By Deb Prothero
Photo by Caleb Ahnefeld/Swamp Monster
Most Burners don’t have the fortune of visiting Frog Pond nor the potential misfortune of traveling the Jungo Road. But as America celebrated Independence Day this year, about 100 Burners observed the Fourth of Juplaya in the steamy environs of the hot springs near the mysterious desert thoroughfare not far from Black Rock City.
Meanwhile, about 300 other Burners braved the dusty Playa proper to try out different aspects of their art for the 2009 Evolution theme.
For several weeks leading up to the 4th, Bob Noxious’s Duck project was the subject of scorn on Tribe.net, a social-networking site popular with the Burning Man community. Upon arrival at Frog Pond, each vehicle drove past a larger-than-life Duck sculpture crafted from scrap metal. The purple Duck’s tail feathers were large pipes serving as fireworks launch pads for the whole weekend. Suffice to say the word ‘duck’ will never be quite the same among Burners.
Burners drove into Frog Pond over a few days with a full house by late Friday in preparation for the big day on Saturday. Some fireworks were ignited Friday evening but the most excitement was left for Saturday’s celebration after the elimination of Frogbat for the sixth straight year.
Frogbat is an endearingly hideous metal amalgam of a frog and a bat. It was created by Otto Von Danger and filled with various explosives and fireworks, with a couple of propane tanks thrown in for good measure. Once set up, the artwork is destroyed by firing squad. This year, it was more like a whole company, with about 75 participants taking aim.
Risky brought her Bushmaster Carbine 223 and was inundated by those who would partake of the special weapon. Compared with the rat-a-tat-tat of the hunting shotgun or long arm rifle, the Bushmaster’s concussion was persuasive.
Frog Pond is off limits to Burners during Black Rock City’s fleeing existence, since the ecosystem is considered too fragile to accommodate hoards of dusty Burners. Nevada is home to many hot springs, often, like Frog Pond, in relatively remote locations.
The springs are north of Nevada Highway 447 on Jungo Road, that tire-eating short cut from Winnemucca to Gerlach that Burners are warned to avoid. Yet Frog Pond is only 12 miles away from 447, and the road there is passable if you pay sufficient attention to the road’s washboard effect.
Over in the coolest pond, a reported sighting of the Swamp Monster was confirmed by several participants. Various other fauna were also spotted including many bats, a rattle snake and at least one scorpion. The bull frogs sang us to sleep in the early hours just before dawn.
Some say 4th of Juplaya is much like the old days of Burning Man. Smaller crowds, lots of guns and fewer rules than modern Black Rock City, but the 10 principles hold the community together. Many from the Playa wandered over for a dip in Frog Pond when they were departing on Sunday so it was a lazy day surrounding the ponds for visits.
Naturally, excessive quantities of bacon were consumed.