I live in Nevada, not far from the Black Rock Desert Wilderness/High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area where Burning Man has been held since 1990. September 2020 would have been Black Rock City’s 30th Anniversary. https://burningman.org/
Last March, I was finalizing a contract to work for the medical clinic at Burning Man 2020. Working at the clinic had been a dream since my first burn in 2010 and my last burn in 2013 when I was a patient in the clinic. However, the world shut down, and The Burning Man Organization canceled the event in April. The Bureau of Land Management did not shut down access to the Black Rock Desert, so I took a trip to the playa because I could.
I feel the need to put out a disclaimer now - the route I took to get on to the Black Rock Desert is NOT safe, and I do not recommend this route and trip unless you have a local guide plus a long list of survival gear including a personal locator beacon. This area is remote with no services, no cell service, and very few people. People die out there - no joke. So why did I do this as a solo trip? Because I am very familiar with the area, I have been doing solo trips for many years and I had a person whom I trusted to send out help if I did not return by a certain time. https://blackrockdesert.org/camping-in-the-nca/
Jungo Road and The Hycroft Mine
The first 64 miles/103 km of Jungo Road is used to access a massive gold & silver mine owned by Hycroft Mining. This road has a reputation for eating tires, and you encounter large mine busses moving fast. Sometimes it is blacktop pavement, and sometimes it is gravel. The mine is the town of “Jungo, Nevada.”
The Ghost Town
Following the unofficial, Burning Man sign, I arrived in the ghost town of Sulphur, Nevada. Nothing remaining but the roof to the old bar and old home. It is another 25 miles/40 km to where I plan to enter the Black Rock Desert playa.
Where The Streets Have No Name
Jungo Road runs parallel with a railroad track, and there are only a few places where you cross the track to access the playa. These crossovers are called “sidings.” These roads require high clearance, 4x4 vehicles with good tires. (Trust me, you do not want to blow a tire out here.)
I watch my GPS for the turnoff that will take me to an entrance north of Black Rock City. I find my road, put the truck into 4x4, and head to the playa. The road is surrounded by overgrown sagebrush. It scrapes the truck as I move slowly, carefully navigating through the rutted & sandy road. The anticipation builds as I see the vast expanse of the playa in front of me. I have seen no one since I left the mine. Will there even be a Black Rock City this year? So many questions fill my head as I creep along.
When I reach the playa, again, I see no one. The playa is a seasonal lake that has been baking in the 100-degree sun all summer and is rock hard. I take the truck out of 4x4 and into Land Yacht mode, taking her up to 70 mph/113 kph on the open lake bed, leaving a huge plume of dust.
As I move south, small outcrops of humanity begin to manifest. A single RV here, a group of campers there. I begin to slow down as more camps appear. I roll down my window and the bumping base of a sound camp fills my ears. I smile, I am home. To be continued...