July 31st, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC, Photos/Videos/Media

The Desert Is Spiked

July 31st, 2013  |  Filed under Building BRC, Photos/Videos/Media
Coyote called people over to begin the ceremonies

Coyote called people over to begin the ceremonies

And so it begins again.

There was a howling wind on the Black Rock Desert on Sunday, and there had been driving rain the night before in Gerlach. But now the sun was blazing and the sky was magnificent as about 75 people gathered to drive the Golden Spike into the desert floor, the first official act of Burning Man.

It doesn’t just happen, you know. Many things must come together, many sacrifices must be made, for Black Rock City to rise. Jobs must be quit, leavings must be taken, and sweat will coat many faces before the festivities begin.

But this, this vast empty timeless place, this is what draws us first. This is the blank canvas. This is where it starts.

Like so many things about Burning Man, it wasn’t always like this. The desert is the only thing that hasn’t changed. Everything else has grown, become more ornate, become layered in ritual and remembrance. The first time a spike was put in the ground to mark the place where the Man would be built, there were only four people around. But now there were words to be said and liquor to be shared. There was a consciousness and intention about the work that was about to start, and the moments did not go unremarked on.

“Are we back here already?” Crimson Rose asked. “Did we ever leave?”

As the years seem to hurtle one into the next, it seemed indeed like we had never left. But again, just as there is sameness, there is difference, too. Last year there heavy hearts, the weight of sadness and loss everywhere. But this year, you could sense acceptance. Time has passed. Distance has been gained. Perspective, and maybe some wisdom, has been achieved.

Miss Stress gave the spike a mighty whack

Miss Stress gave the spike a mighty whack

“You are my friends 365 days a year,” Makeout Queen proclaimed as she held the sledgehammer above her head.

And even though there were laughs and hijinx, there was also a somber gratefulness that those who were out here had made it through another year. “I want to thank you all for staying alive,” someone said. “This year I dedicate this to the people who are here.”

And with that another hammer blow drove the stake a little deeper into the ground. One by one, people stepped up and said what they had to say. Some people were profound, some were sad, some were funny. But everyone seemed to respect the moment, and they were grateful. “I’ve been here a month,” Miss Stress said, “and I still look like this,” she said, pointing to her hugely smiling face.

But pretty soon it was all done.

The blank canvas

The blank canvas

Coyote smashed a bottle of Champagne on top of the spike as a final christening, and a handful of folks rushed from the perimeter to scoop up the moop. Then Coyote and his survey crew chased the revelers from what was now a work site. It was time to start mapping out where the streets of the city would go.

By the time the shadows grew long and the sun sank below the hills, there were only a handful of people left. People were hammering together the Octagon, an eight-sided sleep shelter, which would offer a little shelter if a windstorm came up in the night. Coyote was showing the survey equipment to Charlie, the new guy who’s in charge of event logistics this year.

Nips and her fluffers returned from Brunos with plastic dinner containers for the crew. Spoono was setting up his cooking gear so that people would have a little something in their stomachs when the work began again at dawn. A boom box that had been playing “Freebird” at the spike ceremony gave way to D.A. playing his ukulele around a fire. People sang along: “I don’t see what anyone can see in anyone else … but you.”

“It wasn’t always this plush,” Nathan was saying as some Scotch was handed around. He remembered being out there on other first nights when the wind and sand were blowing so hard he used his sleeping mat as a shield against the dust.

The twilight gave way to true night. There was no moon, only stars and thick clouds of galaxies. K.T. challenged people to point out the constellations, but that didn’t get very far. Soon there was nothing to do but sit under the stars, tell stories, and grow drowsy. Then it was time to drift off to sleep and dream the dreams that Burns are made of.

Before things got started, Slim took a photo of the where the spike was placed

Before things got started, Slim took a photo of the where the spike was placed










Selfies from Black Rock


It was very hot, but not overly dry




The first survey line was rolled out from the spike


Coyote surveys the terrain


There was only a handful of people left as darkness started to fall



Looking to get a read on due south


The burn barrel was rolled out as twilight fell


New playa game: Bocce ball


At the end there was nothing but a small fire and lots of stars

At the end there was nothing but a small fire and lots of stars

52 Responses to “The Desert Is Spiked”

  1. Trilo Byte Says:

    Another excellent post, and such amazing photos. Thank you!

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  2. Papa Says:

    The spike is in…the anticipation just went up 10-fold! Much love to DWP for putting their lives on hold and getting the playa ready for us!

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  3. Genie Gratto Says:

    LOVE this, John. Great photos, as always, and the last one made me teary-eyed. Thanks for bringing us this early glimpse of the Playa!

