The Horn and Mount Jack Range

Thursday 13 September 2018

Another day free to go play radio. I was aware that Rik VK3EQ was planning on heading to Mt Ritchie, so I decided to head to the Mount Buffalo National Park. Depending on conditions, I considered heading to The Horn, with cross-country skis in the vehicle. The drive down was reasonable, with a bit of traffic for part of the way. I stopped briefly to grab a photo of Eurobin Falls after entering the National Park. It was then the usual winding climb up onto the plateau. I saw no cyclists making the climb this time.

The Hump VK3/VE-019 1695 m 10 points plus seasonal bonus
Mount Buffalo National Park VKFF-0339

A message arrived from Rik just before I reached Cathedral Saddle that he was at his summit early. That made my decision easy: The Hump was the first target. I parked and hurriedly loaded up, grabbing the pack out of the back seat. I did not do a proper check – bad!

I loaded up and started the climb. The climb had some bare rock and uncovered track sections, but most of the climb was on at least 50 cm of firm snow, but with some softer areas where one could break through the surface. When I reached the saddle between The Cathedral and The Hump, I sent a message that I was still climbing and around 30 minutes from being ready. I kept climbing, now mostly on the firm snow. I stopped at the foot of the final rock buttress which forms the summit – well inside the activation zone.

I started to unpack to set up. Oops: no squid pole and no log book! I supported the dipole centre using a walking pole propped up into the top of a snow gum, so the centre was barely 2.5 m off the snow. I strung out the dipole, hanging across snow gum branches in places. For most of its length, the antenna was barely 1 m off the snow. Once the antenna was up, I considered options for logging: the first aid kit which has never been used has a notepad, but I remembered that I had VK Port-a-log installed on the ‘phone – not the current version, but it should work.

Rik had already been on air for a while, but I could not hear him on 40 m SSB. I found a clear frequency, spotted myself and started calling. I had the summit qualified for SOTA in only 4 minutes. Rik indicated that he was heading back to 80 m, so I connected the 80 m extensions and worked Rik on VK3/VC-003. I noticed that the FT-817 was showing the HiSWR warning…. I started to investigate the antenna and connection points. I found that the connection of the wire into one of the 80 m extensions was looking very suspect. Mitch VK3XDM/p messaged to say that he was on the summit of Mt Stirling VK3/VE-011. We arranged to try 2 m FM, using the FT-817 into the HF antenna configured for 40 m. Mitch was loud, with 58/59 signals exchanged. I returned to calling on 40 m SSB, working John VK4TJ and Ian VK5CZ on VK5/NE-066.

I returned to investigating the suspect antenna extension. I cut the wire off at the rear of the Anderson plug, stripped about 1 cm of the plastic outer coating off, teased the wire strands away from the Kevlar core, twisted the strands together and then jammed the wire across the mouth of the Anderson plug. I then plugged the cut off plug into the other plug, hoping that I would achieve a connection between the plug contact area and the jammed in wire. On returning to the radio and switching to 80 m, I now had no HiSWR alarm, so spotted and started calling.

I soon had a couple of calls in the log on SSB and CW, followed by another SSB contact. I called for several minutes without further responses. Then Andrew VK2UH called on CW and we completed the contact, followed by VK1DA/2. I finally had 4 CW contacts in the log, with a total of 16 contacts: summit qualified on CW & SSB, plus a VKFF qualification for the Park. I packed up the gear – by now my feet were wet and cold.

I made the descent carefully, not wanting to slip on damp rock sections or to damage myself if I broke through the snow surface with the foot going down tens of centimetres…. I made it to the bottom of the climb and started loading up the car and eating lunch.

ViewDescentHump

Looking east to Feathertop and Hotham whilst descending The Hump

I drove Road closure at the Cresta ski area to check the snow surface – there was snow on the road beyond the closure, but the chance of bare patches on sunny corners. The climb to the end of the road is around 3 km with at least 130 m vertical climb. One then needs to climb up the walking track towards the summit to reach the activation zone. Having stopped and sat in the car, the legs were complaining, so I decided against tackling The Horn today.

I descended off Mount Buffalo and back to Porepunkah, then to Oxley and onto the Happy Valley Road (C534). I then turned off onto Happy Valley Track and climbed up the 4WD track to Mount Jack Track and on to just beyond the junction with North House Track. This junction is inside the activation zone of the next summit.

Mount Jack Range VK3/VE-090 1205 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

Having driven into the activation zone, I found a reasonable tree branch and tossed a line over the branch to haul up the dipole. I then set up a few metres away from the car.

First in the log was Rik VK3EQ/p on Donna Buang VK3/VC-002 for a S2S on 80 m SSB. Rik had waited until I was on the summit and set up – many thanks Rik! Next was Allen VK3ARH on both voice and CW, followed by Rob VK4AAC/3. I then swapped to 40 m CW, working 4 stations over about 15 minutes. I then moved to 40 m SSB, working 10 stations in the next 15 minutes. I finally switched to 80 m SSB for one final contact. A total of 20 contacts made in around an hour of operating, including 6 on CW.

