POTA Activation #8 - Savannas Preserve State Park (FL) (4/5/2022)

After the challenges of yesterday's activation, I decided to look at the HF propagation forecasts when a bit of time became available to play radio today. Things looked good for 20m and up, so I took all my gear back to Savannas Preserve State Park for a second POTA activation. I thought everything was going to be smooth sailing, but as John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans".

This time I was able to get into the South entrance to the park that was closer to where I was staying. There were more people in this part of the park, including a group of what appeared to be Americorps volunteers having a meeting in the pavillion as well as some high school running clubs making circuits in the park. The skies were sunny and the temperatures firmly in the 80s with a substantial breeze. The view was similarly stunning with a wide expanse of Florida savannah laid out before me.

Once again I decided to use the Buddipole Buddistick Pro as there were not many great options when it came to trees. I set up camp on 20m and started calling CQ, but nobody seemed to be hearing me, even with a self spot. I noticed my antenna tuner wasn't showing up in the settings of the IC-705 as working and my SWR was a bit high, so it appears that the batteries on my LDG Z-100 Plus died on me. Not building the powerpole cable for the unit before I left on my trip definitely came to haunt me. Thankfully, the Buddistick Pro is a resonant antenna and is somewhat tunable by changing the length of the radial. So I dialed-in my antenna with my RigExpert Stick Pro a bit to get the sweet-spot closer to my operating position and I made a couple contacts. Unfortunately, those would be few and far between.

My first two contacts were from Michigan and North Carolina, but they were reporting my signal down at a 22 and 44 respectively. Not good. After a bit more shouting in the dark, I decided to see if I could hunt another park and I was able to reach K0LAF over in Missouri at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, and he too was reporting me at 44. I tried changing bands to 40m and got one response from Georgia with a 27 signal report. From there I decided to give 15m a try. I called CQ for a while but got no takers, however, I did make a contact with a station in Poland who gave me an impressive 57 signal report. There were a couple other stations ragchewing on 15, and I even heard a conversation between a station in Portugal and one in Venezuela, but the Venezuela station who had been calling CQ could not hear me.

I was beginning to think that this might be my first incomplete activation. As I was looking at the spots, I noticed that activity had picked up on the 20m band, so I lengthened my radial again and re-tapped my coil and was back on the band and decided to hunt my way into a completed activation. It was a challenge with my 10 watt station that was mysteriously quiet. I was able to work KA5CRL in Texas (he heard me as a 35), W9ADN in Illinois (a 44), KE8ONI in Ohio, N3AML in Maryland (44), and I got a two-fer from two stations in Arkansas (for 4 contacts). When the dust settled I had 13 entries in the log and a valid activation after about an hour and a half. In the end there were 13 contacts from stations in MI, NC, MO, GA, TX, IL, OH, MD, AR, and the long distance winner of Poland!

After breaking down my station I went for a quick walk into the park on the soft well manicured trail. It was nice to be able to get closer to the scenery I had been soaking in for the last hour and a half. The scenery was dramatic with the contrast between the lush and dense vegetation and the boundless blue and white skies that seemed larger due to the absence of buildings in the viewshed.

This was definitely one of my more challenging activations. I am glad I was able to stick in there and have it be a successful attempt.

Gear used in this activation
  • Icom IC-705
  • Buddipole Buddistick Pro Antenna
  • LDG Z100 Plus (until the batteries died)
  • RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
  • Icom LC-192
  • Bioenno 12V 6Ah LiFePO4 Battery
  • Sony Headphones
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Lite Tablet
  • Logitech K380 Bluetooth Keyboard
  • Rite in the Rain Notebook
  • Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil