Trip Report
Celebrating Awesomeness, A Burning Man TR
Thursday September 6, 2012 2:07pm
Sunset upon arrival
Sunset upon arrival
Credit: karodrinker
I've been waffling back and forth about writing this, as I'm not sure if I can do justice to what I witnessed.
But I have decided that sharing my experience with others might help consolidate my own thoughts and feelings, and if I can inspire even one person to smile, or give a loved one a hug, then writing this will be worth it.

Let's start almost a year ago at a good friends birthday party, at a karaoke dive bar...
I had just climbed the North West Face of Half Dome a few weeks earlier, and I was glowing with success and energy. The messy divorce I was entangled in, the dead end job I was stuck in, none of that was phasing me. Climbing the face of Half Dome in a push filled me with so much joy and enthusiasm for life, and everyone I met could feel it.

A girl from high school happened to also be at the party, someone I hadn't seen in over a decade. She too was glowing with energy, and the giant smile she wore was infectious. We began talking and she told me she had just returned from her first time at Burning Man, and as she talked about her experience camping in the dust at some temporary city in Northern Nevada, i recognized that she had also been filled with joy and enthusiasm for life and I could feel it.

We talked all night about our recent experiences, and even though I didn't understand why camping in the dust was so great, and she couldn't understand why spending 21 hours on a cliff was "fun", we both knew our lives had been changed.

Over the next few months we went on a few dates, realized we had lots in common, dated some more, and fell in love. In December, atop the 3 sisters formation at The Pinnacles National Monument, I asked her to be my girlfriend, and she said yes!

Earlier this year she bought a ticket to Burning Man 2012, but as I had recently been laid off and couldn't afford it, I did not. I wanted to go, but felt that the cost could not be justified at this point in my life. She said if I wasn't going, she would just sell her ticket because she didn't want to go without me. Come August, amidst a flood of depression and debt, I said F*#k it, and got a ticket off of craigslist. I had no idea how much work was involved, I figured it was like going camping in the mountains, an activity we had done together many times, I was so wrong!

The first challenge was living quarters, a nylon tent just doesn't cut it in 100 degree heat and whiteout dust storms. We found a Starcraft pop up trailer for 300 bucks and we got to work repairing the canvas, cleaning the inside and repairing the bearings. Meanwhile, we searched for a tandem bike to provide us transportation around the enormous Black Rock City. We bought a $60 dollar tandem off craigslist only to learn it was near impossible to find the parts to fix it in our short amount of time. Serendipitously, Alex at Faber's Bike shop in San Jose (a 100 year old establishment!) saw our bike and told us to bring it back the next day with some beers. Skeptically, we came back, to find a gorgeous classic tandem bike that Alex had bought with us in mind. We traded our bike plus a hundred bucks and spent 4 hours with Alex bringing the bike up to good riding form. Our trip, which had seemed impossible before, was beginning to become a reality, our living and transportation were handled!

With butterflies in my stomach, we packed up all that we thought we would need. It reminded me of packing for a Big Wall, with checklists and gear spread out all over the floor. The dry ancient lakebed that Black Rock City is built on is called The Playa. No water, no electricity, no grey water disposal. If we pack it in we were packing it out, another similarity with Big Walling.

It took us over 8 hours on wednesday to arrive at the gates of the city, and another 2 hours to get in. The line of cars and RV's at the gate would normally be a discouraging sight, but all the smiling, excited people wandering around outside their vehicles made it more of a fun, party atmosphere. These people were amped. Some of them had driven for days to be here but no signs of exhaustion or negativity could be seen. I even recognized a familiar face, my skateboarding buddy from San Jose and his girlfriend!
Finally reaching the front of the line after a thorough vehicle search for stowaways, I was asked a question by the greeter, a sagely looking man in his 50s.
"Is this your first time at Burning Man?"
"Yes, it is." I said anxiously.

He embraced me in a warm, loving hug and said, "Welcome Home. Now lets see a dust angel and hear you ring the bell."

I laid down on the soft thick dust and imagined I was in the snow, leaving a nicely formed angel on the ground and becoming covered in the finest white powdery dust I'd ever seen. I swung a metal bar against a thick metal bell, blasting the air around us with a huge "BONG." As i brushed myself off the greeter laughed and said "Don't bother!" We still couldn't see the city, but we were now heading towards it at the wicked fast speed limit of 5 mph.

As we approached the back of Black Rock City, lights could be seen for miles in both directions, and the occasional blast of fire would illuminate the apparent chaos. My first impressions were somewhat horrified, everything was just plastered with dust, my lungs were already feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable. We were going to be here for 5 days? What the hell had I signed up for?

