Cooltong Conservation Park

VK5 Parks Award – Cooltong CP

WX – Fine, 17 degrees C.

Antenna – EFHW for 40M

Rig – FT817ND

Today’s Terrific weather saw me and my oldest lad Josh head out in to the scrub to activate the Cooltong Conservation park, for the VK5 Parks award. (Josh needs to get his hours up on his “L” plates so he was keen to be my chauffeur!) . Access is via Santos Rd, off the Sturt Highway, a few km’s out  from Berri towards Renmark past the Gun Club.

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Cooltong CP entrance…

This is a dune and Mallee scrub park, some 3700 Hectares and is home to many wonderful species of birds and animals. It’s not that far from my home and Josh had us there in about 20 minutes. The road is quite good for a few Km into the park where it starts to deteriorate somewhat but all in all it’s quite serviceable, especially if you have a 4WD or a capable SUV. In summer I would imagine that it would be passable to most vehicles but the recent heavy rains had still left the road boggy in sections with water still in the many ruts.

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cruising in the scrub…

After finding a good spot I set up the squid pole and the End Fed Half Wave antenna with the FT817ND and started calling CQ…I use the iPad for SOTA goat alerts and many other tasks…I log the calls in a paper notebook!

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The EFHW ready to go…

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The trusty FT817ND safe and snug in its Crumpler bag…

I was rewarded quickly with several stations, including a few out on SOTA summits – Nice!…the sun on my back was delicious!!!

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Yours truly on the mic…

The following stations made it in to my log…VK5BJE John, VK3MNZ Don, VK5KX Peter, VK5FMID Brian, VK3AFW Ron on VK3/VW-009, VK5AIM Steve, VK5KBJ Barry, VK5FTCT John, VK3XY Derek, VK3ZPF Peter, VK5KC David, VK3MRG/P Marshall on VK3/VN-027, VK5LY Larry, VK3ANL Nick,VK2UH Andrew, VK5FTTC Rod and VK3UBY Colin.

I ran in to a few issues…1. 40 M with the introduction of SOTA is now VERY busy with stations all over the central bit of the band – finding a spot to call CQ  can be a challenge!!! 2. Morons tuning up over the top of other stations…3. Even bigger Morons calling CQ on a very obvious “in use” frequency. One particular VK2 F-call was displaying all the qualities of getting his foundation licence from a cereal box!!! 4. Splattering stations…some were so bad they were being heard many KCs away…and yes my noise blanker and preamp were OFF!!!

Still bags of fun though, and always nice to pick up a few SOTA summits as part of the deal. Might have to look at operating up higher to escape the hordes around 7.085 – 7.110 Mhz

I also think I’ll try a dipole next time just to see if it’s any vast improvement over the EFHW. Although the EFHW works a treat, it seem those running a dipole get a bit stronger reports over all…either that or make a better effort at getting the far end of the  top section higher or actually running the EFHW as an inverted “V” instead of an “L”

I’m thinking I might be getting some cancellation of radiation if the angle off the “L” bit of the wire is less than 90 degrees at the top of the squid pole (see the 3rd Photo)…something to experiment with!!!

See you in the next Park or Summit!!!

SOTA VK5/SE-005 Mt Lofty

Date: 08/06/2013 – 09/06/2013

Time 23:20 – 01:00 UTC

Weather: Overcast. Forecast Fine 18 . Activation Temp. on Summit 9 Deg C

On Sunday the 9th of June (local), I successfully activated Mt Lofty, SE-005 for my very first SOTA summit…

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The view from VK5/SE-005…

This was a going to be a lot of fun! After leaving my accommodation nice and early for a breakfast stop,  (Think ridiculous clown and a big yellow “M”) a leisurely drive up the South Eastern Freeway had me in the summit carpark with plenty of time to walk out and back into the activation zone before finding a place to set up and be out of the way of the hordes of people flocking to this place!

Mt Lofty has a very nice, well patronised Cafe right at the summit that is a Mecca for the Lycra/ Gym  Junkie types of all shapes and sizes, from dusk ’till dawn. It’s busy. REAL busy! Cyclists ride from near and far to it, and Fitness freaks traverse up the very popular but steep walking trail from Waterfall Gully some 7.5 Km away. Walking in and out of the activation zone the required distance just about killed me! Must work on the fitness Andrew!!!

There was no way I was going to set up near the cafe, so I chose a spot just to the north/north-east of the car park, just off of one of the many cycling/walking tracks…

The operating position at VK5/SE-005 Mt Lofty...

The operating position at VK5/SE-005 Mt Lofty…

This seemed as good a place as any, so I set up the trusty End Fed Half Wave for 40M inverted L style on the 9 M squid pole and occy strapped it to the trunk of some foliage and ran the top part out to a high branch out of harms way. WX wise I was protected from any wind but I didn’t have to worry as it was actually not bad, 9 degrees. I was lucky!

My FT817ND in its Crumpler "Haven" bag...

