2020 Christmas trip to Wodonga – Days 4, 5 and 6

Day 4

Saturday 19 December 2020

On Friday evening I decided to tackle a summit in a Park in NSW and posted an Alert on SOTAwatch accordingly.

I was underway at a good time, having listened to one of the morning TV news casts whilst having breakfast. I heard no mention of a closure of the Victorian border, other than the Red, Orange and Green Zones and the requirements for NSW residents to have a permit to enter Victoria, with Red Zone residents or visitors NOT permitted to enter Victoria. The only mention with regard to Victorian Residents was the recommendation to not visit Sydney and to not to return to Victoria if you had been in the Red Zone. There was no mention of Victorian Residents needing a permit. I heard nothing on the radio as I was travelling in the morning….. The lack of good information on the TV news items is perhaps not surprising in some respects, as the morning TV “magazine” style shows are broadcast from Sydney and focus heavily on Sydney and NSW perspectives.

I drove to Woomargama and headed south on Tunnel Road. I then took Tin Mines Trail around to Mount Jergyle. The early part of the track was in good condition, but not that forestry operations were evident towards the middle part of the trail before it re-entered the National Park. Beyond the pine forest, the track became rougher, with large spoon drains. Once in the National Park, there were more spoon drains and many rocky sections requiring good vehicle clearances.

Mount Jergyle VK2/RI-004 892 m 4 points
Woomargama National Park VKFF-0547

The scrub near the summit looked reasonably thick, so I parked at Norths Lookout. The road at the car park is above 870 m, so the site was well inside the Activation Zone. I selected a tree branch to the west of the car park to toss a line over and soon had the antenna up and the station set up in the shade off the side of the track.

Station set up in the shade at Norths Lookout

I was set up well before my posted Alert time and checked SOTAwatch for active stations. It seems that I had missed a couple of stations by only minutes. I could hear K6ARK on on 20 m SSB. Adam was running 100 W and my 10 W was not enough to be heard or to break through the US callers.

I spotted on 14.310 SSB and started calling. First in the log was Rick ZL3RIK, followed soon after by the first Summit to Summit (S2S) contact: David ZL3WL on ZL3/CB-822 had earlier posted that he was QRT, but called me. Geoff ZL3GA was next, followed by two VK5 stations. I called a few times with no responses before a spot came through and I switched to 17 m CW to see if I could hear the JA station. I soon had another S2S in the log: JG1BOK/1 on JA/YN-049. Another spot came through on SOTAwatch and I waited for the station to come up on air. I missed the start of the call or exchange, but got through after a full CQ, bagging Chris ZL4RA/P on ZL3/OT383 on 20 m CW. I moved down to 14.061 and soon had two more ZL stations in the log, but no further callers.

I moved to 40 m CW and worked two stations but had no further callers. I moved up to 40 m SSB and worked five stations. With five minutes left to UTC midnight, moved to 80 m SSB and had two callers on top of each other. I worked both but missed a chance at a CW contact before UTC midnight. I completed two CW contacts on 80 m and then three on SSB.

I moved up to 20 m CW and worked John ZL1BYZ in his usual Activity Marathon time slot. I saw a spot for JG1BOK/1 on 17 m CW, so moved to his frequency and completed another S2S contact.

I moved down to 80 m CW to try to work the normal Activity Marathon regulars. I called Ron VK3AFW but had no reply to my call. Allen VK3ARH called, so I sent “Up 1” and moved to 3533 kHz and started calling. Allen did find me and I soon had another two calls in the log.

I then moved to 40 m CW and worked six stations. I then moved to 40 m SSB and worked 13 stations over the next 16 minutes. I next moved to 20 m SSB and worked ten stations over ten minutes. I then moved to 40 m SSB for two more contacts before seeing that Chris ZL4RA has now on 20 m CW – I could just hear him on 40 m CW, but he was very weak. I soon had another S2S in the log. I was considering closing and packing up. I heard a spot for a Park and soon had a Park to Park contact on 40 m SSB with Peter VK3TKK/p.

Panorama at Norths Lookout

I packed up and moved the gear into the car and then retraced my route back to Tunnel Road. I then headed south and then west around to the Wymah Ferry to cross Lake Hume and then headed back to Wodonga.

A good day of radio, with 62 contacts made including five S2S and one Park to Park.

Thank you to all who worked me, especially those who made the effort to work me on multiple bands and both SSB and CW.

Late in the afternoon, I applied for a travel permit to enter NSW and return to Victoria and received the permit via email in about 10 minutes.

Day 5

Sunday 20 December 2020

Sunday morning was spent with family duties. After lunch, I to travelled east to Bonegilla, around to Hume Weir and then onto Murray River Road until I reached Granya Road. I headed south to Granya and took Webb Lane to Cottonwood Creek campsite. I then took Bridge Road to Wises Creek Track and wound may way north and west to reach Sugarloaf Track. I took Sugarloaf Track to climb up to the summit, with the final climb being quite steep. I parked just off the high point and set up the station away from the car.

