Mt. Kearsarge Ham Radio W1PID, K1SWL and W1JSB

Yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving, I had the rare opportunity to do outdoor radio with three seasoned QRP operators: W1PID – Jim Cluett, K1SWL – Dave Benson and W1JSB – Hanz Busch.

Here I am with Jim Cluett and Dave Benson. Photo credit: Hanz Busch - W1JSB

Here I am with Jim Cluett and Dave Benson. Photo credit: Hanz Busch – W1JSB

We decided to meet at Winslow State Park on the northwest flank of Mt. Kearsarge in Winslow, NH.

The tip of the red arrow points to a rare flat spot on the flank of Mt. Kearsarge. The view to the west, north and east is dramatic. Image credit: Google Maps

The tip of the red arrow points to a rare flat spot on the flank of Mt. Kearsarge. The view to the west, north and east is dramatic. Image credit: Google Maps

The WX was forecast to be extremely warm, as much as 15-20 degrees above normal. It was warm down in the valleys, but it was quite windy and chilly as we settled in to have some fun.

The last time I operated from this picnic area the black flies ruled the day. I suffered for a month from the bites of those little devils. Today, there were no bugs, and we were rewarded with some very good contacts.

It didn’t take long for Jim to set up. He’s been doing outdoor radio for so many years he knows how to set up his 28-foot wire in a tree faster than you can say “Practice fifteen minutes a day every day and you can be a respectable CW operator in six months or less.”

Here is Jim Cluett, W1PID, setting up his halyard. He can almost always get the right branch first throw. Photo credit: Hanz Busch W1JSB

Here is Jim Cluett, W1PID, setting up his halyard. He can almost always get the right branch first throw. Photo credit: Hanz Busch W1JSB

Dave and Jim decided to operate at the end of the flat prominence while Hanz and I selected a picnic table about fifty feet south.

Here I am about ready to release a small piece of railroad ballast that's tied to a 3-foot length of 3/16-inch parachute cord. Photo credit: Hanz Busch

Here I am about ready to release a small piece of railroad ballast that’s tied to a 3-foot length of 3/16-inch parachute cord. Photo credit: Hanz Busch

It was partly cloudy with a strong wind. At first I thought there’d be enough solar radiation to keep me warm, but I was wrong.

I had an excellent throw my first time up into the trees next to the picnic area. I’ve discovered that you must use a thicker piece of cord that’s attached to a partially filled water bottle, a rock or some other weight. If you just use thin, 1/16th-inch, micro cord only you’ll get a nasty rope burn as the twirling object releases and sails to the sky.

While Hanz and I set up, Jim was busy. He wastes no time making DX contacts. Here’s his list of contacts for the day:

VP5/W5CW Turks and Caicos
PJ6/OH3JR Saba Island
CT9/LZ2JR Madeira Island
CN2R Morocco
EA8/RC5A Canary Island
PJ4/KU8E Bonaire

Hanz and I started out with my reliable YouKits HB-1B, but soon we switched to the MFJ 20-meter cub radio Hanz helped me build over the past two years.

Here's a dandy QRP radio. The MFJ 20M Cub. It's 1.5 watts or so is more than enough power to have fun. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s a dandy QRP radio. The MFJ 20M Cub. It’s 1.5 watts or so is more than enough power to have fun. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

This radio, in my opinion, is a true QRP rig. On its best day it puts out just under 2 watts. It didn’t let us down as we worked two DX stations with the attractive radio and my resonant 20-meter dipole antenna hanging perfectly vertical from the tree next to us.

Before switching to the MFJ 20-meter cub Hanz said so very politely, “Tim, I don’t think your antenna is working as well as it could.”

Here's W1JSB, Hanz Busch. He's quite serious in this photo. When you meet him, he's got an infectious laugh. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s W1JSB, Hanz Busch. He’s quite serious in this photo. When you meet him, he’s got an infectious laugh. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

He had been hearing strong signals coming through the HB-1B, but no one could hear him come back.

