Two parks near Woodside

Friday 29 March 2019

The weather forecast for Gippsland was looking good until late afternoon on the Friday. At the usual informal gathering at the radio club on Thursday night, I asked Ross VK3NRB if he was interested in another day out playing radio in the field. Ross was willing, so we arranged to meet at my house on Friday morning.

We set off via the local Bakery and then to fuel up the car. We then headed past Loy Yang, Gormandale and on towards Yarram. That was when some frustration started: slow traffic from before Gormandale and over the climb up Powers Hill. Then a long stretch of 40 km/h roadworks, with at least 10 minutes stationary at the traffic control point. Then the three slow cars in front of us also took the turn we needed. Ahh….. One must be patient!

When almost down to Woodside, we turned south into Old Rosedale Road and travelled 4.2 km to the southern edge of the target Park.

Woodside Flora Reserve VKFF-2491

I believe this was a first activation. I had checked out this park on a previous trip in this area and was aware of a track along the southern edge of the reserve. We drove in about 400 m along the track, disturbing a mob of kangaroos as we proceeded. We found a spot close the top of a small sandy rise and parked off the track. Many of the trees had obvious marks on their bark of animals rubbing against them – probably made by deer.

WoodsideFR

View from close to the operating position

I tossed a line over a tree branch and Ross assisted in running out the ZS6BKW antenna. I again set up using the tailgate of the Ranger as the operating table. I spotted myself on ParksnPeaks at 0051Z and started calling on 40 m SSB.

Tony VK7LTD was first in the log and the calls started coming in. Ross went for a walk out of the Reserve with the KX2 and an unshielded dummy load – enough RF was radiated to enable us to make a contact. After about 15 minutes, I changed to 80 m SSB to work Mike VK6MB/3 at Erica – Mike could not hear us on 40 m. After working Mike, it was back to 40 m SSB. We both worked Paul VK5PAS, followed by Ian VK5CZ. Next was Mike VK6MB/3, this time slightly better than on 80 m – strange propagation! I continued calling on 40 m and worked Allen VK3ARH on VK3/VC-032 on SSB and then CW, plus Ian VK5CZ on CW. I made steady progress and soon had 44 in the log, with Steve VK3KTT/VK3MEG in the log on SSB and CW, and Allen VK3HRA on CW. I dropped down the band and worked Gerard VK2IO on CW. I then tried 20 m CW, working Alan VK2MG and John VK4TJ. I had 49 in the log, plus Ross had at least 10 contacts, so we started packing up at around 0230Z. During the activation, I ducked out of the Reserve to work Ross still inside the Reserve, so managed to Hunt the Park on the same day as I activated.

VKFF-2491

Google Earth view from the west

We retraced our route back to Old Rosedale Road and then into Woodside, then north-ish on the South Gippsland Highway. We then turned west into Boundary Road and into the next Park.

Mullungdung Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2406

I have activated this Park previously, but I am not aware of any activations by others. The idea was to get another activation towards a Boomerang Award, plus allow Ross to activate the Park.

We set up just off a track, around 300 m from the southeast corner of the Park. I again used a line tossed over a tree branch and the antenna was strung across the track, with apex at around 10 m up, so we were unlikely to cause any issues should anyone come along the track. As it turned out, we saw nobody whilst there, apart from some trucks travelling along Boundary Road travelling to and from the quarry nearby.

VKFF-2406

Google Earth view from the south east

I spotted myself at 0306Z for 20 m CW – convenient, as that was the setting on the radio when I switched it on. I heard Allen VK3ARH calling – very weak, but I made out the callsign eventually. I responded, but Allen must have been having difficulty hearing me, as we did not complete the contact. I soon had Gerard VK2IO and John VK4TJ in the log. After I called a few times with no responses, I moved up to 20 m SSB. I soon worked Gerard and John again, followed by several others.

I moved down to 80 m SSB and worked Mike VK6MB/3, Allen VK3ARH on SSB & CW, and Ross from outside the Park. Next was up to 40 m CW for Alan VK2MG, Allen VK3HRA and John VK4TJ with his extra callsigns. I moved up to 7.144 MHz and soon had another 12 contacts in the log, including Steve VK3KTT. I dropped down to 80 m again to work Steve on SSB and CW, plus Ken VK3UH on SSB. Back up to 40 m SSB again for another seven contacts to bring the total to 47 for the Park. Ross had his 10 contacts, so we started packing up at around 0440Z.

We headed back out to the South Gippsland Highway and then worked our way back to Churchill, arriving home about an hour after leaving the Park.

It had been another good day out playing radio. Temperatures had been in the high 20s all day, but we had enough breezes for things to be comfortable.

Again, thanks to all who worked us during the day.

