There are only a few days left in the year 2015. It’s already in the record books here in the Northeast USA as one of the warmest autumns and early winters in living memory. An historic El Nino’ weather pattern is blessing us with very warm weather allowing us to get out to do radio. In years past, there could already be 18 inches of snow on the ground and frigid daytime temperatures in the teens.
Jim Cluett, W1PID, and I looked several days ago at the WX (weather) forecast and it called for 60 F weather. I asked Kathy if I could escape and take advantage of the abnormal weather and she said, “Sure, just be home in time so we can make it to church for Christmas Eve mass.”
That was not an issue as I could easily get home by 3 p.m.
Mid-morning it was still dismal as a heavy fog was shrouding everything around my home next to Lake Winnisquam. The lake produces a mircro-environment so maybe it was sunny up on the hills and over by Profile Falls just south of Bristol, NH where Jim and I decided to operate.
No such luck. It was foggy and damp as we drove down the gravel road to the picnic shelter next to the Smith River that tumbles across the famous falls about a half-mile before the Smith joins the placid Pemigewasset River.
Days before, I received a new heater that I thought could help us keep our hands warm while we do CW. I decided to bring it, even though the forecast suggested it would be a waste of time.
It’s the Little Buddy propane heater and it quickly became apparent it’s aptly named as he was our buddy that saved the day! It’s a catalytic heater that can be used indoors or outdoors. The thermometer failed to get the WX memo and the temperature never climbed above 47 F.
Jim had another perfect throw of his water bottle to get his halyard with it’s 27-foot wire already attached to it up into a branch just above the picnic shelter. The Smith River was engorged with water from the recent two days of rain and was roaring.
We decided to just use one radio and I was very fortunate Jim allowed me to use his Elecraft KX3 and micro Palm paddles. It’s a dream outdoor QRP radio and I plan to have one before the first day of spring 2016.
One of the benefits of using the KX3 is you have so many options. It covers all the bands so if one is dead, you go hunting elsewhere. We were not to be denied on this day.
Jim jumped on the air first while I adjusted the heater to see what worked best to maximize heat flow.
It didn’t take Jim but a few moments to work Rick, WB4GQA in Virginia on 30 meters. He gave Jim a 599. I worked him next and got a 559. That shows you how Jim is a better operator than I am. 🙂
Rick must have looked me up on QRZ.com as I was sending my slow CW and after exchanging the essentials he came back, “Have fun on your hike with Jim.”
I didn’t tell him I was with Jim, but the combination of working Jim just seconds before and him seeing my QRZ page where I talk about going out with Jim on outdoor adventures was all he needed. That’s the magic of the Internet and what you can skim in seconds if you try.
Next up was George, NA9E from ‘Indy’, Indiana on 20 meters. I was weak to him with him only giving me a poor 239 RST. In return, I sent a 559 because he was quite strong to us.
I looked up at one point and across the road in the mist were four women dressed in full riding gear, including helmets, riding wild Christmas Eve stallions. I waved and we exchanged “Merry Christmas” greetings and they headed south down the gravel road towards old Hill Village next to the Pemigewasset River.
Jim and I finished up working Tom, K9DAC in Ohio. I got a respectable 579. Time was beginning to run short and if we wanted to grab a cup of coffee before church, it was time to pack up.
We were blessed to get out and it was wonderful to be in the woods on Christmas Eve. We both wondered if we’d get out again. As it turned out, the weather forecasters missed the forecast by just 24 hours. On Christmas Day, it was a balmy 57 F at my home as I wandered outdoors to look up at my recently raised dipole antenna.
2015 has been a magnificent year for me as I’ve gained more experience and am no longer timid about getting on the air. I looking forward to 2016 and feel it’s the year I’ll transform into a respectable operator.
As Kenny Chesney says in his hit song, “Only time will tell, bit it ain’t talkin’“. Listen for yourself and play the following video!