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  4. John Curley Says:

    you all are very kind. thanks so much for the encouragement!

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  5. Nathalie Says:

    Amazing makes me feel like going, love your writing

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  6. Pencil Ready Says:

    Thank you, DPW!
    Can I call you Deeps?

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  7. Doggy Dave Says:

    I knew you were out there and have been awaiting this blog post since Monday. So grateful to be there through your pictures and words. For reasons unknown to me, this year I feel the need to be on the Playa more than I have previously. I dream of one day being a part of the city from the very beginning, but that is something I must create and I do not yet know how. Thank you, John Curley.

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  8. Pootecia de la Sweatshop Says:

    THANK YOU!! Much love and joy to all of you as you prepare for us. THANK YOU!!

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  9. Obi Says:

    Can we get the GPS coordinates of the spike ?? where would I find them ??

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  10. John Curley Says:

    thanks again for your nice comments …
    and Obi, that’s a great question, and if I can track it down I’ll post it here for you

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  11. HK Says:

    Beautifully written!
    Thank you and thanks to all of you out on the playa tonight.

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  12. Siggo Says:

    For 11 months we bitch and moan about yahoos, hooligans, the BORG, ticket prices, hippies, yuppies, lookie-loos, shirt-cockers, DPW drunks, asshole rangers, ravers, BLM, PCS, glassholes, peeping toms, spectators, art cars, polluters, hooligans, exhibitionists, noise levels, old people, young people, etc. etc. etc. We cry about the dirt, the dust, the wind, the rain, the mud, the heat, the drive, setting up camp, breaking camp, crowds at the man, exodus, and on and on and on.

    and then…magically…we see the golden spike post…

    We are like children again. Excitement growing, going home and seeing old friends, being part of true magic and serendipity personified.

    Thank you DPW, thank you John Curley, thank you Black Rock Desert. See you all soon!

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  13. morrell Says:

    John, another home run! That last picture took my breath away! What camera are you using?

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  14. Skyzer Says:

    looking at these photos makes me sad that I will not be able to come home this year :’(

    make sure its a good one everyone :)

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  15. Baby Shot Says:

    Getting chills of excitement. Thanks for all the work you are doing out there. Can’t wait to join!

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  16. Eric Winter Says:

    Stunning last shot with the stars!


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  17. Headless Says:

    Bonus points for whoever figures out how to get those stars back when the city is full of stars.

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  18. sadie jane Says:

    Wow… you are all amazing. Thank you thank you thank you!

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  19. melva Says:

    let the magic begin. I get to see my burning man friends again. this is so exciting.

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  20. Gerald Fleischmann Says:

    Great pix, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for these stalwarts of the lead team.
    Consider sending that last pic to NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. It just might make it and let the whole world know. It’s one of my daily and perennial favorite sites, and it deserves to see that night shot of the Playa and the Sky: http://www.nasa.gov/index.html#.Ufs7jRaFSy0
    It’s authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
    NASA Technical Rep.: Phillip Newman. Specific rights apply.
    A service of: ASD at NASA/ GSFC &: Michigan Tech. U.

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  21. Dance Ninja Says:

    the spike has been driven, the moments are rushing together, soon we will be there again, back home….. as if we never left……. strong work dpw and crew help is on the way. :)

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  22. Bozoid Nation Says:

    You moved me! Wish I could be back home this year.

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  23. Sparrow Says:

    Beautiful work as always.
    Can’t wait to get out there and join in the fun!

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  24. Tammy (Purple Butterfly) Says:

    Home-Sweet-Home….AWESOME!!! You all ROCK!
    Thanks for all that you do for Burning Man )’(

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  25. Rocket Says:

    The prose was excellent, only to be highly complimented by the last truly “kodak” moment. Thank You DPW, I hate to qoute a ‘ketchup commercial of the 80′s
    but ….>>>A N T I C I P A T I O N……..


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  26. mayor Says:

    Oh, those stars… reminds me that their are places I belong other than my place here.

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  27. Carolyn Bussey Says:

    Hey guys – soon to be burner newbie. I’m simply awestruck. I have only one question or statement or whatever…..do the stars really look like that on the playa? Geesh. Seriously devine!!!!

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  28. Kenny Attlee Says:

    WOW!! I already feel like I’ve been welcomed home… beautiful post… beautiful people… love and dust…

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  29. Crowsnestster Says:

    I love that last pic of the starlit sky over Black Rock.
    Know your stars! Stay tuned to BMIR for recap of what’s “up there”
    The “Blue Marble Report” with Crowsnestster.
    Thanks to those who drove in the spike.

