Parks activation activity has been high over the last couple of months in Australia. Combined with reasonable favourable propagation, my Hunter tally of VKFF references has increased. I qualified for 2075 step award on 1 March 2023, the 2100 step on 15 April, the 2125 step on 30 April, and the 2150 step on 12 May.
VKFF Hunter Award (Honour Roll) 2150
Looking at the latest 50 references worked, I need to thank the following Activators (with the number of new for me references activated if greater than 1):
Sunday morning was a brisk autumn morning and I was again a little slow off the mark. I managed to hunt a few field stations from home as I started to get myself organised. I decided at around 0100Z that I would head out to Noojee to activate a couple of the new Parks. I was finally underway at around 0130Z.
I headed west to Nilma, then north to Neerim South and onwards to reach Noojee. In Noojee, I headed past the Noojee Hotel and into School Road and down towards the School. Having assessed the area, I parked near the eastern end of the car park for the Noojee Heritage Centre, located in the old railway station building. I loaded up the SOTA rucksack, grabbed a folding chair and walked down into the target Reserve, eventually setting up almost due north of the Heritage Centre buildings. I was beside a narrow walking track just south of the thicker bush which dominates much of the Reserve.
Latrobe River, Noojee Streamside Reserve VKFF-3749
I believe that this was to be the first activation of this Park.
I soon had the doublet in the air thanks to a line thrown over a tree branch. I set up the KX2 on the arm of the folding camp chair. I was soon ready to operate. On switching on, I soon worked John VK5BJE in VKFF-0784 on 40 m SSB. Andy VK5LA called John after me, so with John’s permission, I worked Andy. I then moved to a clear frequency, checked that it was not in use, spotted myself and started calling. I worked 28 stations over the next 30 minutes.
Responses to calls had dropped off – not surprising, as it was lunch time on Mother’s Day! I moved to 17 m CW, working Jess W6LEN and Steve KG5CIK, plus Gerard VK4UTT. After calling with no responses for a couple of minutes, I moved to 20 m CW. Fifteen minutes of calling yielded three contacts. I moved to 30 m CW, working five stations over fifteen minutes. I then tried 40 m CW, working seven stations over 15 minutes. I next spent 10 minutes calling on 10 m CW without any responses. I finished the activation on 15 m CW, again working Steve KG5CIK and Jess W6LEN. I decided to close, as it was almost 0400Z. I had 51 contacts logged.
During the activation I had spent several minutes explaining what I was doing to a local who had walked across, curious having seen me sitting in the chair and then spotting the antenna as he approached.
I packed up and walked back to the car, then drove back in to town. I parked and joined the queue at the only cafe in town to order some lunch.
I drove around to McCarthy Spur Road to find the open car parks full, partly due to drivers parked haphazardly, with two vehicles taking up space which would normally fit three vehicles. I returned to the car park near the public toilets off Bennett Street, where I found a spot to park. The car park is located inside the boundary of the second target for the day. I set up between the car park and the Latrobe River, comfortably inside the Reserve boundary.
Latrobe and Loch Rivers, Noojee Streamside Reserve VKFF-3748
Tony VK3YV had activated this Park the previous day, so this would be its second activation.
From my parking spot for the earlier Reserve, the travel distance required is only about 850 m. The Parks are an obvious pair to activate on the same day. There are also two other POTA-only Parks nearby, both of which have not yet been activated. Given my late start and my desire to qualify the Parks for WWFF, I decided against attempting the other two Parks.
I tossed a line over a tree branch, about 15 m up. The doublet was soon in the air, with the feed line running vertical for its full length. I set up a folding table and the camp chair adjacent to the feed line. As I was very close to the car, I used the IC-7300.
Once I had turned on the radio, I checked the Spots. I soon had Richard VK2OKR in VKFF-1377 in the log for a Park to Park (P2P). Next was Daryl VK3AWA, once again in VKFF-0747. I found that 7.144 MHZ was free, so spotted and started calling. I worked 20 contacts in less than 20 minutes. I had heard a Spot come through, so I briefly moved to 30 m SSB to again hunt Daryl VK3AWA, catching Andy VK5LA as a bonus. I return to 40 m SSB to work two more stations.
I then tried 17 m CW. Here I worked 16 stations in the next 30 minutes. Areas worked included VK4, W, DL, I, JA, OH, ON, EA and OM. The next band slot was 20 m CW, where 12 minutes yielded eight contacts. I then moved to 40 m CW, yielding nine contacts in 11 minutes. I then jumped to 20 m SSB to again work Daryl VK3AWA in VKFF-0747. I moved to a clear frequency and worked 23 stations in the next 20 minutes. I dropped back to 40 m SSB, working eight stations in seven minutes. It was late afternoon, after 0700Z, and the temperature was dropping quickly. I briefly returned to 17 m CW to work Jess W6LEN and Gerard VK2IO. I then closed and packed up, with 95 contacts logged.
I loaded the gear into the car and headed for home.
After a busy afternoon on Friday, I was slow off the mark on Saturday morning. I spent the morning chasing activators from home. After 1300 local, I finally decided to head off for another new Park. I packed the required gear in the car and headed for Rosedale. After a short stop to grab a late lunch, the route was then to Tinamba, Newry, Boisdale and Briagalong. It was then north to Freestone Creek Road and into The Quarries Reserve, which is part of the target Park.
VKFF-3695 George Creek Streamside Reserve
I had driven past this reserve many times, but this was the first time that I stopped at the site. I drive down to the picnic and camping area. Mobile phone coverage was marginal, so I drove back up closer to the entrance and found a spot where I could park off the access track. Mobile coverage was slightly better, so I set up where I was parked. I soon had a line over a tree branch and once again set up the IC-7300 on the tailgate.
I heard a loud signal a little off frequency when I switched on the radio. I soon had my first contact for the activation, working Daryl VK3AWA in VKFF-0747 on 40 m SSB. I moved up the band to look for a clear frequency. I asked if the frequency was in use and was immediately called by Gerard VK2IO. I then spotted myself and quickly worked another 12 stations. With no responses to another CQ call, I jumped to 30 m SSB to again work Daryl VK3AWA for a new band.
