Gardner Memorial Wayside Park

Gardner Memorial Wayside Park

Gardner Memorial Wayside Park – Amateur Radio

Yesterday I set up my Elecraft KX3 radio on a wonderful picnic table at Gardner Memorial Wayside State Park near Wilmont, New Hampshire.

Gardner Memorial Wayside Park

Here’s my trusty Elecraft KX3 with my Rite-in-the-Rain waterproof notepad. See that dandy black reel? That’s what my antenna and halyard string are stored on. It’s the BEST REEL on the Earth Ball. My coveted Begali Adventure Dual key is on the KX3. This table is just about 8 feet from the edge of a pristine stream that runs through the park. Downstream just 1/10th mile is the foundation of an old mill.

I met Dave Benson, K1SWL, there just before 10:30 AM. We had talked for a few weeks about doing a joint POTA and WW-FF radio activation. The plan was for Dave to drive up the road just 1/2 mile and set up within the boundaries of Giles State Forest. We would both be on the air at the same time, but activating two different entities.

I had no trouble getting my vertical 29-foot antenna up into a tree adjacent to the picnic table. A single throw got the top of the halyard about 45 feet over an upper branch.

Gardner Memorial Wayside Park

The tip of the yellow arrow points to the top of the halyard string line. It’s really easy to get a water bottle 50 feet up into the air after you’ve practiced for about six or seven years. Don’t ask about the day at the Newport NH airfield when I was with Dave and Jim Cluett, my outdoor radio mentors!

Within minutes I had my 9:1 unun and 17-foot counterpoise connected to the antenna wire. I estimate the top of the antenna was about 38 feet in the air. It would work well it turns out.

Gardner Memorial Wayside Park

The tip of the arrow points to the 9:1 unun. You need this magic box to lower the impedance of the antenna so you don’t harm the fragile electronics inside the radio. You should be able to see the thin yellow antenna wire extending up into the tree.

As soon as I connected my 4.5 Ah BioennoPower battery to my KX3 and turned it on, I heard a really strong signal on 20 meters – 14.062. That was a good sign I’d be filling my logbook with contacts.

Gardner Memorial Wayside Park

This was the babbling brook just on the other side of my picnic table. What a grand place to have lunch on a warm day.

Twenty-Six Contacts in 46 Minutes

I was on the air five minutes early and immediately contacted George, KC4TVN. He was lurking around the QRP watering hole of 14.060 and heard me calling CQ on 14.059. It was a thrill to pen his callsign into my logbook.

Next up was Jess, W6LEN, in Huntington Beach, CA! Jess is a remarkable radio operator and he helps activators like me and Dave by spotting us so other operators know where we are.

I then contacted my mentor, Jim Cluett, W1PID, immediately after Jess. I could tell it was going to be a busy next hour or so.

I was pretty busy for 34 of the 46 minutes. There are gaps of time in my logbook where I was calling CQ as the chasers dwindled down to nothing. I then had to change frequency and get re-spotted.

Forty Meters – A Graveyard

After contacting 24 operators on 20 meters including three in Europe, I switched to 40 meters. Normally you can expect to connect with lots of radio operators in the Midwest. Today 40 meters was pretty much dead. I did connect with KA1CPR in Byfield, MA and KD1CT in Barnstead, NH.

I decided to pack up and called Dave on our small 2-meter VHF handheld transceivers. “Dave, I’ve run 20 and 40 dry. I’m headed your way.”

“Fine. I’m up the road about a half-mile at the crest of the hill. I’m tucked in next to a gate.”

Giles State Forest

Dave is that tiny speck down the road.

Within ten minutes I was parked and walking towards Dave who was set up on a nice level road within Giles State Forest. As I walked closer to him, I heard him talking with another operator. Here is part of the conversation:

Giles State Forest

Here’s Dave Benson, K1SWL, doing his extended conversation with KD9CK.

As I walked up to Dave, he was in an extended conversation with KD9CK. They were both doing Morse code about 20 words per minute (WPM) which is about 6 words faster than I can copy in my head.

