A Visit to the Border

[This page is about an event that happened 20 years ago.]

There’s a saying in Texas, and probably similar ones elsewhere in the world, — “You cain’t git thar from hayr”. If your talking about Area 51, that’s true no matter where you are. Not only is the airbase isolated from any populated area, it’s surrounded by inhospitable desert terrain, armed guards, electronic sensors that detect when anyone comes near, and many ominous warning signs that tell you to stay out in many different ways, the most memorable being “Use of deadly force authorized”. All the more reason why I just HAD to go there, or at least as close as I could.

I woke up at dawn in my secluded campsite off Highway 375, ate breakfast (hot oatmeal, orange juice and coffee) and packed up the Explorer. A quick check of the area showed I didn’t leave anything, so I headed out down Highway 375 toward Groom Lake road. As I turned west I started to have second thoughts. “Did I really have to go right up to the border?” After all, I have seen the pictures. “No”, I thought, “that’s not quite like being there. You’ve got to drive right up to those signs.” None the less, I did proceed at a ‘prudent’ 40 miles per hour.

I had set the trip odometer to zero as I started down the road, and very carefully compared it to the mileage stated in the “Area 51 Viewers Guide” at each intersecting side road. I wanted to be VERY sure I didn’t go to far down this road. The numbers checked; 4.2 miles – road to the north, 5.1 miles – mailbox road. I felt more assured.

Around 9 miles or so I noticed a fairly well defined start of the Joshua trees. It almost was like the edge of a forest. I don’t know why they start here, but I would guess it has something to do with the elevation. Groom Lake road appears flat, but actually is slowly climbing as you drive toward Area 51.

I continued on to mile 11.5 and Campfire Hill. The two tire track road up the hill didn’t look to bad so I drove up to the top. (One gets real brave in a rented four wheel drive vehicle with complete insurance coverage.)

At the top I got out and looked around. On a ridge to the west was a white Cherokee. I grabbed my binoculars and took a look at it. Standing next to it were two guys in cammo outfits, looking at me through their binoculars. I waved. They did not. By the time I got my camera they had ducked back inside the Cherokee. That was the last I saw of any Cammo Dudes, although I’m sure they saw a lot more of me.

Finally, the last mile down Groom Lake road. The border is sort of a non-event. There are the signs and a convenient turn around for tourists, but not much else. The border crossing is in a pass between two curves, with ridges all around. There’s not much to see, except the famous signs warning you not to go any further and that photography is prohibited. Of course, I took a picture.

From here it was a leisurely drive back out to Highway 375, via the mailbox road. I could listen to Las Vegas radio stations fading in and out, take in the scenery and imagine what this area was like before the Air Force installations and the tall tales of UFO’s brought tourists from around the world to this barren stretch of the Mojave desert.