Day POTA Activation – Cheaha State Park

This morning, 05 May 23, I decided to take a trip out to Cheaha State Park. It’s about a 50-mile drive but worth it since it is the highest point in Alabama. I enjoy the park and consider it my home park. The day was cool and foggy. Since I was operating out of the cab of the truck, it was nice not to see the sun.

For a change of pace, I brought one of my QRP radios, the IC-705 with the AH-705. I like this radio. It is easy (for me) to use since I have other Icom radios and the interface is similar. I don’t have to relearn the radio every time I use it. The antenna was my Frankentenna Mobile version. I also wanted to give it a workout at QRP levels.

I had another motive for bringing the IC-705. I purchased an app for my iPhone called SDR-Control Mobile. It was created by Marcus Roskosch, the same Marcus that made SDR-Control for iPad. This app connects to the IC-705 via Bluetooth and operates FT8 and CW. It also has a logging function along with several other tools. What drew me to the app was the ability to use my cell phone. The cell phone uses far less power and lasts a lot longer than tablets or laptops. I used it for over 2.5 hrs and the battery level barely moved. The app controls the radio like most other apps. FT8 was a breeze as most of it was automated and logging was a push of a button. Exporting the log was also clicky-click.

Band conditions were up and down and even though I operating QRP, I still managed to make 41 contacts. It was nice working FT8 while holding the phone in my hands. In the past, I would have to twist a bit to get to the laptop making it uncomfortable.

While operating, a fellow ham drove up and said he was looking for me! He and 4 others were operating a special event station about 200 yards down the hill from me. the club was the Southern Appalachian Summit QRPers. SASQ or Sasquatch. This is a group that prefers operating outdoors. They enjoy hiking to SOTA summits and operating portable with lightweight gear. I visited with them for a while and interviewed them for my YouTube channel. If you are interested here is a link to their website

I made 41 contacts and here is a QSO map of the activation.

It was a good day, I made a few contacts and a few new radio friends. I may have to see about joining SASQ. I also added another tool to my portable operations tool kit. I like it when things end up win-win. Below is a short video on the activation. 73 — Scott

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.

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.

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

IC-705 Cover

I’ve got a couple of activations coming up so I am trying to get a few things done to bring with me and evaluate. I bought the 705 because it is a small radio. I like that feature. When looking to protect the radio, many have darn near doubled its size so it is no longer a small radio. I tried a couple of padded cases and while they fit fairly well, they still felt too large. I don’t mind tossin a radio in a pack or bag as long as I can protect the important pieces. In the case of the 705 it would be the knobs and touch screen. I decided to make a cover for the front of the radio.

Icom has an STL file for the 705 so pulling that into a CAD program, I was able to make a cover. I am not a CAD pro or even a 3D printer pro; however, I was able to scratch something together that is good enough. I roughed out the design and my son printed the cover out for me. It’s not beautiful. it’s not perfect, but it gets the job done. Here is the current prototype.

The inside is mostly hollowed out but the case is supported on the corners of the radio and the speaker area.

For POTA activations the radio resides in a plastic box with a latching lid. Should eb plenty of protection. Because I reduced the bulk and weight, it make the radio eligible for SOTA. I may make another one to adjust some of the dimensions but in reality, it works just fine. I can tweak this and burn a lot of time or I can get out and play radio. Remember “Perfect is the enemy of good”.

I made one other piece, BNC caps, which the STL files are available with a simple Google Search.

I like orange as I can readily see them if I accidentally drop them. Enjoy and hope to work you. Scott

POTA Activation K-3756 JL Lester WMA

I had a doctors appointment in the morning so that kind of scrambled my day. I decided to attempt a quick activation using my new IC-705 with the AH-705. Today was the best day to do it because we are supposed to get some real winter weather starting tomorrow. I’m not opposed to winter weather, I do not like driving around with a bunch of folks who are. And yes, true to southern tradition, people are at the stores buying milk, bread, and eggs. Can never to too sure.

