AX1…but first, a little lunch!