Salt acts as the earthly ligature between fire (sun) and water (sea), the arcane substance whose patent ambiguities stem from its role as embodiment and juncture of opposites: purity and impurity, eros and enmity, wetness and desiccation, fertility and sterility, love and strife.
Aaron Cheak, PhD - The Hermetic Problem of Salt
On the playa we look to water to for survival, but water alone cannot replenish our bodies. We rely on it to think, to move, to digest, to keep equilibrium in our bodies and cells. The saltkin seeks to illuminate the history, philosophy, mythology, and alchemy of salt and spread our knowledge to the curious minds who seek to understand this cornerstone of life.
Beyond the majesty of its history and purpose in our world, we know salt is essential for restoring our mind and bodies after they are exerted, and the playa is a place that demands a lot of exertion. For maximal enjoyment, there must be rest - our camp acts as a place to gain energy and balance before venturing back out into the dust. We do this by offering gifts of a balanced electrolyte drink for proper hydration, salty snacks to nourish the body, and a shaded place to allow the mind to reset. Saltkin is a place to appreciate salt and the balance it brings.
The inspiration for the camp came struck on a sweaty, hot playa in 2017 while the founder was camping with the illustrious Black Rock Center for Unlearning. It was observed that there was a plethora of options available for alcoholic drinks available throughout Black Rock City, but a considerable absence of something a bit more refreshing. Water is the key to hydration, but it is not the only essential component - the lack of electrolytes was taking its toll. As a group that both appreciates the virtues of proper hydration and is one that tend to have more of a salt fixation than a sweet tooth, we decided that if we saw something missing from Black Rock City that we were passionate about then we were duty-bound to be the change we wanted to see and bring it ourselves.
2018 - I, Robot (Bender & 4:15)
Saltkin had a excellent first year as a camp despite no small amount of panic when the expected camp population dropped to… 3. Fortunately, we managed to recruit a small unplaced group of new friends to join forces with and replace our lost numbers!
We were placed on Bender and 4:15 where we built the Salt Lounge and Salt Museum. Out of the Salt Lounge we served a large variety (perhaps too much variety) of salty snacks, a (non-alcoholic!) electrolyte drink, and about 20 different kinds of exotic salts with cucumber slices to sample them with. We estimated that we served about 500 people food, with more coming just for the drink or to browse the museum. We had an awesome mix of people come and share their stories with us while snacking on our wares - neighbours, rangers, artists, even a wild Mark Day. Serving was a total blast - we had scheduled the events from 12pm-3pm Tuesday-Friday for these events, but usually kept it going for an extra hour or two (basically until we ran out of our food supply for the day).
We filled up the Salt Museum with plaques, illustrations, experiments, and a large number of mostly accurate facts about the etymology, history, industry, and mythology of salt. We kept this open during the day as much as possible, only closed it when we were concerned about wind, which thankfully didn’t happen much this year. This was a blast to build, and we’re looking forward to expanding the project in years to come.
The reception to the camp blew us away - people were very vocal about their appreciation for the salt and electrolytes. Our visitors often told us we were fulfilling a real need, and a few even told us we were their favourite new camp (admittedly they may have said that to everyone, but it was an ego boost nonetheless).
We had an additional unplanned but important contribution to our community - we ended up being a source of salt for the other camp kitchens of our neighbourhood. On multiple occasions we had neighbours coming by asking if we could lend them some salt as their camp had run out or forgot to bring any (they saw our name in the directory and figured we’d be a good bet). We had several pounds of leftover sea salt after construction of the Salt Museum’s crystal garden, so we were happy to provide as much as was needed. Next year we’ll make sure we plan to have the extra again to provide to the community.
What else worked well? Being on B was awesome with the foot traffic we got for the food events and museum. Our events didn’t make it into the WWW book, but the location brought the people anyway. Our neighbours were great, particularly Tsunami and Brainy Bar - was great hanging out with you guys.
What would we change? We didn’t manage to open until Tuesday, and we’d love to run more events.
2019 - Metamorphoses (Echo & 5:15)
Saltkin plans to return to the playa in 2019 with a larger crew, expanded opening hours, and additional events. Stay tuned for a post-event report!