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The “Hillbillies” Hamfest and a Park on the way home

Sunday 24 March 2019

The Eastern & Mountain District Radio Club (the “Hillbillies”) annual Hamfest (formerly White Elephant Sale) was coming up. I again had volunteered to man a table to sell WIA merchandise, particularly the Callbook.

The day required an early start from home. Ross VK3NRB arrived before the planned departure time, so we were under way on time. The drive to Heathmont was uneventful. I had a brief stop at one of the Service Centres on Eastlink for a coffee and ran into a couple of amateurs whilst waiting for the coffee to be made. Back onto the toll road and on to Heathmont. Parking at the venue can be tight, but we found a spot in the shade. After unloading the various boxes of books and other stock, we headed up to the venue and started setting up a simple display table.

The morning went reasonably well, with around a dozen Callbooks sold plus some other stock. There was lots of discussion with other amateurs. We had no luck in the door prize or raffle draw, but there were around 300 in attendance, so a small number of prizes means low chances of winning.

After the raffle draw was completed, we packed up and loaded the remaining stock in the car and head back to Eastlink and then south to Wellington Road. We then headed to the east and worked our way around to the target Park.

Upper Beaconsfield Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2219

I had visited this Park back in November 2017, working 15 stations on a very hot week day with poor HF conditions. It was a diversion on a trip to Melbourne for a task long forgotten.

The easiest place to access this Park is using the car park at its northern end, at 65   St Georges Road Beaconsfield Upper. The entire car park is inside the Reserve, so find a spot to park and set up the station within the car park and/or adjacent Reserve beyond the car park fence. The site is located at a reasonable height, with views to the south west towards Port Philip Bay and Mornington Peninsula through the trees.

VKFF-2219

Google Earth of the Park from the NE

I tossed a line over a tree branch and we soon had the ZS6BKW antenna up with the apex at around 7 m. I set up the station using the tailgate of the vehicle as the operating table. I was running the IC-7300 connected to the auxiliary battery in the vehicle, with the IC-7300 set for 30 W most of the time, but occasionally turning up the power to help out callers who were having troubles hearing me.

On switching on, I give a short call on 7.144 MHz and worked Tommy VK2IR. Ivan VK5HS also called me, so he was soon in the log. I was about to spot myself and saw a 10 or 15 minute old spot for Alan VK3ARH/p in Grampians National Park VKFF-0213. I dropped down to the CW end of the band and heard a “?”. Although I did not yet have the paddle plugged in, I used the memory on the radio to send my call and quickly moved to plug in the paddle…. The response came back at high speed & I got VK2 but missed the suffix. I soon had the call and had Tommy VK2IR in the log on CW. A quick call on CW yield no response, so I returned up the band for SSB.

As I was about to start calling, Tony VK3XV/5 popped up to ask if the frequency was in use, so Tony was soon in the log from VKFF-0888. Tony moved up the band and I started calling CQ. Next in the log was Ray VK4NH, followed by a string of callers including John VK5FLEA/p in VKFF-0877 and Allen VK3ARH/p in VKFF-0213. Allen was a tough copy but we made the contact. After a few more calls, I moved down to 7.032 MHz CW and worked John VK4TJ and Alan VK2MG. I moved back up to 7.144 MHz to work three more callers before moving to 80 m SSB when I had no replies to calls. Fifteen minutes on 80 m yielded six calls, including one on CW.

I moved back up to 40 m SSB and saw a spot for Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0272. I waited for a chance to call and soon had Gerard in the log. Next was a surprise – John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga at good strength. The contact was surprising due to the relatively close distance and the lack of other closer in stations worked on 40 m. I then worked Adam VK2YK and then moved to see if I could hear Jon VK7JON from Bay of Fires. John VK2YW was worked Jon but I heard nothing of Jon…. Frustrating! John assisted in attempting to make contact, but no go. Jon did not have an antenna for 80 m, so that possibility was eliminated.

I moved up to 20 m CW and called for several minutes to work only Scott VK4CZ. I moved up the 20 m SSB and worked Peter VK3ZPF, the only other activator of this Park to date, thus giving Peter a Complete for the Park. Peter suggested trying higher bands, and we soon had each other in the log on 15 m and 10 m. Andrew VK3FIX was the last contact before I decided to switch off at around 0440Z, just less than two hours since we switched on. I had 50 contacts in the log.

Ross assisted with the pack up and we were soon on the drive home.

Thanks to all the hunters and the other activators for the contacts. I am sure that I missed several activators during the morning, but had a good afternoon of radio fun.

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Ada Tall Trees Reserve VKFF-2253

Saturday 23 March 2019

Saturday was wet and windy in the morning. I had been considering heading out to support the South Australian National and Conservation Parks Awards anniversary weekend. With the rain, I decided to chase for a while from home, working several stations. Late in the morning I checked the weather forecast and the weather RADAR. It looked like the rain would be clear of my intended target Park by time I arrived on site. I packed the required items into the vehicle and headed off at about 1240 local time.

