Imagine, if you will, having enough port-a-potties to accommodate 70,000 people. It’s one of many issues Burning Man has to deal with in planning Black Rock City.
I always like to include a post on Black Rock City when I am blogging about Burning Man to give readers a view of how everything fits together. Obviously, you can’t throw up a city for 70,000 people in the desert without some serious planning. Think of it this way: For the one week of its existence, Black Rock City is the third largest city in Nevada— only Las Vegas and Reno are larger.
It all starts with locating where the Man will be placed out in the Black Rock Desert a few miles east of the small, northern Nevada town of Gerlach. A ceremonial spike is driven into the ground to mark the placement. Everything else including the Temple, Center Camp, the surrounding fence and Black Rock City evolve from there. Official Burning Man structures and major camps are built before the event. Sort of. It is not unusual to arrive on Sunday with work still being done on the Man, the Temple, Center Camp, etc.
Black Rock City is laid out in a semi-circle as shown on the 2016 map below. The circular roads are given names based on the annual theme and are in alphabetical order. For example, the 2016 theme was Da Vinci’s Workshop. The road names were Arno, Botticelli, Cosimo, Donatello, Effigiare (Italian: to portray), Florin, Guild, High Renaissance, Italic, Justice, Knowledge, and Lorenzo. The main road that separates Black Rock City from the Playa is always the Esplanade. Roads that cut across the circular roads are numbered clockwise and lead out to the Man.
The large circle on the bottom is Center Camp, the middle circle the Man, and the upper circle the Temple. Both the Man and the Temple are located on the Playa, which continues out to the fence. Shaded areas are for assigned, organized camps; non-shaded areas for everyone else. Space in the non-shaded areas is on a first come, first serve basis and you can have as much as you need for your camp, assuming you come in early— there seems like a lot of space in the beginning. By the end of the week, everything is packed! The total area encompassed within the fence including Black Rock City and the Playa is approximately seven square miles.
The official Burning Man map of Black Rock City for 2016.
The following photos provide a glimpse into what it is like to live in Black Rock City.
If you come in early on Sunday, you feel like you have a lot of space. We always mark out our site with rope and reflectors.
Things fill up rapidly as the week progresses. Quivera, our van, marks one end of our camp. Our goal is to be somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00 on H or I.
By Friday, there is no room left. If you haven’t clearly marked your area, you will have guests!
If things feel too crowded, you can always bike out onto the Playa where the Man, the Temple and many of the major art pieces are located.
If things are still too crowded, you can head out farther…
And farther. By now you are out in what is known as the Deep Playa.
This is where you come to the fence that limits further exploration of the desert. Actually, during a dust storm when visibility is close to zero, it is good to have the fence available to keep you from wandering off. There is a vast amount of space to get lost in.
Burning Man is serious about Burners staying inside the fence. Part of this is for safety and part of it is to keep people from sneaking in for free. When I crossed the fence for a photo-op, a BM truck came speeding over to where I was.
A substantial infrastructure is required to operate the event. These lifts are located in the Public Works Department lot.
Safety is always a concern. Burning Man has its own safety officers know as the Black Rock Rangers. Of course there are also numerous local, state, and federal law officers present. There is also an extensive emergency medical operation.
Lamps are lit at night to help Burners find their way. The lamp lighters are volunteers who have their own camp.
Providing ice for Burners to keep their food (and beer) cold is also a major operation run by volunteers. A recruitment poster urges Burners to sign up. Ice is one of the very few things you can purchase in Black Rock City.
The tongue in cheek sign at the top of the post refers to the numerous banks of port-a-potties found throughout Black Rock City and out on the Playa. An army of trucks is constantly servicing the outhouses. (Photo by Don Green.)
I found this in one of the toilets. I imagine that this sign had some city folks checking. (grin)
Sand spiders are more dangerous.
Heat, wind, and dust storms are a part of life at Burning Man. It can also rain.
This photo was taken a few minutes after the above photo. The storm has arrived!
While it is important to be prepared for the heat and dust storms, there is also great beauty and good weather at Burning Man.
Looking out from our camp at the sunset.
And a rainbow.
If things get too rough out in the desert, you can always stop and have a beer.
Next Blog: Some really cute seals and the beautiful Pt. Lobos nature reserve near Carmel.