VKFF activation weekend 2017

Saturday 25 November 2017

The weekend of 25/26 November was the designated VKFF activation weekend for the year. It is an interesting weekend, with many activators out in Parks. This year, Alerts were posted on ParksnPeaks for around 60 VKFF References to be activated.

Locally, the weather forecast was for a hot day with afternoon thunderstorms. I considered the forecast before deciding late on Friday evening to go out Saturday morning. The plan was to head to three of the Nature Conservation Reserves added in August.

I awoke early and got underway. The route plan was to head toward Briagalong. I was aware of significant areas of the Princes Highway which had rod works occurring, so after Rosedale I headed north to Tinamba, planning to then head east to Maffra and on to the planned Park. Driving north, I was looking up at the hills to the north and west: Ben Cruachan, Gable End and many others were clearly visible. Just as I approached the roundabout in Tinamba, I changed my mind and headed straight ahead toward Newry and then on to Valencia Creek.

VK3/VT-047 unnamed summit 732 m 4 points
Avon Wilderness Park VKFF-0942

From Valenica Creek, the approach is relatively straight forward, although with many twists and turns. Head northwest on Wombat Road which then heads south and then west before a low level crossing of the Avon River before a short section heading west and then north. When you get to the start of the forest on the west of the road, turn left into Mount Angus Track. After about 540 m, turn right to continue toward Mount Angus. As you climb, you will encounter many large spoon drains, plus the track is likely to have scattered fallen timber and small rocks. My first activation of the summit used the same approach in the old Subaru Forester. About 13.2 km after leaving Wombat Road, you eventually reach the track junction of Mount Angus Track and Avon Track. Veer right and then drive onto the helipad on the actual summit, which is inside the Park boundary.

AccessVT-047s

Google Maps view of access route used

I tossed a line over a tree branch and hauled up the antenna and feedline prior to running the link dipole legs out parallel to the track. I set up on 40 m initially. I had weak mobile reception so was able to self-spot. Gerard VK2IO was first in the log followed by two more callers. Several minutes of calling produced no responses, so I changed the antenna to 80 m. I worked five stations on 80 m, including Mick VK3PMG/p in VKFF-2146. With no further responses to CQ calls, I switched back to 40 m to chase Garry VK2GAZ/p in VKFF-0041, Tony VK7LTD and Angela VK7FAMP/p in VKFF-1797. After working three more stations, CQ calls went unanswered, so I switched to 20 m. Calls here results in contacts with ZL, VK7 and VK5. After more unanswered calls, it was back to 80 m to work Mitch and Geoff, then back to 40 m. Hunting around and calling resulted in P2P contacts with Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-1967, Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p in VKFF-0911, Jon VK7JON/p and Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1829, plus several other hunters. The final contact here was a S2S and P2P with Warren VK3BYD/p on Mt Piper VK3/VN-028 and VKFF-2155 on 80 m CW.

I then packed up and retraced my route back to Valencia Creek and then headed to Briagalong. Perhaps I made a poor route choice here, as I worked my way across to Gorge Road only to encounter a Road Closed sign as I reached Freestone Creek. I slowly drove on along the track and easily crossed the gravel ford and then straight into the middle of Briagalong.

I stop at the local café to buy some lunch was followed by a trip south and then east to the next target.

Swallow Lagoon Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2199

This reference had not previously been activated. I approached along Freemans Lane, turn into Swallow Lagoon Road and spotting a locked entrance gate opposite the junction with Andrews Road. I parked here and noted a pedestrian access gate.

SwallowLagoonS

The reserve sign inside the gate

I grabbed some gear and set up about 5 m inside the gate, again throwing a line over a tree branch to lift the dipole centre. The dipole was run out parallel to the fence.

SwallowLagoonPosS

Swallow Lagoon NCR operating position. Thanks to Google Maps.

I started off on 40 m, working Marija VK5FMAZ/p and Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0911 first up. Next was Tony VK3XV/p in VKFF-0624, followed by Mick VK3PMG/p in VKFF-2047 and then Greg VK5GJ and Norm VK5GI in VKFF-0999. A few more chasers later was Nik VK3NLK/p in VKFF-0750. A few more in the log and I worked Ian VK1DI/p in VKFF-1775, followed about six minutes later with Brett VK3FLCS/p in VKFF-2158.

A switch to 20 m yielded Paul VK5PAS/p again, followed by Neil VK4HNS/p in VKFF-0471, and Rob VK4AAC/p in VKFF-0200. Swapping back to 40 m yielded Angela VK7FAMP/p and Tony VK7LTD/p in VKFF-1144, Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0041 and Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-0492. I swapped the antenna back to 20 m to work John ZL1BYZ on CW for a SOTA contact and then back to 40 m to catch Allen VK3ARH/p in VKFF-2070 followed by a couple of other Hunters. I finished off with Jon VK7JON/p and Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1802.

The last 30 minutes or so had the sounds of thunder in addition to the bird calls, so I decided to pack up as the rate of answered calls was very low. I had 36 in the log, but hoped to activate at least one more Park for the day.

I drove east along Andrews Road to Munro, then south to the Princes Highway to head toward Bairnsdale. I then took the Dargo and Glenaladale turnoff to head to Fernbank.

Fernbank Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2088

This Park is behind the Fernbank Recreation Reserve, which looked rather neglected. My earlier investigations of this park suggested that access might be easiest from the track running on the southern side of the railway line. These thought proved to be correct: at the western end of the reserve, there was a track into a set of bollards at the reserve boundary. I parked here and walked in about 30 m to set up. This reference had not previously been activated.

FernbankS

Fernbank NCR position. Thanks to Google Maps.

As I approached Fernbank, I could see some large thunderstorms to the north….. The activation was to have a background of thunder and birdsong… Once set up, I was able to log Liz VK2XSE/p in VKFF-1269, followed a few minutes later by Jon VK7JON/p and Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1802. Several minutes of calls then went unanswered before I worked Dave VK2ZK/p in VKFF-1348, followed by Gerard VK2JNG/p in VKFF-0492. A couple of minutes later were Marija VK5FMAZ/p and Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-1639 and then Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0041. A couple more contacts were made before I saw a local walking along to investigate the voice he had been hearing. I explained the VKFF and WWFF programs and even made a few calls. I then switched to 20 m, yielding only Rick VK4RF. The thunder was getting louder and I had 13 in the log, so I packed up and headed back to the bitumen and back to the highway.

Once on the highway, I headed east to the Lindenow turnoff and headed south toward Meerlieu, then east on Boundary Road.

