Mt. Sunapee State Park POTA K-2666

dave benson tim carter lake sunapee beach

That’s frozen Lake Sunapee over our heads. I’m in the sunglasses and Dave’s sporting the nice beard. That tree just behind us held up my 29-foot vertical wire antenna for the adventure.

Mt. Sunapee State Park Beach – POTA Activation K-2666

Dave Benson, K1SWL, and I met up at Mt. Sunapee State Park on Friday, February 11, 2022 for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. It was a sunny and relatively warm day for the middle of winter in New Hampshire.

Dave lives nearby and had scouted the parking lot at the beach. A line of tall deciduous trees stood guard duty over the stored picnic tables that normally dot the grass between the beach sand and the blacktop.

No grass or beach sand was visible, but there was plenty of sand on the nearby roads to combat the ice. Fourteen inches of crusty snow blanketed everything including the ice-covered Lake Sunapee. A snow berm created by the state-park snowplows ensured that we’d not drive up onto the frozen tundra.

lake sunapee state park sign

Bob Houses and Fishermen

Out on Lake Sunapee. we could see at least five or ten bob houses. These tiny shacks on skis provide shelter for fishermen who drill holes in the ice to drop their baited lines. Rumor has it that moderate amounts of firewater are often consumed in these itty bitty houses.

lake sunapee frozen over with ice

Those tiny black dots are bob houses on the ice. Several people were out there too skiing and fishing out in the open.

sunapee state park beach ranger fee collection shack

Are you kidding me? No lifeguard today?

We both arrived within minutes of one another at 10:30 AM. I was stunned to see that no lifeguard would be on duty today. New Hampshire folk are hardy for goodness sake and the temperature was going to be up over 40 F by noon! I guess they just don’t make lifeguards like they used to.

My Equipment

I used the following gear to activate this state park:


After saying our Hellos and commenting on the gift of a nice day from Mother Nature, Dave helped connect the antenna and extend the coax cable into the cab of the truck. The cab of my Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4 was going to be our mobile radio shack. It was like being in a greenhouse. We had to crack the windows to keep from getting too hot.

tim carter w3atb

I’m spinning the VFO knob on the Elecraft KX3 and happy that I’m hearing signals. The solar radio conditions were marginal but success was imminent!

Before we knew it it was just before 11 AM or 1600 Universal Time. I had advertised this activation on the POTA website so we knew that radio operators at home were waiting for me to get on the air and transmit: CQ POTA DE W3ATB

Tiny Pileups in Spurts and DX Too

I decided to start a little early and right away made my first contact. Dave decided he just wanted to log for me. That makes the process easy for the operator. Without a logger, you’re constantly switching from using the pen to write and the paddles to transmit Morse code.

I made 19 total contacts in just about 30 minutes only needing ten to officially activate the park. When the sun is in a good mood and lots of chasers are out there, an experienced operator like Dave can log a contact every 40 seconds. It’s not unusual for Dave to gather 50, 60, or more contacts when he does activations.

w3atb log sheet of radio contacts sunapee state park K-2666

Here are the contacts I made. The last two are on 40 meters. The others are on 20 meters. It was great to have my signal bounce across the Atlantic Ocean! It’s magic no matter what anyone tells you.

We ran 20 meters first and only got 17 contacts, three of them DX as you’ll see on the log sheet. The last two contacts on the log sheet were both on 40 meters. Once that band went dead with no other chasers we decided to break down and go get some lunch.

Mark Wilson – K1RO

About halfway through our activation, a stranger came up to Dave’s side of the truck. He was dressed in snowmobile gear. I saw him but Dave didn’t as Dave was looking my way. I held up my finger to signal, “Please wait a moment.” He obliged.

After finishing up with that contact, I rolled down the window and he said, “Are you guys ham radio operators?” It was a comical question as he knew we were seeing my antenna and the bright green halyard holding it up in the tree! It turned out it was Mark Wilson, K1RO. He’s a top-flight radio operator who lives nearby and was out enjoying the delightful day.

