A trip to Wodonga for Christmas 2022

I would normally travel to Wodonga at least a week earlier to spend some time with family in the lead up to Christmas. This year, I came down with some strange bug that hit me hard for a couple of days, then feeling flat for several days, so I deferred my travel.

Friday 23 December 2022

I packed the car and headed off. Given the weather reports for the eastern portion of the state, I headed west and cut across the hills to reach Healesville, then north on the Maroondah Highway. My first stop was just south of Buxton.

Buxton Silver Gums Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2058

In the interests of the Club Challenge, I decided to use the Club callsign, VK3BEZ. I pulled well into the car park and spotted. I started calling using the mobile whip for 40 m. Several minutes of calling resulted in only a faint call and no response to my reply. Clearly conditions were somewhat flat. I quickly set up the doublet with a line over a tree branch. The result was several responses to calls. The next 15 minutes produced 14 contacts on 40 m SSB. I moved to 20 m SSB and then CW, working another six contacts. I then moved to 40 m CW for a Park to Park with Nick VK3ANL on Mt Donna Buang in Yarra Ranges National Park, followed by another five callers. 17 m CW produced a contact into VK5, after which I returned to 40 m SSB to hunt VK2EG/p in VKFF-1778, followed by two further callers before Nick VK3ANL called. I worked Nick on both SSB and AM. On returning to SSB, I had two further callers before I decided that I needed to close down. I had been on air for around 100 minutes to make only 31 contacts. It was hard work!

I packed up the station and headed north. I stopped in Buxton to grab a late lunch. I then travelled to Bonnie Doon and then on towards Benalla. The next stop was just before the Hume Freeway overpass.

Reef Hills State Park VKFF-0773

I drove a short distance into the park and found a spot to park. I soon had the doublet up at the full length of the feedline. I again hooked up the doublet to the radio in the car and was soon working stations on 40 m SSB. Conditions had improved significantly since earlier in the afternoon, so I was working stations at a brisk rate. I tried 20 m and 17 m CW, working five stations. I then returned to 40 m CW for a few contacts before a final five contacts on 40 m SSB. 50 contacts were made in around 75 minutes. I packed up and resumed the trip to Wodonga.

Saturday 24 December 2022

After undertaking a couple of domestic tasks, I headed out to a local Park for an activation.

Baranduda Regional Park VKFF-0959
Baranduda Range VK3/HVE-154

I headed to Bantik Track, finding that the track had recently been reworked – the bulldozer was parked just inside the gate. I drove up to the top of the main ridge, when I decided to activate at the HEMA summit. I had activated this summit earlier in the year. The track was in excellent condition, but with a dry and dusty surface. I parked the vehicle in a relatively flat drainage ditch close to the summit and set up the station nearby.

I was set up with the IC-7300 and 100 Ah LiFePO4 battery, with the radio on a folding table. I was ready to operate just after 1030 local time and checked the current Spots. I soon had Rod VK1ACE in the log for a Hump to Hump and Park to Park. Rod was in VKFF-0837 on VK1/HCT-040. I moved to a clear frequency and spotted myself. I worked another 13 stations on 40 m SSB before UTC midnight. I also noted that my mobile phone service was spotty and I missed Rod changing to CW. I worked a dozen stations on 40 m SSB before checking Rod’s CW spot frequency, hearing him clearly. Rod was soon in the log on CW. I moved to a clear frequency and spotted, working two stations before a friend called. We quickly moved back up the band to work on SSB before I returned to the CW frequency and worked another five stations.

I then moved to 20 m CW and worked eight stations, including Rod VK1ACE once again – very short skip on 20 m. I then moved slightly down the band to work Bill VK4FW in VKFF-0729. I then tried 20 m SSB, working four stations before I saw a spot for Rod VK1ACE back on 40 m SSB. I quickly changed bands and again worked Rob.

I then moved up to 10 m SSB, working 18 stations in around 25 minutes. I spent a few minutes looking at 6 m SSB, making only one contact. I tried setting up for FT8 on 6 m, but RF was upsetting the USB ports on the laptop. I later realised that I should have used a 6 m monoband antenna, which might have caused less of an issue with stray RF.

I then tried FT8 on 10 m, making four contacts. I then moved to 12 m, making six contacts on FT8. Next was 15 m FT8, where I noticed that the receive level in the WSJT software was very high and also my power output was low. I remembered that the doublet is difficult to match on 15 m, so I quickly threw another line over a branch and hauled up an end-fed coaxial dipole (a.k.a. HF Flowerpot antenna) for 15 m. I managed to adjust the receive levels and things were now looking much better. I made 15 contacts on FT8 on 15 m. 15 m SSB produced 15 contacts before I dropped down to CW to work a JA SOTA station, followed by a further five contacts.

I next tried 17 m CW, working stations in VK1 and Melbourne. I next tried FT8 on 17 m, with the first contact being a PY2 station. I worked another 10 stations before moving to 20 m FT8, which yielded another 10 contacts. The next 10 minutes on 30 m FT8 produced two more contacts.

I then moved to 40 m FT8, working 12 stations in around 20 minutes. Another 15 minutes on 80 m FT8 produced another three contacts. After a couple of SMS exchanges, I rang Rob VK2VH and arranged to try 160 m FT8, even though I was unsure if the doublet would work on the band. I changed to the 160 m FT8 frequency and hit “Tune”. Soon after, I was hearing and seeing Rob in the decoded text. We quickly completed the contact.

I then returned to 40 m SSB and spotted. I worked another 27 contacts in around 30 minutes. I then closed down. It had been quite a day, with lots of short skip propagation. Several amateurs chased me on multiple bands and modes. I made contacts on every band from 160 m to 6 m (okay, only one contact on each of the two extremities!). I had a total of 176 contacts logged. I packed up and made an error in taking Cobb Track to exit the park. The track had not yet seen the bulldozer and was very rough in places. At the point where the track exits the park, I encountered a very large messy bog hole complex with very deep holes, which I managed to skirt on one edge right up against the fence. I returned to Wodonga for the night, feeling rather tired.

Many thanks to all who worked me during the day, but especially those that hunted me on multiple bands and modes.

26 December 2022

After looking at the mapping, I decided to head out to a small section of one of the Parks in the Region. I drove down the Hume Highway and took the Chiltern exit, through the town and made my way around to the Chiltern Valley Road. Shortly after passing the junction with Franks Road, and opposite the southern end of Major Mitchell Road, is a car park for the Chiltern Valley No 2 Dam section of the Park, at the start of Nankeen Track.

Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620

I found a spot to park the vehicle which would provide a little shade. I soon had the doublet in the air and set up the station on the tailgate of the Ranger. I was set up a few minutes before 2300Z.

I soon had my first contact: Geoff ZL3GA on ZL3/CB-469 in ZLFF-0027 on 15 m CW. Next I worked Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-1485 on 20 m SSB. I then posted a Spot for 20 m SSB and worked nine stations, including Texas and New Zealand. I spent a few minutes getting a 15 m vertical antenna in the air, using another line over a different tree branch. Fittingly, my next contact was another Park to Park with Bill VK4FW/p on 15 m CW, following a Spot for Bill being posted.

I decided to next try 40 m SSB and worked eight stations over the next 15 minutes. Another Spot came through for Bill VK4FW, this time of 17 m CW. I checked the frequency and soon had another contact in the log. I returned to 40 m, but on CW. I worked four stations before UTC midnight, including Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-2713 and Bill VK4FW/p. I again worked Bill on 10 m CW just prior to UTC midnight. I had 26 contacts in the log.

After UTC midnight, I tried a variety of bands and modes, often dashing off to hunt other activators when a Spot came through. I tried all bands from 40 m through to 10 m using SSB and CW. I finally took a break for a late lunch and then pulled out the laptop to set up for data modes. I worked stations on FT8 on 20, 17, 10 and 40 m. Late in the afternoon, I returned to 40 m SSB to work another dozen contacts, followed by two contacts on 80 m SSB.

I finally closed down at 0645Z with 144 contacts logged. There were 21 Park to Park contacts to eight different Parks.

Thanks to all who worked me, with special thanks to those who hunted me on different bands and modes.

I packed up and returned to Wodonga.