I next spent 10 minutes calling on 17 m CW, working Jess W6LEN and Steve KG5CIK. I then dropped back to 40 m to hunt Dean VK3DL in VKFF-3753. A friend then called me as I was signing off with Dean. I moved to a clear frequency and exchanged reports, then went to 80 m briefly before again working on 20 m. After a brief chat, I noticed that Daryl VK3AWA was on 20 m, so I hunted Daryl for another band slot. I then returned to 17 m CW, working a Belgian and two Finnish stations.
I dropped back to 40 m SSB to hunt Graham VK3ZSC in VKFF-0132. I then went to 40 m CW to hunt Chris VK1CT in VKFF-0859. I moved up the band slightly and spotted and was soon called by Dean VK3DL for another P2P. Dean was followed by KG5CIK and W6LEN, plus DL2ND. Another mode change to hunt Tony VK3YV in VKFF-3748 on 40 m SSB, another of the new Parks. Things then became slightly confusing. Andy VK5LA called for a P2P, so I asked him to move up 5 kHz. We worked and then Peter VK3ZPF called with another P2P. I found that I had moved up onto Peter’s spotted frequency… Peter and I exchanged reports and I moved further up. I spotted and worked another 16 contacts. I then returned to 40 m CW, working seven more calls. I finished the activation with some contacts with a friend in Maffra on 15, 10 and 6 m. It was now after 1700 local and the temperature was dropping. I closed down and packed up.
I headed for home, with 68 contacts in the log. Thanks to all who called.
Glenmaggie Natural Features & Scenic Reserve VKFF-3706 VK-4632
The morning started with hunting Marty VK4KC at some Parks in the Grafton region of NSW. I also managed to hunt Bert VK6HDY in the Murray Valley Regional Park in southern NSW. I had finished several tasks at home and decided to head out for one of the new Parks, departing at around 1230 local. The trip took about an hour.
I approached from the west. This is a small Reserve, with easy access from Glenmaggie Road from the western side. A track runs east-west over the shoulder of the knoll on which the Reserve is located. At the high point, there is another track which takes you a short distance north and across the Reserve boundary, with some overhanging vegetation. You will find a small turnaround area and the track continues north. I set up in the turnaround area, tossing a line over tree branch. I used the IC-7300 on the tailgate of the Ranger and the ZS6BKW doublet. The Reserve has been on the POTA list since late January 2023 and was added to WWFF on 30 April 2023. I had activated the Reserve previously for POTA, but this was to be the first activation for WWFF.
As I opened the ‘phone to set up vk-port-a-log, I noticed that I had missed David VK5DG in a new Park. Once set up, I first worked Jim VK1RF in VKFF-1406 at 0337Z, on 40 m SSB. I found 7.144 MHz was free, so I spotted and started calling. I soon had a call from David VK3KR on Mount Ritchie VK3/VC-003 in VKFF-0556. I worked David on SSB and then CW. By 0425Z, I had 34 in the log. I changed 30 m SSB, working Jim VK1RF again, plus four others in about 10 minutes. I next tried 20 m SSB, working several VK stations over the next 10 minutes. Then the DX stations started calling in addition to VK callers. I worked Marty VK4KC, now in VKFF-1620. I decided to change band and mode a little after 0500Z, dropping down to 40 m CW.
I soon had four contacts in the log, including Emile VK5WWW, who has only recently started making contacts on CW. It was great to get you in the log Emile. I saw a Spot for Marty VK4KC on 40 m SSB, so changed modes to hunt Marty for another band/mode slot. I was again called by Dan VK3NDG, located a short distance away in Heyfield. I worked Dan on 2 m FM, 80 m SSB, 15 m SSB and 10 m SSB. I returned to 15 m SSB to work three VK4 stations and a DL.
I next tried 10 m CW, making a single contact in 10 minutes of calling – thanks Naoto JF7RJM.
I then dropped down to 40 m CW to chase David VK3KR, now on Mount Strickland VK3/VN-030. Next I tried 12 m CW, working one JA station. I then tried 17 m CW, working four station over about 12 minutes.
20 m CW was the next slot attempted, yielding 10 contacts in just over 20 minutes. The band was open to Europe and the pile up was large. I gave up and moved to 30 m CW. Here I worked seven stations in 10 minutes.
I moved to 40 m CW and worked 17 stations in around 25 minutes. I then dropped to 80 m SSB briefly for two contacts with a local friend before I returned to 40 m SSB. Here I worked 16 stations in about 15 minutes, with the final contact being Steve KG5CIK for his fifth band/mode slot. The sun had set, so Steve was the last contact. I shut down and packed up as the light faded.
I had worked 94 on SSB, two on 2 m FM and 47 on CW for a total of 143 contacts. Countries worked CT, DL, G, HA, I, JA, OH, OM, ON, PA, SP, VK, W & ZL. It was a great way to activate a new VKFF reference.
In 2022, I elected to skip the inaugural Parkfest at Dorrigo, primarily as it clashed with the WIA AGM. I registered interest in 2023 event to be held at Pilliga, but decided once again against attending, this time as my cross country ski club was holding its forty year anniversary celebrations on the Saturday. I was prepared to hunt when I could and considered some options for activating.
Saturday 29 April 2023
The 40th Anniversary event was to be held at Assaggio del Forno in Jacob Creek, near Erica, from 1200 local time on Saturday. The morning arrived with clear weather, with occasional showers on the hills. After hunting some of the Activators from home, I headed off to the event, taking a route option which allowed for a first activation. I headed to Moe and then north towards Erica, then east along Jacobs Creek Road, which conveniently traverses the target Park.
Moondarra Bushland Reserve VK-5210 Not yet activated (NYA)
I drove through the Reserve to find a spot to activate. I ended up doubling back to find a place where the road shoulder was wide enough to park off the road. I soon had a line over a tree branch, but the throw bag and line wrapped around the branch! I then spent about 15 minutes attempting to dislodge the throw bag without success. It is still up the tree! I grabbed a second throw bag and line and soon had the doublet in the air.
I set up the IC-7300 on the tailgate and was soon calling on 40 m SSB. Calls were coming in thick and fast – I worked 46 stations in 30 minutes, with 14 Park to Park contacts. The calls finally eased off and I closed, as I was already late for the event. I quickly packed up and drove to the venue for lunch. The food was excellent, as was the company.