Bengworden Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2045

This was another reference which had not previously been activated. My mapping showed the reserve boundary starts at the junction with Swindlers Road. But this road had a locked gate, plus the reserve had no signs. The start and end of the reserve was obvious, plus it showed on the mapping on the vehicle GPS system. I drove along to the eastern end and parked beside the locked gate. I walked in about 100 m and set up.

BengwordenS

Operating position Bengworden NCR. Thanks to Google Maps.

First in the log were Paul VK5PAS/p and in Marija VK5FMAZ/p VKFF-1122 on 40 m. I worked three more Hunters before I worked Tony VK7LTD/p and in Angela VK7FAMP/p VKFF-1825, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0041. Shortly thereafter I worked Gordon VK5GY/p in VKFF-1086. I tried 20 m with no responses to calls and also tried to work Peter VK3TKK/p in Organ Pipes National Park. I could hear Peter, but he had S7 noise and could not hear me. I gave up when it started to rain – the thunderstorms were almost upon me. I had 10 in the log, so at least I had the Park qualified for VKFF.

I loaded up the vehicle and headed for home, with many dark clouds visible dumping rain and with the occasional lightning display. I was a bit slack about taking photos during the day as I was too focussed on the radio activity and driving.

Sunday was rather wet, so I decided to hunt from home. Propagation had been up and down all weekend, so only a few activations were worked from home.

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A visit to the Yarra Valley Hamfest 2017

I had been busy with a major editing task for the last couple of weeks and had already started work on the November issue of Amateur Radio magazine. The forecast for Sunday was for a nice day with strong winds and a late cold front to pass across the eastern half of Victoria. I was undecided on Saturday, but awoke early, so decided to head towards Yarra Glen for the hamfest.

Sunday 29 October 2017

After posting an Alert on ParksnPeaks, I hit the road towards Pakenham and then on to Yellingbo.

Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2224 Not Yet Activated

Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve (NCR) is one of the 200+ NCRs added to the VKFF list in August 2017. Prior to my visit, this reference had not yet been activated. The Reserve is just off one of my possible route choices when heading to the north or northeast of Victoria, especially during winter when the Great Alpine Road across Mt Hotham is often closed.

Yellingbo NCR is almost 643 hectares in size, predominantly running along three creeks on the southern slopes of the Yarra Valley, around the hamlet of Yellingbo. Like many of the NCRs, there are no Park Notes available. Amateurs intending to activate the reserve should read the Management Plan whilst planning their visit.

One might be surprised at the ecological values if one was simply driving along the roads near the NCR. To quote from the management plan Summary:

“The reserve protects a diverse array of flora and fauna including around 285 native flora species and 230 native vertebrate species.  The reserve also protects areas of Sedge-rich Eucalyptus camphora Swamp Community, which is considered to be of national significance.

The reserve provides habitat for the last wild colonies of the endangered Helmeted Honeyeater, Victoria’s rarest bird and its avifaunal emblem.  Once widely distributed in the Westernport to mid-Yarra area, the known wild population of the Honeyeater is now around 100 individuals, most of which reside within the reserve.  In accordance with recommendations in the Helmeted Honeyeater Recovery Plan 1999–2003 (Menkhorst et al. 1999), management aims to protect and enhance habitat to allow this population to survive and expand.

Also of note is the presence of the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, which is the only known occurrence of this possum in lowland forest areas.  Other significant vertebrates include the Spotless Crake, Powerful Owl, Southern Emu-wren, Yellow-bellied Glider, Platypus, Mountain Galaxias, Southern Pigmy Perch and Swamp Skink.”

Intending activators should also take note of two of the significant management directions listed in the Summary:

  • Maintenance of the current low levels of passive visitor use to ensure natural values are not adversely affected.
  • Encouragement of active recreation activities at alternative locations to the reserve.

Later in the Plan, one should read section 6.1 on Visitor use. This section lead me to “Parslow Bridge” as a possible site for an activation. A search of that name on Google Maps did not help, but a quickly found the spot by examining the area around Yellingbo: the bridge on Parslows Road across Woori Yallock Creek.

Careful examination of the mapping information and satellite images shows an unsealed car park on the north side of Parslows Road immediately to the east of the Creek. The northern half of the car park area is inside the Reserve, whilst the southern half of the car park is on the road reserve. Being beside the road, it is an area where an amateur radio activation is unlikely to cause disturbance of the Helmeted Honeyeaters.

It set up against the fence on the north side of the car park. The space is tight – not quite enough space for an 80 m dipole. I used a squid pole supported by one of the fence posts and initially strung the inverted V out for 40 m.There were plenty of bird calls from the scrub nearby whilst I was setting up.

The Alert had been for 7.144 MHz, but being Sunday morning, there were a couple of News Broadcast stations nearby. I found a clear frequency and spotted myself. 20 minutes of calling yielded only 11 contacts on 40 m, so I strung out the rest of the dipole and called on 80 m. This yielded another five callsigns, including a station from near Benalla who was keen to ragchew. It happens that he knew a previous holder of VK3PF. It was now 2320 UTC (Saturday UTC time) and the hamfest had been underway for 30 minutes. This was not a concern, as I was visiting primarily as a social opportunity.

Yarra Valley Amateur Radio Group Hamfest

I packed up and headed to Yarra Glen. I paid the entrance fee and was quickly greeted by two amateurs and started chatting. This pattern continued for the next 45 minutes. In between chats, I managed to have a quick scan of the stalls. I saw nothing much of interest to me.

I finally departed at around 1200, sending a text message to a friend declining the invitation to join them at the local hotel for lunch – I had other targets in mind.

After purchasing some lunch at a bakery, I headed toward Healesville and up the Black Spur to Dom Dom Saddle.

Mount Vinegar VK3/VC-005 1069 m 6 points

From Dom Dom Saddle, I headed along Dom Dom Road and then veered onto the link track towards Road Eight. As indicated by Tony VK3CAT in a post after his activation of Mount Dom Dom VK3/VN-017 on 15 October, the normally locked gate was open. I drove around onto Road Eight. When I passed the junction with Carters Gap Road, I noted that the gate there was locked. I continued on and up, passing a helipad area with a large water tank. Soon after, there was another open gate. I was able to drive all the way to the summit, making this an easy access 6-ponter today!

I checked out the trees nearby – mainly tall mountain ash with the lowest branches a long way up. I decided to set up with a squid pole strapped to a tree stump on the north side of the track, so I was outside the Yarra Ranges National Park boundary. This activation was SOTA-only.