I drove west to Nilma, then north through Neerim South and worked my way up to the Park via New Turkey Spur Road. Federal Road passes through the Reserve, with around 120 metres of the road inside the reserve boundary. I parked close to the lowest point in the road, roughly in the middle of that section of the Reserve.

AdaTallTrees

Operating site in Ada Tall Trees Reserve. Thanks to Google Earth.

I managed to toss a line over a branch at around 15 m and soon had the ZS6BKW with the centre at almost 14 m high. The rest of the antenna was strung out and the station assembled on the tray at the rear of the vehicle. The major problem with this operating site is that you are well away from major roads AND in a low gully, so there is no mobile phone coverage. I would need to rely on Hunters to spot me.

I switched on and had a quick hunt around on 40 m SSB. I worked John VK5FLEA.p in VKFF-0790, followed by Andy VK5LA/p in VKFF-0372 and Tony VK5MRT/p in VKFF-1767. I settled on 7.135 and soon had more callers.

Further Park to Park contacts included:
Adam VK2YK/p in VKFF-1410,
Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-2784,
Alan VK5AR/p in VKFF-0022,
Peter VK5PET/p in VKFF-1767,
Mike VK6MB/3 in VKFF-0764,
Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF0791,
Tony VK3XV/5 in VKFF0805,
Hans VK4YX/p in VKFF-0890,
David VK5DG/p in VKFF-0793,
Adrian VK5FANA/p in VKFF-0813,
Andrew VK5MR/p in VKFF-0935,
Angela VK7FAMP/p and Tony VK7LTD/p in VKFF-1147,
Lesley VK5LOL/p in VKFF-0890, and
Jon VK7JON/p and Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1152.

I also worked Matt VA3OZI/VK2 on VK2/IL-002.

I moved down to 80 m SSB to work a couple of locals plus Steve VK7CW on CW before returning to 40 m for only one more contact. In just over two hours I  had managed to make 53 contacts, so the Park was now well qualified.

I packed up and headed back to Neerim South. I decided against a second activation as I was feeling a little weary and tomorrow required an early start, so simply headed for home.

A good fun afternoon of Park radio activity. Thanks to all who worked me during the activation.

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Another step in VKFF Hunter Honour Roll

I have been slowly  increasing the count of new unique VKFF references worked.

Last week’s trip to Outtrim gave me the chance to chase/hunt Ross when he was inside the reserve and I was outside and that happened to bring up the next milestone. I am sure that there are a couple more new parks waiting for the activator to upload logs, but that is the way that things go for the Hunter: you must have patience for the activator to “do the paperwork”.

VK3PF VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1375

Thanks to all the Activators for the fun of hunting you. Thanks to the VKFF admin team for your efforts in uploading the logs and sending out certificates. Thanks to Paul VK5PAS for his excellent photos  used on the certificates.

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A trip to Outtrim

Thursday 14 March 2019

I had been chatting again with my friend from Maffra. It appears that he enjoyed being out in the field with me on Tuesday when I activated Glenmaggie Regional Park. We decided to do a Park activation on the Thursday, with Ross to try getting on air and at least qualifying the target Park for VKFF. Ross has chased me on many occasions, often providing valuable contacts to get me over the line when on a SOTA peak or helping towards the quota for VKFF/WWFF.

Ross arrived a little later than planned, so we headed off a little late. After adding fuel to the car, we headed to Mirboo North and on to Leongatha, where we stopped at a bakery to buy some lunch. We then travelled towards Inverloch to Leongatha South, then west towards Outttrim.

Outtrim Cemetery Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2171

The Reserve has no vehicle access, but pedestrian access is simple. There are some interpretive signs near the pedestrian access gate. Parking is limited. There is a lane beside the east end of the Reserve, with a very pot-holed entrance to the lane. There is space to park a vehicle beside the locked gate to the Reserve and it is simple to climb over the gate and set up inside the Reserve.

Note that located directly opposite the Reserve is the Koorumburra Motorcycle Club motocross track, so you may have lots of motorbike sounds as background noise for your activation. I had checked out this site earlier in the year and had decided to revisit and activate the site on a week-day, when it would be unlikely to have lots of motorbike activity.

The Reserve is just over 5 hectares in area and is divided into two sections. The Northern area is periodically slashed and has thus developed a higher percentage of wildflowers, grass-like plants and orchids. The introduced Watsonia has been a persistent invasive problem. The Southern area is more typical of the Dry Sclerophyll forest found in the foothills of the Strzelecki Range. It is more protected and has a greater diversity but less abundance of flora. It has been subject to invasion by Pittosporum undulatum, and is being monitored to maintain the integrity of the area.