“I know the antenna is tuned just about perfectly for the part of 20 meters we’re working. We can set up my Par EndFedz antenna if you want,” I replied shrugging my shoulders. It didn’t matter to me what antenna we’d use.

“Let’s get out the Cub you helped me build and try it first.”

Hanz was agreeable to that as it took just ten seconds to disconnect the BNC connector to my RG-174 coax cable from the HB-1B and put it on the Cub. We rotated the power button and the Cub came alive!

Within thirty minutes the magical little Cub did some magnificent DX with the resonant 20-meter dipole. It turns out that sometimes you just have to put the blame on the propagation instead of the antenna. I had put the antenna on a tester, so I knew it was rock solid.

Here I am trying to stay warm in the windy conditions. The 20-meter Cub would not let us down on this day. Photo credit: Jim Cluett - W1PID

Here I am trying to stay warm in the windy conditions. The 20-meter Cub would not let us down on this day. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

Our first contact was YT1AD in Serbia. He must do CW as a profession as he’s got over 117,00 lookups on QRZ.com! Some of that must be automatic contesting lookups from those operators who have their radios connected directly to QRZ or other databases.

Next up was WQ9H in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Hanz had a short rag chew with Mike and he wished us well on our outside adventure.

It was time for more DX. Hanz snared a Ukrainian operator who was in the Canary Islands. It was: EA8/UA3RF. He was going fast – probably 35 WPM or better. That’s far beyond my humble current listening speed.

We finished up with Dick, W9AK in Wisconsin. He gave us a 589 signal report so the little Cub was doing just fine with its 1 or 2 watts.

While Hanz was operating I took a break and went down to visit Dave Benson, the founder of Small Wonders Lab. Dave’s got an admirable legacy with many QRP operators who have his creations in their shacks.

Here's Dave Benson, K1SWL. He loves the outdoors and doing radio. Photo credit: Jim Cluett - W1PID

Here’s Dave Benson, K1SWL. He loves the outdoors and doing radio. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

It was a fun outing and everyone there worked stations. Jim and Dave had the most flexibility with each of them using their Elecraft KX3 radios. The KX3 can cover all the HF bands so if one is dead, you try to go hunting elsewhere. Hanz and I could only do 20 meters and weren’t disappointed.

This gives you a feel of the great location we had at Mt. Kearsarge. Photo credit: Hanz Busch - W1JSB

You’re looking due north and can see Jim and Dave grabbing code from the ether. Photo credit: Hanz Busch – W1JSB

After about an hour, we decided we’d had enough of the wind. We packed up and went down the mountain for a cup of coffee. Another successful outdoor outing!

As you can see from the map below, we have our choice of great mountains to operate from here in New Hampshire. We’re blessed with striking scenery and wide-open vistas.

The red ballon shows Mt. Kearsarge in the lower left corner. That green patch of hills, well that's the famous White Mountains of New Hampshire. Image credit: Google Maps

The red ballon shows Mt. Kearsarge in the lower left corner. That green patch of hills, well that’s the famous White Mountains of New Hampshire. Image credit: Google Maps

 

Ham Radio in the Brambles at Profile Falls NH

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.

Here I am sitting on a small flood-plain shelf on some remarkable dry leaves. Photo credit: Jim Cluett - W1PID

What is that bright dot of a person doing sitting on a small flood-plain shelf next to the rushing waters of the Pemigewasset River?. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

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.

Most everything I need to operate fits inside the small clear waterproof Outdoor Products plastic box. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Most everything I need to operate fits inside the small clear waterproof Outdoor Products plastic box. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

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.

It seemed like I was closer to the water than I was. Even if I fell in, the water at the edge is probably only 2 feet deep. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

It seemed like I was closer to the water than I was. Even if I fell in, the water at the edge is probably only 2 feet deep. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

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”.

Here I am happy as a pig in mud avoiding the skunk. Jim says I'm getting better, but I know I still have a very long way to go. Photo credit: Jim Cluett, W1PID

Here I am happy as a pig in mud avoiding the skunk. Jim says I’m getting better, but I know I still have a very long way to go. Photo credit: Jim Cluett, W1PID

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.

