Tag Archives: Daisy

Filling in the Gap at Skidaway Island

The Sunday of President’s Day weekend, I was supposed to camp overnight at Reed Bingham State Park and pursue two more activations for my 2024 goal of 60 new-to-me parks. However,  the Wednesday evening prior, I sustained an injury to my right hand which happens to be my sending hand. The injury was serious enough that I rescheduled that trip for June and, for my bi-weekly QSO with my code buddy Caryn KD2GUT, I sent on the paddle with my left-hand which turned out better than I expected.

Since I did not go out of town as planned, my son Sean attended his bi-monthly Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) meeting Sunday afternoon. Another code buddy, Gary K4IIG, suggested that while I waited for Sean, I should consider activating. The weather was unpleasantly chilly and overcast so I opted against an activation but did want to try out my new antenna, the Chelegance MC-750. I knew I needed another vertical for my POTA kit and it came highly recommended by several other hams.

Not welcoming weather!

After dropping off Sean, I headed to Skidaway Island, a 30-minute drive. Seven hundred acres of the north end of the island belong to the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, part of the University of Georgia. The site is for salt marsh research and houses the administrative offices for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The land is open to the public for daytime hiking and wildlife viewing. In fact, Daisy and I have walked there on several occasions. The habitat is typical coastal maritime forest with live oaks, Spanish moss, and palmettos along with some more open areas populated by pine trees.

Daisy and I chose the open field outside the institute at which to park and set up the new antenna. We were not the only ones using the field that afternoon despite the weather. While there, several other dog owners showed up to let their pups run and play in the field.

I read the simple three-page instructional PDF from Chelegance’s website and thought I had a good idea of how to set up the MC-750. However, I had not read any instructions about using it with the tripod accessory. I knew the bottom spike needed to be removed but couldn’t get it out with my bare hands. This is why I carry a Wave+ Leatherman [QRPer affiliate link] with me! I rarely use it but when I need it, I REALLY need it. Soon the spike was off and I was ready to set up the antenna.

True to what I heard, the Chelegance vertical is easy to set up. You screw together a few sections, plug in the four radials at the bottom, select your band and extend the whip to the location marked on it, then screw the whip on. Viola! Yes, it was that easy!

Usually my son’s D&D sessions last 3.5-4 hours so I figured I would log onto the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) sked page and see if I could scare up some QSOs as I work toward the rank of Senator. Yes, even POTA Babes do non-POTA things. For me, my non-POTA CW activities are code buddy and SKCC-related QSOs.

SKCC is a wonderful organization of more than 28,000 ops from all over the world. To pursue their awards and ranks, one has to use a mechanical (straight, cootie, or bug) key though anyone can participate in their sprints or other events to join in the fun (just send “none” for the SKCC number if using a paddle). It is because of them that I learned to use a straight key and cootie (my favorite key) and am now learning to use a bug.

I decided to start with 20 meters and moved the whip to the 14 MHz mark.  Then I remembered my code buddy Caryn KD2GUT mentioning something about a contest going on this weekend. I set up my laptop and checked the Reverse Beacon Network online graph by HA8TKS. WHOA! That band was chock full of signals. As I was using my KX2 and was therefore QRP,  I knew there was no point calling CQ on that band.

Source: https://dxcluster.ha8tks.hu/V2/rbn_ct1boh/

What about 17 meters? Checking that band yielded much better results. Now to log into the SKCC sked page.

Source: https://dxcluster.ha8tks.hu/V2/rbn_ct1boh/

The SKCC sked page is a wonderful resource. You can private message ops for a QSO or just to say hi! If calling CQ, you can post your frequency and on what you are working. I claimed 18.088 and noted I was working toward Senator, using QRP and slower ops were welcome. (I like to slow down for newer ops or those who are in an ambling frame of mind as many other ops slowed down for me when I entered the hobby.)

I spent about 10 minutes calling CQ and queried on the general section of the sked page if anyone was hearing me as I had a new antenna. That is when Jim N0IPA from Colorado answered my call. Jim, like me, is learning to use the bug. I suspect he is working on the Triple Key Award, too. To achieve this award, an op has to have 100 unique SKCC-member QSOs each with a straight key, cootie, and bug. I happened to be Jim’s first bug QSO! The standard SKCC exchange is RST, QTH, name, and SKCC number and it wasn’t long before we had each other in our log.

About ten minutes later, Jacob N3VH answered my call. He is located in New Jersey and said by the end of our QSO, my RST was a 559. Both Jacob’s and Jim’s QSOs counted toward my Senator progress putting me at 48 out 200 QSOs left to earn my toga!

Unfortunately, my son’s D&D session ended earlier than expected which meant it was time for this POTA Babe to call QRT.  The short time was well worth it as I now felt more comfortable with the new antenna and was 2 QSOs closer to earning the rank of Senator with SKCC. Plus, I got on the air with QRP for a non-POTA exchange which is unusual for me. I also have a place I can visit (if the weather cooperates) two weeks from now for more non-POTA QRP work. The fun with ham radio never stops, does it?!

And for those of you wondering how my progress with my 2024 POTA goal is coming along, you’ll find out soon when I attempt to activate park #17 on that journey. Stay tuned…

The Georgia Wildlife Management Areas Continue to Deliver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The perfect pine tree!

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

A Hasty Activation in Georgia

by Teri (KO4WFP)

As many of you know, my personal life has been tumultuous these past five months. I thought maybe it would settle down after the first of this year but no such luck. My son and I moved into a townhouse the third week of January. While I appreciate my parents upending their lives to accommodate the two of us during my divorce, there were too many people in too small of a house with too much stuff. Also, my son needed a room of his own which he didn’t have at their place.

Moves are never convenient and this one was no exception. I needed to be packing the Sunday prior to my early Monday morning move. However, I had already committed to and scheduled an activation at Oliver Bridge Wildlife Management Area (K-3764). The weekend of January 20th and 21st was the winter Support Your Parks weekend and, as a POTA Babe, there was no way I would miss the event!

Support Your Parks information on POTA website

Thankfully, Oliver Bridge Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is only 40 minutes from my parents’ home. That meant another pleasant drive in rural Georgia on GA Route 17 through the communities of Guyton, Egypt, and Oliver.

Google Maps

This WMA consists of 1,560 acres and offers hunting for deer, small game, and turkey. Checking the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Hunting Regulations guide, the only item in season this particular weekend was small game. I would make sure to take the blaze orange vests for both Daisy and me again.

The WMA is bounded on one side by the Ogeechee River, one of the few free-flowing streams in Georgia. This blackwater river runs southeast 294 miles to empty into the Atlantic Ocean at Ossabaw Sound near Savannah. It played an important part for trade and commerce as well as was a source of freshwater and food for communities along its banks. In present day, kayaking and canoeing are popular pastimes on the river as well as fishing.

https://gisgeography.com/georgia-lakes-rivers-map/

Daisy and I arrived at the WMA a little before 11 AM. We took River Road in the park to find a place for the activation. The road was in rough condition in some spots and was another one I’d not want to drive immediately after a heavy rain. I was thankful, once again, for my four-wheel drive Subaru Crosstrek nicknamed Kai. (My family has a funny habit of naming all our cars.)

On the map, there appeared to be a clearing about two-thirds of the way down the road. Tall, skinny pine trees lined either side of the road, not great for getting an arborist line into them. Thankfully, the canopy opened up for a small clearing as I surmised from the map and it was here I decided to set up.

Because of the opening, the pine trees near the side of the road had some lower, reachable branches on them. After a few tries, I snagged the branch I wanted and began hoisting the Tufteln EFRW antenna with the arborist line.

