On July 5th, some friends and I went to the "Rainbow Gathering" to check it out. Here are some photos and some random thoughts of the whole thing!
The last time the Rainbow People were here in Pennsylvania in the Allegheny National Forest, outside of Ridgeway Pa, I unexpectedly ran into the aftermath of the gathering. I had no idea that some 20 thousand people gathered in the forest in the ANF! No idea at all. It was a time in my life when I didn't pay much attention to the local news.
I was out in an area scouting for caves .... following up on a rumor of a cave location. I was on the road that must have been a main entrance to the gathering. What I saw shocked me! Piles of garbage all over. I got out and hiked around a bit to try to find out what was going on. I ran into a couple hippies who were cleaning up ... or attempting to clean up! They seemed surprised that I didn't hear about their gathering.
One area I saw, was "tamped down" to bare dirt or mud. It looked like a tornado ripped through a garbage dump. The hippies said they were picking up garbage, but really they were on a salvage mission and picking through the stuff for items they could recycle, or perhaps trade off.
It was a horrible mess. The damage I witnessed to the field stuck with me all these years.
I hadn't thought much about, the Rainbow People again after all these years until a few weeks ago, when I learned they were coming back! Back to our forest! ... Back to the ANF!
Naturally it brought back memories of the damage they left behind the last time they were here. As it turns out, after I spent the last two weeks on the internet learning about *all things Rainbow* ....I learned that in 1999, I walked into a mess two days after the event that was in the process of being cleaned up. That year some stayed behind and cleaned up for a couple months. And I was there only two days into the start of the clean up.
When I heard about this gathering, The first thing that came to mind was how big an area a group that big camping for a week impacts.
And, even though I may see eye to eye with some of them on political views, I can't give them a "free pass" when it comes to the unavoidable destruction that they do to the forest. Especially when I hear them talk about caring about the land, or the earth and call themselves "environmentalists".
But I thought about it long and hard, and decided to go there to witness it for myself .... This time during the event! Not two days after the event before the clean-up really got rolling.
In the following photo tour you will see lot's of destruction of the forest, from trails and paths cut through wetlands to temporary shelters built from live trees and plants. And even some streams and creeks altered a bit. Not to mention, camps and tents near animal habitat. I witnessed lots of "no-no's". Somethings "environmentalists" shouldn't do.
But on the other side of the coin, just to put their destruction in proper perspective, this group of over ten thousand people might have done about the same amount of physical damage to the land than just a couple of remotely located oil wells and their associated required infrastructure such as well pads, access roads, water supply, drainage, ponds and tank batteries and etc. I've seen very small oil operations with very few wells that ruined more area than all of these *over ten thousand* people did!
So yes, it's a shame they "tamped down" so many miles of trails, and tent sites, but I would describe their damage as "soft impact". Most done by spreading a tarp or blanket over the ground, and a lot done by people walking in bare feet. Not nearly the same kind of impact caused by power equipment the oil and gas producers use on the land.
And maybe we really should give them a "break" considering their idealistic motive .... To pray for world peace, rather than the motives of the oil companies, who are recklessly drilling the hell out of our national forest, putting in thousands of "stripper wells" for selfish, obscene profits. The Allegheny National Forest, our only national forest in Pennsylvania has over TWELVE THOUSAND WELLS!
As it turns out, the site of this gathering is near where the infamous "Shaboom Oil" was operating (google "Shaboom Oil" along with "drugs").
Shaboom was a drug lords money laundering operation who at one time was teamed up with Art Stewart and Durhing Oil, one of our "local mom and pop family operations". The owner of Shaboom was one of America's all-time biggest drug importers.
So when you step back and look at the big picture .... The Rainbow People don't seem that bad after all. Yes, they do damage to the forest, but so do other users. And no, two wrongs do not make a right. My concern is anything that destroys the forest, and I don't have any biases or prejudices. Oil companies ruin the forest, pipelines ruin the forest, logging operations ruin the forest, road building ruins the forest, and even hippie gatherings ruin the forest. But the commercial use of the forest hurts our forest way more than a large "family" camping for a week every ten or twelve years or so.
This year it was a very respectful, peaceful crowd. It surprised me how pleasant the whole experience was. I had no idea I was that loved by so many hippies!
It was a very well behaved bunch. The excessive number of cops on horseback "tearing up the trails and woods", were the most annoying thing out there, the mounted police, and the helicopter circling overhead. There could have been less cops, and less dogs in my humble opinion.
I would love to see the police, including all the various agencies that came out for this event and the stewards of the forest, like the Allegheny National Forest personnel, watch the oil producers and loggers as intense as they did this group!
I'd bet if they scrutinized any single one of the many oil producers this closely, that they would end up with more violations than these ten thousand plus had!
