My wife and I try to visit this area of NV at least once a year to truck camp and hike in remote areas, and take in the Red Flag Operations and Area 51 activity.
This Feb 2015 we took advantage of the relatively mild winter weather to explore the area some more.
Along with observing low flying jets in the Coal Valley and Murphy Gap we also stayed a few days at a favorite remote spot at the north end of the Tikaboo Valley west side about 1 mile away from the base border. Well…remote except for the regular Area 51 security Cammo Dude visits to keep track of us. The first visit was particularly interesting.
This area is far away from the main gates that experience the more typical Area 51 tourist activity. During our visits by timing their responses as we turn off Hwy 375 it is about a 50 minute drive for the security coming from the Groom Lake Rd. to check on you, and from this elevated position you can see them coming most of the way, even on part of the Groom Lake Rd. That gives you plenty of time to hide or observe their response from a great elevated panoramic location. This is also more remote terrain which may give you an advantage to watch the watchers in a more challenging situation. On the more traveled Groom Lake Rd. they can see you coming and track you easily for miles where they have all the advantages.
Out of curiosity I became interested and have observed their activities, patterns, and reactions over the number of years of our visits in this remoter terrain near the base border. It has revealed some really interesting aspects of the security reaction and possible flaws, and raises some interesting questions. But the details of that is a topic for another post some time. The hype makes the Cammo Dudes appear invincible. But is that reality? There is no question they have the fire power, but security is not all fire power.
During their first security visit to our camp on this trip it was just getting dark. They found us easily since we weren't hiding and as usual slowly pulled by our camp (I call it the "drive by") Two guys in a Ford F-150 Raptor. They moved away a couple hundred yards and turned off their lights. A typical technique, probably using night vision equipment (NVG) to observe us.
They sat there for a while, and I observed them through binoculars, but then they pulled back up the road out of site behind a rock pile. But I could see the dim glow of their lights on the surrounding terrain anyhow.
I figured based on past behavior one of the Dudes would get out and slink around with his night vision goggles trying to get closer to our camp to observe us thinking we wouldn't know. So I waited patiently for the right moment. Then I lit up the road and rock pile with my 850 lumen LED flashlight in the area I suspected he might be.
Sure enough, there he was exposed with his night vision goggles standing right in the road lit up in my intense LED light. I was observing through binocs at the same time and the first blast of light had an interesting effect on their optics. It seems to reflect back fairly brightly so it makes it easier to spot them even when they are observing from more covered locations. He turned suddenly and then all I could see was a small red light which I assume was some kind of indicator light on the back of the googles. At this point he rushed back up the road toward their vehicle. I'm betting he had a rather uncomfortable experience with the sudden blast of intense light in his NVG equipment based on my own experiences with NVG. Based on later behavior I'm guessing it actually pissed them off sort of being beat temporarily at their own game. More on that in a minute.
Now something strikes me odd and seemed to say something revealing about these security guys not making some wise security choices.
If you want to be stealthy why walk exposed right down the road when there were some rocks and high bushes that would make for excellent secure high angle viewing undetected? Not to mention better protection than standing flat footed and exposed all lit up in the middle of a road. Not sure I understand the security rational in that move other than overconfidence and or complacency. A road by the way that is a very light sand color and shows with optics a silhouette of anyone walking on it, even on a dark night after your eyes adjust. In this dark part of NV star light is actually amazing!
Now here is the question. If the security choice was to use very high tech, very expensive NVG to their advantage to protect the most secret and secure military base on the planet…who ended up with the actual advantage, and how did this choice backfire and more importantly… why?
Have they possibly become lax or overconfident chasing the typical Vegas tourist who drives up the Groom Lake Rd. right into their laps to ooogle at the Dudes, cameras, and signs, and take a few photos or some video? Is their mental security model a bit jaded from these repeated similar experiences?
Now their security reaction was interesting. The NVG Cammo Dude booked it back to the vehicle. Soon the vehicle reappeared and came in a hurry straight for our camp. They pulled right up about 30 feet away headlights blazing right into the cab of our truck where we sat calmly eating our dinner looking at them. They sat there a few minutes lights blasting on us. We kept eating! Their reaction was aggressive and smelled of being pissed off and upset.
Then they went down the road about 100 yards turned around and kept the lights blasting on us for over an hour. Not sure which security technique this was supposed to be other than to try to piss us off, make us move, or maybe to night blind us so the Dude with NVG could slink away again unseen.
Like I said, based on the aggressiveness of this behavior I think they were pissed off that we appeared to have beat them for a few minutes at their own game off their typical turf.