MtRitchieFrVinegar

Looking from Mt Vinegar towards Mt Ritchie

After checking the frequency of choice, I started calling CQ. When I finished the call, I heard Alan VK7AN/p calling CQ – we had been doubling. Alan was a good copy, so I waited whilst he worked a couple of stations and then made a contact with him. Alan left me with the frequency and I worked another 4 stations on 40 m SSB before I switched to 80 m. 80 m only yielded Nik VK3NLK/p in the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park VKFF-0747. Sorry that it was not a Park to Park contact Nik! With no more callers, I packed up, happy to have 6 in the log and a new Unique and a new Complete.

NNEfrVinegar

Looking NNE from Mt Vinegar

I headed back down to Dom Dom Saddle and considered my options. I decided to head to another new Unique to make another new Complete.

Back down the Black Spur with the usual slow traffic and then very slow through Healesville. After crossing the Yarra River, I headed south towards Warranmate Hills Nature Conservation Reserve. Lunch must be good at “Ezard at Levantine Hill”, as there were three helicopters parked on the lawn! I considered my options as I approached the Reserve, but decided to head around to the southern approach which has been used by several amateurs.

Warranmate Hills Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2244 Not Yet Activated
Briarty Hill VK3/VC-029 424 m 1 point

I parked the car at the entrance gate on Yarraloch Way and loaded up the SOTA pack. I started along the Management Vehicle Only (MVO) track, noting some signs posted about new Regulations for the Reserve, banning mountain bikes from single tracks and permitting their use only on MVO tracks. As I was walking along the tarck, I recalled that one needs to drop down vertically before starting to climb, so I decided to venture uphill on one of the single tracks that climbed from the MVO.

The walk was pleasant but warm. The temperature was in the mid-20s. The track chosen headed up along the edge of gully and there was evidence of previous mountain bike use. The track eventually crossed the gully and I started working my way up the spur on various single tracks. I eventually ran out of obvious tracks and continued up the spur using animal tracks most of the way. Near the top of the climb I encountered a wire fence. I crossed the fence and very quickly found an old vehicle track. I followed this north and then west to join the main track to the summit.

There is a large Telstra comms site at the summit, so I set up about 100 metres down the track trying to avoid any unwanted RF noise.

I spotted myself on 40 m and was quickly answered by Paul VK5PAS once I started calling. 40 m was full of signals, with EU and NA stations working the CQ WW SSB contest. I worked six locals on 40 m before changing antenna links for 20 m, hoping to hear Phil VK6ADF/p and Hans VK6XN/p, both out in Parks. As I was changing the antenna, I received an SMS from Tony VK3CAT. Shortly afterwards, we worked each other on 2 m FM. Thanks for the contact Tony – I was now close to the magical 10 contacts needed for VKFF qualification.

I tuned around on 20 m SSB. Nothing heard from Hans or Phil. The band was busy with contest traffic. I spotted again down below 14.200 and after the second call, a contest station in Bulgaria started calling CQ. I tried calling back – no response. Then Warren ZL2AJ tried to call the Bulgarian – he had no response. So I called Warren – success! Nine callsigns were now in the log.

I gave up on 20 m and strung out the 80 m extensions before spotting myself. I was quickly called by Mick VK3GGG. I finally had the Park qualified. Further calls went unanswered, so I switched off and packed up at around 0730 UTC.

I headed down off the summit via the steeper original track and then back down the main track. Along the way I met someone walking up the track for some exercise. We discussed options for descent to the southern entrance. I offered to show me the 2 route options that he knew, given that he had not planned to go much further. As we descended along the track, I outlined SOTA and WWFF. We reached a point on a slight flat area of the ridge where there was an old vehicle track. There was a more defined option further along, but I decided to head down on the option in front of me. I thanked him for the company and pointing out the start of the track, located at roughly where I thought it might be as I was considering my descent options and the information that I could recall from earlier blog descriptions of the summit. The track is becoming a bit overgrown lower down, but I eventually reached the main MVO track. It was then simply a matter of following the MVO track as it crossed several ridges and gullies and eventually back to the car. I arrived back at the car just before 2000 local time.

BriartyDescent

Looking to the SE during the descent

BriatyRoute

My route to the summit & return

All that remained was the 2 hour drive home!

Looking back at the maps, I suspect that this summit may be a little easier from the northern entrance. One would save about 100 m of climbing and would simply follow the MVO track up the hill.

As noted by Tony VK3CAT: it is a tough walk and climb for only 1 SOTA Activator point. But it was a new Unique and another Complete, together with a first activation of the VKFF reference, so I am satisfied.

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The last full day for Winter Bonus 2017

In VK3, the Winter Bonus ends at 2359 UTC on 14 October each year. From 15 June through to the end of the bonus period (1100 local time in VK3 on 15 October), summits above 1200 m attract a 3-point bonus.

The weather forecast looked great for the weekend. I had several tasks on the “to do” list, but felt a need to get out and play SOTA. With one major task dealt with on Friday night, I decided on Saturday morning to head for the hills. The basic plan was to try to get to several summits with the bonus points, including a possible camp out on Saturday night, thus possibly activating one or perhaps 2 summits on Sunday morning… This meant that more gear needed to be loaded into the vehicle. That led to a big mistake, which I realised about 90 minutes down the road.

I packed most of the gear into the car and departed home at around 0900 local. I headed east towards Bairnsdale. I was only about 15 kilometres short of Bairnsdale when it hit me: I had left the SOTA backpack in the radio shack! The obvious option was to abort. But as I gathered my thoughts, I realised that I could proceed: I had a full set of portable gear in the vehicle – antennas, heavy duty squid poles, feedlines, an IC-7000 transceiver, an spare LiFePO4 battery plus a backpack with my KX2 along with my camera. No need to turn around – all should be go.

I filled the fuel tank in Bairnsdale and then headed north through Wy Yung and Bullumwaal and north towards Mount Baldhead. On my previous activations of Mount Baldhead, I had approached via Swifts Creek. Today’s approach allowed easy access to summit which I could activate from the road side on my trip north. One could add Mt Taylor VK3/VG-142 (1 point) with a very short detour.

Unnamed summit VK3/VG-080 897 m 4 points

This summit might be given a name for SOTA purposes of “Near Purtle” or perhaps “Purtle Spur” at the next VK3 update. Checking Google Earth, the height data suggests that the summit height is 904 m, so perhaps it may also go up to 6 points?

The summit is very close to the junction of Morris Peak Road and Mount Baldhead Road. I drove over the high point of the road, with moderate scrub visible from the road. The scrub just north of the obvious parking place near the road junction looks to be thicker. The road just north of junction is just inside the activation zone. I parked near the junction and walked to close to the high point in the road and then set up with antenna along the edge of the road.

I spotted myself and then worked 6 stations before I had no more calls. The summit was qualified and I now had a new Complete.

