Livermore Falls State Forest POTA Activation

livermore falls state forest entrance sign

See those big black power lines above the sign? They feed power from the wretched foreign-owned windmill farm in Rumney, NH into the grid. They caused me big problems while I was here at Livermore Falls State Forest. Why aren’t the windmills owned by the New Hampshire Electric Coop? Read or watch Game of Thrones and you’ll understand why.

Livermore Falls State Forest – A Hidden Jewel

Yesterday I had the pleasure of activating Livermore Falls State Forest K-4924 as part of the popular, and growing, Parks on the Air amateur radio phenomenon. This is a popular swimming site for hundreds of people who want to cool off on a hot day in the Pemigewasset (Pemi) River that flows south from the White Mountains down to Franklin, NH where it joins the Winnipesaukee River to form the mighty Merrimack River that injects its fresh water into the Atlantic Ocean.

Livermore Fallls is the home of a very special bridge – a lenticular arch where the roadway was on top of the ironwork. Young people jump from the top of this abandoned arch into the Pemi in the summer. Serious injury and death are commonplace each year as these souls compete for the elusive Darwin Award.

Get There Early

My plan was to get to this state forest before the crowds descended upon this magical place. When I arrived at 10:10 AM, there was only one other car in the giant parking lot. I wanted to be in the shade and this immediately created a problem as I’d be just sixty feet from the high-voltage power lines that were soon to come alive. Electricity created by the bird-killing beastly windmills would soon fill the power lines creating a pesky electromagnetic interference field.

The power lines also fill the bank accounts of the Spanish royal family and their ilk that own the white gyrating eyesores.

livermore falls state forest power lines

They may be hard to see through the trees, but the dastardly power lines are so very close!

Setup is Routine

I’ve had the good fortune to do so much outdoor radio that setting up to get on the air is fast and easy. I have my own routine and recently have started to add a small fold-up workbench and chair to my equipment.

livermore falls state forest

I’m just about ready to get on the air. Within an hour, this part of the parking lot would be in full sun. Let’s do this!

Last year Dave Benson, K1SWL, convinced me that I should reconsider doing my POTA activations with my low-powered Elecraft KX2 and KX3 radios. “Think about it. You want as many contacts in your log as possible and more power makes that a reality.” Dave is a legend in the QRP world as he was the founder of Small Wonders Lab. He’s the inventor of the Rockmite radio among other things.

When I know I can operate from a picnic table, or flat spot for my workbench and chair, I use an ICOM 7000 mobile HF radio. It’s rugged and I can easily pump out 80 watts through the special 9:1 unun I made with Dave’s help in the spring of 2022.

9:1 unun by tim carter

Here’s a 9:1 unun that can handle 100 watts without burning up. The more power you want to use, the larger the toroid must be to absorb that heat. This toroid in the photo is about 1.5 inches in diameter.

I use a 29-foot wire as an antenna. The unun is attached to the bottom of this wire. It hangs from a string halyard that I get into the tree using an 8-oz nalgene plastic water bottle. As usual, it only took one throw on this stunning summer day to get the bottle up and over a branch about 50 feet in the air.

livermore falls state forest

You should be able to see my antenna and the string halyard. If you can’t, then come with me one day to help me for goodness sake! Watch the video below to see how it’s done. Trust me, it takes hours of practice to release the bottle at the precise moment.

QRN – Natural Interference

I turned on my radio and immediately there was  some objectionable static. I opened up the squelch as much as I could to be sure I could hear far-away operators.

The windmills were reacting to the sun heating up the atmosphere. As we all discovered in grade school science class, the infrared energy heats up the air, it rises and cooler air flows in to fill the void. This is one way wind is created. I needed to get at least ten contacts as soon as possible before the static got worse.

While the high-voltage lines running near me were installed by man, and possibly a woman or two or three, the wind is responsible for generating the electricity so I feel the Q-code that applies is QRN.

This was only the third time this POTA entity was activated and the two previous ones were done with operators who use microphones.

livermore falls K4924 activators

I’m a Morse code operator and there are many many similar operators at home who wanted Livermore Falls in their logbook. Soon my radio speaker started to squawk with their callsigns. It was go time.

18 in 27

I started out on the 20-meter amateur radio band. This is usually a reliable long-distance band where radio signals can easily reach halfway around the Earth Ball. Today it would allow me to put the states of Washington and Colorado in my logbook. Conditions were not the best and the electricity from the view-ruining windmills owned by Spanish royalty were doing their best to stifle my fun.

