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My First Activations

VK2/NT-008 VK2/NT-009 VK2/NT-002 VK2/NT-001

Monday 30 December 2013 at 09:55 am. Used tags: , , ,

A trip up into the New England for my first activations.  Decided to be out over New Years Eve and maximum points for my outing.  Not that I am known to "milk" the rules to maximise any points I get........

The Trip

Up to Gloscester onto Thunderbolts Way for the first two sites.  Then over to the Oxley Hwy through Walca, up to Armidale and onto Grafton Road for the last two sites.  New Years Eve in a tent in the bush.  What could be better?

VK2/NT-008 VK2/NT-009 VK2/NT-002 - Pt Lookout VK2/NT-001 - Round Mtn


Up at 5am and left by 5:30am for the 285km drive to the first site.   Looking at google maps and the paper maps I had I decided to turn off Thunderbolts Way at Nowendoc and go up the Brackendale Road into the Riamukka State Forest.  There would of been a much quicker and eaiser way to the site I discovered when I left Grundy on the Thursday to come home.  Don't put all trust in Google maps!

NSW State Forrest Map

Once in the forest turn left on Riamukka Rd.  Then left on Peel Creek Rd.  Then right into Grundy Fire Tower at the start of the Ngulin Nature Reserve.  About 100m down a rough track is a nice clearing to park the car out of the way.  And about a 200m climb up the access road to the top.  If needed you can drive up to the fire tower.

Nowendoc Turn into Riamukka Rd Left on Peel Creek Rd Yes that hill! Right into Grundy Fire Tower Rd OK for 2WD - slowly Last gasp to the top My First SOTA Activation

Panoramic View from Fire Tower

Quicker and easier access would be via Hell Hole Road which is off Thunderbolts Way one km before Topdale Road.  Enter Ngulin Nature Reserve.  Follow Hell Hole Fire Trail turning left at Peel Creek Road.  Then turn left to the Fire Tower.

From Thunderbolts Way Into Ngulin Nature Reserve Along Hell Hole Road Left onto Peel Creek Road

First contact was at 10:06am with VK2JDS (thanks Dave). 4 x 40m, 3 x 20m & 1 x 12m.  Also had W7USA calling me blind on 12m and he was 59 at times. 

Good telstra mobile coverage - SMS, phone, data.


Packed up at Grundy and was back on the road at 11:00am to get to the next site.  Once again google maps doesn't show the road that links to the fire trail.  Distance travelled - 311km.  Distance from last site - 26km.

State Forrest Map

Back onto the Brackendale Road and head north till you get to the intersection of Mummel Forest Road and turn right.  Travel into the Mummel Gulf National Park till the left hand turn for the Panhandle Fire Trail.  Turn left at the Porters Camp Mgt Trail and about 800m up the hill there is a rather large comm site with an AAC site too.

Mummel Forrest Road - Right Turn Panhandle Fire Trail Porters Camp Mgt Trail AAC Site   

If coming from the Oxley Highway.  Take the turn for Mummel Gulf N.P. on the Enfield Road.  Turn left at Mummel Forrest Road just before the New Country Swamp campsite.

Oxley Highway Access Enfeild State Forrest

First contact at 12:40 with VK2UH.  5 on 40m, 5 on 20m.  And one S2S.

Good telstra mobile coverage - SMS, phone, data.

After I left the site I had my first screwup.  A gate that said "Private Property No Public Access".  It wasn't locked but I didn't want to meet up with a pissed off farmer or drive for ½ hour to get to a locked gate.  So I had to find another way out to get to Walca.  Added and extra hour and a ½ on the drive to the next site.

VK2/NT-001  Round Mountain

Because of the detour caused by the gate and the mess Armidale is (when will they bypass the place?).  I didn't get to Cathedral Rocks National Park till 17:30 and decided to skip VK2/NT-002 till tomorrow and make camp and head out to the hill top in the morning.  Distance travelled 545km.  Distance from last site 234km.

Drive up Waterfall Way till you get the Cathedral Rocks National Park turnoff (watch for cattle before the park, this is a gridded road).  Enter the park and follow the road to the locked gate.  Handy parking near the gate.  Sealed road from the gate to the major AAC radar site at the top.  About a 1.5km hike.

Cathedral Rocks NP Enter Park Handy carpark here Maybe for most!!! Site on Left. Catherdral Rocks on Right. Big comm site Steep hill. 12% grade. Setup on road High RF noise on 40m


I was starting to get a bit suspect of my EFD.  No I was getting really pissed off with my EFD.  Most of the contacts I made were with the Outbacker Jr.  And that's why I got the 30m contact.  Missed a lot of S2S contacts because of the antenna.

First contact at 10:13am with VK1NAM S2S! 6 on 40m, 1 on 30m, 2 on 20m & 2 on 12m.  And 5 S2S.  Also doubled my activation points for operating past New Years Day UTC :) 

Fair telstra mobile coverage - SMS, phone, data.