I packed up and continued roughly north along Mount Baldhead Road. As I travelled, I was enjoying the views through the trees, looking down into and across the various valleys. I did slow down to have a slightly longer look at the south and west sides of Mikado Hill VK3/VG-051, which has not yet been activated. I had a quick look at this one from the road which traverses it northern flank and the bush looked thick. From the south and west, the bush looked no better and from what I could see, it has not yet seen any logging activity, unlike other areas in the area. Given the prime reason for the trip, Mikado Hill can wait for another day.

Mount Baldhead Track was looking very overgrown, so I continued on and took the next track to the east – a road into young regrowth forest. The junction is clearly visible on the satellite imagery on Google Earth at about 37°22’28.87″S 147°32’49.20″E. There were a few obstacles to dodge but it was just a matter of take it easy. When I met the upper section of Mount Baldhead Track, it was almost completely overgrown. The route to the summit continues along Mount Baldhead Track to the summit. I drove to the summit and parked under an old eucalypt in the shade.

Mount Baldhead VK3/VE-027 1374 m 8 points

The antenna was hoisted with a throw bag over a tree branch, so the antenna feed point was at about 10 m. I spotted myself on 40 m and Col VK3LED was first in the log. Another 7 contacts followed before I had no more calls after working Mitch VK7XDM, so I packed up. I had everything back in the vehicle when I received a text message saying that I could not be heard in NE Victoria. I answered saying I was packed up but would try 80 m on the next summit.

I exited by headed north down Mount Baldhead Track to Boomerang Spur Road and back onto Mount Baldhead Road. Both the approach and exit route need reasonable vehicle clearance.

It was then north to Grassy Ridge Track and west to Mount Delusion Track, which has had a reasonable amount of traffic in recent times – the last time I was at its eastern end, it was looking underutilised and had vegetation encroaching. So this time I headed straight up the Track, along the edge of an area that has been logged in the past few months.

Mt Delusion VK3/VG-026 1375 m 8 points

Once in the AZ, I found a spot where I could park off the track and again set up with a line over a branch. Ian VK5IS was first in the log on 40 m. Next up was S2S contacts with VK3CU/p and VK3LT/p, both on Mt Arapiles VK3/VW-022. After another 3 contacts I called with no responses, so dropped down to 80 m and spotted myself. I worked Geoff VK3SQ. An SMS from Tassie sent me back to 40 m to work Mitch VK7XDM. With no further calls, I packed up and headed to Mount Delusion Road and then north to Omeo. From Omeo, it was out to Hinnomunjie and on to Knocker Track and finally up Knocker Link Track.

The Knocker VK3/VG-016 1506 m 10 points

After again tossing a line over a branch, I started on 80 m with Matt VK1MA first in the log. Next was Allen VK3ARH. With no further calls after working Allen, I moved to 40 m another 6 stations. With no more callers, and the summit comfortably qualified, I started to pack up. The activation had a short interruption whilst I was explaining what I was doing to a deer stalker who driven up the track and saw my vehicle, so came over to check to see what was happening.

I packed up after having no more answers to CQs. I retraced my route back toward Omeo, but turned off at the Golf Club to climb up the hill to the next summit.

Sam Hill VK3/VG-049 1206 m 8 points

As I drove up onto the summit area, a large mob of kangaroos quietly bounced off.

Kangaroo grazing

One of the locals grazing near the summit

After placing a line over a branch and spotting myself, I started working stations on 40 m. First up was Warren ZL2AJ. Three more calls had the summit qualified. I moved to 80 m and worked Sergio, Mitch and Steve. Seven in the log – I was happy. I quickly packed up and grabbed a quick photo – the snow was still present on Mt Bogong. The sun was getting low in the sky.

Mt Bogong from Sam Hill

Looking towards Mt Bogong from Sam Hill

As I drove back down to the Omeo Highway, I considered my options. It was already after 1800 local time. I decided, why not….. I headed for a sixth summit for the day.

Unnamed summit VK3/VG-036 1285 m 8 points

Heading south from Omeo on the Great Alpine Road, I turned into Tongio Gap Road and then onto Splitters Range Road. The road starts with a gate, then across a paddock to another gate. Be sure to close them both… The road then climbs up to the summit, with a cleared area with a communications building & mast at the junction with The Dog Track. During the drive up, I needed to dodge a couple of kangaroos as well as a doe and fawn.

I have proposed that the summit be given the name Splitters Range in the next VK3 update.

I again deployed a line over a branch to hoist the antenna. The throw bag, designed for arborists, normally sits with the portable gear in the car. At 340 grams plus the line and its holder, the kit is a little heavy to add to the SOTA pack.

I started on 80 m, with John ZL1BYZ first caller, followed by Mitch, Steve and Tony, so I had the summit qualified before I moved to 40 m. First on 40 m was Jackie ZL1WA, followed by Paul VK5PAS. It was now after 0815 with no more callers and the sun was on the horizon. It was time to pack up and head back to the bitumen. After dodging more kangaroos, I finally made it back down to the Great Alpine Road.

During the drive down, I considered my options: should I find somewhere to camp with the chance of another summit or 2 in the morning, or head for home? I decided on the latter option and headed south. I finally arrived home at 2315 local – it had been a long day. The pay-off: 6 summits activated with a new Complete plus 61 Activator points to add to the tally.

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Glenmaggie Regional Park VKFF-1877

Sunday 23 July 2017

The weather forecast for Sunday did not look great, with strong winds all day and two cold fronts to pass through the region during the afternoon. I decided to risk the weather and head out to another of the new Parks. I was away a little after 0900 local and travelled to Heyfield, finding that the Bakery is not open on Sundays…. Lunch would therefore wait until mid-afternoon during the return trip.

The Glenmaggie Regional Park needs careful attention to the mapping detail, as it appears to be made of at least two separate sub-parks, the area managed by Parks Victoria and some areas closer to Lake Glenmaggie that are managed by Southern Rural Water, the local Rural Water Authority. As best as I can tell, the two areas are called “Glenmaggie Regional Park”. Be aware that there is also a Glenmaggie Nature Conservation Area nearby, which is not part of the Regional Park.

The Glenmaggie Regional Park is part of the Gippsland Plains region and sits to the east of Lake Glenmaggie. Part of the Park is the Blores Hill Mountain Bike Trail Network. Given that was a Sunday and there were lots of MTB riders and their vehicles nearby, I headed down towards the end of Sandy Point Road and set up just off the road in an area which is shown as part of the Park on the mapping on the Parks Victoria website. I was about 200 metres east of the end of Sandy Point Road.

