POTA Activation of K-6033 Three Peaks BLM Recreation Management Area

My family and I just returned from a short road trip to visit with family in southern Utah. We typically try to get in at least one significant summer trip, but this year our ambitions were scaled back a bit due to how crazy it was getting moved into our new house. I knew that we’d have some free time while we were there, since our itinerary was not ambitious and we were mainly there just to visit and hang out with the family. I knew that there was a good chance I’d be able to get away for at least one POTA activation at a nearby park, and took along my IC-705 go bag and the new Buddistick PRO kit.

Equipment List

  • Icom IC-705
  • Bioenno Power BLF-12045W 12V 4.5Ah LiFePO4 Battery Pack
  • Buddipole Buddistick PRO Loaded Vertical Antenna
  • Homebrew Elevated Counterpoise System
  • CWMORSE.US Double Pocket Paddle


Date: 7 August 2023
QTH: Three Peaks BLM Recreation Management Area, approximately 5 miles west of Enoch, UT

I got my free time on Monday morning, and did a bit of scouting on the POTA map application. There are lots of eligible parks in the Cedar City area so I had a wide variety of choices within a quick driving distance. I wanted to try something a bit outside of the populated area and likely to be lightly utilized during my visit, so I settled on Three Peaks Recreation Area, which is large and has lot of different amenities.

This ended up being a good choice, as the park is up on a hill with a nice view down to Cedar City below, and very few people were here at this time. I found a pavilion there near the campground, but signage said that it was usable by reservation only. There’s plenty of open space in this park, so I simply drove to an overlook area about 100 yards away from the pavilion with a great view. When I stopped, I had heard a small plane overhead and didn’t think much of it, until I saw that the plane was dropping skydivers out not too far away. Pretty neat to watch.

Being a typical high desert biome, when you get outside of the irrigated areas, the vegetation is sparse. There are some trees, but they are stunted and you wouldn’t be able to use one to get a wire more than perhaps 10 feet off the ground. So these were good conditions for deploying the Buddistick. The supplied tripod has a 1/4×10 thread on the bottom of it, to which I screwed in a J-hook (separately purchased) and hung my go bag to give the tripod some extra weight. There is a supplied eye hook and single guy line that can be used for this purpose, but the ground is so hard and compact that I couldn’t get a stake in the ground to use this guying system (I didn’t have a hammer on me). The pack weight worked quite well to keep the tripod stable though, so no worries about the guying system. Since it was late morning, I decided I would stick to 20 meters for my operation, so I set up the coil and counterpoise for that band, without any plan to try to re-tune later.

Buddistick PRO Vertical Antenna Deployed

There were no picnic tables at the location that I chose, and it was already getting pretty warm outside, so I rolled down the SUV windows and set up my operating position in the passenger seat. It was plenty comfortable, although I was a little worried about the radio overheating since it was on the dashboard while the car was pointing directly into the sun.

Operating Position

After a bit of tweaking the coil setting and counterpoise length by using the SWR function of the IC-705, I was ready to go QRV. At first I tuned around for other POTA activators so that I could bag some park-to-park QSOs, and did manage to make a few. I didn’t have a ton of free time, so it seemed worth running my own frequency after a few minutes. I started CQing on SSB and self-spotted on the POTA web app, and it didn’t take long to start generating QSOs. I never had what I would call a pileup, but there were a few times when I had more than one caller, so the interest was definitely there. There was propagation available on this morning, but the QSB was quite significant, so there were a lot of repeats asked for and given. In 17 minutes of holding down a frequency, I got 11 more QSO, which isn’t terrible given I was running 10 watts and a bit of a compromise antenna.

I did want to get a few more CW QSOs in for the practice, so I QSYed down the the CW sub-band and put out a few CQs. After snagging four CW QSOs, I was getting pretty warm and it was about time for me to get back, so I called it a day for the activation.

After Thoughts

Overall, it was a successful activation and nothing big went awry. Tuning up the Buddistick was a bit fussy with my AA-35 Zoom for some reason, and getting a good match on the AA-35 did not correspond to getting a good match on my IC-705. In retrospect, I suspect it was because of the de-tuning effect of me standing right next to the antenna, sweeping the coil with the lead looking for a best match. The problem is that I don’t really know a better way to fine-tune the Buddistick coil. I ended up having to just blindly guess in moving the coil clip up or down one turn at a time, and then taking a measurement at the radio. Perhaps I’m doing something wrong here. I do have the 20 meter clip dialed in now, so I shouldn’t have to mess with this again in the future, at least.

I did find a flaw in my elevated counterpoise system. Not so much in the design, but in the printing. I 3D printed the rod couplers vertically, which made the layer lines perpendicular with the rod. That was a mistake. As I said above, the ground was very hardly packed. When I pushed the fiberglass rod into the ground, it took a lot of force, and I ended up snapping the coupler at a layer line.That wasn’t the end of the world, and I just excluded one rod section and I still had the counterpoise up high enough for it to get a good SWR, but I don’t want that to happen again. So I’m printing another set of couplers printed so that the layers are parallel with the rods, which should give it much more strength against snapping in that direction.

Overall, I had a lot of fun! It was quiet, the view was excellent, and the bands were very, very quiet. I’m starting to get why people get addicted to POTA activations!

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