Before you leave home, check the Facebook Invitation for any last minute updates.

Groomstock 2010!

{This event has already taken place! This page has been retained for archive purposes only. No future events are currently planned.}

Join us for a free public campout and hike at Tikaboo Peak (Area 51 viewpoint), Oct. 9-10, 2010

THE WHOLE WORLD is invited to a free public camp-out and hike at Tikaboo Peak, the last remaining public viewpoint into the secret Area 51 base in Nevada.

Tikaboo Peak is an 8000-foot mountain about 2-1/2 hours north of Las Vegas. It is similar to other local mountains except that it offers an unobstructed view of the secret military base at Groom Lake (albeit from 26 miles away). Getting there requires a 2-1/2-hour drive on paved and dirt roads and a challenging 1 to 2 hour hike to the summit. We will be camping in the desert near the trailhead on Saturday night (Oct. 9) and doing the hike on Sunday morning (Oct. 10). You are free to join us for one or both events.

The meeting times are:

The meeting place for both is:

RSVP is requested but not required. You can reply on the Facebook Invitation or by sending an email to Glenn glenn{at}kilroycafe.com

Before you leave home, check the Facebook Invitation for any last minute updates.

This is the same hike portrayed (with some dramatic license) on UFO Hunters and MysteryQuest on the History Channel. The hike itself is a little over a mile and ascends from an elevation of 7000 feet to 8000 feet. The trail is steep, rocky and unmaintained but not dangerous in itself. The main burden is the altitude. Most people who exercise regularly can handle it, but couch potatoes and smokers may see their life pass before their eyes.

This also happens to be the weekend of a big Renaissance Faire in Las Vegas. Some of us will be attending the faire before coming to the hike (Friday night and Saturday during the day), and you can, too!

In fact, you're pretty much free to do whatever you want, since this is a very loosely organized event. As long as you know where you are going, you are free to come early, stay late or join our expedition at any point you wish. At the same time, you are 100% responsible for your own safety. This document will attempt to give you all the information you need, in excruciating detail, but you have to use common sense and understand where you are going and what the risks are.

Here is the general timetable. (Nevada is on Pacific Time, the same as California.)

Finding the Meeting Point


View Larger Map
The meeting point on US-93 is Milepoint 32.2. This is a small one-lane dirt road leading west off the paved highway. On this Google Map: "B" is the meeting point, and "C" is the general area we will be camping. This turn-off is easy to miss by if you aren't driving slowly and looking for it. It is on US- 93 (not US-95) about 90 miles north of Las Vegas and 5 miles south of Alamo.

If you come on your own before or after the scheduled meeting times, you are free to drive directly to the trailhead, but you may want some instructions for the dirt road. (Described in one of the Q&A sections below.)

PHOTOS

Here are some photos of previous expeditions to Tikaboo Peak, to give you an idea of what you're getting into....

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Hopefully, all of your questions are answered below. If not, email me: glenn {at} kilroycafe.com

Who is sponsoring this event?

Me, Glenn Campbell (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, homepage). I used to be the "Area 51 Guy" in the 1990s — the self-appointed publicist for the base. (New York Times) I organized a number of public hikes like this back in the day, and I thought it might be fun to put together another one for nostalgia's sake. Keep in mind that I'm only one human, and although I will be doing my best to give you good information, I can't protect everyone or anticipate everything that can go wrong. (If you hurt yourself, don't bother suing me 'cuz I ain't got no money.)

Who can come?

Anyone. From any planet.

Who SHOULDN'T come?

If you have no experience hiking, camping or driving in remote areas, this probably isn't the time to start. Remember, you are 100% responsible for your own safety. See list of warning signs below.

How much does this event cost?

Nothing - apart from your expense in getting there. Occasionally, I conduct tours like this for a fee, but this time I thought it would be fun to invite the whole world and waive the fee for everyone. (If you feel compelled, you can contribute some small amount toward my own expenses on the trip.)

