Shepparton Hamfest visit, with some other radio fun

After an absence due to COVID, the Shepparton Hamfest was scheduled to return on the second Sunday of September. The event represented an opportunity to catch up with several friends, plus to arrange another visit to family in Wodonga. I was keeping an eye of the weather forecasts to determine my travel plans, finally deciding to depart home on the Friday morning.

During the week prior to departure, I learnt that two of the regions of Victoria which I had surveyed for HEMA had been added to the official list of summits – Northeast Victoria and East Gippsland. These two regions added approximately 300 summits to the HEMA list in VK3. I noted that the West Gippsland region was missing and inquired of the VK3 coordinator. That list was soon relocated and is currently being processed. There are now many more sites to visit to play radio!

Friday 9 September 2022

The weather forecast was not great, but I headed off anyway. I decided on the eastern route, via Bairnsdale, Omeo, Mount Hotham, Bright and on to Wodonga. During the drive to Bairnsdale, I managed to work Gerald VK2HBG/p in two Parks from the mobile. Past Bruthen, I took the Great Alpine Road until I reached the junction with Playground Road, which marks the southern boundary of the Mount Elizabeth Nature Conservation Reserve.

Peter Creek Road VK3/HVG-084 404 m First activation

I was lucky that the rain stopped as I was approaching the summit. The approach is simple: take Playground Road to Peter Creek Road, then climb up to the top of the first knoll. You are at the summit.

I quickly set up the station away from the car, spotted myself on ParksnPeaks.org and started calling on 40 m SSB. I soon had the summit qualified, making six contacts before spots of rain appeared. I closed down the station and quickly packed up.

I retraced my approach route to the Great Alpine Road and continued north. I made a stop at the Bakery in Swifts Creek to grab a late lunch and then continued north to Omeo, then headed across Mount Hotham. The traverse of Hotham was slow due to the speed limits and the thick cloud and rain.

Once I reached Bright, I explored a couple of approach options for nearby HEMA summits in the pine plantation. The first summit was blocked with a gate and signs advising logging operations in progress. The second summit I decided was not feasible due to steep and slippery tracks on the day. I then continued north to Beechworth and then headed east to approach the second HEMA summit for the day.

Twist Creek Road VK3/HVE-136 780 m First activation

This summit is located just north of Twist Creek Road, between Rawes Road and Erich Road. The summit is covered by pines. I decided to activate from the junction of Beilby Road and Erich Road, off the main road but well inside the Activation Zone (AZ). I kept the activation short and sweet, using the KX2 and the RHM8B whip antenna. It had been raining during the approach and I could hear an approaching thunderstorm, so I wanted a quick activation!

I soon had six contacts logged and the rain started again. I retreated to the car and packed up the gear. I then headed back to Beechworth and on to Wodonga.

Saturday 10 September 2022

First thing in the morning I need to undertake a couple of tasks in town. Once these tasks were completed, I headed out to activate a SOTA summit. I travelled through Yackandandah towards Dederang and around to Running Creek Road. I saw couple of lovely old vintage cars out for a run, with the driver and passengers well rugged up against the cold air and occasional showers.

I started up Mount Jack Track and was about 2 km up the track before I encountered a huge root ball and large fallen tree blocking the track. It was obvious that I could do nothing to get around the tree on the very steep slopes. I reversed back down the track for about 300 m to spot wide enough to complete a multi-point U turn. Once back on Running Creek Road, I headed west to Kancoona Gap, where the road changes name to Happy Valley Road. I saw some more vintage vehicles along the way. When I reached the junction with Rosewhite Track, I found several stopped vehicles, with two across the start of the track. One of the vintage vehicles had boiled and they were waiting for the cooling system to cool down. I explained that I wanted to travel up the track. The managed to push the vintage vehicle back enough for me to swing onto the track. I headed up the track, stopping a few times to clear several fallen branches from the track. I finally rejoined Mount Jack Track and headed north to the SOTA summit.

Mount Jack Range VK3/VE-090 1205 m 8 points + Winter bonus

I parked just north of the track junction near the summit and set up nearby.

My first contact was with James VK2TER in a new Park VKFF-3235 Mooney Mooney Aboriginal Area on 30 m CW. I then moved to 40 m CW and made 11 contacts. I moved to 40 m SSB and made another six contacts, including Summit to Summit contacts with VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-003 and Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VE-098. The whole activation was damp, as I was in thick cloud. When the drizzle started, I shut down, packed up and returned to the vehicle. I retraced my access route back to the bitumen, then headed east back to the Kiewa Valley Highway. I then headed north through Dederang and towards Kergunyah.

Kergunyah Silo VK-KRH3 First activation

Some weeks earlier, Peter VK3ZPF had emailed me asking if I could obtain a photo of what he believed would be a “new” silo at Kergunyah. I looked at the site and grabbed a screenshot from StreetView which was clear enough for Mark VK3OHM to add the new silo. There was a minor issue – the system reused the same Silo code as the now removed Korumburra South silo…..

The silo is just south of 3125 Kiewa Valley Highway Kergunyah. It is an old brick silo, amongst trees and sheds. After taking a photo, I looked for an activation site. I set up the ZS6BKW doublet with a line over a tree branch hooked up to the IC-706MKIIG in the car, parked off the edge of the road south of the silo site, near the edge of the activation zone.

The Kergunyah silo, hiding amongst the trees and farm sheds

First in the log was Warren VK3BYD on 40 m CW, from VKFF-1406 Batemans Marine Park. I moved to 40 m SSB and worked another 42 stations (including a CW contact with Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-005). A dozen of these occurred after I called in on the VK3SRC net frequency, having heard Joe operating as I was tuning the band. Thanks to Joe and the net members for letting me work you all, plus letting several others call me on the net frequency.

I then packed up and headed back to Wodonga.

Sunday 11 September 2022

I was underway slightly later than planned. I headed to Wangaratta and around to Wangandary Road, climbing up onto the Warby Range. Along the way, I had managed to work Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-004 on both CW and SSB. I could see plenty of water cascading down waterfalls on the eastern face of the range following the recent rains. I headed towards Wenhams Camp, parking the car in an opening near the high point of Booth Road NW of the summit of Mount Warby.

Mount Warby VK3/HVE-196 480 m First activation
Warby Ovens National Park VKFF-0742

I walked up the spur towards the summit to ensure that I was well inside the summit AZ. I was sure that my parking site was inside the AZ, but wanted to be sure that the activation was valid. I soon had the antenna up and the gear set up.

First in the log was Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-005 in VKFF-2505. I then worked another 15 stations before the callers dried up. I packed up and returned to the car. I headed north back out towards the bitumen, stopped and exercising the battery chainsaw to help clear a fallen tree from the road. I then headed west to Devenish and on to Shepparton, passing several silos en route.

I arrived at the Shepparton Hamfest about an hour after the doors opened to the public. After finding a parking spot, I walked though and paid the entry fee. The next 100 minutes were spent largely chatting with friends plus trying to get around to look at the items on sale. I made a couple of return trips to the car to work stations out in the field. I waited until after the door and raffle prizes were drawn and then made my way across to Mooroopna. I crossed the Goulburn River on Watt Road and turned onto Hattons Track and then onto a side track and found a spot to park.

