The next park in my run (#5) was Tuttle Educational State Forest and it was the final park in this modest RaDAR run!
I packed up the gear at Johns River Game Land in a matter of three minutes, popped it all in the car, then drove 8 minutes to nearby Tuttle Educational State Forest which, at this point, almost feels like a home away from home.
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
As I pulled into the Tuttle parking lot, I found my buddy Max (W4GZ) activating the park from his truck. It was no surprise finding Max here since I had just worked him Park-To-Park (P2P) from Johns River next door.
Max delivered some precious cargo: some more of his mom’s homemade QRP pickles!
The next park in my run (#4) was either going to be my last activation, or second to last depending on my available time.
After visiting with my buddy, Hamilton, at his ceramics studio in Morganton (read about that in the previous report) I looked at the time and decided I could fit in a very quick activation of Johns River Game Land (#4) en route to Tuttle Educational State Forest (#5).
I made up my mind en route that I’d use my fastest-to-deploy combo: the Elecraft KX2 and Chameleon CHA MPAS Lite.
I really wanted to be in and out of the site within a 20 minute window. That’s actually very doable as long as I could rack up at least ten contacts in 10-15 minutes. Some days, propagation can make that a tall order, though!
Johns River Game Land (K-6916)
Johns River actually has a number of access points and, frankly, none of them are exactly “bucolic.” Other than the river itself which is beautiful and the main access point for the river which is well-maintained, most of the game land parking areas are filled with litter.
I chose a parking area for this activation which has, in the past, looked like a dumping ground. I was pleased when I pulled into the parking lot this time to find it much cleaner (no old refrigerators or sofas dumped at the far end of the lot) but then again the snow on the ground was likely hiding quite a bit of litter! My philosophy is to always leave a site cleaner than I found it, but Johns River often has so much littler, I could spend a week picking up trash.
After doing a very short intro for my activation video, I set up the Elecraft KX2 and MPAS Lite antenna in a matter of two minutes.
I started calling CQ POTA (with my fingers crossed!) on 40 meters and was very pleased that chasers were out and about!
I worked my ten contact in 9 minutes and then went QRT! Woot! Here’s the log sheet:
In this short activation, there was actually a P2P with Max (WG4Z) who was just up the road at Tuttle Educational State Forest. We were definitely working each other via ground wave.
The contacts were flowing so well, that I wanted to stay on the air a bit longer, but I knew to fit in Tuttle and a hike, I really needed keep moving. As soon as I worked my ten, I hopped off the radio.
While I like putting more contacts in the log–especially when they’re flowing so freely–it was actually kind of fun to validate this activation in somewhat of a “sprint.”
Here’s what 5 watts and the MPAS Lite yielded in nine minutes on the air:
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. This must be one of the shortest activation videos I’ve ever made:
Thank you so much for reading this short report and coming along with me on this RaDAR run! I’ll be posting Park #5–Tuttle Educational State Forest–soon where I catch up with Max (WG4Z) and we work park-to-park once again.
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 certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I truly appreciate the support.
These are crazy times we’re living in these days (at time of posting). I wish all of you good health, safety, and peace–especially our good friends in Ukraine.
Let’s all treat each other with kindness and respect this week as we remember that all we’ve got on this old planet is each other.
As mentioned in my last field report, on January 26, 2022, I decided to fit in multiple park activations in one day as a RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) run. My hope was to activate four or five sites between 14:00 – 21:30 UTC.
The first activation at Lake James State Park went so well, it started me out a little ahead of schedule.
After packing up my gear at Lake James, I began a 40 minute drive to the second site–Dogback Mountain–where I hoped to do a POTA two-fer along with a Summits On The Air activation.
The drive was beautiful. Only twenty minutes into the trip, I came to the forest service road that lead to Dogback Mountain. For a six mile drive, Google Maps was telling me it would take about 20 minutes, so I knew the dirt road would require slow driving.
The road was actually in pretty good shape, but there are rocky and rough spots that pretty much require good vehicle ground clearance. My Subaru had no issues at all–in fact, I love driving on back roads like this!
Three or four miles into the forest service road I reached an impasse.
While there hadn’t been snow in the area for at least a week, the north slope portions of the road were quite icy. The thaw and night time freezing pretty much meant that there was no snow to navigate–only ice, and I’m not a big fan of ice.
I already passed through two sections of ice where I could still manage a little traction on the side of the road (at least half the car had traction). At one point, though, I saw a large section of icy road ahead, so I parked the car to investigate what it looked like over the crest of the hill.
It was so icy, I struggled to find a spot to walk on to peek over the hill and almost slipped once. That hill was pretty steep and I could see no spots for the car to get traction. Remembering what my wife said that morning (“Don’t do anything crazy, okay?“) and knowing that the worst thing for my RaDAR run would be getting stuck in a spot recovery vehicles might struggle with, I chose the option of forgoing the summit activation.
Frankly, if the summit activation was the only thing on the schedule that day, I would have likely parked, then hiked 3 miles to the summit along the forest service road. But my RaDAR run left no time for this.
Fortunately, where I parked was firmly in the two-fer zone of Pisgah National Forest and Pisgah Game Land!
Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Land (K-6937)
You may have noticed a common theme in my field reports: basically, it’s rare that I plan out an activation more than 24 hours in advance.
Indeed, due to my “dynamic” (I think that’s a good word for it?) family schedule, I often don’t plan an activation more than one to two hours in advance.
But last month, I saw an opportunity open on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. Basically, I had from early morning until late afternoon to play radio.
At first, I thought about striking out early and hitting some of the parks that are a little further afield–parks I hadn’t visited in a couple years, or some new-to-me parks.
