IN THE VALLEY OF FIRE, you can detect Black Ops impending arrival before you can actually detect their vehicles. It starts in the dead still of the summer night. No sounds. Nothing moves. Then gently in the West, the distant rustling of sagebrush begins. The rustling grows progressively louder and closer to the fixed observer. Said observer might wonder what disturbance is this that approaches. Within thirty seconds, just as the first vestiges of the breeze reach the skin, the distant roar of a 737's engines emerges from the same direction. The sagebrush all around the observer is now clearly agitated and swaying back and forth, the breeze on the skin growing progressively stronger.
Then you see the lights pop up from beneath the distant horizon, rising ever higher. The 737 is operated by Key Air, a defense contractor that works hand and hand with EEG (now URS Corporation.) What the observer can't see is that all the windows on the plane are blacked out, so no personnel on board can tell where they are going.
The jet soars by overhead, an incongruous cacophony of 20th Century bluster and industry dominating a landscape that has changed little in hundreds of thousands of years. It passes and gradually, the petroleum bellows of its exhaust shifts down the Doppler scale and begins to fade. There is no longer a steadily increasing breeze but a wake of mildly turgid air. Eventually the Black Ops plane, on its way to Dreamland or Papoose Lake up range disappears over the opposite horizon. The air stirs no longer and the only evidence left that something came by this place is the rustling sagebrush in the opposite distance.
Eventually that stops, leaving the stillness and dark; leaving the appearance that one is alone out on this playa. That appearance is an illusion.
Sometimes you have to ask permission to go to certain places in the universe. Humans assume an awful lot about their place in the cosmos. They get to thinking they can go anywhere or do anything they want. This is a mistake on the part of the humans.
The Valley of Fire in Southeastern Nevada is one such place. You won't read about the strange phenomena that occur in this particular valley on any of the official state park websites or Wikipedia. Don't get me wrong. The place is accessible. There are plenty of gorgeous trails to hike, history to explore and even campsites. It is an ancient home of the Anasazi (which should be a clue in itself.) Visitors are encouraged to make a stay of it; so long as they keep their excursions to the daytime, and stay in the campground by night.
The truth is our group had decided to come out to the Valley of Fire to look for UFO's. That's what we did in the late 80's and early '90's in Las Vegas. We were in search of a holy grail of extraterrestrial promise that seemed to be shimmering just outside our front doors. Neighbors told stories of their car's electrical systems dying and restarting randomly out in the deep dark desert. TV journalist George Knapp aired a series of interviews with former EEG defense contractor Bob Lazar who claimed the United States military was actively researching and testing anti-gravity drive vehicles in Area 51 on Nellis' Air Force Base's vast testing range south of the Great Basin. And every other week we were hearing or seeing someone's shaky videotape which showed odd looking balls, what some were even calling "foo fighters" zigzagging in the night AND day skies and the local homemade videos looked authentic, like they couldn't have been faked, and people you trusted swore it wasn't a hoax.
Our goal from the beginning was simple; a close encounter of the first kind. We wanted to see one of these crafts; experience them viscerally for ourselves so that we could make an "informed" decision about them.
By late 1991 though, it was getting to be a little silly around the infamous "black mailbox" off of Highway 375. The scene from "Independence Day" where caravans of redneck ne'er do wells haul their trailers and Winnebagos to the gates of Area 51 clearly had its roots in this scene. Here were Ross Perot supporters, Red invasion conspiracy propagators and well...hippies like us showing up to see something transcendent. And if you didn't see anything when you showed up or on a given evening, the regulars said you could always wait for "Old Faithful," a mysterious light that rose above the mountain line in a straight, vertical fashion, and then sank back down at 4 A.M every morning. There were rumors that it would occasionally make outrageous or aerodynamically "impossible" maneuvers that were worth staying up after Thursday night for.
Calmly watching over the whole spectacle were the Lincoln Counties' finest, sipping coffee and joking with the "tourists." It occurred to me that with the police monitoring the festivities, nothing transcendent would really be allowed to happen. It was looking to me like a gathering of idiots in the desert waiting to be wowed by a false god.
So my roommates Jeff and Dina and I began plotting different areas throughout the desert terrain of Nevada that might afford a much less contrived close encounter of the first kind. We tried sites along Highway 95 and out near Lake Mead before deciding to give the Valley of Fire a try, with our old Air Force buddy Ron in town.
Living in Disguise: