On Saturday, September 28, 2019, I found myself riding up the Sandia Peak Tram.
Here’s a video of the tram about to dock at the top of Sandia Peak.
This was the last stop in a week-long vacation to northern New Mexico. It was a gloriously warm day with a very light breeze at the summit.
Sandia Peak is a 10-point peak in the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. This almost guarantees any activator will generate a pileup if she/he posts the activation on the SOTAWatch listings page.
I posted my plans there as I wanted to relive all the excitement of working through a pileup that I enjoyed three years earlier when I participated in the popular National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) program. You can find many stories here on this blog about my NPOTA activations.
As frequently happens, my antenna halyard attracts the attention of people like pollen attracts bees. I had several people politely stand next to me while I was pounding brass answering other operators. All they wanted to know was how in the world I got the string that high in the tree next to me.
It’s so easy. Watch this video showing how it’s done. My buddy Dan helped me make the video four days earlier in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I had planned to be on the air at 2015 UTC, but was about thirty minutes late. Far-away chasers were patient and waited as they know delays happen. It didn’t take long for them to hear my CQ SOTA.
I was only able to transmit for about 30 minutes because we had to head back down the mountain. We knew there could be a wait to take the tram back down and that was just the case.
I had lots of fun and hope to activate Cadillac Mountain next on Mt. Desert Island in Maine.
I recorded this video with the help of my good friend Dan Murray in Santa Fe, NM on September 26, 2019. We were at the Randall Davey Audobon Center just up Canyon Road. We had decided to give our wives a well-deserved break and set out on a little-man self-discovery trip.
CLICK or TAP HERE for the nalgene water bottle. Be SURE to select the 8 oz size. Believe me, order two or three of them as you may get one stuck up in a tree if you get your line snagged.
CLICK or TAP HERE for the wonderful Trident Finger Reel.
Thanks, Dan for your great videography skills!
I hope you liked the video!
On September 14, 2019, I had the distinct honor to sit at the actual telegrapher’s desk in the historic and restored Ashland NH, railroad station as part of their 150th anniversary.
A member of the Ashland Historical Society, John Dufrat, applied for a special event callsign from the FCC. I used W1A all day instead of my personal callsign.
Real telegraphers sent their messages over miles and miles of wires that ran along the railroad tracks.
Those wires have long since vanished, so I re-enacted the part by sending Morse code using a traditional brass straight key and the invisible electromagnetic waves traveled through the air across the Atlantic Ocean and to other operators in the USA.
The general public that came for the festivities really enjoyed hearing the di’s and dah’s. Many asked me all sorts of questions, not the least of which was why telegraphers wore green visors. Do you know the answer? I do. Put your guess in the comments below to see if you’re right. Tell me why they also wore the sleeve socks you see me wearing.
Here’s a photo of the page from my logbook.
“I’ve not yet done my required walk today, so that’s number one on my list of things to do,” I said as I answered Jim’s phone call.
“Listen. Let’s go hike up to Dearborn Pond. It’s the perfect length and I’ve not been there for going on ten years or so. We can do some radio from a cabin up there.”
That was the proposal my good friend Jim Cluett, W1PID, made to me mid-afternoon yesterday. I accepted his proposition as I had not been to this heretofore unknown oasis.
It was about a one-mile hike up a class VI road from where we parked Jim’s paprika-colored Subaru. Class VI roads in NH are not paved and can be almost impassable in good weather because of severe erosion. This particular road was in quite good shape and the vegetation was trimmed so your vehicle wouldn’t look like it had been in a catfight.
Ancient stacked stone walls lined the road as we marched up the steep first section. I constantly marvel at how the homesteaders 160 years ago positioned some rocks that weigh well over 700 pounds.
Before long the gravel road started to head down to a stream crossing.
“There’s a trail here to the left that will take us up to the pond.” Jim remembered it clearly even though it had been ten years since he had last been here. Vegetation grows fast and thick in the short summer season in New Hampshire. I think Jim forgot that part.
Neither of us could see any sign of a trail, but that wasn’t to stop us from bushwhacking our way. I knew the pond was above us as its overflow no doubt fed the trickling stream. It’s now the dry season in New Hampshire and some streams shrivel to tiny rivulet ribbons. This one was no exception.