I finally departed the anniversary event at around 1500 local. I drove south on the Tyers-Walhalla Road, taking W2 Track to reach the car park just above Peterson’s Lookout.
Tyers Park VKFF-3570
This was to be my third activation of this Park: the first was for POTA and the second was on the day after it was added to VKFF. I soon had a line over a tree branch and the doublet in the air and the IC-7330 set up on the tailgate. I decided to operate using the Club callsign, VK3BEZ.
First in the log was Dean VK3DL on 40 m CW for a Park to Park contact (P2P). I moved to 40 m SSB, taking a few minutes to work those already spotted in Parks. I found a clear frequency and spotted myself. I worked 30 contacts in only 20 minutes, before someone came up only 2 kHz below my frequency. I moved up one kHz, enough to ease the QRM. I worked another 17 contacts in the next 14 minutes. I moved to 40 m CW and worked four stations before a spot came through for a P2P opportunity on 20 m SSB, so I changed bands. After working Gerard VK2IO/p P2P, I found a clear frequency, spotted and called CQ. I worked 13 stations in 16 minutes, with most being European stations. I changed down to 20 m CW to hunt a P2P with a VK4 and then worked five stations in Europe and one in USA. The dog pile of calls from EU was tough. I gave up and moved to 17 m CW, where I made four contacts. I moved back to 40 m SSB, working a further 20 stations in less than 15 minutes. The light was fading and the temperature had dropped significantly. I closed down and packed up, then made my way home. I had made 101 contacts over about 90 minutes, with 12 P2P contacts.
Sunday 30 April 2023
I had a somewhat disturbed night, waking in the wee hours and tossing and turning before finally returning to sleep. I finally woke at around 0900 local, quite late. I was quickly at the radio hunting Activators, mainly at Parkfest. After a late breakfast, I considered my options. I headed off at around 1330 local, with the intent of exploring another possible first activation of a Reserve.
Bruthen Creek Streamside Reserve VKFF-3621 NYA
This Park was one of the group of Parks added to WWFF on 21 April. I had explored the mapping and had come to the conclusion that it was likely that the Reserve was probably controlled by the neighbouring landholder. That view was reached as it was obvious from the satellite imagery that a portion of the Reserve boundary was clearly part of a farm operation. I drove out and looked carefully at the SW boundary. I decided my initial assessment was probably correct.
I tried the phone number that I had found via Google Maps, leaving a message when I reached voice mail. I continued south, considering options for a different Park near Woodside. A return call came from the number called a few minutes later. I carefully explained who I was and that I was seeking possible access to the Reserve and had rung because my assessment was that it was likely associated with the farm. After several minutes of discussions, including outlining the WWFF award scheme, I was given permission to enter the farm and to discuss the proposition with the landholder face to face. I retraced my steps and met the farmer. Soon afterwards, I was escorted down the main farm track past some old dairy sheds and down into the northern section of the Reserve. We discussed amateur radio and the Parks award scheme whilst I tossed a line over a tree branch and set up the station. On switching on the radio, I heard contacts occurring on 40 m SSB. I quickly made a P2P contact, and then returned to the discussions with the landholder. After about another 15 minutes, he headed off to check some stock, leaving me to start my activation.
I followed my normal routine of hunting those already spotted, working four P2P contacts. I found a clear frequency, spotted and started calling. I made 37 contacts in about 28 minutes. When calls dropped off, I switched to 40 m CW, making six contacts. I made a short excursion to 20 m SSB for a P2P contact, then 20 m CW produced eight contacts before I jumped back to 40 m SSB for another P2P and another couple of contacts. I tried 20 m SSB, working nine stations. I friend messaged me, asking my frequency, so I dropped back to 40 m SSB for a chat, followed by a brief contact on 80 m SSB, I then decided to close. I had 74 contacts in the log, including 13 P2P.
I packed up and headed back towards the road. I stopped to thank the farmer, then headed out to the road and headed back home.
Later in the evening, I found the property on Facebook and a brand new message: Well that’s a bit different. The farm has now become a destination for amateur radio operators competing in a global parks challenge. They have to make 44 contacts while transmitting from a designated “park”. Our Bruthen Creek Streamside Reserve is on a global list of parks to operate from. Who would have known.”
Many thanks to all who called over the weekend. Special thanks go to all participating in the Pilliga Parkfest: the focussed activations of several Parks by several operators over several days, combined with largely good propagation, meant that all Hunters had lots of fun.
A note about the new Parks added to VKFF (and also POTA)
Just because a Park is listed, it does not imply any right of access. I added this note to the WWFF Australia Facebook page, as a comment to Paul VK5PAS’s announcement of new Parks to the WWFF list:
“Activators should take care. It appears that many of the new references in Victoria may be leased to adjacent landowners. One cannot assume right of access. Please check prior to any attempt to activate. A careful approach and polite request may be rewarded with permission to access and activate. It is worth spending a little time carefully and diplomatically explaining your desire to access a Reserve. A successful approach might lead to an activation, together with the landowner/lease holder gaining some insight to our hobby. Such an approach this afternoon resulted in approval to access and a successful activation, together with a post on the host’s Facebook page.”
A key point is to first attempt to assess if the Park/Reserve is likely to be public access. If you have doubts, be prepared to respectfully ask questions of adjacent landholders…
I ended up with the same passengers as yesterday. We headed towards Omeo, then out to Benambra and east on Limestone Road. I then took Misery Road. After one minor navigational error, we swung north on Dapples Creek Track and finally climbed steeply to our first summit for the day via Misery Trail.
VK3/VG-009 1628 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
We arrived just before UTC midnight, so we quickly worked each other to gain the chaser points. We then set about erecting two HF stations and working those on other summits on VHF as they came up on air. I eventually had a brief session on on 40 m CW, working five stations. We then packed up and retraced our approach back to the eastern section of Misery Trail and headed SE to our next target summit.
Mount Pendergast VK3/VG-022 1450m 8 points
We once again set up a HF station, plus working the other groups on VHF. I worked 12 stations, including three SOTA summits and three Parks. After qualifying the summit of 40 m CW, we packed up and headed down to Limestone Road, then south on Nunniong Road to the next summit.
