Bustin’ dunes and swattin’ bugs

D.A. was out knocking down some of the bigger dunes on the 3 o'clock side of Black Rock City
D.A. was out knocking down some of the bigger dunes on the 3 o’clock side of Black Rock City

Good news!

The playa is “harder and flatter” than it was last year, and maybe harder and flatter than it has been for the past several years. That’s not just my opinion, either. I always seem to get a little too rhapsodic about playa conditions in my exuberance to be back in the desert. “Harder and flatter” is how D.A. his own self described the condition of Black Rock City. And of course D.A. should know, because he’s the person in charge of making sure the desert looks the same after the event as it did before.

There are still plenty of rough spots. The 3’oclock side of the city is, as is usually the case, more problematic. There are mounds and ridges and tire tracks, but the “serpents” don’t seem quite as daunting. You may even be able to stay on your bike instead of having to trudge through six inches of playa dust as you make your way to the Temple.

The placement of the city is a bit closer to Gerlach this year, somewhere between a quarter- and a half-mile closer. Burning Man takes place in the same general area of the Black Rock Desert every year, but inside the event closure area, the city’s footprint is moved around so it doesn’t wear out the same portion of the desert every year. The city is always laid out the same way, so you’ll always see the sun coming up behind the Man as you stand in Center Camp. But planners do have some flexibility with where they drop the spike that marks the center of the city.

The 3 o'clock side of the city isn't perfect, but it isn't as bad as it's been
The 3 o’clock side of the city isn’t perfect, but it isn’t as bad as it’s been

This year’s city will be pretty much where the city was in 2012. And because it’s not possible to pick up every last bit of moop (matter out of place) after the event, you might find an “artifact” or two from 2012 half-buried in the dust (an anti-SOPA sticker, perhaps?). Grab the “artifacts” while you can. Fifty years from now, they’ll be designated as historic, and you won’t be allowed to remove them.

You’ll also notice a difference this year as you make your way across Route 447. The hills, at least as of this writing, are GREEN. It looks like Ireland, ferchrissakes. Here’s a picture Phoenix Firestarter took last week as she traveled to the Spike ceremony:

Phoenix Firestarter captured the green hills along Route 447
Phoenix Firestarter captured the green hills along Route 447

This is the desert, but it’s been raining. Not a lot, but often. In fact, it rained lightly in Gerlach last night. Not enough to cause any problems, but enough to tamp down the top layer of dust again.

It’s been raining intermittently all spring and into the summer. The Survey teams had to dance around the wet spots as they laid out the city, and trucks got bogged down a time or two.

And there’s another effect of the unseasonable wetness: Bugs. There are lots of bugs around, including mosquitoes. You couldn’t stand outside in Gerlach as the sun went down without getting bitten to death. We’re not sure yet how bad it will be out on the playa, but be smart and pack some lavender oil or bug spray or whatever you use.

With all the rain that’s been around, it’s surprising that we haven’t been hit by rain or hail or lightning or any of the other plagues that have haunted the build the past several years. So far, so good. The crews are making great progress. But as Coyote says, there’s no such thing as being ahead of schedule — you never know when a storm cell is going to pop up and slam you.

So far, though, it’s been dry. It’s hot, though, and it’ll get hotter next week. The wind kicked up in the afternoon, too. Silver Coon’s yurt was a casualty.

In other news: 

Joe the Builder and Cobra Commander were out in the city early
Joe the Builder and Cobra Commander were out in the city early

 

People gathered at the Depot to get the updates for the day
People gathered at the Depot to get the updates for the day

 

The morning light put Princess Riobi in a good light
The morning light put Princess Riobi in a good light

 

Sparky Blackrock is everywhere, all the time
Sparky Blackrock is everywhere, all the time

 

Speaking of being everywhere all the time, Ralph Chunks was helping everyone get their gear to the right place in the city
Speaking of being everywhere all the time, Ralph Chunks was helping everyone get their gear to the right place in the city

 

There's no happier sight than seeing the Fluffers pull up with cold drinks and treats
There’s no happier sight than seeing the Fluffers pull up with cold drinks and treats

 

Alas, Mike Garlington's photo van has seen better days. It'll get a new skin in the offseason
Alas, Mike Garlington’s photo van has seen better days. It’ll get a new skin in the offseason
Luke, Deacon and Sam were out dropping road pegs
Luke, Deacon and Sam were out dropping road pegs

About the author: John Curley

John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person In a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients, and I'm especially fond of shooting weddings. I'm also the editor at large of the Tasting Panel magazine, which is devoted to the beverage industry. I've also taught a bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on a (house)boat in Alameda, California.

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