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!