Giles State Forest

Dave is concentrating on incoming Morse code.

I caught letters and numbers here and there, but not enough to understand what was being talked about. For all I know they could have been hatching secret plans to invade Cuba!

Giles State Forest

Dave is using a Vibroplex bug to send Morse code. He also had a 100-watt mobile radio whereas my Elecraft was just burping out 10 watts. This allows him to be heard by more operators and thus he can add more contacts to his logbook. In all, he made 40 contacts, but much of that is his superior operating and listening skills not so much the extra power.

Giles State Forest

Here’s a sure sign of Spring. A coltsfoot flower just feet away from Dave’s table. It’s a relative to the dandelion.

Dave and I had planned to have a wonderful pizza lunch back in Andover, NH, but we discovered much to our displeasure that the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.

Bah Humbug to that! We said goodbye in the parking lot and decided to do another POTA and WW-FF adventure soon before the black flies start to matter. That’s just weeks away here in New Hampshire.

morse code meme invade cuba


Sky Pond State Forest Amateur Radio

Sky Pond State Forest NH

This is why Sky Pond is named Sky Pond, silly!

Sky Pond State Forest – Parks on the Air K-4963

Today was a delicious early spring day. It was brilliant sunshine, the temperature was 65 F but the infrared rays washing over me felt like it was 85 F. It was intoxicating. It was a perfect day to visit Sky Pond State Forest in New Hampton, NH.

I was introduced to Sky Pond by my mentor and very good friend, Jim Cluett W1PID, several years ago. The Bald Ledge vista point is inside Sky Pond State Forest.

This state forest is off the beaten path. You have to travel miles and miles off State Route 104 and it’s at the dead-end of a Class V dirt road. In a typical spring this first week of April the road could have been impassable because of deep mud. Mud season was not too bad this year, it came earlier, and the road was in remarkably great shape.

Sky Pond State Forest NH

The end of the Class V road is in the distance. You turn right to get to the Sky Pond parking lot. The road was damp but solid and not muddy at all. Some years you’d need an Army 6×6 to travel across this road in mud season.

Today I decided to just set up next to Sky Pond and enjoy the breeze and tranquil view. No one was here and I was thankful for that.

I’ve gotten to the point in my outdoor radio career that I have far more fun if I don’t tangle with strangers. This wasn’t always the case as I used to love pulling the handles of the Happiness Machine where I’d chatter with strangers about how in the world I got my antenna wire so high in the trees.

That’s always the first question a stranger asks when they see me doing outdoor radio. Now if someone asks I hand them a small business card that has this URL printed on it:

Once there, one of the first things they see is this video:

Sky Pond State Forest NH

The sign says it all.

I was all set up and ready to transmit at 3 PM. We ham radio guys use Universal Time so it was 1900Z. It didn’t take long for the Parks on the Air chasers to find me. Soon I was clicking off a contact each minute.

I started on 20 meters and once I exhausted those contacts I moved to 40 meters. Today I used my:

  • Elecraft KX3
  • Begali Adventure Dual Paddles
  • 29-foot vertical wire antenna with a 9:1 unun
  • 4.5 Ah BioennoPower LiFePh battery
Sky Pond State Forest NH

This is the short road to the parking lot next to Sky Pond.

I was only on the air about 35 minutes but that’s okay. I got fourteen contacts and you only need ten to activate the park. After the black flies have gone away at the end of May, I’ll probably be back with Jim to walk up to the Bald Ledge scenic overlook. It’s spectacular.

Sky Pond State Forest radio log

These are the callsigns of the operators I made contact with.


William Thomas State Forest NH

William Thomas SF NH KX2 Radio

This is my Elecraft KX2 amateur radio. I used it to contact 22 other radio operators in just 40 minutes using Morse code. No, the contacts were not ghosts with invisible callsigns. This photo was shot before I started. Look below for the logbook with all the callsigns in it, silly.

William Thomas State Forest NH – POTA and WW-FF Ham Radio

Today I did a last-minute amateur radio adventure with my very good friend Jim Cluett, W1PID. We decided to go to the William Thomas State Forest just north of Hill, NH. It’s a wonderful state forest with a delightful road that cuts deep into the forest.