That said, I wasn’t to be denied. In just twenty-seven minutes I accumulated eighteen contacts:

  • KC2JAV
  • W0SK
  • W7AV
  • AB4KN
  • K4ARQ
  • AE5II
  • KW4FM
  • NT4F
  • K5PE
  • KT4UE
  • K0OPA
  • W5GDW
  • N4RKK
  • WB4ZBI
  • KC9IL
  • K0YY
  • KI8I
  • N4SD
  • K9VIC

After I ran 20 meters dry I switched to 40 meters. The interference from the power lines was so bad you couldn’t hear a thing. I decided to stuff my eighteen contacts in my pocket and call it a day.

Next Time 

I decided that this fall I’d come back on a stunning autumn day. When I do, I’m going to set up on the other side of the parking lot as far away from the windmill tentacles as possible. I’ll also try to pick a day when there’s no, or little wind.

If you’re a radio operator that participates in POTA, I hope to make contact with you. I’ve got lots of work ahead of me as I believe there are 193 separate POTA entities in New Hampshire! It’s time to fill the gas tank with $120 worth of fossil fuel and get moving!

 

Height of Land

Height of Land 2-Meter Radio Antenna Installation

I installed a 2-meter antenna on July 15, 2022 with the assistance of Frank Towle, WF1T in northern Maine just of Highway 17. Watch the second vide below to see how I was able to throw the water bottle into the tree to get the halyard over the branch.

This antenna was used by several radio operators participating in the 2022 New England Forest Rally. These operators connected to the antenna and transmitted emergency traffic to other radio operators miles away on the race courses, stages, of the rally.

Here’s a photo of the antenna:

2 meter antenna in pine tree

This is the tall pine tree that’s contributed its branch to hold up the antenna and halyard.

Acadia National Park POTA Activation

acadia national park seawall picnic area

This is where I’d set up and operate on the second day. What a view from the ham radio office!

Acadia National Park Seawall POTA Activation

On June 29 and 30th, 2022 I was lucky enough to be on Mt. Desert Island (MDI) in Downeast Maine visiting my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. I had the early morning to myself each day and was staying in Southwest Harbor only four miles from the Seawall picnic area in Acadia National Park.

seawall picnic sign acadia national park

This sign is just a minute away from the picnic tables set up just above the high tide line. You must visit this part of Acadia NP!

This part of Acadia is at, or near, the southern-most part of MDI. The weather was superb with bright sunshine and cool temperatures in the mid 60s F. The intense sunlight, however, made it feel much warmer.

I usually schedule a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation a day or two in advance. Being a person that likes to mix things up, I posted my first activation just 45 minutes before going on the air. The folks running the POTA website have made it very easy to do even with a smartphone. I was sitting in the parking lot of a restaurant when I announced to POTA chasers, “Hey, come work me here in Acadia NP at 1200Z!” It worked!

The first day I was in a rush because I was trying to get on the air at the promised time. I drove past the table I was to use the next day without seeing it. All the other tables I spotted next to the water had no trees by them. I need a tall tree to hold up my vertical 29-foot wire that has a 9:1 unun attached to it. I decided to use my Elecraft KX3 for these activations.

I settled for a picnic table with a very small tree next to it. It would be a miracle if my wretched drooping sloper antenna would work. This is what happens when you don’t scout an area first.

seawall picnic area acadia national park

This is the table I sat at the first day. It was not great, not terrible.

Fortunately, enough chasers came to the rescue. I logged 14 contacts in about 45 minutes. Ten of them were on 40 meters and the other four were on 20 meters. After I packed up my gear I noticed some movement across the road. A man was leaving a picnic table nestled under some very tall pine trees. 

“That table looks perfect. How did I miss that driving in?”

After he walked away, I sauntered over to scout it out. It was just above the high-tide line and faced the Atlantic Ocean. The best part is low tide on these two days was right around 1100Z so the water was 70 feet away exposing a nice piece of granite bedrock I could stand on to get my halyard up and over the trees next to the table.

acadia national park seawall picnic area

Right in the center of the photo is where I’d stand the next morning to get my halyard up and over the trees next to the picnic table.

I could already feel that tomorrow was going to be an even better day than today.

Day Two

Since I knew I was coming back to the Seawall area to do back-to-back activations, I put myself on the POTA schedule page about 15 hours before I would go back on the air. I believe it helped me get even more contacts than the day before.

Low tide happened as I was getting out of the shower and it would take at least four hours before the water lapped up and over the granite where I was about to lay out my halyard line. I’ve discovered all the secrets to success using a small 8 oz nalgene water bottle filled with some rocks and sand to get a halyard line up 50 or 60 feet. I did it on this day with one throw. I wish I had captured the throw on video.

acadia national park seawall radio antenna

The water bottle sailed over the tree. It takes hours of practice to get the release timing just right.

