A day near Chiltern

Friday 21 December 2018

I decided on a shorter trip for the day as I had a family dinner engagement. I was a little late heading off, posting an Alert for 0100 UTC. I travelled down the Hume Highway to Wenckes Road, then onto Chiltern Valley Road and northwest to Research Station Road. Left into Research Station Road and then into United Road. About half way along United Road I turned into the lane – Bath Lane on some maps. I reached a locked gate with a Natural Features Reserve sign just beyond the gate – it was looking like a SOTA like operation would be required. I drove “around the block” and found another locked gate on the southern boundary of the Reserve and returned to the gate on Bath Lane (no signage at the start of the Lane).

Rutherglen Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2185 Not previously activated

I parked near the gate and loaded up with the SOTA pack, plus the folding camp chair and folding table. I moved inside the reserve through the gap beside the gate that allows pedestrian access and found an area with a suitable tree branch and some shade.

rutherglenncr

Operating position inside the Reserve boundary

I tossed a line over a branch to haul the dipole centre and then set up the station, using the KX2 and a LiFePO4 battery. I spotted myself and started calling and soon had Gerard VK2IO in the log. It took 15 minutes of calling to work six stations – things were slow. I swapped to 80 m SSB to work three relatively local stations before going to 20 m SSB. I soon had another eight contacts, then four on 20 m CW. I had an incomplete contact with David VK5PL, who lost me in local noise before he had my report. I returned to 40 m SSB and continued calling. The next 50 minutes brought another 24 contacts, including one on AM and four on CW. I had 45 in the log – another Park qualified for WWFF.

I packed up and returned to the car. I then grabbed the camera to take a couple of photos over near the large mine tailings mound. The foundations and tailings mounds are the remnants of the Great Southern and Chiltern Valley United Mine. I returned to the car and drove into Chiltern to buy a pie for a late lunch.

I then travelled northwards out of town along Chiltern Howlong Road and into the next Park.

Chiltern Mount Pilot National Park VKFF-0620

I again set up with a line over a tree branch. I set up with the IC-7300 on the tailgate of the vehicle and spotted myself on 40 m SSB. Adam VK2YK was first in the log, followed by Mitch VK7XDM. 20 minutes later I had 11 contacts in the log. Some regulars could not hear me as there was no 40 m NVIS, so I dropped down to 80 m SSB to work four more, including the first contact on air from Ross VK3NRB, who had recently passed his Standard Theory exam. Congratulations Ross! I did need to turn the power up from 40 W to 100 W to work Ross, which also allowed Rik VK3EQ to hear me.

I packed up and returned to Chiltern, the up the Hume back to Wodonga.

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A trip to Shelley and near Tintaldra

Thursday 20 December 2018

Andrew VK1AD/3 had posted an Alert for Mount Donna Buang and asked on the OZSOTA group if anyone was interested in any Summit to Summit contacts. I replied that I had family tasks in the morning, but would attempt to be on a summit in time to match with Andrew.

I left Wodonga mid-morning and travelled to Tallangatta to purchase some lunch. I then headed east along the Murray Valley Highway towards Corryong. The first critical point was just beyond Shelley: The Shelley Walwa Road has been closed for an extended period of time. The VicRoads website showed that the closure was about 4 km north of the start of the road. Wrong! I found a Road Closed sign and barrier only 200 m around the corner. Time for Plan B: find an alternate route to get to the SOTA summit. With careful examination of the topographic maps, I worked my way around to the summit without finding any Private Property No Unauthorised Access signs – there are large areas of pine plantation in the area, managed by HVP, and many roads are marked as no public access.

VK3/VE-167 857 m 4 points

I set up on the summit and spotted myself for 40 m CW, but I used the summit code off the topo GPS in the car, without checking any other sources – I had not checked the detailed mapping before leaving Wodonga. I soon had three contacts in the log but no further responses to CQ calls. I moved up to 20 m to work ZL1BYZ on CW before moving up the band for three SSB contacts.

I was about to Spot myself for 40 m SSB and saw a message on FaceBook – a spot from Gerard VK2IO with the summit reference that I had spotted, but with a summit name – Mt Welcome…. Oops – I knew the summit had no name! I opened SOTA Spotter to check the reference: VK3/VE-167, not VK3/VE-161. I spotted myself on 7.090 MHz on the correct reference, with a note about the correct reference. I also replied to Gerard’s Spot on FaceBook noting the correct reference. My apologies to all. I soon had another three contacts in the log. With no further response to calls and Andrew not due on air for another 25 minutes or so, so I decided to eat lunch. I was listening on 7.090 MHz, so was ready to call when Andrew asked “Is the frequency in use?” So I soon had the S2S contact in the log, I closed down, leaving the frequency to Andrew.

