New Hampshire Old Man Collapse Special Event

Here is an illustration of the Old Man. It's fitting to use this image on the QSL card we'll be sending out because the postage amount matches the date of his demise and our event. Image credit: US Postal Service

Here is an illustration of the Old Man. It’s fitting to use this image on the QSL card we’ll be sending out because the postage amount matches the date of his demise and our event. Image credit: US Postal Service

The iconic granite face of the Old Man of the Mountains was created by the last continental glacier 15,000 years ago. He collapsed alone in the middle of the night to the base of Franconia Notch, NH on May 3, 2003.

The Old Man is the NH state symbol and his image is on road signs and countless other objects around the state.

The Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club is honoring the sad day of the Old Man’s demise by operating both phone and CW at a location very close to Franconia Notch.

Here are the facts you need to know about this one-day event:


When: May 3, 2015 14:00 UTC – 21:00 UTC

Where: White Mountains – New Hampshire

Event Call Sign: N1H

Frequencies: We’ll be on or around these frequencies.

CW
7.053
14.053
21.053

SSB:
7.153
14.253
21.253

QSL: We’ll be printing a special color glossy QSL card for the event featuring the postage stamp image of the Old Man.

We encourage you to send your QSL card so we can put it in our club archives.

To receive the special Old Man QSL card, please send $1 to cover all costs. The special Old Man card will be sent to you in an envelope to protect it from damage.

Be sure to include your call sign, name, address.

Send your QSL card (or above information in lieu of a card) and your $1 to:

Tim Carter – W3ATB
Old Man Event
100 Swain Road
Meredith, NH 03253-4614

If you have questions about the event, contact me at:

tim the at sign and then my call sign followed by dot com. You have to do this to stop spambots from harvesting email addresses.

 

Install MFJ Cub 20M Transceiver in a Clear Box

A little over two years ago I saw the coolest radio ever. It was a small QRP rig in a clear plastic water-resistant box built by Hanz Busch, W1JSB. I wrote about the experienece of seeing this magical radio and you can read my previous post here. At the bottom of the page is a video where you see the radio in action.

I was INSTANTLY HOOKED. I had to have one of these super-cool one-of-a-kind QRP radios.

I had never built a kit radio nor soldered a resistor to a circuit board. As a master plumber, I’d soldered thousands of copper fittings with an acetylene torch, but I thought that would be a little overkill for an electronics project.

I love to hike and spend time outdoors and I discovered that several of my club members blended hiking with amateur radio. Some of them did Summits on the Air and others just did casual low-impact hiking.

One thing I knew for sure is that radios and water don’t mix well so if I wanted to do outdoor radio and not ruin my equipment I had better figure out a way to protect my investment. The water-resistant clear box I saw seemed to be just the ticket.

Here is what the Cub looks like if you just go with the kit from MFJ. It's small and compact, but it's not too sexy and doesn't have any extra stuff. Photo credit: MFJ Enterprises
Here is what the Cub looks like if you just go with the kit from MFJ. It’s small and compact, but it’s not too sexy and doesn’t have any extra stuff. Photo credit: MFJ Enterprises

My CW and outdoor-radio mentor Jim Cluett – W1PID suggested that I buy the MFJ Cub 20-meter transceiver as that band is very reliable in daylight hours.

I like to do outdoor radio in daylight hours rather than doing radio at night from a tent. You may enjoy doing radio at night, so pick whatever band favors your optimal time of operation.

Plus, the MFJ Cub is a solid little radio and the kit is not too tough for a beginner.

I placed my order, it arrived in no time and Hanz came over to my house to tutor me about how to build a radio in a box. We had two work sessions in February and March of 2013, but after that the project languished as Hanz got busy.

Fast forward two years!

Two weeks ago at the beginning of March, Hanz and I got together to get the radio finished. Last weekend Hanz started to work on the clear Lexan panel where all the controls go.

Last night I went to Hanz’s house and started to assemble the Son of Zerobeat kit.

Here I am at Hanz's great workshop soldering away. I sure enjoy putting together these circuit boards! Photo credit: Hanz Busch - W1JSB
Here I am at Hanz’s great workshop soldering away. I sure enjoy putting together these circuit boards! You can see the clear water-resistant box in the bottom of the photo that the radio will be in. Photo credit: Hanz Busch – W1JSB

I had a BLAST soldering and almost made a mistake after a couple of hours. A small blue round thing that looks like a farmer’s grain silo had to be soldered in a certain way as it was polarized. I failed to see that in the great instructions, but luckily I had the correct orientation!

This radio is the MFJ Cub on steroids and human growth hormones. The kit from MFJ just has two knobs and the power, key and phone input jacks. My radio will have that and much more.

It’s going to have an LCD digital frequency readout, it’s got the Zerobeat kit so you know when you’re right on frequency, it’s got a built-in high-performance lithium-ion battery, and an electronic touch keyer! All you have to do is open the lid, attach the antenna and turn it on to operate.