I packed up and retraced my route over Mount jack and descended the rest of Mount Jack Track to check out the route. I then made my way back to Wodonga.

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Three Parks and two summits near Corryong

Wednesday 12 September 2018

I was free again to go and play radio. In the morning I attempted to post an Alert on SOTAwatch, but kept getting a message that VK3 was not a valid Association! Instead, I posted an Alert for the first Park on ParksnPeaks.

I headed east from Wodonga towards Corryong and turned off to approach the first target.

Black Mountain VK3/VE-093 1202 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus
Burrowa – Pine Mountain National Park VKFF-0069

The approach is via Jeffcott & Jewel Rd and then Black Mountain Track. The road was in good condition, with the final section signposted as “4WD only”. With an appropriate vehicle, you can drive into the Activation Zone and park only 100 m from the actual summit. I needed only a short walk to set up at the summit marker.

When I opened SOTAwatch on the ‘phone, I saw a Spot from about 25 minutes earlier from a Japanese activator, so set up on 20 m CW. I listened whilst stringing out the ends of the antenna, with nothing heard. Regardless, I called on the frequency several times. Nothing was heard from Japan, but John ZL1BYZ replied – thanks John. After several minutes of calling, I swapped to 80 m CW and spotted myself. Garry VK2GAZ was the only callers. After more calls with no responses, I moved up the band to call in the SSB segment and was called by John VK2YW. After working John on SSB, we completed a contact on CW. Next on SSB was Robin VK2VN/p followed by Steve VK3KTT, who I also worked on CW. Next was a long chat with Ray VK3RW and then Marcus VK5WTF/p in VKFF-1086. With no more responses to calls on 80 m, I moved to 40 m to work seven more stations. It took an hour and twenty minutes for 16 contacts – it was another slow day.

With no more responses, I packed up and retraced my route to the car and back to the highway.

I drove towards Corryong and turned left to Cudgewa and Tintaldra, then east on Murray River Road before turning south onto Ranch Road to climb to the next target.

Mount Mitta Mitta VK3/VE-138  988 m 6 points
Mount Mitta Mitta Flora Reserve VKFF-2400

Mount Mitta Mitta is also known as Mount Mittamatite. The actual summit is inside a fenced compound containing various radiocommunications facilities, including air navigation services. The fenced compounds at the summit and on the nearby knoll are excluded from the Reserve. One needs to find a location outside the fenced area that is inside the Flora Reserve boundary and inside the activation zone.

I started on 80 m SSB, making two contacts on SSB and one on CW. Several minutes of calling was again unproductive, so I swapped to 40 m CW 15 minutes about 25 minutes after the first contact. 15 minutes of calling yielded five contacts. I then moved to SSB for two more contacts, including Marcus VK5WTF/p in VKFF-1086. Last in the log was Steve VK3KTT on 40 m CW. 11 contacts qualified the Reserve for VKFF. I called it quits and packed up. I returned to the car and drove back down Ranch Road to a saddle well down the hill but also well inside the Regional Park boundary.

Mount Mitta Mitta (Mittamatite) Regional Park VKFF-0974

I again started on 80 m SSB, working Geoff VK3SQ and Steve VK3KTT. A further twenty minutes of calling was unproductive. I swapped to 40 m SSB and soon had seven more contacts in the log. I changed back to 80 m, working two contacts on SSB and five on CW. With 16 contacts in the log, I shut down and around 0640Z.

It then retraced my route back to the bitumen, to Tintaldra, Cudgewa and back to the Murray Valley Highway and then back to Wodonga.

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A four summit day on Eskdale Spur

Monday 10 September 2018

It was forecast to be another fine day in the northeast, so I decided on another day of SOTA. I loaded up the car and headed to Mount Beauty to visit the Bakery to grab something for lunch later in the day. From there, I worked my around to Mountain Creek Road and up to Trappers Creek Gap and made the sharp turn left to start the climb up Eskdale Spur Track. The track was in reasonable condition for most of the way to the first target summit, with a few fallen trees to negotiate.

Mount Emu VK3/VE-061 1360 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

As I approached the cleared area at the summit, I noticed an addition since my previous visit: an Emergency Marker. The site is a well-known hang glider launch site.

I parked and found a site to set up the station partially in the shade, with just the right amount of sun on my back. I started on 40 m CW. My apologies to a couple of callers: my brain just was not decoding…. First in the log was Garry VK2GAZ followed by Gerard VK2IO. I called several times with no further responses, so swapped to SSB. I had a mixture of SSB and CW contacts – I asked some CW regulars who called on SSB to also work me on CW. With nine contacts in the log, I swapped to 80 m SSB and worked three stations. I was then called on CW and changed modes to work Steve VK7CW. With 4 CW contacts and 13 altogether (some which would not count for the SOTA overall tally), I decided to close down and move north.

ViewOverMtBeautyMtEmu

Look across Mount Beauty towards Mounts Feathertop and Fainter

The next section of Eskdale Spur Track was a little rough in places, with some damp rutted areas, fallen timber on the edges encroaching on the track and the usual large spoon drains. I progressed reasonably well to the close to the next summit, parked near the junction with the old track (see comments below about tracks being rerouted), loaded up and climbed up to well inside the activation zone – about 500 m horizontally.

