Tag Archives: Parks On The Air (POTA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gear:

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

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

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

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

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

My QSO Map:

Screenshot

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

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

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

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

Eclipse Time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Sinister laugh slowly fades…]

72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Thank you!

As always, I’d like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon, and the Coffee Fund.

While not a requirement, as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

Cabin POTA with the IC-705 and MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

As I mentioned in this previous field report, my buddy Mike and I spent the third weekend of March at Gorges State Park (US-2732) in Sapphire, North Carolina. We had a great weekend of hiking and just hanging out. Of course, I fit in a few activations!

On the morning of Sunday, March 17, 2024, after a nice breakfast and beautiful sunrise, we started packing up. Since we rented a cabin this year, it was an easy process–especially since it was also raining lightly. While I love tent camping, I’m not the biggest fan of packing up a wet tent and gear because later in the day I have to attempt to dry it all out back home.

The cabin also made it very comfortable to do a little Parks on the Air (POTA) until the rain passed and we could start our hike.

I set up my MC-750 vertical next to the cabin.

Inside, assuming I might have more radio frequency interference (QRM) to deal with, I chose my Icom IC-705.

The cabin had a small side table attached to the wall which was the perfect spot to set up my station close to the front door and porch. The weather was very temperate that morning, so I simply left the front door of the cabin open while I operated.

I was correct about the QRM: its pervasive throughout most of the park and is due to arcing on the high-tension power lines that run through the site.

Other than the QRM, Gorges is an amazing park to do POTA.

While I played Parks on the Air, Mike caught up on a book he was reading. Neither of us were pressed for time, so it was a pretty laid-back morning.

QRM Mitigation

After hooking up the IC-705 to the MC-750 and turning it on, the QRM was not only audible–that unmistakable frying sound–but it was clearly visible on the IC-705’s color display.

The noise level was about S5-S6 and persistent.

The IC-705 is a 21st-century radio and I decided to use some of its 21st-century, SDR-powered features in order to improve the audio.

First, I turned on the Noise Blanker (NB). While this feature works best for pulse noises (engine noise and electric fences, in my experience) it also removes a layer of noise from persistent arcing as well.

Next, I also used the IC-705’s built-in DSP (Digital Signal Processing). By turning on the DSP, another layer of noise is removed.

With both NB and DSP engaged, the audio was much more pleasant and less fatiguing.

Keep in mind that even though the noise was minimized in the audio, it was still there in the receiver so this didn’t help much with recovering weak signals under the elevated noise floor. It just made playing radio much more pleasant! Continue reading Cabin POTA with the IC-705 and MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

Pairing the TR-45L Skinny and the MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

Once a year, I meet up with my friends Monty and Mike for a weekend of camping. We’ve been friends for over 30 years, so it’s always brilliant hanging out with them, hiking, and just enjoying the break in our busy family lives.

This year, we planned our weekend campout for March 15-17, which is slightly earlier in the year than we usually do, but all of us have complicated schedules in April, May, June, and July. So March it was!

We chose to camp at Gorges State Park (US-2732) in Sapphire, North Carolina.

We also decided to opt for one of the park’s five cabins instead of tent camping. The park ranger I spoke with on the phone prior to making the reservation convinced me that we should reserve one of their newly built cabins. The cabins can sleep six, have electricity, and even have heating and air conditioning.

Mid-March in the mountains of western North Carolina is a fickle part of the year. It can be cold, hot, dry, or wet–all easily within one weekend. Choosing a cabin would mean packing in a lot less gear. Done!

Unfortunately, only a few days prior to the camping trip, Monty had to duck out to attend a funeral. We really missed hanging out with him.

Gorges State Park

To my knowledge, I had never been to Gorges State Park. It’s one of the newer parks in the NC system and, frankly, it’s located in a part of WNC that I rarely travel through these days.

The park is vast, and there are a number of trails that lead to waterfalls.

The visitor’s center was built in 2012 and is really impressive. We stopped by there and spoke with staff about some of the hiking options.

I’ve always preferred state and national park camping facilities over private campgrounds. They’re typically well-maintained, and the sites are spaced apart (so I can easily set up an antenna!).