Here is the partially complete Zerobeat circuit board. Only a few more parts to go. The LEDs will not be on the board but up in the control panel of the radio. Photo idea Tim Carter - Photo credit: Hanz Busch - W1JSB

Here is the partially complete Zerobeat circuit board. Only a few more parts to go. The LEDs will not be on the board but up in the control panel of the radio. Photo idea Tim Carter – Photo credit: Hanz Busch – W1JSB

Hanz is in the business of building even better radios in a box. He now uses the super durable Pelican boxes and installs an HB-1B quad-band radio in the box. It has all the stuff my radio has and MORE. You can ORDER Hanz’s radios by simply CLICKING HERE.

Here’s his latest version. His craftsmanship is SUPERB:

This is a quad-band QRP radio in a waterproof Pelican  box. CLICK the image to discover MORE. Photo credit: Hanz Busch - W1JSB

This is a quad-band QRP radio in a waterproof Pelican box. CLICK the image to discover MORE. Photo credit: Hanz Busch – W1JSB

UPDATE – March 21, 2015:

Yesterday afternoon, Hanz and I continued to work on the project. I was hoping to get it finished, but boy it’s a lot of work.

Here is Hanz working on the control panel. He's a wizard and his attention to detail is stellar. CLICK this photo to see Hanz's radios! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB
Here is Hanz working on the control panel. He’s a wizard and his attention to detail is stellar. CLICK this photo to see Hanz’s radios! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I spent 40 minutes completing the construction of the Son of Zerobeat circuit board while Hanz worked diligently on completing the clear panel that has all the control knobs, LEDs, LCD frequency display, switches, and input jacks.

After I finished the Son of Zerobeat board, Hanz then had me wire up all of the LEDs for the board. Hanz feels the radio looks better if you use small round LEDs and space them out on the panel. I have to agree. You can see them below in the photos.

Hanz is installing a LED into the clear Lexan control panel. That's what's so cool about this radio is that once complete, you can see all the internal parts! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Hanz is installing a LED into the clear Lexan control panel. That’s what’s so cool about this radio is that once complete, you can see all the internal parts! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

It took a solid 90 minutes to daisy chain the positive leads of the LEDs and then solder on the negative feed wires to each LED. I really enjoyed doing it, even tinning the small tiny metal pins of the LEDs!

We hope to complete the project on Sunday, March 22, 2015. All that’s left to do is just make all the connections from the radio and other circuit boards to the control panel components.

This is what the radio looked like on March 20, 2015 as I walked out Hanz's door. You can see the Son of Zerobeat board in the lower right corner. Just to the left of it are the acorn nuts on the outside of the box that are connected to the electronic touch keyer. Remember, all you need to operate this rig is an antenna! Everything else is built into the box! I know you want one of these bad boys. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB
This is what the radio looked like on March 20, 2015 as I walked out Hanz’s door. You can see the Son of Zerobeat board in the lower right corner. Just to the left of it are the acorn nuts on the outside of the box that are connected to the electronic touch keyer. Remember, all you need to operate this rig is an antenna! Everything else is built into the box! I know you want one of these bad boys. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

 

A Cold But Sunny Day Next To the Pemi

Last year the first day I operated outdoors was on March 17th. My outdoor radio colleague, Jim Cluett, W1PID was itching to get out because it’s been such a wretched winter here in the Northeast. The brilliant sun spoke to Jim in the morning like a singing siren serenades a sailor.

We were soon both to discover that Mother Nature can be such a teasing temptress.

Here's Jim on the trail. If you stray from the path, you post hole down into the snow up past your knee! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s Jim on the trail. If you stray from the path, you post hole down into the snow up past your knee! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

We had to hike about a quarter of a mile from the parking lot at Profile Falls to the edge of the Pemigewasset River. The walk through the woods was magical even though you had to look down almost all the time to stay on the narrow hard-pack snow trail. If you strayed from the trail, you post holed up past your knee in cold snow.

Today the only condition that was the same was the sun. Last year it was 37 F and today it was 21 F. Last year there was no wind, this year a stiff breeze was lashing Jim as he was trying to get the halyard up into the tree to pull up my par end-fedz antenna. I was busy getting my HB-1B rig set up.

I’ve discovered working with Jim in cold weather that you need to waste no time getting antennas up into trees. If your fingers get cold, it’s hard to operate and the fun of the adventure diminishes as rapidly as water puts out fire.

Once the antenna was connected, I started to check the 20-meter band for activity. It was dead to me only because I had the filter on the HB-1B set too tight. Jim rotated it counterclockwise and then we could hear operators.

jimhandwarmWhile I was trying to find a strong signal, Jim got out his small camping alcohol stove and lit it with a match.

It was just what we needed to take the chill off our hands. We both had thick wool mittens and gloves and it’s just about impossible to operate the radio and paddles with them on.