My girlfriend had set us up with a theme camp that her childhood friend was a part of, so we made the journey around the clock shaped city to our home address of 10 o'clock and C. Feeling full of anxiety about finding a place to park our truck and trailer in this madness, as well as the realization that her friends would be virtually impossible to find, we nonetheless made our way to the NEXUS theme camp that would become our home. Against all odds, we found her friends in less than 5 minutes, and had our pop up set up in less than 20. Just in time for the camp's art car (a 30 ft long Louisiana style Bar on wheels, complete with lasers and a gigantic high end sound system) to sail us away for our first tour of Burning Man 2012. We saw so much that night, and as my faculties became diminished I was led to a place called the Temple. It appeared as if massive amounts of energy were coming out of the earth, through the temple and dispersing throughout the city beyond. Pulsing, powerful energy flowed continuously from this obviously sacred place full of meditators at 4 am. I was speechless as I gazed upon the building constructed entirely of intricate scrollwork in a way that made it appear to never stop moving. Looking at this building, I began to understand. I finally saw what it was that made my lover so excited the year before. This place was magic in the truest way I have ever seen, and it was the source that powered the spiritual side of this extraordinary city. Never before had I, a devout Atheist and believer in science, come face to face with such unmistakable spiritual energy.

We stayed out all night, and despite my growing exhaustion I stayed up and saw the sun rise over the Eastern Mountains, a ritual I would not miss again for the duration of our trip. Ah the sunrises. Indescribable beauty, set to booming house music that never got old.

We crashed out for a while in our little home, until even the thick canvas couldn't keep the heat out. Tired but happy, we got up to explore the city in daylight. We met our campmates at NEXUS, signed up for jobs, and immediately fell in to the swing of things. Introductions always included smiles and hugs and people everywhere were giving away whatever they could. I learned that money had no use here except to buy Ice, and contribution and positive attitudes were the highest goal. I learned that no sponsorship advertisements or promotions were allowed. No logos anywhere. Here were 5o thousand plus people doing all this just to be AWESOME!

A few days later my good friend Jimmy showed up to stay at the sk8 Kamp. Riding bowls and ramps in the desert dust together was unforgettable. Jimmy asked me to come with him to the Temple for support, as he had some heavy burdens to release. We cried together, we gave each other deep meaningful hugs.

The rest of our time was spent dancing, reveling in positive energy and expressing love towards one another the like of which I had never truly experienced before. My girlfriend and I fell deeper in love than I realized humans could. We watched the Man burn, sending tornadoes of smoke across the Playa. We danced during sunrise at Robot Heart, a massive dance party out in the open Playa that was always pumping. We saw the work of Alex Grey the artist at Fractal Nation and rode countless miles together on our beautiful efficient tandem bike. It was nothing less than a trip to Utopia. A glimpse into the heart of what mankind can be when we are free to be ourselves without judgement.

Our time there eventually came to end, as all things seem to do. But now after the long drive home, the cleanup, and all the hard work has come to a close, I now feel just like my love did a year ago when I met her. Glowing with life, optimism and hope for mankind's future.

Thank you, and may you be blessed with peace and love. Hug your loved ones. Hug a stranger. We are all in this together, and Love will heal all. See you next year on the Playa.

Written September 6th, 2012 by Kalen T. Glenn

In the entry line.  Anxious and Excited.
In the entry line. Anxious and Excited.
Credit: karodrinker
Dust Angels upon arrival.
Dust Angels upon arrival.
Credit: karodrinker
Epic Sunrises provided daily.
Epic Sunrises provided daily.
Credit: karodrinker
Love
Love
Credit: karodrinker
The Sacred Temple at sunrise
The Sacred Temple at sunrise
Credit: karodrinker
The Source
The Source
Credit: karodrinker
More epic sunrise.
More epic sunrise.
Credit: karodrinker
The Temple Gate
The Temple Gate
Credit: karodrinker
Astounding Creativity
Astounding Creativity
Credit: karodrinker




  Trip Report Views: 5,192
karodrinker
About the Author
Kalen Glenn is a father, climber, skateboarder and surfer from San Jose, CA.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
  Sep 6, 2012 - 02:29pm PT
I was hoping you'd put a TR together. In my four times on the playa I always wanted to write a TR, but was afraid that my writing wouldn't do it justice. Yours did. Thanks.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Sep 6, 2012 - 02:27pm PT
this thread is WORTHLESS without TITY pictures....
Branscomb

Trad climber
Lander, WY
  Sep 6, 2012 - 02:41pm PT
Thank you for the reassurance that these things are still happening. I forget and then, I'm like all the thousands and thousands of other forgetters, alone and scared. I hate it.