Cabin #5

The camping area at Gorges is one of the nicest I’ve ever seen. It’s all very new. The cabins and shower/bathroom building are only two years old.

The weekend, overall, was warm during the day and cool at night with periods of rain. We both felt pretty happy we’d picked a cabin for the weekend–packing up wet camping gear is never all that fun!

Saturday morning, Mike and I planned to do a bit of hiking, and I wanted to fit in a short activation.

Picnic Shelter Activation

At one of the trailheads for a short hike, we found a spacious picnic shelter. Despite the amazing weather that morning, there was no one else at the shelter.

I scoped out the trees around the perimeter of the shelter, and most were pretty small trees with larger trees behind them. I decided that it would be easier to simply deploy my Chelgence MC-750 vertical.

I brought three radios along on this camping trip: my TR-45L Skinny, Icom IC-705, and Elecraft KH1. I chose the Skinny for this activation! Continue reading Pairing the TR-45L Skinny and the MC-750 at Gorges State Park!

K4RLC Field Report: POTA with Blackbeard!

Many thank to Bob (K4RLC) who shares the following guest post:


POTA with Blackbeard in Bath, North Carolina

de Bob (K4RLC)

While in Eastern North Carolina for the North Carolina QSO party, I decided to take a trip to visit historic Bath, North Carolina, the oldest city in our state and one of the original 13 colonies.

Bath, named after the English Earl of Bath, was founded in the late 1600s. It soon became the first port for the Carolina colony, then soon thereafter, the center for the colony’s government.

While I enjoy the wilder side of POTA, like state forests and game lands, and the mountains of SOTA, these historic sites often have a vibe that lets the mind wander back in history.

Additionally, two historic houses had recently been added to the POTA program: the Palmer-Marsh House (US-10388)  and the Bonner House (US-10263). The Palmer-Marsh House was built in 1744 by Captain Michael Coutanch, the original governor who came from the Isle of Jersey. The house was sold around 1762 to Robert Palmer, then later to the Marsh family around 1805. It is deemed the oldest standing house in North Carolina. While this state historic/POTA site had been activated on SSB, it had not been activated on Morse code yet, and it was appealing to me to be the first CW activator.

Palmer-Marsh House

It was a quiet clear Saturday morning with beautiful Carolina blue skies and chilly temps when I arrived at the Palmer-Marsh House.

The house itself was closed and open only to guided tours, however there were large open grounds with pathways, benches, and a family cemetery for the Marsh family. I had my North Face RECON pack full of the Elecraft KX2 set up I’ve taken overseas, and ready for almost everything.

On the bench near the cemetery there were no overhanging ancient oak branches. I set up the KX2 and laid down the screen wire counterpoise. On top of that, I put a 17 foot Chameleon whip which is resonant on 20 M CW, without wire counterpoises, and running only 5 watts.  The key was the CW Morse SP4 key.

Not knowing what would happen, I called CQ and was quickly answered by multiple stations wanting to work this new POTA site for the first time.

KX2 Setup in the Palmer House back yard
Palmer Family Cemetery

This entire section of town is loaded with historic houses. If you walk a few blocks down Main Street to Bonner Point, turn left on Front Street, and turn left again on King Street toward the visitor center, you will cover over 300 years of history, in a few blocks.

While the visitor center in the old school building is a POTA site, I chose the other POTA site in Bath – the Bonner House, built around 1830. This is the second house on the site, as John Lawson, the founder of Bath, built a house there which no longer stands. The entire original town boundary is considered a National Register Historic District.

I walked down Main Street to Bonner Point and Bonner House. From the Bonner House, I was looking into the Pamlico River sound fed by Bath Creek, with its deep blue water.

It took a moment to process, but I soon decoded waveforms of a school of dolphins playing close to the shore. They were incredibly graceful and efficient breaking the water. My over analytic mind tried to discern a pattern – could they be responding to the sound of Morse code? Or, simply a highly evolved graceful sea creature at play.

