Area 51 - 50th Anniversary Campout (May 27-29, 2005)
by Joerg H. Arnu

Click photos to enlarge. See below for more photos

The Camp Site with the former Area 51 view spot "White Sides" in the background; photo by Tim Radder
In May of 1955, Area 51 was founded at the south end of Groom Dry Lake to test the secret U-2 reconnaissance plane. Today, 50 years and countless "Black Projects" later, the base is still a hotbed of super-secret military aviation R&D activity. A mysterious place in the mountains of the vast Nevada desert.

We felt that the Golden Anniversary of Area 51 called for a celebration. In November 2004 I met with my friend and sponsor Norio Hayakawa, and at the end of that meeting it was decided: Dreamland Resort would invite our readers to an Area 51 - 50th Anniversary Campout on Memorial Day Weekend 2005. And what place would be more appropriate than right by the warning signs on Groom Lake Road? As close as we can get to the base on public land!

After countless hours of planning and preparations the day was finally there. BLM, the Lincoln County Sheriff and the local rancher had all been informed, the necessary paperwork was done and we had three portable toilets delivered to the site. I arrived there early Friday afternoon and, under the watchful eye of two cammo dudes on top of Hawkeye Hill, began setting up the site. Soon the first visitors showed up, and were quickly put to work, putting up signs and a tent, and preparing the site for the campout. Bill Whiffen from Rachel brought a trailer as stage for Norio, who arrived a little later with his van full of equipment, including two portable generators to power his amplifiers.

Entertainer Norio Hayakawa; photo by Tim Radder
Just as we were setting up a storm front came through, bringing a short rain shower and a few gusts of wind strong enough to knock over the portable toilets. But everything was quickly fixed, and for the rest of the weekend we had very pleasant weather.

More people arrived throughout the afternoon, including a camera crew that came out to cover our campout for the FOX Show "A Current Affair". Norio entertained the group with his music, and aircraft historian Peter Merlin presented his excellent 10-foot Area 51 History display, which included many never before seen photos of Area 51 and some of the Black Projects that had been developed there.

Rachel Artist Bill Whiffen showing samples of his work; photo by Tim Radder
Several DLR team members were present to answer questions about Area 51, including Pete Merlin, Norio Hayakawa, Hank Shaw, Bill Whiffen and Dreamland Resort founder Joerg Arnu. Rachel artist Bill Whiffen also had some samples of his woodworking art on display, including his commemorative limited-edition Area 51 Anniversary Pens. The day ended with a barbecue and campfire, and with plenty of opportunity for our guests to discuss their favorite secret base.

On Saturday many visitors used the day for excursions in the area, to check out other places of interest such as Rachel and the Back Gate. In the afternoon I led a group of curious Area 51 fans to the top of nearby Hawkeye Hill. The top of the hill is just barely on public land, but the only access road leads up from inside the restricted area. The cammos like to use the hill as observation spot. What makes it interesting is the fact that it is one of very few places on public land from where one can see the hidden Groom Lake Road guard shack.

As we started our climb up the hill we could hear the security vehicle that was parked on top back off. Later, when we got to the top, we saw them parked about 1/3 mile away in the valley between us and the guard shack. We also saw two additional security jeeps being dispatched: One to a gate further north, and the other to the top of Cammo Hill, another popular "cammo hangout" near the Groom Lake Road gate.

From Hawkeye Hill we had an excellent view of the hidden Guard Shack, the border and signs on Groom Lake Road, and of our camp site. Area 51 can not be seen from here, but everyone got plenty of photos of the guard shack and of the cammos watching us. After a last group photo we started our climb back down. As soon as the top of the hill was clear we could hear the cammos pull up again from the other side to re-claim their lookout.

Saturday Night BBQ at the Campout
We arrived back at the camp site just in time for an excellent barbecue dinner, complete with cocktails and appetizers that Norio and Bill had prepared. After dinner Norio played some more of his music by the camp fire, and in celebration of the Area 51 Anniversary the whole group sang "Happy Birthday, Area 51" to the ever-present cammo dudes. Many stories were told, and under the stars the party continued until the early morning hours.

Most visitors left the camp site on Sunday morning. We had some excitement when Todd, a.k.a. "Trouble", got his golden 18-wheeler tractor stuck in the dirt. For a while Todd sent dust and rocks flying into the air, and I am sure our efforts to get him free provided some entertainment for the cammos watching us from Hawkeye Hill. But after about an hour, we had "Trouble" and his 18-wheeler back on Groom Lake Road.

During the two days we had over 60 people visiting the campout, and I believe that everyone would agree that it was a success. In fact the event turned out much better than we had hoped, and I would like to thank all our visitors for joining us, and for helping us make this a memorable event. We could not have asked for a better group of people to celebrate Area 51's 50th Anniversary with. I hope to see you all out there again soon...

Joerg H Arnu
Dreamland Resort Founder and Webmaster

Norio Hayakawa being interviewed for "A Current Affair"

Dreamland Resort Founder Joerg Arnu being interviewed

Watching the cammos watch us...

Norio Hayakawa playing music at the campfire

The Cammos watching us from Cammo Hill...

... and from Hawkeye Hill

The hidden Groom Lake Road Guard Shack, seen from Hawkeye Hill

Group photo on top of Hawkeye Hill with the Guard Shack in the background
Peter Merlin with his Area 51 History Display at the Area 51 Anniversary Campout

Click here for photos of the campout from Hank Shaw

Click here for photos of the campout from Dave Bethke

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