Rainbow Family Flashback

Rainbow Gathering 1977A picture of the first New Mexico Rainbow gathering in 1977.Rainbow gathering—Margaret M. Nava, SignpostIf you were around in the 60s, you might recall seeing brightly painted vans and school buses driving back and forth between communal settlements set up in the foothills around Placitas. Known as the Lower Farm, Tawapa, Dome Valley, and Sun Farm, these settlements were home to hundreds of longhaired, idealistic hippies who rejected the mores of the established society, opposed nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War, and advocated peace, love, and personal freedom. They grew their own food, lived in tents and shacks, wore tie-dye clothing, listened to acid rock and folk music, and indulged in mind-altering drugs.For the most part, life in the communes was uncomplicated. No one owned anything—everything was shared. Whatever couldn’t be grown or made by hand probably wasn’t needed. Children were delivered by midwives and loved by all. Mother Nature was respected, not exploited. There was dancing, handholding, meditation, music, and harmony. Life was good. Or so it seemed.In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. In 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Four students were killed at Kent State University in 1970. The North Tower of the World Trade Center was completed in 1970, the South Tower in 1971. All of a sudden, America’s attention turned to serious matters. Acid rock and folk gave way to heavy metal, disco, and punk rock. Had it not been for the Rainbow Family, the hippie culture might have been doomed.Formed in 1972, the Rainbow Family (also known as the Rainbow Family of Living Light) is a loosely-run affiliation of individuals with the common goal of achieving peace and harmony on Earth. Each year, “Tribes” (or members) gather for one week at different national forests across the United States. In 2006, they were in Colorado; in 2007, Arkansas; and in 2008, Wyoming. With their roots clearly traceable to the 1960s, the gatherings are “an expression of a Utopian impulse combined with bohemianism and the hippie counterculture.”Although these events appear to be chaotic, there does seem to be some organization involved. An unofficial web-based Mini-Manual discourages firearms, alcohol, radios, tape players, sound amplifiers, and power tools. Large kitchens are set up to serve free meals. The Center for Alternative Living Medicine (CALM) attends the sick and wounded, and a MASH unit provides emergency evacuation. There’s a Kids‘ Village for childcare, sweat lodges for detoxification, and a trade circle for non-commercial exchanges. Using money to buy or sell anything at a Gathering is taboo.This year, the annual North American Rainbow Gathering takes place July 1-7 at Parque Venado in the Santa Fe National Forest twenty-four miles from Cuba, New Mexico. Various sources estimate attendance will be anywhere from five- to ten-thousand people. Forest officials, Cuba merchants, and local residents are concerned.Cuba Mayor Richard Velarde told an Albuquerque TV station reporter, “Cuba doesn’t have a lot of resources for a crowd that size. I just need to make sure the health and safety of people are taken care of.” Lawrence Lujan, spokesperson for the Santa Fe National Forest, stated he had been working with the group for needed permits, even though permits are generally not required for non-commercial events on public lands. Merchants seem to have mixed feelings. Some worry their shops won’t be able to handle large crowds, others welcome them.While it is true that Rainbow Gatherings bring thousands of dollars into the economies of towns near the gathering spot, it is important to note that there are no official leaders, no centralized organization, minimal sanitation, and no Rainbow Police. And although members espouse peace, love, and harmony, incidents can, and do, happen.In 2008, Rita Vollmer, Public Affairs Specialist for the Forest Service in Rock Springs, Wyoming, issued the following report: “Forest Service officers were patrolling the main meadow area of the National Rainbow Family Gathering yesterday evening. The officers made contact with a subject that would not cooperate and fled. The subject was apprehended; once detained, other Rainbow participants began to interfere with the situation. Officers began to leave the Gathering site with the subject and were circled by more Rainbow participants that began to interfere. Another participant was detained for physical interference. Ten officers were escorting the detained subjects when about four hundred Rainbows surrounded the squad trying to leave. More officers were requested to assist in the main meadow area. The mob began to advance, throwing sticks and rocks at the officers. Crowd control tactics were used to keep moving through the group of Rainbows. Five arrests were made in relation to this incident. One officer suffered minor injuries and was cleared by the local hospital. A government vehicle also incurred damage during the incident.”Gathering participants reported that the officers pointed weapons at children and fired rubber bullets at Gathering participants. A spokesperson for the ACLU said they were concerned about the behavior of the officers handling the situation and that an investigation would ensue. The following October, they issued a report but did not pursue legal action against the Forest Service.So, if you think you’ve been seeing a lot of psychedelic school buses on Highway 550 lately, don’t worry. You’re not having flashbacks.Without question, those who attend the Parque Venado Gathering will be treated to spectacular scenery and gracious hospitality, New Mexico style.