Here’s how I got that water bottle to sail over the tree:

I stretched out a 25-foot counterpoise wire from the unun down to the bedrock platform. While it was not in the seawater, I’m sure it was getting some of the good jujumagumbo from the ocean.

acadia national park seawall ham radio

This is my setup on the second day. The cardboard box is providing shade for my KX3. The day before it overheated in direct sunlight and the electronic keyer started malfunctioning.

I had texted my outdoor radio mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID, and we barely worked each other on 40 meters. He was in New Hampshire so my signal and his might have been really close to the HF shadow boundary.

At 1200Z, I started to call CQ and moments later I started logging contacts. There were no huge pileups, but I didn’t expect any that early in the morning. I was hoping for some European POTA chasers, but they must not have heard my 10-watt signal coming out of my Elecraft KX3.

w3atb logbook acadia national park seawall

I filled this page of my logbook on day two. Several other 20-meter contacts are on the next page.

The well ran dry on both 40 and 20 meters before 1300Z. Even so, I logged 14 operators on 20 meters and another nine on 40 meters. I packed up in no great rush to leave this wonderful place, even if weed whacking was on the schedule just behind me starting at 1230Z!

Yes, halfway through the activation NPS employees showed up to weed whack the tall grass across the road from me. I was not too happy to discover I had left my earphones back in my shack 225 miles away. Be prepared!

Cookie Crumble 2021 Scores

Cookie Crumble 2021 Scores

Call Sign Name Score
K4BAI Judge Lanley 13124
N6WT Kent Olsen 12877
W0ITT Gary Freeman 12573
WO9B Mike 12199
W4KAC Ken 9523
KE3V Kevin McKenna 7615
AC2YD Ben Cahill 5978
W1ND Glen 4926
KC3RN Kevin 4349
W4NLT Andy Kubishen 4182
WA4AAK Evan 4114
VE2DDZ Malcolm Harper 3857
KA1CPR Wayne 3842
N4ARY Aaron 3798
AC3D Scott 3665
W1PID Jim Cluett 3004
K3SVA Gene Messick 2722
AD0YM Mike Smith 2438
VA3RSA Rich 2163
KA3D Dan Farrell 1655
W3ATB Tim Carter 1624
WB9HFK Mark 1332
N2HTT Mike Aiello 1168
KK4R Rob 1108
NG8S Robin 1068
N3WS Tom 972
W0IS Rick Clem 933
KQ7TJ Tom Johnson 710
N8BB Werner Haschke 650
W9GPB GREG 606
N2RIC Richard Ian Carpenter 575

Three Amigos and One Radio at Profile Falls NH

tim carter w3atb dave benson k1swl jim cluett w1pid

The Three Amigos at Profile Falls just south of Bristol, NH. It was a stunning late-winter day just before the spring equinox. I’m in the lime-green jacket, Dave Benson, K1SWL, is in the gray sweater, and Jim Cluett, W1PID, is in deep concentration looking at my Rite-in-the-Rain logbook.

“Listen, it’s going to be 50 F and sunny today. Let’s get out. We can maybe walk down to the Pemi at Profile Falls if the ice has melted or just operate in the shelter next to the Smith River.”

It was just after 10 AM the day before St. Patricks Day and Old Man Winter was still hanging around like that friend sitting on your couch who doesn’t know it’s time to go home on a Saturday night.

Jim Cluett, W1PID, loves spring. It’s his favorite season and he knew from years of operating outdoors that an outing today would create memories of a lifetime. Little did both of us know that today was to offer up two delightful treats.

“Guess what?” I replied. “Minutes ago I got an email from Dave Benson, K1SWL, that he’s on his way to pick up a vacuum cleaner from a Laconia repair shop. I’ll reach out to him to see if he’d like to join us and get back with you shortly.”

“Good.” Jim has always been frugal in the spoken-word department unless it has to do with what it takes to create an outdoor radio station that has everything you need and fits in the smallest possible container.

After making a few phone calls, I tracked down Dave, he called me back and we agreed to meet at the Bristol, NH House of Pizza for lunch at noon. It was still gray and a chilly 38 F as I was about to walk out the door, but patches of azure blue sky were starting to create ragged polka dots in amongst the puffy clouds that floated overhead on their journey to the east.

By the time I arrived in Bristol at the overpriced House of Pizza parking lot, nary a cloud could be seen and the temperature had soared to 50 F. Jim was already there and Dave was soon to arrive. We ate lunch and headed for Profile Falls just about two miles south of Bristol, NH on NH Route 3A.