I packed up and made my back to the car and down the track to Walker Firebreak, then down Walker Track, across the Shelley Walwa Road and into the parking area near a dam, inside the boundary of the next target.

Pheasant Creek Flora Reserve VKFF-2422 Not previously activated

pheasantckfr_sign

I set up by tossing a line over a tree branch. I set up for 40 m SSB. I grabbed the mobile phone to spot myself, but had no coverage as I was down in a low valley away from the main road, which is about 5 km away.

I started calling on 7.144 MHz and soon had a couple of contacts in the log. It took a few more contacts before I worked a regular who was able to spot me. When I worked any of the regulars who also chase on CW, I asked them to also work me in that mode on the same frequency.

pheasantckfr

Looking east from operating site

I gave up calling after I had 26 in the log, including two contacts on 20 m. I had been operating for over an hour. I packed up and drove back out to the Murray Valley Highway, then turned east and then northeast along Cudgewa Valley Road to Tintaldra, then west along Murray River Road to the next target.

Clark Lagoon Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2293 Not previously activated

There were three unactivated VKFF references near Tintaldra: Clark Lagoon Wildlife Reserve, Tintaldra Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2457 and Jeremal Wildlife Reserve VKFF-2341. Examining the various mapping sources, the latter two appear to have restricted public access, unless you approach from the Murray River. Clark Lagoon Wildlife Reserve is public access and is often used as a starting point for canoe trips downstream to Walwa or Jingelic.

clarklagoon

Sign at entrance to Reserve area

I drove down the access track and did a circuit of the track. I checked the mapping, as large areas close to the river bank are OUTSIDE the Reserve. I found a spot where I could set up inside the Reserve, after dodging cattle grazing the area.

I again tossed a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre. I had marginal phone coverage, so was able to spot myself and started calling on 7.144 MHz SSB. First in the log was Gerard VK2IO/m. Over the next 12 minutes, I worked 14 contacts before deciding to try 80 m SSB to work Geoff VK3SQ in Beechworth. I had a total of 15 contacts and it was after 1700 local time: time to pack up and head back to Wodonga.

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Three Murray River Parks

Wednesday 19 December 2018

I decided to return towards Yarrawonga and Mulwala and target two of the Murray Valley Parks in NSW. The first target was not far west of Mulwala, with a marked Park entrance about 900 m past Wemyss Road.

mvrp_sign

Murray Valley Regional Park VKFF-1785

I followed the track down to the northern bank of the Murray River, finding several caravans and camps set up. I travelled a couple of hundred metres east and found a good spot to set up. Mobile phone coverage was marginal, which made for frustrating spotting – one needed to move around until network connectivity was achieved before you could spot.

I was set up and calling on 40 m SSB by around 2325. John VK4TJ was first in the log. I had 12 in the log by 2350, but then no responses, so dropped down the band for some CW. I managed eight contacts in about 15 minutes. In that period, I missed one caller: he replied at much faster than my 10 wpm and my brain could only decode part of the callsign, even after a couple of repeats. VK2B?? I think, from memory. Sorry, but sometimes my brain just gives up briefly on CW. I moved back up the band for some more SSB, working 10 more stations in about 15 minutes. I then moved up to 20 m for six SSB contacts followed by three on CW. I returned to 40 m SSB for another six contacts over 15 minutes, bringing the total for the Park to 45.

mvrp

Murray River adjacent to operating site

After packing up, I travelled back out to the bitumen and turned west.

Murray Valley National Park VKFF-1178

7 km further west along Mulwala Barooga /Tocumwal Road brought me to the track into the next Park. This time I decided to set up only about 100 m inside the Park boundary, hoping for better phone coverage. I again tossed a line over a tree branch. I was up on air, spotted and calling within 40 minutes of closing down in the previous Park.

mvnp

John VK4TJ was first in the log, on 40 m SSB. 15 minutes of operating saw eight contacts logged. I moved down the band for CW, with another five added to the log. I then moved up to 20 m SSB for another five contacts in a few minutes. The temperature was warming up, it was now 1330 local and I was feeling tired and peckish, so I shut down the station.

I packed up and headed back onto the bitumen, again heading west to Barooga and into Cobram to purchase a late lunch. I then headed to River Road and into the Park.

Cobram Regional Park VKFF-0961

I found a spot close to a wide sweeping bend of the River, close to Scotts High Bank Camping Area and again set up with a line over a tree branch.

cobramrp

Murray River from operating site in VKFF-0961

I started on 40 m SSB. Gerard VK2IO was first to call whilst I was still getting the antenna strung out. Twelve minutes saw nine stations in the log. After several minutes of calling, I dropped down the band for some CW, working five stations in 10 minutes. I had 14 in the log, was feeling the heat, so packed up and headed back to Wodonga.

