My first year was 2000. We were camped near 3:00 to be close to Black Light Village where many friends were. Well, when the winds hit Tuesday, they didn’t stop until Friday. We had three solid days of 10′ whiteout. It was brutal. Our camp was destroyed, and I mean completely destroyed. I ended up huddled in a box truck with many of the Black Light folks for what seemed and eternity.
Early Friday, an acquaintance blew in to the truck espousing the virtues of his recent trek across the playa: “Oh, I walked across the playa with my goggles on and my mask on, and I just let the winds blow through me. I felt soooo connected to the playa….” My eyes reflexively rolled back, but I decided that anything would be a good change from being stuck in the truck for another day.
So, I instigated a trade for said goggles and mask and decided to give the hippy thing a try and “connect” with the playa. I got out to the esplanade, and let the winds blow by me for a second when I noticed that a perfect parabola was cut out of the oncoming dust, just over Center camp. As I watched it, the cleared parabola came closer, so I waited….
As the leading edge of it rolled over me, I wiped the dust off my lenses to get them as clean as possible. Then, I looked up and rain drops started to fall. Now, remember, I had clean goggles, but the rain landed and formed little puddles of mud. I held out my hand and saw the same thing. It was raining mud. I was so incredulous that I started disrobing until I found a clean, dust free garment and held it out. Sure enough… Mud.
I was in utter shock. I thought I was finally having a ‘flashback’ from that time in high school. But just then, a Ranger wandered by and heard me mutter under my breath. He replied, “yeah, it’s cool, hunh? This is my third time seeing it.”
Eventually I realized that as the rain fell, it cleared the dust out of the air. That was the parabola I was seeing, the encroaching rain removing the dust. Then, this cleared dust mixes with the water, saturates it, and falls as mud. Where else you gonna see that?