Profile Falls is at the northern end of a giant parcel of land owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Smith River tumbles down about 50 feet over some very hard granite to create the cascade.

smith river just below profile falls nh

This is the scenic Smith River just about 200 feet below Profile Falls just around the bend at the top of the photo. The river was swollen with snowmelt.

Many years ago the small town of Hill was nestled along the shores of the Pemigewasset River. As the population of New Hampshire began to swell, annual river flooding became a nuisance so the Corps constructed the huge earthen Franklin Falls Dam about eight miles from Profile Falls. As part of this project, the Corps relocated the town of Hill up onto Route 3A. When the Pemi floods, the dam holds back so much water it can actually back up and flood the lowlands that are quite close to the falls.

This hidden jewel of woods, abandoned roads, and fields is one of Jim’s favorite places to visit. Once you experience it, you’ll see why. Not many people visit the miles of solitude and that’s exactly why it’s attractive to Jim. It took me a few years to develop the same attitude as now I don’t want to interact with any other humans when I go out for an outdoor radio adventure.

Once we arrived at the ice-covered parking lot that’s adjacent to the two-track road that leads down to the Pemigewasset River, we noticed Dave didn’t have the right shoes to hike the 1/3 mile down to the picnic tables on the river bank. We moved our vehicles across the street and set up my Elecraft KX3 on one of the three picnic tables under a wonderful open shelter. Jim and I have operated here many times before including one miserable cold rainy day in December a few years back. It was a day both of us will never forget.

jim cluett w1pid and dave benson k1swl

Jim’s on the left working an Italian Award Station and Dave Benson is possibly thinking about the pepperoni pizza he ate in the past hour.

While I was setting up my radio, Jim threw my water bottle up into a nearby tree to get our halyard up. His throw wasn’t the best, but that’s because Old Man Winter hindered him from doing any outdoor adventures other than setting up on the deck at his home.

Dave and Jim mumbled something about me being able to snare a better branch, so they stepped back and indicated it was my job to do the next throw. “Come here and look up,” Jim said. I did as my mentor suggested and there was this very narrow opening in the dead branches of the trees above to send the small water bottle up into the heavens above.

I was also a bit rusty and made a barely acceptable throw as the nalgene water bottle bounced off the trunk of one of the trees and bounced around until it captured a dead branch. We had just enough height to pull up my 29-foot vertical wire that was attached to a 9:1 unun up into the tree. Within minutes the radio was on and we were beginning to hunt for someone calling CQ. That’s always how we snare contacts out of the ether.

Trying to send CQ ourselves using a low-powered radio like my Elecraft KX3 is like calling for help deep in the wilderness of the White Mountains of NH. Rarely will you be heard. Jim has taught me over the years that if we hear strong signals coming into the radio, there’s a great chance our weaker signal radiating from the wire antenna will be heard by that operator.

jim cluett w1pid

Doing outdoor radio is serious business. When you go out on an adventure, getting even one QSO is sometimes wanted more than life itself! While he doesn’t look happy, trust me Jim is almost as happy as fleas are at a dance party.

Minutes later all three of us had made contact with Colin, GI0RQK, in Northern Ireland. His signal was very strong and all three of us made contact. Jim was first, I was second, and Dave brought up the rear. Colin sent back signal reports of 599 to all of us.

Jim and Dave then decided to get up and enjoy the toasty sunshine and the view down to the Smith River. It was roaring past us filled with cold snowmelt that was just beginning its journey to the Atlantic Ocean. Watch this video I shot of the water tumbling over the rounded boulders in the river bed.

I sat down and tried to find another operator. Soon I heard Jose, EA4HKF, calling CQ from Spain, but he didn’t respond. Such is the life of a QRP radio operator.

I then started to spin the VFO knob and all of a sudden heard, CQ CQ CQ N3AO.

“HEY! Carter Craige is calling CQ!” Jim and Dave both turned around and Jim had a smile on his face. I immediately sent back my callsign, W3ATB, and Carter said to stand by.

I was so excited! Carter’s wife Kay is the past president of the ARRL and I had the pleasure to meet both in person eight years ago at the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT. Carter, Jim, and I took a break from the convention and discovered a well-hidden ice cream cone stand in downtown Hartford.

Carter came back on the air and he was just as excited as I was. I told him Jim and Dave were also with me and all three of us made contact. Jim and Carter’s friendship spans a few decades and he and Carter had an extended conversation.

I recorded a video of part of the conversation between Carter and Dave Benson. You can watch the video of part of their QSO here.

Once we finished talking with Carter, we decided it was impossible to create more happiness so we broke down the station. I marveled at the magic of being on the air at that precise moment on the correct frequency to hear Carter calling CQ. It really made my day as he’s a good friend even though I’ve only eaten ice cream with him one time!

