Bald Ledge NH QRP Afield 2018


Here I am in the green t-shirt with Jim in the background holding my Palm Micro-Pico iambic Morse code paddles. He’s almost in a zen state because it was a perfect day at a perfect place. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Bald Ledge NH – Outdoor Radio Adventure

Today Jim Cluett, W1PID, and I hiked to the scenic Bald Ledge overlook about one mile east of Sky Pond in central NH. It was a perfect late-summer day with the temperature just above 80 F and a crystal-blue sky.

We intended to participate in the QRP-Afield event hoping to contact other radio operators who were using low power as were we.

To get to the scenic overlook, you hike up a rugged Class VI road that’s not maintained by the town. Soon you have to turn left at a crude roadway blocked by an orange metal gate.

Then you have to walk about a half mile to where the trail through the woods begins. If you pass the small sign, you could be in trouble. I decided to get the GPS coordinates this time in case you want to find the small trail.

Related Links

Bald Ledge Adventure 2016

Elecraft KX2 Case

GPS for Bald Ledge Trail NH

Here are the coordinates that will get you to the trail through the woods to the Bald Ledge scenic overlook. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

We passed a few hikers who were coming back from the overlook. When we arrived, we were the only ones there. Jim got absorbed in the view and I did all the work to get us on the air.

antenna tree at Bald Ledge NH

This is the tree that supported my 29-foot wire. Attached at the bottom was a 9:1 unun. Copyright 2108 Tim Carter

KX2 W3ATB Bald Ledge NH

We used my KX2 and all other gear to get on the air. It did a superb job today and the sun rewarded us with fair propagation. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Here is Jim walking back up from looking at the view. I had just finished setting up and he was anxious to make the first contact. One must respect one’s elders so I didn’t complain and handed him the Pico paddles. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Here’s the view of the Sandwich Mountain Range that captivated Jim.

Sandwich Mountain NH

This is the view to the Sandwich Mountain Range from Bald Ledge. Look at the cool screenshot from the PeakFinder app below that tells you what you’re looking at. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

PeakFinder App – Very cool. Download it. Well worth the purchase price. Copyright 2018 PeakFinder

We heard stations right away and here’s our log:

Here’s our log. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

We had lots of fun and decided to leave.

w3atb tim carter

You can see that low-powered outdoor radio (QRP) can be scads of fun. I’m lucky to have a friend like Jim who tolerates my tall tales. We have so much fun on certain outings it should be illegal. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

Our timing was perfect because just as we started back into the woods, a large group of twelve people and three dogs showed up. That would have been mayhem with all of my equipment out and questions coming at us faster than flies showing up at a picnic.

Jim wanted to set up his APRS HT radio to track our journey home. It worked well.

Ellacoya State Park POTA Activation K-2651

ellacoya state park

This is the Ellacoya State Park beach where we set up. You’re looking to the north at the Ossipee Mountains. Millions of years ago this massive rock complex was the basement of a giant volcano. Look closely to the left of the distant lifeguard chair and you can see the MS Mt. Washington plying the clear waters of Lake Winnipesaukee. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

This afternoon I was fortunate to activate Ellacoya State Park in central New Hampshire. I had all sorts of help from Jim Cluett, W1PID and Norman Jackson, K1NAJ. Norman had reached out to me itching to participate with an activation and I was determined to introduce him to the outdoor aspect of Parks on the Air.

Jim had helped me a week before attempt to activate Ahern State Park, but we fell a few contacts short of a valid activation. You need to have ten contacts the same day to qualify for an activation.

ellacoya state park

I’m ready to pluck contacts from thin air. The view out across Lake Winnipesaukee was remarkable. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

We set up on a picnic table just 30 feet from the lapping waters of Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in New Hampshire. A few other people were there enjoying the delicious sunshine and low humidity. Had we been here just four days prior on Labor Day, we would have had to fight for a table and the beach would have been wall-to-wall people.

The Goal for Ellacoya State Park – Ten Contacts or QSOs

The goal was to have fun, enjoy the jaw-dropping weather, and make ten contacts with other radio operators in that order I might add.

We decided to use my radio gear and I didn’t waste any time throwing my water bottle about 50 feet up in the air over a pine tree branch. The placement worked well as it allowed my 29-foot antenna wire to hang vertically without touching any of the other branches or needles. I was able to get the top of the antenna wire 40 feet up in the air.

Talking to France From the Lifeguard Chair

While I was getting ready to get on the air, Jim decided to set his radio up about 150 feet away. He spied a lifeguard chair and was determined to operate from this perch above the warm sand.

ellacoya state park

Jim is a clever operator. He’s attracted to anything that’s unique or different. He might be the first person in the world to have made an amateur radio contact while sitting in a lifeguard chair. No doubt he’s the first in New Hampshire. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

As soon as he turned on his radio, he was able to hear and communicate with his good friend Bert in France, F6HKA.

ellacoya state park

What a view Jim had from his perch! He’s busy setting up getting ready to do Morse code with Bert in France. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Patience Pays Off

Once Jim finished his conversation with Bert, I jumped in so I could log my first contact. I needed ten QSOs to qualify as a valid activation. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem and we’d be done in short order. Bert heard me and we had a brief conversation at 12:50 pm.