Mooroopna silo VK-MRN3
Shepparton Regional Park VKFF-0976

A quick snap of the Mooroopna silos, taken while stopped at the traffic lights.

I soon had the ZS6BKW doublet in the air in inverted-V configuration and the IC-7300 set up on the tailgate of the Ranger.

My first contact was a Silo to Silo with Rob VK2VH at Meringur silo VK-MRR3 on 40 m SSB. I worked about 25 contacts before moving to CW. Soon after, Ross VK3BEL dropped by to say “Hello”. So the CW was interrupted for several minutes as I chatted with Ross and he checked out my setup. I worked several callers as Ross watched on. Ross left, leaving me to concentrate on the callers. 20 m SSB was next, yielding four contacts, followed by 20 m CW, which produced seven contacts. I chased a few other stations and ended the activation with 54 contacts in the log.

I packed up and headed back towards Wodonga, deciding to take essentially the route taken in the morning. I stopped whilst still transiting the Shepparton suburbs to work David VK3TUN in VKFF-2399.

The next stop was at the gate of a silo.

Pine Lodge silo VK-PNE3

The remaining activations were using the mobile system to minimise the loss of time. The routine became simple: park the car and turn it off. Open and then close the door to start the shutdown of the vehicle systems, enter the silo code into the logging system, find a clear frequency if needed and send a Spot, and then start calling CQ. Work all callers until there were no replies to my CQ calls, then start the journey to the next silo. Short and sharp was the order of the day, as it was well into the afternoon!

Pine Lodge silos.

I parked at the gate of the Pine Lodge silo. I spotted myself and started calling on 40 m SSB. I soon had eight callers in the log in about 10 minutes. I then resumed my trip. I headed back to the main road and drove to the railway crossing at Cosgrove and parked off the road.

Cosgrove silo VK-CSE3

Cosgrove silos.

My first contact occurred less than 15 minutes after the last contact at the previous silo. I worked eight stations in about seven minutes. When there were no more callers, I started up the vehicle and started to drive to the next stop, just less than six kilometres away.

Dookie silo VK-DKE3
Dookie 2 silo VK-DKI3

I parked outside the exit gate of the Dookie silo, well inside the AZ of both silos.

Dookie silos.

I activated the Dookie silo first, making eight contacts. With no further callers, I changed silo code, spotted and started calling from Dookie 2, working ten contacts. With no further responses, I started the vehicle and resumed the trip.

Dookie 2 silos.

Devenish silo VK-DVH3

Devenish silos.

I travelled just over 28 km to Devenish and parked. I walked across the road to take a photo and then started the activation. I worked nine stations in about six minutes. There were then no further callers, so I resumed the trip to Wodonga.

The trip was straight forward: back over the Warby Range and into Wangaratta, then onto the Hume Highway and NE to Wodonga.

Monday 12 September 2022

The day started with some domestic tasks. I then headed to Chiltern. The Bakery and most stores were closed. So I then headed to Beechworth to grab something for lunch, and then headed to Mount Pilot.

Mount Pilot VK3/HVE-186 530 m First activation
Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620

The car park at Mount Pilot is outside the AZ for the summit. I walked up the track until well inside the AZ and set up the station. I lugged the large battery and the IC-7300 up the hill.

I set up the station with a line of a tree branch to haul up the doublet. I decided to use the Club callsign VK3BEZ for the activation, adding a Park to the tally for the WWFF Team category.

I worked 22 stations on 40 m SSB and then chased Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-2019 again on CW. I tried 20 m SSB, 17 m SSB and CW, 30 m SSB and CW, making 25 contacts. I then worked Geoff VK3SQ on 80 m SSB before going to 40 m CW. I returned to 40 m SSB for a further spell before I received an SMS and moved to 20 m SSB to work Marty VK4KC. Overall, I made 71 contacts before I closed down, packed up and returned to the car. I then drove back to Wodonga.

Tuesday 13 September 2022

My first call was into a shop in Wodonga to pick up some items that I had returned for repair on Saturday. I then headed out to the target for the day.

Baranduda Range 720 m First activation
Baranduda Regional Park VKFF-0959

I approached via Bantik Track to reach the top of the range, then headed northeast along the range to reach the HEMA summit. I parked the car in a shallow drain to be off the track and set up the station nearby. Half of the antenna ran across the track, but was at least 6 m up at the track edge, so unlikely to be an issue for any passing vehicles.

I decided to again use VK3BEZ for the activation. I was set up just after 2330 UTC. The first contact was with VK2HQ in VKFF-3227 Cullunghutti Aboriginal Area, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p on VK2/CT-012 in VKFF-3199. I moved to a clear frequency, spotted myself and started calling. I moved down to 40 m CW to chase Gerard VK2IO/p again, only a few minutes before UTC midnight. I worked another 10 CW contacts before heading back to SSB to chase VK2IO/p, followed by VH2HQ & VK2BYF for Park to Park contacts on the new UTC day.

I found a clear frequency on 40 m SSB and worked another 22 stations. Next was three contacts on 80 m SSB. I then tried 17 m CW, only working Gerard VK2IO/p again. It was then down to 40 m SSB for a SOTA chase, then 20 m SSB followed by CW. I short stint on 15 m CW yielded two US regular Hunters. Back to 40 m SSB to chase another SOTA contact. I then pulled out the laptop and set up FT8. All booted up okay and I was soon working stations on 10 m FT8. An SMS exchange with Geoff VK3SQ resulted in contacts with him on several bands. A short stint on 30 m CW yielded three contacts. I then went to 40 m FT8, where I made 14 contacts. I went to 20 m FT8 for three contacts, and then to 20 m SSB for three more contacts, followed by three CW contacts. I then closed down and packed up.

As I was heading back to Bantik Track, I heard a Spot come through and soon worked Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VG-064 from the car, before descending down the track to the gate at the Park boundary. The activation yielded 102 contacts. Thanks to all the Hunters!

I headed back into to Wodonga for a family gathering for most of the rest of the afternoon.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

This was another transit day, heading back home. As usual, I planned to do some radio activity en route.

In my rush to depart, I neglected to top up the fuel in the vehicle. Not a major issue, with just under half a tank on the gauge. The thought was to perhaps add some fuel at Bright……

As I was driving through Bright there was lots of traffic. I forgot about the fuel, but did stop to grab some lunch for later. I travelled on to Harrietville to stop at a ski shop. I purchased a set of chains for the car so that I was legal, with chains that actually could fit the tyres on the car, as opposed to the chains for the smaller original tyres. Mind you, I have not fitted chains for many years, but you need to have chains aboard to enter all the Victoria ski resort areas.

The view north from the Great Alpine Road on the shoulder of Mount Hotham. The Razorback Ridge on the left running out to Mount Feathertop. On the right, the shoulder of Mount Loch and across to the Bogong High Plains and Mount Fainter.

I drove up over Mount Hotham and down to just short of Omeo, taking the Cassillis Road, then Birregun Road. Next, I headed up Zig Zag Track and onto Mount Phipps Track to my first summit for the day.

Mount Phipps VK3/VG-015 1536 m 10 points plus Winter bonus

I parked near the summit and set up nearby. I made 12 contacts on 40 m SSB, followed by two on 40 m CW and then two on 20 m CW. I packed up and resumed the drive, descending to the south to return to Birregun Road and on to the next summit, about 17 km to the south from Mt Phipps.