Spring will be here in central NH in full force within weeks and you can bet Jim, Dave, and I will be out more often. I sure hope to put Carter in my log several more times. As Kenny Chesney says in his past hit song, “…only time will tell, but it ain’t talkin’.”

Mt. Sunapee State Park POTA K-2666

dave benson tim carter lake sunapee beach

That’s frozen Lake Sunapee over our heads. I’m in the sunglasses and Dave’s sporting the nice beard. That tree just behind us held up my 29-foot vertical wire antenna for the adventure.

Mt. Sunapee State Park Beach – POTA Activation K-2666

Dave Benson, K1SWL, and I met up at Mt. Sunapee State Park on Friday, February 11, 2022 for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. It was a sunny and relatively warm day for the middle of winter in New Hampshire.

Dave lives nearby and had scouted the parking lot at the beach. A line of tall deciduous trees stood guard duty over the stored picnic tables that normally dot the grass between the beach sand and the blacktop.

No grass or beach sand was visible, but there was plenty of sand on the nearby roads to combat the ice. Fourteen inches of crusty snow blanketed everything including the ice-covered Lake Sunapee. A snow berm created by the state-park snowplows ensured that we’d not drive up onto the frozen tundra.

lake sunapee state park sign

Bob Houses and Fishermen

Out on Lake Sunapee. we could see at least five or ten bob houses. These tiny shacks on skis provide shelter for fishermen who drill holes in the ice to drop their baited lines. Rumor has it that moderate amounts of firewater are often consumed in these itty bitty houses.

lake sunapee frozen over with ice

Those tiny black dots are bob houses on the ice. Several people were out there too skiing and fishing out in the open.

sunapee state park beach ranger fee collection shack

Are you kidding me? No lifeguard today?

We both arrived within minutes of one another at 10:30 AM. I was stunned to see that no lifeguard would be on duty today. New Hampshire folk are hardy for goodness sake and the temperature was going to be up over 40 F by noon! I guess they just don’t make lifeguards like they used to.

My Equipment

I used the following gear to activate this state park:

CQ POTA

After saying our Hellos and commenting on the gift of a nice day from Mother Nature, Dave helped connect the antenna and extend the coax cable into the cab of the truck. The cab of my Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4 was going to be our mobile radio shack. It was like being in a greenhouse. We had to crack the windows to keep from getting too hot.

tim carter w3atb

I’m spinning the VFO knob on the Elecraft KX3 and happy that I’m hearing signals. The solar radio conditions were marginal but success was imminent!

Before we knew it it was just before 11 AM or 1600 Universal Time. I had advertised this activation on the POTA website so we knew that radio operators at home were waiting for me to get on the air and transmit: CQ POTA DE W3ATB

Tiny Pileups in Spurts and DX Too

I decided to start a little early and right away made my first contact. Dave decided he just wanted to log for me. That makes the process easy for the operator. Without a logger, you’re constantly switching from using the pen to write and the paddles to transmit Morse code.

I made 19 total contacts in just about 30 minutes only needing ten to officially activate the park. When the sun is in a good mood and lots of chasers are out there, an experienced operator like Dave can log a contact every 40 seconds. It’s not unusual for Dave to gather 50, 60, or more contacts when he does activations.

w3atb log sheet of radio contacts sunapee state park K-2666

Here are the contacts I made. The last two are on 40 meters. The others are on 20 meters. It was great to have my signal bounce across the Atlantic Ocean! It’s magic no matter what anyone tells you.

We ran 20 meters first and only got 17 contacts, three of them DX as you’ll see on the log sheet. The last two contacts on the log sheet were both on 40 meters. Once that band went dead with no other chasers we decided to break down and go get some lunch.

Mark Wilson – K1RO

About halfway through our activation, a stranger came up to Dave’s side of the truck. He was dressed in snowmobile gear. I saw him but Dave didn’t as Dave was looking my way. I held up my finger to signal, “Please wait a moment.” He obliged.

After finishing up with that contact, I rolled down the window and he said, “Are you guys ham radio operators?” It was a comical question as he knew we were seeing my antenna and the bright green halyard holding it up in the tree! It turned out it was Mark Wilson, K1RO. He’s a top-flight radio operator who lives nearby and was out enjoying the delightful day.

It turns out he knows Dave, but I had never met him. We chatted for a few minutes, he wished us well, and I assume he got on his snowmobile to glide across Lake Sunapee.

First Outdoor Outing of 2022

It was a delight to get out as my last time doing outdoor radio was the last warm day of 2021 when Jim Cluett and I wandered down to the bank of the Pemigewasset River at Profile Falls.

