Visiting Groom, TTR and surrounding areas, 4-12 Oct 2022
by Michal Rokita

After twelve years of online investigating, I finally made my dreams come true and visited Groom Lake, Tonopah Test Range and surrounding areas. I travelled all the way from Poland, but it was definitely worth of that! As a civilian airport contractor I am able to book flights very cheap which is a perfect option, even though I'm travelling as a staff, so there is always a chance that I will not fly due to stand-by regulations (the fully paid passengers have priority so if the plane is full then I'm not able to proceed to board). All in all, it ended pretty fine for me as there were unassigned seats, so I took my flight on the originally scheduled date. I left Poland for the US on 4 October and arrived in Vegas the next day. Then I went for a car and drove all the way to Alamo, NV where I stayed for 7 days. I really recommend the Sunset View Inn motel as the prices are low enough when comparing to the quality of an accommodation and beside it, actually the important thing, the motel staff are really friendly and willing to help (about what I learned the last day… Gosh… malice of inanimate objects, anyway).

The main point of my visit was to hike Tikaboo to see the base. It was like my life goal for this trip! As you may suppose, the first thing I wanted to do was the hike itself, so after a delicious breakfast, I immediately went to conquer the-last-and-only possible view spot of Groom. I thought I was prepared fairly well so what wrong would happen? Well… yeah, a lot of unexpected things may happen, especially if you're travelling alone Lol We all heard of the latest rains that affected some parts of the United States. It turned out that the storms hit the goodish range as well. My rented car was a regular road SUV (Jeep Compass) so the ceiling was not really high, and it is easy to damage such car just on a simple sandy or gravel road. I took the GPS and coordinates from this site to achieve the Badger Mountain Road. The first gate was opened, so I went through it with throttle set to 100%. As a former motorsport driver, I really like dumpy, narrow and fast roads with blind curves and apexes, so I had a real fun while driving there. The closer I got, the road getting worst and worst and after a right hairpin (approx 8.2 mi. N 37°12.425' W115°11.709') I encountered the first problem - the latest rains destroyed the road and there were some big holes around which I wouldn't be able to proceed with my SUV, so I got a revolutionary idea : After realizing that one of the holes is definitely too big, and I will stuck, I took one hell of large stone (approx weight was 30-40 kg) and did the as I will call it, the 'bridge', to get through the hole. Uff, it was done! I passed without damaging the car. Hurrah! With a big smile on my face, I went down the road, believing that I'm getting closer to the point. Then after a short medium left corner I understood that my dream, although will come true, it will definitely not happen in those conditions as just in front of me I saw another washed up hole. That one was even deeper than the previous one. I got out of the car to check it visually and came to one conclusion - my mission is aborted for today 9 With thousands of words of disappointment I turned around the car and… got to another idea… maybe it is worth to WALK rest of the way just by foots. I rapidly took my phone to hand just to check how far I am. I quickly turned out I was just on approx eight mile. Literally, I gave up. When travelling back to motel, I was still thinking what would I do to hike Tikaboo with the possibilities I have. When approaching the motel, I noticed a silver big 4x4 car (similar to the one the Cammo Dudes have) that is owned by the guy living next to the motel - just next door. I was fortunate enough to meet the guy when he was sitting in his car. I immediately shoot the question about… picking me up to the Tikaboo. After a few minutes conversation about the Groom itself… he agreed, and we arranged the travel for upcoming days.

With the main plan being set, I decided to visit Rachel and Little A'Le'Inn. Their burger is something I just had to try. On the way up there, I could see the fighter flying low above the desert, just crossing the road in front of me. After a several dozen of minutes of driving I arrived in Rachel parking my car on a Little A'Le'Inn lot. While sitting inside there and looking around, some fighter (probably F-16) flew just above the restaurant making a really high speed and low fly-by (This was probably the same one that I saw flying just on my way up there). The building shooked and one guy ran away out of the A'Le'Inn to catch it and take a glimpse. Unfortunately, the jet was already gone in the skies of the desert. We got back inside just to hold some conversation, and after a while I said goodbye and went to the motel. I felt very happy with visiting the place as it is a masterpiece of a history now and I believe everyone who visits the area should take a look and try their McDonald's-like tasting burger. Time sure go by fast on a desert and most of the days I spent drinking soda and beers during evenings. Of course there is Alamo town nearby which is a good communicating port and I was amazed about the fact of such well-equipped grocery there. What surprised me was the fact that many locals seem to not spoke about Groom at all and the most conversations ends with "Area 51? Don't go there, they will have no problem with shooting at you!". It only shows how unfamiliar with the subject most locals are.

The next day I decided to take a break from the aviation stuff and just look around. There is really nice and quiet campsite located on Upper Pahranagat Lake with good access to wildlife. When walking and sightseeing the area, I noticed some kind of security helicopter that just appeared from the West. I believe it was just a routine flight, like many others at the location. Well, I did some pics and recorded some videos and when the sun was coming down I got back to my car and went to the motel. The desert itself is amazing and you can just sit and enjoy your time, especially when on holidays.