Mount Birregun VK3/VT-020 1363 m 8 points plus Winter bonus

I parked and set up the station just north of the summit proper, less than 5 metres vertical below the summit. First in the log was Dan VK3NDG using the VK3BEZ callsign from Moondarra State Park VKFF-0764. Dan had no phone coverage, so I was able to Spot him once he had found a clear frequency. Next were some more Park contacts: Joel VK2MOE in VKFF-0111, and Al VK7AN and Rod VK7HAM in VKFF-2906. Then a jump in frequency to chase Ken VK3KIM on VK3/VN-012, then up 5 kHz following a voice request to move “up 5”. I then moved to CW on 40 m, where I worked five stations. A short stint on 20 m CW yielded only one contact. I packed up and decided to head towards Dargo.

The next stop was about 11.5 km south.

VK3/VT-033 (no name) 1032 m 6 points

I parked the car and grabbed the SOTA pack. I climbed up the firebreak on the ridge line until I was well inside the AZ. I operated here with the KX2 and the RHM8B whip.

First in the log was a summit to summit with Ron VK3AFW on VK3/VN-012, on 40 m CW. I moved up the band a few kilohertz and spotted, working another five contacts on CW. I then moved to 40 m SSB to chase Greg VK1AI on VK1/AC-013. I then moved to a clear frequency and worked another eight contacts. I packed up and returned to the car. I continued south to the road junction below the next summit, just under 7 km away.

From the junction, I started up the small track towards the summit, but stopped a few hundred metres along as it was looking very overgrown. I retreated to the main road and then headed along Gidleys Track, then drove up the access track after engaging 4WD. I need to stop a few times to remove some fallen branches and negotiated some large spoon drains. I drove over the summit and did a U-turn at the helipad, returning to park close to the summit. I soon had the station set up nearby, this time using the doublet.

Mount Steve VK3/VT-036 987 m 6 points

I spotted myself on 40 m CW and soon had eight contacts in the log. I then moved to 40 m SSB and spotted. I again worked Dan using VK3BEZ from VKFF-0764, followed by 11 further contacts. It was now 0620 UTC, so I packed up and retraced my access route.

Once back at Jones Road, I continued to Dargo. The first few kilometres were slow going, with the road closed to all vehicles other than “light 4WD”. Several sections of road had been repaired and had a rough surface. I reached Dargo and found that the Store closed at 1600 local, almost an hour before I arrived. I checked the estimated Distance To Empty (DTE) and decided that I could make it to at least Stratford.

I headed towards Bairnsdale on the Dargo Road until I reached Glenaladale, then took Beverleys Road, Stockdale Road and Briagalong Road to reach Stratford. The DTE suggested plenty of fuel to make Sale, so I headed down the Princes Highway and filled the tank in Sale, with an indicated DTE of under 110 km.

From there, it was a simple job of driving home.

Thanks to all who called me during the activations.

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A winter weekend of activations in Parks as a Rover

I strongly support the WWFF and VKFF Award programs. The programs were generally very well run and have excellent support in VK, thanks to Paul VK5PAS and the other members of the VKFF admin team. My recommendation is for anyone considering activating Park entities within VK is to Spot yourself using the excellent parksnpeaks.org website using the VKFF reference details. The site has a good number of Hunters / Chasers who regularly monitor the site.

I have noticed a small number of new Park activators spotting themselves only on the pota.app website. My impression is that this site is good if you wish to attract attention from overseas Hunters and/or to monitor Spots from overseas Activators.

Most VK Activators spot on parksnpeaks.org, with some also spotting on pota.app as a secondary site.

Having made the above comments, I see nothing wrong with also submitting my activation logs to both the WWFF and POTA programs. Alan VK2MET has prepared the excellent mParks Converter program to perform the translation of VK WWFF logs to POTA format and references. POTA now allows self upload of Activator logs, once you are registered and logged into the website. VKFF logs still need to be forwarded to the local state-based team member to be uploaded to the WWFF website database. By uploading to both programs, you can gain certificates from both programs with minimal additional effort.

One advantage of the POTA program is that it offers some different awards. I have previously been awarded certificates for the RaDAR Awards – Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio. I had qualified for all levels of the RaDAR Awards other than the Leopard Award, for activating 10 sites in Parks with 24 hours.

POTA also conducts a quarterly Support Your Parks events, with the Summer event in 2022 being a Plaque Event.

The 2022 Plaque Event was scheduled for July 16 & 17 UTC. The weather for the weekend was not looking great in VK3, in the middle of our winter. I decided to head out, with the goal of at least qualifying for the Leopard Award.

Saturday 16 July 2022

I headed out after a leisurely start to the day: the POTA event started at 0000 UTC Saturday, so there was little need to be out early. Ross VK3NRB decided to join me for the weekend. We were in my closest Park ready to start operating just after 1000 local time (0000 UTC).

The routine for the day was simple: drive to the Park and set up the gear. Spot ourselves and work as many callers as possible as quickly as we could. Pack up and drive to the next Park. Repeat.

The Saturday panned out in the following order:

Morwell National Park VKFF-0626
Mirboo North regional Park VKFF-1876
Koonwarra Flora Reserve VKFF-2350
Outtrim Cemetery Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2171
Wonthaggi Heathlands Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2235
Cape Patterson Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2063
Bunurong Marine National Park VKFF-0945
Screw Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2188
Tarwin Lower Flora Reserve VKFF-2447
Bald Hills Creek Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2259
Cape Liptrap Coastal Park VKFF-0745
Shallow Inlet Coastal and Marine Park VKFF-0749
New Zealand Hill Flora Reserve VKFF-2411
Corner Inlet Coastal and Marine Park VKFF-1768
Nooramunga Coastal and Marine Park VKFF-0748
Won Wron Flora Reserve VKFF-2488
Bruthen Flora Reserve VKFF-2282

We then headed back to my home for the night. We switched off the lights at about 0020 local time.

Looking across Bunurong Marine National Park

Sunday 17 July 2022

Despite a long day on Saturday, we were up reasonably early and headed out again to Traralgon South for the first Park of the day. A day was planned with a smaller number of Parks but with basically a similar mode of operation as yesterday. The weather decided to intervene, together with some tiredness on the behalf of the two operators.

Traralgon South Flora Reserve VKFF-2465
Traralgon South Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2464
Callignee Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2287
Gormandale Flora Reserve VKFF-2325
Merrimans Creek Flora Reserve VKFF-2384
Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758

Looking across the Latrobe Valley from Merrimans Creek Flora Reserve

We activated the first three Parks before UTC midnight, so we had a total of 20 Parks activated on Saturday UTC. We took a detour into Rosedale to buy some lunch before heading to Holey Plains State Park. We were starting to feel weary after we set up at Holey Hill. After we checked the weather radar, we decided that we would operate until before the approaching cold front arrived. We timed our closure well, with rain starting just as we started to drive away from our operating site.

Once we were back on the sealed road, we decided to call it a day and simply headed back home. The sky to the west was almost black, with the worst of the cold front rain yet to arrive. Ross grabbed his gear and drove back to his home, through the rain for the whole trip.

Our six Parks on Sunday (local time) saw me with 204 contacts in the log. I had driven just over 551 km for the weekend.