Spring is getting close. Once it’s here I plan to go out at least once a week to snare more POTA contacts out of the ether. I hope to get you in the log or maybe I can convince you to come to log for me!

 

 

 

A Warm November Day along the Pemi

tree shadows on path to Pemi

These long deep shadows indicate how low in the sky the sun is. It was just after solar noon when the photo was shot. The winter solstice is sneaking up on us. It will be here in just five weeks. The Pemigewasset River is just about 1/4 mile ahead.

Yesterday my mentor, Jim Cluett W1PID, and I strolled down to the bank of the Pemigewasset River within the US Army Corps of Engineers Hill Village flood-control area in central NH.

The temperature was a stunning 62 F and brilliant sunshine washed over us as we tried our luck at snaring contacts out of thin air. I call them Qs for QSOs. QSO is a Q-code that means I can communicate clearly with another operator. We were not to be denied.

I arrived at the parking lot across from Profile Falls in Bristol, NH before Jim. There were two equestrian women there taking advantage of the balmy weather prize Mother Nature had delivered to us. “My that’s a beautiful horse,” I remarked. The owner said, “I saw him born eighteen years ago. His mother was my horse too.”

horse at pemigewasset river

What a beautiful boy! Eighteen years old. I wish I had brought an apple or two or three.

Once Jim arrived, we put on our backpacks and started to head to the river.

“I don’t want to be in your story.” Jim is a pretty private person.

“You’ve got nothing to worry about. I’ll be sure to leave you out. Besides, no one reads my blog posts anyway. I’m not popular like you are in the QRP community.” I retorted.

jim cluett at pemigewasset river

Jim is about to set up at a different picnic table. It was such a warm day. Within a few minutes he’d take off that light jacket.

Upon arriving at our usual operating spot on the west bank of the Pemigewasset River, I proceeded to make a fool of myself. I was pulling my 29-foot antenna wire up into the giant pine tree and like a dolt, I pulled it too far. I had failed to connect my 9:1 unun and coax cable to the end of the wire before tugging on the halyard.

The wire was dangling about ten feet off the ground. Helplessly hoping, I struggled for five minutes swatting at it with a broken pine branch hoping to put it down to where I could snare it. It was futile. I had to start all over. The entire fiasco ate up ten valuable minutes of air time.

picnic table along pemigewasset river

This was to be my corner office for the next hour. It was so warm in the sunlight!

“I’m using 40 meters,” Jim exclaimed. I took that to mean that it was off-limits to me as I might interfere with him. It turns out it was just the opposite as he decided to do a digital operation. Usually, that means his computer is constantly transmitting fouling up the ether on that band. I judiciously decided to start on 20 meters. There were quite a few signals to choose from.

Within a few minutes, I had my first contact in my logbook. EA1DAV in Spain. Jesus was just interested in a signal report and was putting contacts in his logbook as fast as you’d fling popcorn in a pond to a flock of hungry ducks.

KX2 at pemigewasset river

I decided to go with my Elecraft KX2 on this outing. It fits nicely in the Pelican 1200 case. I used the Elecraft paddles too even though my Begali Adventure Paddles were in my backpack.

I then made contact with WK4WC. He was doing a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. I then heard a strong signal from NK8I, but he didn’t hear my meager 5-watt signal.

Such is the life of a QRPr! QRP is a Q-code that stands for lower your power. It’s also a moniker for radio operators like me who try to do Morse code with only 5 watts, or less, of power.

pemigewasset river bristol nh

You’re looking upstream on the Pemigewasset River in Bristol, NH. It’s a great river to do a canoe trip, especially if you want to get home around midnight.

I then snagged another POTA operator, K4NYM on 17 meters. I don’t usually hunt for signals on that band but decided to do it since 40 meters was off-limits.

I then went back to 20 meters and heard YO8SBQ calling CQ. He was so strong! “Oh, I’ll get him for sure!” I thought. Well, I sent my call sign six times and he never heard me. It would have been really nice to get Gica in my logbook. He was calling from Romania.

Last up was WB9HDS. Believe it or not, he was doing a POTA activation as well. POTA has become extremely popular. I decided I had enough and started to pack up my gear. I had been on the air for nearly 45 minutes, but it felt like five.

insect trap

I spied this insect trap on the walk back from the river. It was put there on purpose for some study no doubt.

It’s a short 1/3-mile walk, if that, from the picnic tables to the parking lot. Once there we exchanged goodbyes remarking once again how nice it was to be in the warm WX. I had to scurry home to be a guest on a live radio show on WLIP in Kenosha, WI.