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A trip to Yarrawonga

Tuesday 18 December 2018

With no family commitments, I decided to activate a couple of Parks. I headed off to Rutherglen and on to Yarrawonga and just to the west of the town, turning into Brears Road. At the end of the road, I swung right into the Park.

Yarrawonga Regional Park VKFF-0981

I drove around towards the Green Bank campsites and found a spot to set up. I parked and tossed a line across a tree branch and hauled up the dipole centre. The antenna was soon up and the gear assembled using the tray of the vehicle as an operating table. I decided to use the IC-7300 and hooked it up to the extra battery in the vehicle.

I spotted myself with patchy phone coverage and started calling on 7.144 MHz SSB. John VK2YW was first in the log, followed by Geoff VK3SQ. I noticed that the SWR seemed high and double checked the antenna links. I found that although I had opened both 40 m links, one of the pair of connectors were quite close, so folded the far end of the link back over the antenna wire to improve the gap. All then seemed to be okay. The first 40 minutes of operating yielded 15 contacts, with some deep QSB at times. After several minutes of calling without responses, I moved down to 40 m CW and made four contacts. I then reconfigured the antenna for 20 m SSB for 11 contacts in 12 minutes. With no replies to calls, I moved down to 20 m CW and 10 minutes of calling yielded five more in the log. I then moved back to 40 m SSB where 30minutes of calling yielded another 10 contacts. I had 45 in the log in just over two hours of operating.

yarrawongarp

Murray River at Yarrawonga Regional Park

I packed up and headed back into Yarrawonga to purchase some lunch and then headed back towards Rutherglen. I stopped at the turn off to Lake Moodemere and had a quick look at the visitor display on Lake Road. I then travelled around to McDonald Road and drove up to the locked gate and checked the surrounds.

Lake Moodemere Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2145

I was aware that the boundaries of the Park were tricky. This is complicated by the fact that most of the surrounds of the Lake are part of the Lake Moodemere Reserve – one needs to take care that one operates from within the official designated boundaries of the target Park! Looking again at the boundaries on the maps, the locked gate is just inside the Park boundary. Looking at the mapping at hand, I was not sure that I was inside the boundary. I could have set up SOTA style by walking into the Park, but it was a hot afternoon. (I had left my laptop in Wodonga and did not have the detailed Park boundary with me.) I decided to explore further, and travelled around to Federation Way and travelled north to Distillery Road, then south along Anderson Road. I soon reached a gate which was unlocked, with a sign asking for the gate to be closed. I travelled on south and through another unlocked gate, and through some soft surface sections, but all in 2WD. I reached a stony slope and continued along the track, passing some pump stations beside the lake. I soon saw the locked gate and the back of the Park sign ahead of me. I was sure that I was inside the southern section of the Park, so parked and started setting up.

moodemeresign

Lake Moodemere NCR sign

The northern section of the Park can be reached from Hyde Road, off Lake Road, but again one must carefully check one’s location. A short section of the NW boundary abuts the road.

moodemerencr

Operation site at Lake Moodemere NCR

Once set up, I spotted and started calling on 40 m SSB. Geoff VK3SQ was the first to call, together with Paul VK5PAS. 30 minutes yielded 19 contacts. I moved down the band for CW and worked seven stations in about 25 minutes. Altogether, I worked 26 stations, all on 40 m. It was a hot afternoon, so I decided to pack up and head back to Wodonga. A return visit will be required to bring this Park up to WWFF qualification.

lakemoodemere

Part of Lake Moodemere from the access track

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A pre-Christmas trip to Wodonga

Mid-December 2018

A family commitment meant that I needed to be in Wodonga by Monday evening. The weather forecast was not looking good, with heavy rain a real likelihood across Victoria. I changed my plans and decided to travel up on Monday, after the cold fronts and thunderstorms had cleared. Perhaps it was just as well – many will have seen the News reports of traffic stuck on the flooded Hume Highway near Wangaratta!

Monday 17 December 2018

I headed off on Monday morning. Given the damage around Wangaratta, I decided to take a slower scenic route and to activate some SOTA summits en route. I headed to Bairnsdale for a brief stop to add fuel, then headed north towards Bullumwaal and on along Mount Baldhead Road. The route is mostly unsealed from north of Mount Taylor, but is in good condition. One needed to keep an eye open for the logging trucks.

I stopped at the junction with Morris Peak Road and parked off the road to load up the SOTA pack.

VK3/VG-080 897 m 4 points

The road junction is between 860 and 870 m, so is outside the activation zone. I loaded up the SOTA pack and climbed about half way up to the summit to ensure the activation was valid. The scrub is moderately thick, especially close to the road.

