My first POTA activation at Clinton Lake (K-4093)

Clinton Lake State Recreation Area (K-4093)

Labor day weekend 2023 was upon us and it was a good time as ever to test out my new setup. That consisted of the Icom IC-705 and OM0ET MC-20 magnetic loop antenna. My wife wanted to go to a park so I suggested we go to a state park so I could potentially get my first POTA activation. She decided on Clinton Lake State Recreation Area better known as K-4093 in the POTA world. It is about 30 miles straight west of Champaign so it was an easy park to get to.

We headed out around 10:30am on Sunday (9/3/2023) to the park. It was forecasted to be sunny and close to 90 degrees so shade would be crucial to staying comfortable. This park is pretty active for boating and swimming and it was definitely busy for the last weekend of the summer.

Our home under the shade trees for the day.

We managed to find an area just a bit away from the lake that had a nice grassy area with some trees. The clip-on umbrellas we bought the day before were too small for our chairs so thankfully we had the trees to provide us with good shade. There was also a nice breeze that kept most of the bugs away except for the curious ants and sweat bees.

Once our chairs and table were setup, I started working on setting up the magnetic loop antenna. It takes less than 5 minutes to get it assembled. I plugged the coax into the Icom 705 and tuned the antenna for maximum noise. I then fine tuned it for the lowest SWR which was usually just under 1.5. The 705 makes it really easy with the built-in SWR meter.

I also hooked up the Bioenno 12v 4.5Ah battery to the 705 via the West Mountain RigRunner 4004 USB distribution block. I am using a 4 amp fuse in the block for the 705 since I’m not using the Icom cable that has built-in fuses. This setup would give me more than enough battery for the time I would be at the park. It does allow you to bump up the radio to 10 watts using the external battery but I chose to stay at 5 watts and make the battery last even longer.

OM0ET MC-20 magnetic loop antenna

One of the nice features of the 705 is the remote capability via Bluetooth and WiFi. The most reliable option I have found so far for WiFi in the field is to connect the 705 and iPad to my iPhone hotspot. I use the SDR Control iPad app to work FT8. When it works it’s nice but there are some quirks I will discuss later.

Icom IC-705 hiding in the bag next to an iPad and a much needed fan.

I wanted to spot myself via APRS as a proof of concept, but I didn’t realize the GPS was set to manual position on my HT. The beacons that did make it out were showing up as coming from my home position. Oops! Thankfully I had cell service so I got on the POTA website and let the world know where I was and what mode I was on.

My little FT8 signal spotted on the RBN!

I got on 20m FT8 around 12:30pm and started calling CQ. It was tough going as there were so many signals on the band. Using the iPad app, I had to manually input the transmit frequency as I couldn’t tap or adjust the frequency visually. I also could not figure out how to adjust my messages to say CQ POTA which probably would have helped a little bit. There were a few stations that it wouldn’t even let me contact due to their callsign (some DX) so I was getting a bit frustrated.

I moved around the waterfall a bit and finally made a few contacts. That gave me some hope that I might pull this off. I tired of 20m and tried a few other bands. Oddly, most of the stations I was hearing on 15m and 10m were DX! Sadly, I couldn’t get any of them in the log. I was able to make one contact on 17m but the others were all on 20m.

I attempted some voice operations but every time I tried talking with the microphone or the headset, no audio came out. First I made sure I was in the right mode. Then I checked the “MOD INPUT” setting in the radio and that looked good but still audio. I gave up and went back to FT8 as I wanted to get enough contacts to activate the park. Once I got home I discovered my mic gain was set to 0 percent. It’s always the little things!

I made my last contact at 3:25pm and decided to shut it down for the day. I had a couple of dupes so my total unique QSOs was 13. That is enough for a successful activation! Not bad for 5 watts and a mag loop antenna.

After packing up everything, we walked down a path towards the lake. This was our first exposure to the sun and it was a lot hotter than our nice shady area. There were lots of boats in the water and still more coming in. Definitely would have been a great day to be on the water. We saw a groundhog on the way back to the car. I think he saw his shadow so does that mean 6 more weeks of summer? 🙂

We cooled off in the air conditioned car for a bit and then headed out of the park. We drove west a few miles into Clinton, IL and had a nice dinner at Snappers Bar and Grill. On the way back to Champaign, we stopped by Weldon Springs State Park (K-1030) to walk around and take a few pictures. We even saw a deer run into the forest as we were walking back to the car. It was getting late so I didn’t have time to attempt a POTA activation on this visit. Hopefully in the fall we can visit again and activate the park.

I am very glad I was able to activate the park especially on my first attempt. Despite the achievement, I had numerous issues especially with the SDR Control app for the iPad. Some of it may be my inexperience with the app so I will need to do more research on it. I think I might take the laptop and USB cable for my next activation.

Curious groundhog hanging out by the lake.


Here is the list of gear I used for this outing. Some of these links are affiliate links that support my website and content creation.

Block broadcast FM interference with an FM notch filter

I noticed recently that I have some interference on the aviation bands with my RTL-SDR. After tinkering with it for a bit, I noticed it was coming from a local 50,000 watt FM broadcast station within one mile of my home. I looked around online and it was recommended to get an FM notch filter. That would hopefully block out the FM broadcast band signals (88-108 MHz) getting into my SDR.

I ordered one made by Nooelec called the Flamingo v2 FM Notch Filter. It’s pretty simple to hook up. You plug in your antenna on one side and the other side goes to your SDR. It comes with an adapter to hook it up directly to your SDR which was nice. I immediately noticed the 50,000 watt FM station was gone from both the aviation band as well as from the FM broadcast band. Not bad for $22!

One thing I noticed is that the filtering drops off around 105.9-107.9 MHz. While stations aren’t as a strong in that range, they’re definitely visible on the waterfall. So if you have a super local strong station in that area of the band this filter might not solve your FM interference. Still, for $22 it’s definitely worth a shot.

If you’re interested in buying this FM notch filter, I’d appreciate it if you went through my Amazon affiliate link below. There is no extra cost to you and I receive a small commission which helps support my content. Thanks!

Flamingo v2 FM Notch Filter:
RTL-SDR v3 SDR (w/antenna):
RTL-SDR v3 SDR (dongle only):

I also made a video demonstrating this filter hooked up to my RTL-SDR. Check it out and let me know if you have any questions or comments. Thanks!

Gaia GPS and ham radio

I use the Gaia GPS app on my iPhone for finding and recording various hiking trails around me. I discovered you could import GPX, KML and other files into Gaia GPS. I thought it would be cool if I could add some ham radio items right into Gaia GPS. After some research, I was able to import GPX files from Repeater Book, POTA and SOTA websites.

Repeater Book

  • Go to the website
  • Log in if you haven’t already and click on North American Repeaters.
  • Click on the state you are interested in. I chose Illinois since that is where I am.
  • Choose whichever criteria you want. I chose All for simplicity.
  • You should see a list of repeaters. Click on Export at the top and choose GPX.
  • Click OK on the warning screen.
  • It will ask you to choose what two labels you want. I picked the Callsign for #1 and Location (City) for #2.
  • Check the box that says “I agree to use this data for personal use only.” and then click Download.
  • In your downloads folder, you should now have a GPX file called repeaterbook_repeaters_datetime.

Parks on the Air (POTA)

  • Go to the POTA website and make sure you are logged in.
  • Click on the menu in the top left and choose Park List.
  • Scroll down to the United States and click the triangle on the left side to expand the list.
  • You should see a second listing for United States that shows all the individual states.
  • Click on the state you want.
  • With the list of parks listed, click on the Download link and choose GPX.
  • In your downloads folder, you should now have a GPX file called State(US-State). Mine says Illinois (US-IL).GPX

Summits on the Air (SOTA)

  • Go to the SOTA Maps website and make sure you are logged in.
  • Under Association at the top, choose the area you want to import. I chose W9 – USA since that is where I am located.
  • Under Region at the top, pick the one you are interested in. If you want all of the regions in that group, check the Multi box above the dropdown box. I picked W9/IL, W9/IN, W9/WI.
  • At the bottom of the list of summits, click the export button.
  • As before, choose the association and regions you want.
  • In the output format dropdown, choose GPX file and then click Create File.
  • In your downloads folder, you should now have a ZIP file called You’ll need to extract the GPX file from the ZIP file before importing it to Gaia GPS.

