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.

Gear

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.

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