Results

After submitting my logs to POTA, I claimed both the Leopard Award (10 RaDAR transitions) and a new Lion Award (12 RaDAR transitions). Note that the RaDAR Awards require that each transition can only be used once.

POTA RaDAR Leopard Award certificate
POTA RaDAR Lion Award certificate

According to the POTA Results, I ended up with 663 Activator contacts, placing me 27th overall in the Most Contacts Activator category.
My 328 Hunter contacts earned me 10th place globally in the Most Contacts Hunter category, with Ross VK3NRB placing fourteenth (300).
In the Rover category, my 23 Parks gave me equal 7th place (with Ross VK3NRB). A good result, given that in the US, POTA has many 2-fer, 3-fer and 4-fer sites, so that careful choice of sites can give you 2, 3 or 4 Parks for a single activation. The top Rover activated an impressive 65 Parks.

The 2022 Plaque Event included IARU Region 1, 2 & 3 specific awards for the first time.
My 663 contacts gave me first place as an Activator for Region 3, with second place going to Naota JF7RJM (530), and third to Roly ZL1BQD (503). Ross VK3NRB claimed fourth place, with 431 contacts.
For the DX Region 3 Hunter award, I placed first, followed by Ross VK3NRB and Marty VK4KC (136).

Dan VK3NDG, Tony VK3YV and Ross VK3NRB all activated Holey Plains State Park using the Club callsign VK3BEZ, qualifying a Park for the Club category, where we placed twelfth with 104 contacts.

I anticipate that I will eventually receive the two Region 3 award plaques in the mail from the US.

Once again, thanks to all who worked both myself and Ross over the weekend.

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Two significant Awards received

6 June 2022

On Saturday morning last, I received a message from Marty VK4KC that his latest logs had been uploaded to the WWFF Logsearch database. This prompted me to log in to Logsearch and to check my tally of references hunted.

I soon had two new award applications submitted.

VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 2000

This award is for Hunters who have worked 2000 different VKFF references. The Honour Roll awards are made in increments of 25 references, with the initial award at 100 references worked.

The latest 25 references came in just under one month. The references were activated by eight Activators:

VK4KC – 14 references
VK2IO/p – 5 references
VK2BYF – 1 reference
VK2MET – 1 reference
VK3BYD/p – 1 reference
VK3DL – 1 reference
VK4EMP – 1 reference
VK4FDJL – 1 reference

Thanks to all Activators who have been out in the field, but especially to those who gave me new references.

The VKFF Hunter Award (Honour Roll) 2000 certificate.

The certificate features another photograph from Paul VK5PAS.

WWFF Hunter Certificate 2044

The WWFF Hunter certificates are awarded in increments of 100 references worked once the Hunter has reached 144 references. The latest 100 references were worked over the period 20December 2021 to 3 June 2022. Most of the references were in VK, with six ZL references, one DL reference and one new JA reference.

Again, thanks to all the Activators.

The WWFF Hunter certificate 2044.

Special thanks go to all the Administration team members whose work support the WWFF programs.

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A trip to Wodonga for a youngster’s birthday

Friday 27 May 2022

I headed off from home mid-morning to drive to Wodonga. The weather forecast was a bit average, with rain and cool temperatures, so I headed west towards Melbourne and then north from Nilma to cut across the hills towards Healesville.

I spent a few minutes near The Bump to receive a position fix from the morning radiosonde, which had landed in tall timber country and well away from any tracks. I recorded the position and resumed the trip. I first stopped in Powelltown to work Compton VK2HRX on a SOTA summit, before resuming the journey. The next stop was at Healesville to grab some lunch, and I then travelled over the Black Spur on the Maroondah Highway. I stopped south of Buxton for a quick Park activation.

Buxton Silver Gum Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2058

This park is adjacent to the highway. If you set up adjacent to the western edge of the car park, you are safely inside the Reserve boundary. I choose to operate from the car, using the mobile whip – not as efficient as a bigger antenna, but good enough to make some contacts, I hoped! I have visited this site previously on two occasions and needed 13 more contacts to reach the WWFF quota of 44 contacts.

I started calling on 20 m, as the whip was set for that band. I made four contacts including an Italian station who had a good signal for the time of the day (0411Z). I moved to 40 m SSB and managed to work another 11 contacts, so I had a valid activation for VKFF plus now have a total of more than 44 for WWFF qualification. I resumed the trip north.

With the weather being cool and showers, I simply drove north to Benalla and then up the Hume Highway to Wodonga.

Saturday 28 May 2022

I headed off on Saturday morning to head to Henty in the southern Riverina. I drove past three silos on my way north, as I had other targets in mind and I had activated the silos last year.

Doodle Comer Swamp Nature Reserve VKFF-1925

This park is located just southwestern of Henty. I had activated it in late June 2019 near its SE corner, working 26 stations. This time I explored the eastern boundary from the northern end, finding an old gate which was not locked. I drove into the reserve and parked near a large old eucalypt. I soon had a line over a tree branch and had the ZS6BKW centre up at about 14 m above ground, then connected up to the radio in the vehicle – it was cool outside, so I elected to operate from inside the car.

I was set up, spotted myself, and started calling at 2352 on 40 m SSB, a bit late in the UTC day to attempt to get 10 contacts before UTC midnight! But I soon had 15 in the log, as the calls came quickly. The calls continued to come rapidly after UTC midnight – I worked another 20 stations in only 10 minutes. With a pause in callers, I swapped to 12 m CW and managed to chase Geoff ZL3GA on ZL3/CB-574. I moved to 40 m CW and worked another seven calls. 30 m CW yielded another six stations. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked another nine stations. With no further callers to CQ calls and 58 calls in the log, I closed down and pulled down the station.

I drove north into Henty and made my way around to the western side of the main silos. After taking a photo, I looked for a spot to activate, ending up about 540 m to the north, just south of the showgrounds. I was at least 100 m from the nearest power lines. I soon had the ZS6BKW in the air and hooked up to the radio in the car.

Henty silo VK-HNY2

On switching on the radio, I found Mal VK3OAK in VKFF-2369 Limeburners Lagoon Flora and Fauna Reserve on the 40 m SSB Parks focus frequency. After working Mal, I heard a Spot for a SOTA station. I moved down the band to work Compton VK2HRX on VK4/SE-176. On tuning back up the band, I moved a little higher and spotted myself. I worked 28 stations over 30 minutes, including David VK3GP/p in VKFF-0766. I moved up to 15 m SSB and worked one station only. I then packed up.

Henty silos from the west
Henty silos from the SE corner. Rather simple silo art.

I headed into town to find some lunch before heading off to the west to the next silo.

Munyabla silo VK-MNB2

The silo is located off Munyabla Road just west of Munyabla Munyaplah Road.

Munyabla silos

The activation started by working Scott VK4MGL in Cania Gorge National Park VKFF-0074 on 40 m and 20 m SSB. I worked 40 stations in 35 minutes. I packed up and headed for the next site.

Pleasant Hills silo VK-PLS2

This silo is adjacent to the old railway station and is easily viewed from County Boundary Road. After taking a photo, I drove to the top of the rise north of the silo and set up on the edge of the road reserve.