I tossed a line over a tree branch, getting the dipole centre about 12 m off the ground. I set up an IC-7000 set to 25 W on the tailgate of the Ranger, powering it from the secondary battery in the rear of the ute. When I switched on the radio at around 0100 Z, I could hear stations working Gerard VK2JNG/p in Garrawilla National Park VKFF-0588 on 7.144 MHz. In my eagerness, I worked Gerard and then Allen VK3ARH/p in VKFF-1879 with the dipole ends still on the ground! But two P2P contacts made for a good start to the activation!

The next 10 minutes brought another 5 contacts, after which the going became harder. Lots of calls were made with few replies. One of the contacts was with Sam VK2HAX, who was a very difficult copy. I thuink that Sam may have been in the Barrington Tops National Park, as I saw some Spots for him a little later in the afternoon. After 30 minutes, I swapped to 80 m and worked another 6 stations.

Back to 40 m for some more Chasers, including Nigel VK5NIG/p and Stu VK5STU/p, both out in VKFF-1699. I saw a Spot for Trevor VK4KWI/p on a Summit in a Park, so I spent some time listening for him and waiting for the QSB to improve the signal a little. We finally completed a contact, so another P2P in the log.

Just before 0300 Z I swapped to 20 m SSB, with lots of calls and no replies. I was listening and about to revert to 40 m when Ian VK5MA/6 popped up out of the noise – I had seen a Spot for him in VKFF-0647, but had heard nothing for the last 5 minutes. After working Ian, I swapped back to 40 m and managed to again work Gerard VK2JNG/p, now in VKFF-1179. After a few minutes of calling, I went back to 80 m for a while, managing to attract two more Chasers. Approaching 40 contacts in the log, I went back to 40 m. Several minutes calling were unproductive. I spent a couple of minutes listening to Gerard working his Chasers, when I heard Pail VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p call Gerard. I waited and then followed them down the band a little to work them both in VKFF-1750. I moved down7.090 and started calling CQ there, which had the desired result of a few extra callers.

I finally decided to pack up after a contact at 0416 Z, with 52 contacts in the log. The sky to the west was looking increasingly dark. I quickly packed up and drove to the end of Sandy Point Road to take a photo across Lake Glenmaggie towards the mountains.

GlemaggieRPs

Looking NW across Lake Glenmaggie from Sandy Point

I then drove back to Heyfield for an afternoon snack from the take away store and then headed for home. Only about 15 minutes later and I was driving through heavy rain….

Thanks to all the Chasers and to the other Activators for the Park to Park contacts. Another good day out playing radio in the field, away from the higher levels of QRM now experienced at home.

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Mirboo North Regional Park VKFF-1876

On 18 July 2017, VKFF Coordinator Paul VK5PAS announced that he had added five new Parks in Victoria to the VKFF list of references. Two of these Parks are within an hour of my home, so they were quickly added to my mental “to do” list.

Previous plans meant that the Parks would need to wait until late in the week or the weekend, as I spent the Wednesday driving 2 other amateurs around to activate three 8-point summits – see the previous post.

Friday looked like a reasonable chance to head out, so I get myself organised by late morning.

Mirboo North Regional Park VKFF-1876

Friday 21 July 2017

There is little information on the Parks Victoria website about this Park, other than for the popular Lyrebird Forest Walk. The Park has four separate sections: one near Hallston, one north and west of Mirboo North, a section almost directly north of Mirboo North, which includes the Lyrebird Forest Walk and adjacent to the Strzelecki Highway (B460), and a section south of Boolarra.

Being the closest, I headed for the section south of Boolarra, accessing it via Limonite Road, Fishers Road and Banktown Road. I set up just inside the boundary, off the western side of Banktown Road. The spot that I chose was a small grassed area, located on the ridge that Banktown Road travels along south of Fishers Road. I set up the squid pole using a pole holder and ran the link dipole parallel to the track and about 3 m in from the track edge.

The radio gear was set up on the tailgate of the ute. Today I used the FT-817 running off the SOTA LiPO battery.

First in the log was Gerard VK2JNG/p in Trinkey State Conservation Area VKFF-1382. I moved down in frequency and had a strong signal from Sergio VK3SFG in Mirboo North. I spent a few minutes discussing the Park with Sergio, who is looking forward to activating the Park in the near future. Next in the log was Cliff VK2NP. After several minutes of calling, I checked ParksnPeaks and saw a Spot for Mark VK4SMA/p in White Rock Conservation Park VKFF-1676. I listened for several minutes and then called Mark when he was heard a little louder. I had no response, so I quickly added my 40 W amplifier into the system and called again: success. Contact was made. I then switched to 80 m and spotted myself, quickly working four more stations.

I tried 20 m, but had only one call – Sergio saying hello again. I then tried 30 m SSB, again working Sergio and hearing Rick VK4RF calling, but Rick did not hear me.

I returned to 20 m SSB and was called by Hans VK6XN, followed by Bill K4WMS and Stan VK3PSR in nearby Boolarra. Next was Fred VK4FE in Port Douglas, Phil VK6ADF, Mason W5FMH and Franc ZL1SLO.

MirbooNorthRPs

Late afternoon sun streaming through the trees and onto the station in VKFF-1876

I returned to 40 m, and worked Al EA2BY/5. I moved down the band a little and started calling on 7.085. Band conditions were now a little better, with stations in VK2, VK4, VK5 and VK6 calling in over next hour or so, but was slow going…..

At about 0700 Z I went back to 80 m, working Mick VK3GGG, Paul VK5PAS, Barry VK5KBJ/p and Marija VK5FMAZ. With no further callers and light starting to fade, I returned to 40 m to work Marija and Paul on a second band, comfortably taking me past the quota of 44 stations.

I packed up and back out to Limonite Road and then headed for home. As I was driving out, I noticed that the outside temperature had fallen to 4 degrees – little wonder I was feeling a little cool late in the activation. A good way to spend a fine winter Friday afternoon – a new Park successfully activated.

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Three Gippsland summits on a winter day

Over the previous week, I had been chasing Canadian amateur – John VA7JBE – as he activated summits in north east Victoria with Brain VK3MCD, in Canberra with Andrew VK1AD and near Sydney with Compton VK2HRX.

I had replied to John before he left for Australia offering to take him to some local summits should he be passing through Gippsland. The plans came together with John arriving at my home on the evening of Tuesday 18 July. After discussing my plan outline and considering the forecast wet and cold weather, we decided to go ahead. I sent a message to Rik VK3EQ that we were heading out, an invitation which Rik quickly accepted.