Brumby Hill VK3/VG-012 1581 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
We parked the vehicle and set up a HF station. Alan also set up on HF. We soon worked Stuart VK7FADZ on Mount Wellington VK7/SC-001 in VKFF-2932 on 40 m SSB. We then worked the other group on the Nunniong Loop, now at Mount Nunniong, using VHF. With the summit qualified, I was not going to bother with HF. But Gerard announced that Peter VK3ZPF was on a summit in a Park, so we made an effort. I was not hopefully, given that Peter was on 10 m SSB and a long distance from us. Gerard and I both made the contact with Peter, with very strange audio. I could hear a very faint “direct” signal from Peter and then a slightly louder and slightly distorted signal. Possible via backscatter or maybe once around the globe? The contact was made, regardless of the propagation mechanism. We packed up and headed south on Nunniong Road, then east on Jam Tin Flat Track.
Mount Nunniong VK3/VG-011 1617 m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
We arrived to find the other group still on site. We parked the vehicle and had a brief chat with the others before starting to set up a HF station.
We then worked the other group, now at Sam Hill VK3/VG-049. We took our time rotating through the HF station, as we intended to wait for the group ahead of us to reach Mount Nugong. I hunted a couple of Parks on 40 m SSB and worked five stations on 40 m SSB, plus worked Roly ZL1BQD in ZLFF-0222 on 20 m CW. We then chased the group at Mount Nugong and quickly packed up. We decided to attempt Mount Bindi.
The main track was okay, with some damp spots. I missed the critical corner and ended up coming in from the north, which presented some rough and muddy patches. We safely made it into the summit AZ and parked.
Mount Bindi VK3/VG-017 1484 m 8 points
We managed to quickly qualify the summit on VHF, working the group near Omeo on VK3/VG-064. We then headed out to Sawpit Road, south to Nunniong Road and up to the next summit.
Mount Nugong VK3/VG-018 1482 m 8 points
The Omeo group were still on VK3/VG-064, so we were able to qualify the summit by working that group, making four contacts in about five minutes.
We all jumped back in the vehicle and started the journey to Omeo. We stopped at the Washington Winch to have a look at the machinery. We then descended down to the Great Alpine Road. The trip was then simple – north to Omeo, then up towards Hotham. We decided to stop at Dinner plain to grab a meal, offering a change from The General.
Once back at the lodge, we discussed plans for Monday. Most were heading for home, with some planning some activations. I reinforced the importance for all to complete the duties assigned to their room before departing.
Monday 3 April 2023
The start to the day was less rushed compared to the previous two days. We had several “Goodbyes” and “Thank You” as people prepared to depart. Those remaining were Andrew VK1DA, Gerard VK2IO and myself. We eventually departed after UTC midnight. We were about to exit the Resort when a spot came through. I pulled over at the Mother Johnson Picnic Area and we worked Andrew VK3JBL on Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 in VKFF-0619. We then spoke briefly with Alan VK3TCP, who had just arrived at Mount Loch. Alan indicated that he would be on the summit for a while, so we resumed our trip.
We descended towards Omeo and then took Cassilis Road to Birregun Road, then up Zig Zag Track to reach Mount Phipps Track and up to the summit.
Mount Phipps VK3/VG-015 1536 m 10 points
I soon had a line aver a branch to haul up the doublet antenna. We all worked Alan VK3TCP on VK3/VE-005 in VKFF-0619, followed by Bill VK1MCW, then Andrew VK3JBL, now at VK3.VT-018. We then took turns on 40 m CW, before moving to SSB to work Frank VK3JR/p and Ron VK3AFW on Arthurs Seat VK3/VC-031 in VKFF-0750. We closed and packed up, descending to the south to return to Birregun Road.
We continued south to reach the next summit.
Mount Birregun VK3/VT-020 1363 m 8 points
We parked just north of the summit and set up on the edge of the track. First in the log was Daryl VK3AWA in VKFF-0747, followed by Matt VK1MA on VK3/VE-098. We then took turns on 40 m CW to make four contacts. Next we hunted Neil VK4HNS in VKFF-0176 Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. I spent a brief period on 40 m SSB, waiting for Alan VK3TCP to set up on Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021. Once we had worked Alan, we packed up.
We headed back towards Mount Phipps and then onto Groves Gap Road. The track was in reasonable condition, with some muddy and slippery sections, plus a few trees to dodge. We eventually headed up Delusion Track to park inside the AZ of the next summit.
Mount Delusion VK3/VG-026 1375 m 8 points
We soon had HF up and running. First in the log was John VK4MUD in VKFF-2133 on 40 m SSB. We then took turns qualifying the summit on 40 m CW. We then packed up and continued along Delusion Track to reach Grassy Ridge Track. We stopped briefly for a photo opportunity. The photo does not do justice to the view out to the east and south east, looking across the ranges. The view was the result of logging activity in the close in area.
We continued on to reach Dorothy Cutting, then Boomerang Spur Track and on to Baldhead Track.
Mount Baldhead VK3/VG-027 1374 m 8 points
We parked below the summit and set up beside the track. First in the log was Ian VK1DI in VKFF-0862 on 40 m SSB, followed by Alan VK3TCP on VK3/VE-024 in VKFF-0619 and Matt VK1MA. Next we jumped to 20 m SSB to work Simon VA7BIX/VK6 in VKFF-0378. Next I went to 40 m CW to qualify on that mode. We were soon all qualified and closed the station.
We headed north towards Swifts Creek, then through Cassilis and up to the NE end of Mount Delusion Road. We were soon parked on the side of the road just below our last summit for the day.
VK3/VG-157 1136 m 6 points
The sun was now below the horizon. We quickly erected a HF station and rotated as operator on 40 m CW until we each had four stations logged. We then packed up and retraced our access route to Cassilis Road, then headed north towards Omeo. We dodged some wildlife whilst heading out: several wallabies and a large doe.
We headed back to the Great Alpine Road west of Omeo and headed back to Hotham, stopping at The General to order some dinner. We then headed back to the lodge to relax before calling it a night.
Tuesday 4 April 2023
It was a slow start to the day. The three of us needed to perform our lodge duties, clear out our rooms and load our gear into our vehicles. I did a sweep of the rooms and ensure all lights were off before calling the lodge manager to touch base before departing.
Gerard was going to head south via the Dargo High Plains Road. Andrew was heading north to Beechworth and then Albury. I decided to head down to Omeo, planning to activate some POTA Parks.
