A little over a month ago the plans to activate Saint Gaudens National Historic Site as part of the ARRL’s National Parks on the Air year-long event were proposed by Dave Benson, K1SWL and Jim Cluett, W1PID.
When the NPOTA announcement came out, Dave was quick to point out there were two, maybe three places in all of NH to activate. We thought we’d have to wait until spring when the warmer weather happened, unless Mother Nature served up a tolerable day.
You may not recognize the name Saint Gaudens, but you’ll surely recognize some of the creations of this supremely talented American sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. He created hundreds of pieces of art that are on display around the USA, but his most famous work, many believe, is what he did for the US Mint. He created the design for the historic $20 gold piece.
“Guys, look at the weather forecast for next Thursday, 49 F and sunny!” I sent that email about six days ago to Dave and Jim. Both agreed that we should attempt the activation.
We decided to use a humble 6 x 10 x 6 covered utility trailer I own to keep us out of the weather. Two small propane heaters were employed to take the chill off.
It turns out it worked far better than we thought. The trailer was the perfect size for three people and my two small propane heaters made it feel like April inside our portable ham shack on wheels.
Because we decided to do a low-powered operation, it was important to get the antenna as vertical as possible. The trees surrounding the trailer provided plenty of perfect branchs and Jim made sure he got the exact one to give us the best results.
Our antenna was just a simple 29-foot piece of 20-gauge wire connected to a 9:1 unun. Dave suggested we install a thin counterpoise that stretched about 25 feet out along the ground. The combination of the two elements worked well as we logged two European stations and made it out to the west coast of the USA as well!
It only took us about 20 leisurely minutes to get set up and transmit. We used Jim’s Elecraft KX3 and set the power at 8 watts.
For the first few minutes, Jim tried calling CQ. Someone was occupying 14.063 that we had advertised on the ARRL website. Jim moved to 14.062 and no one came back after 15 or 20 CQs.
“This is fun.” Jim is the master of deadpan humor.
Dave took over the key and Jim decided to put a spot out on the DX Cluster website.
Days before it was decided to use small laptops to do all the logging. Jim was unfamiliar with the keystrokes needed to work Dave’s program and frustration bubbled up seconds after Jim successfully spotted us.
Within 15 seconds of Jim spotting us all hell broke loose.
“We let the tigers out of the cage,” was the way Jim described the mayhem that ensued as we drove home later in the day.
Jim and Dave quickly changed seats with Jim on the key and Dave logging. In a period of just 40 minutes we logged 55 QSOs.
“Guys, that was the first pile up I’ve ever worked!”
I couldn’t believe that was coming out of Jim’s mouth. No way was that possible.
“I’ve been one in a pileup trying to get through many a time, but never been the one trying to pull out call signs.”
We took a short break for lunch to regain energy after exhausting all who wanted to log us and the frequency quieted down.
Dave jumped on the radio, and it didn’t take long to get us up to 80 or so QSOs.
My CW listening skills are not that well developed to be able to do what Jim and Dave were doing, so I just sat there and soaked up the entire experience.
After two hours of operating, we decided to pull the plug and head home. All of us were excited about the adventure and we believe we made another eighty chasers quite happy to have Saint Gaudens in their logbook.
We plan to go back when the weather is warmer and operate from a fantastic side porch of the mansion up on the hill.