“Do you want to go? Are you cold?” Jim asked me as I was tuning around.

“No way. We’re not going to get skunked,” I replied.

Jim scored first lassoing NM2L/M. He was 599 into us and he gave Jim a 599. “I’m all warm now after that QSO, so it’s your turn!” QSOs do that to Jim. He loves CW contacts.

Moments later I was able to sneak in my call to W9JVW and he came back. He gave the little HB-1B a 459 and I gave him a well-deserved 579.

“Let’s get out of here!” Jim didn’t get an argument out of me.

Here I am on the way back to the car. we operated just under the large evergreen tree in the top center of the photo. Photo credit: Jim Cluett - W1PID

Here I am on the way back to the car. we operated just under the large evergreen tree in the top center of the photo. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

As we walked back towards the car, we stopped in the large field to just soak up the sun. The wind had died down a bit and the rays of the sun revived us and erased the pain we had just ten minutes before.

It didn’t take long to get back to the car and we both agreed it was the lower limit of us being able to operate outdoors.

Without the sun, it would have been impossible. In just a few weeks, bare ground will start to appear and our operating options will be as broad as the side of a battleship!

 

FYBO Ham Radio Freeze Your Butt Off 2015 NH

Yesterday was the 2015 Freeze Your Butt Off amateur radio contest hosted by the warm and cozy members of the AZ ScQRPions Club. Let’s see, it was a frigid 81 F in the valley yesterday in Phoenix, while the mercury in central NH was clawing it’s way at Noon past 20 F.

It’s no wonder the boys in Phoenix want us to freeze our butts off so they can snare QSOs poolside with their paddles. But I digress.

The past ten days in central NH had some bitter cold weather, with morning temperatures at or below 0 F. It did get near 32 F about three days ago, and it felt like a spring day to be honest.

So when my outdoor radio mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID, suggested we go out and try to see if we could compete in the Freeze Your Butt Off contest, I was all in. Without Jim knowing it, I invited a newbie ham, John Haven, KC1AAG to come see what outdoor radio was all about.

Jim suggested we go back to the picnic shelter at Profile Falls where we operated on a cold and rainy day before Christmas.

The shelter is at the center of the photo. It's much larger than it seems, with three standard picnic tables under cover. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

The shelter is at the center of the photo. It’s much larger than it seems, with three standard picnic tables under cover. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

We decided to meet for lunch before and then head off to see what we could do. Jim brought along some nice hand warming alcohol-fueled camping stoves that would do well to keep our hands from locking up. We had a problem starting the first one, but the second stove put out a robust flame that really took the chill off our fingertips.

Jim's hands are bare and the black-gloved hands are those of John Haven, KC1AAG. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Jim’s hands are bare and the black-gloved hands are those of John Haven, KC1AAG. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Jim’s resonant dipole antenna trimmed for 20 meters worked well for us. He made a nearly perfect throw with his water bottle to an overhanging branch immediately next to the shelter to hoist the one end of the dipole up into the trees above. I thought the throw was perfect, but he would have preferred it to be 4 feet to the left.

This is moments before Jim's amazing throw. He's making sure the knot in the throwing line doesn't produce a tangle in the tree. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

This is moments before Jim’s amazing throw. He’s making sure the knot in the throwing line doesn’t produce a tangle in the tree. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Surprisingly, the Smith River, which is immediately adjacent to the shelter, was frozen. It’s a fast-moving river and I was shocked to see it encrusted with a layer of ice. But since the WX has been so cold, it made sense.

As soon as Jim connected the antenna to his KX3, he heard KS8M, Mike, booming in from OH. We had decided to share the antenna so as soon as Jim signed off with Mike, he handed me the antenna so I could work him on my trusty little HB-1B four-band transceiver with built-in battery.

“Hurry, send him your call!” Jim was worried I’d miss him. I worked my tiny micro Pico paddles but only heard dahs and no dits.

“My darn plug isn’t in all the way. Calm down.” Outdoor QSOs to Jim on a frigid day are quite possibly more valuable than gold bars are to Tommy Thompson.

Within seconds I was up and running and had completed a valid QSO with Mike.

I should have had my nice wool gloves on right there by my backpack. You can see the HB-1B next to my left elbow. Photo credit: Jim Cluett

I should have had my nice wool gloves on right there by my backpack. You can see the HB-1B next to my left elbow. Photo credit: Jim Cluett

Fortunately there was little wind and I was not getting cold at all. I should have had my gloves on more often, but I found it hard to use the paddles and write. It was so cold, the ink in the ball point pens froze so we switched to traditional pencils. John was kind enough to use his pocket knife to sharpen them.

It was time for me to hand back the antenna coax, and once again within a minute Jim, the pro, had found John KB2HSH. Jim and I were both able to work him and we got a generous 579.

I gave him a 599 RST as his signal was so strong I thought it might break my nice little AYL portable mini speaker that I use to hear the sweet CW sounds that seem to pour out of my easy-to-use HB-1B.