November in New Hampshire usually means bone-chilling rainy days as the welcome mat for Old Man Winter is put out and swept off. Yesterday might have been the last delightful outdoor warm day of the year. As Kenny Chesney sings, “…only time will tell, but it ain’t talkin’.”

Leaf Peepers 2020 Scores

leaf peepers qrp contest

Call Sign Name Score
AA1SB Neil Collesidis 352
N4ARY Aaron Ray 255
NN9K Peter 231
KA3D Dan Farrell 186
N8BB Werner Haschke 180
AD4CW Marc Richardson 60
W1PID Jim Cluett 52
N8RVE John Morris 45
W2JEK Donald Younger 40
AD4CW Marc Richardson 12
K7ULM Dick Wendell 0
KK4ITX John Leahy 0
AJ4UQ Tom 0

 

Wellington State Park POTA and WW-FF Activation

 

Tim Carter and Dave Benson

I’m in the sunglasses and Dave Benson, K1SWL, is busy untangling a slew of radio operators eager to contact us at this never-before-activated POTA and WW-FF location. Just 24 hours before, I got a haircut.

The word for the day was windy! Don’t believe me? Watch this short video.

Dave Benson, K1SWL, and I decided to do a Parks on the Air and World Wide Flora and Fauna radio activation yesterday from the beach at Wellington State Park. The designators are: K-2682 and KFF-2682 respectively.

This is a gem of a park on the southwest shoreline of Newfound Lake in central New Hampshire. Newfound is reputed to have the cleanest water of any lake in New Hampshire. The water temperature at the ranger check-in booth said it was 70 F. Dave and I felt that was a stretch and the rangers might want to recalibrate their thermometer.

Tim Carter W3ATB

Here I am trying to get a few extra contacts on 40 meters. You can see the wind doing a number on my hair. The 40-meter band was dead as a doornail. After a few minutes of calling CQ, we packed up and went to get two fish sandwiches!

It’s important to realize this park had never before been activated. The radio operators at home want new parks and you can almost always count on lots of activity for these all-time-new-ones (ATNO) as they’re affectionately known.

I took control of the radio at first at 11 AM, 1500Z, because the past few times Dave has initiated the action. We’ve decided to take turns because you don’t know if the sun is going to tickle the atmosphere so we can hear other operators and they can hear us.

We started out on 20 meters at 14.045. Keep in mind there are European operators wanting to contact us. Late morning on the East Coast in the USA means it’s late afternoon over in Europe so it’s always a good idea to start out on 20 meters before the band settles down overseas.

For each of us to get credit for activating the park, we each needed ten contacts. Things started out slow and it took me seventeen minutes to accumulate one more than was needed for me to activate

radio antenna wellington state park

This is the bottom of Dave’s end-fed 20-meter antenna. That box contains magic components that tame the high impedance of the wire. Without the magic box, the radio would create small amounts of blue smoke. Blue smoke is bad.

Once I got to eleven, I said, “Dave, you take over. I want to make sure you get activation credit for this park.”

Dave Benson K1SWL at Wellington SP

Here’s Dave early in the activation before the wind picked up. Note he’s just in a t-shirt.

After yielding control of the radio to Dave, I texted my very good friends Wayne Reetz, KA1CPR, and Jess Guaderrama, W6LEN. I asked them to spot us even though I was certain the POTA skimmer had already done so.

Dave Benson K1SWL

You can see that Dave added a warm flannel shirt as being in the shade with the cold wind blowing made t-shirts not such a good idea!

Moments later all hell broke loose and a scad of operators descended upon us like a plague of locusts. It’s exhilarating to pull out callsigns when everyone is clamoring to be heard at the same time.

Dave filled his log with 31 contacts in 32 minutes. That’s my goal – one contact per minute or so.

After Dave exhausted the demand and the frequency was quiet, I switched to 40 meters on my Elecraft KX3. I only contacted one operator. We decided it was time to eat so we packed up and got some grub.

These activations are fun, they’re exciting, and they really hone your listening skills especially if you want to train to do emergency comms in a hurricane!

Mt. Cardigan NH POTA and WW-FF Activation

Tim Carter W3ATB and Dave Benson K1SWL

Dave’s busy on the radio and I’m sporting my wonderful POTA t-shirt. More than a few mosquitos wanted in on the fun. We started the activation on 20 meters and then switched to 40 meters an hour later.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of doing outdoor radio with two amateur radio giants: Dave Benson, K1SWL, and Jim Cluett, W1PID.

We were in Cardigan Mountain State Park in central New Hampshire. This location is both a Parks on the Air and a World-Wildlife Flora and Fauna entity.

Cardigan Mountain SP

This is the colorful road sign indicating you’ve arrived at the state park.