Mount Yorke VK3/VE-082 1248 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I quickly set up and spotted myself on 80 m SSB. I soon had four contacts in the log. I swapped to 40 m and worked Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-2638. I spotted myself on CW and soon had six contacts in the log. I moved up the band and worked three more on SSB before I ran out of callers and closed down after about 35 minutes of calling.

I returned to the car and continued on to the next parking spot at the junction with the closed track to the summit. This section of track was in good condition apart from a couple of small sections on the south side of Mt Yorke.

VK3/VE-071 unnamed “1283 m” 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I believe that the summit height is overstated by 100 m for this summit, so it should be downgraded to only 6 points at some stage in the future, when the next update for the VK3 Association occurs. Eskdale Spur Track previously ran to very close to the summit, but like many other summits, the tracks have been rerouted around the summit to contour around at a lower altitude. The southern end of the old route has been well disguised, but the track from the northwest is still very obvious, but with trees dropped across the track and a large earth mound not very far up the old track. It is simple to walk up to an old track junction only just below the summit.

After setting up, I spotted and called on 80 m SSB. Geoff VK3SQ and Duncan VK3XBC were quickly in the log. Several minutes of calling brought no replies, so I swapped to 40 m CW. I worked seven stations. I moved up the band to work SSB and quickly had Tony VK7LTD/p on VK7/SC-045 in the log. I soon had three more in the log. I could see discussion traffic that Wade VK1MIC/3 was on air in Hepburn Regional Park. I could hear Wade at 31, but he could not hear me. Wade later indicated that he was on 80 m, and when I tuned to the frequency I could hear him at about 42-52, but again no luck in completing a contact. Time was getting on and I was aware that Mitch VK3XDM/p was expected to be on a summit at around 1500 local. I quickly packed up, returned to the car and headed north.

The section of the track to the junction with Bowman No 1 Track was good, but the surface deteriorated after that – there had been relatively recent work done on the track, but the surface was loose at times, plus the usual spoon drains and fallen timber to dodge. The distance to travel between VK3/VE-071 and Mount Tawonga is only about 5 km.

Mount Tawonga VK3/VE-076 1268 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

The eastern side of the track was burnt – I suspect a controlled burn had occurred, as it was only the undergrowth and litter that had burnt, with no evidence of damage at any height up the taller trees. There was a new track south along the spur which I did not explore – again probably associated with the burn. The burn may also explain why the track had been “resurfaced”.

Mitch was on his summit and on air by time I arrived at Mt Tawonga. I quickly set up away from the car and turned to 80 m. Mitch VK3XDM/p on Mountain No 3 VK3/VE-033 was first in the log. I moved up the band and worked Geoff VK3SQ and Duncan VK3XBC. Cliff VK2NP called but had me as a marginal contact and did not have my report to him. I tried calling Cliff on CW, but had no responses. My apologies Cliff, I should have persevered on voice. When I returned to SSB, he was not responding. Next was Steve VK7CW on CW, followed on 40 m CW by John VK4TJ, John ZL1BYZ and Andre ZL1TM – summit qualified on CW. With no more callers, I moved to work 40 m SSB. I soon had five more contacts in log. With no more callers after several minutes of calling, I closed down and packed up.

I retraced my route a short distance to the south and descended Bay Creek Track. This was steep in places, with the usual fallen timber, rocks on the track and large spoon drains, plus some rough areas. Near the bottom, one has to negotiate a gate. You are then soon on a better road and then on the bitumen and arrive at Mongans Bridge. Cross the narrow bridge and you are soon on the Kiewa Valley Highway.

It was then just the matter of driving back to Wodonga.

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Trip to Shepparton for the SADARC Hamfest

Sunday 9 September 2018

I have used the SADARC Hamfest as a good excuse to visit family in Wodonga on a couple of previous occasions. It was again part of the plan for this trip. I was away slightly later than planned, but I was not worried about being at the event for the official start – I was mainly visiting as a social event.

I checked out the variety of things on offer but did not make any purchases other than the entry fee and some raffle tickets. I spent a lot of time chatting with various people. Good food from the Food Van outside and it was then time for the raffle draw. No win for me, so I quickly moved out of the hall and returned to the car.

I had posted an Alert for the Lower Goulburn National Park, but recalled as I was driving across from Wodonga that there was a new reference near Mooroopna. During the hamfest, I quickly looked it up on ParksnPeaks, which showed no previous activations. That settled it: the new plan was to go to the new reference. If I had time, I could move around to Lower Goulburn National Park later in the afternoon.

Gemmill Swamp Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2318 Not previously activated

Access is straightforward, with several tracks running into the reserve. I approached via McFarlane Road.

GemmillSwampSign

I found a small clearing just off the track and set up the inverted V antenna. It was unfortunate that some people have used the reserve as a dumping ground – there were piles of rubbish dotted around.

