Tag Archives: Hazel

Tabletop QRP POTA: A Father’s Day Getaway to Mount Mitchell State Park

When our family needs a change of scenery without a long drive, Mount Mitchell State Park is our go-to destination. I’ve mentioned before that it’s my “happy place” here in North Carolina. Mount Mitchell is only about 6 miles from our home as the crow flies, but it takes about 50 minutes to drive there, and it’s not in the direction of any of our usual destinations. Heading up the Blue Ridge Parkway and watching the flora change with elevation makes it feel like a proper getaway.

On Sunday, June 16, 2024, we wanted just such a getaway, as my wife and daughters were treating me to some Father’s Day fun. After visiting my father-in-law in the hospital in the early afternoon, we drove to Mount Mitchell.

Mount Mitchell State Park (US-2747)

Sundays on Mount Mitchell tend to be busy, especially in the summer. However, on this particular Sunday, it was rainy, foggy, and there were storms in and around the area.

Weather like this never bothers us on Mount Mitchell, as it can shift in an instant, as long as thunderstorms don’t intrude.

As soon as we arrived, I grabbed my radio bag from the car and found an empty picnic shelter. I’d been hoping for a free shelter since it was raining, and fortunately, we got our pick!

One of the first things I did after dropping off my pack was to tie Hazel to a picnic table because she was laser-focused on a chipmunk she saw run up a tree next to the shelter. That dog drives chipmunks and squirrels crazy, I’m sure.

My wife and daughters dropped off some art supplies at one of the shelter tables, then went on a short hike while I performed my POTA activation.

Note that Mount Mitchell is also a SOTA summit, but the picnic area is not within the activation zone. I could have easily gone to one of my go-to SOTA spots on the summit and knocked out a SOTA activation quickly (only four contacts are needed), but I wanted to save that for another day. Plus, being in the shelter meant that I could have a nice leisurely, dry activation!

I brought along my Penntek TR-45L and planned to pair it with a random wire antenna for the activation. However, since the weather was iffy—again, my primary concern was any thunderstorms that might sneak up on us—I decided to skip the wire antenna and go tabletop instead.

Fortunately, my Elecraft KH1 lives in my EDC bag at all times, so I set it up for tabletop mode.

New Tufteln KH1 Right Angle Adapter

KH1 “tabletop mode” gave me the perfect excuse to try out an accessory my friend Joshua (N5FY) sent me: his version of a KH1 right-angle antenna adapter.

You might recall that I have used the Elecraft KH1 adapter in previous activations and I think it works brilliantly. The first version of Elecraft’s adapter had one issue: the parts would fall apart if you weren’t careful with how you attached it to the KH1.

Joshua designed his right-angle adapter with captive components so that it’s all in one piece and can’t come apart.

I should note here that Elecraft actually updated their right-angle adapter design so that it also has captive components as well—so you have two choices! I’ll use the new Elecraft adapter in a future video and field report.

Joshua’s Tufteln design works really well (it’s also less expensive than the OEM adapter), and I like that it’s bright red, which means I’m less likely to leave it in the field!

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 assumed that 20 meters might be the most productive band that afternoon, so that’s where I started calling CQ POTA after snagging a Park-to-Park with K9NUD. Continue reading Tabletop QRP POTA: A Father’s Day Getaway to Mount Mitchell State Park

Xiegu X6200: Second POTA activation with rough propagation, but CW saves the day!

On Tuesday, June 11, 2024, I took my production run Xiegu X6200 (on loan from Radioddity) to the Blue Ridge Parkway for its first POTA activation. The activation was a success, with good band conditions on 40 and 30 meters. You can read that field report by clicking here.

Later that day, I had a second opportunity to use the X6200. My daughters were kayaking near Lake Powhatan in Pisgah National Forest, so Hazel (my activational support animal–!) and I went for a quick POTA activation.

