A trip to Wodonga for a youngster’s birthday

Friday 27 May 2022

I headed off from home mid-morning to drive to Wodonga. The weather forecast was a bit average, with rain and cool temperatures, so I headed west towards Melbourne and then north from Nilma to cut across the hills towards Healesville.

I spent a few minutes near The Bump to receive a position fix from the morning radiosonde, which had landed in tall timber country and well away from any tracks. I recorded the position and resumed the trip. I first stopped in Powelltown to work Compton VK2HRX on a SOTA summit, before resuming the journey. The next stop was at Healesville to grab some lunch, and I then travelled over the Black Spur on the Maroondah Highway. I stopped south of Buxton for a quick Park activation.

Buxton Silver Gum Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2058

This park is adjacent to the highway. If you set up adjacent to the western edge of the car park, you are safely inside the Reserve boundary. I choose to operate from the car, using the mobile whip – not as efficient as a bigger antenna, but good enough to make some contacts, I hoped! I have visited this site previously on two occasions and needed 13 more contacts to reach the WWFF quota of 44 contacts.

I started calling on 20 m, as the whip was set for that band. I made four contacts including an Italian station who had a good signal for the time of the day (0411Z). I moved to 40 m SSB and managed to work another 11 contacts, so I had a valid activation for VKFF plus now have a total of more than 44 for WWFF qualification. I resumed the trip north.

With the weather being cool and showers, I simply drove north to Benalla and then up the Hume Highway to Wodonga.

Saturday 28 May 2022

I headed off on Saturday morning to head to Henty in the southern Riverina. I drove past three silos on my way north, as I had other targets in mind and I had activated the silos last year.

Doodle Comer Swamp Nature Reserve VKFF-1925

This park is located just southwestern of Henty. I had activated it in late June 2019 near its SE corner, working 26 stations. This time I explored the eastern boundary from the northern end, finding an old gate which was not locked. I drove into the reserve and parked near a large old eucalypt. I soon had a line over a tree branch and had the ZS6BKW centre up at about 14 m above ground, then connected up to the radio in the vehicle – it was cool outside, so I elected to operate from inside the car.

I was set up, spotted myself, and started calling at 2352 on 40 m SSB, a bit late in the UTC day to attempt to get 10 contacts before UTC midnight! But I soon had 15 in the log, as the calls came quickly. The calls continued to come rapidly after UTC midnight – I worked another 20 stations in only 10 minutes. With a pause in callers, I swapped to 12 m CW and managed to chase Geoff ZL3GA on ZL3/CB-574. I moved to 40 m CW and worked another seven calls. 30 m CW yielded another six stations. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked another nine stations. With no further callers to CQ calls and 58 calls in the log, I closed down and pulled down the station.

I drove north into Henty and made my way around to the western side of the main silos. After taking a photo, I looked for a spot to activate, ending up about 540 m to the north, just south of the showgrounds. I was at least 100 m from the nearest power lines. I soon had the ZS6BKW in the air and hooked up to the radio in the car.

Henty silo VK-HNY2

On switching on the radio, I found Mal VK3OAK in VKFF-2369 Limeburners Lagoon Flora and Fauna Reserve on the 40 m SSB Parks focus frequency. After working Mal, I heard a Spot for a SOTA station. I moved down the band to work Compton VK2HRX on VK4/SE-176. On tuning back up the band, I moved a little higher and spotted myself. I worked 28 stations over 30 minutes, including David VK3GP/p in VKFF-0766. I moved up to 15 m SSB and worked one station only. I then packed up.

Henty silos from the west
Henty silos from the SE corner. Rather simple silo art.

I headed into town to find some lunch before heading off to the west to the next silo.

Munyabla silo VK-MNB2

The silo is located off Munyabla Road just west of Munyabla Munyaplah Road.

Munyabla silos

The activation started by working Scott VK4MGL in Cania Gorge National Park VKFF-0074 on 40 m and 20 m SSB. I worked 40 stations in 35 minutes. I packed up and headed for the next site.

Pleasant Hills silo VK-PLS2

This silo is adjacent to the old railway station and is easily viewed from County Boundary Road. After taking a photo, I drove to the top of the rise north of the silo and set up on the edge of the road reserve.

The Pleasant Hills silos

First in the log was Mal VK3OAK in VKFF-0982 on 40 m SSB. I moved up the band and spotted myself. I worked 32 stations over the next 20 minutes, including David VK3GP/p in VKFF-0766. I then dropped down the band to work Brian VK3BCM on VK3/VE-021. I then packed up to move to the next site.

I headed west before turning south to return towards Albury.

Urangeline East silos VK-URT2

There is a set of silos under a barn style structure at the start of the track into the old railway station, with the main silos at the old station site. I set up just off Forcks Road, directly south of the main silos. I soon had the doublet in the air and connected to the radio.

Urangeline East silos from the operating site

First in the log was James VK2BM/p in VKFF-1973 on 40 m SSB, followed by Chris VK1CT/p on 20 m CW from VKFF-0837. I returned to the 40 m SSB frequency I had used earlier, spotted and started calling. I worked another 28 stations over 20 minutes, including Ross VK7ALH at Grassy Hut Tier VK7/NC-022 and Fred VK4FE in VKFF-0367. The afternoon was cooling off rapidly as the sun headed towards the horizon. I packed up and resumed the trip towards Albury.

The last three silos are on the abandoned Rand Branch rail line, along with another two silos which I did not have the available time to activate.

I had not looked closely at the Silos mapping, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw another silo complex on the horizon as I approached Burrumbuttock.

Burrumbuttock silos VK-BRC2

This silo sits on the abandoned Corowa Branch line. It is located 4.6 km north of the township.

Given that it was very late in the day and the gates were firmly locked, I set up on the edge of the driveway access on the road reserve. I used the same set up as at all the earlier sites that day.

Burrumbuttock silos

I found the 40 m SSB Parks focus frequency clear, so I spotted and started calling. I worked 23 stations in about 13 minutes, including David VK3GP/p in VKFF-0766. There were no further callers so I announced that I was closing. A spot came through for a SOTA station, so I changed bands and started listening. About 5 minutes later, I had JA5QJX on JA/NN-161 in the log on 17 m CW. I then packed up the station and headed south to Albury and back to Wodonga.

It was a big day, with a total of 271 contacts logged. Thanks to all who worked me.

Sunday 29 May 2022

I had a family gathering mid-afternoon, but was free in the morning. I headed out to a nearby summit located in a Park.

Mount Baranduda VK3/VE-189
Baranduda Range Regional Park VKFF-0959

I entered the Park via Bantik Track. The climb is reasonably steep up to the top of the range and then undulates westward until you reach the area near the transmission towers on the summit. I set up just south of the smaller tower.

I again set up the ZS6BKW doublet with the apex held aloft with a line over a tree branch. The radio gear was set up on a small table a couple of metres from the car. I was a little different today, setting up the IC-7300 with an LDG ATU, powered with a 100 Ah LiPO4 battery.

I noticed that a group of ZL stations were on a SOTA summit some time before I was set up, so I started on 20 m SSB. I soon has six ZL contacts in the log, including four S2S contacts with ZL1/AK-020. I then worked two VK4 stations. I then moved to 40 m SSB to hunt Scott VK4MGL in VKFF-1661 Tolderodden Conservation Park. I moved up the band to above the WIA broadcast signals and spotted myself. I then worked 18 stations in 14 minutes….. When there were no further callers, I changed to 40 m CW, where I worked eight stations in around 15 minutes. I returned to 20 m SSB and worked only three further stations.

I returned to 40 m SSB and spotted. I worked 23 stations over following 35 minutes or so, including one CW contact. Amongst those worked were Brad VK2NMZ in VKFF-1340 and Rod VK1ACE in VKFF-0061 on VK2/ST-015.