First in the log was Robert VK2YMU/m on 2 m FM, followed by Geoff VK3SQ/m, both on the road after the hamfest. I then started setting up on HF and once set up worked Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-2625, followed by Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-0752. The next 30 minutes brought only 18 contacts. I swapped to 40 m CW and work three more station in about 25 minutes of calling. A session on 80 m SSB yielded only one contact. Returning to 40 m SSB yield another 10 contacts in 30 or so minutes, including Andy VK5LA/3 in VKFF-0373, Bill VK3CWF/p in VKFF-2372 and Les VK5KLV/p in VKFF-0914. Back to 80 m for another 30 minutes, yielding only another six contacts. Going was slow all afternoon! Back to 40 m to try to get to the 44 mark for another 25 minutes. I worked Lewis VK6LDX/p on VK6/SW-037, plus a small number of other callers. The final tally was 48 stations in 3.5 hours of operating. By time I had packed up, it was after 1630 local, so I made my way out of the reserve and started the trip back to Wodonga. It had been a long day. Apologies to anyone that was hoping to hunt the Lower Goulburn National Park. I will get there again someday, as I still need more contacts to get to the WWFF qualification level.

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A first activation near Lake Dartmouth

Saturday 8 September 2018

I was a little slow off the mark on Saturday morning. I had only posted an Alert for the first summit of the day. I travelled east from Wodonga, stopping at the Tallangatta Bakery to buy some lunch. I headed south along Tallangatta Creek Road, up Cravensville Road and right into Gibb Range Road.

Gibb Range VK3/VE-069 1289 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I stopped at the usual spot that I have used previously – an entrance to an old logging coup which is now several years into rehabilitation: the regrowth is now over 4 m tall and encroaches significantly on the access track – in fact it grows in the middle of the track in places. It is relatively easy to follow the old track. I climbed up until I was well inside the activation zone and set up.

I checked SOTAwatch and saw that Tony VK3CAT/p was active on Mt Ritchie VK3/VC-003 on 40 m SSB. I could not hear Tony, so spotted myself on 80 CW. Tony must have seen the spot, as he was first in the log – thanks Tony! Mitch sent a message indicating that he was on his summit setting up, so I swapped to 80 m SSB. Mitch was next in the log for a S2S to VK3/VS-011, followed by Geoff VK3SQ. I swapped to 40 m CW and soon worked Steve VK7CW, John VK4TJ, VK2FGBR and Allen VK3ARH. There were other callers, but they were sending much faster than me and did not slow down, or my brain failed to decode the call…. Sorry folks. I swapped to 40 m SSB and worked Rob VK4SYD/p, Nick VK3ANL/p and Adam VK2YK/p, all in WWFF references. I tried 7.090 SSB for several minutes, working Nev VK5WG and Adrian Vk5FANA. Many more calls went unanswered. I tried 20 m CW and bagged John VK6NU. I had been on the summit for well over an hour and starting to feel cool, so shut down and packed up and walked back to the car.

I headed further east on Gibb Range Road, passing a couple of possible route choices: Benambra Spur Road leads towards VK3/VE-058 and VK3/VE-041, and Beetoomba Spur Track which leads out to VK3/VE-120. I continued on to Glamour Hill Track and headed south.

VK3/VE-079 (unnamed) 1262 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus Not previously activated

I had tried to access this summit at least three times previously, each time reaching a Road Closed sign. There was a logging coupe ahead. On each occasion, nobody was around, but I turned around and exited the area, respecting the closure sign. I suspect that the coup had been in operation for a considerable time, as the Rooftop Maps of the area show the sign was in place in 2007.

On my trip to Wodonga in May, I dropped into the DEWLP office at Eskdale and made enquiries about access. I explained my interest and exactly where I needed to reach. I was advised that there had recently been a regeneration burn in the area. After the officer had consulted with a colleague on the ‘phone, I was advised that access should be fine during the July – September period, when logging is prohibited. Otherwise, one should have a UHF CB radio in case the coup is operational – the road closed sign indicated to call on a particular channel and await instructions before proceeding. Such restrictions are understandable if one considers the risks of entering an operational logging area.

The road was easily passable, if a little rough surface in places. The road closed sign was no longer present, so I proceeded with due care to the edge of the coup and then navigated my way along the main track, dodging a few obstacles. Beyond the main loading area, the surface deteriorated but was in reasonable condition. I could see a couple of snig tracks that headed up towards the summit, located a little beyond the boundary of the logged area. I decided against that approach and continued as originally planned: to the high point of the track beyond the coup, where the Glamour Hill Track crosses the spur southwest of the summit, at a height of about 1250 m. There was an area where some clearing had occurred, perhaps for vehicle turnaround. The high point on the track was less than 10 m below the summit, so well within the activation zone. I parked off the track and set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole. I was able to get the centre up to 10 m, almost at the limit of the standard coax length that I carry in the SOTA pack.

Once set up, I spotted on 40 m CW and soon worked Allen VK3ARH, followed by VK4TJ and John VK6NU. Then a pleasant surprise: I was called by Glenn VK3YY/p on Mt Toorongo Range VK3/VT-026. The signal was marginal, but we made the contact prior to QSB taking Glenn into the noise. I swapped to 40 m SSB. The first call was CW requesting a change to CW: soon Steve VK7CW was in the log. With no responses to CQ calls on 7.090 SSB, I swapped to 80 m SSB and worked three more stations. With no more callers, I closed down and packed up. I had been operational on the summit for around 35 minutes.