Who owns the land we'll be camping and hiking on?

We do! It's public land. We all have a right to be here. Temporary, non-destructive camping is allowed without a permit.

Is an RSVP required?

It isn't required, but I would appreciated it, just so I can anticipate how many will come. Preferably, you should reply to the Facebook page for this event. If you are not on Facebook (or you don't want to reveal your participation to the world), you can email me (glenn{at}kilroycafe.com). If you email me or flag on Facebook that you're coming, you should also email me or unflag if you change your mind.

But if you just show up unannounced, that's okay, too.

What will I see from the summit?

Not a lot to write home about. You will see the secret Groom Lake base, but it is very distant—some 26 miles away. With the naked eye, you can see tiny buildings and the Groom lakebed, and with binoculars or a telescope, you can make out individual aircraft and vehicles. Being that it's a Sunday, we won't see much activity at the base (and even the activity on weekdays is unimpressive.) There's not much point in taking photos of the base, since photos already available on the internet are far better.

If you join this expedition because you want to "see something" at the base, you're going to be disappointed. You would join us only for the ambiance and nostalgia. It's a beautiful desert area and this a rare excuse for people who have known each other only virtually to get together.

What you are guaranteed to see from the summit is a remarkable 360-degree panorama of empty desert—pretty close to visiting an alien planet. If you camp, you may also see more stars than you have even experienced and probably the Milky Way. If you come from a denser part of the world, just the desert alone is worth it.

How do you expect to accommodate "the whole world"?

With grace and aplomb. In the 1990s, I invited the whole world to a lot of events like this, but typically the whole world didn't come. Given the remote location and cost in getting here, usually only 20-30 people showed up. I expect the same this time. Millions have seen this hike on the History Channel, but thankfully most of those millions can't be moved from their living rooms.

What will the weather be like?

Statistically, it should be beautiful, but of course we can't know the forecast until the date approaches. Daytime highs in this high-altitude desert will probably be in the 60s or low 70s—perfect for hiking—but the night will probably be cold, perhaps as low freezing. (See below for camping advice.) For what it's worth, the cold is much easy to take in the desert than in humid climates. Bad weather, when it happens here, usually takes the form of windstorms without any rain. The hike is expected to proceed regardless of the weather, but the camp-out could be modified according to the forecast. Be sure to reload this document for updates.

How strenuous is the hike?

It depends on what shape you are in. If you exercise regularly, you shouldn't have any trouble. If you don't get much exercise, the hike can be exhausting, especially at this altitude. The trail starts at 7000 feet and climbs to 8000 feet. Some sea-level dwellers feel ill just being at this altitude. The trail is primitive and very steep in places, but relatively short-only a little over a mile. You can take it at your own pace, and you can always stop or turn back if you're uncomfortable. It is up to you to monitor your own systems and decide what your body can handle. For most people, the hike takes about two hours up and less than an hour down. The vast majority of those who attempt the hike (and who believe they can do it) make it to the top.

Smokers shouldn't even bother. Very few of them make it.

What are the dangers of the hike?

The main danger is falling down and hurting yourself on the sharp rocks. There are no steep drop-offs near the trail, but the footing is very loose in places. Almost everyone falls on their bum at least once during the hike, but to my knowledge there have been no serious injuries. You could be the first!

Rattlesnakes, scorpions and other creepy-crawlies are rare. You'll be lucky if you see one rattlesnake in a lifetime, and he'll be racing away. You're more of a threat to these critters than they are to you, so they won't crawl into your sleeping bag with you.

Running out of water on the hike is a concern in the summer months, but not so much in October. You should drink up before you start the hike and carry a quart or two of water with you.

If I get injured or have a heart attack, what medical facilities are nearby?

We'll make a good-faith attempt to save you, but Que sera, sera! Alamo, an hour from the trail, has an EMS service, but the nearest real hospitals are in Las Vegas.

Will I die?