I set up and started on 40 m CW after spotting myself. I soon had six stations in the log. I moved up to the band for SSB and worked another five stations. I tried 20 m SSB for two more callers prior moving back down to 40 m SSB and finding Robert VK3DN/p in Churchill National Park. After that, I packed up and returned to the car.

I headed further north along Mount Baldhead Road until I reached Baldhead Track, which is becoming very crowded with encroaching regrowth from the sides. I continued north for about 1.3 km to a track which traverses on regenerating logging area. This track was in excellent condition, looking as if had recently been resurfaced. I was soon on the next summit.

Mount Baldhead VK3/VG-027 1374 m 8 points

After setting up with a line over a tree branch a short distance northeast of the summit, I again started on 40 m CW, and soon had five in the log. Moving up the band to SSB saw another five contacts made. Time was moving on, so I decided against any other bands with the goal of fitting in a third summit.

I packed up and returned to the car, then continued along Baldhead Track to Boomerang Spur Track on back to the main road to head north, then westward along Grassy Ridge Track and then up Mount Delusion Track. I parked just off the edge of the track and set up again away from the car.

Mount Delusion VK3/VG-026 1375 m 8 points

I again started on 40 m CW and three in the log in about 10 minutes. With no further responses to calls, I moved up to SSB for another two contacts. I moved down to 80 m SSB to work Geoff VK3SQ but had no other callers. I went up to 20 m to work three on CW and then three on SSB. I packed up and headed back to the car. I exited back along Mount Delusion Track and then down Mount Delusion Road to Brookville Road and eventually back to the bitumen. It was then a simple matter of travelling back to the Great Alpine Road and heading across Mount Hotham and on to Wodonga in time for a family dinner.

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New WWFF certificates: A 110, H 1344 & P2P 444

Recent activity by myself and other Activators have taken my totals for the WWFF Awards to new certificate levels.

Activator 110 references Activated

110 references activated with a total of at least 44 contacts from each. Thanks to all the Hunters for your contacts.

vk3pf_A-110s

Activated 110 different references

Hunter 1344 references worked

1344 references worked: Some are a little exotic in this tally, such as Rotuma Island and Kermadec Island. 3 references in ZL, 2 in Europe, 9 in Japan and 3 in the US. The tally for VKFF is 1325 worked and I am awaiting arrival of the certificate. Thanks to all the Activators for being out there. There may be some more that I have worked but the DXpeditions do not submit their logs to the WWFF system – for example Mellish Reef.

H-01344#208 VK3PFs

Worked 1344 different WWFF references

Park to Park 444 contacts

Park to Park contacts are recorded when both logs have ALL the details matching in the Logsearch database. Plus the rules for P2P contacts currently implemented seem to require that both Activators reach the quota of 44 contacts from the activation. This seems odd to me, as the way that I read the rules, if one Activator reaches the quota of 44, then that activator should be able to claim the P2P contact. I have many other P2P contacts recorded but I only reached the VKFF quota of 10 or more contacts, so those contacts do not count for the WWFF P2P award.  Thanks to all the other Activators.

VK3PF_P2P_A444s

Park to Park Award 444 QSOs

 

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Mount Hopeless and Mount Wong

The weekend had been rather hectic. It started with a drive to Melbourne on Friday via Bayswater and then into Southern Cross Station in the heart of Melbourne to pick up Mum. We then travelled to Geelong for a family 21st Birthday celebration that evening.

Saturday saw a family visit in Geelong before driving to Ballarat, with a quick SOTA activation of Mount Bunninyong VK3/VC-018 before heading into Ballarat Central for a book launch: Henry Sutton The Innovative Man by Lorayne Branch. I met up with a couple of other amateurs at the launch for a chat. We then heading across to Sunbury to drop off a copy of the book over a coffee and more chatting before we headed for home.

Sunday started early with a drive into Morwell to the Eastern Zone Amateur Radio Club rooms to conduct a Special Assessment for an upgrade in licence. The candidate was successful, so the effort was worthwhile. We also attended a barbeque lunch at Boolarra before heading back home to relax.

Monday was a long drive via a slightly scenic route to reach Wodonga: Churchill to Nilma, Neerim South, Powelltown, Healesville, Alexandra, Bonnie Doon, Benalla and then up the Hume Highway. The route is a little longer in time and distance, but avoids the hassles of greater Melbourne. The wind was strong all day, so it was not a day for one of the routes over the mountains.

With the weather forecasting high temperatures later in the week, I opted to head for home on Tuesday.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

I departed Wodonga just after 0900 local time and headed roughly south: Yackandandah, Mudgegonga, Rosewhite, Ovens, Bright, Mount Hotham and on to Omeo for a break and to purchase some lunch. With clear skies, the views from the Great Alpine Road were excellent. Whilst stopped at Omeo, I posted an Alert for my first target summit. I then headed down the Great Alpine Road to Tongio, where I turned off onto Bindi Road and headed towards the Tambo Valley Golf Club on Nunniong Road.