I retraced my route to Gibb Range Road and continued east to the Benambra – Corryong Road and then north. After reaching Nariel Valley, I decided to try for at least one more summit. I headed north, then turned SE on to Scrubby Creek Track. The track was steep in places, with many spoon drains and some rough sections.

VK3/VE-051 (unnamed) 1407 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

I parked near the high point in the track below the summit and loaded up the backpack. I climbed up onto the spur line and climbed up for about 300 m horizontally, where the slope lessen off. Not quite on the summit, but well inside the AZ. I set up and spotted on 80 m CW.

First in the log was Tony VK3CAT/p, now on Mt Donna Buang VK3/VC-002. Next was Warren VK3BYD, followed by Paul VK3HN and Ron VK3AFW. I swapped to SSB when I had no responses to CQ calls. Next was Geoff VK3SQ, followed by Steve VK7CW and Nick VK3ANL/p, both on CW. Back on SSB, I worked three more callers before a brief period on 40 m SSB, working only John VK4TJ. It was time to close down and pack up, head back to the car and continue east.

There were patches of snow on the southern slopes, plus some wet patches on the track. I travelled east to Dunstans Logging Road, then south to Six Mile Ridge Track and west and south to the next summit.

VK3/VE-056 Six Mile Ridge 1393 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

There were a few damp areas on the way out to the summit, plus several large spoon drains. But the transit was quicker than expected: the track passes within a metre or two of the summit and I was on the summit & set up less than 50 minutes after closing on the previous summit.

I had patchy coverage, but managed to spot myself on 80 m CW. Steve VK7CW was the first caller, much stronger than a couple of weak responders. One of those weaker stations was John VK4TJ. Next was Warren VK3BYD, followed by Andre ZL1TM and Bill VK1MCW. Five on CW and with no further callers, I QSYd to SSB. I soon had five more in the log and started to pack up the gear, posting a spot that I was going QRT. Before I switched off, Allen VK3ARH called and we chatted for a couple of minutes. At the end, Paul VK3HN called, last in the log. It was almost 1720, the temperature had been dropping rapidly and I had a long drive ahead…

The views across to Mt Pinibar, Mt Boebuck and especially to Kosciuszko and the Main Range were spectacular!

LookingEast from SixMileRidge

Looking across to the Main Range

Once I had retraced my route back to the start of Six Mile Ridge Track, it was about 25 km out along Dunstans Logging Road to the bitumen. Dunstans Logging Road is a much easier access into these last two summits, needing only care along the smaller Six Mile Ridge Track and Scrubby Creek Track for shorter distances to logical parking points.

It was then a simple drive north and then west to return to Wodonga.

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Early September trip to Wodonga via Omeo

7 September 2018

The next issue of Amateur Radio magazine had been finalised, printed and was with the distribution house. The weather forecast was looking reasonable and the Shepparton Hamfest was scheduled for Sunday – it all looked like a good opportunity for another visit to Wodonga to catch up with family, plus hopefully activate some summits.

My departure was a little later than planned, but I was on the road at a reasonable time. The idea was to be on a summit to work Mitch VK3XDM/p in the Grampians for a S2S at around midday local time. The Princes Highway had road work speed limits in several areas, so the trip was a little slower than expected: nothing to do but obey the speed limits and take your time.

I received a message from Mitch that he was running early. I started the long winding climb up the Tambo River valley on the Great Alpine Road / Omeo Highway. Mitch was finally on his summit when I was around Ensay, about 40 km south of Omeo. I replied that I would keep travelling towards my target summit. Several minutes later, Mitch indicated that he would have lunch on the summit and wait for me. I headed up to Tongio Gap Road and then negotiated the two gates on Splitters Range Road and started the climb to the summit. Some corners were slippery and there was plenty of fallen timber to dodge.

VK3/VG-036 unnamed summit 1285 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

When I opened the first gate, I set the car radio to search for the local ABC AM transmission – the transmitter site is opposite the start of Splitters Range Road. I was listening to the radio as I climbed to the summit. The day was bright and sunny, with little cloud. I knew that I was approaching close to the summit with its solar powered transmitter site, as I could hear the inverter crud starting to interfere with the AM station, wiping it out was a got closer. I drove further along the road until the interference disappeared – I was still well inside the AZ, which extends around 900 m long along the road.

I set up with a line over a tree branch and hauled up the inverted V. I alerted Mitch that I was setting up and then spotted for 80 m SSB.

When I switched on the radio, Mitch was calling CQ. A S2S contact first in the log! Mitch was on Mt Rosea VK3/VW-003. I checked that Mitch had qualified his summit with a positive answer. Mitch closed down and I took over the frequency. I had heard Compton VK2HRX calling me, but he did not reply when I called him. I swapped to 40 m CW and worked Gerard VK2IO. Further calls yield no responses, so I QSYd to SSB and worked four more. Things were slow! John VK4TJ was willing to try CW, so we simply changed modes and worked. I had no responses to call on 20 m. In the end, I had 10 in the log, with four on CW.