Bonner House
Looking at Pamlico Sound

In just a few hours, propagation seemed to have changed so it was difficult to make the requisite contacts still on 20 m CW with the same KX2 and antenna setup. My mind wandered back in history to the historical street sign to my right that said that Edward Teach had made his home here in 1713, while taking a brief break after the King’s pardon.

Most people know Teach by his more famous nickname of Blackbeard the Pirate. My mind time traveled, and I wondered what it would be like to have sailed with Blackbeard and his outrageous exploits in his time, or what he would’ve thought of the KX2 in our time!

Teach sign at Pamlico Sound

Not wanting to leave the site right away,  I enjoyed the typical lunch my YL Alanna K4AAC makes for a me on sojourns away from home – a really good peanut butter and jelly sandwich with  fruit punch Gatorade and a Reese cup. It’s great brain food for all the cognitive processing needed for Morse Code.

After a wonderful morning taking in Bath and being the first to activate the Palmer-Marsh house for POTA CW, I packed up my KX2 kit and headed off for nearby Goose Creek State Park (US-2731) where the other Dr. Bob , W4TTX and I were setting up as NC4QP, a bonus station for the North Carolina QSO party.

As there is still one more POTA site to activate, a return trip to historic Bath is on the list to take in its wonderful ambience, watch dolphins and daydream about Blackbeard playing radio.

Woo hoo! Finally taking my QRP Labs QMX on a POTA activation!

Those of you who purchased a fully-assembled and tested version of the QRP Labs QMX are, no doubt, patient people.

While you can order a kit version of the QMX and receive it fairly quickly (still, I believe), the assembled versions take more time as the QRP Labs crew is small and they build and test these by hand.

I ordered mine on June 5, 2023, and it shipped on December 27, 2023.

Truth is, I’ve had a QMX kit since Hans Summers announced it at Four Days In May (FDIM) prior to the 2023 Hamvention. I’ve been meaning to build it but, as many of you know, my life has been a tad crazy these past months and I never got around to it.

I purchased an assembled version of the QMX because I will be reviewing this one and wanted a factory-tested unit. I would have never guessed I’d receive the assembled unit before building it!

Familiar Form-Factor

The QMX looks so much like my QCX-Minis, I’ve gotten them mixed up in the shack! The menu system is very similar to the QCX, but there are some changes to accommodate band changes, modes, etc., as the QCX-Minin series is mono-band CW only.

The QMX, on the other hand, is a five-band, five-watt, multi-mode (CW, Digital, and likely SSB in the future) transceiver. It’s hard to believe you can purchase the QMX for as little as $90 (bare-bones) kit or $165 (fully-assembled and tested).

I initially thought I had an issue with my QMX because it kept shutting down the transmit function. Turns out, that was all user-error. I mentioned the issue on an episode of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast, and a couple of listeners wrote to tell me what I was doing wrong: I was feeding it too much voltage. The QMX doesn’t want more than 12V or so. If the radio detects even a temporary mismatch, it shuts down the TX to protect the finals, etc.

I was unintentionally triggering the QMX’s self-protection functionality!

Once I figured that out, I decided to simply pair my QMX with my Bioenno 3Ah 9V LiFePO4 battery. That would yield about 3 watts of output power and be a comfortable voltage for the QMX.

Vance Historic Birthplace (US-6856)

On Thursday, March 7, 2024, I finally took the QMX outdoors where it belongs! I had a one-hour window of time to complete a full activation. I decided to pair the QMX with my Chelegance MC-750 vertical.

My QMX is a “low-band” version that covers 80, 60, 40, 30, and 20 meters. I thought the top end of its band coverage would serve me best mid-day, so I planned my activation around 20 meters.

Setup was easy and simple. You can see the full set-up process in my activation video below.

Gear:

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

On The Air

I hopped on the air and started calling CQ POTA after sorting out my QMX settings–I needed to adjust the sidetone and I had to take it out of split mode! Continue reading Woo hoo! Finally taking my QRP Labs QMX on a POTA activation!

Lightweight SPOTA Hat Trick on Angel Island

San Francisco Radio Diary – Part 3

by Leo (DL2COM)

Do you remember the last time you arrived at a new vantage point on a hiking trail and all of a sudden you were stunned by a view that you didn’t expect at all? 

