San Diego’s Secret Missile-Testing Sites

In the early seventies, a bunch of friends told me about this place called "Moon Base" out past Santee Lakes. One friday night armed with a shopping cart of beer, we slid past the lakes and a few miles of dirt road and came to a fence with a big hole in it. We parked the cars and walked for a while, I don't remember how far but maybe 1/2 mile or so. We came to a concrete retaining wall on our right that we passed and turning a corner I beheld one of the most amazing sites I've ever seem. A huge metal tower, sort of like an old fashioned oil derrick but much wider and bulkier. It was at least 6 or 7 stories tall and built next to the side of a small hill. This is what held the rocket engine for testing. Off to the side of it, actually coming out of the hill below, was an exhaust port that looked like half of a giant accordion. It was hollow and came straight out of the hill and then curved upwards. As a rocket was tested, it's blast would go down and then be redirected down, sideways then up and away. It was maybe 2 or 3 stories at it's highest. I was amazed and felt like I'd come upon a Buck Rogers movie set. Standing at the base of the metal tower, opposite the exhaust port, was a concrete slab, maybe 10 feet wide that led a couple hundred yards over to a concrete bunker. We entered the bunker and discovered it went about three stories underground. After we descended a couple stories, we found a passage that went back under the concrete slab up top and one could walk all the way back to the metal tower. About half way, the hall way opened up and became a metal cat walk that you could cross or climb down another story. I think there was also a metal ladder that went to a hatch up top. It was secured shut. At the end of the passage there was a metal door that we also couldn't open. This was an amazing place that became a fun destination that we frequented more than a few times. Years later, i put two and two together and remember that as a lad I could occasionally hear this enormous sound that shook the earth and it was obvious that it resonated from miles away (I grew up near Fletcher Hills). I would ask my mom "What is that noise?" and she would say that they are testing rockets!
— April 17, 2008 8:32 p.m.

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