(WPRI) — The mud has dried up at the Burning Man festival allowing thousands of people to finally get out of the desert.
“I could feel my tent sinking into the mud, so I just kind of sat at night and was like, you know, I might wake up either in quicksand or hoping that the elements don’t get me,” Fiona Hillery said.
Hillery, a Rhode Island native, attended the festival in Nevada, which is a week-long large-scale desert campout focused on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.
“When I got there everything was amazing but there was a lot of grittiness that you don’t really see on social media, you have to build all the camps yourself,” Hillery explained.
“I went with a group who had established their camp but I didn’t know I would be popping up my own tent, going to the bathroom in portapotties, so it is a little unglamorous at times,” she continued. “Yet it was amazing in the first few days with the creativity and community and expression and a lot of love.”
However, this year’s festival was disrupted when more than half an inch of rain fell at the site on Friday, leaving tens of thousands of partygoers stuck in foot-deep mud and with no working toilets.
“As the rain came things got real and there was a sense of panic for some so I think that was a shift energetically, but you did get to see the best of the Burning Man community come together,” Hillery said.
Some people tried to leave the campsite on foot, many barefoot or with plastic bags on their feet, but a majority of festival-goers, including Hillery, decided to stay and wait.
Organizers closed the festival to vehicles after one person died, but organizers said the death of a man in his 40s wasn’t weather-related.
Those who were stuck were urged to conserve supplies of food and water since the event is remote and most people bring their own supplies.
“I waited until some friends with an RV felt prepared enough to leave when the playa had dried out, so we were planning to go for days but it was only [Monday] when it was actually dry enough to drive on,” Hillery said.
On Monday, event organizers opened up the road and started to let traffic flow out of the main road, but there was an estimated wait time of about five hours.
Hillery said despite everything she plans to go back again next year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.