“No kidding.” I said when I approached the summit of Mount Caroline Livermoore on Angel Island and “bang” there it was: San Francisco Bay showing itself from its best side all around and in beautiful sunlight. Wow what a moment to remember.

The stunning view from Angel Island
Is this CGI?

If you’re passing through San Francisco and you’re looking for the perfect ham radio-infused hiking day trip and a very hard-to-beat city panorama, Angel Island is your ticket to a heavenly experience. If you’re the fast type you could get an activation done in half a day even including the summit. My two cents though: Bring a little time and let it soak all the way in. It’s worth it and not just because you can log three references in one go:

Angel Island State Park is covered by the very large Golden Gate National Recreation Area. If you are eager to read about the history of Angel Island you can do so here or here (former immigration station).

A few hours earlier: 

KX2 radio kit, sandwich, granola bars, water. The contents of my backpack on November 8th 2023. This was going to be a good day. I just knew it when I approached the dock at San Francisco Ferry Terminal (Gate B).

San Francisco Ferry Terminal
See ‘ya city life

I had a couple of minutes left so I enjoyed walking through the ferry building with all its nice shops, bakeries and cafes. Many options for advanced coffee-heads to get their fix before going aboard.

coffee and backpack
Yes please

The ferry takes you across the bay in just about 30 minutes, past Alcatraz Island and without noticing you’ll have left big city life behind and swapped it for a remarkable landscape. You can check out their service times here and make sure to keep an eye on the last departure from the island. Otherwise you’ll have to stay for the night. Also the only restaurant on the island was closed (for renovation?) and I am not sure what their plans are to open again. 

From the arrival dock at Ayala Cove I decided to start the hike towards the north-east side of the island via the North Ridge Trail. It takes the better part of an hour to get to the summit if you walk at a constant pace but of course depending on your level of fitness and also how much time you take to enjoy the views. The trails are in very good shape and there is nothing keeping you from finding your personal and comfortable rhythm up the mountain.

Yes I admit it – I am getting excited before an activation.  Most likely it’s because I am looking forward to having fun on the airwaves but then it’s also about not knowing what to expect at the operating site and how to tackle potential challenges. So I usually try to get there fast.

At the summit:

I was still catching my breath from the not-so-difficult ascent and then I saw a demounted truss mast lying on the ground. Should I try to somehow get this up pointing towards the sky and use it as an antenna support? Tempting, but given the fact that I was alone and lacking proper guying material it seemed a bit mad. This brings me to an important fact: There are pretty much no usable trees inside the activation zone when it comes to hoisting a wire. So I do recommend bringing some form of a mast. A luxury I didn’t have due to luggage restrictions on my flight to the U.S.. So the trusty Elecraft AX1 needed to make do.

Truss mast on the ground
Should I or should I not?

There is however a very nice picnic area just below the summit and well inside the AZ. It doesn’t have a roof and it might get a bit windy but it sports a fabulous view and plenty of options to attach masts. Luckily, I was completely alone for the most part of the activation so I didn’t need to worry as much about someone tripping over the counterpoise wire. I used a second round of 50+ sunscreen on my central-European mozzarella body and got the antenna tuned up. 

Downtown San Fransico and Alcatraz Island
Downtown San Francisco and Alcatraz Island

A few seconds into calling CQ on 20m K6EL came in 599+ from a summit nearby and I was super happy to log him given the fact that we had completed an activation together only one day before. He was followed by many US operators almost all the way over to the east coast and then, of course, Chris (F4WBN) from France. Wait – which antenna was I using again in W6?

Ham radio QRP station in San Francisco
Dream operating location

I have “whipped out” this compromised whip so many times to complete an activation that it has become one of my favorite antennas in the arsenal. What fun to reach France from the West Coast with it.

