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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Road trip to the 2017 WIA AGM in Hahndorf – activations near Adelaide plus the AGM activities

Friday 19 May 2017

My hosts Paul VK5PAS and Marija VK5FMAZ both had to work, so I was free for the entire day. I decided to at least bag the two nearest SOTA summits. I set the vehicle GPS to take me to the first target and arrived without incident.

Mount Gawler VK5/SE-013 541 m 2 points

The summit trig is on private property, but there is a large activation zone. I set up just outside the boundary fence at a spot where I could see the trig through the trees. Just as I was about to start calling, the property owner drove up to the gate, heading into town to make some purchases. I said hello and introduced myself – Paul had offered to ring to arrange access right to the trig, but I had declined.

I started calling after spotting myself, and worked 9 stations on 40 m SSB. I then moved to 20 m SSB, working John ZL1BYZ and David VK5PL in the nearby Barossa Valley. A new Unique and Complete in the log.

I then set the GPS for Mount Lofty and had a pleasant drive through the Adelaide Hills.

Mount Lofty VK3/SE-005 727 m 4 points
Cleland Conservation Park VKFF-0778 5CP-042

Following advice from Paul, I found a spot in the car park and set up just off a walking track – away from most of the tourist traffic but well inside the AZ.

I spotted myself and started calling on 40 m SSB, with John VK2YW first in the log. In 25 minutes I worked 13 stations. On 20 m SSB, 15 minutes of calling yielded 9 stations. Next I tried 30 m, yielding another 8 callsigns. I tried calling on 2 m FM, but heard nothing. Several stations later indicated that they had heard me, but clearly my handheld was being swamped by the high level of signals from the nearby transmitter towers. Back to 40 m SSB for another 17 stations, yielding a total of 47 contacts, thus qualifying the Park for WWFF. A new Unique and Complete in the SOTA log.

Cleland_Lofty1

Mt Lofty setup

I packed up and made my way to the AGM venue to pick up my registration pack. As expected, I ran into many people that I knew. Therefore, it was not a simple short visit.

I headed back to Paul’s location and as I was approaching, received a message advising that Paul and some others were enjoying a ale in Hahndorf. Given the traffic in 5town I decided against returning to join the others and sat in the car reading the various materials in the registration pack.

Later in the afternoon, we all jumped in a vehicle to head to the Friday evening welcome function. Lots of people attended, so there was much discussion.

Saturday 20 May

The WIA AGM, Open Forum and Conference

The day started with yet another queue: signing in for the AGM and being ticked off on the attendance list.

The AGM was an interesting affair, with several individuals expressing various opinions. The vote to accept the Minutes of the previous AGM on Norfolk Island ended up being counted three times, with all three methods used having a clear majority to accept the Minutes.

The various awards were announced and handed to the recipients that were present. We then broke for morning tea.

After the tea break, the new Board members introduced themselves and delivered a presentation on how they intended to work managing the WIA over the coming year. Their first formal meeting was not scheduled until the following morning. At the end of the Forum, Doc VK5DOC launched his new book “Cellar dwellers on the go”. We then broke for lunch.

After lunch, we had a number of presentations on various amateur radio activities in South Australia. The Conference presentations went well (apart from occasional dropouts in the microwave link to Mount Lofty) and all speakers were well received.

We headed back to Mt Barker to freshen up before returning for the Conference Dinner, where we had a good evening and three presentations: The launch of the ParksnPeaks iOS app, Craig VK5CE talking about his IOTA exploits and finally a couple of brief videos from the launch of the Horus balloons at the 2012 AGM in Mildura. Some of the vision captured by the second balloon was used to assist in the creation of realistic special effects in the movie Gravity.

Sunday 21 May

We returned on Sunday morning to the Conference venue to gather prior to heading out into various nearby Parks. Although I had offered to take some people out, I had only one taker – Robert VK3DN. We headed off to Charleston Conservation Park, where we found David VK5PL already on site and set up. We had a brief chat with David and then headed off to the next closest Park, about 20 minutes away.

