My final SOTA activation for Saturday 7th September, 2013, was One Tree Hill, VK3/ VS-036, which is situated just to the north west of Ararat in western Victoria, about 205 km west of Melbourne. It was about a 90 minute drive to Ararat from Mount Rouse. The summit is 569 metres above sea level and is worth 2 SOTA points.
Ararat is one of favourite towns in western Victoria. It is a former gold-mining town, situated within a rich pastoral, wine and fruit growing district between Stawell and Beaufort. Ararat’s main street is a typical wide and attractive country town main street. A number of elaborate and historical buildings grace the streets of the town, including the Town Hall and Shire Hall in Barkly Street, both built in the late 1800s. Other places of historical interest include the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre, the Langi Morgala Museum located in the former wool store, and J Ward, which originally served as the Ararat County Gaol until 1887 when it was then turned into an institution for the criminally insane, and Aradale Mental Hospital.
Europeans first settled in the Grampians region in the 1840s after surveyor Thomas Mitchell passed through the area in 1836. In 1841, Horatio Wills, on his way to selecting country further south, wrote in his diary, “like the Ark we rested” and named a nearby hill Mt Ararat. It is from this entry and the nearby Mount that the town takes its name. The Post Office opened 1 February 1856 although known as Cathcart until 31 August 1857.
In 1857, a party of Chinese miners en route to the Central Victorian gold fields struck gold at the Canton Lead which marked the beginning of great growth in Ararat.
One Tree Hill was an easy summit to access, as there is a bitumen road going all the way to the top, to the Pioneer Lookout. Surprisingly enough this road is called One Tree Hill Road ! Fancy that ! At the end of the bitumen there is a large parking area for the lookout which overlooks Ararat. The actual summit is a bit further on from this parking area. There is a dirt track called One Tree Hill Track, which takes you further to the north and the location of the actual summit, which is amongst the scrub on the western side of the track. The track is rough in parts but is passable with care in a 2wd.
The summit is located within the Ararat Regional Park, which is made up of three separate, easily accessible blocks. The Ararat Hills block (820 hectares) boasts panoramic views from Pioneer Lookout and a rich gold mining history, the Dunneworthy block (2,670 hectares) is made up of gentle terrain to the north, and Bradys Block (180 hectares) is a rich ironbark forest in the Norval-Cathcart area.
The park can also be easily explored on foot or bicycle on the extensive network of tracks.
The park contains over 200 native plant species including 34 species of delicately flowered orchids. Eucalypt trees dominate the vegetation, with Red Stringybark and Long-leaf Box predominant in the hilly areas and Yellow Gum and Yellow Box occupying the flats. On the park’s main ridge at One Tree Hill, a stand of very old, large Messmate Stringybark trees are of botanical interest. In spring time, flowers of the Golden Wattle swathe the hills in gold.
A large amount of wildlife can be found in the park including Grey Kangaroos, Swamp Wallabies, echidnas, Brush-tailed Possums and Sugar Gliders.
Birdlife includes rowdy flocks of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, beautiful Rainbow Birds, Long-billed Corellas and Galahs, the majestic Wedge-tailed Eagle and the ground feeding Common Bronzewing and Red-rumped Parrot.
Prior to European settlement, the Ararat region was occupied by Aboriginal people of Parn Balug clan. This was one of over 40 clans comprising the Djab Wurrung language group whose territory covered a large part of south-west Victoria, including portions of the Grampians.
With the arrival of the first squatters and their flocks in the early 1840s, the Parn Balug’s traditional lifestyle, social and cultural structures were affected by disease and conflict and their numbers rapidly declined. Gold was discovered at Ararat in 1857. The park contains relics of gold mining activity including shallow mine shafts, a mining dam and water races.
From the lookout there are spectacular views to the east over the town of Ararat, and out to the west. There are great views of the Grampians, Mount Langi Ghiran, and Mount Cole. This area is cleared of trees which assists with the views. As you travel down One Tree Hill Track, the view to the east and west is obscured a lot more by trees and scrub.
I parked the car at the lookout and walked down the track to the operating position within the Activation zone. There are plenty of options for securing the dipole, as there are large gum trees all over the summit. Not really sure why it is called One Tree Hill, as the summit is completely covered in trees ?
I started off on 40m first, on the usual frequency of 7.090, and it wasn’t long before I had the usual hungry SOTA hunters. I had a handful of qrp callers again including Andrew VK2ONZ, Andrew VK1NAM, Mark VK5QI/m, and Andrew VK3ARR. All had very nice signals. Conditions appeared to be very good on 40m. The only annoyance was the Over The Horizon Radar which was quite strong.
I was only 5 minute drive from the motel, so I decided to have a ‘play’ on 20m. I started calling CQ SOTA on 14.170 but was soon drowned out by some Russian stations, so I decided to tune around the band. I heard my good friend Dick, G4ICP who was portable in the salt marshes with his ‘roach pole’ Dick was not all that strong but I decided to give him a call, and surprisingly enough Dick came back to me. We were having a good chat until a VK & a G station decided to come up just 2 kc away, and that was the end of that.
I then worked into Spain and England again, and then decided to call CQ again. Luke KK7XX came back to my call and after an enjoyable QSO with him, Luke offered to put me on the cluster, which resulted in me working another very good mate of mine in the UK, Phil 2E0UDX. He was a good 5/8 and Phil gave me a 5/4 back with my 5 watts. This was followed by another good mate of mine calling in, Marnix OP7M in Belgium. Marnix was an excellent 5/9 signal. Although Marnix was struggling a bit and reading me just 4/4, we still had a good chat. This was followed by calls from Tony CT1FFB in Portugal; Jos using a special call of OO4ATK in Belgium; Bert DB6ZU in Germany; Mike GW4XSX in Wales; Curtis KP4EJ in Puerto Rico. My last two contacts for the afternoon on 20m were with Masa JR5JAQ in Japan; and Steve VK4KUS.
The sun was setting and it was time to pack up my gear and head for the motel, for some dinner and a few beers and some rest before tomorrow’s activations.
After nearly 2 hours on the summit, I had worked 37 stations, including 12 DX stations in Europe, the UK, Puerto Rico, and Japan.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
Brad VK2HAV; Col VK5HCF; Peter VK3PF/m; Mark VK3DEE; David VK7XT; Rhett VK3GHZ; Bill VK3LY; Peter VK3FPSR; Mark VK3PI; Ed VK2JI; Dale VK5FSCK; Al VK1RX; Darren VK2NNN; Andrew VK2ONZ/qrp; Rod VK5FTTC; Tim VK5AV; Andrew VK1NAM/qrp; Brian VK3MCD; Bernard VK3AMB; Fred VK3JM; Marshall VK3MRG; Tony VK3CAT; Mark VK5QI/m/qrp; & Andrew VK3ARR/qrp.
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
Dick G4ICP/p; EA2DT; Chris G0UNJ; Luke KK7XX; Phil 2E0UDX; Marnix OP7M; Tony CT1FFB; Jos OO4ATK; DB6ZU; GW4XSX; Curtis KP4EJ; JR5JAQ; and Steve VK4KUS.
I have placed a video on You Tube of this activation.