 

Newport NH Airport Ham Radio Outing

Today the signals radiating off my 20-meter resonant dipole antenna were really taking off. It was hung straight down from a majestic pine tree branch next to the grass runway at the Newport, NH airport.

The end of the grass strip is adjacent to the Sugar River which you cross using the historic Corbin covered bridge.

Here's the stunning Corbin covered bridge built in 1835 and restored 159 years later! Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s the stunning Corbin covered bridge built in 1835 and restored 159 years later! Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

It was a remarkable late fall day and Jim Cluett, W1PID and Dave Benson, K1SWL joined me to bask in the intense sunshine of this cloud-free day. November in New Hampshire can be day after day of cold, penetrating rain.

Jim is well known in the outdoor QRP radio community. Dave is the founder of Small Wonder Labs and is responsible for inventing many tiny low-powered radios not the least of which is the famous Rockmite.

Jim and I decided to travel west to see Dave because Dave’s traveled the sixty miles to the Lakes Region to play radio with us. We keep thinking we’ll have our last outing for the year, but the weather continues to be unseasonably warm and sunny.

I asked if he caught anything and the fisherman grunted at me. He wasn't too happy. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

I asked if he caught anything and the fisherman grunted at me. He wasn’t too happy. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

While I was walking near the bridge looking at the placid water of the Sugar River and watching a fly fisherman, Jim was busy setting up his antenna. He’s such a pro and rarely gets his halyard line tangled. I believe today he got the branch he wanted on his first throw.

Here's Jim just after getting his halyard line up into a gorgeous pine tree. You can see the runway markers. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Here’s Jim just after getting his halyard line up into a gorgeous pine tree. You can see the runway markers. I set up just to the left of Jim’s head where you see the third pile of pine needles. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I decided to wander about 200 feet east of Jim and Dave along the north edge of the grass runway. The sky was so blue it almost hurt your eyes to look at it.

Today was not my day and I struggled to get my halyard line up to the branch 40 feet up in the air. I believe I had no less than six pathetic attempts at getting my thin micro-cord up to the correct branch.

It’s not as easy to throw the line up as you might think. Release too early and the rock and line goes at too low an angle. Release a fraction of a second too late and the rock and cord goes vertical.

While I was making a fool of myself, Dave and Jim were gathering QSOs and no doubt talking about old times. They seemed to be very relaxed today.

You're looking at two giants in the QRP field - Dave Benson is on the left and Jim Cluett is sitting in the chair. I'm so lucky to be able to learn from both. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

You’re looking at two giants in the QRP field – Dave Benson is on the left and Jim Cluett is sitting in the chair. I’m so lucky to be able to learn from both. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Jim and Dave are experienced operators. They were sharing Jim’s Elecraft KX3. Here’s a video of them having some fun. Dave decided to try to get a QSO for me as I was shooting the video. Listen to the code he sends! This was a last-minute idea and no planning was involved so the video could have been much better.

Jim had just worked FG/F6ARC in Guadeloupe. The video may be confusing, but I think it will give you a flavor of the afternoon and the surroundings.

Once I put up my antenna, I wasted no time getting on the air. It didn’t take me but three minutes to avoid the skunk! I heard N4NQ, Sid, finishing up a QSO and jumped right on his di dit (shave and a haircut) throwing out my call sign.

Sid came right back from Lawrenceville, GA. He was blistering fast for me, but I heard my RST and I gave him the 599 he deserved as his signal was loud and crystal clear in my tiny HB-1B radio.

Bingo! There I am in Sidney's log! TNX Sidney for your patience with me. Image credit: QRZ.com

Bingo! There I am in Sidney’s log! TNX Sidney for your patience with me. Image credit: QRZ.com

I’m trying to get more and more practice so I can hear Morse above my turtle-slow 11 WPM.