This was John’s first outdoor radio experience and he came prepared with snacks and all sorts of gear to make the expedition more comfortable. John’s always willing to pitch in to help and he seems to be excited to get deeper into amateur radio, although his busy travel schedule makes it tough.

What John doesn’t realize yet is that he can be traveling all through the Southwest with his new soulmate Trudie and be on the air with a thin wire and small radio at any number of gorgeous scenic locations. I think he’ll catch the bug just as soon as he upgrades his license privileges to General class.

After 45 minutes of the sub-freezing temperatures we decided to go get a cup of coffee and a fat pad (doughnut) at the nearby Dunkin Doughnuts in Bristol, NH.

It was agreed we had a great time, although we’d never win the fun Freeze Your Butt Off contest with so few QSOs. Maybe next year we’ll do it on my lower deck next to a roaring outdoor fire! We’ll show those boys from the valley how it’s done.

The Ham Radio Teepee, Cold and Wind

There’s not much I can say with the written word that would outdo what you can see in the video below.

Suffice it to say we had lots of fun building the teepee frame. Jim Cluett, W1PID, was not feeling well that day and even still we completed the frame in just 45 minutes.

The teepee is on some land I own and has a great vista to the south. The plan was to take advantage of solar radiation inside the teepee much like a greenhouse gets abundant warmth on winter days from the sun.

Three days passed after we constructed the frame and we decided to try shipping plastic wrap to protect us from the wind. It did a pretty good job, but a solid sheet of plastic will be better. That’s what you’ll see in the next outing!

Profile Falls in the Rain and Snow

“This could go on record as the worst day of the year to operate. I used to do this on my own years ago just to see if I could operate in bad weather. I’m only out here today because you’re here,” proclaimed Jim Cluett, W1PID.

It was a raw day indeed here in central New Hampshire with a steady rain and the temperature hovering around 35 F. I worked outdoors for years as a homebuilder and have to tell you that days like this one simply chill you to the bone more so than single-digit days. Mother Nature would not disappoint us.

We decided to go to Profile Falls just south of Bristol, NH to operate. It’s a delightful place and especially busy spring, summer and fall. But today Jim and I would be the only ones brave, or foolish, enough to venture to this outdoor playground.

You can see the whitewater in the image. That's the stunning Profile Falls. Just to the right you'll see two parking areas carved from the forest. We parked in the one closest to the falls. Image credit: Google Maps

You can see the whitewater in the image. That’s the stunning Profile Falls. Just to the right you’ll see two parking areas carved from the forest. We parked in the one closest to the falls. Image credit: Google Maps

“I’d love it if we could find a place with a shelter and picnic tables under it. There were many public parks like that in Cincinnati, OH where I grew up. One in particular was close to my home. There was a grand stone and wood picnic shelter in French Park that even had a huge fireplace. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could have a fire going today,” I said to Jim as we drove in the rain.

“Well, I don’t think we’ll find anything like that and we’ll have to operate in the car,” Jim said.

Within a few minutes we were turning off Route 3A onto a gravel road that leads down to the massive park area that’s managed by the US Corps of Engineers. Profile Falls is at the north end of a huge flood-control project that tries to tame Mother Nature’s water in the Pemigewasset River as it flows south towards the big New Hampshire population centers of Concord and Manchester.

“Look! There’s a shelter!”

Here's Jim inside the shelter. The only thing missing was a nice fireplace! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s Jim inside the shelter. The only thing missing was a nice fireplace! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I spied one as we came down the park road just west of the parking areas at Profile Falls. It was exactly what I envisioned and would provide a nice dry spot to operate from on the spacious picnic tables.

It didn’t take long to set up. Jim threw his water bottle up into a tree branch on the first try. It was a perfect throw and we had plenty of altitude to put up his resonant 20M dipole antenna. We set it up as a sloper with the other end tied to the water bottle in the snow.

Jim got on the air first with his Small Wonder Labs DSW rig putting out a stout 2 watts. Within a minute he had snagged Ben, DL5ANT in Germany. Jim got a 569 and Ben was into us with a booming 599.

Here's Jim doing his QSO with Ben, DL5ANT. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s Jim doing his QSO with Ben, DL5ANT. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I was next up because Jim had said he only wanted to do one QSO.

I plugged in the antenna to my HB-1B and immediately heard G3VBS coming in from England! He was right there on 14.058, the frequency I was on when I last used the HB-1B.

timatprofile

I’m pretty happy making a DX contact seconds after turning on the radio. Sometimes the band is deader than a doornail. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

I had some trouble hearing him, but it was all me and my inexperience. I still have a long way to go on my CW journey. I did hear my RST at 549 and I gave him a well-deserved 599 as his signal was strong.

We packed up as soon as I finished up and headed for a warm cup of coffee.

If you want to add some additional flesh to this skeleton story, watch this video of our adventure!