Porter Scrub Conservation Park VKFF-0787 5CP-189

We finally parked at the southern entry gate to the Park and set up beside the track about 50 m in from the gate. Robert assisted me in stringing out the dipole. I started tuning around on 40 m SSB. First in the log was Andrew VK1AD/2 on VK2/SM-027. Next up were Allen VK3ARH/5 and Chris VK5FR/p, both on VK5/SE-005 in VKFF-0778. There were plenty of Park to Park contacts, including some Park duplications with all the operators out in nearby Parks keen to make contact. Robert watched and listened for a little while and posted a picture of me operating to Facebook (I am not sure where…) before departing to assist in setting up for the afternoon’s activities.

In all I worked 15 different Parks and ended up with 47 contacts in the log.

I packed up and headed back to Hahndorf and made my way to the Hahndorf Oval, venue for the various afternoon activities.

There was plenty to view around the Oval. When I arrived, the Horus team were setting up the balloon for the afternoon’s launch. There was microwave gear at opposite ends of the Oval, plus Steve VK5SFA had a couple of his magnetic loop antennas set up. Inside the pavilion, there were several displays of various amateur activities, including some that had been discussed in the previous afternoon’s presentations.

Most people watched the Horus balloon launch and the fun then began as people attempted to make contact with VI5WOW through the cross-band repeater package in the balloon payload.

The Lions team began serving the BBQ dinner at around 1730. The food was basic but good. Lots more discussion occurred before we finally headed back to Mount Barker for the night.

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Road trip to the 2017 WIA AGM in Hahndorf – the trip to Adelaide

The WIA AGM was to be held in Hanhdorf in the Adelaide Hills on Saturday 20 May 2017. I was planning to attend, combining the trip with some Summit and Park activations.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

I headed off on Wednesday morning, with the weather forecast not looking promising. Neither was the space weather forecast. My basic plan was to get through to Ballarat and then consider options beyond. As I approached Ballarat, the sky was becoming darker grey. I decided on an easy option and continued on to Ararat and then south west to Moyston.

Point 599/Mt William Range VK3/VS-032 599 m 2 points
Grampians National Park VKFF-0213

From Moyston, I set the vehicle GPS for the junction of Yarram Park Road and Jimmys Creek Road, Mafeking. All was okay until getting close, with the direct route of Emmett Road having a Road Closed sign, so a minor diversion was required.

Having looked at the Google Earth images, the likely access route appeared to be via the unnamed track which heads off Jimmys Creek Road roughly 630 m east of the junction with Yarram Park Road. I headed carefully along the road and all was okay, with some overhanging branches and encroaching scrub in places. As the track started to climb, some large spoon drains were encountered and became more frequent. I eventually attained the top of the ridge and then turned left to head toward the summit.

About 100 m west from the desired parking spot, there was a tree across the track, with a tight diversion around. I parked here and walked the final short distance to set up close to the track bend, from which the track headed north with a steep descent. The track corner is above 580 m altitude, so well within the AZ, and still inside the National Park. The summit itself is on private property beyond the Park boundary.

The weather was threatening – it had been raining and it lokked as if more was to come. A quick activation was the result, with five contacts made in 5 minutes, with no close in contacts. After the fifth contact, the rain resumed, so it was time to quickly pack up and retreat. A new Unique and Complete in the log.

I followed the same route back to Jimmys Creek Road, and then headed west towards the Grampians Road (C216). It was then south to Victoria Valley Road and then travel around to Cavendish, then north west towards Balmoral before heading south on Dundas Gap Road.

Mount Dundas VK3/SE-045 459 m 1 point

Near the crest of the road, watch for Mt Dundas Road to the right. Travel up it and turn right to access the summit, which has significant RF infrastructure on top.

I quickly set up on 40 m ssb, and checked ParksnPeaks. First in the log was Paul VK5PAS operating VI5WOW in Mount George Conservation Park. I bagged a total of 8 contacts in 10 minutes before the rain started falling again, prompting another quick pack up and retreat to the car. A new Unique and Complete in the log.

I returned to the bitumen and headed SW to Coleraine, then basically west to Penola. There was not much open in the main street, so I dropped into the Prince of Wales Hotel, organised a motel room for the night and then dinner.

After dinner I made a call to arrange access to Mt Burr the following morning: The Summit information page indicated that approval was required from the local Broadcast Australia District Supervisor. I had made some email enquiries earlier in the week, so expected few issues. During my conversation with the appropriate person, I was also advised that approval from Forestry SA was recommended. I was given a contact number – a call to be made the following morning.