“You set up your gear this time since I used all my stuff on Sunday.” Jim was right, it was my turn.
Just off the corner of the cabin was a 70-foot-tall straight maple tree. Its crown was narrow, perhaps just 12 feet.
“Do you think you can get your water bottle up there?” Jim knows better but asks because I’m convinced he loves to get a rise out of me.
“Whatever. Just watch and see.” I murmured as I was coiling up my halyard string so it wouldn’t get snagged in the tall grass or a twig. Watch this video to see how it’s done:
Moments later I was swinging my water bottle just as David did before he slew Goliath. I released my water bottle at the precise instant so as to go nearly straight up and sail over the tallest branch of the tree. There was virtually no margin for error.
“Oh my gosh! That was the best throw I’ve ever seen you do!” Jim exclaimed.
It was a remarkable throw and it’s just about the only thing I can do better than Jim on a routine basis. He’s an expert radio operator as well as a marksman. He still can make perfect throws too, and I often wonder if he’s just toying with my ego when he makes a ho-hum throw of his own.
But just ten days ago he did have a major failure at Potter Place. One of his Nalgene water bottles decided it much preferred to dangle 50 feet up in the air for the near future near the historic railroad station rather than come back down to be stored in his dark backpack. The trees at Potter Place have an appetite for water bottles. But I digress!
“When I used to come up here years ago I’d sit on that porch and make contacts. Now it’s screened in.” Jim mused thinking of past excursions to this most wonderful location so close to his house.
“Well, I think this place would make a perfect location for Field Day next year. We should reach out to the owner to see if he’d let us sit on the porch.” I pondered.
“Do you think you could get your truck up here?” Jim wondered.
“Are you serious? It’s a Ford Super Duty 4×4. It’s not even a test of its skills and magic.” Tsk tsk, I thought.
Jim decided he didn’t want to do radio so I sat on the steps and got on the air.
“I’ll just sit over here on the hard rocks near the ants and other bugs. Don’t worry about me.” Jim is quite talented at throwing a blanket of guilt over me. My mother would be so proud of him! RIP mom!
At first, I heard Hristo, LZ2HR calling CQ from Bulgaria. His signal was very strong. I sent my call sign, but other stronger stations drowned out my meager 9-watt invisible digital transmission.
Next up was Bernie, KB4JR, who was in Lake Wales, FL. We had a nice slow back-and-forth conversation. I told Bernie I was “on a hike near a pond in NH”. I don’t think he quite believed me, but he surely will after he reads this tale!
I wanted to get at least one more contact in my logbook before we left as it was starting to get close to 5 PM.
I went back and found Hristo and other stations were trying to contact him as well. I tried to sneak in between a few conversations but my weak signal wasn’t cutting it.
There was no way I was giving up. Just as he finished up a short contact with another operator and before he sent his CQ again, I cast my callsign into the ether right into his radio.
BOOM! Hristo heard me and gave me a respectable 559 signal report!
We decided to pack up and get back home as dinner time was fast approaching. Outdoor hikes and radio make for a delightful time. You might want to try it, but for goodness sakes don’t do it at Dearborn Pond!
After I got home, Jim sent me the following photo he took. Ansel Adams would be proud no doubt!
My good buddy and friend Jim Cluett, W1PID, and I made a return trip to Cannon Mountain yesterday. It was important for me to be there as I needed to minimize the distance between me and the ionosphere. When you do this, you’re above the fray and all of your signals have a better chance of being heard.
We once again set up on the Kinsman Ridge Trail just a three-minute walk from the tram building at the top of the summit. Riding the tram is free for old goats like us. It’s a benefit only available to New Hampshire citizens of distinction who have offered their protection to the state for a minimum of 65 years past their natal days.
After we ate lunch, we set up the antenna. We started with my 44-foot twisted-wire dipole that had a 25-foot feed line. My extendable fiberglass panfish pole held the center of the antenna about 12 feet in the air. We had to lower it from its normal height for fear of breaking off the thin last two sections of the pole.
We heard quite a few stations with the first one being Kuwait, 9K2MU. His signal was so strong we were sure he’d answer us. It was not to be. Jim said he had worked him at least a half a dozen times before.