 

Winter QRP Challenges and Staying Warm

At 7:35 a.m. this morning I was greeted with an email from my great QRP mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID. He’s always pithy and often has secret messages embedded his email.

Here’s what he sent:

“There is some chance I’ll go up the hill in Franklin today.”

That cryptic message really meant:

“Do you want to come with me out in the cold, claw our way to the top of the ice-crusted Veterans Memorial Ski Area hill to see why the Franklin 147.300 repeater is operating on battery power and do some QRP radio at the same time?”

Nine days earlier we had a wicked snowstorm in New Hampshire that caused massive power outages because of a heavy wet snow that brought down power lines all over the state.

It was cold when I read Jim’s message, just 15 F, but I saw the forecast was temperatures that might make it up to 30 F. It never made it, topping out at a brisk 26 F.

Jim and I met for lunch at the Tilton House of Pizza and he was kind enough to pay for the great food. We needed the energy for our adventure.

Mark Persson, W1DDI, joined us for the last half of lunch. He’s the repeater coordinator for our Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club and was happy we were going to go up to see what was going on with the repeater.

Jim and I had planned to take advantage of the altitude of the hill we were about to climb and do some HF work on 20 meters once we determined the problem with the repeater.

It didn’t take long to get to the site. You park at the base of the quaint Veteran’s Memorial Ski Area in Franklin, NH. This tiny ski hill is a piece of NH ski history as most ski areas fifty or more years ago were just like this before the mega resorts and taller ski hills sucked customers away like a tractor beam.

Just a day or so earlier we had a moderate snowfall followed by some freezing rain. This made the snow very slippery and crusty. To ascend the 225 feet of elevation change, you needed some sort of traction devices on your boots. Jim wore Yak Tracks and I put on my Kahtoola MicroSpikes.

 

Here's Jim putting on his Yak Tracks. They really give great traction on icy surfaces. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

Here’s Jim putting on his Yak Tracks. They really give great traction on icy surfaces. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

“I think we should use this trail made by the snowmobile to get to the top,” Jim said. It was a wise choice as the belt chewed up the snow and made the walk up the hill much easier.

The climb to the top only took about fifteen minutes with a few rest stops along the way. In no time we had determined that the power was out to the repeater shack. It was now time to set up an antenna before we got too cold.

While Jim was unpacking, I got out my tiny Baofeng UV-5R HT so I could attempt to help a fellow ham, Herm Weber – KB1RJC, activate a mountain 50 miles northeast of where Jim and I were. Herm’s a SOTA fan and was on 146.520 Mhz. When I heard him, I was in the middle of a minor pileup of hams waiting to talk to him.

As all this was going on Jim was getting ready to erect his 20-meter dipole antenna. We had decided to put it up as a sloper because it was faster and easier. One end of the antenna needed to be hoisted up into a juvevnile tree next to us.

We’ll never know what happened, it could have been a vitamin deficiency or a snowflake that flew into Jim’s eye, but his first attempt at getting the halyard line up and over the correct branch in the tree resulted in a wretched tangled water bottle stuck up just out of reach.

Here's Jim getting ready to hoist the amazing dipole antenna up into the tree. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

Here’s Jim getting ready to hoist the amazing dipole antenna up into the tree. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

Jim saw I was finishing my QSO with Herm and politely asked for my help in getting the water bottle down from the tree and the antenna up in the air. Within minutes we were on the air.

“We don’t have much time. By fooling around with this antenna, our hands are going to be too cold to operate,” Jim lamented.

“Quit your whining. Let’s get on the air and do a few QSOs,” I exclaimed ready to test out my improving CW skills.

It didn’t take Jim long, since he’s a CW and QRP pro, to snare XE1RK down in Mexico. Ralph was in Mexico City and gave Jim a solid 559. That’s not bad from the so-so antenna we had erected.

Next up was my QSO with Vic, WB2U. He was calling CQ and Jim helped me decypher some of Vic’s fist as I either had fluff in my ears or he was running his di’s and dah’s a little too close to one another for me.

Here I am working WB2U. The entire QSO was maybe 90 seconds. Photo credit: Jim Cluett, W1PID

Here I am working WB2U. The entire QSO was maybe 90 seconds. Photo credit: Jim Cluett, W1PID

I was using Jim’s outdoor key for the first time that works like half a paddle. I had a hard time hearing the side tone and my fist must have sounded horrible.

It was Jim’s turn next and he quickly found Sam, WZ4L down in TN. Sam gave Jim a 599 so the propagation, the little Yaesu 817 and the antenna were doing a superb job working south on that day.

“Let’s get going. My feet are cold and a cup of coffee sounds good about now.” Jim always is full of good advice and within a few minutes, all the gear was back in his day pack and we were headed down the hill.

Earlier in the day when the adventure was first floated, I thought it might be too cold to operate, but I was wrong. Had it been windy, we would have been frozen in minutes, but fortunately the wind was light. If the sun had been been out, we would have been snug as bugs in a rug.

