Tag Archives: Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

My first POTA activation with the Mountain Topper MTR-4B V2

As you might have noticed from past field reports, I’m a big fan of the LnR Precision Mountain Topper MTR-3B. It’s a wee CW-only transceiver that is almost perfectly designed for summit and park activating. It’s so lightweight and compact, you barely notice it in your backpack.

Thing is, the MTR-3B is no longer produced and I’m not sure if it ever will be again, but Steve Weber (KD1JB) hasn’t stopped making iterative improvements to the Mountain Topper design and LnR hasn’t stopped producing them.

In late 2020, LnR introduced the new MTR-4B which replaced the MTR-3B and added a few extra features that many of us had been asking for including:

  • Easy access to sidetone volume control (with a dielectric screwdriver)
  • A built-in SWR meter
  • A wider voltage range and higher output power (up to 5 watts)
  • And the 80 meter band in addition to 40, 30, and 20 meters

The MTR-4B also has an attractive red gloss chassis.

And the right and left sides of the chassis even protrude a bit to better protect the front panel buttons and switches when the unit is flipped over on its face. Nice touch!

Generosity

One of the great things about being me is I am often at the receiving end of incredibly generous people who like supporting what I do.

QRPer.com is a pure labor of love and I’d do what I do without any compensation, but it’s an honor when anyone goes out of their way to thank or support me.

Seriously: the kindness I feel here restores my faith in humanity.

In January, a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) approached me with a deal I simply couldn’t refuse. He is a very seasoned and accomplished field operator but has only recently been upping his CW game. I believe as a reward to himself for starting CW activations later this year, he told me he wished to order a new MTR-4B.

What he proposed was to purchase the radio from LnR and have it drop-shipped to me. He wanted me to have the opportunity to review this little radio and log field time with it as well. He told me I could use it for months before shipping it to him and not to worry about it getting scratched or showing other signs of field use.

Wow.

I loved this idea because, as a reviewer, it isn’t financially viable to buy each and every radio I would like to review. I do like asking manufacturers for loaner radios, but LnR is a small manufacturer and make these units to order. I know them quite well and they simply don’t have extra loaner units lying around the shop–much like new automobiles these day, each one produced is already spoken for.

I accepted his offer with gratitude. I looked forward to getting my hands on the MTR-4B!

But that wasn’t all: this kind reader has actually been sending me coffee fund contributions that will add up to half the price of a new MTR-4B should I decide to purchase and add one to my own field radio arsenal! I tried, but I couldn’t talk him out of it.

So there you go. I’m so incredibly grateful.

Delivery

As LnR Precision states on their website, there’s roughly a 6-8 week lead time on the MTR-4B. I took delivery of this unit in early March.

As with all LnR Precision products, it was packed amazingly well.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of size, but the MTR-3B is only slightly bulkier than the MTR-3B (indeed, in my activation video below, I compare the two).

I love the hotrod red paint job!

This unit arrived during what turned out to be a crazy time for me–one where there was nearly a four week period with no field activations. That’s how crazy!

I did play with the MTR-4B in the shack, however, during that time and logged numerous POTA, WWFF, and SOTA activators. I even had a couple of 80 meter rag chews.

Many field ops were surprised that the MTR-4B didn’t use the forth band position for 17 or 15 meters and I tend to agree. In the field, efficient 80 meter antennas are a bit bulky for the likes of a summit activator. Then again, when in the shack or for extended camping trips? I find 80 meters a brilliant band for evening rag chews and late night DXing.

Not sure how much I’ll use 80M in the field, but I do appreciate this additional band!

Of course, the MTR-4B is built for playing radio outdoors and that’s exactly what I had in store for it on April 13, 2022. Continue reading My first POTA activation with the Mountain Topper MTR-4B V2

Brooks’ first Parks On The Air (POTA) activation

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Brooks (KO4QCC), a newly-minted  ham radio operator who asked to tag along on one of my POTA field activations. 

Brooks, it turns out, lives within spitting distance of a number of parks I regularly activate here in western North Carolina. He mentioned he was interested in observing an activation to learn a bit about deploying a field radio kit and, of course, to learn what it’s like to be on the air.

Brooks was also plotting the purchase of his first field radio kit and was very interested in the Icom IC-705 and MFJ-1988LP End-Fed Half-Wave (EFHW) antenna. 

Of course, I welcomed him to join me but since we both have busy family lives–and my schedule especially took some twists and turns in March–it took a few weeks before our schedules aligned.

I asked Brooks if he would consider actually doing the activation himself instead of simply observing or tag-teaming it.  I’m a big believer in hands-on radio time.

Brooks loved the idea!

