Monday, April 10, 2023, was a spectacular day weather-wise. Spring was out in all its glory making it impossible to stay indoors.
That day, I was driving back to the QTH and made a little detour to the Clear Creek Access of South Mountains State Park.
According to my calculations, I had about one hour to play radio. I did have a firm deadline to hop off the air because I needed to take my daughter to a tennis lesson that afternoon. Couldn’t be late to that!
South Mountains State Park (K-2753)
As I pulled into the Clear Creek Access parking area, I noticed a family of five grabbing picnic supplies from their car.
For the first time ever, there was going to be competition for the one single picnic table at the Clear Creek access!
Actually, there would be no competition at all because there was no way in the world I’d ever take over the picnic table when a family could use it. 🙂
They had a much better reason to use a picnic table than me. Frankly, I was super pleased to see someone else besides a POTA activator using that table. I get a real thrill out of seeing families enjoying our public lands.
Plus, I don’t need a table to play POTA so it was a brilliant excuse to pull the picnic blanket out of the car and set up under a beautiful antenna support…I mean, tree.
For this activation, I decided to use my Penntek TR-45L and, for an antenna, two 28 foot lengths of wire.
My Postcard Field Reports are information-packed, just slightly more concise and distilled than my average field report so that I can publish them on a busy day.
One of the least expensive radios I’ve ever purchased is my TEN-TEC R42020 two-band CW only radio. I believe I paid $120 for it (shipped!) a couple years ago and it sat on my shelf unnoticed for months until I took it on a POTA activation last year.
Here’s the admission: I really love this little radio!
It is not a feature-rich radio, and the sidetone sounds like a 1080s handheld arcade game, but it works a charm! The receiver and audio are fantastic and it sports two of my most useful POTA/SOTA bands: 40 and 20 meters.
What’s not to love?
I had an early morning doctor’s appointment on Thursday, February 23, 2023. As a little reward for doing my annual physical I decided to add a POTA activation to my morning. This was a last minute decision, so only a couple minutes before leaving the house that morning, I grabbed my TEN-TEC R4020, the Chelegance MC-750, and my Spec Ops Backpack (filled with all other field accessories), and I hit the road!
I chose the MC-750 that day because I needed an antenna that could be configured to be resonant on 40 meters since the R4020 has no internal ATU. That and I couldn’t remember if I’ve configured the MC-750 for 40 meters in the past. I know I’ve deployed the MC-750 with the 40M coil, but I think I may have used an ATU to match it.
On Thursday, February 9, 2023, a rare opportunity opened up for me: a 3.5 hour activation window–!
I was visiting and helping my parents in Catawba County, NC, so considered the park options, almost all of which are within a 35-45 minute drive.
I thought about fitting in two shorter park activations that day, but it has been so long since I’ve had the opportunity to simply hang at one park and play radio for more than an hour, I chose the extended activation option.
Although the forecast was for clear skies that day, a front was moving through that afternoon and the skies were overcast with gusty winds. I could tell rain was a very real possibility, so I chose a site with a picnic shelter to make things a bit easier.
Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)
Fort Dobbs was a no-brainer: not only was it the closest park (thus less travel time eating into my on-air time), but the staff there are very POTA-friendly, the site is quiet, and they have an excellent shelter that I suspected (due to the dodgy weather) would be unoccupied.
When I arrived on-site, I checked in at the visitor’s center to make sure the picnic shelter hadn’t been reserved. Fortunately, they said I could have the shelter all to myself!
I had a number of radios in my car and decided en route that I would use the Xiegu G106 once again.
I packed the G106 in a waterproof Husky radio gear box I keep in my car trunk/boot. I grabbed it and my Spec-Ops EDC pack and carried it to the picnic shelter.
My plan was to pair the G106 with MW0SAW’s 40 meter EFHW antenna.
On Friday, January 27, 2023, I dropped off one of my daughters at the library for a creative writing session.
Hazel was along for the ride, so we decided to hike on the nearby Mountains To Sea Trail (MST) while my daughter was in the meeting.
During the hike, I realized that I should have taken my field radio pack along because it would have been so easy to activate both the MST and Blue Ridge Parkway as a two-fer.
Instead, Hazel and I enjoyed our hike and got back to the car with about 35 minutes or so to do an activation–including set-up, on-air time, and pack-up. That would leave me just enough time to pick up my daughter at the library before they closed for the day.
Because I had been using the Elecraft KX2 and AX1 recently, I had both packed in my Spec-Ops EDC backpack. In theory–even filming a video at the same time–I knew I could probably fit in a whole activation with 25 minutes on the air. I only needed 10 contacts, and I’ve never been in a situation where the AX1 couldn’t achieve that goal.
I try to start each year by doing a POTA or SOTA activation on New Year’s Day.
POTA actually issues a certificate for completing an activation on New Year’s Day so there are typically loads of activators and hunters working the bands. It’s an ideal time to play radio.
This year, we had a number of family activities on New Year’s Day, but I made a little time to fit in an activation during the late afternoon at my most accessible spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway: the Southern Highland Folk Art Center.
As with my last activation, I suspected I would be operating in the dark, so I brought my LED lantern along for the ride.
Although not intentional, this New Year activation had a lot of new-to-me stuff involved!
New VK3IL Pressure Paddle
The prior evening–on New Year’s Eve–while my wife and daughters were watching a classic movie movie marathon, I used the time to heat up the soldering iron and work through a few kits and projects that had been sitting on my desk.
Quanity of 1: Three conductor wire with a (typically) 3.5mm plug (note that I had one of these in my junk drawer)
Keep in mind: the components are surface-mount. If you’re not used to working with SMD components (ahem…that would be me) I suggest buying a few spares of each in case you lose or damage one or more during the build.
It also helps to cover the finished board in heat shrink not only to protect the board and make it easier to grip, but most importantly (if you’re me) hide your electrically-sound yet unsightly surface mount soldering job.
The build might have taken me 20 minutes.
New FT-817ND Narrow CW Filter
Some time ago, I purchased a second FT-817ND with the idea of doing full-duplex satellite work. I later realized I could be taking the second FT-817ND out to the field more often if I simply had another narrow CW filter installed, so I built one.
This New Year’s Day activation was actually the first time I’d taken this particular FT-817ND and its new narrow filter out to the field!
New Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame
Earlier this year, I also decided that I wanted to outfit my 2nd Yaesu FT-817ND with an Armoloq TPA-817 pack frame. The idea was to experiment with building a rapid-deployment field kit around it.