Wednesday 19 July

Rik arrived at about 0815 after a minor navigational hitch. John and I were ready to go, so we were on the road within a few minutes of Rik’s arrival. We drove to Traralgon and then on to Heyfield to stop at the Bakery to buy some food. We then headed off to Licola and up the Licola – Jamieson Road (C486) to just after the 22 km mark and turned left onto the start of N7 Track. The track junction is less than a kilometre from our first target for the day.

Connors Plain VK3/VT-022 1305 m 8 points

We had rain and a little sleet as we drove from Heyfield to the N7 Track, with some snow on the side of the road as we gained height. Just in from the start of N7 (about 50 metres), there is a small track to the left. Follow this track – it leads up onto the plateau, well inside the Activation Zone (AZ). We set up in the rain, using a log to support the squid pole.

HF band conditions were poor. After a long period of calling on 40 m, we changed the antenna to 80 m, where we were rewarded with a call from Col VK3LED.

Having mobile coverage, I rang Ross VK3FREB, who lives in Maffra. Ross was visiting a mutual friend, David VK3DY. HF was poor on 80 m due to local noise in Maffra, but we were able to work David and Ross on 2 m simplex. Unable to raise any other callers on either 80 m or 2 m, we resorted to one of us exiting the AZ with a hand held radio to work the other two operators, so that we could each qualify the summit. This was a 3-point summit for me, as I had activated the summit earlier in the year, so I gained only the Winter Bonus points on this occasion.

Once we all had four contacts in the log, we packed up and headed but down to the C486 and headed back toward Licola and the junction with South Road, where we headed south to Mt Selma Road.

Mount Selma VK3/VT-013 1464 m 8 points

Mt Selma Road was a little slippery in places, with some large pot holes. There was plenty of evidence of the yahoos ripping up both the track and the areas near the track by driving their mud-tyre equipped 4WD vehicles in a reckless manner. I drove past the summit to the western end of Mt Selma Track and carefully drove up to the highest point on the track. We did not bother walking into the Trig point, as we were well inside the AZ. There was snow on the ground away from the track and cleared surrounds, with the “boys” having been all over the cleared areas around the track cutting up the surface.

I set up the squid pole using a small sapling for support. We quickly had the antenna strung out. Ross VK3FREB came up on 2 m FM, so we all worked Ross.

After we all had the summit qualified, we again packed up and retraced our route back to South Road and then headed south.

South Road was in good condition and we made good time to the junction with Mt Useful Track.

Mt Useful VK3/VT-016 1424 m 8 points

The track was a little cut up in places, with the results of the mud-larks/yahoos cutting up the cleared grassed areas near the tower on the summit. The rain had been getting heavier and the wind stronger as the day went on, so I was cheeky and parked the vehicle under the carport beside the Fire Watch accommodation hut. We strapped the squid pole to one leg of the carport structure and set up the radio under the carport. At least we were out of the rain, if not the wind!

HF conditions had improved somewhat, so we had an easier time qualifying the summit this time. We again worked Ross in Maffra via 2 m FM. After we had all qualified, we again packed up and headed back to South Road. Given the worsening weather, we decided against heading out to VK3/VT-034 and simply headed south and east to Seaton and then back home via Traralgon. We arrived home before 1500 local. After unpacking the vehicle, we said goodbye to Rik, who still had a drive of approaching 2 hours to get back to his home in Melbourne.

It was a profitable day for all three of us, but especially John. As he had spent several months working in the UAE, John was happy to get out into some colder conditions. Plus he had another three summits plus the bonus points.

We had a leisurely afternoon catching up on email and other tasks.

John stayed overnight again and headed off toward Melbourne the next morning, with several stops planned before heading to a social gathering of SOTA operators for dinner that evening. I decided against the drive, given that I had no tasks to complete in Melbourne – 3 hours plus of driving just for dinner was not very attractive, despite the chance to catch up with some of the other SOTA operators.

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Winding down after GippsTech 2017

It had been a tiring weekend and lead up to the annual GippsTech amateur radio technical conference in Churchill. The conference was my idea initially and the local Club (now known as the Eastern Zone Amateur Radio Club) liked the idea. The first conference was held in July 1998, so this year marked the 20th annual event. We also ran a second “Special Edition” in 2009, when the Club hosted the WIA annual General Meeting – the first AGM weekend in the format that has been used at all AGMs to date since 2009: The formal AGM, an Open Forum, an afternoon of technical presentations on aspects of amateur radio and social and educational activities on the Sunday. I have been the conference Chair from the first event, so am always busy in the lead up to and during the event.

This year was no different, except that we had a beautiful Gippsland winter day on both days: very brisk first thing in the morning with frost and fog, but bright and sunny for the rest of the day, even if a little cool.

Sunday 2 July 2017

After we had cleaned up the venue, I headed home briefly to drop off some items and then headed off toward Foster in South Gippsland.

Corner Inlet Marine and Coastal Park VKFF-1768

The Australian WWFF coordinator Paul VK5PAS had missed adding this Park when he added the other Victorian Coastal and Marine Parks and Marine National Parks to the VKFF list back in August 2015. I discussed this omission with Paul at the Antennapalooza event in April, held at Foster. Paul added the Park once he returned home, but had not advertised the addition. No problems about that Paul – we all know that you are a very busy person. Some discussion on one of the VK groups late in the previous week led me to discover that the Marine and Coastal Park was on the list of valid Parks. Therefore, as I was feeling okay early on Sunday afternoon, I decided to activate the reference.

The drive down was uneventful. My chosen activation site was at Foster Beach, located between Foster and Port Franklin. Access is easy: make your way to Lower Franklin Road and then travel down Foster Beach Road – the latter is not sealed. There is a parking area at the end of the road. There are several sites where the Park can be easily accessed. See the Parks Victoria Park Note.

When I arrived, the extensive mud flats were obvious. The views are terrific: from Mount Hoddle to the west and down to the mountains of Wilsons Promontory, clearly visible across the water of Corner Inlet. One could clearly see the summits Mount Margaret and Mount Hunter (VK3/VT-074) on the northeast section of Wilsons Promontory. These two summits overlook the “other” Corner Inlet Park – the Marine National Park VKFF-0948, which has not yet been activated. It requires a long bushwalk or a boat. Perhaps sometime in the future…. There was one other vehicle in the car park, a fisherman getting ready to try his luck. I set up on the edge of the car park, throwing a line over one of the paperbark trees to lift the dipole centre.

CornerIMCP

Almost at Foster Beach

I started on 40 m and was about to spot myself on ParksnPeaks and saw that Paul VK5PAS/p was in a Park, so worked Paul just after he had a Park to Park (P2P) with Hans VK6XN/p. I mentioned to Paul that I would try to find Hans, and Paul called to see if Hans was still listening on the frequency. He was, so I quickly worked Hans for another P2P. I thanked Paul for the assistance and then tuned around to find a clear frequency. Tuning down the band, I came across Mark VK4SMA/p in another Park, so bagged yet another P2P contact. I good start to the activation!