Fenton Lake campsiteCamp in the beautiful Ponderosa Pine Forest at Fenton Lake.Camping in Sandoval County—Margaret Nava, SignpostIn these tough economic times, it seems everyone is pinching pennies. A lot of people are cutting back on nonessentials, many are clipping coupons and some are opting for staycations—staying home and pretending they’re somewhere else. But there’s another way to save money—camping. That’s right, that thing you used to do when you were a kid and thought sleeping on the ground was cool.Camping is the perfect way to break away from everyday stress, spend quality time with the family and enjoy the scenic wonders of nature. It doesn’t cost much, you don’t have to wait in long lines, and if you live in Sandoval County, you don’t have to drive three days to get to a campground. Here are just a few:Once a nesting area for migratory waterfowl, Fenton Lake State Park north of Jemez Springs is surrounded by beautiful ponderosa pine forests. At an elevation of 7,900 feet, the thirty-seven-acre lake, stocked with rainbow trout, is an ideal place to cast a line or laze around in a canoe or rowboat. For as little as $8 per night ($180 for an annual pass), campers can choose sites in mountain meadows or along the canyon bottom of the Rio Cebolla. A group shelter, picnic areas, restrooms (no showers), wheelchair accessible platforms and pay phones are also available. Fenton Lake makes an excellent base camp for touring nearby natural hot springs, Jemez Falls, Soda Dam, Seven Springs Fish Hatchery and the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Reservations may be made by calling (877) 655-7787.

Five miles northeast of Ponderosa, the Paliza Campground features distinctive Adirondack-style lean-tos built when the site was a Civilian Conservation Camp back in the 1930s. Red rock cliffs, cool ponderosa pines and aspens, and a covered pavilion make this hilltop campground the perfect spot for a quiet, scenic, and memorable vacation. Birdwatchers can study hummingbirds and bats; mountain bikers can pedal the twelve-mile Paliza Canyon Loop Trail; wine-lovers can sample three distinctly different Riesling wines at the Ponderosa Valley Vineyard & Winery. Recently renovated, the campground includes tent platforms and family sites ($8), a group site ($50), picnic tables, fire rings, lantern posts, and vault toilets, but no showers or electric hook-ups. For reservations, contact Reserve America at (877) 444-6677 or www.reserveamerica.com.Cochiti Dam, one of the ten largest earth-fill dams in the United States, was built by the Army Corps of Engineers to control flooding and sediment on the Rio Grande. The resultant twelve-hundred-acre no-wake lake has two recreation areas, one on each side, providing boat launching, swimming, camping and picnicking facilities. With the prevalence of wind, sailing and sail boarding are also popular. Many of the sixty campsites include water and electricity ($12). Restrooms and shower facilities are also available. Located within the boundaries of the Pueblo de Cochiti Indian Reservation, nearby attractions include the Cochiti Lake Visitor Center with exhibits on the history and natural resources of the area, the eighteen-hole Pueblo de Cochiti Golf Course, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and Dixon’s Apple Orchard. Contact www.recreation.gov or (877) 444-6777 for reservations.Close to home yet a world apart, Coronado Campground in Bernalillo sits high on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande, the Bosque, the foothills and the ever-changing northwest face of the Sandia Mountains. Campers can tour the adjacent Coronado State Monument with its Indian artifacts and partially reconstructed ruins or spend time wandering through unique shops in historic Bernalillo. Jemez Dam, Tamaya Resort, and the Twin Warriors Golf Course are down one road; Sandia Man Cave and the East Mountains are up another. Two camping areas offer RV sites with water and electric ($20) or rustic tent sites ($14). There are picnic areas, shelters, showers, and an RV dumping station. Call (505) 867-3311 for reservations.Those wishing to test their survival skills should check out the San Pedro Wilderness in the Santa Fe National Forest near Cuba. Covering more than forty-one thousand acres, this pristine area is teeming with