Sick some of those drug sniffing dogs on a few of the oil producers working in this same area and see what you come up with! But you might have to retrain the dogs to sniff out cocaine instead of marijuana!
My visit to the Rainbow Gathering 2010-As most people who know me know, I sold my car a few years ago. All my transportation or recreational vehicles are human powered! Sort of my way of "swearing off" gasoline or fossil fuels. So I "car-pooled" to the gathering with a small group of friends. Four of us went and "chipped in" for gas.
We got to the site in the mid morning. Even this early in the day it was starting to get real hot. But we were all "clean cut", and despite a few of us wore tie-dyed shirts, we all looked more like off duty cops, than weekend hippies!
We went in through the main gate off of FR 119. Through what they call "A" camp. A camp is supposed to be for those who choose to consume alcohol. This is the "welcome home" greeting camp. These are not your standard Walmart greeters! Instead picture a scene out of a Mad Max movie! Maybe like a camp set up outside the gates of Thunderdome!
As our neat, clean, well groomed group approached the gate, all the occupants who were welcoming the others before us, started all jumping around shouting "six up, six up, six up" over and over again, obviously a warning of our presence. I assumed they thought we were cops or maybe undercover forestry workers. Which were weren't so it was pretty funny! They jumped around, scurrying about, like scared monkeys in the jungle when a predator was in their midst!
After passing through "A" camp, it was a very long trek mostly downhill toward the "main meadow". It started out through a fairly shady, big tall open woods, but then turned and followed "Queen Creek" downstream through a brushy, wet, swampy area that used parts of an old abandon railroad grade at times.
Soon we noticed more and more tents and camps set up to ether side in the shady woods, that were mostly Hemlock and Pine. Not too long after we came to some bigger camps built around kitchens.
After passing through a few bigger camps or kitchens, we entered the "main meadow" near the information tent and the map of the area.
We decided to cross Queen Creek to the west near the biggest swimming hole, and head toward the "trading circle" something we all wanted to see.
In the main meadow, we saw a group of mounted state police on horses and just by chance they happened to be going the same way we were, so we followed the police over the creek and toward the "green path" that went from the Trading Circle to the state area called "Granola Funk".
Hiking along the green path I noticed that the 8 or 10 mounted police do more damage to the woods than say ten thousand barefoot hippies do! The horse hooves chipped and chewed up the exposed tree roots and in soft places, sunk deep pockets into the trail. The horses actually do more physical damage than say even the illegal dirt bikes and ATV's! The environment might have faired better had the cops been on four-wheelers with big soft "donut" tires (pun intended)!
After our visit to the Trading Circle, we headed over to "Granola Funk". To enter the stage area, we went up a really cool set of stairs and through a gateway that looked like a piece off a "Survivor" set (the popular TV show!).
And the stage itself was a masterpiece that looked like it could have been a movie set piece. Very well done. Just to the left of the entrance to Granola Funk, there was a thatch hut that was really cool looking, one of my favorite sites, BUT it was made mostly from live plants and tree limbs!
A real "no-no" for an environmentally friendly camper! It looked cool, but we can't all go out and cut live trees and bushes for shelter!
After visiting the "Funk" we crossed some really cool, well made bridges and wandered through an open woods, past more big camps and kitchens, back toward the open fields and the main meadow.
By not it's mid afternoon and really hot in the blazing sun! It topped out at about 96! It was hot, with no clouds in the sky and no wind!
We decided to head back to the cars, and we tried to go back a slightly different route to stay in the shady woods as long as we could. We did see a few nudists walking around, but not really that many. And truth be told I didn't see one person openly smoking dope! Nor did I smell it! I sorta wish I did! Don't get me started on the smells!But just imagine ten thousand hippies baking in the hot sun for a week and the only water holes were muddy, stagnant, bacteria filled "swimming holes" in Queen Creek.
A very attractive topless hippie chick, in a pool near a bridge we crossed, did graciously offer to wash my hair for me, but as sweet an offer that was, I didn't want that stagnant water in my relatively clean hair! It was hard resisting having my hair washed by a cute topless hippie chick ... but my friends were way ahead up the trail calling to me.
About half way back to the car, there was a garbage pile along the trail and I picked up an armload to carry out to help with the clean up effort. I always try to carry out more than I hike in with. And I will probably go back this weekend just to help carry garbage out of the area.
After touring the gathering area, on our way home, I did talk to the woman who owns the big gas station/deli/sub shop in Sheffield (the Citgo station) and she had nothing but phrase for the Rainbows! She said this past week has been her most profitable week ever, and that she didn't observe or experience ANY shoplifting at all.
I would highly recommend that anybody who might be remotely interested in checking it out, attend one of these gatherings! There is nothing to be afraid of. Overall, the group is very friendly and respectful!
Peace and love!