I stopped at Cobungra, at the CFA station.
Cobungra Streamside Reserve VK-4320
The CFA station is inside the Reserve. I parked at the eastern side of the parking/turning area and spotted, trying to use the mobile system. I worked one station only on 20 m SSB before I gave up – I could hear others calling, but very weak. I soon had the squid pole lashed to the bullbar and the doublet in the air, connected to the IC-706 in the car. Signals were significantly better! I quickly worked another four stations before moving to 40 m SSB. I worked 19 stations, including Alan VK3TCP on VK3/VE-098 in VK-5264. I then chased Gerard VK2IO/p on VK3/VE-024 in VKFF-0619 on 40 m CW. It was almost 1230 local, so I closed and packed up. I drove about about 500 m west to park off the road.
Cobungra Bushland Reserve VK-4319
I could not find an access track into this Reserve, so simply parked on the roadside reserve and grabbed the SOTA gear. It took be about 16 minutes to pack up at the previous Park, move and set up in the next Park. First in the log was Gerard VK2IO/p still on VK3/VE-24, but now on 30 m SSB. I then worked Alan VK3TCP on the same frequency, with Alan still on VK3/VE-098. I moved to 40 m SSB and immediately worked Gerard VK2IO/p again. Next was Matt VK1MA, followed by Alan VK3TCP from VK3/VE-098. I worked several more stations before moving to 20 m SSB to again work Gerard VK2IO/p on VK3/VE-024. I moved up the band and worked another three stations before I closed.
I packed up and returned to the vehicle. I then headed down to Omeo to purchase some lunch and then drove towards Swifts Creek, but only a small part of that trip. I turned into Hankshaws Hill Road. The road ascends from the Great Alpine Roa and cuts through the next Park.
Omeo Bushland Reserve VK-5424
The reserve has two sections separated by a road reserve. The road actually departs the road reserve and enters the Reserve, making an obvious spot to activate. I finished off lunch and set up the antenna and the station on the tailgate. First in the log was Andrew VK1DA on VK3/VE-126 in VK-5267 on 40 m SSB. I then worked Andrew again on CW. I moved to 40 m SSB and worked Daryl VK3AWA in VKFF-0747. I worked another 14 stations before I moved down to work Ian VK1DI/p in VKFF-0986. I next tried 20 m CW, working six stations. I briefly tried 20 m SSB, again working Daryl VK3AWA in VKFF-0747 plus two others. I closed and packed up, then started the trip home.
I headed down the Great Alpine Road to Bairnsdale and then back home. I managed to work Gerard VK2IO/p on 40 m SSB and CW from two summits, plus Alan VK3TCP on Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126 on 40 m SSB.
It had been a very busy weekend. Many thanks to all who called. Special thanks to the other participants in the SOTA gathering. Everyone worked well together and I believe that all had a good weekend.
Overall, I accumulated 136 Activator points, 493 Chaser points and 460 S2S points over the five days.
Late in January 2023, Brian VK3BCM proposed that we consider running another gathering of SOTA enthusiasts at Mount Hotham. A public post to the OZSOTA group received several positive responses. The decision was made for planning to commence.
The previous events had the majority of planning undertaken by Brian. I had prepared a document outlining various travel loops which was distributed to event participants at the last event in 2021. The venue used for accommodation for the last two events was not available for the planned weekend for 2023, so I approached a Club of which I am a member. I received a positive response and information was emailed to those who had expressed interest in the event.
Brian was away for much of the time leading up to the event, so I coordinated bookings this year. We had 20 people registered for the weekend. During the week immediately prior to the event, I sent out final information to participant, including an updated Hotham Summit Loops document.
Friday 31 March 2023
I headed off from home, stopping in Traralgon to add some fuel to the vehicle. I drove east to Bairnsdale, where I filled the tank. I next headed to Bruthen and then up the Great Alpine Road. During the drive, I managed to chase three SOTA activators.
I turned off to head up Collins Road, climbing up into a Park and towards a summit. I swung left onto Mt Elizabeth Road, and finally onto the unnamed track leading to the summit.
Mount Elizabeth No 2 VK3/VG-074 938 m 6 points Mount Elizabeth Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2149
I ended up parking on the track just below the summit, with a nearby tree providing a branch to support the doublet. I set up on the track, using a folding table to support the IC-7300, with a battery on the ground. This was to be a little more comfortable than many activations. I decided on the IC-7300, as I had heard a Spot come through as I started to set up.
First in the log was a Park to Park (P2P) contact: Simon VK6/VA7BIX in Shark Bay Marine Park VKFF-1453 and VK-0042 on 20 m SSB. I dropped down to 40 m SSB and worked nine stations in about seven minutes. I then tried 40 m CW, working eight stations, including VI10VKFF in VKFF-0999. I then tried 17 m CW, making five contacts. I finally jumped back to 40 m SSB to work David VK5DG in VKFF-0959. Time was moving on and I still had a long drive to reach Hotham, so I packed up.
I headed down and north, to exit on Mt Elizabeth Rd. I soon found a tree across the road, so I backtracked and took Fainting Range Track to reach Old Coach Road, Buchan-Ensay Rd and finally back to the Great Alpine Road. It was then simply a drive north to Omeo and then up to Mount Hotham. There were many sections of road with 40 km/hr speed restrictions for “roadworks”, with little evidence of actual works in most places, but plenty of evidence of damaged payment follow the very wet period in the later parts of 2022. Roadworks were in progress shortly before the road drops down to the vicinity of the Cobungra Station entrances. During the drive, I managed to hunt four more SOTA Activators.
On arrival at Hotham, I found Brian and friends busy erecting a squid pole and some antennas, lashed to the balcony of the lodge. After some quick “hellos”, I unpacked my gear and began getting organised.
Participants were coming in across the late afternoon and early evening. Some were still out activating summits on their approach, so some chasing was in order, facilitated by Brian’s set up at the end of the dining area.
We eventually departed for “The General” for dinner, before returning to the lodge for some initial discussions on possible groups and route for Saturday. We heard some bad news, with one car having left the road descending off Mount Porepunkah. The vehicle was damaged, but the two occupants were okay, though somewhat shaken. People eventually began heading off to their rooms for the night.