It turns out he knows Dave, but I had never met him. We chatted for a few minutes, he wished us well, and I assume he got on his snowmobile to glide across Lake Sunapee.

First Outdoor Outing of 2022

It was a delight to get out as my last time doing outdoor radio was the last warm day of 2021 when Jim Cluett and I wandered down to the bank of the Pemigewasset River at Profile Falls.

Spring is getting close. Once it’s here I plan to go out at least once a week to snare more POTA contacts out of the ether. I hope to get you in the log or maybe I can convince you to come to log for me!




A Warm November Day along the Pemi

tree shadows on path to Pemi

These long deep shadows indicate how low in the sky the sun is. It was just after solar noon when the photo was shot. The winter solstice is sneaking up on us. It will be here in just five weeks. The Pemigewasset River is just about 1/4 mile ahead.

Yesterday my mentor, Jim Cluett W1PID, and I strolled down to the bank of the Pemigewasset River within the US Army Corps of Engineers Hill Village flood-control area in central NH.

The temperature was a stunning 62 F and brilliant sunshine washed over us as we tried our luck at snaring contacts out of thin air. I call them Qs for QSOs. QSO is a Q-code that means I can communicate clearly with another operator. We were not to be denied.

I arrived at the parking lot across from Profile Falls in Bristol, NH before Jim. There were two equestrian women there taking advantage of the balmy weather prize Mother Nature had delivered to us. “My that’s a beautiful horse,” I remarked. The owner said, “I saw him born eighteen years ago. His mother was my horse too.”

horse at pemigewasset river

What a beautiful boy! Eighteen years old. I wish I had brought an apple or two or three.

Once Jim arrived, we put on our backpacks and started to head to the river.

“I don’t want to be in your story.” Jim is a pretty private person.

“You’ve got nothing to worry about. I’ll be sure to leave you out. Besides, no one reads my blog posts anyway. I’m not popular like you are in the QRP community.” I retorted.

jim cluett at pemigewasset river

Jim is about to set up at a different picnic table. It was such a warm day. Within a few minutes he’d take off that light jacket.

Upon arriving at our usual operating spot on the west bank of the Pemigewasset River, I proceeded to make a fool of myself. I was pulling my 29-foot antenna wire up into the giant pine tree and like a dolt, I pulled it too far. I had failed to connect my 9:1 unun and coax cable to the end of the wire before tugging on the halyard.

The wire was dangling about ten feet off the ground. Helplessly hoping, I struggled for five minutes swatting at it with a broken pine branch hoping to put it down to where I could snare it. It was futile. I had to start all over. The entire fiasco ate up ten valuable minutes of air time.

picnic table along pemigewasset river

This was to be my corner office for the next hour. It was so warm in the sunlight!

“I’m using 40 meters,” Jim exclaimed. I took that to mean that it was off-limits to me as I might interfere with him. It turns out it was just the opposite as he decided to do a digital operation. Usually, that means his computer is constantly transmitting fouling up the ether on that band. I judiciously decided to start on 20 meters. There were quite a few signals to choose from.

Within a few minutes, I had my first contact in my logbook. EA1DAV in Spain. Jesus was just interested in a signal report and was putting contacts in his logbook as fast as you’d fling popcorn in a pond to a flock of hungry ducks.

KX2 at pemigewasset river

I decided to go with my Elecraft KX2 on this outing. It fits nicely in the Pelican 1200 case. I used the Elecraft paddles too even though my Begali Adventure Paddles were in my backpack.

I then made contact with WK4WC. He was doing a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation. I then heard a strong signal from NK8I, but he didn’t hear my meager 5-watt signal.

Such is the life of a QRPr! QRP is a Q-code that stands for lower your power. It’s also a moniker for radio operators like me who try to do Morse code with only 5 watts, or less, of power.

pemigewasset river bristol nh

You’re looking upstream on the Pemigewasset River in Bristol, NH. It’s a great river to do a canoe trip, especially if you want to get home around midnight.

