2020 Christmas trip to Wodonga – Days 8 and 9

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Day 7 was a right off. It was wet in the morning and I needed to act once again as a chauffeur. The trip included Albury, so we lost over an hour in the queue to pass through the border checkpoint. With occasional showers in the late afternoon, I decided against heading out. That meant that I needed to be out early to ensure that I had at least four contacts before UTC midnight (1100 local) to maintain the Activity Marathon engagement.

I was away from Wodonga earlier than expected and was set up on the first summit early.

Mount Stanley VK3/VE-126 1052 m 6 points

I approached the summit via Beechworth and Stanley, with the final approach via Mt Stanley Road. I set up near the picnic area just below the summit, well inside the Activation Zone. I used a wattle tree to support the squid pole to hold up the ZS6BKW doublet.

I spotted for 40 m CW. I soon had John VK5HAA and John VK2YW in the log, with Helmut VK3DHA worked a few minutes later. I called for several minutes with no responses before moving to 40 m SSB. I worked seven contacts in seven minutes. I then moved to 20 m CW and worked five stations in 11 minutes, but missed Wynne ZL2ATH – I had no response to my report, despite responding several times. I then moved to 20 m SSB and worked three stations before closing down.

I packed up and exited back along Mt Stanley Road and decided to try Escarpment Road. It was okay, but my recollection is that Hillsborough Road was in better condition and more trafficked. I worked my way to Bruarong Lane and descended the hill to Bruarong and then made my way to Dederang Road and Mt Big Ben Road. As I was approaching Mt Big Ben Road, I heard Andrew VK3ARR calling on 7.090 MHz SSB from Mt Macedon VK3/VC-007. I stopped on Mt Big Ben Road, switched off the car (the car is an excellent generator of RF noise!) and managed to work Andrew at 2345Z. I then drove up to the summit of Mt Big Ben to park just off the summit.

Mount Big Ben VK3/VE-105 1154 m 6 points

I quickly threw a line over a tree branch. Just as I was arranging the antenna to haul it up, a Forest Fire Management vehicle approached. I quickly explained what I was doing and they continued on. I soon had the antenna up and the station set up on a small table behind the vehicle. I called and soon had Andrew VK3ARR in the log for a Summit to Summit at 0007Z.

I moved to 40 m CW and started calling after posting a Spot. First in the log was Ian VK5CZ/m. I worked another six stations before I returned to 40 m SSB, which yielded another four stations. I moved to 20 m CW for two more contacts. I then moved to 20 m SSB to hunt Marty VK4KC/p in a Park. I then moved up the band and worked another three stations. I was considering closing when I heard a Spot come through and soon worked Marty VK4KC/p again, this time on 40 m SSB – weak, but the contact was made.

I was aware that Andrew VK3ARR was due to activate a second summit. I posted that I was QRT, but left the gear set up. I sat back and enjoyed a quiet lunch and went for a short walk. I also finally changed the driver’s seat cover, having purchased a new seat cover a few months ago. I was about to give up when another Spot came through. I soon had Andrew in the log for a second Summit to Summit, this time from Mount Gisborne. I then packed up and headed back to Wodonga.

Day 9

Thursday 24 December 2020

I had received a message from Gerard VK2IO on Wednesday evening if I was going to be out before UTC midnight today, as he was still in need of some contacts for the Activity Marathon. I replied “Yes”, noting that I had not decided where I would operate. I decided in the morning whilst eating breakfast.

I departed Wodonga at around 0845 and drove SW to Wangaratta and made my way to the first target for the day, parking close to the main access gate.

Wangaratta Common Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2223

I loaded up the pack and grabbed the camp chair before walking a couple of hundred metres into the Reserve along a walking track. I moved off the track and set up under large gum tree. I soon had a line over a tree branch at about 8 m and the ZS6BKW was soon in the air. I set up the station at the chair, placing the battery in a “cooler” store in the chair arm and resting the radio on the arm.

The station in VKFF-2223

As I was setting up, vk port-a-log announced a Parks spot. I soon worked Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1908 on 40 m CW. I moved up to 40 m SSB and spotted. Brett VK2VW was next in the log, answering my first call. I worked another eight callsigns before moving to 40 m CW. I had only a single response on 40 m CW, Lawrie VK5LJ. I moved up to 30 m CW to work Gerard VK2IO/p once again. I then moved to 30 m SSB with no responses to my CQ calls for over 10 minutes, when Gerard called me for yet another Park to Park contact. I then moved to 20 m SSB, spotted and started calling. Marty VK4KC was the first to call, followed by Gerard VK2IO/p and another three Hunters. I moved briefly to 40 m SSB to work a friend in Gippsland just prior to UTC midnight.

I moved to 20 m CW and worked John ZL1BYZ and Gerard VK2IO/p. I moved to 80 m SSB to work my friend in Gippsland before catching Ron VK3AFW on 80 m CW in his usual Activity Marathon slot. I then moved to 40 m CW and worked five stations, including Gerard VK2IO/p once again.

I then moved to 40 m SSB. The first caller in this slot was Gerard VK2IO/p. I worked 13 stations over a period of 25 minutes, including Park to Park contacts with Ian VK1DI in VKFF-1954 and Liz VK2XSE in VKFF-1786.

I then moved to 20 m SSB to hunt Gerard VK2IO/p again before moving down the band for two more contacts.

The tally was 47 contacts in just under two hours.

I packed up and walked back to the car. I then drove into the Wangaratta shopping area to buy some lunch before heading north towards Yarrawonga. North of Peechelba, I turned east on to Peechelba Road to cross the Ovens River, turned left and entered the Warby – Ovens National Park. I drove about a kilometre into the Park, but found that I had no mobile phone coverage. I moved closer to the main road and found a spot about 100 m inside the Park boundary where I had minimal coverage, so I parked the car in some shade.

Warby – Ovens National Park VKFF-0742

The Park sign just off the main road.

I decided on attempting a quick activation. I turned on the IC-706MKIIG and checked that the mobile whip was tapped for 40 m. After hitting the Tune button to activate the auto tuner, I sent a Spot and started calling. First in the log was Peter VK3YE using VK5WAT/3 in The Pines NCR VKFF-2421. I worked another 11 contacts in under 20 minutes before I closed.

I drove back to Peechelba Road and continued east. I then headed north briefly before zig-zagging to reach Keoghs Road, which I followed east until I reached Boorhaman East Road. I crossed the main road and drove down a dirt track, through a small area which looked damp and then spotted an open gate with a small Parks Victoria sign on the gatepost. I drove into the Reserve and parked in a shady spot.

Black Swamp Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2048

I soon had a line over a tree branch at around 11 m. I set up the ZS6BKW and set up the station on the tailgate.

First in the log was again Peter VK3YE using VK5WAT/3 in The Pines NCR VKFF-2421 on 40 m SSB. I worked 20 stations before I moved to 40 m CW, where I worked two stations. I called for several minutes before I moved up to 20 m CW, where the only caller was Gerard VK2IO/m. I then moved to 20 m SSB where I worked three stations including Adam VK2YK/f in VKFF-1711 plus Scott VK4CZ on CW. I tried 10 m SSB and worked only a single station. I returned to 20 m CW and worked one more station. I then tried 15 m SSB, working three stations. I returned to 40 m SSB and again worked Adam VK2YK/5. I moved down the band and worked nine stations, including Peter VK2KNV and Liz VK2XSE, both in VKFF-1782. With no further callers, I again tried 20 m CW, working two stations only. I then tried 40 m CW one further time, working two more stations. With 46 contacts in the log, I decided to close down and pack up.

I made my way back to the bitumen and then made my way back to Wodonga.

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