Tag Archives: SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle

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
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

More of the Unexpected at Collier-Seminole State Park

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It was Tuesday, December 26th, the third day of my winter-break Florida POTA trip. As my brother Joseph and I were moving at a leisurely pace this morning, I decided to work in a quick activation at the campsite as the antenna was already in the trees from the prior night’s activation.

Even though this second activation at Little Manatee River wouldn’t count toward my 2024 goal, it was still a valid activation. POTA is like eating potato chips – You can’t do just one! I had five QSOs on 40 meters to begin and then 14 on 20 meters before calling QRT. We needed to get on the road and head south.

QSO Map for Little Manatee River SP Day Activation http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

My brother desperately needed a new Thermarest as the old one he brought on the trip was not working for his back. He had always wanted to visit an REI store. We found one in Sarasota-Springs and stopped by. He found a better sleeping pad and I found a few items I needed to add to my arsenal – a small brush for cleaning sand off items, a camp pillow so I didn’t have to lug my pillow from home in the future, more bug-repellant wipes, and a smaller quick-dry towel. Happy with our purchases, we resumed our journey southward.

We had lollygagged enough in the morning there wasn’t sufficient time for an activation on our way to the next camping destination – Collier-Seminole State Park (K-1847). The drive was nearly all interstate and not that exciting. It never ceases to amaze me how many people live in Florida!

Google Maps

Collier-Seminole State Park is located in southern Florida as you head toward the Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area and Everglades National Park. The Big Cypress Swamp was the last refuge of the Seminole Indians. Collier-Seminole State Park lies along the Tamiami Trail, a road from Tampa to Miami that was constructed in the early 1900’s and runs through the Big Cypress Swamp. An advertising mogul Baron Collier (for whom Collier County and Collier-Seminole State Park are named) was a significant investor in the Tamiami Trail and, in fact, bankrolled the completion of the east-west portion of the road.

After you enter Collier-Seminole State Park, on the right is the last existing Bay City Walking Dredge. This dredge was used to build the Tamiami Trail and would follow drilling and blasting rigs. The dredge dug a canal which provided rock fill for roadbed drainage of the completed road. It is a unique and huge piece of equipment.

Some parks are easier to activate than others. This was not one of the those. My first hint should have been when I was asked to read the rules when checking in. The first rule is nothing in the trees. I mentioned I am a ham radio operator and asked if it be ok to put an antenna up with an arborist line that won’t damage the tree. That request was met with an immediate and emphatic “No!” Rules are rules and, as I brought my hitch mount and SOTABeams mast on the trip, I could work around that restriction.

I planned to set up my antenna and get on the air in the comfort of my tent as I had at the previous park – Little Manatee River State Park. However, running right in front of our site and all through the campground were power poles. This campground was also much larger than our previous one. I wasn’t sure how much RFI I might get from the surrounding RVs and power lines as we appeared to be the only tent at this site. Continue reading More of the Unexpected at Collier-Seminole State Park

A Journey Through Florida Begins

by Teri (KO4WFP)

It was Sunday, December 24th around 7:30 AM and my brother Joseph, my dog Daisy, and I were on our way to Florida. The purpose of the trip was to knock out nine or ten parks toward my goal of 60 new-to-me park activations in 2024. The trip was also designed to test my camping skills and adjust my equipment and set-up for future POTA camping trips. The first park on the itinerary was Olustee Battlefield Park (K-3642).

The drive to Olustee was straight forward: I-95 south to Jacksonville, then I-295 to I-10. We stopped at the Florida Welcome Center and snapped a quick picture despite the rain, then bundled ourselves back into the car and on our way.

Are we there yet?

Olustee Battlefield Park commemorates the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle. Florida was important to the Confederacy in the Civil War because of its material contributions. In fact, Florida was a vital contributor of beef and salt. The battle of Olustee was fought to repel a Union attempt to disrupt Florida’s food-producing supply routes and recruit African-American soldiers. In fact U.S. African-American troops took part in the battle including the famous 54th Massachusetts regiment featured in the movie “Glory”.  A re-enactment of the battle at Olustee is held each February.

Joseph and I arrived at Olustee Battlefield Park under cloudy skies. Right after our arrival, a gentleman pulled up from the local area and began chatting with us. He owns some of the timber plantations in the surrounding area and was killing time at the park while a relative visited someone at the nearby prison.