lush forests, wildflower-filled meadows, and rolling mountains. Elk, deer, and black bear call it home, as do the myriad birds that fill its dense forests and the Rio Grande Cutthroat that swim its tranquil streams. Hiking is a major attraction as there are nine major hiking trails here, including forty miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This is also the perfect area for fishing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and, of course, primitive camping. The Resumidero and Rio Puerco Campgrounds off FR 93 southeast of Gallina offer free sites and a few fire rings but no hookups or water. The Rio de las Vacas and Clear Creek Campgrounds east of Cuba on NM 126 have more facilities ($8 a night) but, once again, no hookups and limited water. For more information, contact the Coyote Ranger District at (575) 638-5526 or the Cuba Ranger District at (575) 289-3264.Just north of Sandoval County, Bandelier National Monument is a place to spend time. Best known for its mesas, sheer-walled canyons and ancestral Pueblo dwellings, Bandelier also includes twenty-three thousand acres of designated wilderness and over seventy miles of hiking trails. Rangers lead guided walks through the ruins and conduct evening campfire programs on weekends. The popular Nightwalk, a silent walk in the darkness of Frijoles Canyon, is offered Wednesday nights during the summer. There are three different ways to camp in Bandelier. The three-loop Juniper Family Campground ($23) rarely fills and features paved parking, grills, picnic tables, flush toilets and drinking water but no hookups. The two-site Ponderosa Group Campground ($35 per site) can accommodate fifty campers per site, but requires advance reservations. Backcountry camping is free with a permit obtainable at the visitor center. For more information, call the visitor center at (505) 672-3861, ext. 517 or log on to www.nps.gov/band.For a complete list of campgrounds in and around Sandoval County, contact the Sandoval County Visitor Center at (505) 867-8687 or www.sandovalcounty.org. Then dig out your old tent, buy some marshmallows and chocolate, and go camping. It’s fun; it’s rejuvenating; and it’s affordable.


Safe travel routes within Rainbow Family Gathering siteSafe travel routes have been developed within the Rainbow Family Gathering site—the Parque Venado area within the Santa Fe National Forest Cuba Ranger District. “We are addressing the issue of increased traffic safety for local communities, the general public, Rainbow Gathering participants, and for administrative use (e.g., emergency vehicles, permittees, and Forest Service, and other agencies),” announced Incident Commanders (ICs) Derek Padilla and Gene Smithson.Effective Friday, June 19 at 8:00 a.m., a one-way travel route will be used from the junction of Forest Road (FR) 69 and FR 70 west to the San Gregorio trailhead. This will eliminate vehicle congestion in an area where turnouts are quite limited. “Another benefit is hav[ing] a safe and efficient road travel system in place before the influx of Rainbow participants. Attendance at the yearly Gatherings averages about ten thousand. At this time, we estimate about six hundred participants have already arrived,” said IC Padilla.ICs Padilla and Smithson urge all vehicle drivers to take necessary precautions to ensure that all road travel is conducted safely. Vehicles of several types and sizes will be traveling along the roadways, creating situations where safety can easily be compromised. “Drive defensively, use headlights, lower speed limits, use seat belts, and watch for oncoming traffic. Stay alert and be aware of surroundings at all times, particularly any pedestrians,” the ICs add.It is also important to travel carefully on narrow roads that are mostly one lane, graveled with blind corners, and with many areas that lack turnouts. Muddy road conditions can also be expected as the rainy season approaches and intensifies.The Forest Service’s Event Information telephone number has been activated at (505) 438-5685. Information regarding the coordinated effort to manage the Rainbow Family Gathering on national forest system lands will be provided to communities, agencies, and the general public from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
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