I try to get out camping about once a month. It’s good for the soul. While out I am often activating the park. Also fun and relaxing. I book my campsites 3-4 months in advance to ensure I have a place to go. Campgrounds in the southeast fill up fast. This trip was up into Tennessee to the Cumberland Mountain State Park. It was a lovely 4-hour trip with only 44 miles being on an Interstate Highway. The park is located in the Cumberland Plateau Region of Tennessee and my drive included driving through Sequatchie Valley. The valley is rather narrow and you can see the walls of the valley on both sides. I couldn’t ask for better weather. Highs in the 70’s and lows in the ’50s. After a hot summer, it’s was a welcome relief.
The campsite was cozy. This park had a higher density than I normally like, but there was lots of foliage and greenery around to set my karma right.
Band conditions were not that good and I operated FT8 on this trip. I am working on my N1CC award which is working 10 different bands from 10 different parks. Because the park was so far away (200 miles) with gas prices what they are, I wanted a one-and-done which is why I stuck to FT8. My setup was what I have been using on the past couple of trips.
The radio was my IC-7300 and the tuner was an old LDG Z-11 Pro. Since I had shore power, I used a Powerwerx Switching power supply. The computer is a Lenovo Thinkpad T14 which I bought refurbished from Lenovo. It’s a really nice computer. The mouse is a Logitech Pebble which is Bluetooth. For FT8 I also use a GPS dongle to keep the clocks on my computer and radio synced. On FT8 the further you drift from the actual time, the probability to connect to another station goes down. Even at home I sync my computer every day that I use FT8. I also keep a flash drive plugged into the computer. I use ACLog and I have it set up that it makes a backup copy to the flash drive every time the program shuts down.
The antenna is my homebrew random wire. It’s a 29-foot wire setup as a vertical using an MFJ-1910 pushup pole attached to my truck’s trailer hitch. I use one 17-foot counterpoise with a homemade 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 current balun for a choke. I highly recommend a choke on any portable operation. Keeping RF at the antenna prevents all sorts of things on the radio. I really like this antenna. It has become my go-to antenna. I have probably made over 1,000 contacts with it from all over the world. Since there are no holes in the ground or wires in the trees, the park staff remains happy. On this trip, my campsite was next to the campground host. I can’t say enough about the antenna, it just works, it goes up and down in a couple of minutes, and didn’t cost that much to make. You do need a good tuner though. With this antenna I managed to get my 10 bands. 6-meters was dead the whole weekend so I had to to the other end — 160 meters. On digital modes, my antenna can tolerate about 65 watts max before toroids get saturated. On 160, it’s more like 35 watts. 160 was looking a little sketchy, however, I managed 2 contacts, here is one. I have used this antenna from 6-160 meters.
The IC-7300 has become one of my favorite field radios. Compact, lightweight, and full of features. It has never let me down. I bought mine back in 2017. The only protection I use on it is a set of Portable Zero rails. When I transport it, it rides in a Dewalt Tough System box with no additional padding. Every time I pull it out and plug it in, it works. I have had other brands of radios, but I always seem to head back to Icom at least for HF.
I operated from Friday afternoon until Saturday night. I made 350 QSO’s from 43 States and 18 countries. I worked them from 10 meters to 160 meters. It was a blast. I now have 8 parks with 10 different bands. I have one with 9 and one with 7. I should be able to wrap those up in the next couple of weeks. Then I think I’ll go back to low power (less than 10 watts) and get my CW mojo back in order. See you out there — Scott