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/SOTA Antennas and More

My amateur radio club, West Georgia Amateur Radio Society (WGARS) decided to participate in Winter Field Day. We are going to operate from Talladega National Forest in Alabama. It doesn’t take much to get me out in the woods with a radio. As a club, we will be operating QRP and I will be doing CW.

Since joining POTA, I have been more inclined to build things. I had forgotten how much fun this can be. So today, I thought I would build a couple of antennas for the outing. My first antenna will be a replacement for my speaker wire non-resonant vertical. The idea came from Thomas K4SWL using speaker wire. It was an okay antenna but it was bulky and heavier (12 oz.) than I wanted it to be.

A British company, SOTA-Beams sells some remarkably thin antenna wire. It is insulated and approximately 24 AWG. The best part is they sell a 100 meters for $10.37 and their shipping rates are reasonable. You can find it here: https://www.sotabeams.co.uk/antenna-wire-lightweight-100m/.

A non-resonant antenna is an antenna that is not resonant on any of the frequencies you plan to use. In non- resonant antennas only forward waves exist. A non-resonant antenna radiates as well as a resonant one. Here is what I started out with.

The end insulator and the wire winders were 3D printed by my son. The battery is for scale. The antenna length is approximately 28-29 feet and the counterpoise is approximately 17 feet. Putting it together was straight forward with the end result looking like this. It weighs 3 oz.

I have discovered that I like working the low bands while on a POTA activation. It takes a little more doing as the antennas get more complex and heavier. My Frankentenna can reach 160 meters but it is a pretty heavy antenna. Again, taking a clue from K4SWL, I acquired a piece of military surplus radio gear. I found an antenna winder for a dipole that is fed with 30 feet of twinlead. I got excited! A doublet is one of my favorite wire antennas as the vertical element can also radiate giving you some DX capability. It will also tune a broader range of frequencies than a dipole. Here is what I started out with.

Note that it is made by the Hughes Aircraft company. I cut the wire at 67 feet per side which should give me an approximately 132 foot dipole. I should be good to go down into the CW portion of 80 meters. While it won’t be efficient, I am thinking I can get an impedance match on 160 meters with my Elecraft T-1 or AH-705 tuner. A half wave dipole for 160 meters is about 270 feet and would be too unwieldy for the field. Getting things hooked up was straightforward.

Everything wraps on the winder. I added a balanced to BNC adapter and two 25 foot lengths of reflective cord I picked up at Tractor Supply. It all weighs 1 lb 3 oz and it all fits in a gallon size freezer bag.

There will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 operators at our site, so I don’t know if I will have the room to get the big antenna up. I hope so.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am a big fan of Ziplock Freezer bags in the quart and gallon sizes. They are tough, waterproof and cheap. I buy them in bulk at Sam’s Club. When one wears out, I pull a new one from the box.

Low band POTA activations can be a challenge, but not impossible. My activation at Ft Mountain State Park in GA. proved that. I am one step closer to being ready for Winter Field Day. Should be a lot of fun. It’s supposed to be cold (cold for us southerners) Night time in the mid 20’s and daytime south of 50 degrees. I’ve lived in cold climates; but, what will get me is my hands. I get pretty fumble-fingered on the paddles when my hands get cold. Thank goodnes for propane heaters. We will be operating under the callsign W4D and hopefully be turning in a log to POTA as well. Hope to hear you out there.