OuttrimConservation

History

Outtrim is located in Gippsland, approximately 20 km southwest of Korumburra. The township was first surveyed in 1893, with council records in 1894 showing that three people occupied houses and four others owned shop/dwellings. Following the development of black coal mining operations, Outtrim developed rapidly, and Shire records show that by 1901 the town contained 323 houses and approximately 1,700 inhabitants. Primary School no. 3221 was opened in 1900, and by 1903, 347 students were enrolled.

In 1895 ten acres were allocated for the Outtrim Cemetery. It is believed that 220 individuals were buried in the cemetery, which fell out of use as Outtrim declined in the early 20th century. The last burial is thought to have taken place in 1946.

The township of Outtrim has now virtually disappeared from sight, and the area of the former township has been absorbed into surrounding farmlands.

History of Place

The cemetery site was approved in 1894, and ten acres of crown allotment 25X and 25V of the parish of Kongwak were allocated in 1895. The trustees were elected at a public meeting in the Outtrim hall in 1896.

The first of a total of 220 burials took place on 3 October 1897. It is thought that the last burial took place in 1946.

The site was classified as a Nature conservation reserve in 1984 and has been managed as a nature reserve since that time.
http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/44895/download-report

The last burial occurred on 15 April 1946.

OuttrimCemetery

Activation

We had nice weather, with some clouds and low to mid 20s temperatures and a gentle breeze for most our time on site.

Ross and I moved the required equipment across the gate. I set up a 12 m squid pole using the gate post as a support. We laid out the ZS6BKW antenna running north-south, as any other orientation would require the antenna being outside the Reserve boundary or more effort to set up support for the squid pole.

I set up a folding table and the usual folding chair near the gate. I soon made some contacts with Ross on VHF and UHF, with Ross outside the Reserve. I then finished hooking up the KX2 to the battery and antenna. On switching on, the KX2, I started to move up the 40 m band towards the VKFF focus frequency of 7.144 MHz. Just prior to reaching the target frequency, I heard a CQ call on 7.140. I soon had Ade VK4SOE/p in the log. I moved up to 7.144 MHz, spotted myself and started calling, but had few responses. After a few minutes, I dropped down to 80 m and started to work a few Gippsland locals plus Geoff VK3SQ.

The sun was out from behind the clouds and was feeling very hot, so Ross and I assembled a shelter that I have which is designed to sit on the rear of a 4WD. We set it up with the “roof end” tied to the top post of the gate/fence. The shelter was not very high, but there was enough room to sit comfortably underneath.

I returned to 40 m, but on CW and spotted. I soon had four calls in the log. I then moved back to 7.144 MHz and worked 11 contacts over the next 45 minutes – it was slow work. Amongst those contacts was Tony VK3XV/5 in Peachna Conservation Park VKFF-1075.

I moved up to 20 m to find OTHR signals high in the band, so spotted on 14.244. I soon had seven calls in the log, including VK4NH and VK4TJ. I then worked John VK4TJ on CW on the same frequency.

I next checked how well the KX2 tuner would match on 30 m – okay was the result, so I spotted on 10.116 MHz CW and worked John VK4TJ again. I then moved to SSB on 10.125 MHz and again worked John and Ray VK4NH.

I moved back to 80 m SSB for several minutes of calling, but only worked Peter VK3FPSR in northern Victoria. Mike VK6MB/3 was in the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park VKFF-0747, but we could not hear each other, which was strange. We coordinated the attempted contact via mobile phone. Conditions were odd. I decided to give up and to get Ross back on the microphone so that he could qualify. Whilst we were setting up on 40 m, we heard Mike VK6MB/3 weakly. I managed to work Mike with several overs required to complete the contact. I then moved down the band to work Adrian VK5FANA for my final contact and the next contact for Ross. Ross started calling and soon had enough contacts in the log – 10 for VKFF – including a contact with Mike VK6MB/3. We were calling from the Reserve for about 3.5 hours – slow going and hard work at times.

We packed up the station, and I finally remembered to take a snap of Ross operating before we finished packing.

RossVK3NRB_VKFF2171

Ross VK3NRB/p operating

We loaded the gear back into the car and headed back to Churchill before later heading to the local radio club for the weekly gathering.

Thanks to all the callers during the afternoon.

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A second visit to Glenmaggie Regional Park

A friend had requested advice regarding a delicate matter that had arisen. I suggested an option would be to start documenting the chronology of events leading to the current situation. I offered to head across to his home to assist with the task. So I headed off from home a little prior to 1000 local time, arriving in Maffra just after 1100 local (0000Z).

We soon had the computer fired up and started the documentation task. Whilst waiting for a task to complete, I checked ParksnPeak and saw that Ian VK5CZ/p was out on a SOTA summit. I dashed out to my car to grab the CW paddle to hook up to the rig. A few minutes later, I managed to work Ian on 40 m SSB: our first successful outcome for the day. We returned to the main task at hand. I managed to miss a couple of spots posted by Liz VK2XSE/p, but listened for her and even called. A couple of minutes later, Liz spotted that she was going QRT.