Here’s a list of stations we heard but alas, they didn’t hear us. Note how all of them but one were over 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic Ocean:
We tried for no less than 45 minutes to get someone to hear us. Jim thought the issue could be the feedline of the 44-foot dipole antenna. We had too much coiled up and close to the ground because we were unable to get the center of the dipole 25 feet up in the air. That’s a bad practice for sure. When you use low power, 5 or 10 watts as we do, to fling radio waves into the ether, you can’t afford to have any signal loss into the ground.
We decided to take down the dipole and put up my reliable 29-foot wire that we connect to a 9:1 unun. I store my antenna attached to the string I use as a halyard to hoist the wire up into tall trees. The string is coiled up on a dandy Trident finger reel used by scuba divers. I own two of them and have them with me all the time when we go out on these little-man self-discovery trips.
“Are you sure there’s an antenna wire on this spool?” Jim quizzed me as he was unfurling over 100 feet of green string onto the ground.
Not looking over at him I replied, “Yes, the antenna is on the spool. For goodness sakes can’t you see it?”
“I don’t see it.” Jim has a long history of yanking my chain to generate a rise out of me.
“Whatever!” I replied thinking how could he be such a dolt.
As Jim was working on switching out the antenna wires, I had spied a 10-foot tall dead tree log laying in the short evergreens near us. Once jammed into a crevice in the granite, it would create a fantastic secondary antenna support. It’s important to realize you want your antenna wire as high off the ground as possible.
Moments later I noticed he had grabbed the WRONG halyard reel out of my Pelican 1200 case that I store most of my gear. The CORRECT Trident finger reel that had the antenna wire at the end of the string was still in my backpack!
“You’ve got the wrong reel, you idiot! Didn’t you bother to look through the handy holes on the side of the reel to see all you had was string?” I chastised Jim.
“Maybe you need to put an antenna wire on the reel that’s a different color than the string!” Jim quipped.
“Whatever!” You can count on a snarky response from me from time to time. We both burst into belly laughs that I’m quite certain could be heard across the notch to anyone on top of Mt. Lafayette.
Mother Nature has been doing a great job over the past 13,000 years of turning the giant piece of bedrock that comprises Cannon Mountain into small pea-sized pieces of granite. The giant continental glacier that covered all of New England and most of the Midwestern USA all those years ago had retreated to just north of where we were sitting. Once the ice melted off the top of Cannon Mountain with no trucks, buses, factories around belching CO2, the hard granite was exposed to the elements.
The small pieces of granite are like ball bearings on the exposed ledge. You need to be damn careful not to slip and fall. Twice yesterday Jim almost tumbled because of a combination of the stones and wet rock from overnight heavy rainfall.
We switched off taking turns at the radio trying to avoid the skunk.
“Are you sure this thing is transmitting?” Jim asked.
“Yes, see the blinking red LED when you key up?”
“Well, that doesn’t mean much. You could have blown the finals.” Jim offered up his sage wisdom.
“Whatever!” That’s my standard reply when he mansplains things to me.
Finally, Jim got a station to answer him! LZ50ZF. It was a fine DX contact from Bulgaria. The operator heard us perfectly giving us the best signal report you can get: 599
That proved my little Elecraft KX2 was doing just fine.
Jim surrendered the radio to me so I could also avoid the skunk. I think he decided to do some trail maintenance so others might not fall.
I was bound and determined NOT to leave until I had at least one contact.
Soon I was tightly focused on spinning the VFO knob on the radio and all of a sudden I felt something hit my head.
It was a damn stone thrown by Jim! I chuckled and went back to work trying to get a contact. Then another stone hit my hat. And another.
“I’m starting to run out of small stones up here!” Jim announced.
Once again giant howls of our laughter filled the valley. We do have so much fun going out, it should be illegal. Surely we’re stealing the happiness from some others, but who knows?
Moments later, I made contact with HA8QZ in Hungary. Oh, that was a great feeling!
Then both Jim and I made contact with Paul, a second Hungarian – HA8JV. We’d been at it for over two hours and it was after 3 PM. It was time to head back down the mountain.
After leaving the glider port, we headed home. It was a fun and exhausting afternoon. I think laughing makes you tired and I know for a fact Jim’s going to have a sore right arm from flinging all those stones at me.