Question…if you are guarding a highly secret military facility housing some of America's deepest secrets, and carrying all manner of fire power…is it wise to be compromised and lose your cool over a camper with a flashlight?????
I considered turning my truck and lighting them up with my 4 KC off road lights, but decided not to up the ante at that point. Finally after considerable time, they drove off and the night was calm.
It does make me wonder, however, at their point of agitation if they lost situational awareness of what else might being going on around them beyond their headlights and NVG?
But if you are going to slink around my camp in the dark on pubic land where no laws are being broken and I intend no harm to anyone, or the base, you might consider I am going to attempt to keep track of what you are doing too!
Now the follow up is interesting as well.
After they left and we could see them clearly out on Hwy 375 and even on the Groom Lake Rd. going back to base, we walked up the road where the NVG Dude was standing. I have a lot of man tracking experience and I wanted to look at the "evidence" before they visited again and destroyed it by driving over it. People who are especially agitated always seem to leave interesting "evidence" and the ground was relatively undisturbed and fresh after recent precipitation. We weren't disappointed.
We could see were they parked the truck facing roughly south behind the rocks. How? The large rocks where they pulled in were forced and moved south as well as the crush evidence in the bushes. Both got out of the truck. This meant the passenger was on the west side and the driver would probably stay in or near the truck. And this seemed to be the case since the driver did get out but the passenger, based on his tracks, did a lot more standing at the door and moving around. Probably getting and putting on his NV goggles and deciding how to make his "stealth" approach.
He then walked carefully down the road ( flat footed unexpressive prints in a cautious walk, no toe digs) appearing to hesitate at the first point our truck came into view and sized up the situation, then moved on till his tracks stopped and he stood for a while. He stayed on the road and as far as I could tell made no attempt to conceal himself off the road near the rocks or in bushes.
You could also see what happened when I lit him up. He turned and moved fast up the road toward the vehicle. The prints were wider spread with distinct toe digs and places where he accidentally kicked and dislodged rocks. He was moving fast and agitated. Maybe night blinded at this point by my light. Looked like a military style boot maybe size 10 or 11. Maybe puts him at 5-9 to 6 ft, hard to say.
Where the truck was parked we found two additional things. A fresh purple cigar or cigarillo wrapper called a Swisher Sweet Grape, (Internet research) and a Ricola cough drop wrapper, possibly older.
So possibly one Dude likes Swisher Sweet Grape cigars and maybe the other had a cold or cough or sore throat. Maybe the same guy. One Dude appeared rather "large". Maybe he's the smoker?
Either way I wonder if the BLM or their base commander knows they are littering our public lands. Have seen this littering as well with other Dude observations. One left several Wrigley's gum wrappers and cigarette butts seem fairly common.
So the next time I see a fresh Swisher Sweet wrapper after a Dude visit, I will know something about the Dude and how he reacts. And this is just from basic situational awareness and observation.
And one thing I will never understand security wise at night is... why some of their trucks have parking lights that come on each time they step out of the truck...to observe, or light up a Swisher Sweet!!! If you are trying to be stealthy this seems to defeat the entire purpose! A surprising number of these Dudes seem to be "large and smokers. I wonder how they would fair if they had to chase somebody on foot up hill in steep terrain? And they never seem to wander far from their trucks.
The next evening they did the typical drive by, but then pulled off about half a mile and observed for about an hour. Even at this distance I could light up and see the optics reflection in their NVG or binocs while I observed through a powerful telescope.
That night using the telescope, compass and map and a little triangulation we plotted this location on mapping software and found this parking spot as well the next day. At least one got out and moved a short distance in front of the truck, but no other activity...or trash!
Now once you know their favorite observation hang outs you can use a tracking technique by sweeping the area clean and creating a "tracking trap"…which we have done successfully on past visits. Then you get fresh tire prints for their trucks and boot prints… given this beta, which with a little exploration can be translated into information as to which roads they frequent and which they don't and how far they venture from their trucks and where if at all. Good to know.
In fact one time at a distance we used this tracking and map and compass triangulation technique as they checked on road sensors and later found the sensors. A little navigation and tracking and security was breached. Although let me make it clear we did not disturb or molest the sensors (on public land). It was just interesting. From a security stand point it baffled me that they would check on road sensors in broad daylight knowing we were in the area and possibly observing.
Turning the tables and watching the "Watchers!"
A few photos attached from this trip and others. (Click photos to enlarge)
And to make a point about security.