Friday, May 25, 2018

AREA-51, Rachel Nevada

So unless you have been living under a rock your whole life you have probably heard about Area-51, the ultra secret military installation in the Nevada desert where theoretically everything from top-secret military aircraft development all the way through reverse engineering of alien spacecraft and alien autopsies are conducted. The famous interview with Bob Lazar brought public light to this location back in 1989. I have also read the book Skunk Works which was a personal account by Ben Rich of his time working with Kelly Johnson at Lockheed on the black projects they developed like the U-2, SR-71 and F-117 and while never specifically saying Area-51, he certainly described a remote dry lake bed deep in the Nevada desert ringed by mountains, and it being the perfect location to conduct secretive aircraft testing. He did all but say Area-51 but at least you can go back and read the first hand account of what got this location on the map so to say. So with all this mystique about this facility and a buddy of mine who had recently gone out there to get a glimpse of Rachel Nevada and the gate at Area-51, it was on a return trip from Bryce and Zion National Parks with my boys a year ago, as we skirted along the surrounding area of Area-51 that I decided this Easter Break WE would have an epic Boy Scout adventure to Nevada and see for ourselves what this place had in store for us.

I put the word out to my troop, Boy Scout Troop 604 out of Lake Forest, CA and let them know what I was planning. Here was my announcement that I hoped would get the boys excited:

Our upcoming Spring Break will be packed with new adventures in Nevada. Our plan is to head to Red Rock Canyon outside Vegas for a day and a half of hiking in this beautiful location.
From there we put on our foil hats (to protect us from alien mind control) and head up the infamous Extraterrestrial Highway to visit Rachel Nevada, home of the Little A’Le’Inn and immerse ourselves in alien folklore.  Follwing this we will proceed to the Black Mailbox, a congregation spot for UFO hunters and then on to the nearest location you can observe Area 51 from, Tikaboo Peak. The plan, weather permitting, is to camp at or on the peak and observe Area 51 through our own telescopes/spotting scopes and hopefully see the definitive proof for ourselves that aliens do exist and the government cover up is real. A viewing of either Independence Day or Men In Black will be shown that evening complete with popcorn! Following that we will head to Valley of Fire State Park to hike several different scenic trails among the unique rock formations and stay the night in or near the park. We can add an optional final night on the way home if we want and enjoy a fun little spot in the Mohave Preserve called TeutoniaPeak to break up the drive home. We will return home completely exhausted and our camera memory cards will be full of amazing pictures, our memories however will have been wiped clean if our foil hats have fallen off, or if the “Camo Dudes” patrolling Area 51 zapped us with a neuralyzer. If you don’t know what that is it is simply an electro bio-mechanical neural transmitting zero synapse repositioner. If you still need help, watch Men In Black!

With this tease I was able to get 11 scouts plus fellow Scout leader Scott and our Scoutmaster Thomas to join in the fun as they were as excited as I was to see what was out there. I will keep this story to just the Area-51 portion of the trip. Red Rock and our other locations which wound up including Zzyzix, Afton Canyon and the Mohave River were fun but I'll keep this focused on the main attraction.

After camping and hiking Red Rock Canyon outside Vegas for a couple days we headed off to Rachel Nevada, the closest town, if you can call it a town, to the Area-51 access points. A few points, fuel is scarce once you leave Vegas so make sure you are full and having a 5 gallon gas can might be wise. Also pack food and water, you don't know what can happen out there in the middle of nowhere, and as you read further, we were planning on really being in the middle of NOWHERE!

I put the trip together from multiple sources of info. We had to stop at the Little A'Le Inn, the gathering point of UFO hunters and Area-51 conspiracy theorists and have lunch. Also on the list was the Black Mailbox, another UFO hunter gathering point, one of the Area-51 gates where we hoped to interact with the Camo-Dudes and the peace de resistance, climbing Tikaboo Peak to see inside Area-51 itself. I wasn't sure how much time to allow nor how long these travels would take to accomplish so it was a scheduling difficulty but I had three vehicles full of adventurous Scouts and two additional Scout Leaders, Scott and our Scoutmaster Thomas, that were as excited to do this as I was.