Watch the following video to see how to build and erect a basic 80-meter NVIS antenna. After watching the video, please read the field test stories below the video as this design flies in the face of a theoretical 80-meter NVIS antenna design.
CLICK or TAP HERE to download a simple plan and material list of this antenna.
CLICK or TAP HERE to purchase the banana post BNC connector to build the NVIS antenna in the video below.
I was first introduced to this simplistic antenna in 2014 when I first started to learn CW. My mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID told me about his discovery of this low-to-the-ground antenna because he used it to get onto the NH-VT traffic net each night from his home in Sanbornton, NH.
We have a very difficult communications issue on one of our stages in South Arm, Maine at the rally. CLICK or TAP HERE to read about this tough comms problem. This year, 2019, was my second year in the job and I decided to do an experiment with 80 NVIS with two other operators.
I set up this same antenna as you see in the video above, but it was even more wretched. It averaged just 18 inches above the ground. I was transmitting at 13 watts on my Elecraft KX3 and two other operators heard me crystal clear ten miles away. It’s very likely the success was due to ground wave.
However, during the same test, my mentor 100 miles away was monitoring the test out of general interest and he heard me just fine. I had a conversation with him while I was waiting for my fellow operators in Maine to set up their 80-meter NVIS antennas just 10 miles away.
We were operating phone (SSB) because that’s how the comms would happen during the race. I’m doubtful my meager 13-watt signal would travel 100+ miles via ground wave over some semi-mountainous terrain, but I could be wrong. It absolutely might be why the other two operators were able to hear me and I hear them just ten miles away.
A week prior to the test at South Arm during July of 2019, I did a similar test with this antenna design in my backyard. That antenna was probably only 30 inches above the ground. I had successful SSB communications with my mentor who was 8 miles away and another old friend, Dave Benson, K1SWL, who was about 40 miles away. Once again, I was fairly low power, 10 watts, and I don’t believe that ground wave would make it 40 miles.
If you’re an antenna expert and can point me to a document that really shows how far an 80-meter ground wave can travel at different power levels, I’d be forever grateful. Please add those links in the comments below. 73 Tim Carter – W3ATB
Today was another grand summer day here in central New Hampshire. Jim Cluett, W1PID, and I went to one of our favorite hidden gems, the picnic tables next to the canoe and kayak launch ramp along the Pemigewasset River at Profile Falls. The locals call it the Pemi.
You can drive right up to the picnic tables from the main parking lot at Profile Falls, but Jim wanted to walk the quarter-mile from the parking lot to the picnic tables just above the bank of the Pemi. I arrived at the parking area about ten minutes before Jim and immediately became the smorgasbord for a swarm of junior mosquitos. They were the smallest I’d ever seen. Within seconds ten, or more, were feasting on my tasty neck, arm, and leg meat.
“I want to eat a picnic lunch along the Pemi. I’m sick of sitting on plastic chairs next to plastic tables or sitting at filthy tables outside restaurants with passing cars and trucks,” I informed Jim earlier in the morning when we hatched the Pemi plan.
I also brought a small bag of fresh cashews that Jim and I split. He devours them and I do the same as they’re so tasty. For dessert, I brought some vegan chocolate coconut macaroons. They were so delicious I wished I had another bag. Jim and I split these as well.
“Listen. What kind of antenna do you want to put up?” Jim is always filled with questions.
“I brought my 44-foot twisted-pair dipole, but let’s just go with a vertical 29-foot wire.” I’m about simplicity on some days. Erecting a dipole is twice the work as you need to put up two halyards and the tree branches need to be far apart.
A vertical wire is perfect for this location because the giant evergreen tree at the picnic table allows the wire to hang straight down to the table. The first throw of my water bottle worked even though it bounced around the branches like a polished ball inside a pinball machine. Two strangers watched us and were stunned a person could get a string 40 feet up into a tree in seconds.
As Jim put up the antenna using my halyard throw, I got out my Elecraft KX2 equipped with Elecraft iambic paddles. As usual, I power the radio with the lightweight Bioenno 12-volt 3Ah LFP battery.
The magic of HF outdoor radio and indoor radio for that matter is you don’t know what you’re going to discover once you power up. There could be scores of operators you hear or it can be as quiet as Badwater Basin in the middle of a winter’s night.