Thursday 18 May 2017

After packing the car, I headed down the street to call into the Bakery to grab some food. A little after 0830 local time, I called the ForestrySA number. A minor problem when the call dropped out, but contact was re-established shortly afterwoods. I spent some time explaining who I was to the local Ranger and discussing my plans to access Mt Burr. I was given verbal approval, plus an indication that the Ranger would meet me on the hill, as he was planning to be on-site at a similar time to myself.

Mount Burr VK5/SE-019 240 m 1 point

I had arranged to use the VI5WOW callsign for the activations today – Mt Burr and a planned later Park activation. After driving out to Mt Burr, I drove up to the summit and then retreated about half way down the access lane. I have added some additional notes to the summit page, as outlined below.

MtBurr

Looking up hill to the Mt Burr summit

I was just completing my fourth contact when the farmer and the Ranger drove up the access lane.

I had a long discussion with the Ranger, who then went up to the summit. He stopped again on his way back down, taking my details on the day and forwarded an approved application form later in the day via email.

The cleared & fenced area around the Mt Burr summit, plus the surrounding forests, are managed by ForestrySA. The surrounding pine forests are leased to forestry company OneFortyOne. There are several site leases on the summit, including Broadcast Australia. As noted elsewhere for this summit, the top of the summit is RF hot. There is an access lane to the summit area from the bottom gate, which has signs noting that you must be authorised to enter beyond the gate.

The cleared area surrounding the access lane is leased to a farmer to graze sheep.

I set up and operated from the edge of the access lane way, about half way between the summit and the access gate – well inside the AZ. To operate in this area, technically one needs approval from ForestrySA. You can apply on-line for a “Forest Access Permit” – see below.

To quote from the email I received from the local Ranger after the activation:

ForestrySA now has an online permit application form on our website at: http://www.forestrysa.com.au

Once the page has loaded, drag your mouse over the Recreation tab, then click Green Triangle.

Please have a read through the page as it has important information regarding your visit.

The page has information on general access to both ForestrySA’s Native Forest Reserves, and also Plantation areas managed by OneFortyOne Plantations.

Most activities do not require a written permit, but those that do are mainly for plantation areas, and include those such as Horse riding, Caving, or Christmas tree collection.

The page has links to electronic permits, please fill out the form electronically, stating what you wish to use the permit for, save a copy onto your desktop and email through the completed application to conservationandrecreation@forestrysa.com.au

We will approve the application and forward by return email.

Both the Bluff summit and Mt. Burr summit are ForestrySA properties, so the application form & Green Triangle Forest Access Permit ForestrySA, should be completed for those sites.”

The “Activity” on the form was noted as “Radio communications exercise”.

All wishing to activate Mt Burr are strongly encouraged to complete and submit an application for access to the site at least a few working days prior to your planned activation. You are unlikely to have any issues if you have the appropriate permit!

The Ranger was friendly and extremely helpful.

Despite the interruptions to discuss matters with the Ranger, the activation was a success, but with only 7 contacts made. A new Unique and Complete in the log.

I headed back to the main road, and then west to Millicent, where I stopped to grab some tourist brochures and a map.

I then headed north to Robe to buy some lunch, then headed back to Old Naracoorte Road.

Lake Hawdon South Conservation Park VKFF- VKFF-1045 5CP-110

Whilst in Robe, I quickly checked ParksnPeaks: it appears that this Park had not yet been activated. There are several other Parks in the area, but I decided to activate this one for a little while.

Travelling along Old Naracoorte Road, I was looking for a small entrance way to a farm gate which is located adjacent to the northern boundary of the Park. I parked the vehicle here and climbed the fence to set up just inside the Park boundary.

The Park appears to be partially old grazing land, but also very swampy ground.

I worked 10 stations on 40 m SSB over about 25 minutes of calling, before switching to 80 m SSB to give some VK5 stations a chance to work the Park. The move yielded only John VK5BJE and Paul VK5PAS/m. I then went to 20 m to work another 8 stations, including one JA, before returning to 40 m for another 4 contacts before I closed, just over an hour after starting calling. A total of 24 contacts in the log, thus well qualified for VKFF.

I packed up and headed east and north, making my way to Woolmit Road.