After having the boys make foil hats to protect us from alien mind control we packed up camp in Red
The sign just south of Rachel.
Rock near Vegas and headed for Rachel to have lunch at the Little A'Le Inn. It took about 3 hours to make the journey including a fuel stop outside Vegas. It was difficult in some respects because to go to Rachel meant driving right by the road to Tikaboo Peak, the Black Mailbox, the Main Gate and a few other surprise items. We did stop at the Extraterrestrial Highway sign at the junction of Hwy 93 and 375 to take a photo while wearing our foil hats only to discover a much better sign just outside Rachel as you approach it, hold out for that one. As we were nearing Rachel, maybe 10 miles or so away we came across the infamous Black Mailbox, we HAD to stop!!!

As of April 2018, this Black Mailbox was at the typical location.
The Black Mailbox, contrary to numerous reports saying otherwise, is still there as of April 2018! Let me add to that statement, A BLACK MAILBOX is still there, it's not the original, it's not the white one, this is a hokey looking black mailbox probably put there by tour companies leading trips to this exquisite location but if you stop it does have letters left by visitors, some addressed to the aliens themselves. My Scouts looked through many of them, my personal favorite was from a lady letting them know she dressed up for them, wore high heels, did her makeup and even wore her special alien colored nail polish and was sad that they did not come by to abduct her that night. As we were getting hungry we continued on to Rachel.

Definitive proof of alien/government cattle mutilation!
As you make your way to Rachel on Hwy 375 pay particular attention to the cattle signs along the road, they have been vandalized in humorous ways. As luck would have it, a pair of additional sightings fell into our laps. One was a much better ExtraTerrestrial Highway sign so we stopped for a group photo. We also got a little surprise at finding a dead cow on the side of the road. This was no ordinary dead cow however, while it looked complete when viewed from its top as it laid there on the side of the road, further inspection, because who doesn't stop to investigate a dead cow when in Rachel Nevada, showed that the cow was hollowed out from it's belly just leaving the ribs with the hide still attached! Perhaps someone was a Star Wars fan and wanted to test if slicing open a cow and spending the night inside the belly would keep them as warm as a tauntaun on Hoth? Maybe it was definitive proof of alien/government cattle mutilation? Perhaps it was just a dead cow, but then we are near Area-51 so I'm betting on the alien cattle mutilation theory.

Arriving at Rachel Nevada is an experience. To someone not seeking out such a location I am sure there thoughts would be, "what a horrible place to be stuck in", to us however, the little flying saucer attached to a tow truck and an alien statue stating Earthlings Welcome was our little paradise! As we got out of our vehicles and descended upon this little cafe with our group of 14 it looked like we were taking over the place. The inside is perhaps a bit underwhelming, I expected to find a bunch of UFO freaks and people sharing wild and outlandish tales of alien
sightings and what "really" is going on at the base. I then realized that when you look around for the weirdos and you don't see any, chances are it's you! The food was good and reasonably priced and the waitresses appreciated us bringing the Scouts out here for the adventure. When we shared that we were going out to Tikaboo Peak to camp that night and climb it they changed their tune, well one of them anyway. We were told the road is terrible and we would never make it. She informed us "you can't drive to the top you know?" and we said we planned on hiking the last mile or so but she said its all shale and we will never make it. My research said otherwise so we nodded our heads and thanked them and told them we would at least give it a shot. One additional item on the Little A'Le Inn, there is a red line on the floor demarking the restaurant from the bar, DO NOT let a minor cross the red line into the bar section, they are very serious about this.

Notice our Camo Dude shadow atop the hill?
Now we were headed to the so called Main Gate. Some call it the East Gate, had I known about the "Back Gate" I would have gone there as well. Back down the road we headed and opted to pass the Black Mailbox and make a right on the unlabeled Groom Lake Road that is straight as an arrow for nearly 10 miles. We made quick time on the dirt superhighway and reached what we were expecting, the signs indicating you had arrived. We were all very excited to see this which sounds funny to those that don't get it but if you do, this is an awesome experience! We took photos at the perimeter all the while being observed by the Camo Dudes in a white Ford Raptor up on the hill nearby. He would pull forward from his K-rail protected perch atop the hill to get a better view and then back up into his perch once again. It was when we completely blocked the roadway with all three vehicles for a picture that a second white truck came racing up the dirt road from beyond the perimeter and then veered off to join his buddy up on the hill. We decided to move our trucks and not block the road as that might anger them and I drove up on a nearby hill where I could look at them as they looked at me. I was
hoping for a little interaction with these guys, not get arrested, pay the $1,000 fine and spend a night in the Lincoln County Jail kind of interaction
This photo op got the second Camo Dude
to come speeding up for backup.
but at least a little cat and mouse. Well from my hilltop where our other vehicles soon joined me I got out my binoculars and looked at the Camo Dudes as they were obviously looking at me. The second truck headed away but did return a little later as we broke into two groups with some of my Scouts walking the perimeter fence line one way with another group heading straight towards the line with me included. Both of our groups were now out of visual contact with the Camo Dudes which must have got them a bit ruffled as I soon heard a roaring sound and then I looked up to see a White Chevy pickup barreling down the hill on a dirt road! He turned the wheel hard to follow the road and that truck must have gone 50+ feet straight ahead before the front tires bit into the dirt and it swerved and raced by us. I suspect he was trying to intimidate us but all our Scouts watched the show quite calmly and I grabbed a quick picture of the truck racing away, we never saw that truck again. We soon decided we had enough pictures and had adequately engaged the Camo Dudes so it was time for the next phase of our adventure to Tikaboo Peak.