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  30. Crowsnestster Says:

    Thanks for laying out the master plan.
    I love that last pic of the starlit sky over Black Rock.
    Know your stars! Stay tuned to BMIR for recap of what’s “up there”
    The “Blue Marble Report” with Crowsnestster.
    Thanks to those who drove in the spike.

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  31. The Anti-Smoking guy, Patrick Reynolds Says:

    One day I want to attend Burning Man for the first time. I went to a screening of the new documentary about it, “Spark! A Burning Man Story”, and it was a G R E A T film. It will be in a few theaters AND on VOD starting August 16 — very cool. But I want to go for real!

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  32. Debra S. Allec Says:

    How exciting! :) Cant wait to see you all at home when we are all together.

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  33. Selena Says:

    yayayayayayayayayayaya! exciting times ahead…. can’t wait to get dusty wit cha all….. Love and sparkles from Canadaland :D

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  34. tracys Says:

    I just got Goosebumps… See you on the Playa <3

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  35. Trey burn virgin Says:

    Vibrational excitement is rising. Plans are coming together. Burners are assimilating into camps. Costumes are being imagined. This time and place is sacred. :-)
    Burning Man has already begun in our minds.

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  36. JV Says:

    I was sort of dreading this post as I knew it was coming and since I’m not going this year, I knew it would be sweet torture to read. Aah! Have fun out there, people, see you in 2014.

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  37. ChrissyP Says:

    oh how beautiful! Thank you so much for getting our city plan together……..the skin on my hands is thin and my sinuses are filled with the exquisite perfume of the playa dust on my gear as I’ve been prepping for the journey home for the past several weeks…….. I am so ready for HOME!

    One of these days, when I’m finished working the desk job (2 year?), I hope to be able to be a part of the set up crew! What an honor and privilege to be a part of your community!
    lovelovelove, and thank you for the welcome!

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  38. zylstra Says:

    Wow, that Milky Way photo is legit!

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  39. juan Says:

    fabuloso yo quiero irrrrrrr

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  40. Corvus Says:

    @Carolyn Bussey:
    Yes, the stars look like that. I dabble in astronomy and I found them overwhelming to the point where I couldn’t identify anything. (Lessee, the Man is there, so that’s north and at this angle ought to be Polaris … erm, one of them up there. Well, the Big Dipper’s pointer stars will lead the way … if I could find the Big Dipper).

    During the event the lights of the city will diminish them a little but walk it to deep playa and they’ll be there.

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  41. Diver Says:

    Boy do I wish there was a blackout night during the event so I could see those stars! Thanks guys

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  42. Kini Says:

    Wow ~ Thanks for Sharing and Documenting This Moment !

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  43. Otto Imken Says:

    Great journalism, thank you! And excellent photography as well :-)

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  44. Lisa Watermelon Says:

    Holy Mother! Is this really happening?

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  45. Oliver Harris Says:

    Thanks so much for building the greatest city on the planet. I’m very much looking forward to coming home )’(

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  46. Chopper Says:

    )’( it’s time to think about heading home… )’(

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  47. charlottebennett Says:

    I played freebird at my dads funeral exactly 3 months ago. It put a smile on my face to read that that’s what song you decided to name.

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  48. Deep Says:

    Awsome job guys were would we be without your hard work. carry on

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  49. milspecrep Says:

    Wow guys! I am afraid I live vicariously through all of the comments and the pictures each year of Burning Man. One day I would love to be a part of the experieince. I hope it happens before I am too old to enjoy. Until then, my prayers and blessings are with each and every one of you as you begin the long hard work of building Black Rock. Be safe in all endeavors.

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  50. Bella Says:

    Thank you all so much for everything you do, I love you all so much.

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  51. dariel aura moore Says:

    amazing Photos. I hope everyone is safe out there on the PLAYA! <3

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  52. Holly Ralston Oyler Says:

    Last year (2012) a friend attended Burning Man for the first time. Afterwards she wrote about it on her Blog. I couldn’t stop reading her posts, it was like reading a great adventure book. She truly returned a person forever changed.

    This year she is attending again, so I decided to do some research on the BM history and people. What started out as a lunch-hour jaunt aroung Google looking for BM information has turned into a seven day, every free minute journey of epic and life changing information.

    Please know that your work on this event reaches far beyond the desert floor, the rain, the dust, the heat and the cold. So for those of us who will never experience BM in person, thank you for the work you do, the people you bring together and this wonderful place you call home.

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