Once everything was connected I went to 20 meters and there were just one or two signals. I decided to let Jim use the radio first and his decades of experience paid off.
The Pemi cast a spell on me yesterday. I’ve been to this location quite a few times but only walked down the kayak and canoe launch ramp two other times. Today a siren song drew me once again to the bank as Jim was making contacts with the radio.
A few years back Jim and I put in his aluminum canoe at this very spot. I was thinking about that adventure and was happy the mosquitos were not biting me as they were that day.
Somehow ninety minutes had already passed by. How did that happen?
In the meantime, the 20-meter band had come alive. The logbook was starting to be awash in ink.
We worked Ric, KA3LOC in Kansas along with K9FW, Al in Indiana. But as sometimes happens, we heard stations but they could not hear our low-powered 10-watt signal. We usually operate with just 5 watts of power, but with solar conditions being what they are, we need as much power as the KX2 will muster so other stations hear us.
Here’s who we heard, but couldn’t make contact with:
Jim surrendered the radio to me and I worked Lou, N2JPR, on Long Island after hearing him call CQ. Little did I know it but Lou was recording our conversation and was kind enough to send it to me via email. The wonders of technology!
He said in his email, “Thanks for the nice QSO today! Conditions were good and you had a nice signal here to central Long Island. Thanks for answering my CQ call. Surprisingly, minimal QSB and QRN allowed solid copy. Your Pemi River hiking portable setup sounded good. Please find the MP3 recording attached of our QSO. You can hear your signal and what conditions were like on my side. Your fist was easy, armchair copy. No need to reply QSL. According to my log, this was our first QSO.”
After signing off with Lou, Jim took over the radio again. It didn’t take long to find an old friend.
“Hey, that’s Bert!” I blurted out hearing his familiar call sign, F6HKA.
Jim and I routinely work Bert who’s six hours ahead of us in his house in France. Bert was in an extended conversation with another operator and we could only hear Bert’s Morse code.
“I wonder how long this is going to take?” Jim has many positive qualities and his unending patience is one.
Wanting to put another DX contact in the logbook I uttered, “Oh, not to worry. Bert would walk over hot coals to work us. He just needs to know we’re here.”
It was not to be. We called Bert after he ended his conversation with the mystery operator, but he didn’t hear us.
After failing to contact Bert, we decided it was time to go. We had been there almost two and one-half hours but it seemed more like thirty minutes to me.
In just nine weeks all the trees along the Pemi will be ablaze with color. Reds, oranges, yellows, crimson all offset by the evergreens. The color so brilliant you think it’s fake.
How lucky I am to live where Mother Nature has some of her best work on display. Come visit. You can hold the sign Jim and I display for strangers to keep them safe that says:
! DANGER !
High-Frequency Radio Radiation
Loitering May Be Dangerous to Your Health
Do NOT Stare at Equipment or Antenna
For those inquisitive and doubtful visitors that ask why we’re not affected by the radio waves, we always answer that we’re wearing lead underwear. I carry a small piece of sheet lead in my Pelican case to show them. Seriously.
“Tell me everything.”
That’s what I heard when I answered the phone yesterday morning. It was my pal and good friend Jim Cluett, W1PID. He wanted to know how we could take advantage of a stunning summer day here in central NH. The forecast was for 80 F and sunny skies.
We both know from experience that in just a few short months we’ll be longing for a warm sunny day as the November cold rains turn into dreadful December snow and ice.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going to ride the tram up to the top of Cannon Mountain to work some European radio stations,” I spoke through my new Motorola G7 smartphone.
“What time are we leaving?” Jim blurted out after a momentary pause. His brain was whirring away at the possibilities the adventure might produce. Cannon Mountain is one of the top destinations because of the spectacular views and elevation achieved so easily by the 6-minute tram ride to the top.
He was so surprised by my suggestion he would have left right then if we could have.
Cannon Mountain is a spectacular feature in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Old Man of the Mountain used to be on its eastern face, but he crashed to the granite talus in the valley below on May 3, 2003.
The tram to the top of Cannon Mountain is part of the magic. Just about every other peak in the White Mountains you have to invest lots of effort to get to the top. The tram delivers you to the top of Cannon Mountain in about seven minutes from the parking lot!