The other nine contacts were clawed from the ether with lots of patience. Here’s my log:

CALL SIGN                   TIME                    FREQUENCY         SIGNAL REPORT

F6HKA 1650 UTC 14.051 339
K3RTV 1750 UTC  7.057 559
KB3WAV 1800 UTC 7.049 599
W2QE 1810 UTC 7.027 569
N2AK 1822 UTC 7.026 549
W3JRR 1826 UTC 7.049 579
KN4ZQ 1832 UTC 7.034 579
W1PID 1847 UTC 7.030 599
K1NAJ 1849 UTC 7.030 599
N4CQD 1915 UTC 14.030 559

Look at the times and you’ll see it took quite a while to get the ten contacts.

Here I am trying to get ten contacts as fast as possible. It took over two hours! Norman is sitting to my left. Copyright 2018 Jim Cluett

Rare Signal Report Opportunity

About halfway through the activation we heard a conversation happening between two operators and one of them had an issue with his equipment. His signal sounded like a buzzing bee. Listen for yourself:

We tried to contact him, but he didn’t hear us. It would have been a rare opportunity to send back a signal report like 593 as there’s no way he deserves a 9 for the tone part of the RST.

Ducks and Gulls at Ellacoya State Park

A few other people were enjoying the late summer day, but we were all outnumbered by tame ducks and aggressive seagulls that had been spoiled all summer long getting food handouts from many people who visited this wonderful state park.

Seagulls are brave and fierce. They’ll steal your food or other things. Don’t turn your back on these creatures. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

The gulls would steal food from the ducks and squawk raising quite the racket. My guess is there were just under 100 gulls resting on the beach and perhaps ten ducks.

Jim, Norman and I had a marvelous time and this beach is a great place to spend a warm late spring, summer, or fall day. I don’t recommend coming here to do radio in July unless you want a beach ball bouncing on your radio or knocking your antenna out of a tree!


Cheap HF Antenna

cheap hf antenna

This cheap HF antenna is 29-feet long. The antenna works on all HF bands from 80 to 6 meters. It cost me less than $2 US. What more can you ask for? Oh, you want to know how I got it up in the air with the kite? CLICK or TAP HERE now to read all about how we made QSOs with the kite antenna! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Cheap HF Antenna – Just Use A Simple Wire

A cheap HF antenna can be made using a simple piece of wire. You can’t get much cheaper than that. Yes, a giant yagi antenna on a tower would be ideal, but you said you wanted cheap.

The key is the wire can only be one of a few lengths if you want it to work on just about all the high-frequency (HF) amateur radio bands here in the USA and the rest of the world.

Related Link

29-Foot Wire Antenna Winder

Stay Away From 1/4 and Half-Wave Lengths

My friend Dave Benson, K1SWL, is an electrical engineer and the founder of Small Wonders Lab. When I asked him about these antennas, here’s what he had to say:

“A half-wave – or its multiples – presents a high impedance when fed at one end.

A quarter-wave – and its odd multiples- presents a low impedance when fed at one end. This low-impedance situation is much easier for most tuners to handle. A counterpoise – whether a length of wire or the outside of a coax shield- is highly recommended.

It gets confusing when a half-wavelength wire is fed in the center. It looks out into two quarter-wavelengths of wire, so its impedance is low.  Move the feed point to one end, though, and the impedance is quite high.

Geek stuff: If you move the feed point partway toward one end, the feed point impedance is higher – but it’s still a resonant antenna.”

For a single length of wire to work, you need two things:

  • a tuner
  • the wire length that’s not too close to a quarter or half-wave of the frequencies you want to ply

End-fed wire antennas tend to create very high impedance and a tuner will need help to get a low SWR. You might need to use a 9:1 unun or some balun at the end of the wire to help lower the impedance.

It’s important to realize that an antenna that is a half or quarter-wavelength of the band you’re working on should create a low, or lower, impedance and your tuner should be able to give you a nice low SWR match for your radio.

If you want to operate on multiple bands from a single simple wire antenna, you need to be sure the length of the wire is not a full, half, or quarter wave of the popular HF bands you intend to transmit and receive on.

Fortunately, Jack, VE3EED got out his trusty calculator and did all the work for you.

What are Ideal Lengths for a Cheap HF Antenna?

Here are the lengths, in feet, your cheap HF antenna should be so you can use one antenna to work on multiple bands:

  • 29
  • 35.5
  • 41
  • 58
  • 71
  • 84
  • 107
  • 119
  • 148
  • 203
  • 347
  • 407
  • 423

Jack’s a silent key and I know I’m thankful for the work he did to come up with the lengths you can find in this column.

Do You Need A Counterpoise Wire?

I find a counterpoise about 17 feet long works well if I want to get on 40 meters. You can experiment with different lengths. Steve Galchutt, WG0AT, uses a 58-foot wire length with a 25-foot counterpoise.

Do You Need a Balun or Unun?

I connect my 29-foot cheap HF antenna to a 9:1 unun to lower the impedance. This makes less work for the tuner and I can almost always count on a very low SWR using the internal tuner in my Elecraft KX3 or KX2.