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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Permaburn Review - First Ashes 2008

As noted below, I've just spent the weekend at Permaburn. My first priority was to try out some art and enjoy a regional camp-out. My second priority was to evaluate the Permaburn site and concept.

Portable Zen

If you've seen my prior art, you'll recognize some elements in my latest creation. It's meant to be a simple back-pack portable interactive Zen meditation piece. It's called Portable Zen.

I put it together just in time for the weekend. Dave Orel thought it needed a head. I think he did a nice job. We had to re-do the batteries to distribute the weight but got it working Thursday night.

When folded up, it fits nicely INSIDE the car. Unpacking and setup went well. The light winds mostly cooperated. I'll definitely have it out on the playa this year.

The rest of the trip went well too. We arrived Friday morning and helped tape the road for those to follow. The drive up was fast on open desert highway. The directions in to the site were clear.

The dirt road in from 395 is reasonably good. You might have trouble with entry and exit angles of long RVs on a few of the drainage dips, but any standard two-wheel drive with at least 7 inches of clearance will not have a problem. Greg pulled in a 24' trailer. Tom brought in one a bit shorter. A loaded down Geo Metro even showed up. The steepest part of the road is on a north face, so early spring access might be a bit of a problem depending on snow. But no problems this weekend.

First Arrivals

The site has excellent curb appeal as you top the final ridge over-looking Permaburn. You'll find a gently-slopping valley about a half mile long and a couple of hundred yards wide. This is where the sound camp was located. Music was already in the wind. So was a big white kite. Here we met one of the DJs and a few other early arrivals. But the road went on, so did we.

Toping the next ridge presented the caldera with a pond in the center. This is where most of the campers set up using the trees for shade, as did we.

This camp was about three tenths of a mile and a hundred feet above the sound camp with a nice over-looking view. There are also several small volcanic peaks around both valleys ranging from a couple, to several hundred feet higher. All of these peaks were on the property except for the highest.

As soon as we met the host and set up camp, we climb the closest one and found a fantastic view of Shasta, Lassen and other unidentified peaks of the Cascades. We were also overlooking a panoramic presentation of the Madeline valley to the south.

A Square Mile of Permaburn

The ground itself is mostly sage and rock with a few Juniper and other trees here and there. Virtually all of the ground is build-able with gentle slopes up to small peaks.

Currently the property is open range will cows making a muck of the ponds and leaving droppings. Be careful where you step! I speak from personal experience. One other negative were a few mosquitoes and flies from the pond and cows droppings. Greg promises the cows will eventually be fenced out by a large berm defining the property boundary.

As for First Ashes, the turn-out Friday night was light but picked up quite a bit on Saturday. A few came and went, with a total of between 40 and 50 over the weekend, mostly from Reno, Tahoe and Susanville. Yes, this was a small turn-out for a rave, but fair sized for a camp-out and provided a nice mix. The vibe was mellow with lots of interesting people. There was an excellent pot of chilli at the sound camp on Friday night and various food offered from camp to camp.

Besides music most of the time, there were quads and dirt bikes, someone shooting targets and several people with dogs. There was also a massage camp, trampoline and large swing. Camp Lazy Fucks from Klamath Falls had a nice chill shade up.

Most campers went hiking at one point or another. The ground invites it. I climbed four peaks with the highest providing a 360 degree view of northeastern California with the agricultural andranching valleys to the north and south.


On Sunday An and I hiked down to the reservoir and back. It's at least a mile long. Others swam there but we came down through the trees at a muddy cow dominated part of the shore so didn't go in. We followed cow trails back to camp. In total, I hiked 27 miles in three days.


The idea of Permaburn is visionary, the site is excellent and the commitment impressive. Greg plans to split the square mile up into eight, 80 acre parcels then sell quarter-acre lots for $200 each with an annual fee of $500. This is about what you'd pay for a storage spot anywhere else. It's certainly a LOT less expensive than driving an art car all the way back to the bay area. And it doesn't count the freedom to development and experiment in any way you like.

This annual fee will initially be used to improve the road as well as bring in water and other improvements. I imagine some form of on-site security will also be needed.

Greg and Friend Building Fire Ring

Permaburn Link

Greg hopes these lots will self organized into "theme" camps, creating central kitchens, bathrooms and hot tubs. These common facilities will anchor permanent "camps" of all types to explore different architectures, energy and art.

He sees Permaburn as a big "toy" to be created and explored by hundreds or eventually thousands of people over a period of years. He says he's in it for the long haul and not looking to make a profit, only recover costs.

It's an ambitious plan, but not unreasonable. The site is only five miles from highway 395 and 65 miles from Susanville. Permaburn is an inexpensive place to try out new building ideas and experiment with different materials as well as stage Burning Man projects which are too big for your driveway. It's also a nice place to get away for the weekend.

No, I haven't bought in yet, but it's on my list as soon as I come up with a purpose and a plan. And I will. The concept and ground invites the imagination to run wild.

And so will the Burners who come here.

Thanks to Greg for this excellent opportunity.

And a fun weekend.

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