We got back to the highway and headed south. I was using a map from Dreamland Resorts, click here and go to Maps and GPS and the Tikaboo Peak Map with GPS Coordinates. We drove the easier yet longer road to Tikaboo Peak that starts off Hwy 93 between the two Pahranagat Lakes just South of Alamo. We were driving a pair of Ford F-250 lifted 4x4's and one 2wd Toyota 4Runner with decent ground clearance but stock. Following the map to Tikaboo worked pretty well and 90+% of the drive was dirt super highway so once again, it
went quickly covering the just over 20 miles back to Tikaboo. I did use a GPS and mapping software on my tablet to help guide us. My mileage was slightly different than that provided on the map but if you stop at the 22.0 mile point listed on the map and camp there you will be good. It was about an hour until dark so we made camp and rounded up plenty of firewood of which there is plenty to be had in this high desert forest. The route description I have linked to talks about a "road to the left", headed roughly due West that continues for an additional 1/10 of a mile. Forget about it, just walk that as to drive it would be ridiculous and there is no need, you are going to walk to the peak anyway and you'll go faster on foot.

We had a very nice evening and while we expected cold weather at almost 7,000 ft in early April it turned out to be absolutely perfect. In the morning we hiked nearly due West up towards a saddle just a few hundred yards up the so called road. Our Scouts pushed right over the saddle and down into the ravine on the other side, hiking what they thought was a straight line to the peak. As it turns out, the CORRECT way to reach the peak is to look for a faint trail at the obvious saddle and noticeable camp site. This trail heads South, following a ridge up towards a false peak. The trail wraps around the false peak to another saddle and then on to the top of Tikaboo which has a remote weather station on top so look for the antennae. We suspect this so called weather station may have just a bit more than weather monitoring instruments, specifically we noticed a small dome that likely housed a camera of some sort.

The view through the spotting scope (top)
Group photo on Tikaboo Peak (lower)
From Tikaboo, you have the closest view into Area-51 since the expansion of the base some years ago that incorporated Freedom Ridge as part of the restricted area. You now look over the top of Freedom Ridge to gain a view of the base. While we hauled a telescope up there we found that a spotting scope as well as 9x binoculars gave us a great view. There is a lot to see, buildings, hangers, large antennae arrays, vehicles and other stuff supporting the base. To see this place with your own eyes is something to really take in, especially since it was such a secret that the government denied its existence until just recently. It makes you wonder what other secrets our government is keeping from us as a bunch of Boy Scouts just discovered that they were lied to by their government, what else is out there that might take more than a 4x4 and a willingness to hike up a mountain to discover.....

For me this was a bucket list adventure, I get the feeling that a lot of the boys on this adventure felt much the same. I really enjoyed getting caught up in all the mystery and the tall tales, makes me consider a little trip to Roswell New Mexico to see what I can out there although this place is pretty darn good!

For the photos please click here

Friday, September 1, 2017

Boy Scout Sierra Trek, Lake Sabrina

Hungry Packer Lake
It's been way too long since I updated my blog. Too many adventures, too little time it seems. I realized I've done numerous Sierra Treks with the scouts, Death Valley and Mohave adventures, mountain biking on Catalina, Bryce/Zion/Escalante as well as picking off a few more fourteeners and none of it has made it here to be shared. I promise to do better and what better way to start than share an incredible adventure to a new area of the Sierra's for me, the Lake Sabrina basin.

We had many great ideas for this years trek, options in Yosemite and summiting Halfdome on a 5 day trek included, the long lasting snow pack and availability to get permits dictated our selection more than we ever knew it could! At the end of the day, we could get permits for the Lake Sabrina trailhead for a larger group and went with that, my friend and co-leader Thomas and I would figure out the details later and put together a trip.

