The Black Rock Desert is one of the most remote areas in the world. You may know it for being the famous home of Burning Man. But have you ever thought about what it’s like with no one else around?
I’ve never camped there alone, and the idea intrigued and intimidated me at the same time. The Black Rock Desert is over 2 hours from the nearest large city, Reno, and stretches over 1,000 miles of wilderness. It was chosen for Burning Man because of its remoteness and magic.
I had to know what it would feel like to be there all alone, so I made a plan to go alone and camp overnight.
I’ve visited Black Rock many times before, nine times for the annual Burning Man event, and twice with a small group for stargazing.
From those experiences I know a few key things:
There is no water or shelter anywhere nearby.Mobile signal is weak at best.It’s entirely likely that you could go all day without seeing another person pass by, so you’d better be radically self-sufficient. The wind can be very strong, and there is no way of knowing from weather forecasts what might be on the beach, which is a dry lake bed.
But apart from that, I also knew that I was likely to be the only one for miles. I wanted the peace and solitude, even if it meant I would have to deal with some harsh conditions. The incredible sky would be my reward.
But it’s the kind of camping that makes me feel alive.
Let me introduce you to my partner in crime, Bruce.
A camper van would be great, I’ll admit, but I love that Bruce can take me on 4×4 roads. It’s an old van with the perfect sleeping situation in the bed with a cover. I can fit a twin mattress and carry all the supplies I need. It’s amazing to be able to arrive and not have to set up camp, and equally amazing to leave the next morning like I’ve never been there.
My preparation was easy and simple, I’ve camped before, and many times alone to boot. But camping alone in an established camp is one thing, and being all alone without any services is another.
The biggest doubt I had was whether it would be spooky to be out there alone.
I arrived in time to settle in and enjoy the golden hour. I had partly gone there to photograph some new designs for Wanderbabe Clothing, and to do this behind-the-scenes look at how I take my own travel photos:
Then, as the sun began to set, the wind picked up and I was grateful that the lake bed wasn’t totally dry and dusty yet. Winds were in excess of 20 – 30 mph.
Once again, I was glad I was in a truck and not a tent.
I was also quite pleased with my new tripod, the first one I had spent over $200 on. It proved to be worth it when I was able to continue taking my night shots. After all, I was out for the stars.
And once darkness fell and I could see all around me, the stars showed themselves in their dazzling glory, with only the faint light of Gerlach in the distance, looking like the promised land.
I challenged myself to get uncomfortable all the time. I’ve already camped in the middle of nowhere, hiked solo down a canyon wall, hiked at night alone in bear territory, and so much more. But, it’s been a while, and I had to rediscover who I am.
Sitting there, I remembered the feeling of fear mixed with excitement.
Solitude can be like a drug to me. I long for those moments under the stars, just me to build an impression, with no one else coloring me. I feel like I am communing with Mother Nature and returning to my primal roots. But, at the same time, I feel closer to a higher consciousness or divinity.
When it’s this quiet, I face everything and nothing at the same time. does it make sense? It’s total peace, but it can also drive the mind crazy.
And I like that challenge.
Although it was colder and windier than I expected and I didn’t get much sleep, when my alarm went off to watch the sunrise I knew I had to put on some gloves and go for it. The temperature was 26°F, but the wind has finally died down and I remembered from my previous experiences at Black Rock that the sunrise is the best part.
And this one did not disappoint.
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