Mount Hopeless VK3/VG-067 990 m 6 points

Mount Hopeless has only been activated once previously, by Brian VK3MCD in June 2017. I did not work Brian on that visit, but have spoken to him about the route that he used to access the summit. I took Brian’s route to the summit.

Opposite the entrance to the Tambo Valley Golf Club is the bottom of TVGC Track. The track rises moderately steeply, so I engaged 4WD from the start. The track climbs around 410 m vertically in 2.5 km. There are many large spoon drains, some with steep approaches. The surface is loose for most of the length, with some very steep sections with loose rocky surface. Definitely a track where one is glad that you had the suspension upgrade and lift kit installed. TVGC Track meets Mount Stawell Track at the top of the ridge line. Turn left to head towards the target. Mount Stawell Track is a smoother surface and you pass the turn off for the rest of Mount Stawell Track, into Mount Hopeless Track. Mount Hopeless Track passes within a metre vertical of top of the summit. I parked off the edge of the track and set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the centre of the link dipole. I sent an SMS to Brian VK3BCM/VK3MCD that I was on the summit and setting up. I saw no visible trig or other marker on the summit.

I started on 7.032 MHz CW and worked Gerard VK2IO. After 10 minutes of calling on CW, I moved up to 7.090 SSB, spotted myself and started calling. Brett VK3FLCS was next in the log, followed a few minutes later by John VK4TJ. I worked John and then we worked again on CW. I returned to SSB, but several minutes of calling yielded no responses. I changed the antenna links to the 80 m configuration and spotted myself on 3.532 MHz CW. Next in the log was John VK2YW. Someone called me on CW just after I had answered the phone. I asked the caller to standby and I sent “?” and then completed the contact. Once home, I noticed that I had not entered the callsign! Brian had not heard my 80 m signal, so a quick link change was required to move back to 40 m. I moved to SSB on 7.090, where I worked Brian VK3BCM, giving him a Complete. I also worked Matt VK3FORD/m before moving to 80 m SSB. Next was back to 80 m SSB to work Geoff VK3SQ, who was not hearing me on 40 m. Further calls on 80 m yielded no responses, so I thought that I would try 20 m CW. I spotted myself and soon had Geoff ZL3GA in the log. With no more responses, I shut down and packed up. I had 10 in the log, 5 on CW and 5 on SSB, but with one callsign missing on CW. The summit was new Unique for me as an Activator.

Some maps of the area show Mount Hopeless Track heading steeply down towards Swifts Creek, but the track is not obvious on the satellite imagery. The Rooftop’s map shows the track stopping above the Swifts Creek repeater site. I decided to exit by following my route back to Mount Stawell Track and descend via that track. The Rooftop’s map shows it as steep in places. I had to stop part way down to remove some sections of a fallen tree – just enough to get past with care. At the bottom of the descent, I turned left into Commins Track to head north, and then left into Low Saddle Track to take me to Nunniong Road. This route worked fine – less steep overall and TVGC Track and overall a better surface. But 4WD is definitely needed to access this summit.

I headed south on Nunniong Road, passing the old timber winch and driving past Mount Nugong VK3/VG-018. Time was getting on and I wanted to try to reach another new summit for me. I continued on along Bentley Plain Road, passing Moscow Villa and the other structures within the Bentley Plain Natural Features Scenic Reserve. I continued in a southerly direction and then turned FDA Road, into Wong Log Road and then on to Mount Wong Track. I reached Ferntree Creek Track and checking the map indicated a short distance of westward travel was required to resume travelling on Mount Wong Track. The southern section of Mount Wong Track was clearly less travelled: it was largely just two wheel tracks with low vegetation between them. Travel was slower, but the track was not difficult to negotiate.

Looking back at the mapping from home, it would have been possible to continue along Wong Log Road to Ferntree Creek Track, then west along it to the northern end of the southern section of Mount Wong Track.

VK3/VG-090 unnamed summit 846 m 4 points

This summit is likely to be renamed Mount Wong Track at the next VK3 Association update. I am not sure if the high point is actually Mount Wong, as I have not been able to locate a peak with that name via online searches, other than references to the summit name. The Track passes within one metre vertical of the high point, again with no visible trig or other marker. The summit was first activated by Peter VK3FALA in March 2015.