Pisgah National Forest (US-4510)

I usually set up near the lake at Lake Powhatan, where there are picnic tables and shade. However, mobile phone reception is poor there. Since I planned to operate in single-sideband mode, I needed a way to self-spot or have a friend spot me, thus a little mobile phone reception (else, use my Garmin In-Reach).

I decided to set up at a picnic area at the top of the hill near the main parking area for the lake/beach. I’ve never seen anyone use this site before, likely because it’s not close to the lake.

The site is surrounded by trees, making it a great spot to deploy a wire antenna.

Setting up

I used my PackTenna 9:1 UNUN random wire antenna, which was already in my pack from the morning activation. It’s a good choice for the higher bands (20 and 17M) I planned to use.

I set up the PackTenna so it wouldn’t interfere with anyone walking through the site. Hazel found a sunny spot to relax.

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 began by attaching the X6200 microphone and spotting myself on the SSB portion of the 20M band. I called CQ POTA for quite a while with no response.

Once again, propagation conditions were poor. Continue reading Xiegu X6200: Second POTA activation with rough propagation, but CW saves the day!

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!

Pedestrian mobile POTA hunting on the back forty!

Saturday (January 20, 2024) was the first day in weeks that I had nothing on my schedule. There was no pressing need to leave our mountain home and we had a fresh layer of snow on the ground.

When I woke up that morning, it was 4F/-15.5C but by the afternoon it has warmed up to a balmy 10F/-12C (but then back to 0F/-17.7C that night).

It was the POTA Support Your Parks Weekend and part of me wanted to hit the road and activate a park or two. But my desire to stay put, relax, and just enjoy reading a good book by our wood stove, cup of coffee in hand, won out.

As I mentioned in previous posts, we’ve had a lot going on in our family. To have a day where nothing was required of me? I needed to take that.

Still, I did have a few household things to do including stocking up on firewood.

While I was splitting kindling in the crisp air, I thought it might be awfully fun to take the KH1 into the woods and just do a little POTA hunting. As soon as I replenished the firewood in the house and while I had my boots on, I grabbed my KH1.

“What dis? We gonna’ POTA, Daddy?”

Hazel is not a cold weather-loving dog, but she can’t resist heading outdoors with me. Even if it’s just on our own property!

My goal? To do a little pedestrian mobile park hunting with the KH1.

I didn’t care how many contacts I made–if any–with my wee radio, four foot telescoping antenna, and a few watts of power. This was all about winter radio therapy.

I also grabbed my camera to make a short video–the first time I’d picked it up in a couple of weeks.

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

Instead of detailing any contacts I made (spoiler: I did make a few) I’ll leave that to the video below.

As always, when you’re QRP and not the DX (ie. you’re hunting or chasing, not activating) you need to call activators slightly off-frequency so that your tone varies from the stronger stations calling them zero-beat. Note that this is applicable to operating SSB as well.

I remember when the KH1 was first announced, I read messages and comments stating that such a compromised antenna and low-power radio would not work for hunting Park-To-Park or Summit-To-Summit contacts because it wouldn’t be heard in a pileup.

That’s simply not the case and I knew it wouldn’t be because for years I’ve used my KX2 and AX1 antenna combo to make hundreds of similar contacts. The KH1 is basically an AX1 and transceiver combined in a handheld unit.

It does help, though, to employ a little QRP skill in the process.

Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of this little field session.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air time; I just start recording and let it roll. 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.

Field reports resuming!

Hazel was absolutely running wild as we walked back to the house. I snapped this photo of her as she was jumping around.

I decided to push this short video to the front of the line. You’ll soon see more field reports pop up from December.

As I mentioned in the video, I took a good two week break because I simply didn’t feel like writing or making videos–I was taking some time with family to grieve and be there for my father and sister. My policy is that I never, ever feel pressed to post on QRPer or YouTube because that would make this feel too much like a job.

It’s not a job: it’s a pure labor of love!