Upon looking over the topo maps for this area, I was pleased to see numerous lakes to be explored, some on trail, some off trail. I came up with a route that would potentially get us to 15 different lakes in all if we could get to some of the higher ones that might be obscured by snow.

Our group of 8 boys plus me in the back.
With a group of 8 boys plus my co-leader and I we were 10 people for the adventure. We headed up to Bishop to camp out in the Buttermilks before starting our trek the following day. As our first day was only about 7 miles or so on the trail and about 1,000 ft. of climbing, it was going to be relatively easy so we didn't have to get up too early to begin which was very nice. In fact, we didn't have to get up early at all on the trip, it was great!

My view for 3 days near Topsy Turvey.
After about 4 1/2 miles of hiking we came to Blue Lake. It was a very nice lake and of substantial size but as it's the first lake you come to it was a bit crowded. Our destination was Topsy Turvey Lake a few more miles in. Along the way we passed the Emerald Lakes (ponds) and Dingleberry Lake with a fair collection of people camped there as well. We did some off trail
exploration and made our way up to Topsy Turvey. We had been warned about the terrible mosquitoes in the area and chose to camp right at about treeline and a little away from the lake and other water and on a rocky outcropping to hopefully get a little breeze to keep the pests away. That thinking was sound and while we had fewer than we discovered at other areas, we still had a fair number of them and I used insect repellent for the first time in about 10 years during the morning and evening hours when they were at their worst.

Along the way to Hungry Packer Lake
Moonlight Lake and the lagoon in the foreground.
The following morning we were off to explore Hungry Packer, Moonlight and Sailor Lakes as well as a few other possibles. The boys had a nice time on the trail with light packs and we had made a base camp at Topsy Turvey for 3 of our 4 nights on the trail. We made quick time getting to Hungry Packer, a lake I have seen many pictures of and wanted to get to for some time. One of our champion swim team boys decided to swim across a large section of the lake, he found out that swimming in water not much warmer than the snow filling it can be challenging but he completed his 100 yard swim none the less. Most of the other boys enjoyed sledding on a nearby snow bank and throwing snowballs, in mid August no less! We found a nice meadow and enjoyed lunch and a swim before moving on.

Our next destination was Moonlight Lake. Upon our arrival we found it to be a wonderful turquoise color from the glacial melt feeding it. We explored a bit and found a little section of the lake that was connected to the main water body but had large rocks almost making a protected lagoon. We opted to swim again and this time the boys did some relay races while others of us tested our diving and cannon ball techniques. It was around this point in time that my friend Thomas came up with a great incentive/plan. For every lake you swam you earned a point. Those with 6 points qualified for a free slice of pie back at the the Lake Sabrina store/cafe! As I had jumped in back at Blue Lake the day prior (I was the only one) and two more this day, I was already at 3! Our distance swimmer was awarded a bonus point for his long swim so he and I were tied. We dried off and hiked past the Sailor Lakes, not really deep enough to swim and headed back to camp for an enjoyable evening, despite the flying vampires biting at our exposed skin.

Day three had us exploring a different branch of the basin and our destination was to be Midnight Lake and then some off trail adventure up to Blue Heaven and the Hell Diver Lakes. We got back to Midnight and like all of these lakes surrounded by peaks towering 13,500 ft. above, it was gorgeous! What I did notice however on the far side of the lake is what I had been seeking. It may sound crazy but my ultimate goal was to find a snow bank that we could slide down and go directly into the water of an ice cold Sierra lake! I could see a
My boys and I along the trail.
snow bank that had potential, we just needed to see if was
The snow bank and drop into the lake, brrrr!!!
possible to transition from the snow bank safely into the lake. Upon further examination, it had about a 3 ft. drop from the edge of the snowbank into at least 6 ft. deep water, perfect! My friend Thomas checked it out first with a short slide and into the water he went, and popped up successfully. It then became a challenge as to how much farther up the hill the boys and I would start on the snow to begin the slide and how much velocity we could maintain until the final plunge. I went a couple times it was so fun before drying off on a nice warm rock. Wow! What a treat! It was determined that the snow slide plunge was worth 2 points towards the goal of 6 for free pie so that helped motivate the majority of the crew to give it a shot.
Midnight Lake below and on our way to Hell Diver.