The Pleasant Hills silos

First in the log was Mal VK3OAK in VKFF-0982 on 40 m SSB. I moved up the band and spotted myself. I worked 32 stations over the next 20 minutes, including David VK3GP/p in VKFF-0766. I then dropped down the band to work Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VE-021. I then packed up to move to the next site.

I headed west before turning south to return towards Albury.

Urangeline East silos VK-URT2

There is a set of silos under a barn style structure at the start of the track into the old railway station, with the main silos at the old station site. I set up just off Forcks Road, directly south of the main silos. I soon had the doublet in the air and connected to the radio.

Urangeline East silos from the operating site

First in the log was James VK2BM/p in VKFF-1973 on 40 m SSB, followed by Chris VK1CT/p on 20 m CW from VKFF-0837. I returned to the 40 m SSB frequency I had used earlier, spotted and started calling. I worked another 28 stations over 20 minutes, including Ross VK7ALH at Grassy Hut Tier VK7/NC-022 and Fred VK4FE in VKFF-0367. The afternoon was cooling off rapidly as the sun headed towards the horizon. I packed up and resumed the trip towards Albury.

The last three silos are on the abandoned Rand Branch rail line, along with another two silos which I did not have the available time to activate.

I had not looked closely at the Silos mapping, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw another silo complex on the horizon as I approached Burrumbuttock.

Burrumbuttock silos VK-BRC2

This silo sits on the abandoned Corowa Branch line. It is located 4.6 km north of the township.

Given that it was very late in the day and the gates were firmly locked, I set up on the edge of the driveway access on the road reserve. I used the same set up as at all the earlier sites that day.

Burrumbuttock silos

I found the 40 m SSB Parks focus frequency clear, so I spotted and started calling. I worked 23 stations in about 13 minutes, including David VK3GP/p in VKFF-0766. There were no further callers so I announced that I was closing. A spot came through for a SOTA station, so I changed bands and started listening. About 5 minutes later, I had JA5QJX on JA/NN-161 in the log on 17 m CW. I then packed up the station and headed south to Albury and back to Wodonga.

It was a big day, with a total of 271 contacts logged. Thanks to all who worked me.

Sunday 29 May 2022

I had a family gathering mid-afternoon, but was free in the morning. I headed out to a nearby summit located in a Park.

Mount Baranduda VK3/VE-189
Baranduda Range Regional Park VKFF-0959

I entered the Park via Bantik Track. The climb is reasonably steep up to the top of the range and then undulates westward until you reach the area near the transmission towers on the summit. I set up just south of the smaller tower.

I again set up the ZS6BKW doublet with the apex held aloft with a line over a tree branch. The radio gear was set up on a small table a couple of metres from the car. I was a little different today, setting up the IC-7300 with an LDG ATU, powered with a 100 Ah LiPO4 battery.

I noticed that a group of ZL stations were on a SOTA summit some time before I was set up, so I started on 20 m SSB. I soon has six ZL contacts in the log, including four S2S contacts with ZL1/AK-020. I then worked two VK4 stations. I then moved to 40 m SSB to hunt Scott VK4MGL in VKFF-1661 Tolderodden Conservation Park. I moved up the band to above the WIA broadcast signals and spotted myself. I then worked 18 stations in 14 minutes….. When there were no further callers, I changed to 40 m CW, where I worked eight stations in around 15 minutes. I returned to 20 m SSB and worked only three further stations.

I returned to 40 m SSB and spotted. I worked 23 stations over following 35 minutes or so, including one CW contact. Amongst those worked were Brad VK2NMZ in VKFF-1340 and Rod VK1ACE in VKFF-0061 on VK2/ST-015.

Callers were becoming harder to find. I returned to 20 m SSB and worked three more calls. I then went to 40 m CW to hunt Rod VK1ACE for a CW contact. A period on 20 m CW yielded a Swedish station, plus a real speedster who was far to fast for me to decode. A new spot took me back to 40 m CW to work Chris VK1CT/p in VKFF-0838. I then moved to 40 m SSB to work Rob VK2VH/p at VK-MRN2 silo. I moved down to the SOTA focus frequency on 40 m and spotted, aware that a friend would be coming up in the near future from his first SOTA activation. I worked two stations before Dan came up. I worked Dan VK3NDG on VK3/VT-042 and allowed him to take over the frequency. I listened briefly and was also able to work a ZL who came up and who was confused when Dan replied. They sorted it out – Dan logged him and I then jumped in to make a contact. I then closed and started to pack up, feeling very cold after three hours of activating. I do not normally activate for that length of time, but I wanted to work Dan on his first SOTA outing. I had 73 contacts in the log.

Thanks for all the contacts!

I was safely back in Wodonga with time to spare to attend the birthday gathering for a two year old.

Tuesday 31 May 2022

After having spent Monday doing shopping with Mum, I decided to head for home on Tuesday morning. The weather forecast was not looking promising, with severe weather warnings in place and conditions likely to worsen late in the day, with heavier conditions overnight and on Wednesday. Snow was forecast down to about 1200 m, lowering during the day. The choice was simple – a run back down the Hume Highway.

The sky to the west was dark and gloomy. I headed south and heard a Spot after I had passed Euroa. I was aware of a Park near the highway near Longwood, so took the exit to Longwood East and around to Faithfull Road. I had looked at the mapping in the area previously and it appeared that the reserve was adjacent to the southern side of the road. I spotted a small but rough track that entered the reserve and parked the car about 50 m inside the park boundary.

Big Hill Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2046

I quickly tuned the radio to the band and frequency for the spot, simply using the mobile whip on the car. I soon had Compton VK2HRX in the log from VK4/SE-024 on 20 m SSB. I moved down the band a little and spotted and soon had another two contacts in the log. I then changed the mobile whip configuration to 40 m, found the Parks focus frequency clear and spotted. I worked another 13 contacts, including another contact with Compton.

Another SOTA spot came through. Once I had worked the voice callers, I dropped down the band to CW. I could only just hear the SOTA station. Given that the skies were mostly blue at that time, I decided to quickly erect the doublet. About 12 minutes later the doublet was up and I was listening to the SOTA station. I soon had Paul VK3HN on VK3/VN-030 in the log on 40 m CW. I then returned to 40 m SSB and worked another four stations before I started to pack up. Just as the antenna was back in the car, another SOTA spot came through! Same summit, but a different operator. I listened carefully and soon worked David VK3KR/p on VK3/VN-030 from the mobile whip – not great reports, but in the log. I had 22 contacts in the log, comfortably qualifying the park for VKFF. This was a new Park for me, and had only been activated once previously. Although the activation was a spur of the moment decision, it was a good break from a long drive on a cold, windy and occasionally very wet day.

I then started the car and carefully drove back out onto the main road and worked my way back to the Hume Highway.

I continued towards Melbourne, with the weather warnings continuing. I stopped briefly to grab some food along the way and then worked my way around the Ring Road to Greensborough and then headed south, east and south on EastLink, and then home via the Monash Freeway and Princes Highway. During the drive, I stopped to work Compton VK2HRX on VK4/SE-117 on 20 m SSB.

Thanks for the contacts during the day.

The evening news had reports of significant snow falls to low levels and damaging winds – it was not a day to venture into the hills!

