The Hunt for #80-0052 -Lol, April 01, 2009
by Gregos

I've been pretty bored lately as my employer gave me some mandatory unpaid vacation time and I needed to get out of the house. With no Red Flag there's no real reason to go up to Rachel. But the weather is gorgeous and the desert was calling...

I came across an Air Force Mishap Report website in one of my late night travels online a little while ago. I started looking at the Nellis Mishaps, boy there are a lot! But I guess you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Anyway there was an F-15c crash back in March, 2005. I remember emailing the PR officer about this and them grilling me about my Press Credentials (which I no gots) so I dropped it. Well, in the report they gave the GPS coordinates by Mormon Peak. I thought this is the perfect excuse I needed to get out for some fresh air and exercise. I know it's just a Hum Drum F-15 - not even in Red Flag, but at least I'm off the couch not cracking a beer by 12:30 in the afternoon!

So the route would take me up Meadow Valley Wash Rd. -Oh good more #928 folklore too! I never been in that area and I always like to explore new places. Also looking over other Mishap Reports I see Mormon Peak is a magnet for aircraft! I would also recon the area for future trips to other crashes. Feeling the Air Force's location may not be accurate I searched Google Earth for anomalies near by to extend the search. So with a plan in hand up the RR tracks I go...

As I came to the tracks I noticed there were plenty of "No Trespassing" signs from Union Pacific Rail. But Meadow Valley Wash Rd is a county road??? I continued on and figured they meant to stay off the tracks -Duh. Just crossing UNDER the tracks I came up on a BLM Fire Truck slowly chugging up a hill. I decided to pull over and go thru my route again so I wouldn't tailgate him. After a few minutes I passed the Firemen pulled over and observing the smoldering remains of a brush fire at: 36 50.888'N / 114 39.894'W

What a scenic valley. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the hill I ran into my first dilemma. Let's call it "Honey I sunk the Truck II." My original plan was to parallel the tracks for about 2 miles then cross back over. But that would have me enter Union Pacific's No Trespassing zone. There was an open gate but several worker trucks passed by as I was pulled over. There was an underpass but it was fenced off and flooded under the RR Bridge. After walking the area I noticed the fence was the typical cattle fence like in Rachel with a brand new "gate." That gate appeared to be just fence at first glance. As I passed the gate I approached the water. I didn't want to cross it without checking because all I could think of was Tom Mahood's truck in the water (even though I don't know if this was the same location 36 52.167'N / 114 39.948'W). As I was poking the water's bottom with a stick, another worker passed by above me but this time stopped at his open gate to lock it, because he saw me milling about. I yelled up to him that I was not going to Trespass but did he know if this was passable and does it take me where I wanted to go. He said yes, so thru the water I went with no trouble. a few hundred feet up the road was another water hazard. This time the H3 dug in a bit deeper and the "pucker factor" tightened! Lol.

After a few more miles I rolled up to the Air Force's location and needed to hike up a small hill to get there. As I approached the location I saw a small piece of aircraft insulation (like tin foil) on the ground. This was too easy, I thought. I expected to see the debris field as I hit the summit. NOTHING! I walked here and there looking into all the depressions around their area. More nothing. Then I hiked back down and went up the other side of the road and did the same. I found two more pieces of foil there so it had to be close. But did not see anything. In my preplanning I noticed a road that went to "nowhere" about 1/2 mile to the South. I remember that is one of Peter Merlin's rules. I decided to go there and look and eat my lunch there if I found nothing. The foil could have easily blown that far in 4 years after all. More Nothing. After eating I noticed some really red cacti in the distance. I decided to go back to look again at the original spot but I should take some pictures of the red cactus before I go. As I was taking pictures I saw an old campfire down on the hill. What a strange place to camp on a slope. As I walked over more of it came into view and it was not a ring but a 10 foot long burn mark! Bingo -point of impact! There was hardly nothing left of the debris field. They really cleaned it up. In fact, if they would have spent a few more hours no one would have ever known what happened there. But why do that, it was beer thirty for them I guess! I wouldn't recommend going out there for a visit. There is nothing to see but a burn mark and some very very small pieces. But if I had not seen the red cactus, I would have not went that way! Too funny.

I then went to the Mormon Peak area to look for other roads in. I went up on one road that started to turn into more of a Big Horn Sheep trail! I then parked and walked up the hill to the next place I could turn around. This isn't worth it I thought and turned around for home. However, as I turned I lost sight of the road (my wind shield was facing the sky) so I stayed real tight to the uphill side of the road. Unfortunately, my running board caught up on a big rock, I guess, and it bent back 3 inches or so until it hit my rear tire. As I came back down, I could hear the rubbing. I stopped and tried to bend it back by hand -yeah right. And with my limited tool kit I could not remove it. As I was trying to fix it, air combat broke loose in the sky above. Desert MOA had just as much action as Red Flag but very high up! Awesome.

Sadly I couldn't stay too long to watch with the car problems and all. It was after 4pm. I headed home real slow, stopping every 1/2 mile to check for damage to the tire. As I headed thru the water hazard I had doubts because "one tire was not like the others." This time water splashed up onto my hood. It didn't do that before. Yikes! I passed thru both hazards and made it back up the hill to where the firemen were still parked. I pulled over and asked if they had a tool kit which they opened. As we were digging thru their kit, Raptors were tangling in the sky above popping flares and really mixing it up. I asked the BLM fire crew if they were on fire watch of the smoldering valley below and they said yes. What caused it - fireworks. Most likely from the Indian res near by. I'm only speculating, but if you have ever been there, you know. I asked if they caught the guy and they said they just discovered the evidence and it was turned in for investigation. I then asked if the Air Force has ever caused any fires from their flares. Their response was, it has happened before, sure. After watching a bit of ACM with them, I threw the bent running board into the back and headed home. Cool day even with the difficulties.

Since I got a picture of the fire truck, on the way home, I formulated a wild story that they had to rescue me in the desert from certain death for my wife -It was April Fools day after all ;-)

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