Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Black Rock, Desert Storm Edition

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to make another pilgrimage out to the playa, this time with Ethel, Riley, and my workmate Rory. We went much deeper into the playa than I've ever been, trekking out to Black Rock Hot Spring, conveniently located in the shadow of the area's namesake...a big black rock. Many thanks to Rory for his spot-on navigation getting out there.

Our trip coincided with a Sunday night very near the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, and we were hoping to see some astronomical action. We got out there late in the afternoon after driving past the Burning Man site; preparations in full swing! We set up our camp just in time to take a dip in the springs and watch some stormy weather roll through.

Looking west from Black Rock Hot Spring

Looking south; the Burning Man site is just out of frame left and about 15-20 miles in the distance. Deep playa baby!

We had possession of a monster piece of camera gear: a Canon 200mm f/2. I had rented this beast for the weekend, and Riley and I had already put it to good use at a wedding the day before.

Riley wields a weapon of optical destruction

This hot spring is quite hot...uncomfortable to slide in to, OK to be in after a bit, but a bit scary when a patch of extra-hot water sidles by.

Murphy + hot water

Black Rock Hot Spring, breezy grass, and the big black rock

The weather was changing fast and provided a gorgeous backdrop for the whole evening. Clouds, nearby rain showers, and generous but distant lightning activity (probably 60-80 miles away) were our constant companions.

Rory enjoys the show

After the clouds mostly cleared around dusk, we had a brief period of clarity before they socked back in for a few hours. All through the night, the bright work lights from Black Rock City were a persistent beacon; preparations for Burning Man are truly 24/7.

Night beckons, next cloud set approaches

First stars peek through

After a long period of awesome clouds (but no stars and no meteor shower), we had some clearing just after moonset (rad, but no photos, sorry) and got back to hoping for some shooting stars. We saw a few here and there but not the 60-80/hr that were forecast. I finally gave up around 1am and called it a night. Riley and Rory stayed up a bit later and saw the activity pick up before they crashed.

After a few measly hours of sleep, we drug ourselves out of bed, packed up, and made tracks for home. This was a Sunday night, after all, so work was in our immediate futures!

As I've mentioned before, the Black Rock Desert is a stunning landscape and well-worth experiencing outside of Burning Man. It's all the more beautiful when bad weather rolls through; there's not really any place like it on earth.

Speaking of Burning Man, Ethel and I are t-minus-24 hours from being out there for 6 days with 50,000 of our closest friends. Can't wait to arrive at our second home! My next post will be lots of photos from Burning Man :)


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