An Early Taste of Black Rock City

The gates haven’t even opened yet, but we got a very early taste of what Burning Man 2022 will be like. Last night began ever so calmly as the sun got lower in the sky and the late afternoon golden light bathed everyone in the wonderful pinkish glow. Work setting up the camp was done for the day, and it was time to enjoy each other’s company. We pulled out chairs, setting them up under the newly installed shade structure—as we sat, friends and neighbors wandered by for libations and conversation. We counted ourselves so very lucky to be in this place at this time with each other.

We were lulled into a sense of serendipity and contentment, what could possibly go wrong? We found out at 3am when a vicious windstorm kicked up, laying waste to some of the work that had been done during the previous day. Some have described going to Burning Man as being similar to buying $1,200 worth of camping equipment and then taking a hammer and smashing it all to pieces. Another way of getting the Burning Man experience would be to buy the most powerful fan you could find, then sit in front of it at the highest setting, throw dirt into the blades, and have it shoot back and pelt you and all of your belongings for hours at a time.

As the wind howled last night, we heard things snapping and being pushed around—even though we were in a trailer, the air inside quickly became thick with dust as the wind kept whipping. Our saving grace came in the morning, when the sky lightened and there was a sunrise as beautiful as any sunrise could be. But then it was time to get back to work. The sky was too threatening and the dust was still too thick to consider going to the morning meeting at the Depot at 7:30am, for fear of being stranded there for hours since another dust storm might roll in at any minute. So we hunkered down in the dusty trailer and plotted our next steps.

This too is Burning Man, so you’d better be ready.

Empyrean Temple after the storm (Photo courtesy of Rand Larson. You can visit to make a donation. For more stunning photography of the Temple build, follow Rand Larson.)
Our camp was the picture of peace and serenity early in the evening
But the morning light revealed a very different scene, after the windstorm

Cover image: Sunrise after the storm (Photo courtesy Dennis Hinkamp)

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.

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