I again set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the dipole centre, right on the edge of the track. I started on 40 m CW on 7.032 MHz, after spotting myself. First in the log was John VK4TJ, followed by Gerard VK2IO and Ian VK5CZ. Further calls yielded no responses, so I moved to 7.090 MHz SSB and spotted myself. Brett VK3FLCS was the only caller that I heard. I dropped down to 80 m SSB on 3.615. I heard Compton VK2HRX call – 41 report. But Compton was running 100 W and could not hear my 10 W replies! Geoff VK3SQ was next in to log. With no further responses to calls, I moved up to 20 m CW and was rewarded with calls from Geoff ZL3GA and John ZL1BYZ. It was now after 1615 local and I still had a long drive home, so I closed down and packed up. I was happy: a new Activator Unique and new Complete.

One option was to return north along Mount Wong Track and exit to Ensay via Watts Creek Road, which Peter VK3FALA had used as his approach route. I decided to exit using the route used by Peter – head south to Dinner Creek Track, then a short distance south along it until it heads to the east, where you continue south via an unmarked and unnamed track which is shown on the Rooftop’s map. I had previously explored accessing the summit via other tracks in the area, including Hammond Road/Logie Track and Dinner Creek Track, but the western ends of the tracks end at gates with no entry signs or are cannot be found. The Rooftop’s map shows them as ending before one can reach a public access road – I wished that I had purchased the Rooftop maps earlier!

I engaged Hill Descent Control before I started the descent. The track was steep and rough in places, with lots of spoon drains and some ruts. This was definitely 4WD! I eventually reached Cutts Creek Road / Buchan-Ensay Road about one hour and forty minutes after leaving the summit. The views below are from Buchan-Ensay Road.

mtwongridgeline

Looking back at the ridgeline used to descend from VK3/VG-090

viewnorthnugong

Looking north towards Mt Hopeless and Mt Nugong (right of centre)

I then headed towards Ensay, before heading southwest on Sandy Creek Road to reach Great Alpine Road.

Finally back on the bitumen, I then had the task of maintaining concentration for the journey back to Churchill. I arrived at destination at around 2000 local.

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A new level for VKFF Hunter Award – 1300

28 November 2018

As usual, over the past few weeks I have worked as many Parks Activators as I can. Many of those have been in Parks that I have not previously worked or have been the first activation of the Park. There is often a delay between working the Park and the log being uploaded to Logsearch, and the new Park being added to your personal tally.

On 28 November, I checked Logsearch and saw that I had passed the next milestone for the VKFF Hunter Awards Honour Roll: 1300 references worked.

Thanks to National Coordinator Paul VK5PAS, all the State Coordinators and, of course, all the Activators that have been out in the Parks.


The Honour Roll 1300 certificate
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VKFF Activity Weekend 2018 Day 2

Sunday 25 November 2018

I was awoken by a single ring on the landline telephone….. I have no idea of who it may have been, but arose and started getting organised. The weather forecast was for more rain, but I decided to head out for some more Parks activations.

I travelled to Rosedale, with a stop at the bakery to grab some food for later. I then headed south and then south east towards Stradbroke, and into the Holey Plains State Park.

Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758

I entered the Park via Holey Hill Track and drove up to Holey Hill. I set up in the picnic area, using a tree branch to support the line for the dipole centre.

Prior to spotting myself, I had a quick look at ParksnPeaks (PnP). I soon had Rob VK2QR/5 in VKFF-0886 and Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0558 in the log. The usual area for Parks activity on 40 m in VK is around 7.130 to 7.150 MHz, but Sunday morning sees several amateur radio News broadcasts taking place in that region. I found 7.120 MHz was clear, so spotted myself there. 30 minutes of operating saw me with a total of 16 contacts in the log, including Park to Park contacts with Liz VK2XSE/p in VKFF-2642 and Paul VK5PAS/3, Peter VK3ZPF/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/3, all in VKFF-2152. With the Park qualified for VKFF, I packed up and headed back to the sealed roads.

Once back on Rosedale-Stradbroke Road, I headed east via Taylors Lane and then Gormandale-Stradbroke Rd until I reached the South Gippsland Highway. I turned south until I reached Bif Tower Road and proceeded on that road until I was at the next Park boundary. I explored a couple of possible sites but had no mobile phone coverage at the site tried, so I headed back to the Highway and south to Boundary Road and drove in to the southeast corner of the Park and found a spot to set up.

Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2406

I had activated this Park in late September, working 24 Hunters, so I really only needed 20 more to get me to the WWFF qualification level.

MullungdungSign

Park sign at Mullungdung FFR

I started on 80 m and spotted myself. Several minutes of calling yielded no results, so I called a local via the UHF repeater. I soon had Ken VK3UH in the log. With no more responses, I reconfigured the antenna for 40 m.

First on 40 m was Neil VK4HNS/2 in VKFF-2537. Just up the band was Rob VK2QR/5 in VKFF-0886. Rob was about to close, so offered the frequency to me, so I soon spotted myself and the hunters started calling me. About 90 minutes later I had 37 contacts on 40 m and moved up to 20 m. On 20 m, I worked six chasers.