And I will keep it that way. This is why I never look at my YouTube stats and only rarely check out my website stats. Those things don’t really matter to me and they’re certainly not a motivator. What is a motivator is the amazing community we have here–that means more to me than my subscriber count, views, and all of those metrics ever could!

Thank you

Thank you for joining Hazel and me on this little POTA hunting session!

And thank you again for the outpouring of kind and compassionate messages as we’ve navigated the past couple of weeks as a family. It’s appreciated more than you know.

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.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me and have a wonderful week ahead!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

A Trailside, Low-Impact, Knee Board POTA activation at the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site!

On Friday, September 15, 2023, my wife and I had a few hours midday to enjoy the gorgeous pre-fall weather, so we decided to go on a hike with Hazel.

My wife was the one that suggested I pick out a hike that would open the door to a short POTA activation (isn’t she the best–?).

Carl Sandburg National Historic Site (K-0804)

Earlier that week, I made a note to activate the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site in the village of Flat Rock, North Carolina. I passed this idea by my wife and she agreed that it’d make for a perfect outing.

The mission of the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site is to preserve Connemara, the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and writer Carl Sandburg.

The park has a wonderful trail network and I hadn’t visited it since 2016, during the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) ARRL event.

Technically, I could go back into my NPOTA logs and upload my Sandburg activations to the POTA site because previous activations do count, but I’m not actually motivated by my park count so much as I am just having fun working new-to-me sites under the new POTA program.

That said, my somewhat flexible, non-committal goal of having at least 100 unique parks activated for POTA before the end of 2023 was also on my mind; a small motivator to expand my POTA footprint.

Admittedly, there really aren’t many parks that are within two hours of my QTH that I haven’t already activated for POTA. The ones left, like Sandburg, are just outside the corridors I normally travel.

The Sandburg site is a beautiful one, and I think Hazel may have even remembered this spot from so many years ago. My wife and I got a kick out of how giddy she was to hit the trails, smell the smells, and meet all of the other hikers.

Hazel: “Enough talking, Dad! More hiking!”

Time to hit the trails and find an activation spot!

Knee Board Portable!

Back in 2016, I got permission from a Sandburg park ranger to place a wire in a tree in order to perform my NPOTA activation. She only asked that I perform my activation on the trail network (not at the house and goat farm).

Wow…I just checked and I had forgotten that I made a short field report of that activation over on (my other blog) the SWLing Postcheck it out here.  Back then, my KX2 was still very new and shiny!

Not even a scratch on the KX2 back then! Today, Hedy looks a little more field battered! 🙂

And here we are seven years later and I’m still activating the Carl Sandburg site from my lap. This time, however, I don’t have my radio on a clip board, I’m using a folding knee board:

This is my Tufteln/N0RNM folding knee board and you’ve seen me use it in numerous activation videos.

Instead of just placing my logs and radio on the knee board, like I did back in 2016, I wanted to place my entire antenna system on it, too.

You see, although I’m sure the staff at the Sandburg home wouldn’t mind me putting a wire in their trees along the hiking trail, I couldn’t find a staff member to ask, so I used this as an excuse to try something I’ve always wanted to do: mount my AX1 on the knee board as well!

We found a park bench a mile up the trail and decided to set up there. Continue reading A Trailside, Low-Impact, Knee Board POTA activation at the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site!

Speedy POTA: An impromptu post-hike activation with the Elecraft KX2 and AX1

On Friday, January 27, 2023, I dropped off one of my daughters at the library for a creative writing session.

Hazel was along for the ride, so we decided to hike on the nearby Mountains To Sea Trail (MST) while my daughter was in the meeting.

During the hike, I realized that I should have taken my field radio pack along because it would have been so easy to activate both the MST and Blue Ridge Parkway as a two-fer.

Instead, Hazel and I enjoyed our hike and got back to the car with about 35 minutes or so to do an activation–including set-up, on-air time, and pack-up.  That would leave me just enough time to pick up my daughter at the library before they closed for the day.

