A Burning Man attendee scooped mud with his hands to drive out of the festival, but has no regrets even though others were upset he bailed

  • A Burning Man attendee says he was scooping away mud with his hands so he could leave the festival.

  • He told Insider it took him four hours just to clear camp, then he had to drive another 12-and-a-half hours home.

  • But other Burners were disappointed that he bailed on the festival.

Someone who attended Burning Man this year told Insider that he had to scoop mud and water with his hands so he could make it out of the festival in his 2010 Toyota Prius.

Veloci-crafter — who asked to be identified by his "Playa name" because he skipped a family function to attend Burning Man and doesn't want to upset his mother — made it out of the muddy mess that became Burning Man 2023 despite warnings to hunker down and disappointment from other event-goers who disapproved of his decision to bail.

"I can see why that would upset other people," Veloci-crafter admitted, "but I had to balance my own actions and the responsibility I felt to the community there, and then the responsibilities I had toward the folks at home."

He added: "It wasn't a lightly taken choice because I was putting my own vehicle at risk. I was putting my own exodus at risk."

The Burning Man attendee ended up at the week-long festival in the harsh Nevada desert because his friends, who have camped for the last 8-10 years, had "a couple of slots open...so I just jumped on it," he told Insider.

The first part of the trip was easy; it took him about 12 hours to drive to the Black Rock Desert from Seattle. He arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning — the first day of the event — just in time to see the sun rise over the gates as he waited in line to enter.

Veloci-crafter said the first week was "really amazing in every way." Then the rain hit.

When the storms that soaked the event hit, he was napping in a neighboring tent, expecting it to let up after an hour or so. When it didn't stop, he ended up "sloshing through the mud" to get back to his camp and help out.

In their case, the structure they had erected had a flat top, and water was pooling up fast. Veloci-crafter was able to make a drainage system using hoses.

At that point, "We all just kind of rode it out that night. Everyone, all the camps kind of banded together. All of a sudden the goal was to hang out with your campmates instead of going out to see the art, because everything was kind of shut down," he said.

On Saturday, he helped to organize his camp's inventory and took everyone's cell phones to a point of service so they could get real-time updates on news and weather.

A snowman made of sand and mud at Burning Man.
A snowman made of sand and mud at Burning Man.Turiqois Warrior

But Veloci-crafter knew he had to get home. He had friends watching his two dogs in Seattle and he had to get back to show up at his job on Tuesday. On Sunday, he made the decision to try to leave.

After making sure everyone in his camp was "fine" with enough food and water, he spent seven hours scouting out the Playa and the roads, looking for an escape route. Finally, he found one.

"There's not harm in seeing how far I can go," he thought at the time, fully expecting to get stuck. He said his main goal during the exodus was to protect the Playa, so he only made decisions that wouldn't damage the land.

He thought, "It's now or never," when he saw rainclouds starting to break over mountains about 15 miles in the distance.

He hopped in and got to work. He said his strategy was to "identify a place where I could bring my car safely." He'd then get out, scope out the next 300 or so feet, and continue his slow drive until he reached the next safe spot.

"I just went inch by inch," he said.

When he got stuck, he said he used his hands to scoop water and mud aside so he could pass. On particularly swampy areas, he laid out a mesh net to drive over, making a bridge to cross in the mud.

One of the biggest challenges wasn't the mud, though: it was other Burners who were disappointed in his choice to abandon them in a crisis. He said one stopped their bike directly in front of his car and refused to let him pass.

Along the way, he said he felt a sense of community among "those other folks who are, for their own personal reasons, making that dangerous trek." He cleaned up trash he saw and recycled it to camps that needed stray items, like carpets or wood.

Ultimately, he said he felt it was "counterintuitive" to be "critical" of other Burner's decisions.

Staying at Burning Man "just wasn't the best decision for everybody," he said.

"There are different paths and choices for everybody," he told Insider. "Some people had the privilege of staying and not worrying about it. I just didn't have those, just weren't my circumstances. And so the best I could do was try to respect the Playa," he said.

Reflecting, he said, "I think any bad experience is just the beginning of another good experience you didn't anticipate."

Read the original article on Insider