At the I-15, Hwy. 93 exit at the Loves gas station we spotted a regular Ford truck full of Air Force personnel and equipment. I asked if they were doing something with Red Flag. They said they were. I mentioned we were headed to Delamare Dry Lake (Texas Lake). After reading about “Texas Lake” on your Website we wanted to check out the area and camp one night there.
One Air Force guy said there was going to be a “jump” there that night at 21:30 and that is where they were going. We really lucked out. We set up camp near the edge of the lake and well out of the way of any potential military activity. We had seen a similar operation at the Alamo dirt airstrip a few years back. Although that was a HALO jump and this one wasn’t. We got real close on that one and one military observer even came over and let us look through his night vision goggles.
We were surprise to find little activity when we arrived at Texas Lake this time. But around 20:45 or so three trucks arrived and began setting up lights on the dry lake. Soon we could hear a C-130 approaching all darked out.
With a low pass some troops parachuted out and landed on the dry lake. This occurred twice. A little later the C-130 was back all dark again and landed on the dry lake. They did that three times, although one attempt was apparently aborted for some reason.
The C-130 finally took off in a cloud of thick dust… that occurred at each landing and take off.
We observed from the north end of the lake bed along the road that comes in from Alamo Canyon. We were near a rock ridge that sticks into the lake. It is the one that has petroglyphs marked on a topo map. It was close to the touch down spot for the C-130 yet well out of the way.
Not sure if they do it this direction by land to the south, turning around taking off north every time but with the mountains at the south end of the lake I am guessing they prefer an landing approach from the north and take off to the north.
I would also recommend if you catch an operation like this that you stay fully darked out so as to not blind any night vision equipment being used probably by pilots etc. As the ground crew first came on scene I put on our parking lights for a few minutes so they knew we were there and could advise us to move if they wanted. No one approached us. It was also a clear moonlit night.
Texas Lake is a really cool silent remote spot even when there is nothing going on. However having not been there before we came in from the south along the power lines off of Hwy.93 on pretty rough roads. Not wise for the average car. We had a good 4WD pickup with high clearance. No problems but it was rough. We went out on the Alamo Canyon Rd. which is far far better and smoother.
Otherwise we could see some Red Flag activity over Texas Lake, but much of it was high up or off in the distance.
The next day was in the Tikaboo Valley camped up near the Groom Range eastern lower slopes in the general area of the road leading to Tikaboo Spring, but not at the spring, more toward the juniper tree line. Great view of the valley and you can see the Cammo Dudes coming for a long way off day or night. At night their new Ford F-150 Raptors have an extremely bright LED bluish white colored driving light bar in the grill. Easy to identify as them. The view is wide enough you can even see them coming out some of the Groom Lake Rd.
As usual we had regular visits by the Cammo Dudes. We stopped for lunch and let them see us but later hid our camp and they searched for a while but seemed unable or uninterested to find us and appeared to give up. Came back later at night and still didn’t appear to find us. Picture of the Dudes included when we first arrived. Takes them about 50 minutes to reach this area from the Groom Lake Rd. after you trip the first road sensors in the area. Plenty of time to hide!
We saw some good Red Flag activity that night. However, I have noticed that during recent visits to Red Flag the flying seems mostly higher up. Years past we seemed to see more aircraft down low among the hills and mountains. Anyone have thoughts on that or a better place to see that type of flying?
Hope to get back for March 2014 Red Flag.