Challenge accepted!

Because I had been using the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 recently, I had both packed in my Spec-Ops EDC backpack.  In theory–even filming a video at the same time–I knew I could probably fit in a whole activation with 25 minutes on the air. I only needed 10 contacts, and I’ve never been in a situation where the AX1 couldn’t achieve that goal.

Hazel and I grabbed my bag from the car, I started recording a video, and we made out way to the nearest picnic table at the Blue Ridge Parkway HQ parking lot! Continue reading Speedy POTA: An impromptu post-hike activation with the Elecraft KX2 and AX1

New Year’s Day POTA: New VK3IL Pressure Paddle, New FT-817/818 Narrow Filter, and New TPA-817 Pack Frame!

I try to start each year by doing a POTA or SOTA activation on New Year’s Day.

POTA actually issues a certificate for completing an activation on New Year’s Day so there are typically loads of activators and hunters working the bands. It’s an ideal time to play radio.

This year, we had a number of family activities on New Year’s Day, but I made a little time to fit in an activation during the late afternoon at my most accessible spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway: the Southern Highland Folk Art Center.

As with my last activation, I suspected I would be operating in the dark, so I brought my LED lantern along for the ride.

Although not intentional, this New Year activation had a lot of new-to-me stuff involved!

New VK3IL Pressure Paddle

The prior evening–on New Year’s Eve–while my wife and daughters were watching a classic movie movie marathon, I used the time to heat up the soldering iron and work through a few kits and projects that had been sitting on my desk.

One of those projects was a Pressure Paddle designed by David (VK3IL).

Michael (G0POT) sent me the Pressure Paddle circuit board and heat shrink via Andy (G7UHN) several months prior. [Thank you so much, fellas!]

To my knowledge, the VK3IL Pressure Paddle isn’t available in complete kit package, but it’s quite easy to source everything yourself.

On his website, David provides the Gerber files you’ll need in order to purchase the circuit boards from your favorite manufacturer (I’m a huge fan of OshPark here in the States).

Next, you simply need to order the components. Here’s the list assuming you’re using DigiKey:

  • Quantity of 2: 732-7579-1-ND (CAP CER 10000PF 10V C0G/NP0 0805)
  • Quantity of 2: BSS806NH6327XTSA1CT-ND (MOSFET N-CH 20V 2.3A SOT23-3)
  • Quantity of 2: 311-470KCRCT-ND (RES 470K OHM 1% 1/8W 0805)
  • Quantity of 2: 1738-SEN0294-ND (RP-C18.3-ST THIN FILM PRESSURE S)
  • Quanity of 1: Three conductor wire with a (typically) 3.5mm plug (note that I had one of these in my junk drawer)

Keep in mind: the components are surface-mount. If you’re not used to working with SMD components (ahem…that would be me) I suggest buying a few spares of each in case you lose or damage one or more during the build.

It also helps to cover the finished board in heat shrink not only to protect the board and make it easier to grip, but most importantly (if you’re me) hide your electrically-sound yet unsightly surface mount soldering job.

The build might have taken me 20 minutes.

New FT-817ND Narrow CW Filter

Some time ago, I purchased a second FT-817ND with the idea of doing full-duplex satellite work. I later realized I could be taking the second FT-817ND out to the field more often if I simply had another narrow CW filter installed, so I built one.

This New Year’s Day activation was actually the first time I’d taken this particular FT-817ND and its new narrow filter out to the field!

New Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame

Earlier this year, I also decided that I wanted to outfit my 2nd Yaesu FT-817ND with an Armoloq TPA-817 pack frame. The idea was to experiment with building a rapid-deployment field kit around it.

This is actually one of the big projects I’m working on in 2023. I’ve yet to sort out the antenna mount I’d like to use with this frame based on how I plan to deploy it. Continue reading New Year’s Day POTA: New VK3IL Pressure Paddle, New FT-817/818 Narrow Filter, and New TPA-817 Pack Frame!

