The Nevada Test Site is beautiful. Others have officially re-named it The Nevada National
Security Site, but I shall never call it by that name because it wasn’t. It was a test site or a proving ground not a politically correct plot of land. Weighing in with over 1350 square miles in the high Nevada desert, the Test Site is geographically packed with dry lakes, hidden valleys, eroded shield volcanoes and mesas hidden from prying eyes by rugged mountains and bombing ranges. For over 40 years between 1952 and 1995 the Test Site was the private playground of physicists, chemists, and other ‘ist’s who were into nukes. The only requirements were brilliance, curiosity and the ability to pass a security clearance process. The Test site possessed a natural dignity, a proud history, drama, and a tortured soul revealed in the familiar pockmarked landscape and skeletal remains of test platforms. It was also the home of the new flavors of nuclear candy made ready for the military and political bureaucracies. Grab your favorite beverage-mine is coffee-sit down and relax, I have a tale to spin about the Nevada Test Site, battling nuclear fathers, a president, and mankind’s baby step in a positive ethical direction.
It was a bright spring Saturday morning in the late 1980s in P-tunnel at Rainier Mesa in Area 12 and I had several hours of free time before the alcove I was as-building was to be grouted. I threw my safety gear in the truck alongside my lunch and took off for the top of a mesa. Pahute Mesa remained largely unexplored in my wanderings but I wasn’t sure what Livermore was doing over there and, anyway, I loved the old structures on top of Rainier Mesa so, Rainier it was. I found an old shed decorated with dusty pinups from the 1950s and loaded with abandoned, musty smelling logs of an event long past. This crumbling piece of history, probably a watchman’s shed over T-tunnel was from a time when the instrumentation cables ran from ground zero straight through the top of Rainier Mesa’s cap rock. What could those broken cap rocks tell me? I grabbed my sandwich and drink and headed for a comfortable looking tree to lean against. I could see Sedan crater in the distance and hear the haunting cry of the many raptors riding the mesa’s thermal currents. Perfect!