Gentle Annie is a 670 meter mountain in the Bunyip State Park north of the M1 between Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs and Drouin. It is one of the southern most SOTA peaks in the Great Dividing Range and in the VK3/VT region. The approach to be found on sotawatch.org is easy to follow. Access is via the M1. Approaching the Drouin turnoff I took the C421 north, Sand Rd, to Labertouche Rd. Further along the signpost at the intersection of Forest Rd and Labertouche Rd confused me. What is signed as Labertouche Rd is in fact Forest Rd.
Forest Rd continues north, sealed for a few km before it becomes dirt, but a good 2wd dirt road. After 18.4 km from the confusing signpost the road opens to a clearing and turning circle at the intersection with Bunyip Rd and Proposch Rd. Just up Bunyip Rd is the gate and track to Gentle Annie. The signpost is just visible to the right of the gate in the bushes.
The track is a deeply rutted 4wd climb which requires a moderate effort. I visited on the weekend of a massive low pressure system that subsequently dumped snow on Mt Macedon, The Grampians and as far north as the Brindabellas (VK1). I was ahead of the storm, however, and the dirt track was damp but not too slippery. At the top is a turning circle around a burned stump. There are signs of campers. The huge stump afforded a low-down flange that supported the squid pole vertical.
The first station I heard and worked was Peter VK3YE, operating his newly modded MDT 2 watt double side-band transceiver. The rest of the activation, using the 40m shortened vertical, delivered another dozen QSOs with good reports from VK1, 2, 3, and 5. The radio sat inside the pack in the spitting rain.
To this point I knew I had been chancing my hand with the rain, and my timing proved excellent. Just as the chasers slowed, the rain increased and I packed up quickly. The shower became a pour as little rivulets formed in the wheel tracks. The rain revealed the qualities of the clay. In places trail bike tyre knobs had left a symmetrical pattern that even a potter would have admired as decoration. The biggest challenge coming down as the rain closed in was not slipping and ending up seated in mud and clay.
On the drive south and out of the park the rain really dumped, complete with hail. It was a unique experience being on a mountain side in a rain storm. The road was draining well and I never felt concerned. Back on sealed road I took the opportunity to go north to Noojee. There are mountains near Noojee. That’s a story for another day.