Saturday 1 April 2023
The plans for the day finally crystallised. Brian was heading down to Myrtleford to offer assistance to the pair with the vehicle mishap. Two vehicles were planning to attempt the Blue Rag loop, a group heading towards Omeo and then the long Dargo Loop starting with Mount Phipps, and three were joining me to start at Mount Sarah with the idea to work our way back to Mount Murray before a dash back to Hotham for dinner. Most other vehicles were planning to be at Mount Blue Rag for a planned VK/EU/JA SOTA DX attempt late in the evening local time.
I headed down to the start of Twins Track and began the slow traverse westwards. We drove past The Twins, VK3/VE-023 and Mount Murray, then past the parking spot for VK3.VE-245. We reached Selwyn Creek Road and descend to the SW, before climbing up Tea Tree Range Road, then south to our first summit for the day.
Mount Sarah VK3/VE-032 1552 m 10 points Mount Sarah Natural Features Scenic Reserve VK-5265
We arrived at the summit shortly before UTC midnight. We were in the cloud, with a stiff breeze making it very cold. We all jumped out and did our best to work the other groups out on summits using handheld radios. We also worked on erecting a HF station. After UTC midnight, we again tried to work each of the other summits in the region on VHF, plus several HF contacts were made. We finally packed up and headed back down the hill to the north, the least rough exit. We stopped at about 20 m below the summit, with the other three jumping out. I drove down until well outside the AZ and worked the others, then I walked back up the hill as the others walked down. Once we had swapped positions, we worked each other again, giving us both an activation of the summit and a chase. We quickly decided on a calculated risk: there was an 8 point summit to the south which had not yet been activated.
I swung south. After a couple of bumpy bits negotiating some trees across the track, we reached Mount Hart Track. This track was okay, but was suffering from encroachment from the regrowth beside the track. We made it to the junction with Hart Spur Track and continued, with the track obviously less travelled. There was regrowth in the middle of track in places, but it was still okay to traverse. Finally, we popped into an opening, with the trig point to the left of us.
Mount Hart VK3/VT-082 1271 m 8 points Not previously activated.
During the approach, my passengers agreed that I could be the first to activate the summit. Bill, Gerard and Alan grabbed handheld radios and walked back down the track. I quickly had a line over a tree branch in preparation for hauling up a HF antenna. I soon had a call on VHF and I worked 4 callsigns. Summit qualified. The others walked back up to the summit and we erected a HF station, plus worked others on other summits.
Not only had I activated a new Unique summit, it was a first activation. Thanks to my colleagues for allowing me the privilege. The summit took me to a new landmark Activator score. No special certificate this time, but another milestone reached.
We packed up and retraced our route back to north of Mount Sarah, Checking time, we decided against attempting Mount Selwyn, as we wanted to be on Mount Murray for the DX session. So I headed back down Tea Tree Range Road and back up Selwyn Creek Road, then took Great Dividing Range Track. We soon ran into the ear of a convoy of Landcruisers towing Track Trailer TVans. They were slow. We were patient. The last guy pulled slightly over when we reached the junction of Montana Track. I quickly explained that were were heading east and managed to turn the corner to climb steeply towards our target summit, after engaging low range. As we looked back, we saw that the convoy was at least eight vehicles towing TVans. Had we gone to Mt Selwyn, we would have most likely met the group whilst trying to traverse the narrow Great Dividing Range Track, causing significant delay.
VK3/VE-066 1331 m 8 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
Given the relatively late hour, we decided on a “quick and dirty” activation. We used UHF and handhelds, with people walking out of the activation zone (AZ) and working those still inside the AZ. We soon all had four valid contacts from inside the AZ, plus all had chased the summit. We quickly jumped back in the vehicle and headed for Mount Murray via Twins Jeep Track.
VK3/VE-025 Mount Murray 1640m 10 points Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
We reached the parking area and parked the vehicle. We spread out and each set up a HF station. Four HF stations in close proximity was likely to cause issues unless we were careful…. Fortunately, the summit has a large AZ. I moved the vehicle to the eastern edge of the parking area and set up, using a signpost to support a squid pole. I also set up a folding table and chair, with the IC-7300 as the transceiver.
I decided to try Search and Pounce. SOTAwatch had many Spots, so I went looking to see if I could hear any of the stations. If so, I tried calling. 20 m was very busy, with at least two of the others on my summit usually on the band – making things tough. I persevered for some time before giving up and dropping down to 40 m to work several VK stations. We had agreed that we needed to close at around 0700UTC so that we would make it back to Hotham and The General in time to order dinner. I started packing up when the VHF Handheld sprung to life. Some of the group aver at Mount Blue Rag were looking for contacts to qualify the summit. I made several contacts and then packed my gear in the vehicle. Alan and Bill were also packing up and loaded their gear. Gerard rang, asking when we should close. I told him “Now!” We were soon all packed and loaded, and started the trip back to Hotham.
In addition to two contacts with Andrew and Allen on Mount Loch VK3/VE-005 (2 m FM), and Andrew on White Timber VK3/VE-060, I worked three ZL Activators, one OK, and one DL on 20 m, plus two JAs on 10 m, plus four of the group on Mount Blue Rag on 2 m FM.
We arrived at The General at around 1930 local, plenty of time before the kitchen closed at 2000. The other groups arrived soon after and we all enjoyed our meal.
We returned to the lodge and discussed plans for Sunday before retiring for the night, perhaps a little later than was prudent. But tonight was one hour longer, with the change from Daylight Savings Time back to Eastern Standard Time.
This trip was for a family wedding – my nephew was finally formalising his partnership with his life partner. The wedding was scheduled for Saturday afternoon and evening at Buffalo River, south of Myrtleford.
Friday17 March 2023
I departed from home and headed to Dargo, then up the Dargo High Plains Road to reach the Great Alpine Road. I began the descent towards Harrietville before swinging off to the start of Gunns Track at the Hotham Alpine Resort entry station. I then drove up the steep track in 4WD to reach the first target for the day.
Mount Sugarloaf (Barry Mountains) VK3/HVE-015 1505 m
The summit is easy to find – simply drive up Gunns Track until you reach the high point just before the track swings hard left and begins to descend. I pulled off to the side of the track and soon set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the doublet. I set up the radio beside a folding camp chair.