The 1,700-acre tract of land was owned by William Thomas, Jr. He was a geologist that passed away in 2001. He was a B-24 Liberator pilot and used his discharge pay to purchase the first 60 acres of the eventual 1,700 he’d come to accumulate over the next fifty-five years. These small tracts of land which are now one create an unbroken natural landscape between Wade State Forest and the Pemigewasset River wetlands to the east. He gifted this land to the state of New Hampshire upon his death.

My goal was to activate this state forest. It’s both a Parks on the Air entity K-4981 and a World Wide Flora and Fauna entity KFF-5224. You officially activate a public space like this if you make contact with a minimum of ten other operators within a 24-hour period.

William Thomas State Forest NH

This is how you enter the William Thomas State Forest. The gate was locked. That’s fine, we wanted to walk anyway for the exercise and to soak up the quiet beauty of this little-known state asset.

The weather was perfect for an early spring hike. The temperature was in the mid-50s F with a mostly cloudy sky. I don’t know if one could order up better weather.

William Thomas State Forest NH

We’re coming up to a clearing that served as a log yard. I estimate this was about 1/2 mile from the gate.

The road that cuts east/west through the forest was very well maintained. There were a few fallen trees but it was easy to climb over them as we wound our way deeper into the forest.

William Thomas State Forest NH

This is the 3/4-acre clearing that served as a staging area for logging trucks to load up timber to take to local mills. Jim and I think it was logged about five years ago. But we could be wrong.

After walking about 15 minutes, I found the exact spot I wanted to set up my equipment. There was a perfect branch up about 40 feet hanging just beyond a somewhat flat rock that would keep me from sitting on the damp ground.

William Thomas State Forest NH

That one solitary branch in the white clouds above the blue patch at the center is what I decided was going to support my 29-foot vertical wire antenna. I snared it the first throw with my water bottle.

Jim decided to keep walking farther down the road to set up his own radio equipment. He says it’s no fun watching me record a contact just about every minute. He’d rather fill his own logbook. I couldn’t agree more.

William Thomas State Forest NH

I’ve got my gear out and am minutes away from sending CQ POTA DE W3ATB. My antenna is on my fantastic Trident finger reel next to the orange Pelican 1200 case. Inside the case is my 9:1 unun that attaches to the bottom of the 29-foot wire antenna. The blue block is my 4.5 Ah BionennoPower LiFePh battery. It’s surrounded by 25 feet of coax cable.

It only took about ten minutes to set up. I decided to make contacts on the 20-meter band first because I was hoping to get a few European operators. There are quite a few who are very active in the World Wide Flora and Fauna radio program. I was fortunate to contact Jari, OH1XT, in Finland and Reg, G3WPF, in England. We call these DX contacts because they’re international.

Not wanting to slight my Canadian neighbors, I also put VE3LDT and VE3ZN in my logbook on this adventure!

My good friend Jess Guaderrama, W6LEN, was kind enough to spot me on the Parks on the Air website as well as the WW-FF site. This almost always guarantees that you’ll get the required ten contacts to officially activate the entity.

After gathering fifteen contacts on the 20-meter band, I switch to 40 meters. The 40-meter band allows me to make contact with operators that are closer to me. I was able to add seven more contacts before no one else answered my CQ.

I was only on the air for 40 minutes and made 22 contacts. I was really happy with that count. As the weather gets warmer and I get out earlier in the day, I’ll stay on the air longer.

William Thomas State Forest NH

The operator from Italy couldn’t hear me. Too bad so sad! Twenty-two contacts in 40 minutes is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s by no means expert work. Some POTA and WW-FF operators can log a contact every 30 seconds.

As Jim and I walked back to our vehicles, we stopped for a moment along a small brook that runs under the forest path. There are countless tiny streams like this all over New Hampshire and in early spring they’re carrying the last of the snowmelt towards the oceans.

William Thomas State Forest NH

I don’t believe Jim was going to fish with his walking stick, but one never knows!