Callers were becoming harder to find. I returned to 20 m SSB and worked three more calls. I then went to 40 m CW to hunt Rod VK1ACE for a CW contact. A period on 20 m CW yielded a Swedish station, plus a real speedster who was far to fast for me to decode. A new spot took me back to 40 m CW to work Chris VK1CT/p in VKFF-0838. I then moved to 40 m SSB to work Rob VK2VH/p at VK-MRN2 silo. I moved down to the SOTA focus frequency on 40 m and spotted, aware that a friend would be coming up in the near future from his first SOTA activation. I worked two stations before Dan came up. I worked Dan VK3NDG on VK3/VT-042 and allowed him to take over the frequency. I listened briefly and was also able to work a ZL who came up and who was confused when Dan replied. They sorted it out – Dan logged him and I then jumped in to make a contact. I then closed and started to pack up, feeling very cold after three hours of activating. I do not normally activate for that length of time, but I wanted to work Dan on his first SOTA outing. I had 73 contacts in the log.

Thanks for all the contacts!

I was safely back in Wodonga with time to spare to attend the birthday gathering for a two year old.

Tuesday 31 May 2022

After having spent Monday doing shopping with Mum, I decided to head for home on Tuesday morning. The weather forecast was not looking promising, with severe weather warnings in place and conditions likely to worsen late in the day, with heavier conditions overnight and on Wednesday. Snow was forecast down to about 1200 m, lowering during the day. The choice was simple – a run back down the Hume Highway.

The sky to the west was dark and gloomy. I headed south and heard a Spot after I had passed Euroa. I was aware of a Park near the highway near Longwood, so took the exit to Longwood East and around to Faithfull Road. I had looked at the mapping in the area previously and it appeared that the reserve was adjacent to the southern side of the road. I spotted a small but rough track that entered the reserve and parked the car about 50 m inside the park boundary.

Big Hill Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2046

I quickly tuned the radio to the band and frequency for the spot, simply using the mobile whip on the car. I soon had Compton VK2HRX in the log from VK4/SE-024 on 20 m SSB. I moved down the band a little and spotted and soon had another two contacts in the log. I then changed the mobile whip configuration to 40 m, found the Parks focus frequency clear and spotted. I worked another 13 contacts, including another contact with Compton.

Another SOTA spot came through. Once I had worked the voice callers, I dropped down the band to CW. I could only just hear the SOTA station. Given that the skies were mostly blue at that time, I decided to quickly erect the doublet. About 12 minutes later the doublet was up and I was listening to the SOTA station. I soon had Paul VK3HN on VK3/VN-030 in the log on 40 m CW. I then returned to 40 m SSB and worked another four stations before I started to pack up. Just as the antenna was back in the car, another SOTA spot came through! Same summit, but a different operator. I listened carefully and soon worked David VK3KR/p on VK3/VN-030 from the mobile whip – not great reports, but in the log. I had 22 contacts in the log, comfortably qualifying the park for VKFF. This was a new Park for me, and had only been activated once previously. Although the activation was a spur of the moment decision, it was a good break from a long drive on a cold, windy and occasionally very wet day.

I then started the car and carefully drove back out onto the main road and worked my way back to the Hume Highway.

I continued towards Melbourne, with the weather warnings continuing. I stopped briefly to grab some food along the way and then worked my way around the Ring Road to Greensborough and then headed south, east and south on EastLink, and then home via the Monash Freeway and Princes Highway. During the drive, I stopped to work Compton VK2HRX on VK4/SE-117 on 20 m SSB.

Thanks for the contacts during the day.

The evening news had reports of significant snow falls to low levels and damaging winds – it was not a day to venture into the hills!

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1 Response to A trip to Wodonga for a youngster’s birthday

  1. VK2TWR says:

    pleased you had a good trip Pete looks forward t having you up this way in the near future

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