I finally found a clear spot and was promptly called by John VK5BJE. After working John, I finally spotted myself and started working the callers. Amongst the callers was Ian VK5MA/6 in VKFF-0468 for another P2P. The calls were becoming infrequent, so after 30 minutes of operating, I tried 20 m for about 10 minutes with no responses to calls. I switched to 30 m, and managed to work Greg VK8GM and Bill VK4FW. Several minutes of calling yield no result, so it was time to change to 80 and try to get some of the closer in stations in the log. Progress was again slow but steady after the initial rush after posting the spot. I moved frequency to again work Paul VK5PAS/p- the WWFF Rule revisions now allow repeat contacts with a station, provided that the band and/or mode has changed.

VKFF1768_Prom

Looking towards Wilsons Promontory in the early evening

The sun was below the horizon when I changed back to 40 m at 0735Z. The band change was rewarded with another 8 stations over the next 16 minutes and I was finally past the magic 44 contacts. I heard a weak call from Geoff VK3SQ and replied, but clearly he could not hear me. So I sent an SMS to Geoff and reconfigured the antenna to 80 m. The move worked – I worked Geoff and also Greg VK5GJ, after having to find a clear frequency and posting a spot: there were many ZL stations calling “CQ Contest” on the band. With no further responses to calls, I shut down at around 0815 Z, just under 2 and a half hours after I worked the first station. I had 47 calls in the log and had given everyone that I worked a new Park.

After packing up I eventually got underway and headed for home.

A good finish to what had been a very busy and satisfying weekend.

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A visit to Western Port Bay

Saturday 17 June 2017

I had an invitation to attend the Gippsland Gate Radio & Electronics Club 40th anniversary luncheon, so planned to spend several hours at that event. Just in case I had some time available, I packed the SOTA pack into the car.

The event went off well and I departed Cranbourne a little before 1500 local. The trip to my destination was just over 20 kilometres and took around 20 minutes.

Yaringa Marine National Park VKFF-0957

I had previously activated this Park, accessing the shore courtesy of a cooperative landowner.

In November 2016, I explored a couple of possible access points travelling back home from the Rosebud Hamfest.

The Yaringa Marina is just a short distance from the southern boundary of the Park, but is clearly private property. Whilst the public can drive in to the Marina car park, one would need permission to cross the land to access the Park. A further complication is that the area between the Marina and the Park is rough mangrove mudflats with thick scrub away from the high water mark.

One access point looked promising from the mapping data and the Google Earth images.

Access was gained via Bungower Road Somerville. At 10 Bungower Rd (on your left), you will see a riding school operation. Just beyond, you will find the road deteriorating to a rough sand track with many overhanging trees, with several private driveways near the apparent end of the road. You can continue another 250 metres approximately to a locked gate. There is limited parking here – I simply parked at the end of the track loop, figuring that anyone else arriving would still have space to turn around. I loaded up my backpack and started walking east along the track which is a continuation of Bungower Road. The track is shown as Maintenance Vehicles Only on Forest Explorer and travels through the North Western Port Nature Conservation Reserve. The track had some wet areas and plenty of dung from the horses….

As the track started to swing to the south, I headed through a gate and walked a short distance to within 20 m of the high water mark, the boundary of the Marine National Park. I found a fence post to support the squid pole and quickly set up the station.

My timing must have been good: I switched on the radio before I finished running out the dipole legs and heard Gerard VK2IO/p calling from a summit in a Park. Once the antenna was set, I waited my chance to call for a Park to Park contact. After the contact was completed, I found a clear frequency and started calling CQ. The next 5 minutes saw 7 contacts in the log, before some QRM from some DX stations (a guess) operating RTTY prompted a QSY. The next 15 minutes saw another 10 callsigns in the log. I checked the ‘phone to see that David VK3IL/p had moved to 80 m – he was very low down on 40 m and did not hear my calls. I strung out the 80 m extensions to the antenna and found that David was not about. I later found out that he only spent a very short time on 80 m due to the time of day – he had to descend off Mt Torbreck before it became dark. The next 15 minutes saw another 12 contacts in the log. Once I had no more callers, I closed down and packed up.

YaringaMNP

The activation site, looking NNE across the Marine National Park

It was a brisk walk in the dwindling light back to the car and then about 2 hours to drive home. About 30 contacts were in the log, more than enough to take the tally beyond the 44 mark. Thanks to all the Hunters.

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A winter day without power

A power outage was scheduled for this day and I was interested in possibly making a purchase in Castlemaine, so the decision was made for a shorter road trip….

Friday 16 June 2017

I was underway at around 0800 local, well before the scheduled outage start time. I travelled to Melbourne, with a short detour to purchase a set of snow chains. That added more time than expected, but I safely arrived at my first destination in the anticipated time window. I inspected the intended purchase and even managed to make a contact with Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/MN-075 on 40 m CW. After further discussions, the purchase was made prior to departing.

I then headed to Harcourt to grab some lunch and then up to Mount Alexander summit.

Mount Alexander VK3/VN-016 741 m 4 points
Mount Alexander Regional Park VKFF-0973

I set up using a line over a tree branch at about 10 m and ran out the heavy duty link dipole that normally lives in the car. First in the log was Neil VK4HNS/p in Gatton National Park – a Park to Park contact first off. Four minutes later, Rob VK4AAC/2 in VKFF-0406 called me. After about 15 minutes, callers became scarce and it became hard work.

Approaching 0500Z I decided to change bands to 30 m. During the change, I heard Bill VK4FW call me. By time I had changed the antenna back to 0 m, Bill had gone – sorry Bill! Back to 30 m, I worked only Gerard VK2IO/m, about 30 minutes since I had worked him as my last contact on 40 m before the antenna change.

I switched the antenna again, this time going to 80 m. This yielded 4 VK3 stations. After a further 5 minutes of calling without responses, I switched back to 40 m, yielding 20 contacts in the next hour, including a CW contact with Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/MN-045. At 0643 Z, I worked 3 VK4 stations on CW before going back to 80 m, which yielded another 4 contacts. I tried 30 m again briefly, yielding another 2 contacts. Considerable time calling earlier on 20 m had yielded no contacts. With 48 contacts in the log, I decided to pack up and start the long drive home. Overall, a good day.

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Road trip to the 2017 WIA AGM in Hahndorf – returning home

Monday 22 May

I was up and organised reasonably early, departing Mount Barker at about the same time as Paul, who headed off to pick up Andrew VK6AS and to transport him to the airport.

