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Sunrise on the playa -- bodies refresh and unwind
It's the end of the day for some, the start of the day for others

- Leslie Fulbright, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, September 3, 2005

(09-03) 04:00 PST Black Rock City, Nev. -- Every morning at about 6:15 a.m. screams of delight rise from the playa as those who are awake welcome the sun as it rises over the mountains surrounding Black Rock Desert.

It has long been a Burning Man tradition to hail the rising and setting of the sun by shouting, whistling and singing. But it is at dawn that Black Rock City is at its most interesting, as the worlds of night and day converge.

The dusty streets of the playa, as the desert here is known, are all but empty, and those who are out tend to walk instead of driving art cars or riding bikes.

Early-rising joggers fresh from their sleeping bags run past ravers who have been dancing all night. People doing yoga and tai chi dot the playa, as do couples hugging and kissing.

Those looking for a bite duck into one of many breakfast theme camps that offer everything from "porn and eggs" to coffee enemas. The Pancake Playhouse that sells coffee is especially popular, and the line is often an hour long.

"White trash breakfast day is my favorite," Molly Hartman of Seattle said as she waited in line. "They blast Lynyrd Skynyrd at like 6 in the morning."

Burners wandering past Happy Camp earlier this week found they could trade a smile for a mimosa. Cash is largely useless here, as Burning Man prides itself on its gift economy.

As a dreadlocked woman waving a long purple ribbon invited people into Happy Camp, a bartender wearing only a lime green miniskirt demanded that visitors scream "happy" before he hands them their drink, a mix of orange juice and Champagne.

They serve passion fruit smoothies over at the Black Rock International Burner Hostel, a theme camp hosting visitors from abroad. And those who beat the rush to the cafe at center camp one morning this week found a generous burner had left an ample supply of Kahlua and amaretto for those looking to kick up their coffee. Such a drink might have gone well with the chocolate mocha cream puffs and Champagne served from a cooler by a lone man on the playa who identified himself only as "Short Fuse."

And because the party never ends at Burning Man, many dance clubs open at sunrise, providing a thumping soundtrack for those just waking up. There is rarely a shortage of people eager to dance the morning away. But others prefer calmer and more meaningful activities.

Rose Eggers, 26, of Denver said sunrise was her favorite time to escape the madness, collect her thoughts and meet new people. For three days in a row, she rode her fuzzy purple loveseat art car out to the perimeter fence to watch the sun come up.

On Wednesday, she brought a friend she met earlier in the evening.

"It's such a romantic and beautiful way to get to know someone," Eggers said. "We stopped to get a tequila sunrise and then rode the couch out and watched the sun come up. All we both could keep saying was 'Wow.' "

Many of the meditation and spiritual workshops take place in the early morning. The HeeBeeGeeBee Healers lead an hour of meditation and a chakra breath class. Burners can learn tai chi while drinking chai tea. And early risers can have their dreams interpreted inside the Dreamer, a giant purple head that rises from the playa.

But others prefer more solitary endeavors. Grant Gleason, 46, of New York said he ran from Center Camp to the perimeter fence surrounding the playa and then back again each morning.

"It is about 5 kilometers," he said "and the best way to start the day before you ruin your body again."

E-mail Leslie Fulbright at

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©2005 San Francisco Chronicle


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