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 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