About an hour later, we heard a weak signal in the noise, as I had left the transceiver running on 7.144 MHz. Gerard VK2IO and Lee VK2LEE were attempting to work out where Tony VK3XV/5 was operating. I jumped in and managed to finally get the Park reference from Tony along with 33 reports both ways. I spotted Tony and heard the others complete contacts with Tony.

With the documentation task completed, we posted a response to the correspondent causing angst, then left to grab some lunch. We also decided to head off to the nearest Park to try an activation, after having checked the RADAR to note that the light showers would soon be past our intended location.

We headed off to the west in separate vehicles, through Tinamba and on towards Glenmaggie. I found a spot inside the Park boundary to stop and set up the station.

Glenmaggie Regional Park VKFF-1877

We parked to the east of Tyson Road, north of Tinamba Seaton Road, well inside the boundary of the Park. I quickly tossed a line over a tree branch at about 10-11 m and hauled up the centre of the doublet. We soon had the antenna legs run out and the station assembled. Opening ParksnPeaks showed that things were busy, with VK3XV/5, VK3TKK/p and Rob VK4AAC/3 all on air.

I quickly listened to the spotted frequencies and could only hear Tony, so soon had VKFF-1011 in the log for a Park to Park (P2P) contact. I spotted for 80 m and moved down and started calling., A few minutes later, I worked Peter VK3TKK/p in VKFF-2316, followed by Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-2100 – two more P2P contacts. Shortly after, I worked Steve VK3KTT. I soon  had seven contacts on 80 m SSB in the log. I moved up to 40 m and found a clear frequency to start calling. 15 minutes later and I only had two contacts in the log…. I moved to 40 m CW, which yielded five contacts in the next ten minutes, then nothing. I tried 20 m CW and worked another three stations. 20 m SSB yielded only a single contact with a local, who was also worked on 40 m, 15 m, 10 m and 6 m SSB plus 2 m and 70 cm FM.

Back to 40 m SSB, I worked Rob VK4AAC/3 again from VKFF-2100, plus David VK5PL. With no further responses to CQ calls, I decided to try my first session using FT8 in the field. I hooked my laptop up to the IC-7300 and was soon receiving signals on the FT8 frequency on 20 m, but I was not transmitting. I soon corrected the settings and was transmitting. I called a ZL station but was unable to complete despite continuing transmitting. My signal was reported at -16 but the other station gave up after several minutes. I tried a few CQ calls but had no responses. I dropped back down to the 40 m FT8 and soon had several calls in the log: VK2AJG, VK2IO, VK5WU, VK3NRB and VK1MIC. With no more responses, I changed back to 40 m SSB and was quickly answered by Paul VK5PAS, followed by Adrian VK5FANA. Paul posted another spot for me and I soon had another couple of contacts. I finally had 44 in the log – I thought at the time it was 45, but I had one duplicate contact. I moved up to 20 m FT8 and worked Ross VK3NRB on FT8, making it 45 contacts for the day. I decided to pack up and head for home.

Thanks to all the Hunters for your contacts.

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A trip to Neerim East

Saturday 9 March 2019

The morning started a little slowly, but with a little radio fun with chasing Katsu JP3DGT/3 activating JA/OS-004 on 17 m CW. After midday local time, I chased Tony VK3XV/p and Mike VK6MB/3 in Parks. I was considering what to have for lunch and then decided to head out to activate a Park which I had not yet activated. There was a lot of smoke in the air from bushfires – the closest one is about 10 km south of home: the Budgeree/Yinnar South fire. With the smoke, I did not want to do any outside work and decided for some radio therapy in the filed instead, hoping that the smoke would not be too bad at Neerim East, despite being not far from the Bunyip fires. The wind was from the east, so there was some logic in choosing the target Park.

The route was relatively simple: head from home to Moe, then I made my way around to Old Sale Road and followed it in its north of west route to Beards Track Rosworth. North along Beards Track, travelling through Sweetwater Creek Nature Conservation Reserve, which have previously activated. I travelled on until reaching Latrobe River Road, then a short distance north until I worked my way around onto Carrols Track and drove along it along the edge of pine plantations. Carrols Track ends at a junction with PP2 Track, which drops steeply down into a gully, with some short steep spoon drains plus some erosion. I changed into 4WD and slowly made my way down the hill until after reaching the western boundary of the target Reserve. Close to the bottom of the hill I reached a tree across the road – a tree big enough to no want to tackle without a chainsaw. I was adjacent to roughly the middle of the southern boundary of the Reserve, so I simply parked the vehicle and started to set up.

