Red Flag and Tikaboo Peak (February 6-7, 2006)
by Randall Patterson

Day 1 (Monday)

Click to enlargeThe day started out extremely nice for me. Being from the east coast I had left the cold and snow behind to find myself at the Luxor with 65-70 degree weather, standing in front of the registration counter asking the receptionist for a room on the east side of the pyramid (no explanation needed as to why). The trip had been planned for more than six months in a classic military style work up to the time of departure. All things were planned, from the type of rental needed, to the the equipment and packaging for the flight, right down the the Google Earth satellite photos for reference. I was forced to work my excursion out to the wilds of Nevada around a convention, and the fact I was with a good friend of mine who was no where near the same shape as me, or prepared to "do what had to be done" to get to the top of Tikaboo. He does have a fascination for all things military however as he is a gun dealer and aficionado.

Click to enlargeAnyway, back to the story. With the rental and the room secured (at about 1400hrs after the meal) we made our way out of town on Hwy 15 towards Nellis AFB. At Nellis we were able to secure lots of "good shots" of the planes taking off and landing during the Red Flag exercises. Some notables were a Nimrod (from the UK i guess), 2 B-2 bombers, 2 E-3 Senteries, and a Mig-29. I havent had time to anylize the photos but after looking briefly at the photo of the Mig it looks to be "stripped", as you can see no cockpit instrumentation in the picture. Also on Saturday 2 SU-27 fighters were seen on the ground at Creech but I didn't take the time to get shots of those as I thought we would be coming back by the base...we didn't (kicking my ass as I speak).

Click to enlargeWell anyway, after getting the goods at Nellis it was on to the Pharangat Valley and the Area 51 border area. Our arrival at Coyote Summit was greated by a fireworks display nothing short of fenomenal. We had our radio tuned to 266.000mhz and monitored for almost three hours the radio traffic between CHALIS1 (AWACS Callsign) and several groups of fighters. There were aircraft everywhere and with the aid of a PVS-14 night vision set we were able to clearly witness the mayhem going on right above the valley. Fighters turning, AB engaged, flares, "the works".

As time progressed we made our way to Queen City Summit and then on to Cedar Pipeline Ranch. Before getting to queen however we were stationary on the side of 375, with the lights out, and 4 aircraft came in low (probably 300ft) from the direction of the railroad valley honestly so qiuet you could barely hear them. Although I never really got a visual on the craft (due to the lens flare in the PVS-14 from the aircraft lights) I almost have to belive they were the F-117's we photographed on the tarmac at Nellis earlier in the day.

Click to enlargeOur adventure was pretty much over after arriving at the ranch at approx. 2100hrs when PHASER1 and PHASER2 anounced RTB (along with CYLON1). Its my opinion we were monitoring the Air-Air part of the battle as we never heard anything from the four-ship heading into the range at low level.

Day 2 (Tuesday)

I awoke to find one of the JANET flights inbound on the McCarran Tower freq. and landing on the nearest runway adjacent to Las Vegas Blvd. During our tour it seemed to me the flights would land on this runway regardless of the wind direction. Several good pictures were taken from our room with a 300mm lens. Including one with the workers debarking the plane. I also noticed that the parking lot was full constantly during the working week (24hrs a day), and almost empty on the weekend starting late Friday Night.

But on with the show! We left the hotel at about 10am heading north once again on 15. After several hours we arrived at the intersection of the dirt road leading to Tikaboo. I noticed the mountain didn't seem to be snow and ice covered and decided to investigate. After closing the gate behind us (everyone pay attention to the last statement and do the same) we traveled the route graciosly privided to us to the base of the mountain where the Joshua trees start to get really thick and the temp noticabley colder. At this point my companion thought I was a fruit as I had bottomed out the SUV 2-3 times and scraped it along almost every prickly bush (get the insurance on the vehicle......all of it).

We finally made it to the point we couldn't go any farther. Here is the point in the story I start kicking myself again. My companion didn't really have the gear to attempt the climb since he hadn't planned on it. And all I had was what I would need to survive if things didn't go so good, so he stayed behind and I left my camera too since I figured the distance would prevent any usable photos and water/food tastes better if your hurt than Cannon Hardware. I did take my Nikon Binoculars however.

Click to enlargeWell lets just say for starters the hike isn't for beginners. I've been hiking for the last ten years in the heart of the Appalachians and the climb to the top of Tikaboo almost killed me. Granted I didn't let no grass grow (which by the way it wouldn't have anyhow) but its the toughest of the tough if you dont plan for taking your time. I came to an old campsite where someone had left a tent and some tentstakes, then followed the stringers someone had tied to the bushes the rest of the way to the summit. After getting there (after not really thinking I would starting out) well I had mixed emotions I guess. I wished I had brought the camera to prove my hike, but I also knew this was my reward for all the research I had done in the past 10 yaers and really didn't care if anyone knew I was there or not (maybe better I thought as I viewed the base through my binocs.). After all, I thought I may have broke the record for the fastet hike. I got back to the vehicle about 2 1/2 hours later. On the way out we spooked five deer (three of which were bucks) and got some great photos.

To round out the trip we were finally free of the convention on Saturday and spent the time leading upto our flight driving up to Creech where we saw the SU-27's and the Nevada Test Site Entrance.

I am planning to do a trip for nothing but research of the area sometime in the future and I want to hear from anyone who would consider making the trip (and the sacrafices) with me. So if your interested drop me a line at randapatt@yahoo.com See ya in never never land!!!!!!!


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