In the parking area before the hike
FR 119 was a very narrow, dusty road in. Some of the environmental damage will be from the excessive dust kicked up by all the cars that coated all the plants, insects and animals along the roadway
Some people didn't seem to care how much of the road they blocked
And some people just pulled right into the mud
Some may need to be towed out
This unfortunate party was begging for food and money, but by the end of the day, most of the donations were gone!
Not sure what this is about? .... But if the van is a rockin' don't bother knockin' !
Approaching the main entrance gate
"We love our kids - Don't run them over" How about holding their hands, or not bringing them to a hippie fest? Some young kids just don't need the "education" this event will provide!
The camp at the main gate. AKA the "Welcome Home" camp. This is funny! This is where there was between some 12-15 people who, when seeing my friends and I approach, started jumping all around and pointing at us and yelling "six up, six up, six up". Like frazzled monkeys. They were scrambling all over the place. When I got home an looked at the photos, I realized NOBODY was in the photo ... some 12 to 15 people just "disappeared"! Like magic! Incorrectly thinking we were cops or "the man"! And for the record, more often than not, when I did take a photo of somebody up close, I first asked permission. At this camp, the "main gate" I did not, since it was a very public, "greeting" camp. .... And for you Rainbows reading this, I would guess that an undercover cop spying on you would look more like hippies than we did!
Here is the Thunderdome thugs ..... "The first Rainbow A camp"?
Garbage at the start of the hike down to the meadow
Garbage that almost made it out
A well tamped down trail .... by 20 thousand barefoot hippies .... What's that about athletes foot and ringworm?
Nearly every tent we seen on the way in was pitched on a slanted grade!
"where aliens go pee"!
On to the main meadow!
Hippies sleeping in the hot sun
Pants make great signs!
Baby hippies playing in the dry Queen Creek
"Fat Kids" kitchen up ahead
A tarp and a guitar ..... all a guy needs!
Hippie chick in one of the first camps along Queen Run
No Explanation necessary
A natural shelter
Camps for all walks of life!
Approaching the meadow
The sign in tent!
A welcome banner
The main billboard
To hug or not to hug!
Main info tent
The main info booth was tied to this tree, but this sign was not to announce a nesting tree, but instead it was to show what the sign on the REAL nesting tree might look like.
The area around the nesting tree was roped off, and nobody entered that area.
From the mail bag: "One thing I would like to point out. The info booth had a poster that warned people not to go in the "flagged area." It did not say that the info area was off limits. The Forest Service would NEVER allow them to put the booth in a restricted area. Just wanted to clear that up".
A master list of all the camps
Where to find everybody
"we are here"! .......
..... And so is Diana!
The Map of the area
Looking out on the main meadow
The mounted state police
The main banner
Guitar player with no audience in the hot sun
There were signs everywhere for everything!
Police on horses just crossed creek
Somebody lost their shoes!
Near the Trading Circle (one of my favorite places!)
Note the sock taped to the dogs leg
The police horses chipped the exposed tree roots, the barefoot hippies did not
The on-site medical facilities is called "CALM"
A simple shelter .... or not!
Another sign Somebody needed to vulgar up
The path to Granola Funk!
..... And here's my sign!
A very friendly hippie chick! I didn't get to read her whole belly!
Lot's of beer made it's way out of "A" camp!
A couple old hippies!
They sure love their signs!
A stick wall!
I loved all the natural shelters!
Steps leading to Granola Funk, the "main stage"
Well built steps at that!
Signs for everything!
The main stage .....It's cooler in person!
A yoga session in the woods
A really cool shelter made from weeds and living branches
This held a whole family
Simple but effective bridge
The tents were spread out real good .... and most were put where you would never know they were ever there
Every camp and tribe had a name
Some kind of shrine I didn't understand
The water was filtered, but still!
We heard this a lot!
A very well built bridge
I just loved this bridge .... I wish they would leave it behind!
More directions to "the Funk"
Hard to get lost!
Too bad I couldn't see this after dark
Not sure if this is a good idea!
Another type of bridge
A friendly camp
An abandon stroller
Interesting name for a camp
Dead Beech tree in the middle of this camp
A marching drum
Field of tents
Some tents were pitched in the hot sun among tall buggy weeds!
Imagine tenting in the hot sun for a week!
A lecture about something
The paths were impressive
This held true! A very respectful bunch!
Hey! I'm in!
CALM was not too busy this day .... thank god
I loved the bridges! The Forest service can't do this good a job sometimes!
Heading back toward the main meadow
Here is a lazy persons shelter! .... Although it would meet codes in Bradford!
The naked man waking past the police ..... How many people do you suppose stopped to read his sign? NOT ME!
An ingenious home-made wheelchair!
Our tax dollars at work! A constant helicopter above and mounted state police below! ...... MEANWHILE! The oil producers are getting away with murder .... elsewhere in the forest!
In the middle of the circle in the main meadow
Another group talk
Naked man walking past police .... not sure what this bicycle thing is?