27 December 2022

Another day, another Park activation…. I headed out past Hume Dam to reach the Murray River Road, which I followed to reach Granya. I took Webb Lane to reach Bridle Track at the Cottonwood camp area in the Park. I took Bridle Track and Jurgies Track to reach Wises Creek Track which I followed around to the first target site. Along the way I took a very rough short detour around a very large tree down across the track. 4WD was engaged for the detour.

I reached the first site, parked and set up the station nearby.

Wises Creek Track VK3/HVE-153
Mount Granya State Park VKFF-0767

This HEMA summit had not yet been activated and was a logical option. I quickly worked four different stations on 40 m SSB to qualify the summit for HEMA using VK3PF. I then changed call to the Club callsign and started calling. I worked 11 contacts before changing to CW, where I worked six stations. I then moved to 10 m SSB to work Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-0437, followed by another five stations. I then tried 10 m CW, working another five contacts, including one in California. I then closed down and packed up, with 28 contacts logged as VK3BEZ. I returned tot he vehicle and continued along to Sugarloaf Track and on to Hore Hill, about 2.4 km from the HEMA summit.

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

I quickly set up the station on the summit, spotted as VK3BEZ and started calling on 40 m SSB. I quickly made five contacts. I switched to 10 m SSB, where I made three contacts. I then tried 10 m FT8, making eight contacts. I made a quick band change to hunt Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0550 on 17 m CW. Next I tried 6 m FT8, making two contacts.

Next I worked my way down the bands, trying FT8, FT4, SSB and CW on most of the bands. I finished off on 40 m again, using FT8, FT4 and CW. The new UTC day had produced 145 contacts, making the Park total for the day 173 contacts.

I closed just before 0630Z, packed up and made my way back to Granya and then back to Wodonga.

Once again, thanks to all who called and special thanks to those who hunted on multiple bands and modes.

28 December 2022

Another warm day was forecast. I undertook a couple of family tasks first thing in the morning and then headed out towards Tallangatta. The trip from there was simple – onward to Old Tallangatta, up Jarvis Creek Road to Plateau Road. I chose to head to a knoll on Leys Track.

Jarvis Creek Plateau VKFF-0969

I decided to again use the Club callsign. I set up the doublet and soon worked Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1983 on 17 m CW. I then started setting up an additional antenna for 15 m. Once it was up, I refocussed on the current spots, working Gerard again on 20 m CW, followed by James VK2TER in VKFF-3196 on 40 m CW and Ian VK1DI/p in VKFF-0458 on 40 m SSB.

I then spotted myself and worked two stations on 10 m CW. A spot came through, so I swapped to 15 m SSB for another Park to Park, Deryck VK4FDJL in VKFF-1643 on 15 m SSB. I changed frequency on 15 m and worked 14 stations. 15 m CW produced four contacts. I then switched to 15 m FT8, working seven stations. I then swapped to 10 m SSB to again work VK4FDJL. A return to 15 m, this time using FT4, produced another seven contacts. I decided to try 6 m FT8, swapping the 15 m vertical for its 6 m cousin. This provided another five contacts. I then moved down through the bands on DATA modes, plus some SSB and CW.

I closed at 0535Z with 112 contacts in the log. I packed up and headed back to Wodonga. Thanks to all the Hunters.

29 December 2022

I again headed out through Tallangatta and on to Bullioh, turning south towards Granya to reach Mount Granya Road, which I followed to the car park on the summit. I parked and started setting up the gear on the picnic table.

Mount Granya VK3/VE-165 863 m 4 points
Mount Granya State Park VKFF-0767

I started calling on 40 m CW, with only a single Hunter responding. A friend called on the phone and we soon worked on 80 m SSB. 10 minutes of calling on 20 m CW produced only a single contact. I moved up to 17 m CW and soon had callers, working four JA and two W stations. A Spot came through, so I moved to 40 m to hunt Richard VK2OKR in VKFF-2545 on both AM and SSB. I moved to a clear frequency, spotted and started calling. I made a further 15 contacts before UTC midnight, plus another 16 on the new day. I tried various bands, making enough contacts to finish off the Park with the Club callsign. A total of 58 contacts were made from the summit, with nine Park to Park contacts.

I packed up and headed back to the main road, then headed north to Granya and then the Murray River Road. I then drove towards Wodonga but diverted into the next Park.

Wises Creek Flora Reserve VKFF-2487

This park is just under 30 ha in area. There is a rough track from near the NE boundary of the park, off an old section of the main road. It had plenty of deep erosion ruts as it climbs up a shallow gully to a saddle, then it swings west to climb to the high point of the park, which is where I set up. I soon had a line over a tree branch and the doublet in the air. I again set up on the tailgate.

The activation started with Park to Park contacts with Peter VK3TKK in VKFF-0055 on 40 m SSB and CW. I worked another eight contacts on 40 m SSB before swapping to 40 m CW, working another seven contacts. I then tried other bands on both SSB and CW before returning to 40 m. I closed at around 0525Z with 85 contacts logged, conscious that I need to return to Wodonga by a reasonable time. I quickly packed up, descended to the main road and head back to Wodonga.

30 December 2022

Most of the day was spent on family matters. I drove Mum to Jingellic, where we briefly caught up with my brother. I checked out the memorial to the RFS firefighter Samuel McPaul, who died on 30 December 2019 when a firestorm overturned the fire truck containing him and two colleagues. We then returned to Jingellic to enjoy lunch at the Bridge Hotel. We then returned to Wodonga.

After a short break, I decided to head out for another activation.

Jarvis Creek Plateau VKFF-0969

I decided to head in to the northern section of the Park. I headed to Hume Dam, then took the Murray River Road to Georges Creek Road, then Langheims Road and Plateau Road to climb to the top of the ridge. I then travelled a few hundred metres north on Woods Track to park near a track junction. I parked and set up the station on the tailgate.

I spotted on 10 m FT8 and worked two stations. I heard a spot, so moved to 15 m CW to work Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-1550. I next tried 12 m FT8, making nine contacts. Another spot came through, so it was off to 15 m SSB to again work Bill. This was to be a bit of a pattern – operate on a band on FT8, then change band to hunt Bill before assessing where to operate next. I spent most of my time on 40 m (SSB, FT8, FT4 and CW), before moving to 20 m CW. Here I called for several minutes before a dog pile formed. I slowly worked a few stations, struggling to decipher individual callsigns through the pile up and the high (for me) sending speeds. I had just worked the fifth station when a lightning flash was followed about 3.5 seconds later by the sound wave. I decided that it was time to close! I was happy overall – I had 94 contacts in the log.

I quickly packed up, just getting the last of the gear in the car as the first raindrops arrived. By the time I had returned to Plateau Road, the rain was pelting down. I slowly descended down to Georges Creek Road, which I followed south to Old Tallangatta. That way, I was driving away from the centre of the storm…. I then headed back to Wodonga.

31 December 2022

I decided to head out to Wises Creek again, hoping that I might move the tally up to the quorum of 200 required for the Club/Team category. The trip out was uneventful and I was set up a little prior to 2300Z.

Wises Creek Flora Reserve VKFF-2487

I started the activation by hunting the two Activators already spotted, working Deryck VK4FDJL in VKFF-1511 on 15 m SSB and Garrick VK3GJG in VKFF-0269 on 40 m SSB. Over the next 30 minutes, I made another 25 contacts. I then moved to 10 m SSB for two contacts. 15 m was more productive, producing 15 contacts on voice and three on CW. Only one contact was made on 20 m SSB. I returned to 40 m SSB, making a total of 27 contacts including a few on AM. I tried a couple of other bands before trying FT8 on 10 m, making eight contacts. This included a Park to Park with K7CAR. I then jumped to 20 m SSB to chase ZL3RIK in ZLFF-0040.

It was about here that I needed to take a break to chat with a Ranger who had come up the track. I explained what I was doing, and the Parks award scheme. He seemed satisfied that I was not causing any damage and departed.

Next I tried 6 m FT8, making four contacts before I jumped to CW to hunt Bill VK4FW/p in VKFF-0662. 17 m CW provided five contacts. I then jumped back to 40 m for another contact with Bill VK4FW/p, followed by several others.