Yaesu FT-817ND: A morning QRP POTA activation at New River State Park

No better way to start a QRP day…

I took the family on a multi-day camping trip at New River State Park in April 2022.  During that trip, I made an activation of New River each day and also fit in a quick SOTA activation (click here to read an overview). I didn’t film all of my on-the-air because some of that radio time was spent sitting around chatting with my family and even some neighbors at the campground.

Since I’ve already posted a summary of that fine trip, and since I’m traveling today, I’ll keep this field report brief(er).

Morning POTA

One thing I love about POTA while camping is how effortless it is to do morning activations. You simply roll out of bed and get on the air. That easy.

The following field report was for an activation session on the morning of April 29, 2022.

I spent the early morning that day brewing a couple cups of coffee and catching up on my QRP Quarterly and QST, then I took Hazel on a short hike.

Back at the campsite, I served Hazel some breakfast and then she enjoyed her first of many morning naps. (I swear that dog is only awake a max of one hour per day–!). Continue reading Yaesu FT-817ND: A morning QRP POTA activation at New River State Park

Three watts of POTA power with the Mountain Topper MTR-3B, an EFHW, and Hazel!

Recently on Twitter, I created an informal poll and asked if anyone else named their radios.

Here are the results:

I quickly found out that I’m in the 6.7% minority who freely admit that they name their radios.

We can also assume, however, that a healthy percentage of the “Neither confirm nor deny” crowd do too. They just have a professional reputation to maintain!

Truth is, I don’t name all of my radios; only the ones with “personality” that I plan to keep permanently.

Tuppence

My gift to myself after completing my very first CW activation in 2020 was to purchase a Mountain Topper MTR-3B from LnR Precision. I’ve always admired these tiny hiker-friendly transceivers and have watched as Steve Weber (KD1JV) updated the design over the years.

I first became intrigued with this radio series when I interviewed Appalachian Trail through-hiker and author, Dennis Blanchard (K1YPP) who packed one of Steve Weber’s early ATS-3A kit transceivers (built in an Altoids tin).

A closeup of Dennis’ AT Sprint 3A taken at Four Days in May

By the way, I highly recommend Dennis’ book, “Three Hundred Zeroes: Lessons of the Heart on the Appalachian Trail.”

When I took delivery of my MTR-3B and opened the box, I was floored with how tiny it was.

It’s no bigger than a pack of playing cards.

I knew the MTR-3B would be a permanent resident at QRPer HQ, so after some soul-searching and bouncing names off of a few good friends (who also name their radios), I called her “Tuppence.” Continue reading Three watts of POTA power with the Mountain Topper MTR-3B, an EFHW, and Hazel!

Xiegu X6100: New compact throwline, POTA pileups & overloading in Pisgah National Forest

On Thursday, January 6, 2022, I woke up with one goal in mind: take the Xiegu X6100 out on a proper hike-in activation!

While I’d had this radio on loan from Radioddity since December 23rd, I hadn’t had an opportunity to truly hike it into an activation site. Between the weather and my tight schedule, I haven’t had an opportunity to plot out a proper Summits On The Air (SOTA) Activation. SOTA activations that involve hiking usually take a much bigger bite out of my day and, lately, I’ve been to busy to plot one.

I do live near a vast trail network, however, and it so happens that much of the trails run through overlapping public lands: Pisgah National Forest and Pisgah State Game Land.

So I packed my Spec-Ops EDC tactical pack, grabbed Hazel’s harness, and headed out the door.

“Let’s go, Daddy!”

Hazel knows me too well.

When she sees my pack and my hiking boots, she  waits in front of the door so there’s no possibility she’ll be left behind. Continue reading Xiegu X6100: New compact throwline, POTA pileups & overloading in Pisgah National Forest