On Sunday, March 27, 2022, a window of opportunity opened in our schedules and we agreed to meet at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861). I packed my:

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really a “YouTuber” so I’m not actually inclined to capture every moment on video, but it struck me that others may appreciate experiencing (vicariously) what it’s like to do a park activation for the first time.

Prior to meeting, I asked Brooks if it would be okay if I made a video of his activation adding that there was absolutely no pressure to do so–just a thought. I’ll be the first to admit that if I were in his shoes, I’m not sure if I’d want a camera capturing my first activation jitters for all to see. 

Brooks loved the idea–as he, too, saw value in this sort of video–so I brought my camera along for the ride.

In the same spirit, I asked Brooks if he would write up the field report and he wholeheartedly agreed, so I’ll turn it over to him now: Continue reading Brooks’ first Parks On The Air (POTA) activation

POTA Field Report: Gazebo QRV & Gusty Winds with the Elecraft KX1 and K6ARK EFHW

One of the things I love about our state and national parks is that no matter how often I visit, there’s almost always something new to discover.

This is especially the case as the seasons change from winter to spring.

On March 20, 2022, I carved out enough time in my afternoon to fit in a quick activation of Tuttle Educational State Forest. My main goal, in truth, was fitting in a nice hike–the weather was beautiful, although it was rather gusty.

I needed a little “radio therapy” that day as I had been spending time in the hospital with my mom who had a nasty case of pneumonia. This was a few weeks ago and she’s feeling much better now, thankfully, but those hospital weeks in March were pretty stressful for all of us.

Field activations are such an effective way for me to get in a little exercise, a little radio time, and clear my mind; again, proper “radio therapy.”

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

For this trip, I packed the Elecraft KX1 field kit which included my K6ARK EFHW antenna since that was the last pairing I’d used int he field (click here to read that report). I did, however, transfer the KX1 to my new Pelican 1060 waterproof case.

I actually have a solid yellow Pelican 1060 case for the KX1, but after reading about Leo’s QCX-mini field kit built in a clear-topped Peli 1060, I realized how much I missed having a clear lid on the 1060. I checked Amazon and discovered that their blue one was on sale, so I grabbed one. This was a total impulse purchase, by the way.

And for the record: I’m accused of being a radio enabler on a daily basis, but in my defence I promise the enabling works both ways! I’ve bought so many things based on reader recommendations. 🙂 Continue reading POTA Field Report: Gazebo QRV & Gusty Winds with the Elecraft KX1 and K6ARK EFHW

POTA RaDAR Run Final Activation: Testing the new MTR-3B field kit at Tuttle Educational State Forest

On January 26, 2022, I 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.

Here are the field reports and videos of my first four activations:

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!

“Them’s QRP pickles!”

Max continued to activate Tuttle from his truck while I set up my station. Continue reading POTA RaDAR Run Final Activation: Testing the new MTR-3B field kit at Tuttle Educational State Forest

QRP & Tea: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 & AX1 under shelter at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Sometimes field activations can be relaxed and laid-back. Other times they can be absolute mayhem!

Having explored the whole mayhem style activation the previous day, I was seeking a more chilled-out field activation on Thursday, November 4, 2021.

It was pouring rain, but I had a respectable three hour window to fit in a park activation while visiting my parents in the foothills of the NC mountains.

I had such an enjoyable experience pairing my Elecraft KX2 and AX1 antenna under a shelter at Tuttle Educational State Forest during a previous rainy day activation, I decided to revisit the same site.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

I knew I would likely be the only visitor at Tuttle that day; it was pretty cold and very wet.

Knowing rangers might not expect visitors on a day like this (keeping in mind this type of park caters to educational groups and are otherwise relatively quiet) I made a courtesy call to the park headquarters. I asked the ranger for permission to use their main shelter for an activation.

As expected, he said, “It’s all yours!” Continue reading QRP & Tea: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 & AX1 under shelter at Tuttle Educational State Forest

40M Activation: Pairing the Icom IC-705 and CHA LEFS at Tuttle Educational State Forest

I’ve gotten a few messages from readers lately asking, “Why no love for the Icom IC-705?

Looking back, I realize that I haven’t had the ‘705 in the field for quite some time (at least, in a video and field report).

Truth is, the ‘705 has been doing duty as a shortwave listening receiver in shack and just hasn’t hopped into my field pack recently. Since it’s important for the health of all field radios to soak in the outdoors on a regular basis, I packed it in my bag and took it to one of my favorite parks.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

The weather was beautiful on Thursday, October 21, 2021.

When I arrived at Tuttle, the first thing I did was hike their 2 mile loop to get the blood pumping.


This also gave me time to decide on the antenna to deploy: my Chameleon CHA LEFS.