I spotted myself and soon had my first 40 m SSB contacts in the log. I then swapped to 40 m CW to hunt Gerard VK2IO/p on 40 m CW from VKFF-1340. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked only one more station. I then went to 20 m CW and worked two stations. I returned to 40 m CW and worked three stations. I then tried 30 m CW, working one station. I then closed down, having been on the summit for about 45 minutes.
I packed up and returned back to the Great Alpine Road, then descended to Harrietville. I decided to continue the trip to Wodonga and to decide if I could attempt a Park activation closer to the final destination.
There are several route variations which would take me to Wodonga. I decided to simply head north, then through Beechworth. I swung south towards Yackandanadah at the major roundabout and found the small track opposite 433 Yackandandah Road to enter the target Park.
Commissioners Creek Streamside Reserve VK-4335
A bike trail runs through this Reserve, thus providing an alternate means of access. This Park had not yet been activated since it was it was added to POTA. I parked about half way between the road and the bike trail and soon had the doublet in the air. First in the log was David VK5DG in VKFF-0795 on 40 m SSB. I then moved up the band and spotted myself.
I worked another six stations fairly quickly, before working a station on AM to build numbers. I then had a couple of contacts on the same frequency on CW. With no further calls on SSB, I moved down the band to the CW portion, where I made four contacts before I decided to close, with 24 contacts logged. I packed up and resumed the trip to Wodonga.
Saturday 18 March 2023
Saturday morning was largely filled with some family errands. But I managed to squeeze in a quick activation of another new POTA park.
Wodonga Bushland Reserve VK-5938
This is a small reserve of about 4.8 ha located just south of a nominal Stock Route which runs along the south boundary of Bandiana South Army Base. Access is easy from the eastern end of Jeffries Rise, Wodonga. I parked near the locked gate and open pedestrian gate at the southeastern most point on Jeffries Rise. I grabbed the SOTA pack and walked into the Reserve and set up beside a fence under some shade.
I soon had the doublet in the air and called on 40 m SSB. I worked only two stations prior to UTC midnight, but ended up with 16 in the log, including three Park to Park contacts. Things were rather slow, taking an hour for the 16 contacts. I packed up and headed off to prepare for the trip to the wedding.
Sunday 19 March 2023
As I was preparing to head home, I considered my trip options. I decided to head down the Hume Highway to Benalla and to then consider my options.
I exitted the Highway at the Mansfield turn-off, then headed north to reach Goomalibee Road, and then took Basin Road to reach the target Park.
Goomalibee Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2097
I was soon set up inside the Reserve. I had activated this Park previously, but need more contacts to reach the WWFF quota of 44.
My first contact was on 20 m SSB, working Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/HU-065. I then moved to 40 m SSB. The usual Sunday morning WIA News broadcasts were in progress. I found a clear frequency and spotted. I made only three contacts before a contester started calling just above me, making my frequency difficult to use. I moved down two kilohertz and resumed calling. I worked another 10 contacts before UTC midnight. The next contact was Peter VK3ZPF in VKFF-0971. I worked another 12 stations before I decided to close, with a total of 27 in the log. It looked as if rain was getting closer and I still had a long drive ahead.
I headed back along my access route and then south to Mansfield, where I stopped to grab some lunch. It was then south to Jamieson to turn east onto Jamieson-Licola Road. The road rapidly becomes sinuous as it climbs up the Great Dividing Range via a series of spurs and gullies.
I was a little surprised when I saw a patch of green appear ahead on the vehicle mapping system. As I got closer, I could see the Reserve on my small navigation unit and could read the name of the Reserve. It was then that I recalled the Reserve. I proceeded until well inside the Reserve and pulled over to park where safe but where I had mobile service. I soon had the Park number and decided to try for a quick activation using the vehicle radio and mobile 40 m whip.
Jamieson River/Deep Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2116
I was parked just east of the Grannies Flat Track. My first contact was with the special event callsign VI10VKFF in VKFF-0873, operated by Paul VK5PAS. I moved to a clear frequency and started calling. I soon had 16 in the log, most on SSB, with one AM and one CW contact. I had spent around 30 minutes , so decided to get moving. No pack up this time! I later learnt that this was the first activation of the Park.
I continued up the road, reaching the high point of the road, only a couple of metres lower than the summit proper of the next target.
Mount Skene VK3/VE-031 1565 m 10 points Mount Skene Natural Features Scenic Reserve VK-5266
I parked on the edge of the road at the high point, opposite the summit sign. The summit trig is about 300 m away, in an area of thick snow gums. I set up using an old sign post to support a squid pole and simply sat on the ground nearby.
Whilst I have activated the summit previously, this was the first occasion on which it was a joint SOTA/POTA activation, with the Reserve having been added to POTA earlier in the year.
First in the log was again Paul VK5PAS operating VI10VKFF in VKFF-0873. I again moved up the band, working David VK3TUN in VKFF-0885. I then found a clear frequency and began calling. I soon had another seven contacts in the log. I then jumped to 20 m SSB to work Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-3042. I then tried 40 m CW, making one contact before another Spot came through. Off to 20 m to work Mark VK4SMA in VKFF-2878. I then tried 20 m CW, making five contacts. 17 m CW yielded seven contacts, including Texas and Japan. I then returned to 40 m SSB to hunt Dan VK3NDG in VKFF-1877 and Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-3042. With 27 contacts in the log, I closed and packed up.
I proceeded south-east to Licola and then on to home. It had been a long drive, with the stops to play radio helpful to break the drive. I covered around 450 km, with a large proportion of that on winding, unsealed mountain roads.
I decided to head to Werribee for the WARC Hamfest, despite some misgivings after news reports on Saturday about major traffic disruptions associated with the Avalon Air Show. I headed off from home and travelled in to Melbourne and across the Westgate Bridge. I decided to make a diversion and turned south to reach Williamstown, making my way around to Bayview Street. I parked near the High School and loaded up with the SOTA rucksack.
Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2339
I had not previously activated this Park. I walked to the Park boundary and followed a rough walking track. I spied a Parks Victoria sign and walked across to it, near the water’s edge. I decided that the sign would be suitable support a squid pole for the antenna and was soon set up.