Kungari Conservation Park VKFF-1044 5CP-106

This was another Park which had not yet been activated. I found the track that enters the Park, together with the locked gate at the Park boundary with a very new looking sign just beyond. I climbed the fence and set up near the sign.

Kungari

The Kungari Conservation Park sign

First in the log was Liz VK2XSE/5 in VKFF-0778 on 40 m SSB. In about an hour and 10 minutes I worked 31 stations on 40 m. I switched to 20 m, working Rick VK4RF. With no further calls, I tried 30 m SSB, again working Rick VK4RF plus Cliff VK2NP. I returned to 40 m to work another 4 stations, and then tried 80 m for another 5 calls in the log. With 45 in the log, I closed down as the rain spots were getting heavier.

I headed east to the Princes Highway and then made my way north, with the rain becoming heavier. I stopped at Meningie for some dinner, and then headed for Mount Barker for the night.

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2 summits north of Heyfield

Friday 12 May 2017

The weather forecast was good, but the day would be cool. The electricity supplier was due to being undertaking works near home, so I was scheduled to be without power for most of the day. It left only one obvious decision: head for the hills.

From home I headed to Heyfield and then north to Coongulla. It was then a matter of navigating the network of tracks to get to the junction of Ben Cruachan Road and Avon Track and then on up Ben Cruachan Road to the end of the road.

Ben Cruachan VK3/VT-042 836 m 4 points

This summit had only been activated once previously by Wayne VK3WAM, using CW only. It would be in demand as a new Unique for many Chasers. Unfortunately, I had not worked Wayne, so this activation was simply a new Unique for me as an Activator.

Wayne noted that Ben Cruachan Road appears to traverse private property. Prior to leaving home I checked Forest Explorer for access details and road restrictions: it appears that the road can be traversed by the public.

After the junction with Avon Track, the road becomes narrower and rougher. 4WD was preferred, with higher clearance required in a couple of spots. There are a couple of tight switchbacks as you near the top, and then a good sized car park with a rustic picnic table built from local timber. Only about 30 metres or so beyond the end of the road is the summit trig and what appears to be the remains of an old rock cairn, with a viewing compass.

BCrauchanViewN

View north from Ben Cruachan summit

I set up at the picnic table, well inside the AZ. First in the log was Ian VK5IS, after I had tried calling Mitch VK3XDM/p on Mt McKay VK3/VE-007 – I could hear Mitch but it was not reciprocal. After working Ian, I placed the power amplifier in circuit and managed to be heard by Mitch for a S2S. With Mitch was Perrin VK3XPT/p. Several of the regular mid-week Chasers were worked, including John ZL1BYZ on 40 m. I then switched to 20 m, to again work John at a slightly stronger level, followed by John VK6NU and Fred VK44FE. With no further callers, I shut down and headed back toward Coongulla.

Once back at the junction of Geoghegans Rd and Hodges Rd, I headed east and around to Huggetts Road and on to the picnic area at Mount Hedrick car park.

Mount HedrickVK3/VT-069 459 m 1 point

Opposite the car park is the start of a reasonably well-defined walking track.

HedrickStart

Start of the walking track

The walking track is later joined by another track which starts a little further south off Huggetts Road which appears to have plenty of motor bike traffic – perhaps it was a good idea to be attempting the walk late on a week day afternoon!

The sign was correct – some steep and rocky sections were encountered. The summit itself is obscured by thick scrub – I could not see a trig or other marker. I continued on to the north of the summit to a rocky area and set up there – less than 10 metres vertical below the true summit.

This is another rare summit, activated previously by Wayne before he went to Ben Cruachan, again CW only.

Ian VK5CZ was first in the log this time, followed by VK5IS and ZL1BYZ. I had 8 in the log on 40 m within 10 minutes. I switched to 20 m and was called by Pit YO7MPD followed by Rick VK4RF. Also worked on 20 m were Ralph KP4RV and Damiano IZ7UNJ. With no further responses to CQs on 20, I switched back to 40 m to work another 9 stations before closing about an hour after I arrived.A total of 22 contacts were made.

I headed back down and followed the motor bike tracks down to a point where the 2 tracks almost meet again, requiring only a few metres walk to get back onto the walking track.

Once back at the car, it was a simply matter to head south, following “my nose” to get back to the bitumen and to then head for home, arriving after power had been restored and then spending some time resetting various clocks!

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