2018-07-19/20/21 Dharug National Park

This activation took me three consecutive days. I’ll put them all in to the one blog entry.

July 19

Well the plan today was to go to Iron Bark Picnic Area in Popran National Park. What put pain to that was a very steep 21m rise in the road about 600m from the park as well as dogs in the fenced off paddock beside the road the rest of the way to the park. No way was the Astra getting up that. I hadn’t packed in such a way that I could carry the gear to the park in one trip as I had not expected to.

So, I decided to head over to Mill Creek Picnic Area in Dharug National Park.

Lovely place as you can see from the few photos I took. What it doesn’t have is Vodafone coverage so I couldn’t send out spots.

I spent two hours calling on 7.144, 3.610 and 3.584 and only managed three contacts on 7.144. It’s a shame as one of the SA contacts and the QLD contact gave me a very strong signal report.

I’ll head out again tomorrow but I’ll put out a “QRV in 20 minutes” as I enter the park.

This was the road about 600m from Iron Bark Picnic Area in Popran. The photo really doesn’t do justice to how steep it was.
Park Entry. I should have sent out a spot after taking this picture.
I set up the squid pole with two large trees a bit over 20m either side of it to tie the dipole off to.
The set up. One contact in the log at this point Very slow day.

July 20

Trekked out to VKFF-0139 again today (1h20m drive each way).

Contact-wise far better than yesterday.

While we had a cloudless blue sky, we also had a nice strong wind blowing up the valley, bending the squid pole precariously and generally chilling the place abominably.

On top of this we had incredible static on 40m & 80m. 80m was all but unusable.

Because of the wind I had to take my hat off (as I kept having it blown off my head), so I also had to take a minute to tie my hair back as it was whipping around my face. John VK4TJ said I should take pictures, so I obliged.

I can’t express my gratitude enough for the hunters who spotted me during the day. Without you it would have been another debacle. I didn’t have any cell coverage in the park. Indeed, I didn’t get coverage back until I’d driven about 20 minutes on the way home. In the morning I’m getting a Telstra data sim for the iPad that currently doesn’t have a sim, as Telstra coverage existed.

The day started pretty quickly with the first call at 1:54pm, but by 3:30pm slowed down quite a bit. I only had two calls between 5pm and 6pm, and nothing between 6pm and 7pm when I decided to call it a night as it really was starting to get chilly.

Unfortunately I am still three (yes three!) contacts shy of qualifying the park so I get to do another drive tomorrow.


Pre-hair tie with hair whipping aroumd my face
Post hair-tie, … much better.
Had some friends visit later in the afternoon
…, and some more of them.

There is also a link to a video showing how windy it was and how bad the static on 40m was.

July 21

Trekked out (yet again) to VKFF-0139 as I was still three (yes three!) contacts short of qualifying the park.

Given the non-existent cell coverage by Vodafone in this park, I ducked out and bought a Telstra 4G router on a 10gb plan before heading out. That way I had internet and could do my own spots as necessary.

I arrived pretty late and got on air at about 16:50 (6:50 UTC), which was approximately sunset. I would have been about 45 minutes earlier, but 20 minutes into the drive to the park I realised that I had left the cable at home to connect the battery to the rig (I detached it from the battery and put it down next to where I recharged it the night before, forgetting to pick it up). I got nine calls in about an hour so the park is qualified.

However, Gerard VK2IO mentioned that he was going out to Cattai National Park (VKFF-0092) and would be participating in the Trans-Tasman Low Band (160m, 80m & 40m) contest from 6pm-midnight (8:00-14:00 UTC), and I was eager to get a park to park. I hadn’t planned on taking part in the contest but as I was tuning around having a listen for him I ended up doing exactly that.

In hindsight, I wish that I had set the transmitter for 5 watts instead of 6, as then I could have submitted for the 5W and under section. As it was I had to submit in the 100W and under. I did do two calls on 5W, as I accidentally kicked the battery connectors off so the FT-818, was running off internal battery for them (it was cold, I was trying to keep warm).

During the contest, 40m was pretty quiet (only made four contacts all night on it in the contest), so, as I didn’t have a 160m antenna, I got the bulk of my contacts on 80m.

For putting out 6W from a deep valley in the park I was pretty happy. Ended up with 47 contest contacts and 309 points (or I will when the website accepts my log without complaining about errors in it that I don’t understand).

As I didn’t plan to stay late (last contact I made before deciding to pack up was 10:07pm), I was probably not really dressed for the evening in that park in that temperature. Note, jeans are a really bad idea in the cold. You are fine until you move and/or leg touches them. Brrrrrrrr.

I finished packing everything up by about 22:40. As an aside, has anyone noticed how difficult it is to use velcro cable ties when your hands are shivering? Anyway, the external temperature gauge on the car read 0 degrees C as I left. I had thought that the plastic bottle of water was tasting cold.

On the way home I stopped off at VK2AFY(Central Coast Amateur Radio Club) to watch them finish up at midnight.

All up, I ended up really enjoying the evening. I’ll do that kind of thing again though I thing that Bouddi National Park (VKFF-0049) up on the ridge would be a far better location to set up running low power. Rugging up better would also be a *really* good idea.

Oh one last thing, all of the contacts I made in the contest get logged as Hunters for the park I was in for WWFF (excluding duplicate contacts on the same band).

Blue dot marks the spot. I was in the Mill Creek Picnic area.
Looking at the log, that looks like just before 6pm. Getting dark and cooling down quickly.
I set up the squid pole between two trees that were about 45m apart. Perfect for a half wave dipole on 80m. Doesn’t the pole and dipole look pretty with the flash gun 😀

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