The J. L. Lester Wildlife Management Area is located in Polk County, GA near Cedartown. It is 477 acres with hunting and fishing opportunities. Even though I wasn’t hunting or fishing, I am required to have either a hunting or fishing license, or a land pass. The land pass is $30 and the hunting or fishing license is $15 per year. I became a fisherman. I parked in a parking area near the eastern boundary. I was nice and quiet.

The setup was simple, the IC-705 running off of its own battery, N0SA paddles, AH-705 tuner and a Spark Plug EFHW with 65 feet of Buddipole antenna wire. The coax is RG-316. This is the first time I used the Spark Plug antenna. I hoisted the antenna wire about 20 feet up into a tree, and tied the Spark Plug off near my truck.

Here is the complete antenna set-up.

The setup in the truck was pretty simple. I used my center console desk and logged with paper. During the activation the AH-705 was on the passenger seat. Using the desk with the radio on it made it a little tipsy so for the photo, the AH-705 was a counter-balance. I will remedy this next time with a bungee cord. I had the earphones out; however, the IC-705 had enough volume for these not so good ears so the earphones were not needed.

I also discovered that I didn’t need the clock as the time on the IC-705 was easy to see.

How did everything play? Quite well actually, the AH-705 tuned the EFHW for the first time in less than 2 seconds. I was impressed. The AH-705 is more like a miniature AH-4. I have an AH-4 and it is a very capable tuner. I am looking forward to see how well the AH-705 compares to the AH-4.

One of the reasons I brought the IC-705 was for the keyer memories. I use keyer memories quite a bit. Using memories eases the QSO workflow. I started on 40 meters hoping to get 10 activations and if not maybe move to another band. However, I had a nice pileup going on for about 35-45 minutes and ended up with 21 QSO’s. As suddenly as it started, it stopped. I called CQ twice with no answer and then pulled the plug. the antenna and 5 watts were more than ample. Here is a map of the contacts.

Packing up was a breeze, all my Icom stuff fits into one case. The only things that are not included is the antenna and coax.

All in all it was a great activation. It lasted just long enough and no one was left behind. I can see where the the IC-705 is moving up the ranks as my POTA radio of choice. Because I am very familiar with the Icom architecture, using it is almost second nature.

As I was packing up Marty K4JMG stopped by to say hello before he started his activation at the same place. We chatted a while and swapped a few tales. Marty and I belong to the same ham radio club. It is always good to see him.

Thanks to all those who hunted me, I enjoyed the QSO’s. See you down the log.

IC-705 Stand

I bit the bullet and ordered an Icom IC-705. It really was a no-brainer for me as I already have several Icom radios. I have had other brands, but I keep going back to Icom. Anyhow, once I got the radio I needed a stand to keep it tilted at the right angle. There isn’t a whole lot out there. The commercial stands are rather pricey, and the 3D printed versions are nice but my son’s 3D printer is down for maintenance and upgrades.

I had a $30 gift card from Tractor Supply I received for Christmas, so off I popped. The stand is made from 1/16″ thick, 1″ x 1″ angle aluminum cut to 2″ long. I got a 48″ piece for 10 bucks. While there I picked up some M4 x 10 machine screws and some M4 washers (about another 2 bucks. Icom gives you the dimensions for all the mount holes in their manual.

I cut it to length, drilled the holes and then did a nice deburr on it. Needle files and a Dremel work great here. I then lightly sanded the whole piece and cleaned it with non-chlorinated brake cleaner (great stuff and cheap at any auto parts store).

The next step was a coat of primer, in this case zinc chromate, a throw back to my Army Aviation days, followed by a coat of high temperature flat black. It’s what I had on hand.

Finally, I added a clear coat and let it sit over night. Here is the final product installed on the IC-705.

It was a fun little project and only took a couple of hours time. The 705 sits back on that angled section at the back of the radio — perfect. I found a padded telephoto lens case that should fit it just fine for about 20 bucks. I’ve taken Icom radios to the field before and they hold up well. I’ve made some CW contacts from home and the radio works as well as my other Icoms. I made out to California and up into NY. I am looking forward to getting this in the field.