I moved back to 40 m for another five contacts, including three Park to Park contacts. The activation saw 49 contacts, including a total of 13 Park to Park contacts.

I packed up and headed back to the South Gippsland Highway and headed in southerly direction to Woodside and just beyond to the next target Park.

Bruthen Flora Reserve VKFF-2282 Not previously activated

I looked at the Reserve from the highway along the east boundary and returned to the northern edge and a track that enters the reserve. The Park sign says But But Flora Reserve, but the maps say Bruthen Flora Reserve.

ButButSign

Bruthen / But But Flora Reserve signs

The Reserve is just over nine hectares in area. The name on the sign is the old name for the Reserve, after a species of Eucalypt growing in the area, Apple Box or But But, E. bridgesiana. The Reserve is predominantly woodland with a swampy area in the north east corner. As I was exploring the northern boundary of the Reserve, I saw a group of three kangaroos heading away from the vehicle.

I spotted a likely branch and tossed a line over the branch to lift the dipole. I then explored along the track a short distance before turning around and parking beside the line.

As I was running out the antenna, the neighbouring farmer drove up on the other side of the boundary fence. He stopped for a chat and I explained what I was doing. The farmer (Alan if I remember correctly) explained a little about the Reserve before climbing over the fence and we sent some time searching for the small endangered orchid without any luck. Alan returned over the fence to continue looking for a fault in the electric fence.

ButBut1

Inside the reserve

I finished setting up and started on 40 m just before 0400Z. The initial approach was to look at the spots on ParksnPeaks and see if I could hear those spotted. The result was four Park to Park contacts as the start to my log. I found a clear frequency and spotted myself before calling. The Hunters soon found me. I took a brief excursion in frequency to work Rob VK4AAC/p in VKFF-0187 before returning to my spotted frequency. All was okay for a while, until someone started whistling and calling “Test, Test” and did not respond to a couple of prompts from me and another station that the frequency was in use…. So I moved up the band a little.  I swapped to 20 m for a while just after 0510Z and was rewarded with calls from several Hunters and a couple of Park to Park contacts. I had also grabbed the CW paddles from the container in the back seat, so I managed some CW contacts as well, helping the tally. I dropped down to 80 m and spotted myself, being rewarded with four more contacts, including Paul VK5PAS/3 and Marija VK5FMAZ/3 in VKFF-0628, who worked me with their mobile set up. I returned to 40 m for a few contacts, including two more Park to Park contacts. I decided to close at around 0625Z, with 50 contacts in the log, including 13 Park to Park contacts.

Just after I had worked Paul and Marija, the Police drove past on the Highway. The clearly saw me parked and they stopped, reversed and drove in to a few metres in front of my vehicle. I announced on-air for Hunters to please standby by and I then exited the car. The Police state that they rarely see anyone at the location. I started explain what I was doing, that I am a licensed radio amateur operator, what is amateur radio, what is WWFF, etc…. After several minutes of discussion and my descriptions, I feel something odd at my waistband, then something sharp…. I find that I have large bull ants biting, which induce odd movements on my behalf whilst trying to talk with the officers, one male and one female. I try to explain – ants! Shortly after, the male officer excuses himself as he feels an ant inside his trousers…. I show them the gear, The PnP site on the mobile phone, my log on my tablet. I think that I am making sense when I hear Allen VK3ARH call me on spec. on the radio. I excuse myself and complete the contact with Allen. I think that this finally makes things clearer for the officers and they leave, having taken some notes and my details. Once they have left, I return to the radio. With no replies to calls on 80 m, I change to 40 m for a few more contacts on before I pack up and depart. I had 50 contacts in the log, with 13 Park to Park contacts.

I was home in just under one hour.

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VKFF Activity Weekend 2018 – Day 1

The week prior to the 2018 edition of the VKFF Activity Weekend had been moderately busy, partly because Paul VK5PAS and Marija VK5FMAZ had been travelling from VK5 across various locations in VK3. As a result, some time was spent keeping an eye on the spots on ParksnPeaks in an attempt to work them each time they conducted an activation. I managed to one or both in 20 activators across the week, with the majority of the contacts made on 80 m due to the lack of NVIS on 40 m. There were a few others out during the week to chase, so the log gained a few entries.

Saturday 24 October

I chased from home early on Saturday, in between a few domestic tasks and finalising the plan for Saturday afternoon. The weather forecast was not looking good, with a high chance of rain. It was dry but overcast as I prepared to depart. I was away from home a little after UTC rollover and headed west to Nilma, then north to Neerim South and then around to Whites Corner and on to Bennies Creek Road. I then onto New Turkey Spur Road to start the winding climb up onto the range. I then turned into Federal Road and drove to the car park for a quick look around prior to returning to close to the saddle in the road a couple of hundred metres north.