After the ice slide we headed up a talus pile towards Blue Heaven Lake. We were about halfway but found that a couple boys were just not up to the long climb at this elevation and we diverted over to the Hell Diver Lakes. We just went to the lower lake. Only a couple of us went in and we all agreed that while the other lakes were cold, this one was easily 5 to 10 degrees colder! We threw in some large snow/ice chunks and they didn't seem to melt so I guess that gave us the answer on how cold they were.

Nearing completion of the new rock crossing.
We packed up camp in the morning on day 4 and were relocating to Blue Lake for our final night. It was just a few miles there and we would drop our packs and explore some other lakes in the area. We also wanted to do a service project to help our boys earn the Backpacking merit badge as this is one of the requirements. I remembered a river crossing we had to make on the way in that involved removing our shoes to cross as the stones placed across it were mostly submerged. The boys agreed that this would be a great project. We got to the river and proceeded to get to work. We selected larger rocks from within the river to elevate existing ones and firm up some wobbly footholds. A little over an hour of working at it, and testing, and working some more, we had a group of volunteer testers that needed to cross. They all made it across feet dry so it was a success! With our good deed for the day under our belt we moved on to Blue Lake and the boys selected a nice camp area with plenty of space.

Following lunch and camp setup most of us headed up to Donkey Lake. It is a short hike from Blue
The jump point for the front flip.
and Donkey Lake was very nice with large granite slabs and deep water below towering bluffs, just perfect for jumping in! We swam yet again however one of the boys was looking for a 2 point opportunity here. He was able to talk Thomas into offering 2 points for a front flip! From about a 6 ft. high rock and a running start a very nice front flip was executed and 2 more points were in the bag! I had made my quota at this lake and most of the other boys had as well with a few of our guys at 7. We certainly had a clean bunch of Boy Scouts! ;-)

While some boys talked about earning bonus points for a night swim with a headlamp on out to the middle of Blue Lake, Thomas and I didn't hear any splashing that evening and nobody came forward to claim the points for that so apparently the only points at Blue were from a regular dip near camp.

Our final morning came and the boys agreed that they would be packed up and ready to hike out by 8 as I recall. They did and we made our way on out to where we began 5 days earlier. Of course the end of the trail just meant time for pie for those that earned it and for those that didn't was a little negotiation to pool their points to make 6 and then share a slice. I didn't care, I got a piece and enjoyed every last bite!

The arch in the Alabama Hills.
We headed back into Bishop and had lunch in town and talked over the trip with the boys. We had plenty of time to go home that afternoon but we had told the parents we would be back the following day and gave an option to the boys to go home or continue the adventure. It was unanimous, they wanted to keep the party going! We headed to Manzanar, the Japanese internment camp off Hwy 395 for a visit there and then down to Lone Pine and camped in the Alabama Hills, a favorite location of mine and home to many movies filmed out there. We all took a dip in Lone Pine Creek and enjoyed some sausages and onions boiled in beer in my Dutch Oven for dinner before sleeping under the stars for our final night. In the morning we enjoyed a hike to the Mobius Arch and then a trip into town for the movie museum where we spent a little over an hour learning about the local film history. It was finally time to get home. The boys had plenty of stories to share.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Grand Canyon Backpacking Adventure

I have hiked the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in a day before. When my friend CP suggested a multi-day backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon I knew that I had to go as the immense size and scope of the canyon is just too much to comprehend in just a one day trip. The plans were set in motion and the trip was set up. It would be 4 days in the Canyon plus a bonus hiking day in Sedona at the end to relax.

Once again I have limited time to write a long story, especially after compiling hundreds of photos and editing them so I have provided a link below to the journaled photo collection to take you through the trip and share all the wonderful scenery.

Grand Canyon Photo Journal

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bryce Canyon in the Winter

I had not been to Bryce Canyon in years, since I was a little kid. When my friend Uliana suggested we all go with our kids to enjoy it over President's Weekend I figured why not, sounds like fun! Well by the time it was all put together one of my kids was ill and she could not go but I rounded up a few other regular adventurers and off we went!

Once again, this has been done in a photo journal format. Please click on the link below to explore the full adventure.

Bryce Canyon Photo Journal

Friday, November 30, 2012

Mohave Preserve Exploration

Singing Dune in the Mohave Preserve

I had been told about the Mohave Preserve by my friend Erica as she likes to visit it with her family. I decided that following a recent trip out to my desert property that I would explore this remote section of the Mohave for myself and show my boys all the fun things I had heard about within it.

I am trying a new format this time so please click on the link below for the photo journal adventure through the preserve.

Mohave Photo Journal