40 QSOs on 20&17m later (yes including some S2S SSB via the KX2’s internal mic and even a contact on 15m thanks to the capable tuner) I had to go QRT because the sun was strong and I wanted to make sure I had a relaxed hike back down. 

ham radio QSO map
Testing the transmit and receive capabilities of a QRP dummy load

Because you get a couple of loop trail options you will also get a completely new perspective of the island and landscape while walking back to the dock which is nice. It is worth mentioning that poison oak is pretty common there and branches of these plants hang down across the paths. I actually touched a leaf accidentally with my arm but was lucky not to get a full load of the poison. The itching was already gone in about an hour.

At the dock I had a nice chat with some of the rangers and then hopped on the ferry back to SF. Thanks to all chasers and hunters for making this a truly special day.

Gear used:

ham radio gear and energy bars
Recharging for the next adventure

California, what have you done? I need to come back. I’ll be back.

vy 73 de Leo W6/DL2COM

A Slimmed-Down Solution: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L “Skinny”

You might recall a recent POTA activation where Jonathan (KM4CFT) joined me at the Vance Birthplace K-6856 US-6856–?

Jonathan used my Penntek TR-45L for his portion of the activation, and I was pleased he got to spend some time with this magnificent CW machine. You might also recall that it still had a buzz in the speaker audio–something inside the radio was vibrating.

KM4CFT working the TR-45L in late December 2023.

I tried to track down the buzz as Jonathan operated by tightening some of the screws holding on the speaker grill (yeah, I’m sure that was annoying, and he’ll think again before activating with me in the same space–!). I knew, though, it was something inside the chassis that was vibrating with audio.

As I also mentioned, my TR-45L was a prototype unit (I helped Beta test it)–it had a couple of mods and wasn’t exactly representative of the upgraded production model.

John (WA3RNC) at Penntek reached out to me after I published my recent field report and video; he offered to upgrade my TR-45L to the production chassis which would sort out the buzz. I was most grateful, of course!

He then asked if I would be interested in checking out the TR-45L “Skinny,” which is essentially a TR-45L in a much skinnier chassis. The Skinny model lacks the ATU and battery options but is lighter weight and more portable. I mentioned to John that I’d like to purchase one, actually. Since John was interested in sponsoring QRPer, we ended up working out a barter (at full market price) for ad space. I love this arrangement, actually, because I was going to approach him about sponsorship at some point anyway.

The Skinny!

Now keep in mind that the TR-45L is one of my favorite CW radios. I love the audio, the receiver characteristics, and the “Apollo era” aesthetic. I think it’s one of the best-looking and best-sounding radios on the market.

The Skinny is just like the bigger TR-45L, just roughly half the depth. I did have concerns that the audio wouldn’t be as good since the acoustic chamber would be smaller, but turns out, I had nothing to fear. The Skinny’s audio is on par with its bulkier sibling.

There was no learning curve with the Skinny because 1.) it’s identical in operation to my TR-45L and 2.) Penntek radios have super simple interfaces, and almost every function has a top-level direct control.

Zebulon Vance Birthplace (US-6856)

On Tuesday, February 27, 2024–the day after receiving the TR-45L Skinny–I packed it up and took it to the Vance Birthplace for its inaugural POTA activation!

That day, I had about 90 minutes to enjoy an activation, and I was looking forward to spending time with the new Skinny.

Vance was a great choice that day because the weather was moody; it was gusty, rainy, and I knew their picnic shelter would provide excellent cover.

The Skinny (in its padded bag), the MC-750 and my ABR cable assembly.

The TR-45L Skinny, unlike my original TR-45L, has no internal Z-Match ATU, nor does it have an internal battery. In fact, there’s no room for either in the Skinny, so it’s not even an option.

I paired the Skinny with my Chelegance MC-750, which is a resonant antenna when deployed correctly, so there was no need for a matching device. I supplied power via one of my 3Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 batteries.

Setup was simple and easy!

Gear:

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

On The Air

I hopped on the air with the intention of working 20 and 17 meters. Continue reading A Slimmed-Down Solution: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L “Skinny”

K3ES Field Report: Hiking with Molly and discovering a new two-fer activation site!

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


Molly is on the trail of a POTA activation.  Temperatures are in the 40s, but there is still snow on the ground.

A Hike and a 2-fer

by Brian (K3ES)

When you live in northwestern Pennsylvania, and a February day shows up with the sun shining, moderate temperatures, and nothing pressing on the calendar, it is time to go and enjoy the outdoors.