I did not have far to go today, as I was staying near Murray Bridge.

First stop was into the local optometrist to have a quick repair to one arm of my spectacles. Whilst I was waiting, I found a pharmacy to purchase some Cold and Flu tablets – a lurgy had made its presence felt overnight.

I headed up to the freeway and headed east. Paul had mentioned some of the local Parks, so when I saw the exit sign for Monato, I took the exit and headed south. Approaching the Park, I noticed a large tract of bushland further south, guessing that it may be Ferries-McDonald CP, given that I was travelling on a road with the same name…. I stopped and explored my options, checking which other Parks were in the region. I ended up heading south to Langhorne Creek Road and then east to Wellington to cross the Murray River by ferry. Only a short distance across the river was my first target for the day.

Mowantjie Willauwar Conservation Park VKFF-0919 5CP-152

One might ask “Why bypass two Parks to get to this target?” Simple really – this is one of the Parks that count for the Murray River Parks Award.

I was set up inside the Park just before 0200Z. Gerard VK2IO was first in the log on 40 m SSB. It was slow going on a Monday in the middle of the day. I worked 8 stations on 40 m SSB in 20 minutes. I changed the antenna to 80 m configuration, and worked another 3 stations, including Adrian VK5FANA and Paul VK5PAS/m. With 11 in the log, the Park was qualified for VKFF, so I packed up when I received no further responses to calls.

I packed up and drove a short distance north, then east into the next Park.

Poonthie Ruwe Conservation Park VKFF-1082 5CP-187

Only about 5 km up the road, I turned east onto Blackett Road and on to the very barren looking Park. It looks just like surrounding farmland. I climbed the fence and set up inside the Park, another Park that counts for the Murray River Parks Award.

This time I started on 80 m, working Paul VK5PAS/m. After several minutes of calling with no responses, I shifted to 40 m. I worked 14 stations in the next 20 minutes, before swapping to 30 m for 2 more contacts. Only Fred VK4FE was worked on 20 m. With a total of 18 contacts, I gave up with rain threatening.

After packing up, I headed back to the Princes Highway and then to Tailem Bend to buy a late lunch. I then worked my way around to Murray Bridge and on to my overnight stop – many thanks to Peter VK3RV and Jenny VK5ANW.

Tuesday 23 May

We had long discussions the previous evening which continued in the morning before I finally got under way. I headed south and then another ferry across the Murray River to Tailem Bend, then south east on Dukes Highway (A8). The cold/flu was doing well, so I thought seriously about simply trying to make it all the way home… I knew that I would be bypassing several possible activation sites, including Mount Monster CP and Kelvin Powrie CP – the later right beside the Highway as you approach Keith. I was glancing to the south after passing Kelvin Powrie CP and could see the obvious hill that must be Mount Munster.

I had a quick glance at the tourist map a few minutes later and saw a Park to the west of Bordertown. I stopped near Wirrega and checked the map carefully, then had a quick look at ParksnPeaks. It looked as if the Park had not yet been activated. That was too much of an opportunity, plus I needed a break after some time driving. So I headed south on Black Joes Road and then east on Cannawigara Road to find a well-marked entrance to the Game Reserve.

Poocher Swamp Game Reserve VKFF-1741

I drove in along the access track and set up near a large red gum. I used the throw line to get a line over a branch and set up in accordance with the SANPCP Award conditions – similar in most respects to SOTA requirements. I spotted myself on ParksnPeaks with some difficulty – I had marginal coverage.

PoocherSwampGR

Poocher Swamp Game Reserve

First in the log was Geoff VK3SQ. I worked 6 stations on 40 m SSB, then Hans VK6XN and Fred VK4FE on 20 m. Several minutes of calling on 30 m SSB yielded only Gerard VK2IO; I then changed back to 40 m to work Ian VK5IS and Rob VK4AAC/2 in VKFF-0065. Eleven contacts in the log, so I called it a day and headed into Bordertown to grab another late lunch.

A little while later, I pulled off the highway to again work Rob VK4AAC/2, now in another Park. As I approached Dimboola, I decided to NOT activate Little Desert National Park – still need another 27 contacts from the Park as an Activator. About 10 minutes after passing Dimboola, I received a text message from Mick VK3GGG. The new car has hands-free mobile phone operation, so I called Mick to chat, during which I was invited to drop in for a coffee when I reached Stawell. We transferred from the mobile phone to the Mt William repeater to liaise as I covered the distance to Stawell.

To keep it short, the short visit for coffee ended up with me staying for dinner and the night. Many thanks for the hospitality Mick!

Wednesday 24 May

The cold/flu was still doing well, so I decided to attempt a couple of likely drive-up summits. I drove to Ararat and made my way toward Warrak and the hamlet of Mount Cole and then made my way around to Ben Nevis Road.

Ben Nevis VK3/VS-009

I was lucky with my timing – I arrived on the summit after a shower of rain had passed. I set up a little north of the hut to the north west of the fenced compounds. I started on 80 m and worked only Mick VK3GGG. Changing to 40 m yielded 10 contacts, with a further four contacts on 20 m – 3 stations in VK4 and John ZL1BYZ. I packed up and navigated my way off the summit and eventually back to the bitumen, but via a different route to that used for the approach.

BenNevisFrNW

Ben Nevis from the NW

I deliberately made my way to the north west of Ben Nevis, and travelled via Eversley and Elmhurst before heading south on Raglan Elmhurst Road. There was a chance of another summit – Mount Lomond VK3/VS-013. I found Mount Lomond Road, but a couple of kilometres in struck some large Road Closed signs – forestry operations in progress. So it was a case of retrace my route and then to head south to Raglan, then east to Chute and north on Amphitheatre Road to Ben Major Track.

Ben Major VK3/VS-028

Ben Major Track is unsealed and becomes a little rough after about half way to the summit, but a vehicle with reasonable clearance should be able to negotiate it to the summit.

I set up using a small tree east of the trig to support the squid pole. I started on 40 m SSBand worked nine stations worked QRP. However, I had trouble being heard by Rob VK4AAC/2, so plugged in the amplifier to complete the contact. Mick GGG could then hear me… I ended up with 18 in the log, all on 40 m SSB. I decided against other bands – the wind was very lazy and I was starting to feel cold.

BenMajorViewSE

Looking SE from Ben Major

I followed Ben Major Track out to the south, then in to Lexton and then towards Ballarat. A short stop for some fuel at Warrenheip and then another near Ballan for yet another late lunch. It was then in towards Melbourne and a long traverse of the road network with heavy afternoon/evening peak traffic.

I finally arrived at home a little after 2000.

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