Thanks again, man, and like the saying that's on the barn as you're heading south on HY101 into Laytonville, CA, leaving the Emerald Triangle, "Don't Forget the Magic"
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 6, 2012 - 02:53pm PT
Ron, hopefully my blurry titty pic laying in the dust is enough for you. Perv ;)
adventurous one

Trad climber
Truckee Ca.
  Sep 6, 2012 - 02:59pm PT
Never before had I, a devout Atheist and believer in science, come face to face with such unmistakable spiritual energy.

That is why Burning Man has such a profound, life changing effect on most who have been. And why it is nearly impossible to explain the experience to any that have not felt it. 50,000+ human beings exuding unconditional love and oneness, without any judgment, is a unique and intoxicating sensation. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Sep 6, 2012 - 03:06pm PT
Really good TR. Thank you for sharing something different. Seems like a bunch of people come out with this same positive experience. Maybe I will try it some day, but don't think it will change my mind about the mankind!
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 6, 2012 - 03:08pm PT
You might be surprised Vitaly. That much love and energy transformed my views of humanity. I am jaded and disgusted by the wold today as anyone, but this... this was different.
Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
  Sep 6, 2012 - 03:16pm PT
How was your return to the default world? My first year was so intense, going back to the day in day out work routine was quite a shakeup.

In subsequent years I learned to be more mindful of the epiphanies I had on the playa and strove to translate them into daily life until next year when I got to go 'home'.
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 6, 2012 - 03:19pm PT
Brandon, I have a renewed sense of responsibility to find success. For me, my kids, and for my girlfriend. I am unemployed and was on the verge of feeling hopeless. I don't feel that way anymore.

edit: wow, just writing that made me cry. I know I will find success now. I actually believe it now.
Ben Rumsen

Social climber
No Name City ( and it sure ain't pretty )
  Sep 6, 2012 - 03:48pm PT
Great trip report. This was my 5th Burn, and 3rd year running a theme camp ( Camp D.O.A. ). It is still one of the most amazing things I've ever experienced !!
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Sep 6, 2012 - 03:53pm PT
Thanks Karo.

It's important to push new boundaries and invite the unexpected. Opens the eyes to new adventures yet to come, and changes the life in between.
this just in

climber
Justin Ross from North Fork
  Sep 6, 2012 - 04:12pm PT
Sounds like it was money well spent. Glad to read this and thanks for sharing. Very cool you got to see Alex Grey's work.
BurnRockBurn

climber
South of Black Rock City (CC,NV)
  Sep 6, 2012 - 04:32pm PT
Welcome to the power of the playa. Afer 11 years there I still cannot explain the energy there. You summed it up very well. It heals people. I met someone on the night of the burn that lost his daughter and wife 2 weeks before the burn. It was the only peace he had felt since the loss.
Its an amazing place. Head out there when the festival is not going on and you would be surprised that you get the same feeling as well.
Its a special place.....

Ron.........Maybe ill post one up for you later. NAH you have to go to see em.

Shawn

Karo. Glad you liked RobotHeart. Good friends of mine helped with that one. We built The PERVertical Playground that you may have seen at sunrise as well.
Glad you found yourself there....
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 6, 2012 - 08:55pm PT
Sounds like an incredible journey, thanks for taking us along!!!!!!!M
I may have to Check it out some day!
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 6, 2012 - 11:00pm PT
BRB, Robot Heart was wild! It never stopped! I even saw cops dancing there and getting hugs. And Ron, if you ever go, and you really want to see boobs, Robot Heart was the place to see em!
Vegasclimber

Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV.
  Sep 6, 2012 - 11:15pm PT
Thanks for taking the time to post this - you did a great job. My last burn was '97, but last year I watched the online cam every night, and felt the pull of the Playa again, and I really hope to return home someday.
Take all that positive energy and run with it man - good things are coming your way.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Sep 6, 2012 - 11:20pm PT
i went to one YEARS ago for a while on the way back from hunting. Seemed like 200 or so people just gettin all crazy and shyt around a big fire.. We saw boobies there!
enjoimx

Trad climber
SLO
  Sep 6, 2012 - 11:49pm PT
Cool trip report. I need to go back sometime!
Daphne

Trad climber
Northern California
  Sep 7, 2012 - 12:44am PT
Beautiful trip report! Thank you. I missed this year. It would have been my 8th in a row but my broken foot prevented me from feeling playa ready. It is a singular place. It is filled with magic and love. I watched you get ready for it on the climbing at bm thread and was filled with hope for you. I am SO glad that you found that it is your home, too. Big playa hug!
DerekCl

Trad climber
Altanta
  Sep 7, 2012 - 08:20am PT
Sorry I missed you out there. It was eye opening for me as well, definitely looking to head back out there in subsequent years. What time did you make it through the gate on Wednesday? We made it around 8:30, and I can't help but wonder if we were in line together.