I packed up and retraced my route back to Tongio Gap Road and headed north to Omeo to the Bakery for some lunch. I then travelled to the next target summit.

Mount Sam /Sam Hill VK3/VG-049 1206 m 8 points plus seasonal bonus

Access to Sam Hill is simple: travel north out of Omeo a short distance and turn into Bingo Tice Road which becomes Connleys Road. At the top of the climb, turn left into Mount Sam Road and drive to the summit with its transmitter sites and fire watch towers.

I again set up with a line over a tree branch and hauled up the inverted V. I was ready about an hour ahead of schedule. I spotted myself on 40 m CW and soon had five callsigns in the log: John ZL1BYZ, John VK4TJ, John VK4/AC8WN, John VK4/VE6XT and Andre ZL1TM. I sent ? a few times and another CQ with no responses, so went up the band to SSB.

A few on 40 m SSB, then I tried 80m SSB. Then up to 20 m SSB where I worked John VK6NU. Mitch messaged that he was about 30 minutes form the summit, so I decided to remain on location and kept calling. I changed from 40 m SSB down to 80 m SSB where I bagged Ron VK3AFW and Tony VK3CAT, followed by Mitch on Mt William VK3/VS-001. I thanked Mitch for the contacts and left the frequency to him. I packed up and headed back into Omeo, then up and across Mount Hotham and on to Wodonga. The views were excellent, with plenty of snow higher up.

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A trip to Parks near Sale

Saturday 25 August 2018

The weather forecast was for a fine day after a cold start. With much of the previous week and previous weekend having been quite cold, wet and very windy, it was an opportunity to get out and activate a couple of Parks. I set off a little later than planned and headed to Rosedale for a brief stop at the Bakery, then east to Longford and then towards Sale.

Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2431

This Reserve is also known as the Sale Common State Game Refuge. It is located just south of Sale, occupying part of the floodplain of the Thomson and Latrobe Rivers. The Reserve is approximately 300 hectares in area, with over 70% of the area made up of freshwater marsh, with Red Gum woodland and grasslands. It provides a refuge for many species, especially native birdlife. Parks Victoria has an informative Park Note available.

The Park was first activated by Steve VK3MEG on 9 August 2018. Unfortunately, I was unable to work Steve on that activation – the distance between us was too far for 40 m and higher bands and Steve had issues with his antenna on 80 m. I note that Steve has upgraded and now also holds VK3KTT.

I had been planning on activating the Reserve for quite some time, as it holds memories from my early years. My family lived in the region for several years. Dad was a keen fisherman and hunter and was heavily involved with the Victorian Field and Game Association (VFGA). The local VFGA Branch undertook significant work replanting appropriate trees on the Sale Common as one of their conservation projects. I recall spending time helping with planting the tube stock trees.

Steve activated in the northeast area of Reserve, in one of the parking areas near the boardwalk. I chose to activate in the southeast corner, at the southern end of the Flooding Creek Track. I approached off the South Gippsland Highway via Swing Bridge Drive, travelling along the eastern bank of the Thomson River. At the final approach to the Swing Bridge, I took the gravel track that continued along the river bank, now travelling along the Latrobe River – the confluence is just above the bridge.

The Swing Bridge was built in 1883 and was the first movable bridge built in Victoria. The 45 metre wrought iron span bridges the Latrobe River just below the confluence with the Thomson River, pivoting on central cylindrical steel columns. The bridge provided access across the river for land transport, but allowed for the movement of steamers from Melbourne via the Gippsland Lakes and up to the Port of Sale on the Thomson River. For many years the bridge was not opened, but a major restoration project was undertaken from 2003 to 2007. Vandals damaged the rotating mechanism in 2017, but the bridge was repaired at a cost of $160,000.

SwingBridge

Looking upstream at the Swing Bridge

The formal Reserve boundary crosses the end of the track, with the fence and gate to the walking track clearly inside the official Reserve boundary. I parked beside the gate, using one of the gate posts as the support for a squid pole. Just beyond my selected location is the start of the Heart Morass – an environmentally significant wetland of approximately 1600 hectares which had been heavily grazed up until around 2006. Similar pressure had been placed on the Sale Common until it was declared a Game Refuge. The Heart Morass is now undergoing restoration via a cooperative partnership of Bug Blitz Trust, Field and Game Australia (FGA), Hugh Williamson Foundation, Watermark Inc. and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority. We usually hear little of such projects in the media, but a quick search on the web will yield details of the project. It is interesting to note that FGA does allow duck hunting on the Heart Morass during the season, after hunters have made a donation to the Wetlands Environmental Taskforce. Some may be surprised at this, but it fits with the ethos of the organisation: promoting hunting and fishing, but also involved in conservation works to ensure that the “hunting resource” is maintained.

You may have heard about the Heart Morass in the media of recent times, due to contamination of the area with PFAS due to run off from the nearby RAAF Base East Sale.

It was only 6 degrees when I pulled up, but there was almost no wind. I quickly set up the link dipole, with the radio gear on the tailgate as an operating table.