I then snagged another POTA operator, K4NYM on 17 meters. I don’t usually hunt for signals on that band but decided to do it since 40 meters was off-limits.

I then went back to 20 meters and heard YO8SBQ calling CQ. He was so strong! “Oh, I’ll get him for sure!” I thought. Well, I sent my call sign six times and he never heard me. It would have been really nice to get Gica in my logbook. He was calling from Romania.

Last up was WB9HDS. Believe it or not, he was doing a POTA activation as well. POTA has become extremely popular. I decided I had enough and started to pack up my gear. I had been on the air for nearly 45 minutes, but it felt like five.

insect trap

I spied this insect trap on the walk back from the river. It was put there on purpose for some study no doubt.

It’s a short 1/3-mile walk, if that, from the picnic tables to the parking lot. Once there we exchanged goodbyes remarking once again how nice it was to be in the warm WX. I had to scurry home to be a guest on a live radio show on WLIP in Kenosha, WI.

November in New Hampshire usually means bone-chilling rainy days as the welcome mat for Old Man Winter is put out and swept off. Yesterday might have been the last delightful outdoor warm day of the year. As Kenny Chesney sings, “…only time will tell, but it ain’t talkin’.”

Leaf Peepers 2020 Scores

leaf peepers qrp contest

Call Sign Name Score
AA1SB Neil Collesidis 352
N4ARY Aaron Ray 255
NN9K Peter 231
KA3D Dan Farrell 186
N8BB Werner Haschke 180
AD4CW Marc Richardson 60
W1PID Jim Cluett 52
N8RVE John Morris 45
W2JEK Donald Younger 40
AD4CW Marc Richardson 12
K7ULM Dick Wendell 0
KK4ITX John Leahy 0
AJ4UQ Tom 0


Wellington State Park POTA and WW-FF Activation


Tim Carter and Dave Benson

I’m in the sunglasses and Dave Benson, K1SWL, is busy untangling a slew of radio operators eager to contact us at this never-before-activated POTA and WW-FF location. Just 24 hours before, I got a haircut.

The word for the day was windy! Don’t believe me? Watch this short video.

Dave Benson, K1SWL, and I decided to do a Parks on the Air and World Wide Flora and Fauna radio activation yesterday from the beach at Wellington State Park. The designators are: K-2682 and KFF-2682 respectively.

This is a gem of a park on the southwest shoreline of Newfound Lake in central New Hampshire. Newfound is reputed to have the cleanest water of any lake in New Hampshire. The water temperature at the ranger check-in booth said it was 70 F. Dave and I felt that was a stretch and the rangers might want to recalibrate their thermometer.

Tim Carter W3ATB

Here I am trying to get a few extra contacts on 40 meters. You can see the wind doing a number on my hair. The 40-meter band was dead as a doornail. After a few minutes of calling CQ, we packed up and went to get two fish sandwiches!

It’s important to realize this park had never before been activated. The radio operators at home want new parks and you can almost always count on lots of activity for these all-time-new-ones (ATNO) as they’re affectionately known.

I took control of the radio at first at 11 AM, 1500Z, because the past few times Dave has initiated the action. We’ve decided to take turns because you don’t know if the sun is going to tickle the atmosphere so we can hear other operators and they can hear us.

We started out on 20 meters at 14.045. Keep in mind there are European operators wanting to contact us. Late morning on the East Coast in the USA means it’s late afternoon over in Europe so it’s always a good idea to start out on 20 meters before the band settles down overseas.

For each of us to get credit for activating the park, we each needed ten contacts. Things started out slow and it took me seventeen minutes to accumulate one more than was needed for me to activate

radio antenna wellington state park

This is the bottom of Dave’s end-fed 20-meter antenna. That box contains magic components that tame the high impedance of the wire. Without the magic box, the radio would create small amounts of blue smoke. Blue smoke is bad.

