The week prior to the 2018 edition of the VKFF Activity Weekend had been moderately busy, partly because Paul VK5PAS and Marija VK5FMAZ had been travelling from VK5 across various locations in VK3. As a result, some time was spent keeping an eye on the spots on ParksnPeaks in an attempt to work them each time they conducted an activation. I managed to one or both in 20 activators across the week, with the majority of the contacts made on 80 m due to the lack of NVIS on 40 m. There were a few others out during the week to chase, so the log gained a few entries.
Saturday 24 October
I chased from home early on Saturday, in between a few domestic tasks and finalising the plan for Saturday afternoon. The weather forecast was not looking good, with a high chance of rain. It was dry but overcast as I prepared to depart. I was away from home a little after UTC rollover and headed west to Nilma, then north to Neerim South and then around to Whites Corner and on to Bennies Creek Road. I then onto New Turkey Spur Road to start the winding climb up onto the range. I then turned into Federal Road and drove to the car park for a quick look around prior to returning to close to the saddle in the road a couple of hundred metres north.
Ada Tall Trees Reserve VKFF-2253
The Ada Tall Trees Reserve is about 1.1 km wide and 300 deep at its widest, covering just over 14 hectares of predominantly old growth eucalypt forest in the region west of Noojee, in an area that was extensively logged in the past. Most of the reserve is around Island Creek in the headwaters of the Ada River catchment. The Ada River drains into the Latrobe River to the south. Maps show that Federal Road continues south of the carpark for the Reserve, but that road is closed to traffic. Most approach the car park by using Big Creek Road. Adjacent to the car park are a sheltered picnic area and toilets.
The Ada Tree is a giant Mountain Ash estimated to be at least 300 years old. The walk is through Myrtle Beech rainforest, with sassafras and soft tree fern, to reach the Ada Tree, about 3.2 kilometres from the car park. The Ada Tree is estimated to be about 76 m tall, with a circumference of 15.7 metres at shoulder height. It can be viewed from a viewing platform, built to protect the base of the tree from further impacts from visitor foot traffic.
A Parks activator needs to take care: mapping suggests that the car park and picnic area may be just outside the declared Reserve boundary.
The Park has been activated only once previously, by Peter VK3ZPF. I missed Peter on that occasion. I guessed that there may be some demand for the Park by Hunters.
Given that the last thirty minutes of my approach drive had been in the rain, I decided to set up beside the road close to the saddle in the road just to the north of the car park, well inside the boundary. I found a spot where I could park safely and that had a convenient tree branch to toss a line over to haul up the antenna centre. It was very wet with rain showers spaced by persistent drizzle in between showers. I decided to use the radio in the car, with an external inverted V link dipole. That way I would be out of the rain with short excursions from the vehicle to change antenna configuration.
There was no mobile phone signal, so I was unable to spot myself. I turned on the radio, starting on 40 m SSB. Tuning around the usual centre of activity revealed Les VK5KLV/p in VKFF-0920, together with Steve VK5MSD. I tuned around the band to find John VK5FLEA/p in VKFF-0910, and a then I found Rob VK2QR/3 in VKFF-2132. Moved up from Rob a little and several minutes of calling were required for the next contact – Andy VK5LA, who was kind enough to post a spot for me. The next 15 minutes produced several contacts, but then the rate of callers declined. Ionospheric conditions appeared to be poor, with lots of calling required to make further contacts. After about 30 minutes of operating, I decided to spend some time searching around the band before switching to 80 m. When things are this slow, you really appreciate the Voice Memory function available in the IC-7000: I have a “CQ Parks” call recorded. Touch the button and out goes the CQ call. Listing for a little, and then press the button if nobody has replied….
A few minutes of calling produces a response from Geoff VK3SQ, who then spotted me. That yielded one contact shortly after the spot, and then it was back to hard work: lots of calling and no replies. After 15 minutes, I decided to call it quits and pack up and head for home.
I exited via Big Creek Road and headed back to Neerim South. The rain and drizzle had eased a little by time I reached the town, so I decided to stop in at another Park to try my luck.
Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965
I drove past this Park on my way to the previous activation – access is easy off Bloomfield Road, but you must be aware of the Park boundaries. I turned into the track opposite the start of School Road, and then south onto a track that runs through towards Rokeby. There is a place to park less than 100 m in, on a short track stub.
I set up, again using the rig in the car and the external inverted V. This time I was able to spot myself, and soon had Nick VK3ANL in the log, followed by Geoff VK3SQ. Four Park to Park contacts followed, plus a couple more contacts before I moved to 40 m.
I started by scanning around the band. I soon had another four Park to Park contacts, with Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-0198 sharing 7.144 with Ade VK4SOE/2 and Steven VK4FNOR/2 in VKFF-0011. I moved to 7.139 and spotted myself. Over the next 40 minutes or so, I worked a total of 29 contacts on 40 m, with another four Park to Park contacts.
At about 0635Z, I decided to try 20 m. Several minutes of calling finally produced a response – an YB station near Jakarta. Dave was 59 to me, which was not surprising. Dave was running 800 W to a Yagi antenna. Further calling earned contacts with VK4, VK6, ZL1 and DU9.
I headed back to 40 m and worked Noumea. Then a final three stations in VK before I decided to close: it was now 0730Z and I still had more than an hour of driving ahead of me. A total of 49 contacts for the Park.
Once I was home, I listened around the bands for a while, working Hans VK6XN/p in VKFF-0632.