As we were drinking our coffee and munching on our doughnuts, we relived the experience and were laughing out loud. I’m sure the young sales clerk thought we were two crazy old goats. Perhaps she’s right!

The Mysterious Ledges Sanbornton, NH

 

“I can go out today around 2 p.m. I’ll have all my work finished by then.”

I was talking on the phone to my very good friend and QRP outdoor radio buddy Jim Cluett, W1PID. We were going to take advantage of an exceptional late-summer bluebird day even though the temperatures in the upper 50’s F made it feel like an autumn day.

There wasn’t a cloud in the deep-blue sky.

“Where do you want to go?” Jim usually wants me to make the decision.

“I don’t know, but someplace different. Someplace I’ve not been too that’s spectacular. There has to be a place near us. You know all the places as you’ve been doing outdoor radio since the dinosaurs roamed the land.”

“The Ledges. Meet me at the parking area off exit 22 on I-93. Be on 146.52. We’ll be taking your truck.”

I’ve come to really respect Jim’s brevity in his conversations and his emails. He knows how to pack lots of information in a small space. When I was still building custom houses each day, my plasterer Jack Betch subscribed to the same philosophy – “Less said is better.”

The Ledges was created by a giant continental glacier that rode over Mt. Hersey just to the north. The glacier was flowing from the northwest and the south and southeast face of most mountains in New Hampshire is much steeper because the glacier plucked rocks from this face and carried them away. Image credit: Google Maps

The Ledges was created by a giant continental glacier that rode over Mt. Hersey just to the north. The glacier was flowing from the northwest and the south and southeast face of most mountains in New Hampshire is much steeper because the glacier plucked rocks from this face and carried them away. Image credit: Google Maps

Jim usually prefers to drive, so us taking my truck meant that we were going off road. I drive a monster Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4. It’s a beast and with it’s aggressive tires, we can go down rugged logging roads with little fear of getting stuck.

Once I picked Jim up, we were on our way.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been to this place. You’re going to love it.”

Just five minutes from exit 22 we had made the turn onto Wadleigh Road in Sanbornton, NH. Within 1,500 feet there was the telltale sign:

Class VI Road – No Town Maintenance From This Point On

Some Class VI roads in NH are not bad. Some are deeply rutted with giant muffler-and-gas-tank-grabbing rocks littering the two-track surfaces.

This road was not bad, yet.

“We have to travel quite a distance down this road. Maybe two miles. It past visits, I’ve walked much of the length because it was too muddy or the road condition was to rough for my car.”

Oh great, just what I wanted to hear as the paint-scratching trees started to get closer and closer and closer to my pristine red metallic paint job.

My Super Duty beast clawed it’s way down up and down little hills littered with basketball-sized rocks peeking up from the surface with no effort. With the stiff suspension in my truck, you don’t want to hit these going fast.

Because active logging was going on in the area, a previously overgrown road looked newer than the road we were on. At a fork, Jim told me to go right when we should have gone left.

No worries as we found the logger and he confirmed we needed to go back to the fork and take the other narrow track.

Fifteen minutes later the truck was parked off to the side and we were on foot heading to the mythical Ledges.

“We probably have a good 45 minutes to go before we get there.”

What? For goodness sakes, it was a little after 3:00 p.m.! Do the math. It was starting to sound like the two-hour canoe adventure in the spring that had me home after dark.

“We can’t miss the one turn off as we walk past this one camping area. If we do, who knows where we’ll end up. This is a very remote area and the closest house could be miles away.”

Gulp. You read about people getting lost in New Hampshire woods all the time. You can get lost in less than five minutes. It’s happened to me on my own 90-acre parcel!

Once we made the turn at the campground, the trail started to get narrow and the grade increased. It was a gorgeous trail littered with lots of brown pine needles.

Ten minutes later we came to a T in the trail. Right or left? Left was the way and we marked the way back with a large dead branch shaped like the letter Y.

The trail got steeper and steeper and we had to stop to catch our breath from time to time. This was a good sign as I knew the view would be spectacular the higher we got.

“We’re close, very close,” Jim said as I spied giant pieces of bedrock sticking up from the ground.

Here's Jim near the top of the trail. The Ledges is just behind him about 300 feet away. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s Jim near the top of the trail. The Ledges is just behind him about 300 feet away. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Minutes later I was walking through a rock maze of stunning beauty. It almost felt like we were on a different planet.

Fortunately it didn’t take 45 minutes, more like 20 if you subtract the time we spent peppering a piece of paper with bullets. Jim and I love to shoot when we go out.

“What do you think? Was it worth it?” Jim was peering out looking south to the horizon. Off in the distance you could see the massive Franklin Flood Control Dam, but it appeared to be made for ants from our perch.