12 m FT8 and FT4 yielded a few more contacts before I tried 15 m DATA for a few more in the log. 15 m SSB yielded another 17 contacts. I tried 20 m FT8, making six contacts. My final contacts were with Bill VK4FW/p and VK8MM on 20 m CW, bringing the tally for the day to 142 contacts logged.

I packed up and returned to Wodonga.

1 January 2023

I was up and underway a little later than planned. I headed to Tallangatta to visit the Bakery, then headed down Tallangatta Creek Road. I then took Greenham Road to Mount Benambra Road, which I followed to the target for the day. The roads were generally very good, apart from several pot holes plus Greenham Road where it crosses private property and resembles a farm track rather than a road. I parked beside the Firemans Hut and gathered the gear required for the activation.

Mount Benambra VK3/VE-041 1472 m 8 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

I walked up to about 100 m from the turn around area beside the fire tower. I deliberately set up below the summit, as I have previously received significant interference from the inverters on the solar panel array power system. I was well inside the allowable 25 m vertical Activation Zone. I set up in a gap between shrubs on the uphill side of the track. I put up the lightweight ZS6BKW doublet and also the 15 m vertical, with the KX2. I was set up a little after 2300Z.

There were a large number of Spots posted, so it was a matter of check who was on which band and checking signals. Sometimes it was then a matter of joining the queue of callers and trying to break through with only 10 W.

I made 15 S2S contacts, including seven Park to Park contacts, before UTC midnight. It was all a little hectic. After UTC midnight, things were less pressured. I worked 22 S2S (including 10 P2P) before I closed at about 0155. The log for the day showed 52 contacts.

I packed up and slowly headed down Mt Benambra Road, taking the turn to head out to Dartmouth. The road down to Dartmouth was a little rough in places. From Dartmouth, the drive was simple on good sealed road. I returned to Wodonga.

2 January 2023

Tuesday morning in the Calendar had an appointment near home, so today was the day to make the trip back home. After completing a few tasks in Wodonga, I packed the car and headed off. I decided to head towards Mount Hotham as the initial part of the journey. After buying something in Bright for lunch later, I resumed the trip on the Great Alpine Road. Bright was busy, as expected at this time of year. There were several slow vehicles on the climb towards Hotham, including some caravans. I reached to northern end of the Dargo High Plains Road and turned south. As expected, I soon encountered roadworks speed restrictions, but the unsealed road surface was reasonable most of the time. There was a lot of traffic on the road. I swung to the west onto Blue Rag Range Track and climbed up to the high point, at 1668 m and pulled off the track to park clear of the rough track towards Mount Blue Rag.

Mount Blue Rag VK3/VE-021 1679 m 10 points
Alpine National Park VKFF-0619

The saddle between the summit and the high point of the track is above 1660 m, so the high point is inside the summit Activation Zone (AZ). I parked and soon had a squid pole strapped to a dead snow gum and the doublet up at 7 m above ground at the apex. I set up away from the vehicle and checked the SOTA spots. I listened on 10 m CW and soon had a S2S in the log: JP3DGT/3 on JA/OS-013. The reports were not great, but the contact was completed.

I then spotted on 40 m SSB, making seven contacts in five minutes. I then swapped to 40 m CW, making six contacts. My final slot was 20 m CW, yielding four contacts. With rain approaching from the north and strong winds giving significant wind chill, I closed and packed up.

I headed back down to the Dargo High Plains Road and continued south, encountering some areas with big pot holes and one very wet area in a saddle. I parked at the saddle north of the next summit, well inside the AZ.

VK3/VT-018 1393 m 8 points

I simply set up beside the road, not far from the car. Mobile phone coverage was marginal, but I managed to spot. I soon had the summit qualified on 40 m CW. I then tried 20 m CW, making six contacts. 20 m SSB yielded only a single contact. I moved to 40 m SSB, making seven contacts. I was about to close when another spot came through. I managed another S2S, this time JF1NDT/2 on JA/SO-070. I packed up and resumed the journey south.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. I travelled slowly through Dargo, with lots of vehicles parked near the Hotel. Further south, I cut across to Stockdale to head for Stratford and then headed home on the Highway.

Thanks for all who worked me over the period.

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