Neerim Flora Reserve VKFF-2410

This reference had been activated only once previously, by Peter VK3ZPF on a week day under wetter conditions. Peter had parked at the top of the hill and walked down and into the Reserve. Before I left home, I had double checked the Reserve boundary using the MapShare viewer. You can see in the image below that the southern boundary extends to beyond PP2 Track apart from a small section of the Track. The tree across the track was close to the point where the track deviates slightly further south and outside the Park boundary. I set up on the northern edge of the track.

NeerimFR_boundary

The antenna was running east-west, with the apex at around nine metres. I set up using the tray at the rear of the vehicle as the operating table. I could not spot myself as I had no phone coverage, being down in a gully away from any nearby sealed roads. I dialled up 7.144 MHz and asked if the frequency was in use. I heard no initial response, so started calling. Andy VK5LA came back to me, and when he finished, I heard Mike VK6MB/3 weakly. Mike did not hear my replies to him and dropped down to 80 m. I worked Andy and he spotted me. I worked four others before I dropped down to 80 m to work Mike for a Park to Park (P2P) contact. Mike was in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761.

I returned to 7.144 MHz and started working other callers. John VK4TJ was next, followed by Tony VK3XV/5, now in Carappee Hill Conservation Park VKFF-1016. The calls continued to come slowly – thank goodness for the voice recorder on the IC-7300. About 44 minutes after I started calling, I worked Ian VK1DI/2 in Bimberamala National Park VKFF-0032. A short period with no responses to calls had me announce that I would drop down to work CW on 40 m, when Scott VK4CZ called in. I then moved down to 7.032 MHz CW to work six stations over the next 12 minutes.

I moved back up to 7.144 MHz and worked 10 stations over the next 10 minutes, the last of whom was Nick VK3ANL. Nick was weak on 40 m, so we moved down to 80 m SSB to make another contact. 80 m brought six contacts in total, including Nick VK3ANL on CW in addition to SSB. Ken VK3UH spotted me for 20 m SSB and I soon had Ray VK4NH in the log. With Ray’s extra callsigns, I finally had 47 contacts in the log. With no more responses, I started packing up and retraced my route back towards Latrobe River Road, but with a detour to check out the approach to the Reserve from the east.

NeerimNR_scrub

The “open” scrub at the operating site

I dropped down Boundary Track to Stanley Vale Track, then onto Invert Track and the eastern end of PP2 Track. There were a few potholes and ruts to dodge until I reached a nasty looking bog hole which had several big ruts and wet areas. I jumped out and walked around the bog and around the bend I saw the same tree across the track as I had encountered earlier. So access from the east is possible, but I suspect it could be very wet and muddy when wet. I retraced my route, but continued on Stanley Vale Track and climbed up Spur Track to get back to Latrobe River Road.

I missed the corner with Beards Track and simply made my way out to the west to Neerim South, then south to Bloomfield Road and Crossover. I decided to drop in for another activation of VKFF-0965.

Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965

Shortly after passing Gunn Road, I swung in to the southern end of Bridge Road and then left onto Rokeby to Neerim Trail. I stopped and parked on the remnant of the track that has been cut off from reaching Bloomfield Road by a cutting. The spot is reasonably high and there is space to hand antennas from the trees, as long as you do not run lines across the track – it is used by walkers, horse riders, cyclists and motorbike riders.

I managed to throw a line over a branch at around 12 m above ground. As I was running out the antenna, the first of several motorcyclists came through and stopped for a short chat. He left after I reassured him that I would not be running any lines across the track at any low height!

I was finally set up at 0623Z and spotted myself. John VK4TJ was first in the log at 0625Z. Ten minutes later, I worked John VK5FLEA/p in Kenneth Stirling Conservation Park VKFF-0781. I worked three more stations before I had no resposnes.

I dropped down to 40 m CW and called for a few minutes before my first reply: Allen VK3ARH. I soon had seven on CW in the log, when I worked Gerard VK2IO/p in Rouse Hill Regional Park VKFF-2784. Next was John VK5FLEA/p again, this time on CW.

I dropped down to 80 m and soon had four more contacts, including Nick VK3ANL on SSB and CW and Mike VK6MB/3 in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761. With no further callers, I returned to 40 m SSB but had no responses to calls. After about 15 minutes, I had a short tune around the band and managed to work Frank F5PAU.

I moved up to 20 m SSB but had no replies. I dropped down the band for CW and worked only Andrei ZL1TM.

I moved back to 40 m SSB at around 0800Z and worked another five contacts, including Gerard VK2IO/p again. I then worked three calls on CW on the same frequency. The tally was getting closer to the magic 44, but I had no further responses to calls. I again dropped down to 80 m SSB and soon had six more in the log, including both Gerard VK2IO/p and John VK5FLEA/p for P2P on both SSB and CW. These were followed by eight more contacts, including three on CW plus Nik VK3ZNK/p in Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park VKFF-0747. It was getting late – the sun had set and I would soon run out of light. I had 49 in the log, so I was happy.