The CHA LEFS sloper

The CHA LEFS has served me quite well in the past, especially on days with mediocre propagation.

During my hike I decided to do the entire activation on 40 meters only, just to get a better idea how the CHA LEFS’ propagation footprint might look with a larger sample size.

Gear:

On the Air

This was also the first time I’d used my N0SA paddles with the IC-705. Isn’t it cute?

Setup was quite easy.

I deployed the CHA LEFS with the feed point at about 35-40′ into a large tree.

The radiator sloped down to a point in the middle of a field and the end was elevated perhaps 4′ off the ground. I secured the end of the antenna to a length of paracord, the end of which was attached to a heavy stick on the ground, stretching the radiator.

The CHA LEFS is resonant on 40 meters, so no external ATU was necessary.

I hopped on the air, started calling CQ POTA in CW and within 10 minutes was rewarded with 10 contacts. It doesn’t get much better than this for a good start!

I continued calling CQ and, in the end, worked a total of 22 contacts in 30 minutes–almost all in CW. Check out the video below to see how it all played out.

Many thanks to KC5F and N9UNX for the Park-To-Park contacts!

Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation (less antenna set up and take-down):

Click here to view on YouTube.

QSO Map

The QSO Map shows an interesting pattern: a ring with a few close regional stations (almost NVIS), and an outer ring of 40 meter skywave:

Thank you!

I believe one of the attractions of activating parks and summits is the fact that we really have no idea in advance how it might all play out. It’s a bit like going fishing.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions from readers lately about what propagation tools I use. In truth, my main propagation forecasting tool is my buddy Mike (K8RAT). Before I head out–or if he knows I’m hitting the field–he’ll usually text me current conditions and they’re quite accurate.

At the end of the day, though, propagation forecasts never stop me from doing an activation when I want to play radio. I just go out there and see what happens. As I’m sure my childhood fishing buddy–my Great Uncle Luther–would have said, “Any day fishing is better than a good day at work!” (Of course, a real quote from Uncle Luther would have included more “colorful metaphors.”)

A special thanks to those of you who are 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.

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Thursday, October 28, 2021 was a wet, rainy day but I wanted to do a POTA activation on the way back to the QTH after having visited my parents for a couple nights.

I didn’t have a lot of radio gear with me on that trip, but I had the right gear: my Elecraft KX2 transceiver and AX1 antenna. If I could activate a park under a covered picnic shelter, I knew I would stay dry while playing radio.

There are only two parks within a reasonable detour that have covered picnic shelters: Lake James State Park and Tuttle Educational State Forest.

Lake James was the shortest detour, but they tend to be busier than Tuttle and last time I was there? Yeah, the picnic shelter was occupied.

On the other hand, I was nearly certain that I would have the picnic shelter all to myself at Tuttle. It would be a slightly longer detour, but worth it. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest

POTA Field report: Pardon my French…

Sometimes we do things that take us outside of our comfort zone.

That’s exactly what I did on September 8, 2021 at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861).

My friend, Jérôme, asked I would consider doing a POTA activation video in French!

Jérôme lives in France and wants to do a POTA activation there eventually, but had a number of questions about what to do in the field (spotting, logging, etc.). He’s been watching my videos for a while but admits that while he can understand written English (with the aid of Google Translate), he doesn’t understand spoken English.

Although I regularly listen to news and YouTube videos in French, it’s been ages since I’ve spoken French for any extended period of time.

Jérôme has been bugging me about the French video for some time, actually, but I’d put it off because there were a number of radio terms I simply never learned when I lived in France (well before I was a ham radio operator).

When he very diplomatically asked me again via email on the morning of September 8, I thought, “Why keep waiting? Just do it!

So I did.

Continue reading POTA Field report: Pardon my French…

Pairing the CHA Tactical Delta Loop, LDG Z-100 Plus, and IC-705 at Tuttle Educational State Forest

I carved out a little time on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, to play POTA and take a hike at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861).

Being August in the Piedmont of North Carolina, it was a very humid and warm day. That wasn’t really a problem, though, because Tuttle has so many well-shaded picnic tables.

Once I arrived on-site, I decided to deploy the Chameleon CHA Tactical Delta Loop (TDL) antenna for a few reasons: I thought it might make for some good daytime NVIS action, perhaps even a little fun on the 20M band, and it’s so darn quick to deploy.

With the state of propagation the way it is these days, though, I never know what to expect on the air despite the antenna or my wishes!

I found a picnic table and set up the CHA TDL about 50′ away in an open field. Continue reading Pairing the CHA Tactical Delta Loop, LDG Z-100 Plus, and IC-705 at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Enjoying a casual trailside activation with the Xiegu X5105 and PackTenna 9:1 Unun

I love day hiking with radios.