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Two Gippsland HEMA summits

2 April 2022

Saturday 2 April 2022 was promoted as International HEMA Day. Despite the poor weather outlook locally, I decided to head out to activate a HEMA summit in West Gippsland. I have submitted a list of candidate summits in the eastern third of the state to the local HEMA Coordinator, but these are still in the process of being checked. Given the weather, I decided against a longer drive to reach summits which I had not yet activated and to revisit two summits.

This report is a little delayed, as I was awaiting receipt of an Award which has finally arrived.

I drove to Warragul and then south to Strzelecki, then east on Ross and Witherdons Road. I parked opposite a small stock yard and set up the station nearby.

Ross Hill VK3/HVC-075 407 m

The summit is on private property, but the area near the stockyards is inside the summit Activation Zone (up to 25 m vertical down from the summit). There is space on the west side of the road to park and set up the station.

An early task was to erect a fly sheet to keep off the light rain. This was strung between my squid pole lashed to a fence post and a nearby pine tree. The antenna ran parallel with the fence. I had the gear on a folding table under the fly. There was some moderate wind as well, so some care was required to keep everything dry. I used the KX2 for the activation.

My first contact was with Rik VK3EQ on VK3/VE-073 on 80 m SSB. Rik had rung as I was on the road. I advised that I was heading to a HEMA summit and Rik agreed to wait until I arrived and set up. I organised the gear set up a little better before checking the Spots and then waited for a chance to work Chris VK1CT/p on VK1/AC-042 in VKFF-0834 on 40 m CW.

I worked a Gippsland local on 80 m SSB and then worked Bob VK2BYF in VKFF-0298 before I found a clear frequency on 40 m SSB and spotted. I had a steady run of callers, including Peter VK3TKK on VK3/HVC-039. I moved to 80 m SSB and worked Nick VK3ANL and another contact with Peter VK3TKK. I then moved to 40 m SSB to work Bob VK2BYF, now in VKFF-0062. A period of calling on 40 m CW produced only one contact, with the same result on 80 m CW. My last contact was with Peter VK3ZPF at the Merrimu silo VK-MRZ3 near Bacchus Marsh on 80 m SSB. I then packed up the gear and headed home.

Later in the afternoon I drove towards Mirboo North and around to the Allambee summit.

Allambee VK3/HVC-074 406 m

This summit is close to the junction of Old Thorpdale Road and Stephens Road, Mirboo North. I parked and set up close to the junction, on one of the plantation access tracks. I soon had the doublet centre high in the air, at around 12 m, thanks to a good throw with the throw line.

For this activation, I set up the IC-7300 on the folding table, powered by an 100 Ah LiFePO4 battery.

First in the log was Gerald VK2HBG at the Urana silo VK-URA2 on 40 m SSB, followed by Ian VK1DI. I then moved to 20 m SSB to again work Gerald at Urana silo. I moved up the band and spotted myself. Ian VK5IS was next in the log, followed by Manu EA1GIB. With no callers straight after Manu, I moved down the band to listen for another HEMA station. I listened as Mike 2E0YYY/p on G/HSP-020 chatted with Ernie VK3DET. After Mike started calling CQ, I tried several times to make contact. Mike eventually heard me, but it took several minutes to confirm reports and exchange references as the QSB caused significant fading. But we eventually completed the contact, the first H2H summit to summit contact between VK3 and G. I then returned to 40 m SSB and worked another four stations before I decided to close down and pack up before the light faded completely. I then headed back home.

Some email exchanges followed over the coming days and the HEMA Coordinator Rob G7LAS confirmed that the contact with Mike was VK3 – G H2H contact. Rob subsequently sent a certificate via email to confirm the HEMA Eagle Award.

The HEMA Eagle Award certificate.

Thanks to all who made contact during the day. Thanks especially to Mike 2E0YYY for his perseverance in completing our contact. And finally, thanks to Rob for the Award.

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VKFF 2021 yearly Awards

I recently received two awards from the VKFF National Representative. Each year, the VKFF team recognises the top 10 Activators and Hunters for the previous calendar year.

In 2021, there was a high number of activations, despite the various lockdowns and restrictions due to the COVID19 pandemic.

2021 Top Activator Award

I was not expecting to be near the top of the list for this award, given the very tough restrictions in place in Victoria for much of the year. I activated 55 references with at least 10 contacts from each reference, making me equal fifth in the top 10 Activators. Gerard VK2IO was way out in front with 274 references activated, helped by the fact that he managed to escape NSW just before lockdowns began, and subsequently spent several weeks activating Parks in Queensland.

My certificate for being the fifth placed Top Activator in VKFF for 2021. The certificate features an image of a Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo taken by Paul VK5PAS.

2021 Top Hunter Award

Given the extensive lockdowns in Victoria, there was plenty of time available to be in the radio shack during 2021. As a result, I was able to make contact with those Activators who were able to be out and about in the field. I managed to Hunt 912 different VKFF references during the year.

My certificate or being the Top VKFF Hunter in 2021. The photo shows a White Faced Heron. Photo by Paul VK5PAS.

Thanks to all the Activators and Hunters who participated during 2021. Special thnaks go to the volunteers who make up the VKFF Admin Team and especially to National Coordinator Paul VK5PAS.

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Easter Sunday 2022

17 April 2022

I was a little slow off the mark on Easter Sunday. I did manage to work Gavin VK2YAK in VKFF-1910 as I was considering my options for the day. I was considering heading out later in the day for a SOTA summit located in a Park for a late afternoon activation. As I was enjoying a coffee, I decided to check on the progress of the morning radiosonde from Tullamarine. I have been a bit slow adjusting back from daylight savings time, so the balloon was close to its peak altitude. A few minutes later, the balloon burst. The predicted track had the landing area north of Nilma. I quickly decided to head out to attempt recovery and to then activate one of the local Parks.

I headed west and stopped outside Moe having heard a Spot sound on the mobile phone. I soon had the mobile whip up and managed to work Bernard VK2IB on VK2/RI-001 on 40 m CW, followed by Gavin VK2YAK, now in VKFF-1778. I tried to work Marty VK4KC, but he was having issues with his radio, so no contact was made. I resumed the trip and stopped at the Bakery in Yarragon to purchase something for lunch later. It was then back on the road to Nilma and then I headed north and worked my way around to near the last reported location of the radiosonde – well down in a valley in Buln Buln East. Approaching a junction, I noticed that my TTGo receiver was starting to receive signals. One route option was a no-go, with machinery working on the road – really an entrance road to a property. I swung north and stopped well up the hill. I switched off the car so that my phone could connect to the TTGo and soon had a position fix on the ‘sonde. Looking across the valley, I believed that I could see the reflector. I quickly looked at Google Maps to ascertain the likely property from the boundaries. I was soon heading back down to the road junction, noting that a typical farm utility vehicle was also parked on the access road. I parked outside the gate and walked up towards the two men talking near the excavator.

I explained myself to the older gentleman, the property owner. I soon had permission to access the property and gave a commitment to retrieve all the bits of the balloon remnants and the ‘sonde. I retraced my route back up the road to some stock yards and parked. Vehicle access was not an option, as most tracks and the paddocks were affected by 4 km of trenching – the farmer was attempting to lay 4 km of water pipes before the rain expected that night. I walked down into the valley and up the other side, finding open gates almost on the direct route to the ‘sonde. I soon had the ‘sonde, the reflector and the balloon remnants and retraced my route back to the car.