I spotted myself and started calling on 40 m CW. My first caller was Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1361, whom I could not hear on SSB before I spotted. I worked two more stations before I gave up after 15 minutes of calling. I switched to 20 m CW, working four stations in a 15 minutes session of calling. I tried 80m CW with no replies. The same result occurred on 17 m CW. I returned to 40 m, this time on SSB, working Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1361, but had no other responses to my calls. I eventually went to 80 m SSB for two contacts before closing with 10 contacts in the log. I had been on air for an hour – conditions were tough.
I packed up and walked back to the car and then headed to Werribee.
I arrived quite late at the Hamfest, held at the Italian Sports Club of Werribee. The crowd was starting to thin out and the door prizes had been drawn. I walked around looking at the remaining offerings, stopping to chat to friends. My only purchase on the day was a 2 m/70 cm dual band whip. I was invited to join a group of amateurs who were planning to have lunch in the Club.
The Club was busy, with several functions occurring. The meal was good and plenty of discussions occurred whilst waiting for the food. I paid and departed shortly after, as time was moving on.
I headed to the Werribee Open Range Zoo and into the northeastern corner of the car park, comfortably inside the activation zone of the Werribee silo.
Werribee silo VK-WRB3
Silos are often electrically noisy sites, so I usually try to find a spot within the activation zone which is likely to have less noise. My examination of the satellite imagery suggested that the Zoo car park might fit the bill. Fortunately, there were few vehicles in the far corner from the main entrance. The only issue was that the trees in the car park are relatively young. I managed to find a spot where I could place a line aver a branch at about 7 m. I set up the doublet away from where people might walk and set up the station on the vehicle tailgate.
I heard activity as soon as I turned on the radio and soon had Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-2005 in the log on 40 m SSB. I then spotted myself on ParksnPeaks just up the band. 25 minutes of calling produced only four more contacts! I spotted on 20 m SSB, but had no callers in 15 minutes of calling. 10 m SSB was also fruitless. I returned to 40 m SSB and made only another three contacts in 15 minutes of calling. It was now after 1600 local time, so I closed and packed up. I then headed for home, with a slow trip into Melbourne and out through the southeastern suburbs.
Another day of tough HF propagation. Thanks to those who called.
I then headed for home, with a slow trip into Melbourne and out through the southeastern suburbs.
The VKFF team promote activity on several notable days during each year. One such day is the World Wildlife Day.
I was busy at home during the morning, but headed out after lunch. The trip was a little interrupted, with a couple of stops in Traralgon.
I then headed to Rosedale and then towards Willung, before heading into the SW corner of my first target Park for the day.
Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758
I set up under a gum tree beside South Boundary Track. First in the log was Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-2784 on 40 m SSB. There were no other Spots posted at the time. I moved to CW on 40 m and spotted myself. The first caller was Gerard VK2IO/p, several minutes after my spot. Then a spot appeared for David VK5DG in 40 m SSB, so I moved back to SSB to work David in VKFF-0919. I found a clear frequency and made two more contacts in 15 minutes of calling. I tried 20 m SSB, making four contacts over about 15 minutes, including Alan VK1AO in VKFF-1410. I spent about 10 minutes calling on 20 m CW with only a single contact. I returned to 40 m SSB to work Chris VK3PAT in VKFF-0619. Conditions were tough: 11 contacts in 45 minutes – very slow going.
I decided to quit and move to the next planned Park. I quickly packed up and moved south and east into the NW corner of the next Park. The transition between sites was about 7 km.
Stradbroke Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2443
The plan was to hopefully make a dent in the tally of contacts from this Park using the Club callsign for the Team category, which requires 200 contacts as the “quorum”. I had activated the Park with the Club callsign earlier in January, with a decent tally of 123 contacts, so at least another 77 were needed. Given the conditions experienced in the previous Park, I was not particularly hopeful! But at least I would add some more contacts to the tally.
I selected an operating site and parked. I set up the gear and then checked the Spots, only 30 minutes since the last contact in the previous Park. I soon had John VK3BJE in VKFF-0788 in the log on 40 m SSB, but I had used my own callsign. So I asked John to change the callsign to the Club callsign VK3BEZ. I see from John’s blog that he actually logged both callsigns. I found a clear frequency, spotted and started calling. Conditions were still a little slow, but were better than half an hour earlier. It took an hour to make 30 contacts, including a short session on 80 m SSB. I worked several Park to Park contacts (P2P): VK3PAT in VKFF-0619, VK3ZPF in VKFF-2219 (40 and 80 m) and Alan VK1AO in VKFF-1410. Peter VK3ZPF was only using a mobile whip for a quick activation on his way home from work.
I then swapped to playing digital modes. 20 FT8 produced seven contacts over 10 minutes: DF, SP, SV, RT, LY, UR and PD. Fifteen minutes of calling CQ on 10 m FT8 produced no replies, despite seeing several stations decoded, with no responses to my replies to CQ calls. Just for fun, I swapped to FT4 and managed to work 3D2USU very quickly. 12 m FT8 produced one JA contact. 15 m FT8 produced two JA stations. I swapped to 17 m FT8 and worked 3W7M. I was in the process of changing to my own callsign to attempt a contact with 3W7M (which would be a new country) when several other stations started calling me. I resumed operating as VK3BEZ and worked eight stations in 15 minutes: ON, CT, F and five JAs. It was now 0830Z and I was aware that 40 m FT8 would likely to be very busy. I changed to 40 m FT8 and there were plenty of signals on the segment. Hoping for some quick contacts with locals, I changed to FT4 and spotted. 10 minutes of calling produced six contacts, including ZL, JA, K. I next tried 80 m FT8, with four contacts in 10 minutes.
I returned to 40 m SSB, working 10 stations in 10 minutes. I was mentioning to John VK4TJ that I should QSY to 20 m CW to try to contact Bill VK4FW in VKFF-0680, as I had only just noticed his spot, when Bill called me. Another P2P in the log. We also worked on AM, together with three other calls on AM. We swapped back to SSB and Bill and I shared the frequency for the next 30 minutes, taking turns to call CQ after we had both worked any callers. I finally decided that it was time to close, as I was running out of twilight and had not brought a torch with me. I quickly worked Bill on 40 m CW and closed.
I quickly packed up the station and headed back to the main road and then home. The activation ended up with 92 contacts, so I had passed the quorum of a total of 200 contacts for the Park. Another Park qualified for the year for the Club category.
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