POTA Activation Cheaha State Park Support your Parks Weekend

Cheaha State Park (K-1037) is one of my favorite parks and it is also the closest. It will probably be my first Kilo Award. The summer POTA Support your Parks Weekend fell on July 16 and 17 (Zulu). I got to the Park Friday morning to work a guy on 2 meters who was about 60 miles away. I did this as a part of N1CC award. I needed 2 more bands for this park. I stayed all day Friday and packed it in mid-morning Saturday. The whole activation was done using FT8 with a new app for my iPad.

GEAR
I brought a lot of gear with me mainly to try to accommodate the 2 meter sked and to try to have an antenna or two for 6 meters. Six meters turned out to be a bust this weekend. The radio was the IC-705. Normally my radio gear goes in a box like this along with a few antenna bits and a tablet/iPad.

The antenna was my K4SWL antenna was is a 29.5′ random wire antenna with a 17′ counterpoise. The antenna was matched with the Icom AH-705 tuner which did an excellent job.

The antenna was held up with a MFJ-1910 33′ push-up pole. The pole was attached to the truck with a Flagpole holder and hitch extender so I could flip the tailgate down. The campsite was a group camp and while it had spectacular views it also had little shade. This was a primitive campsite, so I could not bring my camper with me. Since this was a one nighter, I decided to sleep in the truck bed. It would be a little cozy, but doable. In the end I stayed up all night anyhow. The shack looked like this.

I had plenty of batteries with me as this site does not have electricity. I discovered that my Bioenno Power BPP-160 power pack could run things for a long time. I also brought my Bioenno 40 watt foldable solar panel to help keep the power pack charged up. Next time I won’t bring near as many batteries. The fan you see is USB powered.

All in all, the station performed very well. I made 250 contacts all FT8 from all over the world. I even managed to get Alaska and Hawaii during the activation. Ten watts and a wire.

Glitches
One of the things about getting out with your radios, is you actually see how they work in the field and then you can improve your setup. Apart from bringing too much stuff, I only had a couple of glitches. I’ll do the easy on first.

This is the first time I left my push-up in the flag holder for any length of time. I had some mild wind there and it caused the pole to rattle around some. Rubbing against the flag holder, scored the bottom tube a little.

The cure was simple. When I got home, an application of some Gorilla Tape, should take care of things.

The second glitch was the app I used on my iPad. It’s called SDR Control for Icom. It’s a really sweet app with a lot to like about it. Here are a couple of screenshots.

The interface was easy to use. I did not use a keyboard or a mouse with this. I did put the app through he wringer. I used it straight for almost 24 hours. I like using my iPad because I can power it from the same batteries as my radios — no AC adapters. I also liked being able to hold it in my hand to use it. The app does have a few short comings; enough to put it aside and allow the developer to iron out a few bugs. I spoke at length about these on my YouTube channel, so for here, I’ll give a summary:
1) The app randomly disconnects from the radio or completely shuts down. Restart/reconnect often take multiple tries and all data in the FT8 window is lost.
2) During FT8, the app will pause while another station contacts the DX. The app waits until it hears a CQ before it will transmit. The DX will often work several other stations without calling CQ. This allow other stations to “jump the line”.
3) The app will auto-log after both stations give a “73”. However, if another station call you prior to the “73”, the app will jump to the new station and the old station will not get logged. need to set the auto log to maybe RR73.
4) The logbook needs at least one user defined field that can be sticky. In POTA we use the ADIF field my_sig_info, to log which park we are at. RumLog has this feature.

It was a fun activation and I enjoyed pulling an all nighter; something I haven’t done in a long time. I didn’t plan on it but the DX stations kept rolling in. Until next time 73 –Scott

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