I packed up and headed back out to Bloomfield Road, hitting the bitumen at 2000 local. I then had a drive of about an hour to reach home to grab a late dinner.

Thanks to all the Hunters, with special thanks to all who spotted me from Neerim Flora Reserve, especially John VK4TJ.

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A trip to Melbourne with a Park detour

Thursday 28 February 2019

I needed to travel to Clayton to pick up an item, so decided to add a detour to the trip home. I left home about mid-morning and arrived at destination in Clayton in reasonable time. I made a couple of other stops before heading east along Wellington Road towards my target Park for the day.

Baluk Willam Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2042

This Reserve is located in South Belgrave, north of Wellington Road. It is split by Courtneys Road, with the road reserve excluded from the reserve boundary. There are some walking tracks and a small car park off Orchid Road. There is an interpretive sign at the car park, but only part of the car park is inside the reserve boundary so care is needed to select an operating site to ensure the station is inside the boundary, as required by the WWFF rules.

The Park is just over 67 hectares and mostly scrub. It is a sanctuary for over a third of Victoria’s orchid species. The Reserve contains thirteen Ecological Vegetation Classes, including shrubby foothill forest, damp sclerophyll forest, wet sclerophyll forest and heathy woodland (dominated by Sliver-leafed Stringybark). Over 250 indigenous plant species have been recorded in the reserve, including 73 orchid species. Several of the orchid species are rare or vulnerable in Victoria.

BalukWillamSign

The Reserve Wecome sign

I quickly set up the station, posting a spot as I commenced the process – I wanted to let Mike VK6MB/3 know that I was coming up shortly having seen a spot from Mike on arrival. I had a major issue once set up – S5-6 noise across 80 m. Despite the noise, I managed to complete a contact with Mike on 80 m SSB Park to Park to Lind National Park VKFF-0287. I spent another 10 minutes calling on 80 m with no replies heard above the noise. I then decided to move one end of the antenna. The result was a significant drop in the noise level. There was a power line transformer not far away, plus an obvious solar panel array on the closest house, either of which may have been the source of the noise.

I moved up to 40 m SSB and soon had three regulars in the log: John VK4TJ, Gerard VK2IO and Adrian VK5FANA. Further calls yielded no replies, so I set up the paddle and moved down to the CW segment of the band. This resulted in several calls, again working John and Gerard, plus Steve VK7CW.

I returned to 40 m and could just hear Geoff VK3SQ calling but he could not hear my responses. We dropped down to 80 m SSB to make a contact. I then tried 20 m SSB, with the noise level higher. I worked John VK4TJ on CW, as I was not deciphering his voice signal.

I next tried 30 m SSB, even knowing that the antenna match was poor. I again worked Mike VK6MB/3 in Lind National Park. I had no further contacts on SSB, so spotted for CW and again worked John VK4TJ plus Joergen VK2KJJ. I tried 15 m SSB and soon had John VK4TJ in the log on both SSB & CW, but no other callers. I tried 12 m, again working John VK4TJ on SSB & CW but no other callers.

I moved back to 40 m SSB and managed another contact with Mike VK6MB/3, working hard to make contacts from Lind National Park. I moved down from 7.144 MHz to 7.135 MHz and soon had some more callers: Mark VK3MDH/m in Belgrave, Compton VK2HRX, John VK2JON, Keith VK3MKE and then Nick VK3ANL on SSB and then CW. I then dropped down to 80 m and worked Keith and Nick again, but no further callers. Back on 7.135 MHz, I worked Dennis VK2HHA. After working Dennis, I stopped to chat with Mark VK3MDH, who had driven down to find me. With some assistance from Mark, we managed to finally make contact  with Michael VK3FCMC on 2 m FM – I could hear Michael on 15 m SSB, but he could not hear me on 15 , 40 or 80 m. Michael was contact 44 – Park qualified. As Mark drove off, we made an “insurance” contact on 2 m FM – 45 in the log and all done for me. It had been a hot afternoon, with temperatures in the mid to high 30s relieved a little by a gentle breeze for most of the afternoon. It took about three hours to make the contacts. Thanks to all who called, but especially John VK4TJ who looked for me on every band.

I packed up and started the drive home, coping with the Melbourne afternoon peak traffic.

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A new WWFF Activator certificate

I had not been keeping a close watch on my WWFF Activator tally, so received a pleasant surprise when I checked on Logsearch last week: I had qualified 121 Parks as an Activator at the 44 contacts qualification level. As usual, it took only a couple of days for the new certificate to arrive via email.

