article and photos Copyright 2010 by Snowbelt Parson
By popular demand, here are the rest of the photos I took at the Rainbow Gathering. There are few photos of people because I felt awkward wielding a camera. I thought I had taken a photo of a way-cool earth shelter known as a "debris hut," but it didn't come out. I've been thinking about debris huts for several years and had never seen one in real life before, but they make a sensible alternative to tents. Click on any photo to enlarge it.
This first shot is Forest Road 119, which runs along the outside of the Hickory Creek Wilderness Area. All parking was strictly limited to the side of the road opposite the designated "wilderness." This is the entrance to the gathering place. In the trees above the awning, see the official "Welcome Home" banner.
These people are waiting in line at the "Information and Rumor Control" table. Notice all the children present.
The sign reads, "Welcome, Rainbow Family." The tepee in the background looked strangely authentic...but there were tents everywhere. Of course, cell phones are no use in this quadrant of the forest. So... people communicated by message board:
I wish I'd gotten a better shot of this event, below. In the distance, you can see about fifteen people dancing in a circle. The dance was unfamiliar to me, and it was accompanied by African style bongo drums. The circle of dancers would move in time, three steps in one direction, cry out, jerk forward, then move three steps in the opposite direction. Some ancient, druidic antecedent to line dancing?
There were 12,000 bohemian-types milling around smoking weed and strumming guitars, and I was the only person with a camera...(and no, I wasn't smoking weed...or strumming a guitar for that matter). I would have loved to get close up photos of the "sacred belly dancers," or the nudists dancing for the sun, or the way-weird, handwritten signage all over the place.
These several candid photos cannot capture the pulsating beat of African style drums, the chanting of the dancers, or the smells of patchouli, woodsmoke, and marijuana that filled the air. At the entrance to the 3-mile hike back toward the main clearing, pictured here, there's a bright, handritten banner that reads "Welcome Home." It's a little misleading, since you still have to hike 3 full miles into the forest to find the clearing where the bulk of the activities take place. But the banner marks the entrance to that long homeward trail. It also marks "A Camp," the only place on the grounds where alcohol is permitted (indeed, encouraged!).
They were friendly people. Most of them greeted me warmly. Some even yelled, "Welcome home." It was a strange greeting for me because--well--I felt pround to be their host here in the ANF, the patch of woods that I regularly study, and survey, and explore. They're good folks, if a little out-of-the-ordinary. The Rainbow Gathering is like a big, old-time campmeeting for folks who understand the importance of peace. Of course, just like at the old-time campmeetings, there are a few scoundrels who follow the crowds looking to take advantage. But I'm glad the Rainbow Family includes the ANF in their circuit.
It was a pleasure to see the wilderness hills alive with tents, to hear music ringing out in forest glen, to see hundreds and hundreds of cars lining FR119, an otherwise little-used track that skirts the edges of the Hickory Creek Wilderness Area.
This is a big, communal kitchen at "A-Camp." If you look closely you can see a string of flags over the driveway; that marks the entrance from FR119.
I loved seeing these hundreds of cars parked along FR119. And not a one of them double parked! People drove from California and Washington State to attend this event.
The contributor of this article is Kane, Pennyslvania resident Snowbelt Parson who maintains a blog about backwoods treks in northern Pennsylvania at The Allegheny Journal.