POTA Activation K-3683 Choccolocco WMA

This past weekend was a busy one. Saturday morning The West Georgia Amateur Radio Society provided communications for the Semper Fi Century Bike Ride. We covered routes from 33 to 100 miles on hard surface and gravel roads. It was a good opportunity to get out. This weekend was also one of the POTA Support your Parks on the Air weekend so after the bike ride, many of us headed out to Choccolocco for an overnight activation.

I enjoy these weekends. Yes, sometimes it’s a little less activating and a little more kibbitzing, but we need that in our lives, don’t we? We all set up in one of the primitive campgrounds. Everyone pitched in and brought some food for the group. My donation was chips and my wife’s fabulous Graham Cracker Cookies. They are liked so much, I no longer ask what I should bring.

Operating. This weekend I was working on finishing up my N1CC award which is working from 10 different parks on 10 different bands at each park. For this park, I needed 3 bands. My weapon of choice was FT8. FT8 does a good job of reaching out and there are plenty of folks on it so getting the numbers is a little easier. I will say that over 90-95% of my contacts are either Park to Park or from me calling CQ POTA. I want hunters to get the opportunity to get points as much as possible.

Equipment. For this trip, I brought my IC-7300. It does a great job and I can bump the power up if need be. I normally run it a about 35 watts. My antenna was my 29′ Random wire with a 17′ counterpoise. The antenna was configured as vertical using an MFJ pushup pole. I used a homebrew 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 current balun to keep the RF where it should be. With this antenna, I can tune from160-6 meters though 160 is a little sketchy. My computer was my Thinkpad T14. Since we were at a primitive campsite which meant no power or water. I ran everything off of battery and in the end, had to crank up the generator for a little while. Digital Mode really uses power.

How did I do? Not too bad. I started Saturday afternoon and operated on and off until about 0100 Eastern Sunday morning. I made 100 contacts from 23 states and 18 countries. Here’s a map.

Unfortunately, later Sunday morning I got rather ill and had to leave early and head for the house. The rest of the group hung around until Sunday afternoon. There are already plans for a Spring campout. I am excited. Camping out is always good, camping out with friends is even better.

What’s left. I have one band at one park to complete my N1CC. Of course, I will have to make 9 other contacts but hey, that’s what we do. After the N1CC I will probably go back to QRP CW. I feel there is more community there. It’s like Cheers, “Where everybody knows your name.”

Final. Here’s a short video of the activation.

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