First in the log was Alan VK2MG/p in VKFF-1910 on 40 m SSB. I moved to a clear frequency and started calling. I soon had another 9 stations in the log, so the Park was qualified for VKFF. After several minutes of calling without replies, I changed the antenna and tried 80 m SSB. I again worked Alan VK2MG/p P2p, plus Nick VK3ANL/p in VKFF-0774 and a couple of VK3 hunters and Ian VK1DI. I then tried 20 m SSB, working only Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. I returned to 40 m SSB, working more callers, but it was slow at times. I also worked Scott VK4CZ/p in VKFF-16221 for another P2P, plus a couple of CW contacts to end up with 45 in the log after about 2 hours and 20 minutes of operating.

SaleCommon

Looking across the Sale Common from near the operating site

I packed up and head back to the South Gippsland Highway and travelled about 16.4 km to the eastern boundary of the next Park.

Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758

I exited the Highway and drove a short distance on the boundary track at the southeast corner of the Park.

HoleyPlainsSignR

A Park sign close to the operating site.

I have activated this Park on a couple of previous occasions and have a tally of at least 44 contacts. But this was an opportunity to add an additional activation to build towards the Boomerang Award – I could not drive past and not undertake a short activation.

The Park is heathy woodland and is home to many native species. You can find a Park Note on the Parks Victoria website.

I set up by tossing a line over a tree branch and set up on 40 m SSB. Gerard VK2IO was first in the log. In just over 20 minutes I had 16 in the log, including another P2P with Scott VK4CZ/p. That contact will not count towards my P2P tally, as I did not persevere with the activation to get to 44 contacts….

I packed up and returned to the Highway and headed another 5.2 km further south and turned onto a sand road that runs along the northern boundary of the next Park.

Giffard (Rifle Range) Flora Reserve VKFF-2321 Not previously activated

This Reserve is shown on Google Maps as both the Flora Reserve and as Giffard Nature Conservation Reserve. I checked the official GIS shape file after I returned home and the official name is Giffard (Rifle Range) Flora Reserve.

I travelled about 1.3 km along the sandy track to a track that enters the Reserve proper, and then about 250 m to the edge of a partially cleared area near some old small dams or gravel pits.

I again tossed a line over a tree branch and set up at the edge of the track. I was up on air only 30 minutes after closing the station at the last stop. First in the log was Dave VK2ZK, followed by Paul VK5PAS. About 20 minutes later, I worked Scott VK4CZ/p once again for another P2P. I went to 80 m SSB and worked another six hunters, including a P2P with Ian VK1DI/p in VKFF-0862. I returned to 40 m for another couple of hunters, and saw a spot for Greg VK4VXX/6 in VKFF-0234, so swapped to 20 m. Conditions on all bands were ordinary, by we managed to make the contact with Greg for another P2P. CQ calls on a clear frequency yield no responses, so I tried 30 m, working John VK4TJ on both SSB and CW.

I returned to 40 m SSB and quickly had Linda VK7QP calling for a contact and a number for the ALARA Contest. Next was John VK4TJ again, plus Bill VK4FW, both on SSB and CW. With a few more Hunters, I also worked Leone VK2FHRK for the ALARA Contest.

I again tried 80 m, working Gerard VK2IO SSB and CW, John VK4TJ on CW and several other hunters. The last contact was at 0716 Z, after which I packed up. Just as I was about to drive off, I heard the kookaburra sound on the ‘phone and soon had Lesley VK5LOL/p in VKFF-0817 in the log for another P2P for a total of 53 contacts in the Park over three hours of operating. The last hour had cooled off rapidly due to a sea breeze combined with the sun getting lower in the sky.

I explored the track heading west from my location, but it quickly became overgrown. I retraced my entry route back to the South Gippsland Highway and headed north to Gormandale – Stradbroke Road, then west to Gormandale and back to home past the Loy Yang power stations.

A good day out: 2 new Parks for me, including a brand new reference for everyone, plus a short repeat activation of Holey Plains State Park. The weather had been fine and sunny all day, with temperature cold at the start of the day and cooling off late in the afternoon.

Thanks to all the Hunters for making the effort of calling me.

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VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1250

Despite the propagation conditions being experienced over the last few months, I still continue to hunt Parks activators from home and when in the field. I have reached the next step in the local Hunter Honour Roll: 1250 unique references worked. Some of the contacts have been far from easy to make…. Thanks to the Activators for their efforts.

Thanks to the entire WWFF team, but especially to Paul VK5PAS and his state coordinators.

VK3PF VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1250

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More WWFF / VKFF certificates

I have been able to work some more new Parks, thanks to those getting out and activating. Perhaps the only frustrations have been those activators out and about at relatively close range – typically in Victoria, southern NSW or the ACT – who have not operated on 80 m: band conditions have been such that on most days we observe very poor, if any, NVIS on the 40 m band. This is usually not an issue for the activator, as they work hunters further away and usually manage to get at least 10 contacts from each Park, and thus qualify the Park for the VKFF awards. But they will not be working the hunters in at closer range due to the lack of NVIS propagation. The result is fewer “new” ones in my log and a smaller tally of Parks worked this year. As an Activator, I usually try 80 m during each activation and usually get several Hunters in the log, even on a week day and in the middle of the day. Conditions such as this are likely to continue for many months  as we head into the bottom of the solar cycle and start to climb out the other side of the solar minimum. Activators: please take an antenna for 80 m and use it!