I located a pine tree and installed the Tufteln EFRW antenna. Meanwhile, Daisy found a pine cone or two to deconstruct. It was nice to be at a location at which she could be off-leash and wander.

I began with 40 meters as usual but the noise on that band was horrendous – S7! So I moved to 20 meters figuring that would be quieter. NOPE! Again, S7! Well, shucks! I told myself to just call CQ and see what I could hear. Only the strongest calls broke through the noise and even then, I sometimes lost a hunter as the band appeared to be shifting. After twenty minutes on 20 meters, I switched to 17 meters hoping the noise might be better there. Nope – S7 AGAIN! I needed a few more contacts for a valid activation so I hung in there for five more minutes getting four contacts and then called it QRT.

QSO map for Olustee Battlefield HSP http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

What the heck could have caused such noise on all three bands I tried? There were power lines but I was nowhere near them. There were no other sources of noise I could see at the site. And then I remembered the nearby Baker Correctional Institution, the prison the gentleman’s relative was visiting. It was a large facility. Surely there was a lot of electric equipment with surveillance cameras, etc. That must have been the noise source.

It was time to move on. We drove secondary roads which took us through pine forests in the Osceola Wildlife Management Area and Gainesville, FL, home of the University of Florida. Continue reading A Journey Through Florida Begins

Pairing the Elecraft KH1 and my Tufteln No-Transformer (aka, Speaker Wire) Antenna

On Thursday, November 30, 2023 I had a chunk of afternoon open to fit in some Parks On The Air time. My travels took me near one of my favorite local parks: the Zebulon Vance Birthplace Historic Site (K-6856).

As I packed my car that morning, I brought along some of my Mountain Topper transceivers as well. The plan was to first shoot a video comping the new Elecraft KH1 to these venerable SOTA machines, then do a POTA activation with the KH1 and a new-to-me kit antenna.

The Mountain Topper comparison took a bit longer than I had anticipated (surprise, surprise) so my POTA time was actually somewhat limited. If interested, my KH1/Mountain Topper comparison was posted several weeks ago–click here to check it out.

Tufteln No-Transformer EFRW

One goal of my afternoon activation was to finally put my new-to-me Tufteln “No-Transformer” end-fed random wire antenna on the air.

You might recall that I shared a campsite–during the W4 SOTA campout last year–with good friend Joshua (N5FY) of Tufteln fame and fortune. Being the antenna guy he is, Joshua brought along a full antenna building station and set it up on our picnic table. That first afternoon at camp, he gave me a kit to build this random wire antenna. Thanks again, OM!
These “No-Transformer” random wire antennas are designed to be paired with a good ATU–either external or internal. This type of antenna couldn’t be more simple.

Since there’s no transformer (no 9:1, etc.) the ATU does all of the heavy lifting to make a match. While this might not seem like an efficient way of doing things, one benefit of this design is that there’s no feed line: the radiator and counterpoise connect directly to the radio if your radio has a built-in ATU.  I’ve found that there’s some inherent efficiency in this approach.

Just two wires (radiator and counterpoise) connected directly to a BNC with a little strain relief.

The antenna is identical to the speaker wire antenna I built in the field and have used so extensively over the past few years. Joshua’s design is just much lower-profile and more compact.

When I built this particular antenna, I decided to go for a much longer length than any other random wire I’ve made to date. The idea was to have an antenna that might possibly match 80M. Joshua might correct me, but I believe we cut something between 70-80 feet for the radiator.

At Vance, I deployed this antenna into some short evergreens that surround the picnic shelter. It wasn’t an ideal deployment, per se, but adequate for a quickie activation!

I’ve learned that the length I chose for this radiator isn’t ideal for most of my ATUs to hit some bands. I will end up trimming this antenna a bit until I find the right length. I’m tempted to shorten it for matching on 60 meters, then build another 9:1 random wire to hit 80 and possibly 160 meters.

Setting up the KH1 took no time at all. I did discover during this activation that I needed to better secure the KH1 to the table. Wind gusts were tugging on the random wire a bit (as the trees swayed) and it would move the KH1 around on the table. The KH1 weighs less than a pound, so it’s super lightweight! This will be easy to fix next time.


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On The Air

I tuned the EFRW antenna on 30M and got a perfect impedance match.

I started calling CQ POTA and hunters replied!

In fact, I worked ten stations in exactly ten minutes. Two of them were Park-To-Parks–thanks KD8IE and KC3WPW!

