Today I was bumbling in the brambles next to the rushing waters of the Pemigewasset River adjacent to Profile Falls just three miles south of Bristol, NH.
Jim Cluett, W1PID, provided that apt description above of me setting up my resonant 20-meter dipole antenna as we drove back away from the falls.
When we made plans to go out just 90 minutes before, it was mostly sunny and about 47 F with no wind to speak of. It was much different from when we were out just four days before at the Newport, NH airport.
Just above where I was sitting in the brush, there are three wonderful picnic tables under a majestic giant pine tree. It’s wonderful to sit at the tables and look down at the river.
I tried to get my halyard micro-cord up to the perfect branch, but I released the swinging cord two tenths of a second too early and the throw went low. But as the rock on the end continued to soar towards the river, it went higher in some trees by the riverbank.
Frustrated and in no mood to throw the line again, I noticed once I was down in the brambles that the micro cord was falling straight down. This side of the cord was perfect all except I was not going to be sitting at a table, but in some dry leaves.
Immediately I scrambled up the hill and retrieved my waterproof box that had my HB-1B and all my other gear to get on the air. Minutes later my earphones were in, my micro pico paddles in my hand and the radio was on with 11.4 volts showing. I was all set to start hunting.
Within ninety seconds I contacted N8ZYA. My signal report from him was only a 349. John told me he was at 5 watts on his ICOM 703 and was happy to hear I was outdoors doing QRP too. “FB ON 4 WATTS POWER. HAVE FUN OUTDOORS.”
I told John I was on a hike and that I’d send him a link to this story.
I started doing this recently because Jim told me the operators he’s contacted for years love seeing the photos of where he’s operated outdoors. One of his friends in Europe described it as putting “flesh on the skeleton”.
After I finished up with John, Jim hollered down to me about a huge contest happening over in Europe.
“They’ll be going really fast. All you need to send back is 599 and 8.”
I took a small break and just gazed across the fast flowing water. The Pemi was up perhaps two feet from it’s normal level from a heavy rain two nights before.
I tried to go down the band towards 14.025 deeper into the jungle. This is where I have to be brave, but I heard no one. My General privileges only allow me to go that far. This winter I’m trying to get my Extra privileges so I can explore the entire portion of 20 meters allowed to amateur operators here in the USA.
Twenty minutes later after hunting around the band and talking with Jim I heard N9ZXL calling CQ. His signal wasn’t as strong as I’d like, but I felt I had nothing to lose answering him.
Sure enough Dave heard me and gave me a respectable 549 signal report. My hands were starting to get a little cold by this time, so it’s possible he gave me a 459 and I transposed the numerals. I returned a 559 and told him, “WX MOSTLY CLOUDY TEMP 45 F”.
As often happens I hear others calling CQ but they can’t hear me. I clearly heard AA7FV, KK4UOE and W2NRA. Perhaps I’ll connect with them another day.
With less and less daylight each day as we approach the winter solstice, it was time to pack up and head back. Jim got eight or more QSOs. A few of them he snared on 20 meters in the European contest while I was playing patty-cake with my antenna halyard.
Each time on the air my skills improve. I’m excited about that.