After finishing off Round Mountain.  A fast ride back down the hill, hopped into the ute and got back on the Waterfall Way and headed back towards Armidale.  Distance travelled 576km.  Distance from last site 31km.

Off the Waterfall Way take the turn off for the New England National Park called Point Lookout Road.  Follow the road till the junction of New England NP and Cunnawarra NP and turn left.  Enter the national park (watch for cattle before the park, this is a gridded road).  Go almost all the way to the top, second turn on the left (I think...).  Park near locked gate and head 1.5km down the track.  While you are up there you might as well go all the way to the end and look at the view.

Point Lookout Road Thar' she blows Turn Left Enter park 2nd Left Locked Gate

Point Lookout Panoramic

This one was very disappointing.  My antenna woes continued and no one could hear me on the EFD.  So I forced to use the Outbacker Jr, which was just as bad.  Could hear heaps of guys on but couldn't raise them.  VK2KTT in Coffs called me on every freq I moved to and I didn't get to work him at all.  Then it started to rain!  Made the bare min of contacts and got away.  I was rushed and didn't take many photos.

First contact was with VK2JDS a 13:52. 3 on 40m, 1 on 12m.  And 1 S2S.

Fair telstra mobile coverage - SMS, phone, data.


Started to head home but I was buggered, so I decided to stop at the grassy area at the base of the access road to the fire tower and camp the night there.  Distance travelled 770km.  Distance from last site 194km.  See the difference in distance the "gate/google maps" incident caused!

Up again And.... rest Wallaby and pigs Mr Roo

Went back up the hill for a quick setup just before dark.  But again my antenna was rubbish.  I worked 2 guys on 40m and gave up. When the sun went down this was one dark site!  And the amount of wildlife made it noisy. So dark and noisy!  But as a rule I don't camp with a fire, and fires tend to keep the wildlife away.  So I don't get the points for this site this year.  So I can go back again :)

When I left the site in the morning I found a quicker way out to Thunderbolts Way.  See above entry for this site.

Worked VK2FGJW/p for S2S and VK2UH who was 59+


DOE!  I just discovered I didn't qualify VK2/NT-002 as I didn't work four different calls!  I made four contacts but one of those contacts I worked on 2 bands.  DOE!  So now I need to go back.

Lots of K's.  Did 1060km.

EFD let me down big time. I know this happened because I couldn't get the top of the antenna high enough in the trees. So the angle of the slope of the antenna was not steep enough. Testing at home I had the wire up nice and high, and the slope was about 75º~80º and worked a treat. On site the trees weren't high enough or close enough for this antenna to shine. A slope of 50º or less is useless. To close to the ground and the Rs goes all out of whack. Also the flash light wire wire isn't up to the task. Once the teflon is cut out the wires left have no strength and would break at any solder joints when any strain was put on them. So not the right wire for a EFD. I'll try to come up with a new EFD that will be squid pole mounted only. That way the install will be same regards of site restraints and hopefully performance will be the same as original testing.

Thank goodness I had the Outback Jr mounted on the bike.  Using the bike frame as the ground doesn't make for a very efficient antenna.  Almost half of my contacts were on the Outbacker.  And also one on 30m.  I'll come up with a tree mounted version for the Outbacker, just like I did with the VHF antennas back in my army days.

Taking the bike along was great. I could carry much more stuff (as an example on my last cycle tour I was carrying over 25kg of gear!). Made getting into and out of the sites very rapid. And I just loooove riding my bike around in the bush. I've been thinking of building a nice "Fat Bike" out of the my old touring bike. I don't really need to take a full touring setup for a couple of km cruise in the bush.  And having my $megaK bike laying in the ute tray as a scream down dirt tracks is not the best treatment for my darling.

I need some sort of small LED clock with UTC time. I don't wear a watch and looking at the phone all time was a pain.  But digital logging in the furture will negate this.  But a clock is handy.

One problem I didn't for see is the amount RF hash my Samsung S4 spuwed out on 40m. Just touching the screen produced a S4 rubbish. And when the phone was charging on the solar battery the noise was massive. Also when I touch the LCD display on the FT-817 with my finger that produced noise as well! Needs to be looked into.

LiFePO battery worked well. Still coming to grips with charging requirements. I made up leads so the battery could be charged when travelling between sites. But the bumpy roads sometimes cause the charger to stop and display fault errors. A more robust, secure storage box needs to be thought up.

Must take better earphones. I had taken my normal headphones I use cycling but they were uncomfortable and the audio response for SSB left a lot to be desired.

For self spotting I was using the RackSack app on my phone.  When data coverage wasn't the best I was not confident that the spot had gone so I would send another one (and another...).  Which caused multiple spots to appear on SpotWatch, for which I am very sorry for doing guys....  I will reinvestigate the SMS spotting feature, which will be more robust and appears to be more reliable.


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