Last week I returned, alone this time, but in the same van now with 365,000 miles on it.
Joe Travis was behind the bar 24 years ago. Only time I ever met him. Later Chuck Clark took me on a tour of the solar powered TV repeaters on the hillside east of Rachel (they would pick up Las Vegas TV signals, and then rebroadcast them on UHF frequencies for Rachel residents. Batteries allowed the signals to last for a few hours after dark, and then start up again shortly after dawn). Chuck also told me how to find the "hidden campsite" just off of Hwy 375. I've spent at least 50 nights there since.
This trip began with a visit to the National Association of Broadcasters/Broadcast Education Association conventions in Las Vegas (good time attending most of the DaVinci Resolve trainings (video editing/color correction/audio editing)).
Met up with Joerg for authentic German food at Cafe Berlin. I wisely let Joerg order both the entree and the beer. Great service, modest prices, more authentic than any other German food in Las Vegas. https://cafeberlinlv.com
I arrived at the Hidden Campsite later than I had planned on Thursday evening, April 28th, but was careful to avoid cows in the early twilight. Fully dark by the time I got camped. Saw a few meteors, lights of distant cars mostly on Groom Lake Road. No noticeable sounds overnight.
Friday April 29th.
I put a large USA flag that I carry in the van on top of the roof. In the past some pilots have dived on the van, coming close enough to shake it firmly with thundering noise, and then poof - gone - before I could get out of the van to get a good look. I've heard pilots enjoy seeing US flags splayed out atop car roofs.
Between 10 and 11:30AM I heard various rumbles of far off jets.
at 12:45, 12:46, and 12:47 there were loud explosions or perhaps sonic booms, seemingly 1 minute apart (I wasn't timing that precisely). The third was the loudest (closest?) and rattled the windows on the van.
Then a quiet afternoon, with distant jet rumblings returning from about 5:45 to 6:15pm.
Noticeable sharp curved jet contrails.
Saturday morning I drove into the Little A Le Inn to get online for a zoom conference call, which I did from their parking lot.
Had the pastrami on rye - perhaps the best meal I've ever had at the Little A Le Inn. The pecan/coconut/raisin "Alien Fruit" pie was excellent as well. (I asked for "the pie that Pat had baked most recently"). Noticed that they have added several signature drinks to the menu beyond the classic Cherria 51, and Beam Me Up Scotty. Apparently the entire interior was repainted during Covid shutdown.
Was sad to learn that Jay had passed away. I stumbled into the bar for his birthday party a few years ago and was invited to share in the cake and celebration. Jay was always very kind.
Looked for a new edition of Chuck Clark's guide (current edition is 2019, and I already have a copy). Cody said Chuck had asked him to send new photos, so there should be a new 2022 edition later this year. Also visited the gas station that is indeed reopened. Gas was $5:15 a gallon (if I remember correctly) which I noted was a bit less than the $5:25 a gallon I saw at a Chevron near the Las Vegas airport.
After reading the description at https://www.summitpost.org/reveille-peak-nv/880008 I decided not to return to the hidden campsite, but to try to get to the trailhead/campsite for Reveille Peak.
Photos of the abandoned ranch and corral, and the Willow Witch Well mentioned in the above description of how to get there are attached.
The road to the base of Reveille Peak was not a problem for my old van (high rated truck tires and relatively high clearance). The only rugged portion was after the water well. Doable in a passenger car, I think, but you might want to move some larger rocks out of the way first, and always carry a spare tire, the tools and ability to change it yourself, and whatever you might need to survive for a few days in the middle of nowhere in (potentially) bad weather.
(I've had that van up to Wheeler Pass (see: Wheeler Pass and Rachel (April 2006) by Joe Buchman in the other Trip Reports) and the powerlines overlook (see: Roadrunners Reunion, Rachel, Powerlines Overlook, October 6-7, 2007 by Joe Buchman) and also see: (Hwy 375 and Rachel, Nov. 12, 2006 by Joe, and Night-time activity near Groom Lake Road, May 16, 2019 by Joe Buchman))
The only campsite is at the end of the road, is very narrow, and not very flat. There was an old campfire ring but looked like it had not been used in years. I decided to go without a fire. Too windy. There is no trailhead or other markings indicating the best route to the summit (at least that I could find).
I parked and spent the afternoon exploring the lower elevations of the western slope of the peak. I thought about trying to summit, but it was very windy, I was alone, there was no clear trail/route, cell coverage was spotty at best, and I'm getting old(er) and somewhat more risk averse - plus I found a spot with an unobstructed view of all (or almost all) of a dry lakebed that I initially assumed was Groom Lake. It did not seem to me at the time that the view would be significantly better from the summit itself. Perhaps part of the base curves away below the horizon in the distance (about 40 miles to the runway hangars, I believe).
I put together a primitive panorama from various stills.
Unfortunately after returning home and reviewing Google Earth, Groom Lake is to the left (east) of that panorama, and the dry lakebed I was focused on (that Joerg also thinks) is in Range 74C, which is north and west of the base.
When I made it back to the van, I discovered that I had virtually the same view standing on top of my van, and just a hint of the dry lakebed standing on the ground behind my van - only partly blocked by a low ridgeline to the south. I wish I had had a time lapse camera mounted on a tripod a top my van.
At about 8pm I heard distant jet engine rumbles - likely military from the deep base/lack of sound moderation, rumble.
At 8:40PM I watched a jet with a bright light blinking 2ON, then a count of 2 off, then 2ON blinks repeating flying north to south. 8:47PM more jet rumbles.
8:53PM going south to north a jet with a 6ON, then count for 6 off, then 6ON blinks repeating. These were definitely some sort of strobe lights on aircraft.
Quiet for the rest of the night. I woke up at about 4:45AM to see what I think must have been the ISS going overhead - or something very bright in the pre-dawn night sky.
Also all night long I could see the blinking of a red beacon on a tower on a hill to the southwest.
I had hoped to see some lights coming from the dry lakebed in the distance or some lights from parking areas or buildings in the distance. I did not stay up for an all night vigil waiting for that, but as far as I noticed that lakebed and distant valley remained dark all night.
Afterwards I left for Warm Springs, Ely and eventually home.
Always enjoy visiting the night skies in that area. Peaceful. Silence that is almost indescribable. Sense of vastness both in the surrounding distant horizons, but also directly above.
Someday I hope to go back and summit Reveille Peak (and get that elusive view into the Groom Lake area), but given the lack of cell coverage, and lack of a defined route/trail, it's not something I would want to do alone.
Joerg and me at Cafe Berlin
Little A'Le'Inn bar
Roadtrek with flag
Willow Witch Well
Panorama of Range 74C and Kawich Lake from below Reveille Peak