The radiosonde under the magenta arrow, with the RADAR reflector above the blue arrow.

I then headed off to my target Park, returning to Old Sale Road and making my way around to Beards Track.

Sweetwater Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2200

I made my way up a fire trail to its high point above Beards Track, just inside the Park boundary. This spot has mobile phone coverage. The area had recently been subject of a fuel reduction burn, so the scrub was gone. I soon had the antenna in the air, with the apex at around 11 m. One side of the doublet was across the track, but well in the air so as to not cause an issue for any passing vehicle. There were several motorbikes and a few 4WD vehicle who travelled past me during the activation, creating noise and dust – such is life!

I set up using the tailgate as a table and was soon listening to Gavin VK2YAK working stations on 40 m SSB. Gavin was the first in my log for the activation. I moved up the band and spotted. Some idiot started interfering by calling with nonsense incomplete callsigns and talking rubbish. I persevered for several minutes before moving down the band, with 11 contacts already in the log. After about an hour, I had 34 in the log. I moved to 40 m CW and made nine contacts. I moved back up to 40 m SSB to hunt Ian VK1DI/2 in VKFF-2009. I moved up the band a little, spotted myself and made another eight contacts. I next tried 15 m SSB, but made only a single contact with a JA Hunter. I returned to 40 m SSB to hunt Paul VK2PCT in VKFF-0558. I again moved up the band on 40 m, making another five contacts. With 60 in the log and no further callers, I was about to close when I heard a SOTA spot. I soon had JS1UEH/1 on JA/IB-023 in the log on 10 m CW.

I closed and packed up. I was considering activating Bull Beef Creek Nature Conservation Reserve (NCR), which was not far away. As I proceeded east, I came into a wide band of smoke from planned fuel reduction burns to the north of Sweetwater Creek NCR. Given the wind direction, it was likely to be smoke in the planned operating location, so I abandoned the thoughts of an activation of Bull Beef Creek NCR today. I continued east. As I was approaching the area north of Moe, I had cleared the smoke, so decided at the last minute to head to another nearby Park. I swung north towards Erica, then east on Roberts Road, which marks the southern boundary of my next Park. I was soon at a spot used last year, just inside the boundary, but here was some odour due to a dead animal nearby. The smell was bearable, so I quickly set up the station.

Moondarra State Park VKFF-0764

My first contact in the new Park was a German SOTA station – DL3EC/p on DL/EW-059, on 20 m SSB. I wound the IC-7300 up to full power to make the contact. I then moved to 40 m SSB and spotted myself. I soon had a large dog pile of callers. Even with the dog pile option on the logging app, it was hard to capture them all in any one attempt. I steadily worked my way through the callers. Things finally started to slow down. I had not moved from my initial frequency and had 48 contacts in the log in less than 41 minutes! Part way through, I noticed that I had forgotten to wind the transmit power back down a little – I usually activate Parks at around 30 or 40 watts, but this activation was done with 100 W. I had no issues with my 100 Ah LiFePO4 battery. I announced that I was closing and then went to 20 m SSB to try to work a Parks station. LY2BIS/p in LYFF-0312 was a consistent 53 – 54 with me, but was not hearing me well enough for the contact. I closed down and packed up whilst I still had a little natural light.

I headed back to the main road and then drove home.

Thanks to all who worked me during the day.

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A day on the Yarra – Latrobe divide

10 April 2022

I decided to head out after waking up. I quickly recorded the references needed for the planned trip, but I failed to remember to post Alerts.

The initial drive was to Yarragon to stop at the bakery to purchase something for both breakfast and lunch later. I noticed a Spot from VK3ZPF, who was on air much earlier than his Alert from his first summit. By time I had the radio gear running, Peter was on 20 m, with it highly unlikely that I would be able to make contact, given the distance involved. I continued to drive towards Neerim South and stopped in Crossover Regional Park.

Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965

My route took me past this park. I pulled into the Park and parked the car. I soon joined the queue of callers and waited my turn to call Peter VK3ZPF on 40 m SSB. I soon had a contact in the log with the Cathedral Range State Park VKFF-0755 and Mount Sugarloaf VK3/VN-011. I moved up the band to find a clear frequency, spotted myself and worked another 11 stations on 40 m SSB so that I had the Park qualified for VKFF, simply using the mobile station and a 40 m whip.

I resumed my trip, continuing north to Noojee, then north on Loch Valley Road and then took Loch River Road and Lock Extension Road around to Radford Road. I then headed south on Boundary Track, which has big, solid gates for seasonal road closure – from 1 May to the end of November.

HEMA VK3/HVC-025 (unnamed) Not previously activated

I reached the desired logging track to find it has been rehabilitated, with a log across start of the track and a couple of deep trenches across the track. I loaded up the SOTA pack and walked up the track into Activation Zone (AZ).

HEMA has the summit height as 879 m, but the official Victorian mapping has the summit as 853 m. Using the topo mapping GPS app on my phone, I was less than 20 m vertical below the summit, well inside the AZ. An approach to the actual summit would require a climb through very thick regenerating mountain ash. This summit was a SOTA summit – VK3/VT-085 – until I noted that the summit lacked prominence to the north. The summit was retired from SOTA on 1 September 2021. I had previously activated the summit for SOTA.

I soon had the station set up and made eight contacts on 40 m SSB plus one SOTA contact on 40 m CW, so had the summit qualified for HEMA. I packed up and returned to car.

I then headed north to Whitelaw Track, then roughly east along the range dividing the Yarra and Latrobe catchments to to reach Mount Horsfall via Whitelaw Track and Forty Mile Break. These tracks are subject to winter Seasonal Closure, from 1 May to 30 November, greatly reducing the time available to easily access both Mount Horsfall and the summit VK3/HVC-011 without very long walks.

Mount Horsfall VK3/VT-028 1131 m 6 points
Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-0556

I decided to set up west of the summit and north of the track, less than 10 m below the summit and also inside the National Park boundary.

My first contact was on 40 m SSB, where I worked Col VK2VAR using the Club callsign VK2HQ from Tapitallee Nature Reserve VKFF-2734. I moved down in frequency and spotted myself. I worked 23 stations, including Peter VK3ZPF, now at Archers Lookout VK3/VC-038 and also in VKFF-0556. I moved to 40 m CW and worked three stations. 20 m CW yielded seven stations. 20 m SSB produced eight contacts, including Neil VK4HNS in VKFF-0179 and Peter VK3ZPF. I heard another Spot come through and soon worked Peter VK3ZPF again, this time on 15 m SSB. Further calls on a clear frequency on 15 m SSB brought no responses. I then moved to 10 m CW, working Akihiro JI3BAP/3 on HA/OS-003 for another S2S. My next contact was again Peter VK3ZPF on 10 m SSB. I moved up the band and spotted, but received no replies in over 20 minutes of calling. I next moved to 30 m SSB, where I made five contacts. I returned to 40 m SSB, where I made another 13 contacts, plus one more CW contact. I had a total of 54 contacts in the log. I closed down and finally had some late lunch before packing up.

I continued roughly east around to the AZ of next HEMA summit.

