POTA is similar to “Summits On The Air” (SOTA) in that it’s a sort-of gamified outdoor activity where you take your ham radio and make contacts from station to station (no repeaters). SOTA has summits, POTA has parks. The listing of parks contains state and national parks. I’m not positive but I don’t think you get anything other than a “point” for each park. I still have some work to do to fully understand their scheme regarding award levels etc. Maybe they should have something like “park bear”, “park lion”, etc. LOL.
Liman Lake not far from my summer villa and the drive over was simple. During the first attempt, my CW paddles malfunctioned (a screw came out inside so they wouldn’t work. As I was preparing to switch to more power and an antenna that would support that and do SSB, a thunderstorm moved in. It was my lunch hour and I was working so I had to get back to the house.
I setup my station with a nice view of the lake to start with. Because I could drive into my operating position, I took a lot of extra stuff that I don’t normally hike with. I decided to setup my FT891 100 watt radio, a chair and a multi-band vertical antenna. I started out on CW (morse code) to keep my practice up. Before I spotted myself, I noticed that Adam, K6ARK, was on a mountain doing SOTA, so I worked him for my first contact. Once spotted on pota.us, I had several callers and my first 20 contacts were were via CW. I switched to SSB to use phone (voice with a mic) and I made 23 contacts including a couple of park-to-park calls. I finished the day with a couple more CW contacts to SOTA operators and packed up. All in all, I made 45 contacts. The exchange is similar to doing SOTA, give the guy a signal report and your park reference, get your signal report, and move onto the next one or you can chew the fat for a while.
There was a gentle cool breeze blowing through, keeping the temperature down. It was relaxing and enjoyable.
Uploading the logs to the POTA system is a huge pain in the ass because the format required doesn’t match anything my logging program will do so I had to output the data and then do a little search-and-replace to get it to work right. I’ll build a system to reduce the workload in the future, I already have some ideas on how to do that. One other thing, the logs are mailed to a human who does the upload for you so they are a long ways from the high tech environment that the SOTA team has. SOTA has a band of volunteers around the world that run and improve their high tech system for uploading data and getting all kinds of stats. So in the end, the hardest part of POTA is getting the logs to upload. There’s no need to upload logs if you don’t want to but I wanted to make sure the “hunters” got their points since they depend on my logging the contact with them.
I had made a mistake and left a SOTA designation in the field that should only have a park reference. The admin's email was very helpful. I fixed it and one other thing and am waiting to see how it came out. It reminds me of of batch processing compute days back in the 70s where you would send a text file to an operator in the computer room and then wait for success or fail and then some sort of output. I’m sure they will improve this over time.
All in all, I’m looking forward to my next POTA activation. It went extremely well except for a screwup on my GoPro. If you are waiting for the video, bad news, I set the GoPro to time-lapse for a couple of critical segments so that part of the activation didn’t go so well. The one thing that makes SOTA and POTA fun is that you can travel to a place and people will trying to contact you rather than you hunting around for someone to call or just sit there calling CQ. Being outside and running portable is always fun for me.
● First aid kit. Make sure it’s a good one... like ability to patch up an impalement wound.
● Elecraft KX2 10 watt HF Radio
● 30’ of coax feed line
● 3 L of water (8 lb)
● iPhone with All Trails, MotionX GPS and sota goat
● Trekking poles (not today)
● LNR End Fed multi-band antenna
● AnyTone AT-868UV DMR radio for testing.
● Custom wine bottle cork paddles for CW (crafted by K6ARK)
● AmericanMorse Ultra Porta Paddle for CW
● Delorme Inreach satellite tracker and communicator.
● Jetboil MicroMo cooking system (left at the car this trip)
● Yaesu FT-2DR HT (backup left in the car)
● Packtenna. (did not take)
● Yaesu FT-891D HF Radio at 100 watts
● Extra LiFePO Battery
(aka chris claborne)