In past activations, I would usually get the antenna up however I could. But, at this point in my POTA journey, I am beginning to think how I want the antenna oriented with propagation in mind. I wanted it to run at a diagonal – northwest to southeast. To do that, I’d have to get it across a wide ditch that was partially frozen due to the cold temps. However, if I just tossed the line across, it was light enough it would likely end up in the ditch where I couldn’t easily retrieve it. Continue reading A Hasty Activation in Georgia

Braving the Polar Vortex at Yuchi WMA

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It has been two and half weeks since the final activation of my winter-break Florida POTA trip. Despite a polar vortex dumping frigid weather into Georgia, I was determined to activate and continue working on my 60 new-to-me park activations goal for 2024.

Google Maps

About an hour and a half from my home QTH is Yuchi Wildlife Management Area (K-3778). The property is managed by the Georgia Department of Wildlife Resources and located next to the Savannah River, the border between the states of Georgia and South Carolina. The site consists mostly of pine uplands and hardwoods with some acreage of openings for wildlife. One can hunt for deer, turkey, small game, and doves as well as utilize the public shooting range located on the property.

Given the time of year, I pulled out my copy of the GA Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Hunting Regulations booklet to see what might be in season right now. Looking at the specific regulations for Yuchi Wildlife Management Area (WMA), only dove season might be an issue while I activated the park. Just to make sure, I contacted the appropriate DNR office and spoke with a helpful employee. He assured me I was not likely run into anyone hunting on a weekday for doves or small game. Of course, Daisy and I would wear blaze orange just to be careful when outside the car.

My time for an activation was tight given my previous commitment as a K3Y/4 operator for the Straight Key Century Club the same afternoon. However, if I got an early enough start, I could make it work.

Daisy and I left the house around 7:30 AM with a quick stop at Lowe’s. I really didn’t want to sit outside in the chilly temperatures; it was 26 degrees according to the weather app. The stop at Lowe’s was to take advantage of an idea generated by a comment from John KK4ITX, an idea I hoped would keep me warm in the car during my activation.

The drive to Yuchi WMA was pleasant. I enjoy driving in rural Georgia. This particular drive went through the towns of Oliver, in which I found another diminutive and cute U.S. Post Office, and Sylvania. Sylvania had that typical small-town feel. I snapped pics of the two murals I saw, something I look for and often find in these communities.

Daisy and I finally arrived at the WMA about one and a half hours after departing Bloomingdale. Before we reached the site, its neighbor, Plant Vogtle, revealed itself.

The plant is a four-unit nuclear power plant managed primarily by Georgia Power. The first two units went online in the late 1980s. Units three and four were the first nuclear units in the United States approved since 2016. Unit Three is operational and Unit Four is supposed to be up and running this year. When all four units are operational, Plant Vogtle will be the largest nuclear power plant in the United States.

Daisy and I found one of the open dirt roads on the property and begin our search for a suitable QTH. Thankfully my Subaru Crosstrek has four-wheel drive as there were soft spots on the road. I wouldn’t want to drive here after a heavy rain.

We drove past plantings of pine as well as areas of hardwoods. After rounding a corner and driving up a slight incline, a wider opening in the canopy appeared. On one side next to a planted pine field, there were several taller deciduous trees now devoid of foliage. It looked to me like a perfect QTH for today’s activation with abundant sunshine. Continue reading Braving the Polar Vortex at Yuchi WMA

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

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

An Awesome Day for Parks On The Air

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It is Wednesday, December 27th, the fourth day of my winter-break Florida POTA trip. The night before, we left the rainfly off the tent and were treated to a gorgeous view of the waxing gibbous moon. My brother Joseph was delighted and, while I worked on my article for that day, he lay back on his new Thermarest sleeping pad and took in the night sky.

Full moon through tent top: Collier-Seminole Photo by Joseph Leffek

I opted to sleep in until 8 AM enjoying the cooler morning air. Then it was time to get a shower and rid myself of four days of grunge. Breakfast was a leisurely affair. The mosquitos were less prevalent so I let Daisy relax on the tarp next to us and watch the comings and goings of our neighbors. But by 11 AM, I was getting antsy – time to head out and attempt two activations.