Next up was Ken, KG4LLQ in Asheboro, NC. Obviously my signal was strong to the south. I experienced some significant fading, QSB, during the exchange, but was able to copy my RST of 559. I gave Ken the same signal report.

Here I am concentrating trying to hear Ken, KG4LLQ. Photo credit: Jim Cluett - W1PID

Here I am concentrating trying to hear Ken, KG4LLQ. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

Ken was interested to discover I was QRP. My HB-1B was only showing 10.8 volts rather than the 12 it normally shows, so that means less output. I may have only been at 3 watts.

Last up was Jim, W8RTJ from Amherst, OH. He was kind enough to slow down for me and we did a quick exchange. He gave me a 559, but I sent him 599 back as he was so very very strong into me.

It was time to pack up and head back home. Sometimes Jim and I go browsing at firearms stores on our adventures and there were two gun shops on our way home.

I felt very lucky to be with Jim and Dave today. The are very patient with my developing skills. If you’ve never operated outdoors, I highly recommend it. It’s even more fun if you bring along a buddy or two!

I took some extra photos of the covered bridge because it’s one of the gems of New Hampshire. She’s 180 years old!

corbin bridge plaque bridge inside bridge pegs

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Cincinnati Nature Center Ham Radio

Yesterday, while on a vacation to Cincinnati, OH with my wife, I operated from a serene limestone bench at the Cincinnati Nature Center. Joining us were my oldest daughter Meghan and her husband Brent.

The Cincinnati Nature Center is dotted with wood and stone benches donated by people, and family members, who have enjoyed the serenity found in this parcel of majestic trees, meadows and creeks. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

The Cincinnati Nature Center is dotted with wood and stone benches donated by people, and family members, who have enjoyed the serenity found in this parcel of majestic trees, meadows and creeks. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Twenty years ago, maybe more, Kathy and I used to take our kids here for hikes through the woods in this rare piece of terra firma that still has some old growth forest on it. Believe it or not, we had similar 300-400 year-old trees behind our own home located in Amberley Village, a suburb of Cincinnati.

Kathy and I had traveled a few days earlier from New Hampshire to visit her aging father. The trip was planned to also take advantage of our oldest daughter Meghan and her husband Brent being in town. We hadn’t see either of them in over a year since they had moved to California.

The weather was splendid. High thin clouds allowed the sun to bless us with a high temperature of 61 F. The trees had shed all their leaves, so the warm rays of the sun had no trouble finding us down in the forest.

The Cincinnati Nature Center is big. Some of the trails go down into the valleys you see here. Image credit: Google Maps

The Cincinnati Nature Center is big. Some of the trails go down into the valleys you see here. CLICK this map to get an interactive map so you can see where it is. The lookout tower icon is where I was. Image credit: Google Maps

After hiking for about 45 minutes, Kathy, Meghan and Brent sat on a wooden bench while I set up my HB-1B QRP radio. I decided to put up my resonant 20-meter center-fed dipole antenna. There was a perfect tree next to the limestone branch that would allow the antenna to hang vertically.

Everything I need to operate fits into the clear plastic box and the two sandwich bags. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

Everything I need to operate fits into the clear plastic box and the two sandwich bags. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I decided to hang out around 14.060 MhZ to see if I could find any other QRP operators.

It didn’t take long to find George, K2WO.

He was in Orlando, FL, so my 4 watts of power and the vertical dipole were doing a great job on this day. I gave him a 459 signal report and he gave me the same one back. I was happy with that.

Next up was W3ZMN, Conrad coming to me from Bethlehem, PA.  His signal was really pretty strong and he had heard me finishing up my QSO with George.

I had a huge grin on my face when he called out to me, “W3ATB DE W3ZMN.”

I gave him a 599 because of his crystal-clear signal. I received a 579 RST signal report from him.

A few minutes later I was able to work K9OSC, Bob up in Friedley, MN. His signal was so strong I thought he was in the Nature Center parking lot. I gave him a 599 and he gave me a 579 report.

I mentioned to Bob where I was and he wished me good luck on the rest of our hike.