Yes. We're all heading that way. However, the chance of you dying on this trip are slim. The worse you can expect is bruising yourself on the trail or getting cold at night. So far, we have a perfect track record of never killing anyone on this hike.

What are the restroom facilities?

All of Nevada is a restroom facility. (Bring your own T.P.)

What clothing and shoes should I wear for the hike?

It's hard to say in advance whether it will be short sleeve or long sleeve weather (or short pants/long pants), so bring both. You should also bring a jacket in case you need it. (You can decide at the trailhead what to take on the hike.) Expect bright sun. A wide-brimmed sun hat and sun glasses are wise, and your shoulders should be covered, but sunscreen may be a little excessive. (I've never used it.)

You need sturdy shoes, but they don't have to be hiking boots. If you wear sandals or flip flops, you're a fool, but that's your choice. These rocks are sharp, so open-toed shoes are imprudent, and really expensive shoes might get torn up. (I wear $10 sneakers from Wal-Mart, which I usually throw away after the hike.) The important thing is to wear shoes you are already comfortable in, not new ones.

What equipment do I need for camping?

All you need is a sleeping bag, an air mattress and an optional tarp to put under the mattress. In the desert, where there is little chance of rain or mosquitoes, a tent is optional. (You can bring a tent if you have one, but you'll be missing out on a beautiful night sky.) If you bring a 6x8-foot tarp ($4.50 at Wal-Mart), that would serve as a groundcover and can be folded over as a top cover in the unlikely event of rain.

You'll need a sleeping bag that will take you down to freezing. One cheap solution is to buy TWO summer sleeping bags at Wal-Mart ($9.88 each), and stick one inside the other. I find this works better than a more expensive sleeping bag rated for low temperatures.

The best mattress is a blow-up air bed ($13-25), but any other mattress may suffice. (To blow up your mattress, we will have a pump available at the campsite.) On the hard rocky ground, you need some sort of padding under you to sleep comfortably.

Almost all other camping equipment is superfluous. Someone will bring a match and we'll start a campfire.

Junk food will keep us alive. (Bring your own.) You don't need to go overboard, since you won't be away from civilization for more than 18 hours.

We might want to put together a semi-organized, full-cholesterol pot-luck camp breakfast on Sunday morning. Watch this space.

Do cell phones work?

Service is marginal or nonexistent and can't be relied on for communication. Sprint seems to offer the best coverage (from both the trailhead and the summit). Verizon is patchy, and AT&T is dead after you leave I-15.

If I fly to Las Vegas, what are my safe arrival and departure times?

If you plan to camp, you could arrive at the airport as late as 5pm on Saturday and still have time to stock up at Wal-Mart and join us on the camp-out. (You would have to arrive by about 2:30pm to make our 5pm meeting time at the highway.)

If the hike starts at 8pm, you can comfortably get back to the trailhead between 12:00 pm and 1:00pm. Allowing 2-1/2 hours back to Vegas and 1 hour to check in, a 5:00 pm outbound flight on Sunday is probably safe.

The Sunday morning hike was designed in part to allow people from Southern California to theoretically drive up for the weekend and still make it to work on Monday morning (although you must decide whether this is actually wise).

Where will we be camping?

That is yet to be decided. Watch this space. It will either be at "Basecamp", which is the official start of the trail, or in the lower desert along the road leading to it. It depends in part on how many people we anticipate coming. In any case, if you drive up the correct dirt road off US-93, you won't miss us.

Do I need an SUV for the dirt road?

No. A high-clearance vehicle is preferred but not necessary (and not worth going to extra expense for). The first 18 miles of the dirt road are well maintained, and any car can handle them. For the next five miles to the trailhead, the road is rougher, but any STURDY car can do it if you drive carefully. (The skills of the driver are more important than the car itself.) If you don't feel you or your car can do those last five miles, someone will give you a ride to the trailhead (if you arrive at one of the two meeting times). In any case you MUST have a spare tire and all the equipment to change it because flats are VERY common on this road.