Once again, thanks to all who hunt for us Activators when we are out in a Park, and thanks to the team who manage the database and associated systems.

vk3pf_A-121

Activator certificate: 121 references activated

 

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A Park after a hamfest

Sunday 17 February 2019

The weekend ended up being a little hectic. It all started with the trip to Melbourne on the Friday, with a radio being dropped off for repair, followed by a pick up at an electronics store. I drove across to Bayswater to pick up some books from the WIA office and then headed across to the west of Melbourne to my host for the weekend.

Saturday saw a trip to the Moorabbin and District Radio Club in Highett for the annual VK3 SOTA Conference where I was one of the eight presenters, with “SOTA and Parks for Newbies” the theme this year. The day went well, with the informal discussions as valuable as the formal presentations – it was great to catch up with everyone. Following the conference, I returned to my host’s home for the night.

Sunday morning was a relatively early start to arrive at the venue of the WANDARC Hamfest in Werribee to set up a table to hopefully sell some books and other stock on behalf of the WIA. Sales were slow, but it was a good morning for catching up with lots of amateurs who I had not seen for some time. These days, the socialising is the main reason to attend such events.

The crowd dissipated quickly after the door prizes were drawn at noon. I packed up and loaded the stock into the car after buying some lunch. I then headed across to Point Cook, negotiating the traffic en route.

Point Cook Coastal Park VKFF-1875

Traffic was heavy, especially once close to Point Cook Road. There was a significant delay at the road junction at Point Cook Road, a T intersection where I faced a Give Way sign. Patience was required. Just before reaching the Park, I worked Rob VK2QR/5 in VKFF-0822 whilst mobile.

The Park extends from the boundary of the Point Cook RAAF Base (RAAF Williams) in a northeast direction towards Altona. The northern end of the Park incorporates the Cheetham Wetlands – an area of shallow lagoons previously used as salt pans to harvest salt. The Park is part of a complex of RAMSAR wetlands around Port Phillip Bay. As such, the Park is popular for bird watching, sightseeing, walking and also aircraft watchers. There are many paths within the Park and I saw several family groups riding bicycles on the sealed roads. The Park adjoins the Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary. The latter is listed on Protected Planet and the CAPAD database (IUCN Category II), so may be added to the VKFF program in the future.

PointCookCP

The Park. Thanks to Google Earth.

I headed south towards the Park and entered via the Main Drive gate. There were plenty of people in the car parks, so I continued on toward the Picnic Area at the end of Side Entrance Road until I found a car park which had only a single vehicle and parked at the opposite end. I quickly set up the ZS6BKW antenna using a squid pole lashed to a post. The station was set up on the tailgate of the vehicle and I soon had Rob VK2QR/5 in the log as a Park to park (P2P) contact at 0254Z. I moved up to 7.144 MHZ and heard Mike VK6MB/1 in Namadgi National Park VKFF-0377, so waited for a chance and completed another P2P contact. I then moved up to 7.150 and started calling whilst posting a spot. As is often the case, there was an initial flurry of callers and then things started slowing down. At this time, I started having a lot of audio noise due to the RAAF Roulettes aerobatics team commencing a display above the nearby Point Cook RAAF base and Museum. It was quickly obvious that a special event was occurring at the base, which explained the large number of cars parked opposite the end of the runway in the Park: plane spotters! It was rather distracting, with the aircraft often completing a manoeuvre near my location. It was an occasion when I wished that I had packed the SLR camera with a long lens to capture some images. I later found that the display was part of a Valentine’s Day celebration at the RAAF Museum.

After about fifteen minutes Alan VK5AR/p called in and I had another P2P contact. I then assisted Alan by looking up his Park reference. I went back to calling with a steady but slow rate of contacts. I had 36 in the log by 0400, so took a short break to connect up my new paddle and spotted on 7.034, with a contest station calling on 7.032 MHz.

The new paddle took a little adjusting and a few contacts to become familiar with its use. The paddle is the Porta Paddle-II Precision Iambic Paddle, purchased as a kit. The kit arrived midweek and was easy to assemble apart from a couple of fiddly bits such as the springs. I also purchased the leg strap mount for the paddle, so I was also learning a new position for sending. I had a little noise on the band, making some calls a little harder to copy. This was not helped by the fact that I was feeling tired….

Cliff VK2NP was first in the log on CW. Several contacts followed, with the last contact tough – he called at a much higher speed and I had trouble deciphering the callsign, He slowed down a little when I sent “QRS pse”, but it was still probably 25 wpm. I finally decoded the callsign and had a report in the log. I called again with no replies, so dropped down to 80 m SSB to work Nick VK3ANL and Allen VK3ARH.

I then moved up to 20 m SSB and worked another three stations, making a total of 50 contacts.  The time was now 1615 local, and I still had a long drive home, so I closed down and packed up to start that long drive home.

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