Importing to Gaia GPS

Now that we have GPX files from each site, we can import them to Gaia GPS.

  • Go to the Gaia GPS website and make sure you are logged in.
  • On the menu on the left side of the screen, click on Import Data.
  • Click on select files and select the GPX file we downloaded from Repeater Book.
  • Check the Waypoints box and click on Import.
  • You should now see a list of repeaters that were in the GPX file. Click the Save Items button at the bottom. This will take a few moments depending on how many repeaters you exported.
  • When it’s done, you should see a list of your repeaters on the map.
  • Repeat these steps to import the GPX files from POTA and SOTA

Changing the icons

I like to change the icons to make them represent each group whether it’s a tower for a repeater or a tree for a park.

  • Click the Saved Items on the left menu.
  • Click on one of the imported files.
  • Click on Items.
  • Click the circle to the right of the first item. Then click the circle above it to select all the items.
  • Click the 3 dots next to the circle and select Set Icon.
  • For the repeaters, I used the tower icon. Type in tower and click the icon and click Save.
  • Depending on how many repeaters or other items you imported, it could take a while to change all the icons. When I did it, I had to repeat this process numerous times until all the icons changed to the new icons.

Now if you go to your phone and login to the Gaia GPS app, you should see the the imported items on your map. Pretty cool isn’t it? You can shut layers off and on as needed so they don’t clutter your phone or slow it down.

Let me know if you have any questions about this process or if you have other suggestions on what to import into Gaia GPS.

You can download Gaia GPS for iPhone or Android below.


I also made a video on how to import data from Repeater Book, POTA and SOTA into Gaia GPS.

Where to buy used ham radio gear




I also made a video about this topic which you can watch below.

2023 ARRL Repeater Directory Review

Back in the day, I couldn’t wait for the ARRL Repeater Directory to come out and see all the changes and new repeaters in the area. With the popularity of the internet, I haven’t felt the need to buy the directory in a long time. At the beginning of 2023, I thought I would take a chance and buy the latest edition and see what it was like.

The first major change is that it’s a lot bigger than it used to be. It’s nicely put together in a spiral format which makes searching through the book very easy. It’s very similar to the ARRL license exam study guides.

The next thing I noticed is that since 2017, the ARRL doesn’t manage the list of repeaters. That is now done by a company called RFinder who also has a paid web-based repeater directory service.

When I thumbed through the first few pages, I noticed a grammatical error of three words bunched into one word with no spaces. Weird.

Anyway, I went to the Illinois section and looked up Champaign. Odd, the 146.760 repeater was not listed. This is a popular repeater that has been around for decades. I then looked through the entire state of Illinois thinking maybe they put it in the wrong city. Not only did I not find that repeater, but there were no 146.760 repeaters listed for the entire state.

I knew of at least three repeaters off the top of my head on that frequency that should have been listed but were not. I went to the Illinois Repeater Association website and they listed four repeaters on 146.760. The same four repeaters were also listed on the free website. Not a good sign for the book.

I also noticed that most D-STAR repeaters were listed twice for no reason. They could have saved a lot of space in the book by only listing them once.

Another thing that frustrated me is that they listed the NOAA weather radio frequencies but decided to put them all under N instead of with their appropriate cities. One extra step to go through.

Finally, to prove this book doesn’t have much quality control, I stumbled across an entry in New Jersey called “TEST Anywhere, NJ”. Really!? Maybe someone sent the rough draft of the book to the printer instead of the edited version but really not a good look.

Sadly, I can’t recommend this book. If you are looking for quality repeater information, I recommend either (which is free!) or find your local repeater association / council which usually has all the latest information. If you already have the book, you can go to page 16 to see a list of all the repeater associations in the US.

Here is my video review of the 2023 ARRL Repeater Directory.