Tikaboo Peak and Red Flag, July 23-25, 2010
by George Poston

Having discovered the Dreamland area by accident three years earlier, we decided to hike and camp on Tikaboo Peak. My two youngest daughters were up for an adventure but soon discovered their stubborn dad was also a slave driver. We arrived at the trailhead about 8pm after driving Badger Valley road. The temperature was 106 degrees F so we began our trek near sundown. The trail was well marked from previous hikers but we still managed to take a few dead end trails. The predominant trail is more of a loose, rocky hillside than a trail. As night fell, my daughters became increasingly irritated with my calls of, "just a little bit farther" as we struggled up the loose terrain. Finally, nearing the end of their rope and accusing me of being a "liar", we gained a flat ridge and immediately pitched our tent and crashed for the night.

Early the next morning while they slept in, I hiked the rest of the way to the top of Tikaboo peak. The trail wound around a large rock out crop, continued across a saddle into trees, then up to a false summit. The going was fairly easy without the weight of a backpack. On the summit I met a couple hikers that had spent the night somewhere near the false summit. We chatted and surveyed the area with binoculars. Tikaboo Valley was spread out to the west below us like a road map. The Groom Lake road snaked across the valley toward the foothills and we saw an occasional dust plume from passing vehicles.

I hiked back down to our campsite and roused the kids for breakfast before breaking camp. Retracing my path to the summit, we arrived about 8am and admired the view. There was some smoke in the air from wildfires but we could clearly see the hangers and other buildings at Groom Lake in the morning light. We pitched a bit of shade and noted the temperature was 90 degrees by 9am. Running low on water, I made a fast trip down to our truck and back up with all the water and soda pop I could carry.

After spending the day alternately resting in the shade and exploring around the summit area, we pitched our tent just after sundown when the wind died. We staked our mostly bug screen tent or tied the corners to rocks, but didn’t bother to secure it with tethers or put on the rain fly. (We were lucky the wind never came up since subsequent trips featured fierce winds on top.) The night was warm and featured a bright, nearly full moon, with hundreds of bright stars. We could see lights at Groom Lake but not much activity on the ground or in the air. Of course, this was a Saturday night; a weekday would have most likely been more active. During the night, whenever I woke up, I would simply sit up in my sleeping bag and check for any new lights or activity.

The next morning we enjoyed a simple breakfast of instant oatmeal, fruit bars, and coffee. The cool 65 degrees felt great and we enjoyed the views as the sun slowly streamed over the peak and lit the valley below. I remember being irritated by my coffee cup. One of those blue enameled cups with a rolled lip that liked to snag and pull out my moustache hairs. But the coffee tasted too good to stop.

We pulled camp and headed down the trail hoping to beat the heat. My kids were not impressed with heat, dust, and occasional hardships on this trip….at least until we discovered magic on the way down. Fossils!!! Yes, a burst of energy consumed them as they dug into the hillside and began to fill their backpacks with fossil specimens. I had to laugh as they happily slid down the loose part of the trail with bulging packs.

We continued our adventure by having a Panther burger in Alamo (the gas station/bar, café no longer exists) before heading west on Highway 375, passing the Black Mailbox (now gone), and then to the Coyote Summit area to observe the low flying jets of Red Flag.

We have made several trips to this area and enjoyed Red Flag, geocaching, camping, hiking, and exploring Pahranaghat Lake, and several springs in the area. The beauty and mystique of this area is not for the feint of heart but never ceases to thrill those up for adventure.

(Caution: Bring more water than you think you will need. Dress for hot days and cold nights. Don’t travel any further off main roads than you can walk out of, unless you are in a caravan. Watch out for cows on the road; especially the black ones at night on Highway 375!)

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