Ada Tall Trees Reserve VKFF-2253

The Ada Tall Trees Reserve is about 1.1 km wide and 300 deep at its widest, covering just over 14 hectares of predominantly old growth eucalypt forest in the region west of Noojee, in an area that was extensively logged in the past. Most of the reserve is around Island Creek in the headwaters of the Ada River catchment. The Ada River drains into the Latrobe River to the south. Maps show that Federal Road continues south of the carpark for the Reserve, but that road is closed to traffic. Most approach the car park by using Big Creek Road. Adjacent to the car park are a sheltered picnic area and toilets.

The Ada Tree is a giant Mountain Ash estimated to be at least 300 years old. The walk is through Myrtle Beech rainforest, with sassafras and soft tree fern, to reach the Ada Tree, about 3.2 kilometres from the car park. The Ada Tree is estimated to be about 76 m tall, with a circumference of 15.7 metres at shoulder height. It can be viewed from a viewing platform, built to protect the base of the tree from further impacts from visitor foot traffic.

A Parks activator needs to take care: mapping suggests that the car park and picnic area may be just outside the declared Reserve boundary.

The Park has been activated only once previously, by Peter VK3ZPF. I missed Peter on that occasion. I guessed that there may be some demand for the Park by Hunters.

Given that the last thirty minutes of my approach drive had been in the rain, I decided to set up beside the road close to the saddle in the road just to the north of the car park, well inside the boundary. I found a spot where I could park safely and that had a convenient tree branch to toss a line over to haul up the antenna centre. It was very wet with rain showers spaced by persistent drizzle in between showers. I decided to use the radio in the car, with an external inverted V link dipole. That way I would be out of the rain with short excursions from the vehicle to change antenna configuration.

TallTrees1

Operating site at Ada Tall Trees Reserve

There was no mobile phone signal, so I was unable to spot myself. I turned on the radio, starting on 40 m SSB. Tuning around the usual centre of activity revealed Les VK5KLV/p in VKFF-0920, together with Steve VK5MSD. I tuned around the band to find John VK5FLEA/p in VKFF-0910, and a then I found Rob VK2QR/3 in VKFF-2132. Moved up from Rob a little and several minutes of calling were required for the next contact – Andy VK5LA, who was kind enough to post a spot for me. The next 15 minutes produced several contacts, but then the rate of callers declined. Ionospheric conditions appeared to be poor, with lots of calling required to make further contacts. After about 30 minutes of operating, I decided to spend some time searching around the band before switching to 80 m. When things are this slow, you really appreciate the Voice Memory function available in the IC-7000: I have a “CQ Parks” call recorded. Touch the button and out goes the CQ call. Listing for a little, and then press the button if nobody has replied….

A few minutes of calling produces a response from Geoff VK3SQ, who then spotted me. That yielded one contact shortly after the spot, and then it was back to hard work: lots of calling and no replies. After 15 minutes, I decided to call it quits and pack up and head for home.

I exited via Big Creek Road and headed back to Neerim South. The rain and drizzle had eased a little by time I reached the town, so I decided to stop in at another Park to try my luck.

Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965

I drove past this Park on my way to the previous activation – access is easy off Bloomfield Road, but you must be aware of the Park boundaries. I turned into the track opposite the start of School Road, and then south onto a track that runs through towards Rokeby. There is a place to park less than 100 m in, on a short track stub.

I set up, again using the rig in the car and the external inverted V. This time I was able to spot myself, and soon had Nick VK3ANL in the log, followed by Geoff VK3SQ. Four Park to Park contacts followed, plus a couple more contacts before I moved to 40 m.

I started by scanning around the band. I soon had another four Park to Park contacts, with Mark VK4SMA/p in VKFF-0198 sharing 7.144 with Ade VK4SOE/2 and Steven VK4FNOR/2 in VKFF-0011. I moved to 7.139 and spotted myself. Over the next 40 minutes or so, I worked a total of 29 contacts on 40 m, with another four Park to Park contacts.

At about 0635Z, I decided to try 20 m. Several minutes of calling finally produced a response – an YB station near Jakarta. Dave was 59 to me, which was not surprising. Dave was running 800 W to a Yagi antenna. Further calling earned contacts with VK4, VK6, ZL1 and DU9.

I headed back to 40 m and worked Noumea. Then a final three stations in VK before I decided to close: it was now 0730Z and I still had more than an hour of driving ahead of me. A total of 49 contacts for the Park.

Once I was home, I listened around the bands for a while, working Hans VK6XN/p in VKFF-0632.

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