When I pack all of my radio gear in a field kit that is compact enough to fit in a small day pack, it forces me to only take the essentials. This, in turn, makes for a quick deployment and pack-up.

I think this is one of the reasons I find Summits On The Air so appealing.

On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, I had a hankering to fit in a hike and, of course, play radio. I also wanted the option to fit in two activations, so needed a simple and short hike to minimize time.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

I decided to head to Tuttle Educational State Forest–one of my favorite accessible POTA sites–because their two mile loop trail was just what the doctor ordered. In fact, I knew exactly where I wanted to set up on the trail.

Tuttle is rarely busy–especially on a Tuesday afternoon.

I arrived on site and, as I was pulling my backpack out of the car, I was greeted by one of the Tuttle park rangers. He was incredibly nice and provided me with even more ideas of places to set up in the future along the trail and trail extensions. We must have chatted for 15-20 minutes–he had a number of questions about amateur radio and I never miss an opportunity to be an ambassador for both ham radio and POTA/WWFF.

Gear:

On The Air

The hike was amazing and, besides park rangers, I had the entire site to myself. About 1.5 miles into the hike, I found the spot I earmarked for this activation: a little open area with three wood benches on the side of the path.

This particular deployment reminded me how thankful I am that I discovered the Arborist Throw Line last year. I had the PackTenna deployed in three minutes.

It was so…effortless.

I decided to take the Xiegu X5105 out for another activation. Radioddity sent this to me on loan for a full evaluation and review. The previous day, I activated the Blue Ridge Parkway with the X5105.  I wanted to see how many activations I could accomplish off of one charge of the X5105’s internal battery, so after the BRP activation, I didn’t re-charge the battery.

As insurance at Tuttle, I brought along my trusty QRP Ranger LiFePo4 battery pack and hooked it up to the X5105. If the X5105’s internal battery died on me, it would be easy to simply turn on the QRP Ranger’s power switch and hop right back on the air.

I started one of my real-time, real-life activation videos (see below), then called CQ on 40 meters.

Maybe that quick antenna deployment was foreshadowing the activation, because in the span of 13 minutes, I logged 11 stations all on 40 meters.

I was very pleased to work P2P (Park To Park) contacts my friends Steve (KC5F) and Scott (KN3A). Thanks, guys, for hunting me!

Here’s my log:

I didn’t even move up to 30 or 20 meters after working the string of contacts on 40 meters because Tuttle is far from being a rare site and I wanted to fit in one more activation that afternoon.

The X5105’s internal battery easily powered the rig for the entire activation (perhaps a total time of 15 minutes). I suppose I’ll have to take it to yet another park on this same charge!

Packing up was nearly as quick as deployment. I owe thanks to one of my YouTube Channel subscribers for suggesting that I pack the Arborist Throw Line pouch by winding figure eight bundles of line on my hand (much like I do with antenna wire) and stuffing them in the pouch one bunch at a time. This saved me a lot of time.

While the portable throw line pouch isn’t as quick to pack as the throw line cube, this method made it a cinch!  I can’t find who originally made the suggestion, but I’m grateful–thank you!

Video

Here’s a link to the full activation video:

Photos

During my loop hike, I snapped a few photos (click to enlarge):


Well hello there, little fella’!

I’m most grateful to the late Ms. Tuttle for leaving this amazing park for all to enjoy. Her legacy protects this land for all future generations.

When you’re doing a park or summit activation, don’t forget to stop and take in a good dose of nature and the outdoors.

It does us all a world of good.

More X5105 thoughts

This second activation had me warming up a bit more to the X5105. I do like its size, and I think it’s a good rig for CW ops.

CW operation is very pleasant, actually, and keying feels natural. I was impressed that the battery held for a second activation, even though this was a very short one.

Again, I think the internal speaker audio leaves a bit to be desired–I dislike the audio splatter I hear at higher volumes–but for $550? It’s really hard to be critical.

During this activation, I still hadn’t learned how to program CW memory keying. A YouTube subscriber recently described the process and it seems overly cumbersome and much more complicated than it was in an earlier firmware version.  I’m going to contact Xiegu about this. Unless I’m missing something, it really holds the radio back from being pretty stellar on CW for the field op.

Readers, if you own the X5105 and can describe the best way to use CW memory keying, please comment with directions! I’d really appreciate it!

Thank you

Thank you once again for reading through this field report and perhaps watching the activation video.

I’d also like to thank the readers and subscribers who’ve recently supported me on Patreon and via PayPal. I am humbled and honored.

Thank you.


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