A trip to Neerim East

Saturday 9 March 2019

The morning started a little slowly, but with a little radio fun with chasing Katsu JP3DGT/3 activating JA/OS-004 on 17 m CW. After midday local time, I chased Tony VK3XV/p and Mike VK6MB/3 in Parks. I was considering what to have for lunch and then decided to head out to activate a Park which I had not yet activated. There was a lot of smoke in the air from bushfires – the closest one is about 10 km south of home: the Budgeree/Yinnar South fire. With the smoke, I did not want to do any outside work and decided for some radio therapy in the filed instead, hoping that the smoke would not be too bad at Neerim East, despite being not far from the Bunyip fires. The wind was from the east, so there was some logic in choosing the target Park.

The route was relatively simple: head from home to Moe, then I made my way around to Old Sale Road and followed it in its north of west route to Beards Track Rosworth. North along Beards Track, travelling through Sweetwater Creek Nature Conservation Reserve, which have previously activated. I travelled on until reaching Latrobe River Road, then a short distance north until I worked my way around onto Carrols Track and drove along it along the edge of pine plantations. Carrols Track ends at a junction with PP2 Track, which drops steeply down into a gully, with some short steep spoon drains plus some erosion. I changed into 4WD and slowly made my way down the hill until after reaching the western boundary of the target Reserve. Close to the bottom of the hill I reached a tree across the road – a tree big enough to no want to tackle without a chainsaw. I was adjacent to roughly the middle of the southern boundary of the Reserve, so I simply parked the vehicle and started to set up.

Neerim Flora Reserve VKFF-2410

This reference had been activated only once previously, by Peter VK3ZPF on a week day under wetter conditions. Peter had parked at the top of the hill and walked down and into the Reserve. Before I left home, I had double checked the Reserve boundary using the MapShare viewer. You can see in the image below that the southern boundary extends to beyond PP2 Track apart from a small section of the Track. The tree across the track was close to the point where the track deviates slightly further south and outside the Park boundary. I set up on the northern edge of the track.


The antenna was running east-west, with the apex at around nine metres. I set up using the tray at the rear of the vehicle as the operating table. I could not spot myself as I had no phone coverage, being down in a gully away from any nearby sealed roads. I dialled up 7.144 MHz and asked if the frequency was in use. I heard no initial response, so started calling. Andy VK5LA came back to me, and when he finished, I heard Mike VK6MB/3 weakly. Mike did not hear my replies to him and dropped down to 80 m. I worked Andy and he spotted me. I worked four others before I dropped down to 80 m to work Mike for a Park to Park (P2P) contact. Mike was in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761.

I returned to 7.144 MHz and started working other callers. John VK4TJ was next, followed by Tony VK3XV/5, now in Carappee Hill Conservation Park VKFF-1016. The calls continued to come slowly – thank goodness for the voice recorder on the IC-7300. About 44 minutes after I started calling, I worked Ian VK1DI/2 in Bimberamala National Park VKFF-0032. A short period with no responses to calls had me announce that I would drop down to work CW on 40 m, when Scott VK4CZ called in. I then moved down to 7.032 MHz CW to work six stations over the next 12 minutes.

I moved back up to 7.144 MHz and worked 10 stations over the next 10 minutes, the last of whom was Nick VK3ANL. Nick was weak on 40 m, so we moved down to 80 m SSB to make another contact. 80 m brought six contacts in total, including Nick VK3ANL on CW in addition to SSB. Ken VK3UH spotted me for 20 m SSB and I soon had Ray VK4NH in the log. With Ray’s extra callsigns, I finally had 47 contacts in the log. With no more responses, I started packing up and retraced my route back towards Latrobe River Road, but with a detour to check out the approach to the Reserve from the east.


The “open” scrub at the operating site

I dropped down Boundary Track to Stanley Vale Track, then onto Invert Track and the eastern end of PP2 Track. There were a few potholes and ruts to dodge until I reached a nasty looking bog hole which had several big ruts and wet areas. I jumped out and walked around the bog and around the bend I saw the same tree across the track as I had encountered earlier. So access from the east is possible, but I suspect it could be very wet and muddy when wet. I retraced my route, but continued on Stanley Vale Track and climbed up Spur Track to get back to Latrobe River Road.

I missed the corner with Beards Track and simply made my way out to the west to Neerim South, then south to Bloomfield Road and Crossover. I decided to drop in for another activation of VKFF-0965.

Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965

Shortly after passing Gunn Road, I swung in to the southern end of Bridge Road and then left onto Rokeby to Neerim Trail. I stopped and parked on the remnant of the track that has been cut off from reaching Bloomfield Road by a cutting. The spot is reasonably high and there is space to hand antennas from the trees, as long as you do not run lines across the track – it is used by walkers, horse riders, cyclists and motorbike riders.

I managed to throw a line over a branch at around 12 m above ground. As I was running out the antenna, the first of several motorcyclists came through and stopped for a short chat. He left after I reassured him that I would not be running any lines across the track at any low height!

I was finally set up at 0623Z and spotted myself. John VK4TJ was first in the log at 0625Z. Ten minutes later, I worked John VK5FLEA/p in Kenneth Stirling Conservation Park VKFF-0781. I worked three more stations before I had no resposnes.

I dropped down to 40 m CW and called for a few minutes before my first reply: Allen VK3ARH. I soon had seven on CW in the log, when I worked Gerard VK2IO/p in Rouse Hill Regional Park VKFF-2784. Next was John VK5FLEA/p again, this time on CW.

I dropped down to 80 m and soon had four more contacts, including Nick VK3ANL on SSB and CW and Mike VK6MB/3 in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761. With no further callers, I returned to 40 m SSB but had no responses to calls. After about 15 minutes, I had a short tune around the band and managed to work Frank F5PAU.

I moved up to 20 m SSB but had no replies. I dropped down the band for CW and worked only Andrei ZL1TM.

I moved back to 40 m SSB at around 0800Z and worked another five contacts, including Gerard VK2IO/p again. I then worked three calls on CW on the same frequency. The tally was getting closer to the magic 44, but I had no further responses to calls. I again dropped down to 80 m SSB and soon had six more in the log, including both Gerard VK2IO/p and John VK5FLEA/p for P2P on both SSB and CW. These were followed by eight more contacts, including three on CW plus Nik VK3ZNK/p in Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park VKFF-0747. It was getting late – the sun had set and I would soon run out of light. I had 49 in the log, so I was happy.

I packed up and headed back out to Bloomfield Road, hitting the bitumen at 2000 local. I then had a drive of about an hour to reach home to grab a late dinner.

Thanks to all the Hunters, with special thanks to all who spotted me from Neerim Flora Reserve, especially John VK4TJ.

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