way out yonder at burning man


One of my favorite experiences this year was the nature tour I took outside the festival. I knew it would be a good one when we were getting on the funky old bus and the tour guide said, “Don’t disturb the bag in the front seat of the bus, there’s a live bat in there.” We drove 17 miles across the playa while a Bureau of Land Management expert talked all about the geology, environment, history, and wildlife of the area. I learned a few things:

– It’s the largest dry lake bed in the U.S., and one of the biggest in the world.
– The lake was once 500 feet deep.
– The area was once a thriving ecological niche for sequoia trees and mastodons.
– There are hot springs in the area that are hot enough to kill you and actually did kill a woman in 2000.
– People whose hobby is shooting off extremely large home-made rockets use this area as a launching pad.
– It’s also used for a variety of real rocket launches and land speed record attempts.
– There’s gold in them thar hills around the Black Rock Desert, but illegal to mine there.
– You can go driving around this area on your own any time you want but you better bring 4-wheel drive, rebar spikes and a winch, extra food and water, extra spare tires, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a satellite phone, a Swiss army knife, keg of beer, dynamite, and a band-aid.

I saw a most excellent full moon rise over the distant hills. I saw a black widow spider, horned toad lizards (I think I got the name right), miscellaneous bugs, a few birds, and bats. Our guide had a bat that had been captured in someone’s tent and he released it into the wild. The free bat climbed into a dark place beneath a large bush/tree. I met a fellow skeptologist on the bus (Hi Jon!) and we are scheming some sort of skeptic themed camp next year.

Brave little bat.



One thought on “way out yonder at burning man

  1. dan-fantastic. love the stories and makes me wanna hop on that nature tour bus next year. (there are so many things to do @ bman; it’s amazing.) something abt the playa, the lake bed has intrigued me since i first experience it. i’ve searched for photos of the playa as a lake (though shallow it may be) and have not had any luck finding any images. none-the-less, thank you for that wonderful bit of into. happy bat-the only living creature at bman-for a short while. can’t wait to see/hear the skeptologist themed camp…looking forward to that!

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