Stranded in the Desert: Burning Man Turns into a Mud Pit
Tens of thousands of partygoers are currently marooned in the northern Nevada desert after a late-summer storm transformed the week-long counterculture fest, Burning Man, into a muddy mess.
The main road leading out of the festival remains impassable due to the mud, leaving RVs and vehicles stranded. However, organizers are hopeful that traffic will start moving around noon on Monday.
This year, the festival had to be closed to vehicles after heavy rainfall on Friday soaked the Black Rock Desert, located about 110 miles north of Reno.
Burning Man is an annual gathering that attracts nearly 80,000 artists, musicians, and activists for a unique blend of wilderness camping and avant-garde performances. Disruptions have become somewhat of a tradition for the event, with temporary closures in 2018 due to dust storms and two cancellations during the pandemic.
Despite the challenges, the spirit of the festival remains high. Scott London, a photographer from Southern California, shared, “We are a little bit dirty and muddy but spirits are high. The party is still going.” He also mentioned that the travel limitations offered a different perspective of Burning Man that many don’t usually get to see.
The road closures happened just before the scheduled burning of “the Man,” a large wooden effigy that serves as a centerpiece for the festival. Organizers have postponed the burning to Monday night as they work on reopening the exit routes by the end of the Labor Day weekend.
While there has been one reported fatality at the festival, Burning Man organizers clarified that it was unrelated to the weather. The sheriff of nearby Pershing County is currently investigating the incident.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation and is in contact with local officials. However, the cause of death is still unknown.
With motorized traffic prohibited, attendees have been trudging through the mud, some barefoot or with makeshift footwear. They have been advised to conserve their supplies of food and water, leading most to remain at the site.
Celebrity DJ Diplo shared a video on Instagram, showing him and comedian Chris Rock hitching a ride in the back of a fan’s pickup truck after walking six miles through the mud.
The event is known for its remote location and emphasis on self-sufficiency, with attendees bringing their own supplies. Despite the challenging conditions, the community has shown resilience, with many posting muddy selfies, dancing, and enjoying the makeshift lakes.
Rebecca Barger, a photographer from Philadelphia, expressed her determination to stay until the end of Burning Man, stating, “I’m not leaving until both ‘The Man’ and ‘The Temple’ burn.” She also mentioned the lack of toilet options due to the inability of trucks to reach the site for cleaning since the rainstorm on Friday. However, some revelers reported that cleaning operations had resumed on Sunday.
To navigate the muddy clay, Ms. Barger cleverly covered her shoes with plastic bags and socks. Others opted to go barefoot.
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