A cold front was approaching from the West that would bring wind and rain to Cincinnati in just a few hours.

Winter is coming and there are just not that many days you can get out and operate comfortably. Yesterday was one of the handful of days left.

I was beaming to have completed three QSOs on my own at one outing. Each time out I can see improvement in my skills. It’s really gratifying.

If you’ve never done outdoor low-powered operation, I encourage you to try.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Ham Radio at Presque Isle State Park

Yesterday before sunrise I was one of the few people at blustery and chilly Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA. The lake water crashing on the beach was screaming that winter is coming.

Yes it is.

The red arrow points to where I parked my car along a narrow road that parallels the beach. Image credit: Google Maps

The red arrow points to where I parked my car along a narrow road that parallels the beach. Image credit: Google Maps

My wife Kathy and I had stopped in Erie to break up the fifteen-hour drive between our home in central New Hampshire and Cincinnati, OH. We were on our way to see family in Ohio.

I’m an early riser and Kathy’s a night owl like her dad. That gives me about three hours each morning to explore or conjure up an adventure. Today I was determined to operate from the shoreline of one of our Great Lakes here in the USA.

The temperature was 36 F, it was mostly cloudy and I estimate a stiff 15 mph wind was coming out of the northwest along the water. I arrived about fifteen minutes before the sun peaked over the horizon.

In warmer weather you could easily use the trees on the other side of the road and sit at a picnic table next to the water. How lucky the hams are who live here in Erie, PA!. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

In warmer weather you could easily use the trees on the other side of the road and sit at a picnic table next to the water. How lucky the hams are who live here in Erie, PA!. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

Because of the cold, I decided to operate inside my car so I’d be more comfortable. There were plenty of tall trees right next to the road that would kindly accept my green micro cord I use as a halyard to pull up my par EndFedz 10, 20 and 40-meter antenna.

I brought with me a fine flat stone from NH to use as a weight to get my micro cord up about 30 feet, or more, into a tree. My first throw was perfect and the stone dropped straight down so I could easily retrieve it.

Within a few moments, I had deployed my antenna and I attached my 25-foot piece of RG-174 coax cable that extended from the antenna matchbox to the inside of the car. I had tied the one end of the halyard to a 6×6 support post to an adjacent picnic shelter.

You can see the magical matchbox at the end of the Par EndFedz multi-band antenna. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

You can see the magical matchbox at the end of the Par EndFedz multi-band antenna. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

It only took a few moments in the car to get on the air.

I figured my QRP outdoor radio mentor, Jim Cluett – W1PID, would be up and moving about so I texted him saying I was on the air.

He texted back suggesting we go to the upper part of 40 meters because the massive Sweepstakes ARRL contest was in full swing.

text

I had no trouble doing a fast QSO with Jim and his signal was booming into me. He gave me an honest report, that’s all I ever want, of 569. Of course he got the 599 he deserved.

Even though we did an official QSO, I never feel good about working Jim under these conditions. What I mean is I had to text him to get him to be where I was.

Sure, the band conditions were favorable and we did a QSO, but I feel the real ones are the ones you get when you stumble across, bump into or pounce upon that invisible person you can’t see.

Jim suggested I send CQ on the upper part of 40 meters between 7.110 and 7.115 MhZ. I tried for 20 minutes or more and gave up.

I decided to descend into the wild jungle.

Off I went to the mid part of 20 meters and it was a cacophony of code.

This is where my radio was and you can see me in the jungle. Photo credit: Tim Carter - W3ATB

This is where my radio was and you can see me in the jungle. Photo credit: Tim Carter – W3ATB

I started fine tuning my HB-1B and found W1SJ calling CQ. He was so strong I had to turn my volume way down.

I’m not a contester. I did happen to work one a week before – the Zombie Shuffle – but it’s a fun, low-intensity contest. This day you’d find the animals roaming the bands eating small grasshoppers like me much like a small oyster cracker that disappears down one’s throat.