I worked two more stations for a total of only twelve logged. I would like to have spent more time on the air, but I had two appointments on my schedule that afternoon.


Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:

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.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me on this short activation!

Had I realized how low I was running on time at the beginning of this activation, I might have made the antenna deployment and my commentary a bit briefer to have more air time. That said, I don’t do POTA for the numbers, I do it because it’s amazing fun and such a positive part of my day. This little activation was no exception! Pure radio fun.

I hope you enjoyed this 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 certainly 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 make 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!

Have a brilliant weekend, friends!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

KO4WFP: Braving the Heat at Spring Creek Forest Preserve in Texas

Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) for the following guest post:

Braving the Heat at Spring Creek Forest Preserve in Texas

by Teri (KO4WFP)

The last week of July, my family and I visited my husband’s sister and brother-in-law who live in the Dallas, Texas area. Of course, as soon as the decision was made to make the trip, I immediately checked to see if there were any POTA sites nearby. And wouldn’t you know, there is one roughly 12 miles away – Spring Creek Forest Preserve (K-4423). This would be my chance to activate my first Texas park.

Spring Creek Forest Preserve is a city-owned nature preserve in Garland, Texas. The forest contains old growth trees and several rare and unique plants. Seven miles (four dirt and three paved) of trails traverse the property. The park is named for the creek that runs through it. Today, the creek was deceptively quiet and the water level low. However, given the sculpted chalk cliffs that run above the creek and the flood stage signage, the waterway obviously has its wilder moments.

The morning of July 25th, I headed out early for the easy forty-minute drive from my in-laws to the preserve. The weather forecast predicted a high of 101 degrees, easy to imagine as by the time I arrived at the park, around 8 AM, the temperature was already 80 degrees.

I scoped out the parking lot. It was mostly empty on this day. Having no idea how busy the park might become, I looked for a place less likely for people to encounter my antenna. At first I chose a tree on the edge of the parking lot. However, there was nowhere to park my car close by and I wanted to sit inside the car during the activation.

In the middle of the circular parking lot was a tree surrounded by weedy growth. I figured no one would choose to wander through those weeds and thus my antenna would be safe and not need to be flagged.

I soon discovered why no one would want to wander through the weeds – they were full of little oval-shaped stickers! Thankfully they didn’t have long needle-like spikes on them and instead of being painful, were just annoying. They ended up all over my socks, shoelaces, and the hem of my shorts.

It took several tries to get my arbor line successfully in the tree as its branches were mostly aimed upward rather than outward. But on the third throw, I successfully snagged a branch of sufficient height for my EFRW antenna to slope toward my car. Just as it took several tries to snag the right branch, it took several adjustments to get the right amount of tension in the antenna. Rather than retie the arbor line every time I adjusted it, I just tied another slip knot and as such it ended up looking a mess. But I finally got the amount of tension and height I wanted. (By the way, the weeds made for a mess untangling my arbor line after the activation, too!) Continue reading KO4WFP: Braving the Heat at Spring Creek Forest Preserve in Texas

CW Morse N0SA SP4 Mini Paddles in stock again!

Many of you have been asking about N0SA SP4 paddles and when they might be in stock once again.

I’m happy to note that CW Morse have inventory at time of posting. They do these paddles in production runs, so if you find that they’re out of stock again, check back again soon as they’re finishing batches of them every few days.

Click here to check out the SP4 at CW Morse.

Note that CW Morse is a proud supporter of QRPer.com and the link above is an affiliate link that helps QRPer at no cost to you. Thank you!

Postcard Field Report: Pairing the Elecraft KX3 and Tufteln Random Wire

Believe it or not, the 2023 Hamvention and Four Days In May is only ten days away at time of posting.

Where in the world did the time go–?

If you’re going to Hamvention, I hope to meet you there. When I’m not floating around, I’ll be hanging out at the Ham Radio Workbench/Halibut Electronics table: 3011.

I’m super excited about attending, but I’ve so much to prepare in advance. Every day between now and then is planned out to the max with family activities and projects.

That, and being an introvert (this might surprise some of you), I have to mentally prepare myself for hanging out with 30+ thousand other human beings. I’ll need ten days for that alone. If I appear tired at Hamvention or FDIM, you’ll know why! Ha ha!