Dave and I set up on a fine picnic table at the trailhead of the West Ridge Trail that gains about 1,300 feet in elevation in just 1.5 miles. We were all set up ready to talk to other radio operators in the USA and Europe by 10:50 AM or 1450Z.

Cardigan Mountain West Ridge Trail

This sign was just 30 or 40 feet from our table.

Cardigan Mountain SP

This is the table and the adjacent tree Dave is looking at did a marvelous job of supporting Dave’s resonant 20-meter end-fedz wire antenna.

As long as the ionosphere was being sufficiently tickled by the sun’s energy, we would be rewarded with many radio contacts as this particular park is rarely visited by operators like us that wish to battle the elements and the many NH state birds better known as mosquitos.

I was tutored in outdoor radio by both Jim and Dave and it doesn’t take us long to set up. I threw my water bottle about 55 feet up in the air on the first try snagging the exact branch I was aiming for. It allowed Dave’s antenna to hang straight down.

Cardigan Mountain SP

The yellow line represents the thin wire antenna that’s invisible in the photo. The blue line represents the 1/16th-inch microcord halyard line that is holding up the wire antenna. It takes some practice to use a water bottle to get an antenna up in a tree. CLICK or TAP HERE to see me do it.

We decided it’s best to tag team the radio instead of trying to have two radios blasting at the same time. The signals from one overload the other. Dave got on the air first and within minutes the chasers were descending on him like crows raiding a cornfield.

Dave’s a seasoned Morse code operator. I believe he’s been doing it for over fifty years. He usually has no issue pulling out a callsign when multiple chasers are screaming, “ME, me, me, me!!!” Watch the video just below and you’ll see that happen when Dave ends a fast report with one operator.

After operating just thirty-three minutes, Dave had accumulated 31 contacts. He then got up and I sat down. Within minutes more chasers were trying to contact me. I proceeded to untangle a very modest pileup with his help.

Cardigan Mountain

Here I am pounding brass so to speak. Something is obviously wrong with Dave’s camera as I’m certain my bald spot is so much smaller than what you see here.

“Hey, are those my micro Pico paddles?” Dave was making a joke because about three years ago he somehow lost his while operating at Gardner Memorial Wayside State Park near his home.

“I knew I should have engraved my name on them,” I replied. Without some ID like that, it’s pretty much impossible to say who’s paddles they were. We both laughed pretty hard.

I was having trouble sending as the keyer speed on Dave’s ICOM mobile radio was set a little faster than I’m used to. We laughed about that as I called myself a LID. A LID is a derogatory label given to an amateur radio operator who has poor skills.

About ten minutes until Noon, Jim showed up. He didn’t want to operate with us but decided to join us for lunch afterward. We did convince him to try to untangle a pileup that we were positive might happen on 40 meters.

Cardigan Mountain

Here’s Jim logging his sole contact on 40 meters. He asked to use my callsign.

Cardigan Mountain

Here’s Jim in a better mood. When he first arrived we blamed his mood on driving away all the operators on 40 meters. Who knows, maybe there is a correlation to happiness and having lots of contacts!

It turns out 40 meters was a bust. Between us, Dave and I had gathered fifty-one contacts on 20 meters. Only four contacts were made on 40 meters. It didn’t take long to decide to head to lunch in downtown Canaan, NH.

Cardigan Mountain State Park

Jim’s on the left winding up my halyard. You’re looking at two iconic Northeast QRP radio operators. Dave is the founder of Small Wonder Labs and the inventor is the epic Rockmite radio. Jim has been my tormentor the past seven years and I’ll be forever grateful for his patience. Moments later we were leaving the parking lot headed for lunch.

Dave headed back home after lunch and Jim and I decided there was time to try to do more radio next to the Pemigewasset River in Bristol, NH. We had spied this location nearly 18 months ago on a cold winter day as we walked down Coolidge Ridge Road.

Coolidge Ridge Road NH

This is a well-hidden location along Coolidge Ridge Road in Bristol, NH.

It was a tranquil location and I know I’ll go back here. The picnic table did have lots of sap on it so I’ll bring mineral spirits next time.

For some odd reason, we decided to take turns operating but used each other’s callsign. It was loads of fun until I sent Jim’s back to one operator as W1PITI.

“What are you doing, you idiot? My callsign is W1PID!” My finger slipped on my Begali Adventure paddles and I put too much space between the single DAH and two DIHS in the letter D. When you do that, you end up sending a T and an I. We laughed pretty hard about that!

All in all, it was a grand day out with two radio titans. I’m blessed to call them friends and they are always ever so patient with my continuing learning process.

We hope to get out again very soon but hope the mosquitos take the day off.