Once you arrive at the top of Cannon, you exit the tram building and walk down to the start of the loop trail. You just walk 150 feet, maybe 200, and you intersect where the Kinsman Ridge Trail comes up 1.7 miles from the bottom of the mountain.
Jim and I turned left to go down the Kinsman Ridge Trail for just another 150 feet. There we arrived at a narrow band of solid andesite granite ledge. Here we met two young women who had spent three hours getting from the bottom of the mountain to the top.
It was 1 pm when we arrived at the vista point. Both of us were hungry, but I had brought no food. There’s a restaurant in the giant tram station at the top of Cannon, but Jim had offered me half of his vegan sandwich carefully prepared and wrapped in wax paper by his thoughtful wife.
I had never had a vegan sandwich and was terrified there could be wretched green peppers in it. I hate green peppers more than I hate sandworms, especially the ones on Venus.
Jim assured me there were no green peppers and I used my favorite Sog Flash II pocketknife to divide the sandwich in two using the plastic Tupperware® top as a cutting board. The sandwich was delicious, and I wished there were three more.
It’s important to realize that radio communications can be quite serious business. After all, an operator might travel a great distance, set up his equipment in less than ideal conditions only to discover the solar activity has rendered the atmosphere into a slothful sack of ions that have no interest in bouncing our radio signals to other parts of the world.
One thing I’ve discovered in the years of going on radio adventures with Jim is that each contact we make with another operator, especially ones thousands of miles away in Europe, is to be savored like the finest gourmet ice cream or candy one might get at Aglamesis Bro’s in Cincinnati, OH.
If you hear a station when they are few and far between on the bands, you want to capture them at any cost because you might not hear anyone else. It’s the same when given the opportunity to taste delicious candy. Fortunately, in the case of great candy, you can get it anytime you want. Aglamesis Bro’s will ship their delicious delights to all points in the USA. Oh what I would have given for a dark chocolate pecande yesterday, but I digress.
After eating, we immediately set up our antenna. We used Jim’s featherlight expanding fiberglass cane pole to hold up a 29-foot thin wire. It was in the shape of an inverted V. One end was tied around a small juniper branch and the other end I tied off to a loop at the top of Jim’s backpack using his explicit directions.
The antenna wires were flapping in the wind, but they never came loose. Jim connected the one end of the wire to his 9:1 unun and a short coax cable went from it to his Elecraft KX-3. The radio was powered by a small Bioenno 3Ah lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery.
Jim turned on his radio and started out on 20 meters. Twenty meters is the go-to band for long-distance contacts. It was as quiet as a graveyard at three in the morning. Radio operators often lament this condition as the bands being dead.
“Tim, there’s not one signal on 40 meters!”
“Well, did you try 30 meters?” I asked.
“Nothing. There’s nothing on 30 meters.”
“How about 17 meters?” I inquired.
“I checked already. Nothing there either.”
It was looking like a repeat of three days earlier when Jim and I had traveled south to Salem, Massachusetts to help out a special event station. We spent 90 minutes on the air that morning and got skunked. I was in a foul mood driving home that day!
Moments later Jim got back on 20 meters and there was our dear friend Bert, F6HKA doing Morse code with another operator. Bert lives in France. What a delight to do DX from Cannon with a tiny radio and low power!
Jim and Bert have conversed countless times and he’s such a gentleman, Bert that is. Jim’s a great guy too, but always keep in mind his priorities when doing outdoor radio!
We both got to work Bert and we were relieved that we avoided the skunk. It’s always fun to send your callsign to Bert and he comes back with, “FB Tim”. FB means fine business in CW or Morse code.
Just as we equate immediately Bert’s callsign to his name, he does with us. This comradery is part of the attraction to the ham radio hobby. Keep in mind many of us have never met face-to-face.
Just after working Bert a husband and wife, we think, came up the trail from below. They were tired but astonished we were able to do ham radio from a mountain.
When you set a low-powered radio in front of my dear friend Jim and do it in a stunning outdoor setting on a day where the sky is so blue it hurts your eyes to look at it, be prepared for an almost zen-like experience. Jim convinced me years ago that outdoor radio is magic and I don’t dispute it for a second.