Quick forward to… 11 Oct. The sun was rising above the mountains, barely touching the eyes of aviation buff(s) in the morning. I loaded the HD camera, the SLR camera and my GoPro Hero 5 and set my mind and GPS locator for atop of Tikaboo. You need to be foresight looking person as a desert is not a place for jokes. Especially when it comes to health. Because of that I prepared my backpack with four liters of mineral water, two sandwiches bought in Alamo and several ultra-light dietetic bars. I was really excited about the journey. The local guy just woke up and after a while we started the engine and set the coordinates for the Badger Valley road. I've never driven a car like this before and I was amazed of the possibilities it gives. The previously mentioned by me - the holes on the ground - made completely no problem for the car. We just had fun with tasting off-road! What puzzled me during our way up there was how dramatic and devastating a rain and water may be. There were a lot of places where the road was really washed up and even the guy was shocked with it. After approx 30 minutes of driving, the Google Map GPS showed us that we are getting close… Did I say close? Yes, it was exactly what I thought about when seeing just 1.7mile to the end of the road. I said "Well, we are almost on the place" and just after I finished the sentence we both saw a hole over a meter deep and at least 80 cm wide. The guy replied: "I'm not gonna do this...". We both jumped out of the car to check if we are able to do anything with it. We looked left and right and finally at each other deducting that I have to walk from this point on my foot. The hole was so huge that when I would get down it would cover me completely. The HUGE hole coordinates were 37°19'24.1"N 115°18'12.0"W. From this point I needed to walk the rest of the road and then climb Tikaboo. I took my backpack and electronic devices and went to face with the Peak! I heard many claims that the trail is difficult and hard thing to do. Well, I'm not gonna confirm that claims. I'm not experienced with hiking and climbing at all and it wasn't tricky to get IMO. Maybe I was just lucky and the conditions were great, but all you need to do is to follow the trail. I used my phone and "AllTrails" app. I know there are markers and tapes on the trees giving you the tips, but I couldn't find too many of them (maybe it is another side effect of the latest storms). I must admit I got lost two times because of non-accuracy of the app marked trail, but I was informed to not use the GPS while achieving Tikaboo. Anyway, I climbed Tikaboo in two hours. The last part of the hike is the most demanding one as the angle increases. The excitement took over when I arrived at the top. Whoow, it was so amazing moment for me. I waited for it by years and finally I was able to look at the base on my own eyes. My dream came true! When I arrived at the top, the first thing I noticed was the sound of a jet flying ahead. It was again a fighter and gauging by the sound it emitted, it was one of the Groom's F-16s flying in "the box". I just couldn't locate the plane as the sun was heating and attacking my sweaty eyes. I just took a glimpse when the jet was directly above me. I heard its engine for several minutes and then silence ensued. I had no scanner with me, so I wasn't able to hear the comms. I set my electronic devices towards Groom and waited… waited for more action. I took some photos that will be definitely attached to this report and recorded some movies that will most probably find their way to YouTube. I think I even recorded the landing plane on the runway (just aforementioned F-16) when it RTB. After a lunch, I observed the base for more or less two hours. In this time there were no movements at all. Just silence and sweet harmony. Having decided to left before down, I packed my things and devices and started to go down. This is an important note: You will need to be very careful while going down due to slippy stones that only waits to skid you down. I went down in 2.5 hours. After a walk down the smashed road I did eat a bar waiting for the local guy to pick me back to motel. This journey was a really nice experience for me and I will definitely remember that day for the rest of my life.

My next mission for the next day was to see the TTR (Tonopah Test Range). I woke up early to get to Brainwash Butte before 9 A.M. I must say, Brainwash Butte is like 5% of Tikaboo when it comes to a time you need to afford for it and difficulty of the hike. It's easy to do for everyone, you get closer to the point than you think and the road is perfect and affordable for just about every car produced. The first thing I noticed was the well-known Mother of God figurine. She has been watching there for years already and still do. I thought I will be fortunate enough to catch some F-117's as TTR is their residing base, but there was completely no movements at the base at all. I took some pictures and went down after some time. I needed to left earlier than I thought as I needed to prepare for a flight back to Poland next day…

To sum it up, this was a really nice trip. I achieved every point I assumed. I will definitely get back there again and desert definitely calling me back…

A few tips for people that are gonna visit the places and never done it before:
1. Prepare decent shoes for mountain hiking. It is your safety and a risk of skidding down the peak is not worth of it.
2. Take more water than you think… a bottle of water not weights tons but can be important to keep your minerals especially during hot days and high temperatures that are common thing on the desert.
3. Take a good compass with you and do not rely only on GPS indications (even if you are using some downloadable and free app).
4. Remember to fuel your car with surplus. The distances out in the desert are longer than you think, and gas stations aren't a regular thing there…
5. Get some markers or tapes to mark your path. Definitely will help you to get home and avoid being lost.
6. Watch out for dangerous creatures, like snakes etc.


Area 51 Panorama from Tikaboo Peak, 10/11/2022

TTR Panorama from Brainwash Butte, 10/12/2022

View towards Area 51 from Tikaboo Peak

View towards TTR from Brainwash Butte

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