Google Maps

We drove east on the Tamiami Trail/US Highway 41 heading toward Big Cypress National Preserve (K-0659). The road is straight with guardrails on both sides as there is either wetlands or a canal on either side of it.  Occasionally there is a break in the foliage and the mangroves come into view.

Bird life is abundant in the area. We saw egrets, wood storks, cormorants, anhingas, and, my favorite bird, kingfishers. At my previous QTH in Savannah, I heard kingfishers at times but rarely saw them. On this drive, I saw eight or nine perched on the utility wires beside the road and gleefully noted each one.

We stopped at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center to pick up a map and figure out a place for my activation.

Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center

I chose the H.P. Williams Roadside Park as it was the closest place to the visitor center and had the opportunity for wildlife viewing. The parking lot was crowded and it was easy to see why. The site has a boardwalk from which one can view alligators and a nice picnic area in which several families ate lunch.

I found a tree away from the crowd and set-up the Tufteln EFRW. In the process of doing so, a little girl came up and peppered me with questions. Then her father and sister joined us. As soon as I was set up, I let them hear my callsign as well as the two girls’ names in Morse Code. It was nice to share my love of the hobby as well as Daisy, on whom they lavished some attention. What I think was a yellow-rumped warbler also paid Daisy and I a visit during the activation. Continue reading An Awesome Day for Parks On The Air

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

Expect the Unexpected with POTA

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It was Monday, December 25th, the second day of my POTA winter-break trip in Florida. I chose Florida for this trip to avoid bone-chilling temperatures. What I didn’t and couldn’t avoid, though, was rain. The weather forecast before I left Bloomingdale, Georgia promised rain off and on during the first part of the trip.

Google Maps

I had two park activations planned for Monday, December 25th – Dade Battlefield Park (K-3615) in the morning and Little Manatee River State Park (K-1898) in the afternoon. After breaking camp at Paynes Prairie State Park and getting on the road early, a steady rain began as I drove southward toward my first activation. Well, phooey. I scrapped the Dade activation and headed instead for Little Manatee River State Park, the location of our next campsite.

Little Manatee River State Park is named for the Little Manatee River which flows 40 miles from a swampy area near Fort Lonesome snaking through the landscape before emptying into Tampa Bay. It is one of the few Florida rivers that were never significantly dredged or altered therefore it is one of the most pristine blackwater rivers in Southwest Florida. Park visitors can fish along or paddle in the river. There are also hiking and horseback trails in the park.

We arrived early at the park and, as it rained off and on, killed time in the car (much to Daisy’s dismay) until our campsite was available. The weather forecast had promised rain all day; but by 1:30 PM the worst of the rain appeared behind us.

We are stuck in the car!

My brother wanted to hike in the park and I figured why not work in an unexpected activation to make up for the one I planned but scrapped earlier in the day. The closest park not requiring an entrance fee was Moody Branch Wildlife and Environmental Area (K-6317). Daisy and I loaded up and off we went.

The 960-acres of Moody Branch was formerly used for grazing cattle and farming. It was purchased as a gopher tortoise mitigation park when developers needed an off-site alternative to on-site protection of rare species being negatively impacted by development. The site features hiking and horseback trails for the public and is managed with gopher tortoises and the Florida scrub jay in mind.

The drive was a pleasant one. We passed fields and fields of strawberries as well as plant nurseries. By the time we arrived at Moody Branch, the sun played peek-a-boo from behind the clouds and the wind vigorously whipped across the open fields and pastures across from the preserve.

Next to the parking lot was a small covered pavilion with a picnic table, but that was exposed to the wind. Walking past it and around a large oak tree presented a sheltered area. I snagged a branch, set up the EFRW antenna, and put my Helinox chair near the feed-end with Daisy lying down nearby. By this time, the sun was out and removing my hoodie and donning my goofy hat for the sun was a necessity. Continue reading Expect the Unexpected with POTA