My FT817ND in its Crumpler “Haven” bag…

Firing up on 7.090 Mhz, I hit the airwaves at 23:28 UTC and Paul,VK5PAS/P came up from in the Pt Clinton Conservation Park, on his way to activating some SOTA and Parks on Eyre Peninsular was the first to answer my CQ call. I was then immediately spotted by VK2JI on the SOTA goat and the stations came thick and fast. It was evident that I had a problem though, as soon as I dropped the PTT, an awful switch mode noise came over the frequency at S9 for a few seconds then disappeared, enough to momentarily block out the stations calling. I soon realised that my new u-beaut DC DC converter for dropping the LiPo battery voltage down was a dismal failure in its current form! I had seen Andrew VK1NAM, using one on his activations in his photo’s so I decided to try one, but it looks like it might have to go in a metal enclosure with some bypass caps…

After disconnecting it I hurried back to the waiting pileup and worked VK3PF, VK1MDC, VK3JM and VK2UH before Marshall VK3MRG/P called me from VK3/VN-017 for my first S2S! Grinning uncontrollably, I continued with VK2JI, VK3CAT, VK3TCX, VK3MCD, VK3PI and Allen,VK3HRA/P called from VK3/VN-012, for S2S number #2. Rick, VK4KRX/5 wanted a contact for the VK Shires Contest and I happily obliged…Things then quieted down so I took a short break and checked the gear and had a drink and a bite to eat before starting again after the UTC rollover…

I self spotted on SOTA Goat and was instantly welcomed by VK5PAS, VK3PF, VK3TCX, VK2UH, VK3DET, VK3AMB, VK3PI, VK3MRG/P on VN-017, VK1MDC,VK5UG, VK5LY, VK3BYD, VK5EMI, VK5FMID, VK3HRA/P on VN-012, VK5NRG, VK3GHZ,VK3KAN/P and VK2JI…This site is also part of the Cleland Conservation Park so I was able to qualify this park for several stations chasing the VK5 National and Conservation Parks award

After things went quiet again I packed up the HF station and tried 146.500FM. I called CQ and  listened for a while after self spotting on the SOTA Goat but the front end of the handheld I was using was pretty much swamped by RF and I didn’t hear anyone!

I finished around 1:30 UTC and headed into the previously mentioned Cafe and intergrated with the fit looking by rewarded myself with one of these…

Mmmm...coffee!

Mmmm…Coffee!

All in all a great morning, a lot of fun and I learnt that I’ll need to equip myself a bit better in the back pack department and get some proper walking/hiking shoes if I’m going to do many more activations… As I knew Mt Lofty would be busy people wise, I left the VHF Yagi at home, but it will definitely come with me on the next summit!

Murray River National Park

Besides SOTA, I have also become interested in the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award promoted and run by the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society.

I had heard Paul, VK5PAS, out and about activating some of the conservation Parks near his home in the Adelaide hills, indeed, even on his way back from a SOTA summit! The boy is keen!

After a bit of reseach, it seems that there are quite a few National and Conservation Parks near my home QTH. As it turns out, I actually have a lovely view over the Kataraptko section of the Murray River National Park from my front door!

Armed with this knowledge, I packed up the X-Trail with my portable gear and headed out late Sunday morning, with the intention of going into Kataraptko to put it on the air…However, I got about 1 km in on the access road and after facing the opposite direction to where I should be going I decided that perhaps going in here might not be such a good idea after all…heavy rain the previous Thursday and Friday had made it pretty hard going on the mainly clay based “road”. Time for Plan B!

Plan “B” was to head to the Lyrup Flats section of the Murray River National Park, just north of the Lyrup Ferry, a few km from Berri.

Lyrup Flats

Welcome sign…

The access road in here seems better maintained and was no problem for the vehicle and pretty soon I was on the air, making contacts from Black Box campground. I set up the trusty the End Fed Half Wave and the FT817ND…

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The Squidpole lashed up to a tree…

Portable setup

The ‘817, and the EFHW match box…

I worked a good number of stations, including VK5PAS Paul, VK3AFW Ron, VK5BJE John, VK5FMID Brian, VK3XBC Duncan, VK3KAB/P Kevin, VK5HCF Col, VK7NWT Scott, VK2UH Andrew, VK3JM Fred, VK3AMB Bernard, VK2ZRD Rod, VK3ZPF/P Peter, VK5KC David, VK3HRA Allen, VK7FEET Warren, VK3ANL Nick, VK5NRG Roy, VK5FAKV Shaun, VK3KCD/M Peter, VK3BJA Brenton, VK3KIS Andrew (on his 2watt QRP rig he built himself from Drew Diamond circuits), VK5DX Gary and VK3PI/P  Mark, for the last contact before I had to pack up for the afternoon. I was copying most stations at 59 or better, conditions seemed quite good.

The 5000mA LiPo battery I used worked well, not even breaking a sweat for the entire 2+ hours I was on the air. I’m very impressed with it’s performance so far. I have a switch mode voltage regulator coming from ebay to drop the 15+ Volts fully charged to 13.8v, more on that when it arrives. All in all a successful activation. The next park I’ll be doing is the Cooltong Conservation Park. (actually just across the Sturt Highway from Lyrup)