Friday 11th December 2015 saw the recommencement of a very popular event, the Friday afternoon/evening activation sessions for the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award. Last Spring/Summer we held these events which encouraged amateurs to get out in the field and activate a park for the VK5 Parks Award. They proved to be very popular and in recent times I had received a number of emails and queries wanting to know if we run something similar this Summer. So after popular demand, they were commenced on Friday 11th.
Unfortunately I had worked on Friday so I chose a park close to home. I can’t wait for retirement! My park of choice was the Mount George Conservation Park, VKFF-0784, which is located near Bridgewater in the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’. The park is about 25 km south eeast of Adelaide. It is just a 10 minute drive from my home.
Above:- Map showing the location of the park. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Mount George conserves 85 hectares of native vegetation and is one of a number of small Conservation Parks scattered throughout the Mount Lofty Ranges. It was proclaimed on 7th November 1996. The park was originally 67 hecatres in size, but in 2003 the boundaries were extended to incorporate adjacent land of high conservation value. The park has steep slopes which are lined with Stringybark Open Forest, a number of creeks, wetlands, and freshwater bogs. State endangered Mountain Gum Open Forest is also found in the vicinity of the damper areas of the park.
The park incorporates the Mount George summit which rises to 520 metres, but sadly does not qualify for the Summits on the Air (SOTA_ program. It is situated very close to the busy South Eastern Freeway.
The park provides refuge for numerous native animals including the Southern Brown Bandicoot, Common Ring-tail possum, Yellow-footed Antechinus, Western Grey Kangaroo, and Koalas. Numerous birds can be found in the park. In fact a total of 66 species have been recorded in the park, including the State vulnerable Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, of which there were a number flying overhead and in the trees during my activation.
Above:- Map showing the Mt George CP, in close proximity to the busy South Eastern Freeway. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
I have operated from this park many times before, and always from the picnic ground at the end of Mount George Road. This is a great spot, but this time I thought I would try somewhere different within the park. After leaving the South Eastern Freeway I drove along the Bridgewater-Carey Gully Road until I reached Worden Road. I then turned left onto Muller and travelled south until I reached the intersection with Mount George Road. Instead of turning left onto Mount George Road which takes you down to the picnic ground, I turned right onto Mount George Road, heading for the northern side of the park. After viewing the GPS I saw a road that appeared to access the northern side of the park from Rangeviw Road. But the road I was aiming to travel along to access the park, turned out to be a locked gate at the Mount Lofty Golf Club.
So I turned around and travelled back along the Mount George Road until I reached the turnoff for the picnic grounds.
It wasn’t long before I reached the park and the beautiful picnic ground area. This certainly a pretty spot, and contains some shelters, a wooden table and benches, and plenty of opportunities ofor activating.
I parked the 4WD and set up my folding table and deck chair not far away. I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts, and the linked dipole for 20m/40m.
I was set up and ready to go by 0625 UTC (4.55 p.m. South Australian local time). I immediately headed for my nominated operating frequency of 7.144. I had placed an earlier alert on parksnpeaks. I commenced calling CQ and this was answered by Dennis VK2HHA in Albury with a very strong 5/9 signal. My signal report from Dennis was down a little from usual, but I was Q5 and that is all that mattered. Next up was Brett VK2VW, Ron VK3MRH, and then Peter VK3PF.
Sadly it wasn’t long before I was experiencing some QRM from 7.146. Some VK’2 came up and started talking to VK9LH. Clearly this was a sched/net. A ZL then came up on 7.145 working into Europe. It just wasn’t worth persevering on 7.144. After working a total of 13 stations from VK1, VK3, VK3, VK4, and VK5, I QSYd to 7.150 and called CQ again. Paul VK3DBP came back to my CQ call, but when I called him back in, there was no response. I presumed that either Paul was experiencing problems, or the propagation conditions had changed dramatically.
