“I can go out today around 2 p.m. I’ll have all my work finished by then.”
I was talking on the phone to my very good friend and QRP outdoor radio buddy Jim Cluett, W1PID. We were going to take advantage of an exceptional late-summer bluebird day even though the temperatures in the upper 50’s F made it feel like an autumn day.
There wasn’t a cloud in the deep-blue sky.
“Where do you want to go?” Jim usually wants me to make the decision.
“I don’t know, but someplace different. Someplace I’ve not been to that’s spectacular. There has to be a place near us. You know all the places as you’ve been doing outdoor radio since the dinosaurs roamed the land.”
“The Ledges. Meet me at the parking area off exit 22 on I-93. Be on 146.52. We’ll be taking your truck.”
I’ve come to really respect Jim’s brevity in his conversations and his emails. He knows how to pack lots of information in a small space. When I was still building custom houses each day, my plasterer Jack Betch subscribed to the same philosophy – “Less said is better.”
Jim usually prefers to drive, so us taking my truck meant that we were going off-road. I drive a monster Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4. It’s a beast and with its aggressive tires, we can go down rugged logging roads with little fear of getting stuck.
Once I picked Jim up, we were on our way.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been to this place. You’re going to love it.”
Just five minutes from exit 22 we had made the turn onto Wadleigh Road in Sanbornton, NH. Within 1,500 feet there was the telltale sign:
Class VI Road – No Town Maintenance From This Point On
Some Class VI roads in NH are not bad. Some are deeply rutted with giant muffler-and-gas-tank-grabbing rocks littering the two-track surfaces.
This road was not bad, yet.
“We have to travel quite a distance down this road. Maybe two miles. In past visits, I’ve walked much of the length because it was too muddy or the road condition was too rough for my car.”
Oh great, just what I wanted to hear as the paint-scratching trees started to get closer and closer and closer to my pristine red metallic paint job.
My Super Duty beast clawed its way down up and down little hills littered with basketball-sized rocks peeking up from the surface with no effort. With the stiff suspension in my truck, you don’t want to hit these going fast.
Because active logging was going on in the area, a previously overgrown road looked newer than the road we were on. At a fork, Jim told me to go right when we should have gone left.
No worries as we found the logger and he confirmed we needed to go back to the fork and take the other narrow track.
Fifteen minutes later the truck was parked off to the side and we were on foot heading to the mythical Ledges.
“We probably have a good 45 minutes to go before we get there.”
What? For goodness sake, it was a little after 3:00 p.m.! Do the math. It was starting to sound like the two-hour canoe adventure in the spring that turned into a seven-hour saga with me arriving home after dark.
“We can’t miss the one turn-off as we walk past this one camping area. If we do, who knows where we’ll end up. This is a very remote area and the closest house could be miles away.”
Gulp. You read about people getting lost in New Hampshire woods all the time. You can get lost in less than five minutes. It’s happened to me on my own 90-acre parcel!
Once we made the turn at the campground, the trail started to get narrow and the grade increased. It was a gorgeous trail littered with lots of brown pine needles.
Ten minutes later we came to a T in the trail. Right or left? Left was the way and we marked the way back with a large dead branch shaped like the letter Y.
The trail got steeper and steeper and we had to stop to catch our breath from time to time. This was a good sign as I knew the view would be spectacular the higher we got.
“We’re close, very close,” Jim said as I spied giant pieces of bedrock sticking up from the ground.
Minutes later I was walking through a rock maze of stunning beauty. It almost felt like we were on a different planet.
Fortunately, it didn’t take 45 minutes, more like 20 if you subtract the time we spent peppering a piece of paper with bullets. Jim and I love to shoot when we go out.
“What do you think? Was it worth it?” Jim was peering out looking south to the horizon. Off in the distance, you could see the massive Franklin Flood Control Dam, but it appeared to be made for ants from our perch.
I was pretty much speechless. The view was dazzling. I thought how lucky I was to be there and how other ham operators dream of doing what we were about to do. I’ve been doing so much outdoor radio, that I’ve started to think that everyone does it.
Guess what? Only a tiny handful of amateur radio operators do what Jim and I were doing.
Enjoying nature and activating a spot on the globe where no one has ever before set up a radio. In this instance, it wasn’t true as Jim had been here before.
Within minutes we were both on the air. I had to go set up over a little knob in the trees because the speaker output from Jim’s KX3 was bleeding through my earphones causing a big distraction.
I can only hear CW at about 10 WPM at this point and must stay focused.