Does this really need a caption? Jim soaking in the view to the south. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Does this really need a caption? Jim soaking in the view to the south. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I was pretty much speechless. The view was dazzling. I thought how lucky I was to be there and how other ham operators dream of doing what we were about to do. I’ve been doing so much outdoor radio, that I’ve started to think that everyone does it.

Guess what? Only a tiny handful of amateur radio operators do what Jim and I were doing.

Enjoying nature and activating a spot on the globe where no one has ever before set up a radio. In this instance it wasn’t true as Jim had been here before.

Within minutes we were both on the air. I had to go set up over a little knob in the trees because the speaker output from Jim’s KX3 was bleeding through my earphones causing a big distraction.

I can only hear CW at about 10 WPM it this point and must stay focused.

 

 

 

Cannon Mountain and The Flume Adventure

 

“Hey, where’s your rig?”

Jim Cluett, W1PID, was asking his long-time friend Dick Christopher, N1LT, that question as we were gathered outside all our cars in the NH Park-n-Ride lot at exit 23 on I-93. It was just before 10 a.m. on a sunny late-August day, August 28, 2014 to be exact.

“I didn’t bring one. I figured I could use one of yours.”

Jim immediately responded, “You’re not using mine, you swine.”

Laughter ensued, and I quickly added, “You can borrow my HB-1B. I don’t mind.”

Soon we were all packed into Paprika, the name we’ve given Jim’s handsome newer Subaru Forester, headed north to Cannon Mountain at the top of Franconia Notch.

“How could you go on a dxpedition without a rig?” Dick’s cavalier approach to the day’s outing was still gnawing at Jim, although I did sense a hint of teasing when he asked the question.

Forty minutes later we were walking across the parking lot at the base of the Cannon Mountain Tram towards the mighty machine that would whisk us to the top in just eight minutes.

“Holy moly, it looks like you were the only one that dressed right!” Jim was referring to my long pants that had the zip-off legs in case it was warm at the top. Both Jim and Dick had shorts only and with the air temperature just 61 F in the parking lot and a stiff breeze above, there was no doubt I made the right choice.

I also had a long-sleeved polyester tee shirt and a warm fleece. I put both on before we walked to get our tram tickets.

It was the day after a cold front had pushed through and I was certain we’d be blessed with blue skies and nearly unlimited vistas from the summit.

Instead the whiteboard at the ticket window said:

  • Summit Temperature: 51 F
  • Winds: 20-30 mph with higher gusts
  • Visibility: -0-

Ouch! That’s not perfect outdoor radio weather, but we were told the clouds were lifting and things would get better.

The tram to the top of Cannon Mountain runs every 15 minutes. As one goes up, another one comes down. The travel time is only about eight minutes giving the operators plenty of time to load and unload passengers at each end.

This is what we saw moments after arriving at the top of Cannon Mountain. The cloud ceiling was just above our heads, maybe by 60 feet. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

This is what we saw moments after arriving at the top of Cannon Mountain. The cloud ceiling was just above our heads, maybe by 60 feet. Photo credit: Tim Carter, W3ATB

Once at the top, we exited the tram / restaurant building and headed for a location to set up our small QRP (low power) radios.

“Wow, it’s windy! Let’s find someplace in the sun and protected by trees,” Jim suggested as we made our way across the walking paths.

We setup just below where you see Dick with his yellow backpack on his back. Photo credit: Tim Carter- W3ATB

We setup just below where you see Dick with his yellow backpack on his back. Photo credit: Tim Carter- W3ATB

Minutes later we were in position and doing our best to get antennas up. The trees were not tall enough to allow us to erect vertical antennas, so both Jim and I had slopers.

You can see Jim's sagging sloper, but it allowed him to snag a guy in Ireland and a friend in NC. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

You can see Jim’s sagging sloper, but it allowed him to snag a guy in Ireland and a friend in NC. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

The band conditions left much to be desired. I was tuning around 20 meters and all I heard were crickets. Often you can hear ten or twenty stations, some strong some faint.

“I have a wretched antenna. I should be ashamed of myself,” Jim uttered as the wind blew and clouds passed over us like an express train rumbling through a station.

Soon the weather improved and it was very nice to see blue sky and puffy white clouds.

The WX got much better as you can see! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

The WX got much better as you can see! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I got skunked as did Dick, but Jim was able to tweak out two QSOs, one with a station in Ireland and another a weak station on 10 meters from North Carolina.

Here I am hunting for a QSO. I got skunked. That's never fun. Photo credit: Dick Christopher, N1LT

Here I am hunting for a QSO. I got skunked. That’s never fun. That’s Mt. Lafayette just behind me – one of the highest mountains in NH. Photo credit: Dick Christopher, N1LT

Soon it was time for lunch.

“Where are we eating lunch?” Jim polled both Dick and I and I suggested we could go back to the tram building and get a cup of hot coffee.

“I’m not eating in that stinkpot hole. We have this majestic scenery and we need to be out here. Follow me.” Jim had a plan and we were part of it.

