Hello MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, reporting from Gerlach where the Black Rock Desert is putting on its winter coat. Yes, the weather is here — in fact, 2013 has been a particularly weathery year.
As if rebelling against the warm, dry winter that preceded it, this summer has surprised us with monsoon rains and flash floods. You probably remember the storm that stranded 160 DPW on the playa in August. That event was one in a series of showers, a weather pattern that is far from ordinary in this dry, sun-baked country.
Yesterday, your Playa Restoration All-Star team was hit with another downpour — though this one showed up on the radar well ahead, and we all made it safely to the shoreline. This storm also carried less precipitation with it. But it seems that every passing storm leaves the desert surface a little wetter, and for the first time this year, the crews are encountering wet spots and cracked playa only weeks after Burning Man has ended.
This has a couple of side effects: First, no dust storms! Our lungs rejoice.
Second, the MOOP that hit the already-packed surface during Burning Man 2013 is still there, cemented into place. It is not going anywhere, no matter how hard the wind blows.
That’s a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because we aren’t chasing down airborne bits of Black Rock City. Bad, because the Resto line sweepers are working harder to pry things out of the ground.
The third side effect of a wet playa is a unique challenge for Special Forces, Resto’s crack team of MOOP removal experts, who tackle the most resistant hotspots.
One of Special Forces’ jobs is to dig up oil, fuel and grey water spills. That means digging a hole and removing all the contaminated dirt. That stuff tends to look dark or wet, so Special Forces normally just dig out all the discolored playa. This year, it’s harder to tell where the spills end and the damp playa begins.
How do you differentiate between dirt that’s wet with fuel, and dirt that’s just wet? By smelling it.
“This year is brought to you by smelling dirt,” says Phoenix Firestarter, Special Forces Manager. I found her team with their noses in a petroleum-scented hole, one of many spill sites that can range in size from a few inches to multiple cubic yards.
Yesterday’s storm soaked the surface fairly well, and for the Resto All-Stars, a long and glorious summer is coming to its abrupt end. Will we have enough clear days to ensure that Burning Man will pass its BLM inspection? That all depends on how much MOOP Black Rock City left behind.
That’s why I’m very pleased to unveil the results from Day 3 on the MOOP lines. My fellow Black Rock Citizens, today we should all feel deeply proud of our collective effort to Leave No Trace. Check it out:
REMEMBER: This is a work in progress, not the final map. Obviously.
MOOP Map Legend:
GREEN: GO! GO! GO! The Line Sweep moves quickly because it’s clean. Minimal time and effort spent in this location.
YELLOW: Caution! The Line Sweep moves at a stop-and-go pace. Moderate time and effort spent in this location.
RED: Full stop. The Line Sweepers are on their hands and knees. A ton of MOOP. Extensive time and effort in this location.
Wondering what the black dots are? Those are the locations where we found larger items left behind on the playa last week: trash bags, abandoned tents, scaffolding, anything bigger than a bread box. All those items have been removed, but we do record their GPS points.
That’s a real sea of green you left behind, Black Rock City. Without a doubt, the Esplanade is looking better than ever before. And thanks to each and every one of you who methodically mooped your camp, the Resto line sweep sailed through 55 blocks, making up for the previous day’s lost time and gaining some momentum too.
Congratulations to everyone who put in the extra effort to Leave No Trace this year. Pat yourselves on the back, and thank your neighbors too. When we all work together, the results can be impressive indeed.
Will the green streak continue? Will the weather hold? Come back soon to find out, in the next installment of MOOP Map Live 2013.
See more photos from Playa Restoration 2013 on Flickr.