One of the best ways to do that is to take a hike with your dog.  Hopefully  your dog is like Molly, who doesn’t mind taking a break mid-hike for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation.  So on Wednesday, February 21 we scheduled an activation and jumped in the truck for a drive to the trail head.  The hike to and from the activation site would be a nice change from the short walks we had been taking to the pond behind our house in the colder weather, and from activating while sitting in the truck.  And, to better share the joy with our POTA hunters, we would make this activation a 2-fer, giving them credit for both the North Country Trail National Scenic Trail (K-4239) and Pennsylvania State Game Land 024 (K-8725).

Molly is ready to go.  She is not at all amused by waiting for me to take pictures.

Since I had hiked the planned route before, both solo, with friends, and with Molly, I expected that the route would be familiar.  Some of it was, and some of it was brand new to us.  You see, the North Country Trail volunteers had been busy since we last hiked as far up the trail as we planned to go.  They had cleared and marked an entirely new route for one section  of the trail, bypassing an old favorite activation site!  So, we got to do some exploring, and we found a new favorite activation site.  Bonus!

Finding a New 2-fer Site

One of the things that I enjoy about POTA is planning my activation.

Since days long ago as a Boy Scout, I have enjoyed outdoor navigation.  Map and compass always fascinated me.  Things have gotten much easier with Global Positioning System (GPS), online maps, and online satellite imagery.  Still, I do most of my activation planning while sitting comfortably at home with a tablet or a computer.  For this trip, finding the newly marked trail (that had not yet been transferred to the online map) presented a bit of a challenge.  While I could follow the marked trail easily, I needed to be sure that I had entered Game Land property so that the 2-fer activation would be valid.

Thankfully, I had access to an app on my smart phone to help me solve this problem as we walked along the trail through the woods.  The On X Hunt app combines GPS, topographic maps, satellite imagery, and tax office databases to identify land ownership (even when the owner happens to be the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania).  Full functionality of this app is not free, but as the owner of a parcel of land, it is something I had elected to pay for.  Once it became clear that the newly marked trail would not quickly rejoin the prior route, I set up the app to record our track on the map.  After confirming that Molly and I had definitely crossed PA Game Land property line (there were no marking signs along the new trail), we went just a bit further, then found a promising spot to set up for the activation.

With a change to the K-4239 North Country Scenic Trail route, we found a new 2-fer site within K-8725, along the partially snow-covered Game Land road that carries this section of the Trail.

Setting Up to Activate

I chose to locate our station in the woods beside a Game Land road that provided the path for the North Country Trail in that particular area.  We set up on the inside of a bend flanked by trees with long overhanging branches.  I placed my chair in the woods on the inside of the bend, and tossed a throw line over a branch on the outside of the bend, then deployed my Packtenna EFRW with 71 ft wire as an inverted V across the road.  I used the throw line to hoist the middle of the radiating wire up about 30 ft, and secured both the feedpoint and the far end of the antenna to nearby trees, about 6 ft off the ground.

Even though I did not expect traffic on this road (shaded areas were still snow covered, and the snow showed tracks only from woodland creatures), I try to deploy my wire antennas high enough that they are not a hazard to others who may travel through.

Temperatures were rising, but with the high only expected to hit 50F, I brought a blanket to give Molly some additional insulation (though she is a rough, tough POTA dog, as a Boston Terrier, her coat is not particularly thick).  I laid out the blanket beside my operating position,  so that it could provide both top cover and insulation from the ground.

Molly is settled in for the activation.

I connected my RG316 coaxial cable to the antenna feedpoint, set up my camp chair next to Molly, set up the radio, and prepared my log book. In very short order, I was on the air, spotted by the Reverse Beacon Network, and logging contacts. Continue reading K3ES Field Report: Hiking with Molly and discovering a new two-fer activation site!

Testing the Tufteln AX1 Support: Late-Shift POTA with Vlado in Pisgah National Forest

On Tuesday, February 13, 2024, one of my daughters had a dress rehearsal for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The venue where the cast meets is a good 45 minutes from my QTH, and if I didn’t have POTA fever, I’d have to find something to do to burn four hours of time.

Since I do have POTA fever, I see these windows of waiting around as an opportunity!

An opportunity to spread the POTA fever, even.

On that particular Tuesday night, my dear friend Vlado (N3CZ) didn’t have any plans, so I invited him to join me on a short, late-shift activation. The idea was that he’d perform an activation, then we’d go grab dinner at a restaurant in Mills River.

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Game Land (K-6937)

Quick note about park numbers: As of the time of publishing this article, we’re still using the “K” prefix for US parks. Tomorrow (March 20, 2024), all US park prefixes will change to “US.” Pisgah National Forest, for example, will be US-4510 starting tomorrow. Today, it’s still (barely!) K-4510, so that’s what we’ll use.

We drove to the Sycamore Flats Picnic Area where I performed a number of late-shift activations in February. What I love about the site is that it’s rarely busy (especially at dusk and into the evening), there are numerous spots to set up, and it’s pretty convenient to the Shakespeare venue.

Tufteln AX1 Antenna Stand

I’d mentioned to Vlado in advance that I was going to test “a new antenna support system.” I think he might have assumed I was packing a large tripod with a 1/4 vertical or something similar, so it was fun to pull out the AX1 and  Tufteln AX1 Antenna Stand!

Vlado, like me, loves compact radio gear, and I knew he’d never used the Elecraft AX1 before, so I was looking forward to showing him just how capable of an antenna it is for POTA, even on 40 meters.

That day, it had been pretty gusty, and in the evening hours, while a little calmer, it was still a tad windy. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to pair the AX1 with Joshua’s AX1 stand because it’s much more stable than the AX1 bipod in windy conditions.

Source: Tufteln.com

The stand consists of two parts: a base and an antenna sleeve. The sleeve screws into the base, and the AX1 simply slides into the sleeve. The height is perfect for the KX2’s BNC (indeed, it works with a number of radios). The stand will also accommodate the AXE 40M coil.

Source: Tufteln.com

When attached to the KX2, it makes for a very stable base. You can even use it as a stand-alone antenna support for the AX1.

Joshua has had this stand in his Tufteln product line for over a year, but I don’t think I’ve actually used it during an activation that I’ve also filmed.

New Mics!

Speaking of filming, this activation with Vlado gave me an opportunity to test my new DJI wireless mics. The system comes with two mics so both Vlado and I used them.

I filmed the activation, but in truth, was doing this more or less to test the mic audio. I believe I mentioned early on that this video might not ever be published.

In the end, I decided to publish it–the audio was quite good, and the wireless mics cut down on the wind noise dramatically.

Gear:

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

N3CZ: On The Air

My goal was to get Vlado on the air and give him a taste of POTA using the AX1 and 40M coil. I hadn’t planned to activate–since we were grabbing dinner afterward–but I did end up activating after the UTC day changed.

Without realizing it, I actually put a lot of pressure on Vlado.

He started his activation at 18:42 local (23:42 UTC). That meant, in order to log a valid POTA activation on February 13, he needed to log at least ten contacts in 18 minutes (using the AX1!).

Keep in mind that Vlado is a contester and DXer (also, very much a QRPer!). He’s used to operating CW at insane speeds when needed. In fact, he’s always one of the top people (if not the top) in the CW speed test at the W4DXCC contesting and DX conference.

I suggested he operate around 20 words per minute.

He started calling CQ POTA, and the first few contacts came in pretty slowly. I was getting nervous that I might have unintentionally made Vlado’s first POTA activation one that wouldn’t be valid.

Then the pace started picking up. (Whew!)

He ended up logging a total of 10 contacts in 12 minutes! Woo hoo!

Here’s his QSO Map, showing what the AX1 pushing 5 watts for twelve minutes can do:

Next, we decided that I would, indeed, perform a quick activation.

I spotted myself on the POTA site and started to call CQ, then it hit me: it was 23:58 UTC. If I worked one contact in that two minutes, it would be considered an activation on February 13 of only one contact.

