Hoddle Range Flora Reserve first activation

31 January 2021

I had not been out in the field playing radio for a few weeks, so thought about accessing a previously un-activated Park in South Gippsland. I spent some time exploring options to drive closer to the Park but the searching produced no positive outcome. It would need to be a walk in to the boundary.

Exploring the detailed mapping information on MapshareVic, I found that government road reserves offered an access route. Further research revealed that a public walking track passed quite close to the Park, with access via the road reserves providing the final route. Have a look at the information on the Hoddle Mountain Trail.

About a week earlier than the planned trip, I caught up with my friend Sergio VK3SO. Sergio used to hold the callsign VK3SFG and had not been on-air sincing changing location about 18 months ago. Sergio was interested in joining me and we set the tentative date, hoping for a mild day with regards to weather, without the heat or very wet weather which had been features over the last couple of weeks. The week before the planned activation was very wet! Fortunately, the weather cleared and we had a forecast for mild weather with a maximum in the mid-20s. We confirmed the plan on the Friday afternoon, with the goal of being set up on site late in the UTC Saturday.

I left home and picked up Sergio en-route. We then headed to Fish Creek and made our way around to the car park for Mount Nicoll Lookout. Here we loaded up and climbed the short but steep climb to the lookout, where we paused to regain our breath and to take in the excellent views.

Morning view from Mount Hoddle / Mount Nicoll across Corner Inlet

We then followed the Loader Track south and then west over undulating terrain. We reached the saddle where the Track crosses a boundary fence. Here we simply continued straight ahead, following a road reserve steeply up the hill to the top. We then headed south along the road reserve and entered into the Park.

Hoddle Range Flora Reserve VKFF-2332

We continued on along the road reserve to near the top of the knoll and set up the station just west of the road reserve, using an old fence post to support the squid pole for the doublet. It was almost UTC midnight, so we moved the station slightly into some shade and waited until UTC midnight to spot. A quick check with the GPS confirmed that we were just inside the Park boundary.

I spotted on 40 m SSB, a little down the band from the usual focus frequency due to the Sunday morning WIA News broadcasts. Callers soon responded and we then startedpassing the microphone between operators to ensure that we both qualified the Park for VKFF. I worked 11 stations over about 25 minutes, but QSB prevented Sergio from working a couple of callsigns. We moved to 80 m SSB and called for several minutes before we had our first response. We then had Peter VK3ZPF call in response to another CQ call from VK3/VN-012. Further calls yielded another two stations. We then moved to 20 m SSB, working three stations over about 10 minutes, including Gerard VK2IO. I then moved to 20 m CW and I worked five stations, including John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga, probably via sporadic E. Next was 40 m CW, yielding two contacts only. We both had the Park qualified for VKFF, so decided to close. The next task was for us to chase each other on 2 m FM. One of us simply walked across the old road reserve to exit the Park and the contact was made. We then swapped places. So we both had the Park qualified as Activator and Hunter. We will need to revisit to get another 20+ contacts to reach WWFF quota of 44.

Slightly away from the operating position and on the road reserve, there was a small view of the beach at Sandy Point and some of the offshore islands.

We packed up and retraced our access route, stopping briefly on the northern knoll to take in the view and take some photos. Below is a view from the knoll north of the Park boundary of Hoddle Range Flora Reserve VKFF-2332. The view looks in a southerly direction, across the Yanakie Isthmus to Wilsons Promontory, with Shallow Inlet visible. Our operating position was over the crest of the next knoll near the right side of the photo, on the eastern side of the visible road reserve.

Panoramic view from the knoll north of the Park. Sergio enjoying the view but ignoring me! View from E to S to W, N & E.

We then climbed to the east to the telecoms facility and then headed roughly north along Loader Track to reach the summit of Mount Hoddle VK3/VT-076, also known as Mount Nicoll. Along the way, we had a couple of text exchanges with Peter VK3ZPF, who was activating Archers Lookout. We did not hear an audio alert from the ‘phone that Peter was on air. Peter decided that we would take too long to reach the summit of Mt Hoddle and closed about 20 minutes before we arrived.

A slant view of the route from VKFF-2332 (Thanks to Google Earth)

Mount Hoddle VK3/VT-076 305 m 1 point

On arrival, the first order of business was to finally eat lunch. We sat on a seat at the summit in the shade and enjoyed lunch looking across Corner Inlet, from Mount Fatigue on our left around through east and the Toora Wind Farm, across Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park and around to the SSE to Wilsons Promontory. The view was delightful!

Looking to the SE from Mount Hoddle across Corner Inlet at the end of the activation

Photo shows part of the view from Mt Hoddle looking across Corner Inlet to the NE part of Wilsons Promontory.

We set up the station ensuring that the doublet was clear of the several tracks, with the antenna well above head height where it crossed a track.

I started off using 40 m CW, working two stations. I then moved to 20 m CW and worked three ZL stations. The summit was qualified. Sergio had walked down the hill to exit the AZ and worked me on 2 m FM. I walked down the hill, passing Sergio on his way back up to the summit. Once I was well below the edge of the AZ, I worked Sergio and then walked back to the top. I changed the radio to 20 m SSB and spotted Sergio. Sergio worked three ZL stations before moving to 40 m SSB, where he worked seven stations. With no more response to CQ calls, we closed down and packed up.

We had a short but steep climb back down to the car before we started the drive home.

Thanks to all who worked us during the day.

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