Then, I hatched an idea to activate two SOTA summits. Both would qualify for bonus winter points and both were technically doable in the time I had allotted. It would involve about 9-10 miles of hiking in addition to 3 hours of driving plus allotting for the time I’d actually spend on the air. It would equate to a very early departure and some steady hiking.
That Tuesday evening, I started putting the plan together, downloading all of the maps, preparing my SOTA alerts, and packing my SOTA pack. I spent the better part of an hour plotting and planning these activations.
Then the realization hit me: the trails I’d be hiking were likely covered in snow and ice which would slow me down considerably especially since my Yaktrax Traction Chains hadn’t yet been delivered. I realized the schedule was just a little too tight. There’s be no room for mishaps and if I made the trip I really wanted to hit both summits in the same day. So, I saved all of my maps, links, and notes to do this multiple SOTA run in the near future.
Back to the drawing board!
I decided that I did like the idea of doing multiple activations in a day, so why not fit in a RaDAR run?
RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) is basically an activity that can be combined with summits and/or park activations and the idea is simple: you complete multiple rapid field deployments within 24 hours.
If you’d like more information about RaDAR, check out this webpage. Parks On The Air even has a few awards for RaDAR runs–it would be fun to apply for one of them (thanks, WD8RIF, for the heads-up!).
I so rarely have enough time to consider more than two or three activations in a day that the idea of fitting in four or possibly five activations was very appealing.
Back in the days of the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) program in 2016, I made it a habit of doing multiple park activations in a morning, afternoon, or evening. I’ve done less of this in Parks On The Air (POTA) this year only because my time is more limited. Still, I love doing multiples because it gives me an opportunity to set up, play radio, achieve a valid activation, pack up, move on and repeat. Makes me feel like the only member of a pit stop crew. I love it!
Some call this RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio).
Monday (December 21, 2020) I had a block of time in the early afternoon to fit in up to two activations, en route to the QTH if all went well. While it wasn’t three, four, or five activations in an afternoon, I knew it would be a challenge to fit both in my tight schedule. If an activation took much longer than 30-40 minutes, I wouldn’t be able to complete both.
Since my goal was a quick activation, I reached for the Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical antenna which is so easy to deploy. I paired it with the Icom IC-705 and new mAT-705Plus ATU.
My first stop was Johns River Game Land. During hunting season, I spend less time in game lands because parking areas are full and even though I wear a blaze orange vest, I’d rather not be shot if I venture into the forest to set up. 🙂
Johns River has a very accessible large parking area off of a highway near Morganton, NC and I’ve never seen more than two vehicles there at a time.
I arrived on site just before noon on Monday and set up at the edge of the parking area. Unfortunately, this parking area is less than bucolic. Those who use this game land access point leave trash everywhere. You can tell groups gather with pickup trucks, make fire pits, drink beer, break bottles and throw their trash in the woods. Being a firm believer in Leave No Trace, this really, really gripes me.
I found a spot with the least amount of trash and set up in the gravel portion of the parking area so I didn’t drive over sharp objects or step on broken glass.
This is where the Chameleon MPAS Lite came in handy: I plunged its spike in the ground, unrolled the counterpoise, extended the antenna, and I was on the air in perhaps three minutes. No need to walk into the weeds and trees to hang an antenna.
I made a real-time, no-edit video of the entire activation with my iPhone. Since the iPhone was in use, I didn’t take a single photo at Johns River. That’s okay, though, because–as I mentioned–there wasn’t a lot there in terms of scenery. 🙂
All in all, I worked 11 stations in short order. The video above approaches 30 minutes, but much of that time is dialog before the activation started. Toward the end, I also have the Mat-Tuner mAT-705Plus tune from 160-6 meters with the CHA MPAS Lite. If you’d like to skip directly to that bit, here’s the link.
I quickly packed my gear and set my sites on the next activation.
Lake James State Park (K-2739)
I arrived at Lake James State Park around 19:00 UTC and was on the air ten minutes later with the same equipment I used at Johns River.
I love Lake James because there are so many picnic sites and all have tall trees (for wire antennas) and gorgeous views. It doesn’t get any better for a POTA activator. Also, it’s a very short walk to the picnic spots. Since I recently sprained my ankle and can’t hike at present, this is a major plus. Like Johns River, I also have mobile internet access at Lake James which was a huge plus since the POTA spotting page wasn’t pulling spots from the Reverse Beacon Network like it normally does.
The Chameleon MPAS Lite 17′ vertical (above) served me well once again.
I worked 11 stations in short order.
Even though a vertical antenna isn’t optimal in the foothills of western North Carolina (due to poor ground conductivity), it had no problem sending my 10 watts across the US into California and up to Alaska. I still get a major thrill out of MPW (mileage per watt) like this!
I also made a short video at Lake James where I primarily talk about the trade off between convenience and performance with regards to field antennas. I also work a few stations on 30 meters:
Here’s a QSOMap of all of my contact from both Johns River and Lake James on Monday December 21, 2020:
Today is Christmas Eve and I’ve no plans to do an activation (torrential rain, if I’m being honest, is dissuading me).
Instead, I’ll spend quality time with my family here at home. Same for Christmas Day. This evening, we’ll watch some our favorite Christmas shows/episodes: The Good Life (a.k.a. Good Neighbors), The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and of course a Charlie Brown Christmas to cap off the evening.
I know 2020 has put a damper on gatherings with family and friends–our family has certainly felt it this year. With that said, I think the amazing thing about ham radio is the community we build over the air–it’s certainly been an important community for me, this year especially.
Thank you, radio family!
Here’s wishing you, your family, and your friends the very best of the season!