May 11, 2013 · 10:30 AM
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In the mid to late 1950s the Sycamore Canyon Test Facility near modern-day Poway was used for top secret testing of the rocket engines of Atlas missiles. At two sites within the facility, prototype rockets were bolted to test frames and the engines fired. These early prototypes later became the Atlas missiles that were used as nuclear ICBMs and space launch vehicles. The two test sites were closed in the late 1960s and now only their ruins remain, heavily overgrown and in severe disrepair.
Technically the trip requires trespassing on the far eastern edge of Miramar base and entry to the sites is at your own risk. Nevertheless, I've done this trip several times before with large groups and never had a problem. Judging by the number of photographs and websites about the facilities on the internet, the MPs don't patrol there very much. Among the hazards at the sites are a profusion of rattlers and other snakes, wild beehives, poison oak, and the usual hazards associated with abandoned buildings. It is also not a good idea to wander into some of the land nearby as it was used for mortar practice in the past and some live ammunition may still be present. There is also a live firing range over the hill and an explosives demolition training area at one of the sites.
Things you will see at the sites include the old rocket pads, laboratories, blast shields, and other buildings and structures of the facility. Some buildings still house remains of electrical and other equipment. In one building a short tunnel runs out from a lab to one of the test pads, although it sometimes has 6 inches of mud on the floor, depending on recent rains.
The total hike from the meeting place to the test facilities and back is about 5 miles along well marked dirt roads and trails, including some big hills. I'm hoping the May gray weather will be in full force when we do the trip so it isn't too hot out there. Bring water and sturdy shoes.
If military police or anyone else needs to contact me about this meetup, my cell number is [masked]