The Rainbow Gathering at Flagtail Creek

Jul 01 - Jul 08

Remote Parking, Wickiup Creek
Malheur NF, Oregon
Rainbow Gathering Main Meadow
Malheur NF, Oregon

This was our first national Rainbow Gathering.

The Rainbow Gathering is a powerful display of sophistication and maturity deep in the woods. It has wonderful mixes and contrasts: it is both solemn and boisterous, both political and universal, both wise and naive. The organizational effort required to host, house, feed, and heal some 20,000 people is immense, but this group makes it feel like a breeze. Everybody is involved; everybody has a stake. The care and respect for the land is absolute; cleanup begins the moment the first gatherers arrive. The heartsongs and circles are a profound display of human spirit, the camps and kitchens of human ingenuity.

It is both high-tech and primitive, both brave and meek, both ravenous and fond. The economy of the gathering is a clever inversion of a typical capitalist system: each thing and each effort is given away freely. The kitchens - essentially professional restaurant kitchens built in (and largely out of) the woods - give away food to hundreds each day. Instead of starving in a competitive model, hoping against the odds that no competitor will open next door, they welcome the introduction of a nearby competing kitchen, which inevitably happens.

Nobody has a job at the gathering, but everybody works tirelessly. Nobody makes any money, but everybody profits. Nobody is bored or even has a minute to spare, but everyone is restful, peaceful, and contemplative. It is truly something to behold, and a model for information-age economic experimentation.

Traveling to the gathering

Jul 01 - Jul 02

Walmart Parking Lot
Redmond, Oregon
Remote Parking, Wickiup Creek
Malheur NF, Oregon

Moving the bus from Portland to Flagtail Creek, we stayed at a Walmart parking lot overnight and purchased some supplies. Although Walmart isn't our favorite company, we really appreciate that they routinely afford us overnight camping at their stores across the nation, and so we're happy to give them a bit of business each time.

A brief disruption from the state

A sad reminder of the death of the 4th amendment - the police searched and trashed the bus. We were unharmed - in fact, emboldened. Read more here.

Dwellings, Camps, and Lifestyles

From amazing and elegant skoolies to tipis to kichens big enough to feed hundreds, the rainbow lifestyle is incredibly mature and well-developed.

Rainbow signage

The signage around the gathering was one of the most impressive parts. From the maps and bulletin boards to the environmental and preservation information, this was one of the most well-explained and literate outdoor events we've attended.

Camping in the woods, gathering in the meadow

The main meadow was a site of incredible care and vibrance. On July 4th, some 15,000 people came together to pray for peace, as is the annual rainbow tradition. The sound of such a huge 'om' was especially astounding. We also enjoyed the downtime during the day - it was great to have a safe space for Notch to roam and play. The people-watching was, of course, second-to-none. ;-)

Traveling home from the gathering

Jul 07 - Jul 08

Dispersed Camping, Deschutes NF
Sisters, Oregon

We didn't get nearly our fill, but all good things come to an end. After passing through a near de-facto roadblock on the way out, we drove for a couple of hours and then stopped to camp in a beautiful section of woods in Deschutes National Forest just outside Sisters.

Like the rest of the National Forest system where there isn't a Rainbow Gathering, the police presence was minimal. Also like much of the nation's forests outside The Rainbow Gathering, much of the woods had been treated badly, including quite a lot of litter. We found at least 4 broken beer bottles.

Learning from the example of the gathering, we picked up hundreds of pieces of trash in order to pre- and re-naturalize our site before getting a good night's rest and returning to Portland.