Discovering new spot NORTH of TTR, April 15-16, 2024
by Michał "n01_b4_flash" Rokita

This article is about one of these adventures that you decide to contribute with words "hmm... that should be a nice view spot, shouldn't it? Let's check it out!" Funny, but in reality it is how it started for me. I was just looking around the area of the most secretive Groom Lake's neighbor base - Tonopah Test Range, thinking there may be some decent spot, other than Brainwash Butte, that you could see the base from. As Google Earth shows 3D terrain, you can easily check the most important data for you to be able to judge whether a spot you are looking at gives you what you need. For me the most important factors were: a decent perspective and not so distant view. That said, I decided to keep the coordinates and exact location of the spot under wraps for personal reasons so I won't provide any particular details of the location etc. but it's not difficult to find using primary computer skills and topographic knowledge.

The original viewspot that I used to visit - Brainwash Butte has a very wide and panoramic view and is pretty good when it comes to observing the base from the east. My point that I wanted to realize after visiting Brainwash again for the third time (last October) was to see the base from a different and unique perspective. It took me around 6 months to succeed. I started my research by looking at ground angles using 3D online maps, then I compared the results with the perimeter of the restricted area and... overall this is how it worked.

I was not aware whether the new, yet undisclosed spot is reachable for a multitude of reasons like nature, type of subsoil it is situated at, type of plants surrounding it, presence of dangerous creatures i.e snakes, mountain lions, etc. The unknown has always been the best encouragement for me to try and learn. If you won't try then you won't know. There was no need for me to think about it twice and as soon as I found the spot I decided to explore it, regardless of any adversities. The feeling when you are exploring something for the first time is unique. Your heartbeat speeds up, your mind is racing and your body is ready to tackle it. Your driving force is passion and as long as it is what leads and powers you in your life, then you are in good shape. Of course, you have to keep your skills and limitations in mind and use at least some common sense. (take this last sentence with big grain of salt :D). Ok, now let's get back to the subject of the new TTR view spot...

If you are coming from the direction of Las Vegas/Rachel/Warm Springs this spot is not much further than Brainwash in terms of miles traveled. The distances out there in the desert are always astounding, especially if you are from Europe and you spent most of your life living in a well populated area or city, that's why you have to remember to always top off your car.(I will never forget my fear on my first trip out there but all in all it was fine in the end, uff). The road leading to the spot is in PERFECT condition...until you have to take a sharp right turn and.... just find whatever route you want. Seriously. There is no road leading to the spot after you take that already mentioned right turn and you have to figure out how to get there on your own. You can do it on foot, by a car with high clearance or a cross/quad. To reach the spot is not demanding/tricky as the area up there is rather flat and there is no hidden things that can surprise you. As always, you have to watch out for small rocks and stones that, as desert has it, hide behind patches of sun-dried grass. You know, it's the Wild West. The uniqueness of this area compared to other parts of the country is beautiful - that's why I like to get back there so frequently, let alone black budget aircraft or some spotting adventures :)

After reaching the "top" (well, it's not really a peak) just in front of your eyes, you will see miles of mountain ranges and in the center of it, in a flat area, a remote operational base (not so remote as it may seem). This is when your adrenaline pumps and pupils widen. From here you see a wide, large area of buildings, set of hangars, taxiways, control tower with a runway in central view and what's even better - you can see it all from the North-West and from a closer distance to the base than Brainwash Butte is. The spot is located on public land so you are not getting near the prohibited area at all.

Ok, let's talk about activity of the base itself. Listening to scanner frequencies is always helpful to know and see what's going on to be prepared for action and to prepare your electronic gadgets to use it in critical moment. It's always better to mount your camera on a tripod and have it on standby to use it quickly if needed. Besides the regular activity in the range like arrivals and departures of 737 JANET's there are also plenty of military flights and ops. This time was no different. What you can see flying above is usually pretty mundane as authorities would not launch anything exotic in broad daylight, especially knowing that nowadays there are optical instruments and gadgets that allows to zoom any object to fill the screen and take high quality pictures or video. BUT I know TTR used to launch their F-117 mostly on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings so I was hoping for a chance to see it again this time (you know, they got me a chance last October with perfect viewing conditions). To my surprise while sweating in the heat of the spring sun, suddenly my Bearcat started to crackle and on a scanner's display it showed a familiar frequency associated with "KNIGHT01". That was enough for me to know I'm in the right place at the right time and soon after that I spotted a familiar black silhouette rolling on taxiway Delta(D) leading to Tonopah runway. It was exactly 1:05pm when the Nighthawk entered the runway. Interesting communication took place between TTR Tower and KNIGHT01 while it was still rolling on the taxiway. There was a reference to a particular taxiway being unavailable for taxing so the plane had to taxi partially on the runway before it made a left hairpin turn and lined up for departure on Runway 32. It was holding at taxiway Alpha(A) at the beginning of Runway 32 when I spotted another F-117 rolling, again, on taxiway Delta. A few minutes later, they were both holding in the same location, one after the other and then next to each other, like they were waiting for something. I was calm and patient and turned up the volume of my scanner for better reception (of course it won't improve your signal). When you are standing next to a secret base and watching for some action minutes turn into seconds and time moves faster, at least for me that day. Although F-117's are no longer secret it is always outstanding to see them flying around. Me waiting for their take off was like waiting for a child's birth (oh my bad, how I could think about it haha). They were ready to go but were holding and waiting for their take off for several minutes before one of them took to the skies. Several minutes later the second one took off. As they flew out to Nevada skies I lowered my long-lens camera and tried to track them before they disappeared into the blue Western sky.