Hore Hill VK3/VE-192 763 m 4 points
Mount Granya State Park VKFF-0767

I started out on 40 m CW and worked five stations, including Chris VK1CT in VKFF-0833. I then moved to 40 m SSB and worked ten stations. Ten minutes on 30 m CW yielded two stations only. Ten minutes calling on 20 m CW yielded only two stations, followed by one station on 20 m CW. I heard a spot for SOTA and moved to 17 m CW, working JP3DGT/3 on JA/KT-118. I moved slightly up the band and managed a contact with ZL. I returned to 20 m SSB and worked another ZL.

I moved back to 40 m SSB for another two contacts in 15 minutes. I then heard a spot for 80 m and changed bands to work Tony VK3YV in VKFF-2034. I moved a few kilohertz up the band and worked two more stations. I heard a call form Nick VK3ANL but we could not complete the contact. I called Nick on the same frequency on CW and soon had him in the log. I took a break and was considering closing when I heard another spot come through. I moved to 40 m SSB and soon had Adam VK2YK/5 in VKFF-0912 in the log. I decided to call it a day and closed down.

View to Hore Hill from NW of the summit

I packed up and retraced my access route back to Granya and then returned to Wodonga.

Day 6

Monday 21 December 2020

I decided to head back to Mount Lawson State Park with the goal of taking the Park QSO tally to 44 contacts, thus qualifying the reference for the global level in this calendar year. I posted Alerts for Mount Lawson early in the UTC day and for another Park in the afternoon.

I again headed east to Tallangatta, with a visit to the Bakery. I then drove to Koetong and took Burrowye Road, Hempenstall Road, Wallaces Road and finally Mt Lawson Road toward the summit car park. Less than 100 m from the car park, I found a huge eucalypt bough across the road. I considered my options and decided to try to move the bough. I pulled out my drag chain and secured it around the end of the bough closest to the tree. I turned the vehicle around and reversed close to the bough. I engaged 4WD Low Range and gently took up the slack in the chain. One good pull and I had moved the bough. I backed up and moved a little further to the right. The second pull had moved the bough enough to drive past it. I backed up and removed the chain and was soon past the bough and in the car park.

Mount Lawson VK3/VE-129 1041 m 6 points
Mount Lawson State Park VKFF-0768

I packed the gear in the backpack and walked up the walking track to the summit. I then found a spot to set up the gear and was soon calling CQ on 20 m CW. I had two ZL stations in the log within two minutes and then a VK5 about five minutes later. After further calls without responses, I moved to 20 m SSB and worked four stations.

I next moved to 40 m CW and worked five stations in just under ten minutes. With no further responses to calls, I moved to 40 m SSB. I worked 10 stations in the next 20 minutes, including Peter VK3YE operating as VK5WAT/3 in Churchill National Park VKFF-0621. I moved to 30 m CW and worked only one station. As a final slot, I moved to 17 m CW. I worked one ZL and further calls went unanswered. I signed QRT SK and a station sent “?”. I sent “de VK3PF/p” and tried to decode the call. I was feeling a little tired and could not decode, despite several repeats. My apologies to that station, I think JH1MZV. It was only after I had had packed up that the call became apparent to me.

During the activation, I thought that I heard some motor bikes on the tracks below. I thought nothing of it. I walked back to the car, loaded the gear and started to drive out. The “motor bikes” must have been chainsaws, as the tree bough was cut up into smaller segments and had been cleared from the road. I expect that some staff from Parks Victoria were responsible.

I retraced my access route to Koetong, then drove to Shelley and onto Shelley Road. I stopped a little short of my destination to post a Spot advising that I would be on air in about 30 minutes. My Alert had asked for help with Spots, as the Park has no mobile coverage.

I drove along Old Walwa Road to near the dam wall. I parked off the road under a large eucalypt, inside the Park boundary.

Pheasant Creek Flora Reserve VKFF-2422

I tossed a line over a tree branch and set up the station at the rear of the vehicle.

I started on 40 m CW and soon had VK5HAA in the log. Ten minutes of calling produced no further responses, so I moved to 40 m SSB. Marc VK3OHM was first to respond to my calls and assisted by posting a Spot. Fifteen minutes yielded eight stations on SSB and a CW contact (thanks Gerard). A move to 20 m CW yielded only a single contact. I moved to 20 m SSB and worked seven stations in about 15 minutes.

I returned to 40 m SSB and worked 11 contacts in 25 minutes, including another Park to Park with VK5WAT/3.

With no further replies to calls, I closed down and packed up. I drove back to Shelley and headed towards Wodonga. The phone beeped, so I pulled over to check the message – a spot from Adam VK2YK/5 in a Park. I drove to a quiet spot and parked. Checking ParksnPeaks, Adam was now on 80 m. I went for a short walk to look at the historic trestle bridge over Koetong Creek. I returned to the car, hearing another Spot arrive as I returned. I quickly changed the mobile whip link to 30 m and soon had Adam in the log.

I started the car and returned to the main road and resumed the trip back to Wodonga.

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