If you are going to rent a car, a full-size standard sedan is probably the best balance of hardiness and price. (Try the Impala from Alamo.) Be sure you get the Collision Damage Waiver or equivalent.

A high-clearance SUV or pickup can get you about 1/4 mile closer to the trailhead than a regular car. (This probably isn't an issue, since parking there will be at a premium anyway.)

Will Glenn Campbell be available for questioning?

Sure, ask me anything you like! Please be aware, however, that when you ask me what is going on at the base, my honest answer is "I don't know." I have been out of the loop for 10 years, so there are a lot of people who know more about the base than I do. (See my websites for my latest non-Area 51 activities.)

You will find that my interest in the base itself has waned over the years (to something close to zero). I was always far more interested in the culture outside the base than anything going on inside. FYI: I am not a believer in the UFO stories about the base (regardless of how I have been portrayed on television). My official position on UFOs is not that I believe or disbelieve but that they are irrelevant to our life on Earth.

Will we encounter security during the weekend?

Highly unlikely -- especially when we are giving them plenty of advanced notice of this event. If you go down to the border signs, you'll see the "Cammo Dude" security patrol on the other side of the line, but they won't approach you unless you choose to cross the line. (Come on, give it a try!)

Is gas available?

There is NO gas between US-93/I-15 junction and the Tikaboo trailhead, so be sure to fill your tank before you leave Las Vegas. There is gas in Alamo, about 6 miles north of the dirt road turn-off, so you'll top-off there if you are going to the Tikaboo Valley after the hike. There is NO gas in Rachel.

If your intention is only to drive from Las Vegas to the trailhead and back to Vegas, then filling your tank in Vegas should cover the whole trip. (But verify this yourself: 230 total miles = less than one tank.)

When is sunrise and sunset, and what is the phase of the moon?

This thing are important! On October 10, sunrise is about 6:43pm and sunset is about 6:11pm. (We're meeting at 5:00pm for the camp-out so we still have some light when we get to the camping area.)

The moon sets about 8:00pm, and there isn't much of it, which is good. That means we'll have a perfect canopy of bright stars without the moon washing them out. Have you ever seen the Milky Way before? You will!

Will Area 51 Know We're Coming?

Duh! I'm sure they have the technology to surf the web (although iPhones are probably decades in the future at Area 51).

What about this Renaissance Faire?

The Age of Chivalry Renaissance Faire is one of the best in all the land! If you've never been to one, it's a hoot! Folks dress up as lords and ladies, speak in fake Elizabethan accents and totally play their role for the whole weekend. There is jousting and swordplay and much bosomy cleavage.

The Las Vegas faire differs from others in that alcohol is freely available, which livens the party considerably (even if one doesn't drink alcohol). Being Las Vegas, this Renaissance Faire has an edgy S+M quality you won't find elsewhere. It's also just before Halloween, so many come in their costumes (with little relation to the Renaissance). It's fun just to go and watch!

You don't have to go in costume, but it's more fun if you do. (About 1/3 of the visitors come without costumes.) It doesn't have to be fancy, just any outfit that could pass for centuries old. (I go as a simple knave in a costume I assembled from old clothes at Goodwill.)

Friday night is a good time to be there, because that's opening night, with the most energetic and uninhibited carousing, and on Saturday morning people are still enthused. By Saturday afternoon, though, it begins to get a little tiresome, so that's a good time to head north.

Is alcohol permitted at the camp-out?

It's not encouraged, but if you must have it, beer or wine in moderation. Please, no pot or anything else that could get us into trouble.

Are children permitted?

Sure! The only embarrassment is that they'll probably reach the summit before you do.

What motels are available in Alamo?

If you don't want to camp but also don't want to make the early morning drive from Las Vegas, you can stay at one of three motels in Alamo, about 6 miles north of the meeting point. The finest accommodation in all of Lincoln County is Windmill Ridge at about $90/night. You get your own little cabin with all the modern amenities. Wind-Mill-Ridge.com. This is where the TV crews stay.