HEMA VK3/HVC-011 “1098 m” Not previously activated

Careful inspection of the official Victorian mapping shows that this summit location is incorrect – the HEMA location is at the highest spot height, but there is an area just to the NE surrounded by an 1100 m contour. I set up and activated at highest point, well inside the AZ but higher than the summit location on HEMA – the saddle between the HEMA location and my site is above 1080 m, so all is valid, being well inside the 25 m vertical activation zone requirement.

The area around the HEMA summit. HEMA has the summit at the 1098 m spot height. I activated at the blue cross. The saddle between to official location and my site is above 1080 m, so all is valid. Thanks to MapshareVictoria for the mapping.

I had one major issue here – mobile telephone coverage was poor and the phone was unable to connect to the internet. (Note to self, revise the procedure required to send an SMS Spot to the ParksnPeaks website!) I spent several minutes calling on 7.144 MHZ SSB before a Park regular answered my calls. Col VK2VAR had just arrived home and spotted me – many thanks, Col! The next 30 minutes yielded another 13 contacts. I packed up and started the long drive home via Tooronga Tanjil Link Road, Mount Baw Baw Tourist Road to Icy Creek, and then south-east to Hill End, Willow Grove, Moe and finally home. I stopped briefly en-route to work Adam VK2YK at Gepps Cross silo VK-GPS5.

I made a total of 89 contacts over the day – thanks to all who called.

During the drive home, I heard an SMS arrive on the ‘phone. It was Peter VK3ZPF extending his congratulations to me on reaching 5000 Activator points without Winter Bonus points. Thanks for bringing that to my attention Peter – I had not looked at my scores for some time.

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A new VKFF Hunter certificate

I have just received another VKFF Hunter Honour Roll Award certificate: 1975 VKFF references worked.

My VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1975 certificate. Looking across Cleland National Park, with the city of Adelaide in the background. Thanks Paul VK5PAS.

The latest 25 references have come thanks to 13 different Activators:
Ian VK1DI
Bob VK2BYF
Gerald VK2HBG (2)
Gavin VK2YAK (2)
Adam VK2YK
Tony VK3CAT
Tony VK3XV
Rob VK4AAC
Deryck VK4FDJL (3)
Bob VK4HRE (2)
Marty VK4KC (7)
John VK4MUD (2)
Tim VK5AV

The WWFF website shows that a total of 2099 of the 3131 references in the VKFF program have been activated, so I wave worked 94.1% of the activated references.

I usually try to work every Activator, even if I have worked a Park previously. Activators and Chasers have a symbiotic relationship – we need each other!

Thanks to all the other Activators for getting out there. Special thanks to the members of the VKFF administration team, and the WWFF team, for all their hard work for the program.

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A trip to Leongatha, with Silos

31 March 2022

I had my vehicle into a local mechanic several weeks ago, primarily to see if he could shed light on a series of warning lights which had started to appear. The mechanic did not solve the problem, but did identify the cause of a loud squeak in the front suspension. As a result, I spent some time on the ‘phone trying to make arrangements for the two issues in need of resolution.

The result was two days with bookings for repairs, both with delays. About two weeks after the original visit to the mechanic, the car was driven to a dealer in Maffra – the earliest service booking date that I could obtain. The long day was rewarded with a day out with Ross VK3NRB. Ross activated two silos and we both activated the two Glenmaggie VKFF references. Plus the fault was found and rectified – a faulty cable in a brake sensor wiring loom. The second day meant a trip to Leongatha at the end of the month, with the promise of a loan car being available.

Conditions were looking marginal: rain was expected overnight, clearing during the morning. Marty VK4KC was scheduled to activate some Parks in VK4. So I packed some radio gear, hoping to get to some South Gippsland Parks and to work Marty.

An early start for the drive to Leongatha saw some drizzly rain during the trip. I arrived at repair place only to be told that no loan car was available….. After some discussion, they started work on my vehicle almost immediately and had the job done in just over two hours. Fortunately, the job was covered by the after-market equipment supplier as a goodwill gesture, as the cause of the problem was well known. So the only cost to me was the time and fuel cost of the trip.

I considered my options for some radio fun, given that the wet weather might return. I decided on activating the three silos in Leongatha, as two of the silos had been added earlier in the year and had not yet been activated.

I undertook a short drive to take some photos of the silos and to inspect possible activation sites – not so easy as the three silos are all located on private property with limited public access options.

I ended up at a site just inside one of the “activation zone” boundaries for one silo, which had me inside the activation zones of all three silos. The downside was that I was simply parked on the edge of a road in a light industrial estate. I decided to work using the mobile setup – a mobile whip plus the IC-706MKIIG in the car.

Leongatha East VK-LNT3

This silo is an abandoned structure in a paddock north-east of the town. I had driven past the silo on my morning drive. The silo has openings on the western side, plus an old water tank on the silo roof.

The Leongatha East silo VK-LNT3.

I spotted myself on 40 m SSB. I called for a couple of minutes before my first reply came. Callers came in small groups with gaps. I worked 10 stations in around 15 minutes. I heard a spot for Marty, but could not hear him. I worked Ross VK3NRB on both 40 and 80 m before I moved to 20 m SSB. On 20 m I worked only two callsigns. I was still calling when another spot came through from Marty, so I quickly announced that I was changing bands and then changed the wander lead on the whip for 15 m. I soon had both Marty VK4KC and Deryck VK4FDJL in the log on 15 m SSB from VKFF-1467. I then spotted a little down the band and called for several minutes without replies. I decided to “move” to another silo. The “move” was simple – change the reference in the logging program and start using the new reference for contacts, as I was in the activation zone for all three silos.

Leongatha VK-LNH3

This silo has been activated previously, but this was my visit activation of the site. The silos are at a stock feed company.

The Leongatha silos VK-LNH3

My first contacts were again on 15 m: I called Marty and Deryck for contacts from the second silo. I again moved down the band, spotted and called for several minutes, but again had no replies. I next moved to 20 m, where I made four contacts. With no further callers, I moved to 40 m SSB. 40 m SSB produced eight contacts. I then tried 40 m CW, making three contacts. I dropped down to 80 m SSB for two contacts with a local amateur. I decided that it was again time to change silos.

Leongatha North VK-LNR3

The Leongatha North silos are at another stock feed supplier.

The street view of the Leongatha North silos VK-LNR3, with the main silos behind the trees.

I started the third silo activation on 40 m SSB, working nine contacts over 12 minutes. I worked two local callsigns on 80 m SSB before I moved to 20 m SSB, which yielded two more contacts. I then moved to 15 m SSB to join the queue waiting to work Marty and Deryck in VKFF-0134. 15 m conditions had dropped. I decided to move to another location, just inside the Activation Zone but where I could more easily erect a better antenna. I was back on air with the ZS6BKW doublet about 20 minutes later. I then managed to again work Marty and Deryck, now in VKFF-0675. I then returned to 40 m SSB, where I made a further 10 contacts. Amongst those worked on 40 m SSB was Peter VK3TKK at Laverton North silo, VK-LVH3, for an unexpected Silo to Silo contact. When there were no further callers, I decided to close down and pack up.

It had been a worthwhile morning, considering it was a midweek activation. I had a total of 62 contacts for the three silos.

I then simply had to drive back home – roughly one hour away.

Thanks to Marty and Deryck for the Park contacts, and thanks to all the others who worked me.

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