I was in a pileup but believe it or not he heard my weak 4-watt signal and came back. I thought I heard a RST of 599, but I didn’t. I estimate his sending speed at probably 25 WPM.

I had no idea what he sent as my listening speed at this time is half that on my best day.

Little did I know that RST was not part of the official exchange for this contest. What an idiot I was to wander into the jungle without knowing the rules.

I sent back his RST of 599, PA and the number “1” as he was officially my first contact in the contest.

Because I didn’t take the time to discover the rules of the contest, I was unaware I wasn’t providing the correct information for the contest exchange.

No doubt he was shaking his head tempted to send back LID. Hells bells, he probably did send back LID and I didn’t hear it!

I was happy, I barely survived the jungle, but survive I did for another day!

It was time to get back to see Kathy so we could continue our journey west.

Thank you Jim for teaching me all I know so far. I’m having a blast! I now know to read contest rules before communicating with a contester!

 

Another Great Day at Livermore Falls NH

Two days ago Jim Cluett, W1PID, and I went back to Livermore Falls in Campton, NH.

We were blessed with what I thought might be our last really warm day of the year.

The temperature was in the mid 60’s and had there been no clouds, there’s no doubt the thermometer would have climbed above 70 F.

Jim set up at his usual spot by the flat rock above the old abandoned mill foundation that’s right at the falls.

I walked about 150 feet north on the railroad tracks and set up at my usual location. This rail line used to part of the Boston & Maine Railroad and it’s still in use by the small scenic Plymouth and Lincoln Railroad.

My HB-1B radio was soon to snag two QSOs out of the ether.

“Are you going to use your new 20-meter resonant dipole today? If so, I suggest you shorten it by one inch to get better results.”

I took Jim’s advice and used my SOG Flash II pocket knife to carefully strip the insulation from the thin 22 gauge stranded wire. It’s such a good knife that I have two of them in case I lose mine or they stop making them.

Twenty meters was active. My antenna was doing a great job in a vertical position. From the center-fed connector, I had a 25-foot length of RG-174 coax.

Here I am copying the QSO from W4LYH. Photo credit: Jim Cluett - W1PID

Here I am copying the QSO from W4LYH. Photo credit: Jim Cluett – W1PID

I heard lots of stations and soon  I heard W4LYH calling CQ. Immediately I responded with my call sign.

It was Martin and guess what? He was outdoors at Douglas Lake in TN. It’s a TVA flood-control dam.

He was operating with a Ten Tec “Rebel” at 5 watts and gave me a 559.

I was probably at 4 watts as the voltage on my HB-1B was just at 11 volts.

How fun to have a QRP/P to QRP/P QSO!

There was some fading (QSB) but I was able to copy most of the exchange, even with my poor and still-developing CW hearing skills.

Just as I was finishing up, Jim came down. He only tends to operate for about twelve minutes, sometimes fifteen, then puts away his equipment. In that time, he can usually complete four or five DX QSOs if the bands are open.

He sat down next to me and I knew I was about to get another lesson. How lucky I am to have a kind and generous QRP Outdoor Radio Sensei.

“How are you doing? Give me one of your earbuds and let’s see what’s out there.”

Within a few moments we heard Bert, F6HKA.

“Oh, that’s my friend Bert. We’ll work him.”

Jim seems to have a mind like a steel trap. He remembers call signs and each person’s name like I recall childhood memories.

Bert was in an extended QSO so we waited.

Once we heard the 73 each operator was giving, I threw out my call sign.

Bert heard me! He gave me a 569 and I gave him a solid 599 as his signal was so strong, I had to turn the volume way down on my HB-1B.

What a thrill to work a French DX station with my tiny radio and simple vertical dipole antenna.

When I got home, there was a message from Peter Ackerman, DL3NAA from Germany.

Screen shot 2015-11-07 at 9.11.30 AM

Holy Cow! It looks like my antenna and the ionosphere were perfectly aligned on this day!

Soon the wicked winter winds will be howling and it will take lots of courage to stay outdoors.