About 80,000 people descended on a barren desert about 100 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada, last weekend to take part in a cultural phenomenon with roots in San Francisco.

What is happening: Burning man.

  • After a three-year hiatus from the playa, the nine-day event – described as “one town”, “not a festival” – began on Sunday, continuing over Labor Day weekend.

The context: Burning Man was born in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Francisco when two friends built an 8ft ‘man’ out of reclaimed wood, doused it in gasoline and set it on fire in front of a group of about 35 people.

  • Golden Gate Park police eventually raised concerns about the annual fires, and in the early 1990s the event found a new home in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
  • Burning Man is built around 10 principles, including “Radical Autonomy”, “Radical Self-Expression”, and “Radical Inclusion”.
  • Famously, there are no trash cans in the pop-up city – known as Black Rock City – since one of its principles is to “leave no trace”.

Why is it important: A return to the playa – and all of its eccentricities – is, ironically, a return to normalcy for many.

Last week, Adam Simons, a San Francisco resident who attended his first Burning Man in 2000, told us that “most people are really excited to be back.”

  • “A lot of those friends are friends we really don’t see except at the Burn,” he said. “People in San Francisco are especially happy because we’re here all summer in the fog, then we come out and it’s real summer for the first time.”

Details: Burning Man 2022 marks Simons’ 14th trip to Black Rock City, and for the past decade he’s been part of “Salty Jacks” — a nautical-themed camp that “functions as a bar and dance club,” did he declare.

  • The camp also has a “mutant vehicle”, described by Simons as a “heavily modified bus” that circles the playa, plays music and picks up people who want to go on “cruises”.

What they say : “There are about 1,000 different scenes happening there [in the desert] and many of them are [put on by people from San Francisco]”, said Simons. “So it’s pretty cool to go there and see a different version of the creativity of the city.

  • By the numbers: In 2019, the last time Burning Man performed in the desert, just over 10% of the 78,850 people in attendance were from San Francisco, a Burning Man spokesperson told Axios.

As for the reader in Black Rock City, Simons says that from San Francisco it can take about seven hours to get there and about seven hours of waiting in the car to get in.

  • “You just have to be ready for a long run,” he said. “Once you’re there, it’s best to just be there and let your vacation begin online.”