Dearborn Pond Adventure

dearborn pond nh

This is the well-hidden gem of Dearborn Pond in Sanbornton, NH. I recommend you do your best to avoid it. I saw very large hoof prints of a giant mammal just below where I took this photo.  You’re looking northwest at a southeast-facing flank of Hersey Mountain. Copyright 2019, Tim Carter

Dearborn Pond NH – A Mystical Mountain Oasis

“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.

class 6 road to dearborn pond

This is a section of the Class VI road you wander along to get to and from Dearborn Pond. The Town of Sanbornton NH owns the road, but it’s not maintained. A decent 4×4 vehicle can traverse it in good weather. Snowmobiles overtake the road in winter as they claw their way up and around Mt. Hersey. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter W3ATB

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.

dearborn pond nh stone wall

Here’s a typical stone wall along the road to Dearborn Pond created by rounded rocks tumbled by the continental glacier that covered all of New England 13,000 years ago. There are miles of these stone walls in the forests as the homesteaders cleared the land to make pastures for sheep. It was easier to stack rocks to control the wandering sheep than put in fenceposts and rails. The wool sheared from the beasts was used to make woolen items exported to Europe before the Civil War. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter W3ATB

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.

dearborn pond cabin

This is what I saw when we finished bushwhacking the last 100 yards to the pond. Not a soul was near us. The blue sky of the morning yielded to quite a few clouds in the afternoon. It’s truly a magical place, but as I said earlier, you probably don’t want to come here. The 70-foot tall tree with the thick trunk in the photo would hold up my antenna just five minutes after taking this photo. Copyright 2019 Tim Carter W3ATB

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.

The Throw

“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!

w3atb dearborn pond nh

It doesn’t take but a few minutes to set up my Elecraft KX2 radio. As usual, I had a 29-foot wire attached to a 9:1 unun to help tame the impedance in the short wire. Fortunately, there were a few strong signals on 20 meters. Copyright 2019 Jim Cluett W1PID

“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.

w3atb dearborn pond nh

Jim is also damned good at taking great photos. It looks like I just woke up with my frazzled hair! There wasn’t any room for him to sit on the steps with me so he was banished to the rocks at the edge of the pond. My Elecraft KX2 is powered by a mighty Bioenno LFP 3 Ah battery. It allows me to be on the air for hours of fun. Copyright 2019 Jim Cluett W1PID

“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!

Copyright 2019 Jim Cluett W1PID



4 thoughts on “Dearborn Pond Adventure

  1. Hi Tim,
    Save yourself a trip to the Town. The NH Current Use info & laws are easy to find online. Bottom line: The landowner does NOT have to post land in current use nor do they have to allow public use.

    To get you started, this, from the NH Current Use Coalition website:

    Q: Isn’t it true that all Current Use land is open to the public?
    No. There is no requirement for Current Use landowners to allow public use of their land. Current Use land is private property and the landowner has the right to decide how their property is used. For more information, see the section on Public Use, excerpt below:
    Public recreational use of private property

    In New Hampshire we have a unique expectation of access onto property owned by others that is unknown in other states. This expectation is a very New Hampshire concept, an extension of our motto “Live Free or Die”. In fact, in many states, land open for public use is posted with signs that say so because the land use expectation is NO TRESPASSING.

    Many of us feel as if that freedom of access is our right, but the truth is more accurately said that it is a cherished New Hampshire tradition. The use of any private property, whether enrolled in current use or not, is a privilege. Not all land uses are compatible, and it is the landowner’s right to decide how they want to use their land.

    Is Posting necessary?
    It has been argued that land enrolled in current use should be required to allow public access. The truth is that not all current use land uses are compatible with all public access uses. For example, agricultural industries would not be economically possible without the Current Use Assessment. Taxed at ad valorum (as house lots) they would be taxed out of existence.

    Yet farmers must utilize posting out of necessity. Farmers want people to stay off their crops and keep motorized vehicles out of their hayfields. Many of the things that the public takes for granted, like hayfields, to a farmer mean financial investment and livelihood. The hunter in the cow pasture doesn’t intend to shoot at any of the cows, but the farmer has understandable concern for the safety of his expensive livestock. To minimize crop and livestock damage and loss, the farmer may resort to posting the land.

