Rain? In the desert?

It rained in Black Rock  City on Monday, and it maybe wasn’t the most fun in the world.

Among the things we discovered during the storm was that a) it was a good idea to bring waterproof boots, and b) it was not a good idea not to bring anything else that was waterproof. Oh, and the lovely Center Cafe, which provides such delicious shade during hot, sunny days, as well as very delicious iced mocha drinks, does NOT provide shelter from falling raindrops.

We maybe were not alone in making this discovery.

People were trudging through the muck, building up their playa boots and looking for safe harbor. It was a different kind of distress than what you experience during a whiteout. During the rain you worry about your stuff, and you worry about how long the storm will last, and you worry about how you are ever going to get dry.

It was hard to get reliable information about the last time it rained really hard at Burning Man, and for how long. Our best source was Durgy, of the Black Rock Beacon, who remembers coming to his first burn in 2000, and getting rained on most of Thursday through Sunday.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, except to expect the unexpected,” Durgy said, which is exactly what he got.

With all the rain and muck, did it make him regret coming Burning Man? “Hell no!” he said. “I was with a bunch of good people. … We came to watch the Man burn, and we did,” he said.

In the afternoon, Claire, on the good ship Lake Lahotan, sensed the approaching storm.

Yesterday’s rain lasted maybe an hour, starting at around 5:30. It was not a warm rain; the temperature was chilly, considering it’s the desert. No one could use their bikes, and the gates to the city closed because vehicles don’t do well in playa mud.

But just as our clothes were starting to stick to our skin, the rain tapered off and the skies gradually lightened. Then there was a fabulous double rainbow, and the air felt sharp and fresh, and the hills were glowing as the sun got low in the sky.

The rain actually firmed up the playa, and getting around by bike during the evening was a lot easier because of the showers, which was very nice. And our clothes dried very nicely, thank you very much, as we stood around a burn barrel.

Playa boots were the fashion statement of the day.
Bikes were defininitely not the preferred method of transportation.
The area around the Center Cafe was just plain mucky.
The people who climbed "Minaret" had a good view of the clearing skies.
By sundown, the rain had cleared and the Lamplighters could make their appointed rounds.

About the author: 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. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

19 Comments on “Rain? In the desert?

  • Lady Luck says:

    I remember 2000 and all that rain, it was challenging to say the least, waking in the middle of the night on an air bed which had turned in to a flotation devise. Hope the rain this years kind and gentle.

    Curley you continue to rock the Playa with all your hard work!

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  • Brenda says:

    It also rained in 2007 and produced a spectacular double rainbow!

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  • Shaman says:

    I remember 1998. Rain wasn’t heavy, but still every wheel became a mud roll. Every wheel. Every.

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  • John says:

    I remember trudging home in the muck early one morning in 2000. Every step added a bit of mud to the bottom of your shoes until you stood a few inches taller. Then you’d lose the muck on the bottom of one shoe and your gait would turn into a limp. It was a long walk home, but not as bad as the people who had to carry their bikes. Hang tough burners!

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  • sidelick says:


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  • Steve says:

    Rained pretty hard for awhile in Reno on Sunday but not at all on Monday. 2000 it drizzled a bit for a little while a couple of days but it poured for hours 1 night. I got on my bike @ about 5 a.m. & it wouldn’t move at all forward, backward or even side to side. Just stood still in the muck like it was glued down! Not at all fun carrying it clear across the playa from the funk tent back to my camp, especially after I ran out of water. Hope the weather cooperates the rest of the week!

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  • Dirt Wheel says:

    …..and they went up the spout again. I just know you guys are gonna do fine. Wish I was gettin’ wet witcha though! See yall next year, rain or shine!

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  • Okitxobi says:

    Lluvia y fango. ¡Salud!

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  • Sasha says:

    I so remember the double rainbow in 2007, and since I couldn’t be there this year…I am glad I was there then.

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  • Cleire Bosio says:

    My dear son Marcel,

    Please send news!
    I hope you are enjoying the event.

    Kisses from all of us here in Brazil!


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  • Harrison Embrey says:

    Into each life a little rain must fall…

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  • Mr D says:

    Was my first burn in 2000… I remember carrying my bike on my shoulder at 3am in the pouring rain, huge clods of playa mud attached to my boots and it was freezing… it makes you appreciate the warmer nights of recent years. Being cold sucks!

    Been 9 out of the past 10 burns, taking a break now but will return next year.

    Still the most rocking gathering on the planet BY FAR!

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  • Alex's Mom says:

    My son is there with some friends. This is his first time at Burning Man. Since our cells phones don’t work, haven’t heard from him since he got there. It was great to find this blog and read what is going on. Even though the rain sounded rough, it great to hear how pretty the desert with the rainbow was after. Looking forward to reading more and seeing all the pictures. It looks like an awesome experience. Peace everyone.

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  • julie c says:

    I remember our 1st year out, rain followed a massive whiteout, both were short lived and fascinating and contributed to a warm, great night that night on the playa….rain makes a good opportunity to rinse some of that dust outta your hair! get out the comb and enjoy!

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  • Stephanie C. says:

    Both of my sons are there with friends for their second & third time. I wish I could be there, too. I know it’s a great time! Wish I would hear from them. Hugs & love to all!

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  • colleen farrell says:

    I bet my daughter wishes she took my rain boots that I so graciously offered…She actually got there sometime early wednesday morning, so she may not have needed them. I hope she is having a great time, this is her first….Miss her…Be safe!!!

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  • Diane Berta says:

    Hello to Cristina & Milo, Hope you’re having a great time. Blue & Martin miss you! A warm shower awaits. Love, Mom/Diane

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