WWFF Hunter 1244 references worked

H-01244#0213 VK3PFs

VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1225 references worked

VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1225

Thanks to the Activators who get out there into the Parks.

Thanks also to our VKFF National coordinator Paul VK5PAS and his team of state coordinators, and the central WWFF team for their continued contributions to the hobby.

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Three Parks beyond Stratford

Saturday 28 July 2018

I activated a couple of today’s target Parks in November last year, but did not attempt to get to a full WWFF quota of 44 contacts from each. On Saturday morning, the weather started out cold but fine, with a good forecast for the day, so I decided to head out for a day of radio activity in some Central Gippsland references.

I headed from home off to Rosedale, with a stop at the Bakery to grab some food. Then off to Stratford and on towards Bairnsdale, but not too far. I turned north onto Swallow Lagoon Road. After the road crossed the railway line, it became narrower and twisting between road-side trees, requiring some care. The railway line to Bairnsdale bisects the second Park today and is close to the northern boundary of the third Park.

Swallow Lagoon Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2199

I soon reached the Reserve and parked near the gate at the junction of Swallow Lagoon Road and Andrews Road. I carried the gear inside the reserve via the pedestrian gate and set up just inside the boundary. A line over a tree branch supported the dipole. There was a new sign inside the gate with the Reserve name, plus a sign indicating activities that are approved and banned.

The usual Parks frequency on 40 m SSB was free, so I started calling. Sue VK5AYL was the first to respond. We chatted for a bit, including some discussions of the two VK apps for logging – Sue’s iOS app and Peter VK3ZPF’ port-a-log for Android. Whilst chatting with Sue, I posted a Spot. Paul VK5PAS and John VK5BJE were next in the log. After about 25 minutes, calls were sparse, so I tried 80 m SSB, quickly working two VK3 regulars and Jim VK1AT. I returned to 40 m SSB to work Gerard VK2IO/p for a P2P, and then moved down in frequency to continue calling. A short break saw Gerard VK2JNG/p in the log for another P2P before I returned to my spotted frequency to work several more hunters. I tried 30 m, but only worked VK2IO/p, on both SSB & CW. Back to 40 m SSB for several more hunters before I became the hunter to work Chris VK1CT/p for another P2P. With 48 in the log, I decided to pack up and head to the next target.

Travel to the next Park was simple: travel east along Andrews Road to Munro, then straight ahead to turn left onto Sinclairs Road, then about 8.9 km until I reached West Boundary Track and turned left into the northern section of the Reserve.

Providence Ponds Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2425 Not previously activated

I set up only about 50 m along the track, at a point wide enough to allow vehicles to pass and underneath a tree with a branch to support the dipole.

Providence Ponds FFR runs from south of the Princes Highway to north of the Sale-Bairnsdale rail line. Providence Ponds is the local name for this area around the Perry River. The Reserve can be accessed from several sandy tracks running off the Princes Highway, but beware that the road reserve is excluded from the reserve boundary. In the area where I set up, the rail line and road reserves are also excluded from the reserve.

Only 36 minutes after the last contact in the first Park, I had Gerard VK2JNG/p in the log for another P2P contact. A few minutes later, Gerard VK2IO/p was in the log for another P2P and the Hunters continued. The next P2P was with Rob VK4AAC/3 in another first activation. A few minutes later, Chris VK1CT/p called and I then went hunting other Park activators: Peter VK3ZPF/p, Gerard VK2IO/p on CW and Alan VK2MG/p. Contacts were becoming slower, and I then I worked Steve VKESG/p for another P2P. Fifteen minutes of calling on 80 m SSB yielded no responses, so I returned to 40 m SSB for more contacts until I worked Les VK5KLV/p for another P2P and I decided to shut down, with 45 in the log.

I packed up and travelled the short distance back onto Sinclairs Road and then ENE for about 3.6 km to Fernbank Road. A right turn, cross the railway line, then another right onto a dirt track on the south side of the railway line for about 400 m and I parked off the track near the reserve boundary.

Fernbank Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2088

I set up just inside the boundary, again using a line over a tree branch to hoist the dipole. 34 minutes after the last contact in the previous park, Steve VK2ESG/p was in the log for another P2P. Next was Gerard VK2IO/p for yet another P2P. 2 contacts later, Rob VK4AAC/3 called in for another P2P. Several other P2P contacts were made over the next 30 minutes. I swapped to 80 m SSB, working several hunters and two more P2P contacts. I changed to 20 m SSB to work 3 P2P contacts in VK6. Calls on a clear frequency yielded only one more hunter. I tried 30 m SSB, working Gerard VK2IO/p on a new band. I returned to 40 m SSB for another four contacts for a total of 47 in the log before packing up and starting the drive home.

Parks 20180728

Google Earth view of the 3 operating locations

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