“You know, I think we possibly take it for granted that we can just come out here to an outcrop, set up our radios, and make contact with others across the Atlantic Ocean. When strangers see us do this no doubt they’re very very curious,” I mused.
Seconds later a strong signal was heard! It was a special event station in Germany of all places, DM19BUGA. It was celebrating a national garden exhibition in Heilbronn, Germany. The operator was sending Morse quite fast, most certainly above 20 words per minute.
You can’t allow an operator like this to escape and he had a minor pileup happening. A pileup is when multiple stations answer another station’s signal at the same time. Stronger stations almost always overpower low-powered stations like us. Remember, we were transmitting at a power level, around 5 watts, that you might use to make a night light glow!
Seconds later a dad and his son came up the trail. The dad was most interested in our setup and I started to answer his questions as Jim focused all his energy on trying to make contact with the German operator.
With the wind blowing, and the real possibility that the German station’s signal could disappear into the ether, the intensity level grew faster than a speeding bullet. We HAD to make contact with the German station, but at the same time, I was trying to be polite to the hikers.
Looking back, I should have probably had a simple laminated sign that read, “Ham Radio – Harmful RF Waves – Move Along RAPIDLY for your Safety”. Nah, that’s too scary.
I think I’m going to have some small business cards printed up that say:
INTENSE Radio Comms in Progress
Please go to https://w3atb.com/qrp for details about what you see, especially a video about how the antenna was put far up in the air.
CLICK or TAP HERE to see all of the photos from our adventure yesterday.
Today my mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID, took me to one of his favorite hidden places to operate. We were along the bank of the Winnipesaukee River near the boundary of Tilton and Franklin, NH.
We had to hike about 1/4 mile along an abandoned spur of the Boston & Maine Railroad line. The mainline tracks have been removed and a hiking and bicycle trail now runs where steam engines used to travel loaded with freight and passengers back in the 1800s.
The parking lot, as well as the trail, had an abundance of wild daisies, goldenrod in full bloom, and yarrow. There was also poison ivy galore. Jim and I are both very allergic and I’m always on the lookout for that wretched plant.
The portion of the trail we were walking along wasn’t that close to the river and I was wondering if we’d ever see it. Then, just as I was getting frustrated, Jim turned left at an old non-descript gated area. We headed into the forest at this point.
“Do you hear the river?” Jim exclaimed after a minute.
“You bet,” I replied.
Within minutes this is what we saw.
We walked down to the bank of the river and there was a small cape that stuck out into the river. I’d estimate the cape was about 25 feet in diameter.
The upstream side of the cape was protected from erosion by large boulders. Local teenagers have made it into a party location including a nice boulder that serves as a firepit.
Jim decided to try to get his halyard up to hoist the antenna. His first throw failed. I got out my water bottle and string and was fortunate to get a perfect throw. There was minimal space to belay the cord and the throw had to be just right. I’ve gotten pretty good at throwing the water bottle and within minutes the 29-foot wire antenna was dangling perfectly over a large rounded boulder we both sat on.
I politely asked Jim to connect the dangling end of the 24-gauge wire to the 9:1 unun while I unpacked the radio and other gear.
It was a hot and humid day but we were in the shade and there was a slight breeze to keep us comfortable. Luckily we heard signals as soon as we turned on my Elecraft KX2 powered up by a freshly charged BioennoPower 3 Ah LFP battery.
I let Jim use the radio first and within minutes he had snagged GB19CWC and W5LNI. Here’s a very short snippet of the conversation Jim had with W5LNI.
Getting QRP contacts using a tiny thin wire in solar minimum conditions is always a treat. We were lucky to get three total QSOs in less than 30 minutes.
I then took control and within a few minutes had Bunky on the hook, K4EJQ. Bunky was contacting us from Bristol, TN. His signal was so strong I thought it was going to break the tiny speaker in the KX2. My tiny 5-watt signal was good enough for a 599 signal report, so that was quite nice.
We decided to pack everything up after my short conversation with Bunky. I told him we were on a hike and low power. After I publish this story, I’m going to email Bunky to let him see where we were. Often other operators are amazed at what Jim has done for years and has been kind enough to share with me – the magic of making contact with people outdoors in the most wonderful places.