I had to laugh being a veteran ‘Burner’ for almost two decades at social media and news posts that came into Burning Man this past Labor Day weekend. From Mike Lee declaring the flood on the Playa as ‘God’s Judgement’ on us for ‘for engaging in lewd and sexually charged events at the festival’ to all of us having Ebola, to hearing the National Guard had been called out to control the 72,000 of us stuck in the mud those days. We got 1” of rain, which for an area that gets a total of 6” per year…that was a lot in a short period of time. The desert itself always has extreme weather and temps as evidenced by 2002’s Burn with heat @103° in the afternoons and high winds that made white-out conditions impassable to cross the Playa. We come prepared with all the things like extra tarps, water, food, spare tires, trailers, RV’s and the like. Newbies (we used to call them ‘virgins’ before BM got woke) often don’t come prepared and bring tents without enough preparedness for rain.
When it rains out there, and it does, Burners are told to stay in place and to find shelter as fast as possible. The Playa which is on BLM and Paiute land is like the Bonneville Salt Flats in that it’s a really flat hard packed surface most of the time. As Utah has salt as the base, the Playa has alkaline dirt that when wet acts just like clay. BM only provides porto potties to its citizens, and for those who didn’t have a trailer or RV, you have to wear plastic bags on your feet and slide to the Johns, or wear socks because the mud doesn’t stick as much for some reason. If you are wearing shoes the sticky clay-like mud will accumulate 4-6” on your shoe soles, bike and car tires and you can’t move! It took a few days for the desert to dry out but we discovered the Playa wasn’t completely flat, as certain areas continued to be flooded lake-front property even through exodus.
Certainly you saw on social media the 10-lanes of vehicles leaving the Playa, which for them took 6-12 hours to get from dirt to tarmac? We left at 4:30 AM and there was no wait line because we know not to leave during the BM rush hours. Lot’s of folks wanted to escape early and there was evidence of cars stuck in the mud from too-early of a retreat home and of course you saw Diplo and Chris Rock who had hiked 5-6 miles out to flag down a fan to get them home? They most likely flew into the Playa and no planes were leaving in our unique airport that is built from scratch and taken down just after the event.