Peter VK5PET sent me an SMS message at this point, to advise that he was in the Monarto Conservation Park and was operating on 7.090. I headed down there and had a listen. Although I knew Peter was there, he was just way too low for me to work. So I returned to 7.150 and called CQ again, and this was answered by Les VK5KLV who had a good strong 5/9 signal from Port Augusta. Paul VK3DBP then called in, this time with an excellent 5/9 signal. I asked Paul what had happened previously and he advised that I had totally disappeared earlier after he had called me. It appeared the 40m band was up to its old tricks. I was certainly not hearing the VK’5.
I was talking with Paul about propagation and advising him of the lack of VK5’s. But my next QSO proved that to be incorrect. Out of the blue, with a thumping signal, was John VK5BJE at Scott Creek. And shortly afterwards I was called by Peter VK5PET/p. Peter was very low down (3/3) but at least I was hearing him. Peter was hearing me much better and gave me a 5/7. But then during our QSO, Peter came up to a 5/7 and Peter reported that my signal had increased to a 5/9.
It was at this point that a gentleman who had been walking his dogs in the park, returned back to his car, which was parked alongside of mine. He stood there and stared for a while, whilst I gave him the occasional wave. He eventually came over and I explained to him what I was doing. This turned into quite a lengthy chat, with the gentleman telling me that he was a Country Fire Service (CFS) volunteer and then commencing to highly criticise the Government Radio Network (GRN) system.
So after 20 minutes of quietly sitting back and listening, he decided to head off. I apologise to those that were waiting on the frequency.
I called CQ again on 7.150 and this was answered by Mark VK5QI who was operating from the Horsnell Gully Conservation Park, with Gary VK5FGRY. Mark and Gary had the strongest signal/s of the afternoon.
After working 23 stations on 40m I headed off to 20m and called CQ on 14.310. I can almost always guarantee that Rick VK4RF/VK4HA is waiting for me on 20m, and this activation was no different. After working Rick I was very surprised to be called by Thanie ZS4AZ in South Africa. Thanie was 5/5 and was receiving me at just 2/2. But despite that we managed a contact. I was extremely excited as this was my first ever contact into South Africa whilst I was portable.
I then worked a handful of Western Australian stations including my good mate Ted VK6NTE, and Ray VK4NH/6 who was staying with Ted. Next up was John VK6NU, and then Peter VK6RZ. I was then surprised once more. This time I was called by Doug VK9LA on Lord Howe Island with a very strong 5/9 signal. Doug and I had quite a chat, until I started experiencing QRM from a German net on 14.307.
I then lowered the squid pole and removed the 20m/40m linked dipole and replaced it with the 15m antenna. I headed to 21.244 and called CQ, but my only taker there was Rick VK4RF/VK4HA who had a 5/5 signal.
I returned back to 7.144 and worked some more of the regular park hunters, from VK2, VK3, VK5, and VK7. But things slowed down very rapidly and I had no more callers. I was toying with the idea to stay around for the 7130 DX Net, but I sill had a few hours before the net commenced. I tuned across the band and heard very little activity. Except for VK2CCW and the Slow Morse Net, which I sat back and listened to for around 30 minutes, and put my CQ to the test.
The sun was going down and it was now approaching 8.00 p.m. local time. I spoke briefly with Peter VK3CFA, Roscoe VK3KRH and Kevin VK3CKL who were working John KA3IZE. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite making it with John.
I then joined the 7130 DX Net where I worked a total of 12 stations including William FO5JV in French Polynesia, Brian ZL2ASH and Caleb ZL2ML in New Zealand, and Pedro NP4A in Puerto Rico.
At the end of the net I packed up and headed home, with a total of 52 contacts in the log.
The following stations were worked on 40m SSB:-
- VK5PET/p (Monarto Conservation Park)
- VK5QI/p (Horsnelly Gully Conservation Park)
- VK5FGRY/p (Horsnell Gully Conservation Park)
The following stations were worked on 20m SSB:-
The following stations were worked on 15m SSB:-