POTA Activation Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area K-3683

Today I was lucky enough to get away for a couple of hours and play radio. I chose Choccolocco Wildlife Management Area which resides within the Talladega National Forest for a 2-fer. The trip gave me an opportunity to try a new configuration on my laptop. I recently purchased a Lenovo ThinkPad T14s. It has 3 available USB ports. Two type A and one Type C (Thunderbolt). There is another Type C but as far as I can tell it is used for power delivery.

When I operate in the field, I use a flash drive to give ACLog a place to store a backup file when it shuts down. Makes no sense to have the backup file on the same drive. I also use a GPS dongle along with the GPS2Time app to keep my computer’s clock synced. It doesn’t take much of a time difference to lose a contact. That used up my Type A ports. To hook up the radio, I bought a USB type B to USB type C cable and tried it out. I first in error plugged the type C connector into the power delivery port and of course I had problems. When I figured out my mistake and plugged it into the correct port, things went swimmingly. It’s always good to experiment on smaller trips.

Here is the setup in the truck.

I normally have the radio setup where I can better see it, but this was a quick activation. If I ever try a RADAR event, it might look something like this.

The radio was my IC-7300 with the LDG Z-11 Pro riding piggyback. The antenna is my 29.5 foot random wire antenna with a homemade 9:1 UnUn and choke. I use a 17′ counterpoise. The coax is RG316 with BNC connectors. I was running somewhere around 40 watts. Here is a previous picture of the antenna.

The antenna is hoisted in the air via an MFJ-1910 33′ pushup pole in a trailer hitch flag holder. Nothing fancy, but gets the job done. I have since replaced the 3D printed winder with one made from ABS to resist heat better.

How did my little setup do? I think pretty well. Bands were up and down but I managed 26 contacts without breaking a sweat. I did jump around the bands a little bit, trying to get set up for 10 bands for N1CC. I managed to make it to 7. Six meters was dead and it was too early for the lower bands. My club has a campout planned for the fall Support your Parks weekend so I should be able to get the rest. I worked a lot more DX than I thought I would which was a pleasant surprise.

Thanks to all the hunters who worked me and for your patience as I tried to work through some of the pileups I had. It was a fun little trip hopefully with more in the future. Until then — 73, Scott

POTA Activation K-2174 Florence Marina State Park

Wow! What a weekend. 438 QSO’s successfully uploaded to POTA. What a blast it was. I had a great time, got little sleep, and tried some new gear. Thanks to all who worked me and thank you for your patience as I worked through some of the pileups. Mode this weekend was FT8. I was going to try some CW but FT8 was running non-stop. Much of the time my WSJT software looked like this.

I was QRV from Friday 1800 hrs Zulu until Sunday 0500 hrs Zulu. Band conditions were good. I didn’t see as much DX as I have in the past, but I still managed to work quite a few. This time I got about 98% of my contacts by activating, that is calling CQ. I did hunt a few, mainly P2P and a few call signs that interested me. So, you don’t have to hunt to get the Q’s. The secret is picking a frequency and holding it. There were times I held a frequency for hours.

For this trip and the past few, I have been bringing my IC-7300. I am trying to complete my N1CC award and having a few extra ponies under the hood helps. There has been some discussion about packing radios. I put mine in a box with the rest of my stuff. I do have Portable Zero Escort side rails, but that’s about it https://tinyurl.com/45dcupe5. They keep the knobs away from the box sidewalls.

Shack setup is pretty straightforward.

I can be QRV within 30 minutes from the time I pull into the site. The computer is a Microsoft Surface Go2. I use a USB hub to attach everything to it but if to jiggle it even slightly, it drives WSJT software bonkers. I may look to replace it. The tuner is my old LDG Z-11 Pro which I have had for over 15 years. It takes a lickin’… For coax, I run RG-316. I don’t see the need to use anything bigger. After this trip, I am redoing my radio box. After every trip, I do a mental after-action report. This time I decided I am bringing too much stuff.

What is new? This time I brought the KK4Z enhanced random wire antenna. This is a 29.5′ random wire antenna with a 17′ counterpoise. Same old, same old. What is new, is I added a 9:1 UnUn rated at 250 watts PEP and a choke balun.

I use my truck hitch and an MFJ-1910 – 33′ pole to get it up in the air. No holes in the ground, no rope in the trees.

This was a pretty exposed campsite. I had Park Rangers and Camp Hosts drive by all day long. All they would do is wave at me. The other secret is don’t make excessive noise. With FT8 I keep the volume turned way down and with CW I use Skull Candy Ear Buds https://tinyurl.com/2p89mz8u. The benefit of this antenna setup is the amount of power I can use. With my Chameleon transformers, I am lucky to run 35 watts and only 6-80 meters. With my antenna, I can run up to 65 watts without anything getting warm on 6-80 meters. On 160 meters, I have to reduce the power down to 25-35 watts. A larger choke balun may solve that problem. This past weekend I was running 50-65 watt range just to see and I had no problems. This antenna will become part of the Frankentenna system. So I guess I have a new favorite antenna. It gets the job done (see map above) and it keeps the campground staff happy. One of the real benefits is how little space it takes up and its low visual profile. If I am beyond the eyes of those who care, I can easily sling it up into a tree.

I do have a short video about the activation on YouTube.

POTA Activation Kolomoki Mounds State Park K-3726

I decided to try a park in SW Georgia and Kolomoki Mounds State Park looked interesting. It was about a 3 hour drive traveling back highways and byways. I spent two nights there with my wife and it was a very nice experience. The campground was quiet and the restrooms were clean.

