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 has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

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