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

Abroad in Japan: SOTA and POTA

by Ara (N6ARA)

Getting the License

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Band Plan

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

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

Planning the Activations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Packing

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

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

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

Packing List:

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Welcome to Japan

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

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

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

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

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

POTA Activation and Logging

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

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

Matt’s Weekend POTA Roundup!

Many thanks to Matt (W6CSN) who shares the following post from his blog at W6CSN.Blog:


Weekend POTA Roundup

by Matt (W6CSN)

It’s been a stormy past several days here in Northern California, but if anything, the weather only amplifies my motivation to go outside and get on the air.

Rather than do a separate writeup for each, this post is a roundup of my last four POTA activations, from Friday, February 2nd through Sunday, the 4th.

A faint rainbow splashes down in front of Angel Island

Thursday and Friday had been wet, with one storm in a series moving across the Bay Area. However, by Friday evening the cold front had passed and there was a break in the rain. This was a perfect opportunity to try an after work activation at the Presidio of SF (K-7889).

I hadn’t used the QCX-Mini in a while, and this activation reminded me why. I believe what is happening is that being so close to the antenna, RF interference causes clicking while keying, nearly to the point of distraction. I need to experiment with RF chokes on the key and audio lines to see if that improves the situation.

Fed up with the RFI on the QCX-Mini, I switched over to the MTR-4B which doesn’t seem to suffer the same issue. I wrapped up the activation after netting 21 QSOs in the cold west wind.

All QSO maps in this post are from http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

The next bout of rain wasn’t due to arrive until later Saturday afternoon. This was a change in the forecast that subsequently altered my plan to stay in Saturday soldering on my QMX Hi-Bander project.

Initially I went to Fort Point (K-0819) in the hopes of changing it up from my usual activation park but there were just too many people there. So seeking relief from crowds, I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and went up on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais.

I parked at Trojan Point at an elevation of approximately 1800 feet. See this post for more views from this location. The temperature was in the mid-40s, which is cold for us coastal Californians. Besides, the winds were picking up ahead of the next storm so I operated from the comfort of my vehicle using the Gabil 7350T base loaded vertical antenna on 15m and 20m.

This activation used the FT-818 and yielded 23 contacts, including JH1MXV from northwest of Tokyo, Japan coming in fairly strong on 21 MHz.

Driving back to San Francisco takes me right through the Presidio of SF (K-7889) and noticing that it was after 00:00 UTC, I made the last second decision to divert to East Beach to see if I could work in another activation before the anticipated rain.

At my usual spot for activating this park, it took only moments to raise the MFJ-1979 20m quarter wave and do a quick deployment of the MTR-4B on the trunk of the car. The wind was picking up, but not nearly as strong as it was up on the mountain.

After seven QSOs, the skies began spitting raindrops, this was going to be close! I closed the cover of the Maxpedition pouch to protect the radio and battery while the Bencher paddles could tolerate a little bit of moisture.

I was happy to have a Rite-In-The-Rain notepad for logging [Amazon affiliate link], because now I was certainly writing in the rain! Three more contacts and the activation was concluded with a hunt of Jim, WB0RLJ, in K-4011. Continue reading Matt’s Weekend POTA Roundup!

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

W7UDT: “Velcro, ergo; ergonomics…”

Many thanks to Rand (W7UDT) who shares the following guest post:


Velcro, ergo; ergonomics…

by Rand (W7UDT)

Velcro is amazing. It’s so handy. There are so many uses, and creative solutions it provides us. It’ll stick this to that, and that to this. As field operators, it should be part of our kits.

Below are some examples of how I’ve used Velcro.

Question: How do you keep a Android tablet, a 3aH 12v DC pack, a QRP Labs QDX LoBander, all its cords & patches, plus an EmTech ZM2 tuner all nice and tidy? Velcro!

Here’s the old QDX kit…

Here’s the new (velcro’d) QDX kit, complete with EmTech ZM2 tuner, neatly attached on the back of the Tablet, with the QDX and DC Pack. It all fits in a zippered pouch, along with the EFλ/2 antenna, perfect for the QDX.

The new QDX kit even sits at a nice viewing angle, with all of the cords hidden from view. Ergo, ergonomics.

Question: Where & how do you safely place your transceiver on a rugged SOTA/POTA activation, so it won’t get damaged?

How? Velcro! What makes more sense? A precarious rock, or the Molle patch on your pack?