Once I got to eleven, I said, “Dave, you take over. I want to make sure you get activation credit for this park.”

Dave Benson K1SWL at Wellington SP

Here’s Dave early in the activation before the wind picked up. Note he’s just in a t-shirt.

After yielding control of the radio to Dave, I texted my very good friends Wayne Reetz, KA1CPR, and Jess Guaderrama, W6LEN. I asked them to spot us even though I was certain the POTA skimmer had already done so.

Dave Benson K1SWL

You can see that Dave added a warm flannel shirt as being in the shade with the cold wind blowing made t-shirts not such a good idea!

Moments later all hell broke loose and a scad of operators descended upon us like a plague of locusts. It’s exhilarating to pull out callsigns when everyone is clamoring to be heard at the same time.

Dave filled his log with 31 contacts in 32 minutes. That’s my goal – one contact per minute or so.

After Dave exhausted the demand and the frequency was quiet, I switched to 40 meters on my Elecraft KX3. I only contacted one operator. We decided it was time to eat so we packed up and got some grub.

These activations are fun, they’re exciting, and they really hone your listening skills especially if you want to train to do emergency comms in a hurricane!

Mt. Cardigan NH POTA and WW-FF Activation

Tim Carter W3ATB and Dave Benson K1SWL

Dave’s busy on the radio and I’m sporting my wonderful POTA t-shirt. More than a few mosquitos wanted in on the fun. We started the activation on 20 meters and then switched to 40 meters an hour later.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of doing outdoor radio with two amateur radio giants: Dave Benson, K1SWL, and Jim Cluett, W1PID.

We were in Cardigan Mountain State Park in central New Hampshire. This location is both a Parks on the Air and a World-Wildlife Flora and Fauna entity.

Cardigan Mountain SP

This is the colorful road sign indicating you’ve arrived at the state park.

Dave and I set up on a fine picnic table at the trailhead of the West Ridge Trail that gains about 1,300 feet in elevation in just 1.5 miles. We were all set up ready to talk to other radio operators in the USA and Europe by 10:50 AM or 1450Z.

Cardigan Mountain West Ridge Trail

This sign was just 30 or 40 feet from our table.

Cardigan Mountain SP

This is the table and the adjacent tree Dave is looking at did a marvelous job of supporting Dave’s resonant 20-meter end-fedz wire antenna.

As long as the ionosphere was being sufficiently tickled by the sun’s energy, we would be rewarded with many radio contacts as this particular park is rarely visited by operators like us that wish to battle the elements and the many NH state birds better known as mosquitos.

I was tutored in outdoor radio by both Jim and Dave and it doesn’t take us long to set up. I threw my water bottle about 55 feet up in the air on the first try snagging the exact branch I was aiming for. It allowed Dave’s antenna to hang straight down.

Cardigan Mountain SP

The yellow line represents the thin wire antenna that’s invisible in the photo. The blue line represents the 1/16th-inch microcord halyard line that is holding up the wire antenna. It takes some practice to use a water bottle to get an antenna up in a tree. CLICK or TAP HERE to see me do it.

We decided it’s best to tag team the radio instead of trying to have two radios blasting at the same time. The signals from one overload the other. Dave got on the air first and within minutes the chasers were descending on him like crows raiding a cornfield.

Dave’s a seasoned Morse code operator. I believe he’s been doing it for over fifty years. He usually has no issue pulling out a callsign when multiple chasers are screaming, “ME, me, me, me!!!” Watch the video just below and you’ll see that happen when Dave ends a fast report with one operator.

After operating just thirty-three minutes, Dave had accumulated 31 contacts. He then got up and I sat down. Within minutes more chasers were trying to contact me. I proceeded to untangle a very modest pileup with his help.

Cardigan Mountain

Here I am pounding brass so to speak. Something is obviously wrong with Dave’s camera as I’m certain my bald spot is so much smaller than what you see here.

