GA State POTA Event at Indian Springs
The inaugural Georgia State Parks POTA event took place from April 1-2, and Ben (KO4KVH) and I were thrilled to participate! We aimed to make several QSOs and interact with fellow hams in person. However, before joining the fun, we needed to prepare a few things.
Preparation, Part 1: Repairing 40m EFHW antenna
First on our to-do list was repairing our portable 40m EFHW antenna. As you may recall from our last SOTA/POTA activation at Wildcat Mountain (W4G/NG-020)/Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (K-4473), our antenna was too short, and we had to perform a quick-fix lengthening job with some older, thicker wire we had at the summit to make the antenna resonant. While that solution worked temporarily, we needed a) a more solid connection between the two pieces of wire for future use and b) to replace the thicker wire with SOTAbeams wire used for our EFHW antennas. Thus, I applied my newfound soldering skills and soldered a piece of SOTAbeams wire to our 40m EFHW for a more permanent join. Adding heat shrink tubing to cover the soldered join resulted in a stronger connection.
Preparation, Part 2: Making a wire harness to hook up Yaesu FT-818 to deep cycle battery
Upon completing the antenna repair, our next step was to tune and test the antenna. However, since we still had work to finish at the workbench, we set the antenna aside for later. Our next task involved powering our transceiver with a deep cycle battery. For the Georgia State Parks event, we planned to be out for longer than our usual 1-1.5-hour POTA activations, so our standard batteries (Samsung 18650s) wouldn’t suffice. To use our deep cycle battery to power our Yaesu FT-818, we needed to build a wiring harness to connect them.
We first prepared the wire by stripping the ends and crimping the Powerpole connector contacts onto the exposed wire, adding solder to secure them in place. Next, we placed the plastic covers over the Powerpole connector contacts and secured them. At the other ends of the wire, we affixed rings to each end to connect them to the battery terminals, completing the wiring harness build. To test it, we connected the harness to the battery and the FT-818, pressed the power button, and the radio fired right up—success!
Preparation, Part 3: Tuning and testing the antenna and battery
With the battery and newly repaired antenna in hand, we went to the backyard to set up the antenna and tune it. Using our NanoVNA, we achieved an SWR of around 1.6, ensuring we would be resonant on 40m. Next, we connected the antenna to the FT-818 and turned the radio on for a test. I made a couple of QSOs as a POTA hunter for hams participating in the State Parks event. It felt great to be a hunter for these hams, and I looked forward to getting to the park the following day!
Attending the POTA event at Indian Springs State Park
With our preparations complete, we gathered our radios and headed down to Indian Springs State Park (K-2186, Flovilla, GA). Fortunately, we were able to find our go-to picnic table and set up! Because we planned to be out for several hours, we set up both our 40m and 20m antennas (allowing us to quickly switch between the two if desired) and connected the FT-818 to the deep cycle battery. We also brought Wavy Lays potato chips, a cooler full of bottled water, and a couple of Publix sub sandwiches to keep ourselves fed and hydrated!
We hadn’t used our 40m EFHW at Indian Springs before, so we decided to start there for our first QSOs. As always, we began our activation efforts by checking out POTA spots for some park-to-park (P2P) QSOs: since many hams were out participating in the event, I was looking forward to making contact with fellow participants, and 40m was the place to be for that! Within 30 minutes, I made 4 P2Ps, with 3 of them being from other state parks in GA (KO4KVB at Sweetwater Creek State Park, K-2201, Lithia Springs, GA; KB4QXI at Cloudland Canyon State Park, K-2169, Rising Fawn, GA; and KO4NLL at Georgia Veterans State Park, K-2181, Cordele, GA). I did learn through our QSOs with KO4NLL that I need to remember to lock the VFO knob: when I passed the mic to Ben, the cord knocked the dial, hindering his QSO! After completing a few P2Ps, it was time to put out my spot: I chose 7.261 MHz and started calling CQ POTA. Within six minutes, I got 4 more QSOs. One of them was from N4SSI, who spent every summer at Indian Springs while growing up, and another was a P2P from a ham radio club (N4J) at Hamburg State Park (K-2183, Mitchell, GA) working on activations for the event.
As we saw that there were other contest participants at Indian Springs, we decided to QSY to 2m to see if we could make QSOs with them. Unfortunately, after calling CQ POTA for a bit, we were not successful. Therefore, we then switched to our tried and true POTA band at Indian Springs: 20m, as I still needed 2 more QSOs to complete the activation and contribute to the POTA event. Within 5 minutes, I got my final 2 QSOs/P2Ps (N8GJ at Sam Houston Jones State Park (K-2375, Lake Charles, LA) and KE8SLN at Alum Creek State Park (K-1933, Delaware, OH), rounding out my 10 for another successful activation.
As we saw there were other contest participants at Indian Springs, we decided to cut our QSO-making time short to see if we could meet other hams in person. With the list of event participants and their locations within the parks, Ben and I scoped the park for shelters inhabited with people and antennas. During the course of our quest, we discovered that the park was much bigger than we realized: we saw a lake there, which will serve as a place to set up a radio while Ben goes fishing. Eventually, we found a shelter where Neil (KS4KY) was set up, and we introduced ourselves. We enjoyed speaking with him about his setup and learning about more places within the nearby parks to set up our radios for optimal operation. After our meeting, we walked back to the car and made the trek back home. It was a great day to be out for another activation and do our part to participate in the first Georgia State POTA Event. Per Richard (N1RBD), we hams activated 48 of the 50 Georgia State Parks, which was outstanding. I enjoyed participating in the event, and I can’t wait to do this one again next year!
Until next time,