Instead, we waited for a little over a minute for the UTC day to change!

I ended up working a total of 24 contacts in 21 minutes. Woo hoo!

Here’s my QSO Map:

And here are our logs:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

What fun!

I always enjoy hitting the field with Vlado.

Since this quick little activation, he’s been out there hitting POTA sites regularly.

He hasn’t seen the doctor yet, but I’m positive he caught POTA fever. It’s incredibly contagious.

Also, the Tufteln AX1 stand worked perfectly in the wind. I’m going to keep this tucked away in my pack alongside my second AX1 to pair with a wide variety of radios.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me during this activation!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them!

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon, and the Coffee Fund. While not a requirement, as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo makes it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me!
Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

Pedestrian Mobile POTA Hunting: Pairing the KH1 and N6ARA’s Tiny Paddle Plug

On Sunday, March 3, 2024, I had a couple of errands to run in downtown Asheville and also had to pick up my daughter.

I ended up having about 40 minutes to kill and, since I had my Elecraft KH1 field kit packed in my EDC bag, I thought it might be fun to fit in a little radio time.

Since I was downtown, the only viable POTA site to hit would be the Thomas Wolfe Memorial–you might recall my activation there last year–but technically, the park was closed. It is an urban park in the middle of Asheville, and there are no gates to keep people from walking across the grounds, but still, I’d feel better activating with permission from the staff first. (I’m pretty sure they’ll grant that permission, by the way.)

Instead of activating, I decided to do a little POTA hunting.

I parked at the spot where I planned to meet my daughter and grabbed my KH1 field kit.

Upon opening it up, I remembered that I had put N6ARA’s new KH1 TinyPaddle Plug Adapter in the M40 case!

My good friend, Ara (N6ARA), designed a small 3D-printed adapter that allows his TinyPaddle Plug to fit the KH1 securely. He sent me (free of charge) this new key/adapter to evaluate.

The adapter is a super simple design that works with the TinyPaddle Plug (not the TinyPaddle Jack).

I hadn’t used this new adapter in the field yet–I only very briefly tested it at the QTH a couple of days prior.

I mentioned last year, shortly after the KH1 was introduced, that I expected a number of 3rd party paddles to start appearing on the market. Since the interface with the KH1 is a standard 3.5mm plug, it does open the door to 3D-printed designs and experimentation. Admittedly, it’s a small space to fit in a paddle, but it’s doable.

I believe N6ARA was actually the first non-Elecraft paddle I used on my KH1 because his TinyPaddle Plug will fit it natively. That said, the new KH1 adapter makes it a proper secure fit–the way it should be!

Side Note: The OEM Elecraft KH1 paddles (the KHPD1s) are now in Revision 2, and all KH1 owners (who received the original paddles) will get version 2 paddles eventually via Elecraft for free.

The original KH1 paddles have a green circuit board.

I haven’t received my Rev 2 paddles yet, but I know I will before long. It’s my understanding that the Rev 2 paddles have a much better feel, and keying is more accurate.

Still…it’s brilliant that Elecraft used a standard jack so that we hams can design our own paddles if we like.

The TinyPaddle Plug

Ara’s TinyPaddle design is super simple, and while he originally designed the TinyPaddle to be a back-up option, I know a number of hams who use the TinyPaddle as their main field key.

If you’d like to hear more about the TinyPaddle and Ara (N6ARA), I’d encourage you to listen to this recent episode of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast when he was our guest. He’s such a brilliant fellow.

Park Lot Pedestrian Mobile

Again, I can’t stress how cool it is to have a radio that allows you the flexibility to hit the air pretty much anywhere, anytime.

The KH1 is so quick to deploy, low-impact, and low-profile.

It’s as conspicuous as holding a transistor radio with a telescoping whip. So far (it’s still early days, let’s be honest here) no one has seen me with the KH1 and asked me if I’m a spy. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked this over the years of POTA activating!

POTA Hunting vs. Activating

Even though both activities–hunting and activating–are a part of the same program, they are very different animals. Continue reading Pedestrian Mobile POTA Hunting: Pairing the KH1 and N6ARA’s Tiny Paddle Plug