Five minutes later we had arrived at a solid granite outcropping that faced Mt. Lafayette and allowed us to look down at the tiny sinuous blacktop ribbon of I-93 as it clawed it’s way from the valley up and over Franconia Notch.

Franconia Notch is perhaps most famous as the location of the Old Man of the Mountain – the logo and symbol of New Hampshire. This stone edifice crashed to the valley floor eleven years ago on an early spring morning.

Dick, N1LT, satisfying his thirst while Jim was satisfying his insatiable appetite for QSOs of any type, anytime, anywhere. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Dick, N1LT, satisfying his thirst while Jim, W1PID, was satisfying his insatiable appetite for QSOs of any type, anytime, anywhere. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

As we ate lunch, Jim got out his ICOM D-STAR HT. I brought mine too. We were full quieting into our Sanbornton, NH D-STAR repeater at 100 milliwatts! The repeater is about 60 miles south of the granite ledge we were resting upon and our elevation provided the needed line-of-sight pathway for this low power to work.

Think about what we did. We talked to a man driving home from work in Germany as we munched on our food all on one tenth of a watt!

Once lunch was finished, it was time to head back down the mountain.

“Let’s go to The Flume!” I can’t remember if it was Dick or Jim’s idea, but ten minutes later we were at this magical geologic wonder that’s just below Franconia Notch.

Dick and Jim in the Flume. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Dick and Jim in the Flume. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

The Conway Granite that forms The Flume was created 200 million years ago. It was molten rock that was deep beneath the surface of the ground.

As it cooled, it cracked and the cracks were filled with a black, dense volcanic basalt rock that was softer than the granite.

Once the rock was uplifted because of Continental Drift forces, the softer basalt eroded creating the narrow flume that we walked up.

At the top of the flume, I saw a young couple that reminded me of Kathy, my wife, and myself. We honeymooned at this exact spot almost 40 years to the day.

The young woman was taking a photo of her male friend as he posed inside a natural cave at the top of the trail. She kissed him just after taking the photo.

“Why don’t you give me the camera and let me take a photo of the both of you in the cave? I want you do give him a deep kiss.”

They giggled and obliged me.

“We need more photos.” They laughed and I shot more of them as they were awash in the happiness of the moment. Minutes later Dick and I joined Jim who was anxious to keep moving.

“Why did you stop and talk to them and take their photos?” Jim was shaking his head not having any history of what The Flume meant to me.

“I’m in the happiness business in case you’ve not noticed. I bring scads of happiness into people’s lives. They’ll have those photos and the memories of the old goat who took them for decades.”

“Let’s just go find a place to get more QSOs,” was Jim’s response.

It didn’t take long. We dove off the main trail up an overgrown service pathway and found an ideal spot to put up a vertical wire.

See, I told you I was in the happiness business. I obliged Jim allowing him to make these QSOs! :-) Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

See, I told you I was in the happiness business. I obliged Jim allowing him to make these QSOs! :-) Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Within 20 minutes Jim had two or three more QSOs. He was in hog heaven.

An hour later we were back at the parking lot and headed home. It was a day I’ll never forget!

 

 

 

CNHARC Fox Hunt Prizes

The Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club will have a fox hunt on Tuesday, August 5th.

Below are prizes that will be given away to some lucky club members.

The impact driver, linesman’s pliers and wire cutters go to the top teams finding the fox. The actual winner of the prize will the the team member pulling the shortest straw at the after-hunt party back at the Gilford Community Church. Good luck!

The generator prize is a raffle prize. Tickets are $2 each or three for $5.

Tim Carter, W3ATB, donated the brand new Klien wire cutters, Klein linesman’s pliers and the Rockwell 16-volt impact driver kit.

Dick Christopher, N1LT, donated the brand new two-stroke 1000-watt generator.

Do you have some nice gear or ???? to donate so all hunters win something? EMAIL ME now if you do.

This is the FIRST PRIZE. It's awarded to the team that is the first to find the fox.

This is the FIRST PRIZE. It’s awarded to the team that is the first to find the fox. It’s BRAND NEW – never been used. It comes with TWO batteries, a charger, and a soft case.

This is the SECOND PRIZE - awarded to the second team to find the fox.

This is the SECOND PRIZE – awarded to the second team to find the fox. It’s a BRAND NEW pair of pliers, not something I dusted off from my shop.

This is the THIRD PRIZE - awarded to the third team to locate the fox.

This is the THIRD PRIZE – awarded to the third team to locate the fox. These are BRAND NEW Glow-in-the-Dark wire cutters. They’ve NEVER BEEN USED.

This 1000-watt two-stroke generator will be RAFFLED off to anyone coming to the club meeting. Ticket prices are $2 each or 3 tickets for $5. Proceeds go to the club general fund.

This 1000-watt two-stroke generator will be RAFFLED off to anyone coming to the club meeting. Ticket prices are $2 each or 3 tickets for $5. Proceeds go to the club general fund.