My girlfriend was able to find some bouldering out on the playa:

http://on.rgj.com/SpCtYj
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 7, 2012 - 09:56am PT
We too made it through about 8:30 on Wednesday, too bad we didn't meet!
Rockin' Gal

Trad climber
Boulder
  Sep 7, 2012 - 02:42pm PT
TFPU! You really captured the spirit and milieu of BRC. I haven't been back in eight years...maybe some day/year/lifetime.
Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
  Sep 7, 2012 - 02:57pm PT
Can't...Resist...

Did you see this art car out there? Not sure if she's still going to the playa, but she's my baby. My job in camp every year was to assemble her. It took about two days. Building it in Placerville took months and months.





Not trying to detract from your awesome TR in any way. It just made me miss BRC more than ever.
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Sep 7, 2012 - 03:52pm PT
Aw Brandon what a beauty! I can't say that I saw it. There was just so much to see, it would be easy to miss anything!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Sep 8, 2012 - 07:03am PT
this thread is WORTHLESS without TITY pictures....
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Sep 8, 2012 - 08:45am PT
This place was magic in the truest way I have ever seen, and it was the source that powered the spiritual side of this extraordinary city. Never before had I, a devout Atheist and believer in science, come face to face with such unmistakable spiritual energy.

Indeed bro! I travel the world seeking to be in unmistakable spiritual energy and nowhere is it stronger than in the burning man temple. What other temple can you be assured someone has tears in there 24/7?

Glad you had a great burn. Me too!

Exploding the Man Burning 2012
Exploding the Man Burning 2012
Credit: Karl Baba

Loving my dusty friends Burning Man 2012
Loving my dusty friends Burning Man 2012
Credit: Karl Baba
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Sep 20, 2012 - 08:35am PT
Check out this burning man video trip report (NOT WORK SAFE)

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Sep 20, 2012 - 10:55am PT
whoa, what a great video...
wonderful kinetics
mountain dog

Trad climber
over the hills and far away
  Sep 20, 2012 - 11:08am PT
Cool report. Always want to go to the Burn. That last video made me dizzy.
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
  Sep 20, 2012 - 12:15pm PT
"Trip Report" never seemed more apropos.

Cool vid, fer sure.
Vegasclimber

Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV.
  Sep 20, 2012 - 02:39pm PT
That vid is badass. My gal saw it the other night and was telling me about it.
msiddens

Trad climber
  Sep 20, 2012 - 03:29pm PT
thanks, enjoyed that more than I thought I would! Video was amazing as well.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Sep 20, 2012 - 05:35pm PT
Karo,
Glad you had such a heartfelt experience. The hook though, is sustaining that attitude/vibe when back in the day to day. I hope you find ways to bring what you found there into your "real" life.

As its been said before...."men cannot stay on summits forever."

I hope you keep your chin up and find work and meaning in your marriage and your life from here on out. Thanks for the great report and photos.

Scott
BASE1361

climber
Yosemite Valley National Park
  Sep 21, 2012 - 11:21am PT
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxRAg9Pcpm4

Going to BM will change ones life forever. It's just a question of in what way it changes it.

Before I left I told someone "I'll see you when you return"
Their reply was "You don't ever fully come back from Burning Man. If it takes you in there is going to be a part left at the playa until next year when you return home."

Jebus H Bomz

climber
Old West Crackramento
  Sep 21, 2012 - 11:20am PT
Hula hoop vid is rad. This confirms, however, that I'm not allowed to go to BM. As my posting history shows, self control is not my forte.

And, oh yeah, Ron, your titty pics!
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Sep 21, 2012 - 11:33am PT
please note BM does NOT stand for "burning man" in NV, it does stand for Battle mountain,,or as we like to think of it,, bowel movement NV...
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Old West Crackramento
  Sep 21, 2012 - 11:36am PT
I work in medical, so I always think of the latter definition. It seems apropos either way. There's a beauty to being shat out into creation.

