Memorial day POTA activation at Clinton Lake (US-4093)

S9 pulsing noise from a nearby electric box.

On Memorial Day (May 27, 2024), my wife and I visited Clinton Lake State Recreation Area (US-4093) for the afternoon. The lake and parking lots were packed with boaters and campers. We tried to find a spot with a view of the lake, but ended up settling on the exact spot we went to last September. The weather was 75 degrees with a nice breeze to keep most of the bugs away. Despite being close to the two emerging broods of cicadas, we didn’t see any on our visit.

I setup my Icom 705 and the OM0ET MC-20 magnetic loop which is my go-to setup. While I do pack a 12v external LiFePO4 battery, I decided to just use the Icom 705 battery pack and run 5 watts. Instead of dealing with the previous problems with the iPad and connecting it to the 705, I brought a laptop with me. This is an old Asus EEE PC I bought in 2009! I recently revived it and I’m still astonished the battery holds a decent charge. It’s slow and only has 2 GB of RAM, but I was able to install a 32-bit version of Linux (Lubuntu 18.04) on it. It runs WSJT-X v2.40 and interfaces via USB cable with the Icom 705. The 10” screen is just big enough for WSJT-X though some of the settings are not visible in the menu.

Despite having a laptop, I still had some issues. One was it did not connect to my phone because I’m guessing the wireless card doesn’t like my iPhone for some reason. Even with the maximize compatibility option enabled, it would not connect. The second issue was the same as the last visit to this park and that was a pulsing noise coming from an electrical box down the way from where we were setup. Rotating the mag loop didn’t remove the noise.

At first I thought the noise was preventing me from decoding any FT8, but I quickly realized that the time on the computer was off 3-4 seconds. Without the internet, I didn’t have an automated way to update the time. While the 705 has a GPS built-in, I didn’t have it configured yet on the computer. So I just pulled up the time on my phone and set it manually. As soon as I did that, the decoding started working. Whew!

I hopped on the POTA website and spotted myself on 20m FT8. I started calling CQ and not too much later I received some replies. I checked PSK Reporter and my signal was being heard around the US. I tried switching to 15m but never made any contacts so I went back to 20m and made a few more before shutting down. I finished with 17 contacts in about an hour and a half. Not bad for 5 watts and a mag loop antenna!

It was nice not having any connection issues with the laptop and 705 using the USB cable. It was also nice to be able to call CQ POTA which I think helped people find me. I enjoyed putting the old laptop back into service. It still had around 50% battery left after an hour and a half which is amazing for the age of the battery. I think once I get the GPS from the 705 interfaced with the laptop that will eliminate the need to set the time manually. I may also try tethering my phone to the laptop via USB and see if I can get internet that way. It’s not completely needed but would be nice to have.


DateTime (UTC)CallsignBandModeNotes


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 at no additional cost to you.

  • Icom IC-705 QRP HF/VHF/UHF portable radio: DXE | GigaParts | HRO | MTC | R&L
  • OM0ET MC-20 Magnetic Loop Antenna: OM0ET Website
  • Insignia 6-ft light stand (NS-DLS75SBK): Amazon
  • JJC Deluxe Lens Case Pouch for Icom 705 (XXL size): Amazon
  • SHANGRI-LA Tactical Range Bag: Amazon
  • GCI 20 Outdoor folding table: Amazon

Failed POTA activation at Wolf Creek State Park (US-1033)

It has been over six months since I’ve attempted a POTA activation. The weather has started warming up a bit and I was well overdue to try another POTA activation. On April 6, 2024, the wife and I visited Wolf Creek State Park (US-1033) near Shelbyville, IL. On our way to the park, we stopped for lunch at the Broomtown Cafe in Arcola, IL. Sadly we arrived too late for breakfast so we tried the grilled cheese sandwich. I got mine with bacon which was pretty good.

We continued on our journey and arrived at the park around 3pm. I drove around looking for a decent spot to setup and eventually parked near the area marked overlook. There was no one there when we got there, so we setup amongst the trees with a nice view of the lake. It was in the 50s and sunny, but a darn wind off the lake was keeping us chilled. I had a sweater on but didn’t want to go back to the car to get my coat. The wife was smart and had a nice blanket to keep her fairly warm.

I setup the OM0ET MC-20 magnetic loop antenna and connected it to the Icom 705. My first thought was to try to work some FT8 to hopefully get the park activated. Well that went nowhere fast. I used my iPhone’s hotspot to create a mini network between the 705 and my iPad. The 705 connected just fine but my iPad was having nothing to do with my phone.

I then decided to try the access point mode on the 705 and connect the iPad directly to it. That worked for a few seconds and then either the iPad or the SDR Control software disconnected leaving me out of luck on the digital modes. I’ve never had much luck connecting directly and this time was no different. I don’t know why I didn’t bring my laptop but I digress.

My next idea was to find a spot on 10 meter SSB and call CQ. I found an empty frequency on 28.475 and started calling CQ POTA. I spotted myself on the POTA website but never heard anyone come back to me. No worries, there were several QSO parties going on the bands so I tried my hand at those. I managed to work two folks in the Mississippi QSO party and one in the Louisiana QSO party on 20m. I switched to 17m and worked CT9/UR9IDX in Portugal which was pretty cool. I was only running 5 watts off the Icom 705 battery pack.

Sadly it was getting closer to sunset and the cool wind was a bit too much discomfort for us so I had to cut the activation short before getting my ten contacts. I packed up the ham gear along with our tables and chairs and headed back to the car. We then made our way back to Champaign as darkness fell.

After I thought about the connection issues more, I remembered we had switched cell phone providers since the last POTA activation. I discovered the new carrier only allows one device to be connected to the hotspot at a time. That explains why I was unable to connect both the iPad and the 705 to my phone. I probably should get a portable router that both devices can connect to when I’m out and about. Or just bring a laptop and connect via USB which would probably be the easier and cheapest option. Despite the chilly weather and failed activation, it was nice to get spend a few hours playing radio outside.


DateTime (UTC)CallsignBandModeNotesAudio
2024-04-0621:30K5M20MSSBLouisiana QSO Party
2024-04-0621:32W5SGL20MSSBMississippi QSO Party
2024-04-0622:12CT9/UR9IDX17MSSBMadeira Island
2024-04-0622:21W5NO20MSSBMississippi QSO Party


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.

  • Icom IC-705 QRP HF/VHF/UHF portable radio: DXE | GigaParts | HRO | MTC | R&L
  • OM0ET MC-20 Magnetic Loop Antenna: OM0ET Website
  • Insignia 6-ft light stand (NS-DLS75SBK): Amazon
  • JJC Deluxe Lens Case Pouch for Icom 705 (XXL size): Amazon
  • SHANGRI-LA Tactical Range Bag: Amazon
  • GCI 20 Outdoor folding table: Amazon

My first POTA activation at Clinton Lake (US-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 US-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.