6 January 2019
The weather forecast for the day looked reasonable, expected to reach into the mid-20s but fine. There was a large bushfire southeast of Rosedale which was reported as affecting 11,000 hectares of land, including a significant portion of the Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758. There was a “Watch and Act” warning extending to Longford in the east and south to Gormandale, Willung and Stradbroke.
I had unfinished VKFF business to the west of Bairnsdale, with VKFF-2045 Bengworden Nature Conservation Reserve activated last year late one afternoon with poor band conditions and thunderstorms nearby. On that activation, I only made 10 contacts, so needed another 34 contacts to bring the Park up to WWFF qualification.
I travelled from home to Rosedale for a quick stop at the Bakery to grab a salad roll for lunch, then eastwards to Fulham and then on to Perry Bridge, Meerlieu and Bengworden before turning west on Boundary Road to get to the Park boundary.
Bengworden Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2045
There is a locked gate near the eastern end of the boundary fence. I parked near the gate and unloaded the gear required from the car: folding chair, KX2, antenna, coax, battery and a line & weight to toss over a tree branch. After climbing over the fence, I walked in around 100 m to a suitable spot and began setting up.
I was ready to be on air by around 0040 and saw a spot on 40 m SSB for Peter VK3ZPF on a SOTA summit in a Park. I soon had Peter in the log for a Park to Park contact. I then spotted myself on 7.135 MHz and started calling. By 0110Z I had another 22 contacts in the log, including another Park to Park with Adam VK2YK/p.
I then reconfigured the antenna for 20 m and soon had Rob VK4AAC/p in a Park in the log. I also worked a VK7 and three more VK4 stations on 20 m SSB.
I noticed a SOTA spot on 40 m, so swapped back down to work VK/9V1RT on Mount Perisher. I returned to 7.135 MHz and spotted again, working another six stations in the next 10 minutes. Then I had no more callers…. I checked the Port-a-log Summary – 35 contacts in the log, so I decided to close the station and move on to the next Park.
Once loaded up into the car, I headed east back along Boundary Road to Bengworden Road, then north to Leathams Road and into the next Park.
Moormurng Flora and Flora Reserve VKFF-2391 Not previously activated
I entered the Park and carefully drove along the track – muddy sections, deep ruts and potholes in places required some care. I drove across towards the western boundary and found a spot to set up. I again tossed a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre. This time I set up at the rear of the Ranger, using the tailgate as an operating table and choosing the IC-7300 connected to the auxiliary battery.
With the Sunday morning amateur radio news broadcasts now over, I started on 7.144 MHz, less than an hour after the last contact in the previous Park. Gerard VK2IO was first in the log. Next was Compton VK2HRX followed by Neil VK4HNS/p in VKFF-2552. In just over 30 minutes, I had 30 contacts in the log. I moved up to 20 m SSB and worked eight contacts in the next 15 minutes. 20 m CW brought four more contacts. I moved down to 40 m CW and worked another 6 contacts. The Summary showed 48 contacts – Park qualified. I packed up and made my way out to Redcourt Lane and north to the Princes Highway, then west to Lindenow-Glenaladale Road. I travelled north to Lindenow South and then west and southwest along Fernbank-Lindenow South Road. At the rail crossing, you head straight ahead onto Cowells Lane for a short distance to reach the next Park.
Saplings Morass Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2434 Not previously activated
This small Park requires a little care to ensure that you are inside the official Park boundary. The setup here was basically the same as in the previous Park.
I was on air and calling in just under an hour after closing at the last Park. Robert VK3DN was the first to respond to my calls on 7.144 SSB. In 25 minutes I had 30 stations in the log, all on 40 m SSB. The day was moving on and I decided to call it quits and move to the fourth target for the day without trying any other bands or modes. Access to this Park is relatively simple, so I can return on another trip to East Gippsland.
I returned to Fernbank-Lindenow South Road and headed to Fernbank and then south to the Princes Highway. I crossed the Highway onto Sargoods Road and then turned east onto the access track which runs parallel to the Highway. The track was very soft and sandy – it looks as if it has been ploughed to help form a fire break. I engaged 4WD and took it gently. About 700 m along the track I found an open old rusty gate into the Reserve. I carefully backed into the gate opening so that the rear half of the vehicle was inside the boundary. I set up in a similar manner as the previous two Parks – a line over a branch and the IC-7300 on the tailgate.
The Billabong Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2449 Not previously activated
The areas of the Reserve close to the boundary are quite thickly covered in bracken for most of the area, then thick saplings/brush closer to the lagoon area. Those without a 4WD might park closer to the Billabong Roadhouse and walk in along the boundary track to find a spot to set up inside the boundary fence.
I spotted myself and soon had Geoff VK3SQ in the log, less than 40 minutes after the last contact at Saplings Morass. In 25 minutes, I had 28 calls in the log. A pleasant surprise was being called by Matilda operating VI25AJ, the Australian Jamboree station at Tailem Bend. I moved to 40 m CW and worked seven stations, inkling Andrew VK2PEZ, who made his first on air CW contact.
I moved to 20 m to make another ten contacts, four of them on CW. Among the last of the contacts was Chris VK1CT in VKFF-0842.
I ended up with 47 contacts in the log. I packed up and headed for home, noting the wide spread of smoke plumes rising from the Rosedale bushfire.