FEBRUARY 10, 1997

 The Edwards Agency

Features

Mystery in the desert: an Area 51 encounter

Little A'Le'Inn

Open 10 to 10, seven days a week, The Little A'Le'Inn is one of the only places to go in Rachel, Nevada.

Area 51

Area 51 is down this road and over the mountain.
Photos by Jeff Boselly.

Area 51 by Jeff Boselly
Just under 150 miles north of Las Vegas is the very small town named Rachel, Nevada. Less than 20 scattered mobile homes and rundown shacks span a few square miles of the desert. There are no paved roads, no stop lights, or signs. Wild mustangs and cattle roam freely throughout the area, and jackrabbits occasionally appear to those who are around to see.
   Six- to ten-thousand-foot mountains form a natural barrier around the town, making its very existence known to very few. For all intents and purposes, this place doesn't exist. At least, that is what the government would like everyone to think.
   Just off the Extra-Terrestrial Highway (formerly Highway 375), the Little A'Le'Inn, Rachel's only restaurant/bar/motel, sits against a backdrop of 8,000-foot mountains. What is on the other side of the mountains is generally the topic of discussion inside the Little A'Le'Inn.
   Conspiracy buffs believe that Area 51 is home to the alien spacecraft that allegedly crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. Another more convincing theory is that the Air Force has been testing highly secretive spy planes in this area for years. It is believed that in the '60s and '70s, Area 51 produced the SR-71, and the '80s brought the F-117A.
   Recent sightings by the locals say the B-2 and Aurora make weekly passings over their skies. Others say that occasionally, lights appear in the sky and maneuver about with no regard to known laws of physics.
   Visiting Rachel last week, a friend and I spoke with one man, who operated a small gas station, regarding the mystery of the lights. He was an aged man, missing two fingers on his right hand, wearing dirty overalls with grease stains, and chain-smoking as he spoke to us. His only companion was a three-legged dog.
   Claiming to see UFOs on a regular basis, he said that just the night before, three of them were hovering above his store. His closing remark as we left was that if we stick around long enough, we will leave with a whole new attitude on UFOs. We never got his name, so I affectionately dubbed him Old Man Smithers.
   As we talked to more and more people, our interest increased. We had decided to try to get a closer look at what lay behind the mountains. The proprietor of the Little A'Le'Inn told us to look for mile marker 29-1/2 on the ET Highway and turn up the dirt road. She warned us when we come upon the signs not to even consider going past them. We thanked her and at midnight, went on our way.
   Traveling along the highway, we came to the dirt road, took a right, and began our ascent up the mountainside. The road was well-groomed with narrow trails leading off every half mile or so. A couple of times we noticed slightly-concealed metal boxes on the side of the road. However, we didn't bother to stop, figuring they were sensors to warn of oncoming intruders.
   After 15 miles, the road started to wind about and get a little rough, and at the end of another mile, we arrived at a small gorge surrounded by hills. This is where we saw the signs on each side of the road. We stopped, got out of the car, and this is what they read:
   "Restricted Area. It is unlawful to enter restricted areas without permission of the installation commander. Failure to comply will result in immediate action. Use of deadly force authorized. Photography prohibited. It is unlawful to make any photograph, film, map, sketch, picture, drawing, or graphic representation of this area or equipment at or flying over this installation."
   Just as we finished reading the sign, a powerful beam of light illuminated our car from the left. On the right, a less-powerful beam was winding its way down the hill; it looked like a motorcycle. We got back in the car and quickly retraced our route while the lights continued to illuminate the car for at least a mile. Having heard that the guards on the mountainside are Navy SEALs and Delta Force, we continued off the mountain and back to Rachel.
   The mystery shrouded around Area 51 still remains a curiosity to me and to others.