This is my QCX Mini ~ Forty, Velcro’d with two horizontally applied 1” strips, with short cords channeled between them. It secures the perfectly mated 3aH 12v TalentCell battery, to which I applied another velcro strip to hold fast the Palm Pico paddle. Also note the ‘D-shaped’ earpiece/speaker, on the BNC jack. It’s hung and velcro’d just above the paddle.

Since this photo, I’ve added three 2×4” (cut to fit) patches to the front, back and bottom of the QCX Mini & TalentCell, which neatly bundles this little QRP contraption and transforms it into a QRP wonder! Now it all fits in my hand, or attaches firmly to my pack. Dit dit dit daw! Velcro!

A view from Zion NP, in the backcountry… late last Spring. Where my little transceiver tried to commit suicide.

Just sayin’… Velcro may be just the answer you’re looking for.

72 de W7UDT ID (dit dit)

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

Scott’s Self-Supporting Random Wire Antenna System

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


K4SWL+ Antenna

by Scott (KK4Z)

On a recent post on QRPER.com, Teri KO4WFP was at a park in Florida that did not allow wires (or anything else) in their trees. Many POTA activators use End Fed Half Wave antennas which usually require one end in a tree. While it doesn’t happen at all parks, not being able to hoist your antenna could bust an activation.

I realized this may happen to me even though Georgia appears to be pretty lenient when it comes to such matters, I decided to switch to a park friendly antenna. I have been a fan of QRPER.com for quite some time and occasionally Thomas will repost something from my humble blog. That being said, it was K4SWL that got me started using a random wire antenna. My basis for my antenna was his speaker wire antenna which was a 28.5’ vertical antenna with a 17’ counterpoise. I used it a few times in that configuration and then started to modify it. I call this antenna my K4SWL+.

Some of the differences are I use a push-up pole to get the antenna in the air and at the base I use a 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 Choke to keep RF out of the radio. A random wire antenna can feed RF back into the coax.

The wire is 14 ga. coated flex weave from The Wireman. This was left over wire from some other antenna projects. When I started this project I was using 22-24 ga. coated wire from SOTABeams but realizing there was no need to save weight, used the heavier wire. This allows me to dual purpose the antenna both for FunComm and EmComm. The insulator at the top is 3D printed with my call-sign and the base is U-type lugs. I find these are the best as I do not have to take the nut off of the antenna studs and if pulled hard will come loose instead of damaging the UnUn. I connect the antenna to the top of the push-up pole with a small Nite-eze “S-biner” size 1.

The 9:1 UnUn comes from Palomar Engineering. I have already created a blog post about how to build it and it can be found here: https://kk4z.com/2022/05/28/91-unun-qro/

Part of this blog post was to bring the different components together into one blog post.

The 1:1 Choke can be found here: https://kk4z.com/2022/08/15/lightweight-choke-balun/

I made two different types but I found the second works much better.

The project is pretty easy, the only caveat is to pay attention to what wire goes where. Putting it all together, you need a push-up pole, a Flag holder and maybe a trailer hitch extender. I will provide links below. The Flag Pole holder I used was not available so the link I used is a probable substitute. I have a trailer hitch on both my truck and my camper, When I pull into a campsite I have a choice of which hitch to use to keep my antenna clear from the trees. With the antenna up, I wrap the antenna wire around the push-up pole from tip to base, to prevent the wire from sagging near the tip. I attach the UnUn and choke to the mast with Stretch Velcro Straps. With my antenna up I have park employees drive by me all day along. Most of the time we exchange a friendly wave and occasionally one will stop by for a chat. I have had zero issues with this antenna at any of the parks I have visited.

How does it play? It has pretty much been a main antenna for just about all of my POTA activations. You can go back through my blog post and see what equipment I used with the antenna and the accompanying QSOMap. You do need an antenna tuner with this antenna and I typically use an LDG Z-11 Pro which I’ve had for 15+ years. The antenna tunes up from 80 to 6 meters and I have run the power as high as 65 watts. I normally run 10-35 watts depending on band conditions. I have tried it on 160 meters and while I can get a match, I don’t think much RF is leaving the antenna. I’ve made a few contact with it on 160. If you like to work 160 meters during a POTA activation, I suggest a Chameleon EmComm II with a 60’ antenna and a 50’ counterpoise. I run it as an inverted L with the apex about 20’ up my push-up pole and the end sloping down to something not a tree. Last time I tied it to the lantern stand at the campsite. It worked pretty well and I was able to make contacts on 160.

Video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

If you’re looking for an antenna that you can set up almost anywhere, with little or no hassles, take a look at this one. Don’t forget to check out the short video above. 73 — Scott

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