The annual Burning Man festival will come to an end on Monday night with the burning of ‘the man’ – concluding perhaps the saddest Burning Man ever, and leaving the waterlogged Nevada desert strewn with abandoned boots stuck in the mud and acres of trash.
Organizers on Monday said 64,000 revelers remained on the site, and begged those trying to leave the filthy encampment to have patience and kindness.
A half-inch of rain fell on Friday, turning the site into a quagmire, and attendees were told not to leave because the exit roads were impassable.
Some said that the dramatic weather engendered a sense of community, but others admitted there was a mild panic at the thought of being stuck there with dwindling food and water.
The road reopened at 2pm on Monday and ‘the exodus’ could begin: Those leaving the festival before ‘the burn’ on Monday night faced five hour waits in their vehicles until they reached the open road.
‘Take it slow and mind those directing traffic,’ organizers pleaded.
‘Please be patient as you exit through Gate Road, and respect Burning Man staff who are working hard to make the Exodus experience as smooth and safe as possible.’
People in parrot suits sit on Monday and stare out at ‘the man’ – the effigy in the distance
People are pictured wading through the mud in Nevada on Monday
Shai Peza of Chicago dances in the mud after the rain on Saturday
Molly of Salt Lake City poses for a photo at Burning Man
Lines of traffic stretch to the horizon on Monday as thousands of people attempted to leave
People were being urged to delay their departure until Tuesday if possible.
They were also asked not to attempt to walk. Some attendees – among them comedian Chris Rock, actor Austin Butler and DJ Diplo – had already left the festival on foot.
Weather permitting, ‘the Man’ is scheduled to be torched at 9 pm on Monday, while the temple is set to go up in flames at 8 pm on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service in Reno said it should stay mostly clear and dry at the festival site Monday, although some light rain showers could pass through Tuesday morning.
The event began on August 27 and had been scheduled to end Monday morning, with attendees packing up and cleaning up after themselves.
‘We are a little bit dirty and muddy, but spirits are high. The party still going,’ said Scott London, a Southern California photographer, adding that the travel limitations offered ‘a view of Burning Man that a lot of us don’t get to see.’
Attendees walk through a muddy desert plain on Monday
Muddy boots are abandoned by the side of the road on Monday
Burning Man organizers announced on Monday it was safe to leave, but said no one could drive out of the event at speeds higher than 10mph
Hundreds of Burning Man attendees who planned to leave on buses wait for information about when they will be able to leave
A man surveys the muddy scene in Black Rock, Nevada, on Monday
‘Dirty D’ of Los Angeles dives into the mud at Burning Man
One person could even be seen with a boat that had been parked up on the site
The annual gathering, which launched on a San Francisco beach in 1986, attracts nearly 80,000 artists, musicians and activists for a mix of wilderness camping and avant-garde performances.
Disruptions are part of the event’s recent history: Dust storms forced organizers to temporarily close entrances to the festival in 2018, and the event was twice canceled altogether during the pandemic.
At least one fatality has been reported, but organizers said the death of a man in his 40s wasn’t weather-related.
The sheriff of nearby Pershing County said he was investigating but has not identified the man or a cause of death.
President Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware on Sunday that he was aware of the situation at Burning Man, including the death, and the White House was in touch with local authorities.
The event is remote on the best of days and emphasizes self-sufficiency.
Amid the flooding, revelers were urged to conserve their food and water, and most remained hunkered down at the site.
Some attendees, however, managed to walk several miles to the nearest town or catch a ride there.
Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz, posted a video to Instagram on Saturday evening showing him and Rock riding in the back of a fan’s pickup truck. He said they had walked six miles through the mud before hitching a ride.
‘I legit walked the side of the road for hours with my thumb out,’ Diplo wrote.
Diplo had ski goggles to protect his eyes from the desert dust as he left the site
Actor and comedian Chris Rock, 58, found himself amidst the muddy chaos that descended upon the Burning Man festival site and hitched a ride out of the chaos on Saturday
Lines of traffic snake across the desert on Monday as festival attendees try to leave
Trash is left by the side of the road on Monday along the exit route out of Burning Man
People appeared to have just flung their trash bags out of their vehicles on Monday
The spirit of Burning Man is self-sufficiency, but many people appeared to have ignore it and left their trash behind
Cindy Bishop and three of her friends managed to drive their rented RV out of the festival at dawn on Monday when, Bishop said, the main road wasn’t being guarded.
She said they were happy to make it out after driving toward the exit — and getting stuck several times — over the course of two days.
But Bishop, who traveled from Boston for her second Burning Man, said spirits were still high at the festival when they had left.
Most people she spoke with said they planned to stay for the ceremonial burns.
‘The spirit in there was really like, ‘We’re going to take care of each other and make the best of it,” she said.
Rebecca Barger, a photographer from Philadelphia, arrived at her first Burning Man on August 26 and was determined to stick it out through the end.
‘Everyone has just adapted, sharing RVs for sleeping, offering food and coffee,’ Barger said.
‘I danced in foot-deep clay for hours to incredible DJs.’