But really, Ron, "enlightened" young club girl tittayz! Set yer clicker fer the heart of the youtube!
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Sep 21, 2012 - 11:43am PT
it would only serve to remind me im like,,,GRANDPA in comparison (sigh) I USED to think the guy on LAUGH IN was an old perv, now,, i are he...
tornado

climber
lawrence kansas
  Nov 12, 2013 - 02:17pm PT
bump
Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
  Nov 12, 2013 - 02:39pm PT
I miss that place. Too many good memories to list, and they aren't memories of depravity. They are memories of building art with friends, getting to know strangers, and essentially creating a great time out of a blank playa.

I hear that it's getting rather large these days, many more tourists. That's ok, the core creative community will always be there.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Nov 12, 2013 - 05:10pm PT
This is so completely different from the impression I had formed about what burning man was! In 1996, a friend of mine showed me a video tape from the place, and what stuck in my brain was 50 naked bodies slithering over each other in a mud pile in the mid-day heat, with a ring of spectators. I was a bit horrified and afraid to go after that.

I guess like much of life, you get out of it what you bring to it and what you are looking for. I'm happy to have seen a slice of it from your perspective.

lucander

Trad climber
Shawangunks, New York
  Nov 13, 2013 - 01:24am PT
Great write up, so much more in line with what I want to imagine BM is about: more than tits in the desert and various hallucinogenics. Lay of the E and keep going back there. Stay with that lady too, she has a good smile and it seems like you're a part of it. That's priceless.
nah000

climber
no/w/here
  Nov 13, 2013 - 04:08am PT
didn't see this before.

thanks for bringing back a lot of memories with a truly soulful tr!
AP

Trad climber
Calgary
  Nov 13, 2013 - 10:26am PT
I have been 8 times and have had a lot of great fun but think I will give it a pass for a while. It is just too big and when things get that big it becomes more like the cities we are running away from and turns into a business. This is BIG business for the state of Nevada, the BLM, local cops, etc. This year there were an excessive number of law enforcement, most of whom were concentrating on busting people for pot instead of doing something useful like traffic safety (too many poorly loaded sketchy rigs on the road). Full time armed security at the Man. Maybe I am jaded but there don't seem to be many surprises any more. It is a good camping trip (or an exercise in recreational moving)but the radical is becoming mundane.
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 14, 2014 - 09:56pm PT
It's that time again, and I'm psyched to be going with Roberta once again. Who's going?
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Aug 15, 2014 - 04:45am PT
Get out there man and do your best!
bvb

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
  Aug 15, 2014 - 03:18pm PT
60,000 people? People with GUNS at the man, 24/7?! Last time for me was 1993, estimated at ~1000 people. I am seriously considering 2015, but...cops?
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Aug 15, 2014 - 06:16pm PT
You can look forward to aggressive surveillance this year out on that playa, including drones.
rottingjohnny

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
  Aug 15, 2014 - 07:42pm PT
Haven't been but would love to join Pyro's drum circle...
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
Author's Reply  Aug 17, 2014 - 03:42pm PT
I imagine local law enforcement earns most of their revenue for the year ticketing burners. Bunch of parasites, akin to mosquitos. Follow the rules, be discreet and things will be fine. Excited as hell to be huffing that playa dust.
adventurous one

Trad climber
Truckee Ca.
  Aug 18, 2014 - 12:05pm PT
Pictures and descriptions do not convey what Burning Man is....you will only understand by going.....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQPQn9TLpPY

Year 16, in a row, for me (man how time flies) ...usually only get to go for 10 days but going for 12 this year! (The "event" is 8 days but if you have an art project or theme camp that requires extra time to construct you can arrive earlier with an "early in" pass)

Something for everyone to enjoy..... regardless of age, social status, religion, national origin, or political viewpoint....whether you're the type who likes to spend all morning doing yoga/chanting/spiritual healing with world renowned yogis in a completely sober environment and then searching out all the amazing artwork the rest of the day; or maybe you prefer to stay out till the sun comes up every night, riding wild art cars and dancing at all the clubs and raves with your thousand best new friends....stock up on the caffeinated drinks, because you won't want to miss any of it...

Our camp, about 50 of us, has about an equal age representation of every decade, (our camp participants are from 17 years old to 74) and are a nice international mix; coming from Europe, Australia, and all over the States.

So many great friends, and memories, made at Burning Man over the years.
For me, Burning Man is about spending time with old friends and meeting interesting new ones.
Edit: (Ok, the yoga every day and dancing till the sun comes comes up is not bad either ;) )
Heading back "Home" to the Playa on Thursday to see them all again!!
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