Simpler accommodations are available at Meadow Lane Motel and Sunset Ridge Motel for about $45/night. (Fun Fact: Janet Leigh, the actress who played the murder victim in Psycho stayed occasionally at Meadow Lane -- and it perfectly fits the image! Photo)

If I arrive in Las Vegas with nothing, what should I buy for the camp-out?

In cooperation with the Wal-Mart™ Corporation, here's a list of the things I would get. There are some 20 Wal-Marts in Las Vegas, most notably on Eastern near the airport and on Craig Road on the way out of town. (Craig is one of the last exits on I-15 as you're leaving Las Vegas. Go west a couple of miles.)

From the sporting goods section:

From the automotive section: From other sections: If you pass a 99-CENTS ONLY dollar store (usually near the Wal-Mart), stop there FIRST for a sun hat or cap and maybe a few of the items above. ($0.9999 each)

Stop at a THRIFT STORE (Goodwill, Savers or Deseret Industries) for some extra layers of warm clothes -- jackets, sweatshirts, sweaters, whatever is cheap. ($10). Don't forget something for your head, because that is where you lose most of your heat!

If you want a tent (optional), you can usually find one for $20-30 at BIG FIVE SPORTING GOODS, with several stores in Las Vegas.

That's it! If you have all the stuff above, you should be prepared to survive the night. (Remember: The temp could get down to freezing!)

Who should NOT take this hike?

While everyone in the world is invited to this event, I am wary of attracting people who really don't belong in the desert. Remember: You are 100% responsible for your own safety. If your car breaks down or you suffer a health problem 50 miles from the nearest town, you can't count on anyone being able to help you. You probably should NOT come to this event if any of the following things are true... Seriously, make an assessment of yourself. If the remote desert frightens you in the slightest, then you shouldn't be here.

If I arrive before or after the meeting times, can I still join up with the group?

Sure, you are free to come and go on any schedule you want. You just have to drive the 23-mile dirt road on your own.

From the Milepoint 32.2 on US-93, simply follow the main dirt road west. RESET YOUR ODOMETER when you leave the paved highway! 18 miles from US-93, you will face your only decision: The main road turns right, but you want to go straight. Then you have another 5 miles of dirt road that isn't as well maintained and eventually becomes impassible. Drive carefully to avoid scraping the bottom of your car.

NOTE: There is a primitive barbed-wire gate about five miles from the highway that may be open or closed. If it is closed, you will open it to pass, then re-close it after you.

If you come before 5pm on Saturday, you can proceed to the approximate area we will be camping. However, be aware that the exact camping spot hasn't been selected yet—it depends on the weather and how many people come. It could be the trailhead, or it may be somewhere in the lower desert, so don't set up camp until we get there.

If you come at any later time, just follow the road for 18+5 miles until you see our cars. If you arrive after the hike has begun, you may find cars but no people. In that case you'll have to follow your nose and listen for our voices.

Is photography permitted?

By all means, bring whatever camera, video camera or telescope you want.

There is a federal law on the books saying the photography of a restricted military facility is prohibited to without a written permission of the installation commander, but the application of this statute has never been defined in case law. (I.e. there is no record of anyone being prosecuted.) What installation? How do you contact the installation commander? If Google Earth can photograph the base, then you can, too! Unfortunately, any photos you take of the base will probably be inferior in detail to those already published on the web.

At the same time, with all the cameras at this event, there is a good chance that YOU might be photographed, and those photos and videos may show up on the internet. I wish we could offer anonymity to those who want to be discreet, but if you come to this event, your cover may be blown!




Glenn Campbell
Email: glenn{at}kilroycafe.com
Phone: 702-812-0400 (works only until about 3pm on Saturday)

This document first published: Sept. 1, 2010
Last Update: Oct. 6, 2010

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