    Posting is also a necessary safety tool for logging operations. While the overwhelming majority of private forestland is open for public access, posting is often used in areas with active logging. It may be your favorite hunting spot, but if the land is being logged, you may be in the way, not to mention in danger! Loggers themselves also prefer to work in a safety zone, free from stray bullets.

    The bottom line is that the taxpaying landowner may have current use compatible land uses that unlimited public access could disrupt or harm. It is their right to manage their land in any way they choose–and that includes posting it.

    Critics have claimed that current use landowners should be made to allow public access in exchange for the tax treatment the land receives. However, numerous Cost of Community Services* studies have demonstrated that current use land pays more in taxes than it costs the town in services. In other words, despite the reduced assessment, and corresponding lower property taxes, current use land pays its fair share. Land use decisions should remain where they belong, with the landowner.

    (*Cost of Community Services studies compare taxes paid to the services required in a given town for a specific year. For more information visit the American Farmland Trust website at

    Why does a landowner decide to post their land?
    There are two common reasons. First, they just purchased the property and they are worried about liability, or of what might happen if they didn’t post. Second, they have had trouble with others using their land. In the first instance, the liability of landowners that allow free public access is limited. New Hampshire has recognized the value of public access with a statute protecting those generous enough to share their land.

    Although problems with the public’s use of private property are real and do occur, landowners should not let the possibility of these events influence their decision to post their land. The majority of landowners never experience any problems with others using their land. The likelihood of having any problems is very small.

    What sort of problems do landowners who allow public access have?
    The good news is the majority of landowners never experience any problems with others using their land. Unfortunately, however, problems with the public’s use of private property do occur. Grafton County Forester Nory Parr identifies the dumping of trash and the rutting of roads, trails and landings by wheeled vehicles as the most common landowner complaints. While trash is annoying and undeserved, it can readily be remedied. On the other hand, wheeled vehicle damage can be difficult and sometimes costly to repair. Erosion and damage to environmentally sensitive areas are possible consequences of misuse. Other problems stem from conflicting uses of the same land.

    Who do I call if I have problems with others use of my land?
    You can call local law enforcement for any trespass or misuse issues.

    Here to help if you have further questions. Cheers!

  2. On behalf of the Richard and Evelyn Dearborn Memorial Trust, I want to provide comment to your blog entry.

    The property on which you conducted your radio hobby is indeed private property. As such, the general public is not welcome to trespass onto the property, the same as the general public is not welcome to trespass onto any other private property without permission or invitation. I do appreciate that in your well written and well-meaning blog, you advise the reader to “…avoid it,” (our property), and “….don’t want to come here,” but we do not appreciate the attached map which may serve to entice and encourage other trespasses. I spoke with the Chief of Law Enforcement, NH Fish and Game Department, and representatives from the NH Tree Farm Program and Town of Sanbornton, all of whom agree and suggested we consider taking further measures to discourage further trespasses. Further, I have spoken with three of our abutters who are also concerned of traffic on the road which serves to destroy the drainage and creates deep ruts and other damage to the trafficked surfaces which adversely affects our properties and our family managed tree farm operations.

    We are aware of our neighbors and family friends who generally let us know out of courtesy when they visit our property, or they ask permission before going to our property. We own and maintain the property for our privacy and enjoyment, and we ask that everyone respect our rights as property owners as we respect yours.

    It is our desire that you, as a minimum, remove the map from your blog. Even doing that may not be enough as this blog is on the internet, which is likely permanent.

    If you would like to discuss this further, I may be contacted at

    Thank you,
    W. Dearborn, Trustee

    • Dear W.Dearborn:

      I’m sorry if my radio activity caused you distress, but we didn’t see any posting signs along your property border. Can you share if your property is in current use? I can check myself with the Town of Sanbornton, but if you’re currently enjoying the current use tax relief, then the public has the right to cross your land.

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