Postcard Field Report

I’ve got a load of videos in the pipeline and to keep from falling behind publishing them, you’re going to see more of my slightly shorter “Postcard Field Reports” for the next couple of weeks during my travels.

These postcard reports contain all of the core information, just less wordy.  (In theory!)

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

On Wednesday, April 5, 2023, I had a bit of time in the early afternoon to do a POTA activation. Tuttle Educational State Forest was low-hanging fruit as my errands that day took me within a stone’s throw of the park.

I arrived a bit before noon and took some time to record a Hike and Talk video (which will be published in the next couple of weeks).

After the hike, I set up my Elecraft KX3 and paired it with my Tufteln End-Fed Random Wire antenna. Continue reading Postcard Field Report: Pairing the Elecraft KX3 and Tufteln Random Wire

Propagation changes make for a relaxed 17 meter POTA activation at Pilot Mountain State Park

On Saturday, February 18, 2023, I had a rare opportunity: a full day to play radio.

Instead of doing a five park POTA rove, I chose instead to do a summit activation followed by a park activation.

I published the summit activation on Moore’s Knob (W4C/EP-001) a couple weeks ago and planned to immediately follow that up with this report from my POTA activation at Pilot Mountain State Park (which I activated the same day).

In the process of moving my videos from the camera, to my laptop, and then to PC where I do my remote uploads (my bandwidth at the QTH is far too poor to upload large videos) I somehow managed to delete this particular video file.

I was quite frustrated, actually, because this particular POTA activation was challenging. Lately, I’ve had so few examples of just how quiet a band can be when propagation is less stable.

The SOTA activation I performed only a few hours earlier had some of the deepest pileups I’ve ever experienced. By the time I started my POTA activation a couple hours later, all of this had changed–at least on the bands above 20 meters and I’d chosen 17 meters (a WARC band) since a contest was in progress on 20 and 40 meters.

I’m incredibly pleased that I stumbled upon the raw video files on my backup drive. I was able to reproduce the video in its entirety.  I’m so pleased it wasn’t lost!

This is why it’s a little out of sync date-wise with my other reports.

I hope you enjoy this field report:

Pilot Mountain State Park (K-2750)

After capping off a beautiful 4+ mile hike and SOTA/POTA activation at Hanging Rock State Park, I put my SOTA pack in the car and drove 30 minutes to Pilot Mountain State Park.

It being a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, the park was so full of guests the parking lot was completely full.  A park ranger had incoming cars form a line and he allowed cars in as guests departed one by one. When I arrived, there were five cars in front of me. I was very tempted to do a three-point turn and head back down the mountain to the visitor’s center to do the activation. There was plenty of parking there. Continue reading Propagation changes make for a relaxed 17 meter POTA activation at Pilot Mountain State Park

CW Morse N0SA SP4 Mini Paddles in stock again!

Many of you have been asking about the SP4 paddle and when it might be in stock once again.

I’m happy to not that CW Morse is working on a large production run of SP4s right now and have inventory at time of posting. I spoke with CW Morse and they noted that if you find that they’re out of stock, check back again soon as they’re finishing batches of them every few days.

Click here to check out the SP4 at CW Morse.

Note that CW Morse is a proud supporter of QRPer.com and the link above is an affiliate link that helps QRPer at no cost to you. Thank you!

KX2/AX1: Second quick activation of the day at Lake James State Park!

As I mentioned in my previous field report, on Saturday, January 21, 2023, I had just enough time to activate two parks in short order on the way back to my QTH

I thought it might be fun to perform both of these activations with the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 combo because they’re so speedy to deploy.

Once again, I wanted to show the whole KX2/AX1 set-up and pack-up process in my activation video.

Lake James State Park (K-2739)

As I pulled into the Lake James Catawba River access, I discovered that there were few other guests there that day. I was expecting more people on a Saturday especially since the weather was so pleasant and South Mountains had been so busy earlier that morning.

Then again, the Catawba River access always has less visitors than the Paddy’s Creek area (which is really the main public access point for Lake James).

I pulled into a parking space, found one of the closest picnic tables, and set up the station in short order.

At South Mountains State Park, an hour earlier, I performed the entire activation on 20 meters. To shake things up a bit, I decided to perform the one at Lake James on 17 meters (note here that the AX1 only works on 20 and 17 meters unless you have the coil which adds 40 meters). Continue reading KX2/AX1: Second quick activation of the day at Lake James State Park!