Soak, the first regional Burn in the Portland area, was held on the Central coast of Oregon near Waldport over the first weekend of June. It took place on 80 acres of beautiful landscape containing a lake, sweat lodge, playground, orchard, and many other attractions.
I was the main organizer of 1derland, a loose collective of Burners and other friends from the Portland area inspired by the tales of Lewis Carroll. The weekend pulled over 240 burners from all over Oregon and included a few family members from California, Washington, and even Vancouver BC. Most everyone was set up in a tent with a small minority in trailers and RV’s.
The moment we turned off of Highway 34 onto the single lane road up the mountain we knew it was to be a good weekend. The road up was filled with signs warning of gnomes, a non-actual shutdown of the event, and many other notices that provoked laughter and playfulness. Upon reaching the Greeters station we were embraced in hugs and fed the needed information to enter. We were very happy to see that there were port-a-potties stationed in all major areas. Rangers and medics were in abundance.
1derland was the largest of about a half dozen theme camps at Soak; we numbered about 30 happy campers. My wife, Emily and I were among the first of the camp to arrive, reaching the property at about 5 p.m. on Friday evening. Under bright blue skies littered with the occasional cottonball cloud we raised camp. We spent the first few hours erecting a large carport structure and getting our sound system up and running.
In the waning light it was easy to see the Rain Man. Standing near 20 feet tall, he sported a turnip-like head that was to be lit on Saturday night. Firecrackers popped and hissed into the darkness to the cheers of onlookers. We continued our setup before tracking down friends who had been arriving during this time.
For illumination we went simple: We used strands of Christmas lights, an oil projector, and a few other light gadgets. Near the carport we planted some eight-foot-high 2 x 4s, attaching eye bolts to the top. We then strung rope and created a small dance floor encircled by Christmas lights.
Next we planted our giant mushrooms, an amazing decoration using umbrellas. We encircled these with some giant flowers.
Around 10 p.m., a large contingent of our camp arrived, about 30 people. We got our sound system going and that got other peoples’ attention. We had several good DJs playing everything from deep house on through to hard-core. Much drinking ensued. I managed a trial run of some of the tunes that I have set up for Burning Man and with great success.
We were visited many times in the night by one of the only art cars on site over the weekend, a boat frame on top of a golf cart decorated with a simple pirate flag. At one point during the weekend this boat was hijacked by two pirates who proceeded to taunt the owners and on Friday night the boat capsized in front of our dancefloor spilling its occupants to damp grass. The boat was also seen parked in the middle of our dancefloor with the occupants dancing on the bow. It became a standard image for the weekend.
I managed to climb into bed about 7 a.m. on Saturday morning after a long night. I slept for a few hours and was awoken by a bullhorn outside my tent. A few middle fingers and cuss words ensued and I was back to sleep. After a few hours and a little drinking the morning lead to afternoon. I pulled out the records and dropped into a four-hour set. Mixing tracks and feeling the afternoon was one of my highlights.
Our camp was bustling with activity and many friendly faces were around. At this point I was scheduled to greet so I pulled on my best wig and vinyl skirt and made my way to the Greeters station. Most everyone had already arrived ,and it was very quiet at the station so we did what any bored person might do: We poured gasoline in the burn barrel and tried to remove our body hair with little luck and were left with a fire that would not light.
When I finished my shift and got back to camp at around 7pm practically everyone was in costume. Sadly, it was cold, which put a damper on our camp’s planned Drag Night, and some of the more revealing outfits were covered up. We had a school girl and several other woah-mans who had come out to scare the weekend warrior types. We were also graced by the presence of a Mad Hatter and the aforementioned pair of pirates.
As the night started to darken, the skies were taken over by a flamethrower and a procession of drummers leading the masses to the Burn. With the aid of the flamethrower, and accompanied by fireworks mistakenly launched into the crowd, the Man proceeded to burn.
Almost immediately as the Man fell the rain began. Some people braver than others danced around the fire. Myself and family made our way back to camp. I set up the DJs and got them running. My wife then put our son in bed and the tequila flowed. As soon as our burn barrel was lit the crowd was drawn to the fire. We had community umbrellas, which allowed many people to dance and still stay dry.
At one point Emily told me that our tent was leaking. The rain fly had plenty of condensation and had been dripping onto our bed. The night was cold as all hell and the rain fell hard. Many people were flooded out of their tents.
By morning my clothes were all soaked except for a clean pair of underwear, a jacket and a pair of socks I had forgotten in the trunk of the car. Luckily a friend let me borrow some firefighters pants and they became my comfort for a rough day ahead.
This was the day to tear down and begin home. The rain seemed never-ending. Slowly but surely items got packed. As people began to leave, a big problem presented itself. The ground was slick and many cars were unable to drive away. Vehicles had to be pushed over the slightest of hills, and the heavier vehicles were nearly mired. There was a single tow truck driver in the area, and he began to rescue people, joined by a few drivers in sturdy vehicles with tow ropes.
We had to tow my car and Emily’s car more than 50 yards to get to the main road. We had brought two cars to haul all the necessities of camp and in return had twice the effort to escape the mud.
In so many ways this day was the worst but it was the best. Everyone was getting dirty and soaked but the still helped each other and dug in and got it done. There was so much a sense of community. No one person was left behind to fend for themselves. The descent down the mountain was quiet and rainy. Nearly three hours of driving and we arrived home by 8 P.M. It was a hell of a weekend not soon to be forgotten.
You can see more photos of Soak at www.burningmanportland.com