Soon afterwards, I was able to spot a white C-130 with a dull grey bottom flying relatively low above ground. It made several passes above me circling around the range and soon to play-game with it joined one of the F-117's that departed earlier. I realized they were flying together doing a common mission in the range. I used to see C-130 type pretty regular on my home semi commercial-military airfield/airport but that white/grey combo looked pretty sweet. Well, I must say that was a great air show at TTR that day. Not long afterwards, the other F-117 joined and they flew in formation, making several low passes and orbits above TTR before coming in to land in parallel, one after the other. After they landed they returned to their hangars and the base went dark only to wake up for a few moments for JANET departures or arrivals.

The newly discovered spot is even easier to get to than Brainwash. It's like 50% of Brainwash level of difficulty but it's longer to walk to it's highest point, especially if you decide to do it on foot... but you can try and get there by car. I made it up there easily and I have no off-road skills. Having a car at the top gives you pretty much wider spectrum of possibilities and you can just stay inside it and relax in comfort especially if you decide to visit in April (although days seem hot, nights are rather cold). I was never able to watch Tonopah base at night to that day. Although exhausted by long sleepless hours, with much less success I was able to stay awake (or at least some parts of the night) with short breaks for quick nap(s). It was midnight when I decided to move from the front passenger seat to the back seat of my Rubicon. GRRRR.... it's so cold. Well, I decided to fall asleep as fast as possible for the morning to come faster. It's not so easy to fall into deep sleep if you know you are there alone with no one around that could help you and keep watch (even considering there is base personnel just a few miles away, it would take me several hours to get to the perimeter on foot; let's say 2-2.5 hours of lonely walk). Keeping that in mind I was able to take short 'intervals' of naps before waking up just to sleep again for several minutes. This happened several times and on one occasion, a particular interesting occasion, I woke up and looked to the base just to spot a VERY bright light on approach to the base. It was coming in to land on Runway 32. It was a relatively slow approach, the aircraft made no sound, had no anti-collision or nav lights, barely from a distance it looked like just single ball of light from the front landing gear. It smoothly touched down on the TTR runway and rolled to the end of it. This is where an interesting thing happened. Immediately after the aircraft turned from the runway to taxiway Echo(E) the landing light disappeared and at this time it was just a guessing game where the aircraft was and where it was going. It was pretty obvious it was coming to the Delta ramp area but I was unable to judge the exact location. I was even trying to zoom in to find at least a small shadow or any kind of reflection/absorption or anything to track it but I was unable to! The rest of the night was quiet and the only other arrivals were the first JANETS early in the morning.

I knew from my previous trips out there, that the best viewing conditions tend to be more or less 7:30-7:50am and if I want to make a panorama I have to make it in that timeframe. A long-lens camera (3000mm) has to have lots of light and any kind of heat or distortion degrades resolution, a detail that is so important for taking pictures and recording video at such a long distances. As the sun began to peek from behind the mountain ranges and touch the desert floor I set up my tripod and camera. This is what I have been waiting for! The conditions are good enough. I can start my work. I took several sets of pictures and videos before saying goodbye to my newly discovered and now beloved spot. I left the place around 8:30am and went for some breakfast after a successful mission.

I would finish the story here but there is something that is important to note and may actually tie in with the anonymous aircraft that landed at night whose landing gear light quickly disappeared after landing. (This is just my guess and NOT a fact as I have no evidence that they are one and the same) When we (my friend and I) were browsing the new photos and videos at my friend's house in Vegas we came across one set of pictures showing some kind of aerospace craft on the DELTA ramp. On one hand the craft resembles a fighter (F-35) but on the other hand it has very long wings, similar to those of a U2 or RQ-4. It may be an optical illusion from distortion and long distance but it looks interesting. I'm not claiming this is something black or anything along those lines but the pictures are inconclusive. Let's be honest, I'm far more disappointed that I missed it when taking the pics... I could have focused on it more back then, If I only knew... Well, maybe next time? Maybe it will still be there at Tonopah during my next visit? I know I won't be able to wait long for another trip, I know it... I know myself too well!

Below I'm going to post several pictures (and videos) that I was fortunate to take during my recent TTR expedition:



TTR Panorama from the NW, 04/2024

© Copyright 1999-, Dreamland Resort. All rights reserved.   Copyright Policy   Privacy Policy   Page last modified 04/30/2024