Hot! it was hot and very humid while we were there. My little camper has AC but everything got damp in that kind of humidity. Ambient temperature was in the low 90’s and the high humidity made it feel hotter. I plan on going back there but maybe in the fall or winter.

The propagation gods were angry. While there, I suffered from R1 radio blackouts mainly due to flare activity. The bands were mighty quiet; however, I was still able to make 100 contacts over the weekend.

Testing! Test,test. I brought a couple of antenna projects with me to do some field testing with. These included some of the 9:1 transformers I wound. I will report on the results in a separate post.

Setup. This weekend, I brought my IC-7300. I brought it for a couple of reasons. I hadn’t used it in a while so it deserved an outing. Plus, I had foreknowledge of the possibility of poor propagation so I brought it to run FT8 and have a little more power. I ran it in the 25-35 watt range and the 7300 can run like that all day long. However, the antenna I used is happiest when the power stays 25 watts or less on digital. This was fortuitous, CW, my preferred mode, was non existent at my location. I made one CW contact on 60 meters. The antenna I used was my POTA standby, my Frankentenna.

I ran one 50 foot counterpoise off into the woods. In the photo, you can see the lower 2 Buddipole extensions, the blue is pretty easy to see. I ordered 2 black ones to better allow the antenna to blend in. The antenna was fed with about 31 feet of RG-316. The shack looked like this.

I used a LDG Z-11 Pro to match the antenna. To sync time for FT8 I use a GPS dongle I got from Amazon https://tinyurl.com/2p9595sz. I sync the time to WSJT using GPS2Time. I used N3FJP for logging. The set up worked well. Since my little camper has an awning, I stayed in the shade all day and drank plenty of fluids. I lost a pound of weight over the weekend. A side note. When I operate in a campground, I wear ear buds and run either CW or FT8. I do not make “radio” noise. Out of sight, out of mind.

How did I do? Pretty good actually considering the poor band conditions. I am attempting a N1CC award so I was trying to work 10 bands while at the park. Here is a QSO Map from the activation.

It was work. Sometimes I was just banging away and no one responding. The few pileups I had were never more than 3 or 4. QSB would rear its ugly head and I lost a few contacts as they faded away. In the end I made 100 QSO with 20 minutes to spare on my last Zulu Day. I managed 10 bands with my one CW contact on 60 meters which does not have FT8. What was interesting was I worked a couple of stations in Brazil and one in Europe on 10 meters. It was fun while being a challenge. It’s always good to have a plan B. FT8 was my backup, but quickly became my primary mode. In upcoming post, I will spend time going over my antenna results, and a few other kinks I am working on. That’s all for now. 73 Scott.

POTA Activation Flag Mountain, AL

I consider my home park to be Talladega National Forest. It’s the closest park time wise and because it is so large, it offers many opportunities for activation. One of the things I enjoy is the feeling of remoteness driving down those forest service roads. This past Friday (11/26), I decided to try a new spot. It was on Flag Mountain. There is nothing there except woods and the road.

For me, any park activation means about an hour drive each way which eats up a lot of my POTA time. For this activation, I wanted to try an in-truck cab solution to help reduce the set-up time. Since I would probably be along the side a one lane dirt road, it would be safer. As a bonus, I would stay warmer as the temps were in the 40’s throughout the day. This bushwhack style of operation turned out to be fun and gives me more flexibility to work different parts of the National Forest.

Equipment. To be able to bushwhack, I needed a space to operate from when sitting in my truck. I came up with a rather simple arrangement that I built in a couple of hours. It’s a flight deck that sits on top of my center console.

It’s a couple of 2×6’s and a piece of 3/8 plywood that I had laying around. It takes about 10 seconds to install and It is small enough to stay in the truck. In use it looks like this:

It was very stable. I even had my coffee cup on the free standing end and it didn’t tip over. It was very comfortable to use. On the flight deck you see my Rite-in-the-Rain notebook, Begali Traveler Light, and K1EL keyer. I will talk about the paddles and keyer in another post.

The radio was my trusted IC-7300. I normally like to bring one of my QRP radios, but next weekend we rented a cabin at Ft Mountain State Park and I want to try to make some CW 160 meter contacts. My thinking is I may need a little extra power. Next to the radio is a 20 amp/hr Bioenno Battery and next to it, is a LDG Z-11 Pro. On top of the radio is a windshield sunscreen to help keep the radio cool.

The antenna is my Frankentenna. It starts with a MePhoto camera tripod, a home made 3/8-16 to 3/8-24 thread adapter, Chameleon Micro Matching Unit, a Buddipole 7 section lightweight shock-corded whip antenna (12′), and a Chameleon CHA 60′ extra wire. It was fed with 18′ of RG-8x.

Operation. I operated CW with 35 watts. I set my code speed at 16 wpm. I can copy faster, but I find during an activation, slowing down makes it a little easier for me. My hearing is not that good, I do the best I can. How did it do? Very well I think. I was able to work stations from Alaska to France. All in all I made about 42 contacts in a couple of hours time. Here is a QSOMap (I need to get better at these).

Here is a short YouTube video of the activation.

It was a fun half a day. I learned a few thing like wear headphones/earbuds to help with my hearing. Overall, I enjoyed the bushwhack style of operating as it gives me more options for operating out in the wilds. I plan on doing more of this style of activating along with more traditional parks. 73