Apparently wondering minds want to know so here is my trip report to Tikaboo for the latest panorama. Let me start this off by saying I am in decent shape and have done some pretty serious hikes around the world, but this one was without a doubt one of the more challenging. I appreciate and have great respect for those who have done it before and left so much valuable information. I am by no means trying to talk anyone out of going because it was a very cool experience. I am just saying if you are the type that watches Deadliest Catch thinking it wouldn't be all that tough because you went deep sea fishing in the Gulf that one time and you think Tikaboo would be a cake walk because you have read all about it, please think again.
So my trip started like any other. I arrived early in Vegas and went right to get a rental car. Advance has a really good deal on a Jeep Cherokee 4x4 which is very well suited for the task. Stopped by Walmart to get some supplies and then met Joerg for lunch to take about plans and catch up on life. For those of you who have never spoken to or met the man I can't say enough good things about him. Same goes for Peter Merlin, but hey let's not make everyone blush haha! Anyway, off on the adventure I go. I honestly didn't keep track of the time for the drive up as I was also doing a little sightseeing, which would come back to bite me later. And then I turned off the paved road.... No matter how much you read about it or how many times you look at Google Earth you still have no concept of how quickly you end up in a remote environment. It's a little over 21 miles to the parking site and I believe it took me almost 2 hours. One because I was stopping for pictures, but two you are always thinking about what would happen if you broke down. As Dave mentioned on the forum the road up is FAR from being smooth like Groom Lake Road. Now I am sure any truck or even small suv would have little problem, but there were a few spots where the clearance of the Jeep was a comfort. I made it to the fire pit that is half way between the spring and the, I guess we will call it wooden scarecrow that marks the beginning of the trail. Now if you had a pretty serious 4wd or ATV you could make it close to half a mile further but no chance in a rental.
So I loaded up all the gear, which was without a doubt way more than one person should try to carry on this hike, and headed out. I figured I had a little over 3 hours until sunset and I would have plenty of time. Yeah I was wrong. From what I am calling the scarecrow you start up the first hill. The first half isn't all that bad, but you add the probably 45 pounds I was carrying on top of the lesser oxygen at elevation and it wears you out quickly. By the second half it really starts to get steep with all the loose rock and you start to question this decision. I was stopping to breath and drink every hundred feet or so. Also for those of you who think you might outsmart the camera on the peak they can see you from this point if other things haven't already alerted them. If you make it to the top of this and turn back you obviously weren't that committed as this ends the hardest part. You hike along the ridge and around the big boulder. Thanks for whomever left and unrolled sleeping bag and a chair in the opening. That wasn't slightly unnerving when you think no one is within 20 miles of you. So I started up the next hill and at the top of the ridge you get your first glimpse of the base. I can see where some people take a left here and go out to the little peak probably in hopes of avoiding the camera in the weather station, but once again they know you were there so press on to the top. Forgetting any other reason you may be there, the view from the peak is without words. When the wind stops so does all noise and the strange reality that at best the closest human being to you is over 13 miles away on 375. Unfortunately the sun was setting fast so I set up my gear, gave a wave to the camera, and started checking things out.
Now come another important point. If you go up to Tikaboo or even out to the area expecting to see something I guarantee you will. No matter how boring or normal it may be your mind will turn it into something amazing. Something as simple as a truck coming down 375 plays with your brain until you zoom in and see that it's a truck. I can honestly say that I didn't see anything secret or whatnot. At the same time, and not to sound like a complete douche, if I had seen something that I shouldn't have I wouldn't be reporting in on a public forum. Like may of us I would love to know what cool aviation stuff goes on out there but it it needs to be secret to help protect our freedoms I will not void those efforts. That being said it is still very cool to be up there checking out the base and seeing all the activity. I didn't have a scanner, but you get excited every time you see a light in the sky. So much so that I never even hiked back down to the saddle to make a fire and camp. Late in the evening I ended up finding a flat spot behind the weather station out of the wind and rolled out a sleeping bag. Once again not the best idea as it got down to 55 degrees. My zombie bag was rated down to 40 degrees and it still didn't cut it. So kind of a restless night. At first light I was set back up. Saw a Janet come in before sun up and just the day to day operations of any other base. Finally the sun hit and really started lighting things up. Now I am willing to bet if I had more time to play with setting the pictures would have been even better. Thank you so much for those who took the time to take my rough pictures and turning them into what you now see. With the thermals starting I knew there wasn't much more to see so I heading back. It took less than half the time to hike down and the same with the drive back to the pavement.
From their I headed up to Groom Lake Road. Just show respect to the Cammo Dudes since they are just doing their jobs. Cool Raptors, but you guys need to go back to Chevys!! Then I headed up to Rachel for lunch. Once again desolate does not even describe the area. I never saw 1 person on the drive back down 375. Sorry I know this was long, but for those who have spent years reading and never seeing the area you need to know exactly what you are getting into. Worth every minute, but if it were easy everyone would do it!!