POTA Activation K-2939 Cumberland Mountain State Park

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

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