I didn't get one hug! Even though I may have been one of the cleanest and best smelling people there that day!
There were a few of these, well marked by the Forestry
A very cool hippie chick!
Way cool cargo net
The main water supply system
"Fairy Kamp" .......!
This shelter under a down tree was barely noticeable! It was one of the better hidden, natural shelters
A simple bridge
A more simple bridge!
Garbage pile along trail
Near the main gate
Some people coming in late
"Broke and hungry" .... Somebody left them a candy bar in the hot mid 90's sun!
Cranberry juice .... somebody's gonna need that!
A lost soul
Not sure what this means?
"FTP" was written on nearly every car along the road
Ok, now for some random thoughts and I mean random!
"What's one thing you won't see at a Rainbow Gathering? ..... A panty raid"! LOL!
Some of the strangest or most unexpected things I saw?
I saw two Hasidic Jews! Complete with their hats, dress shirts, dress pants, and shoes. They looked like they were just plucked off the streets of Brooklyn NY and dropped in the middle of the circle in the main meadow! .... I didn't expect that. Hippie Jews, yes, Hasidic Jews, no!
Then while we were visiting the stage area, Granola Funk, it was during the day and nobody was there. A guy meditating in the entrance way, and somebody milling about the stage cleaning it up or something. Then we saw this very young child. Looked to be 3 or 4 years old, just walking around totally nude. I stopped and looked around for his parents or some adult who might be with him or watching him, but nobody seemed to be with him. He went out of the stage area, down the stairs and wandered off into the woods, alone. Really strange. Just my opinion, but way too young to be walking around alone.
Then, near the medical area called "CALM", there was a camp or kitchen that had a ladder next to it .... just laying on the ground, a big, two piece 20' extension ladder! Sure it must have been handy for building the camps and kitchens, but DAM! Who wants to carry a 20' ladder miles into the woods? It just struck me as strange!
And talking about carrying something big into the woods, when our group returned to the Info tent, there was a bed mattress on the ground. A guy was laying on it getting a massage. By another guy! And talk about "yucky" ... they were using oil ... and imagine the scene .... HOT sunshine .... 96 degrees, super hot, and a bit dusty! Besides both guys being quite dirty to begin with ... the oily, sweaty, dusty, dirty mess ..... on a bed mattress in the hot 96 degree sun. Just TOO strange! There is a time and place for everything, and that was NOT the time and place for an oil massage! Just my opinion .... but yuck!
Over in the Trading Circle, I saw a few strange things. First, let me describe the Trading Circle. The path went over along a slightly sloped hillside in a tall open woods with small bushes. The trail did a small "loop" sort of like a campground loop, but much smaller. People were set up on both sides of the trail all around the loop. They had blankets spread out with their wares on display. One guy I talked to had hand painted modern art, and he said he had some in magazines and some in a museum back in California (I think San Fran). That wasn't too strange ... But then a guy had a bunch of paint-ball gun parts! Not really the whole gun, but just a bunch of replacement parts for paint-ball guns. Triggers, gas adapters, barrels, springs and such. Just strange to see paint-ball supplies in a hippie Trading Circle!
And in the circle, a guy had a very large fishing tackle box. So big it surprised me he carried that all the way out there! It had a bunch of drawers and doors on it, and they were labeled for what I remember as remote control car parts! Another WTF! ..... Just strange.
Other people in the Trading Circle had the "normal" hippie stuff ... hand made jewelry, arts, crafts, polished stones, tie-dye stuff ... the usual!
I'll add more as I remember it!
If you would like to be added to my outdoors list, for trip announcements or trip reports of our outings in the Allegheny National Forest, just use the link below to contact me and I'll add you to the list.
NOTE: This is in response to a couple e-mails I got.
"You should return when clean up crew is done and then post some comments. They will hardly be started by the 9,10 or 11th. I think you will be surprised how the forest is returned. I believe some of your comments are premature".
Perhaps you didn't read my comments in the story above. I plan to document their progress several times in the future, and I never implied that the Rainbow People intend to leave the forest the way it is now. I fully understand that they intend to work on it until it is as restored as good as can be. I am just documenting it over a period of time, this is my first report! This will be an ongoing project for me. Sometime this weekend I will be spending time hauling garbage out, and restoring trails or campsites. I'm giving "progress reports" not "premature" final verdicts!
Also from the mail bag: "There is a lot to be cleaned up still! And it WILL be cleaned. I especially enjoyed your before and after photos of the Granola Funk stage and some of the other sites. THAT is the kind of stuff that the Rangers and public needs to see! You are doing an awesome job of documenting this and I thank you for it! We all do. Your documentation and comments are very valuable, and will help keep the future Gatherings alive for another 38 years".
UPDATE:I got this in my e-mail on 7/26/10-
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