“Hey, are those my micro Pico paddles?” Dave was making a joke because about three years ago he somehow lost his while operating at Gardner Memorial Wayside State Park near his home.

“I knew I should have engraved my name on them,” I replied. Without some ID like that, it’s pretty much impossible to say who’s paddles they were. We both laughed pretty hard.

I was having trouble sending as the keyer speed on Dave’s ICOM mobile radio was set a little faster than I’m used to. We laughed about that as I called myself a LID. A LID is a derogatory label given to an amateur radio operator who has poor skills.

About ten minutes until Noon, Jim showed up. He didn’t want to operate with us but decided to join us for lunch afterward. We did convince him to try to untangle a pileup that we were positive might happen on 40 meters.

Cardigan Mountain

Here’s Jim logging his sole contact on 40 meters. He asked to use my callsign.

Cardigan Mountain

Here’s Jim in a better mood. When he first arrived we blamed his mood on driving away all the operators on 40 meters. Who knows, maybe there is a correlation to happiness and having lots of contacts!

It turns out 40 meters was a bust. Between us, Dave and I had gathered fifty-one contacts on 20 meters. Only four contacts were made on 40 meters. It didn’t take long to decide to head to lunch in downtown Canaan, NH.

Cardigan Mountain State Park

Jim’s on the left winding up my halyard. You’re looking at two iconic Northeast QRP radio operators. Dave is the founder of Small Wonder Labs and the inventor is the epic Rockmite radio. Jim has been my tormentor the past seven years and I’ll be forever grateful for his patience. Moments later we were leaving the parking lot headed for lunch.

Dave headed back home after lunch and Jim and I decided there was time to try to do more radio next to the Pemigewasset River in Bristol, NH. We had spied this location nearly 18 months ago on a cold winter day as we walked down Coolidge Ridge Road.

Coolidge Ridge Road NH

This is a well-hidden location along Coolidge Ridge Road in Bristol, NH.

It was a tranquil location and I know I’ll go back here. The picnic table did have lots of sap on it so I’ll bring mineral spirits next time.

For some odd reason, we decided to take turns operating but used each other’s callsign. It was loads of fun until I sent Jim’s back to one operator as W1PITI.

“What are you doing, you idiot? My callsign is W1PID!” My finger slipped on my Begali Adventure paddles and I put too much space between the single DAH and two DIHS in the letter D. When you do that, you end up sending a T and an I. We laughed pretty hard about that!

All in all, it was a grand day out with two radio titans. I’m blessed to call them friends and they are always ever so patient with my continuing learning process.

We hope to get out again very soon but hope the mosquitos take the day off.

Cookie Crumble 2020 Scores

Call Sign Name Scores 2020
AF1N Ralph Williams 18173
W4MPS 15133
N3AO Carter Craige 12342
WC3R Emily Saldana 10057
WB3GCK Craig LeBarge 9878
VE2DDZ Malcolm Harper 9592
W2LJ Larry Makowski 9354
K4BAI Judge Lanley 9131
KE3V Kevin McKenna 7342
W1PID Jim Cluett 7321
NJ3K B. Manning 7310
N6WT Kent Olsen 7279
AC2YD Ben Cahill 6429
K9FH Phil Noname 5007
KC3FVN Keith Comp 5002
KA3D Dan Farrell 4478
KC1DKY Nick Mollo 3996
VE7EA Larry 3259
KM3D Harry Bump 2221
WI1G Mint 1894
N5VDQ Fred Harris 1854
W0IS Rick Clem 1853
WB9HFK Mark 1617
K0EMT Bryan Nehl 1562
KK4R Rob 1236
W5GN 1231
K7CCC Dave Hassler 1115
K3SVA Gene Messick 1022
NQ9A Carolyn 1020
WU6P Nian 830
W3ATB Tim Carter 773
AD0YM Mike Smith 583
KG9NG Sam 581
N2RIC Richard Ian Carpenter 575
W5QLF Joe Noname 273
VE3IDS Don Richards -50

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!