Hayden, Colorado — Eric Childress crouched beside a hiking trail creeping deep into the woods, pushing a cigarette between his lips.
A stable stream of barefoot walked past a tie-dye-covered child dress (30 years old) and his red wheelbarrow full of onions, water and petrol. Still quivering from the effort to push supplies up the bumpy road, the child dress looked up at the passing woman, and her blanket and tent were hung on her shoulders.
“Welcome back,” he said with a smile, blinking the sign of peace.
Under the supervision of locals and officials, 10,000 people of different cultures, such as self-proclaimed hippies and child dresses, gather in this remote area of northern Colorado to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Rainbow family of living light It was held on the weekend of July 4th.
Partially founded by veterans suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, and what is now known as PTSD, the group hosted the first organized campout in Colorado in 1972. did.With Dead Concert, Woodstock Burning man..
Leaderless groups meet annually, camp out on public lands across the country, and have clashed with law enforcement agencies for generations over drug use, hygiene, and forest damage. Previous national campouts in Arkansas, Texas, Vermont, and Michigan had up to 20,000 participants.about 3,400 participants arrived, including dozens of children As of Friday morning, according to federal officials.
Dozens of police officers are watching the rally in the Route National Forest, driving participants out of the bathing lake, paying attention to wildfires and unstringed dogs in the camp, vans, buses, and aging. I checked the car coming down. A long dirt road to the rally.
Forest rangers typically issue hundreds of tickets at each rally. The rally was held last year outside Taos, New Mexico, about 70 miles north of Santa Fe. Normally, the Forest Department needs a large group to obtain a permit, but Rainbows cites their right to the First Amendment to gather without government approval and participate in the process. I refuse.
The group claims to have no leader, but participants need to hit the mountain fountain for drinking water, dig a toilet, and carry it in a communal kitchen for a successful rally. Volunteer work will be done. The week-long camp is more than a mile away from the parking lot, so participants are required to bring everything they need to stay.
Barry “Plunker” Adams was one of the founders of the group, 77 days before the event began. After hiking to the camp, taking a break in the shade, Adams sings about a five-minute song about the origin of the group, explaining how a new way of dealing with modern society is needed after leaving the Navy after the Vietnam War. did.
“It saved us. Instead of killing people, we were taking care of them,” he said. “We tried to heal each other like that.”
Adams has attended most national rallies since the first rallies, but he has to hide around for years to avoid law enforcement officers who mistakenly believed he was in charge. said.
“We will do it peacefully and try not to hurt the planet, and everyone will feel their individual sovereignty,” he said. “We are not perfect. We are just people.”
Adams dubbed this year’s level of law enforcement as “not too bad” compared to past experience.
Forest Office officials say they are working with some members of the Rainbow Family to minimize the impact of the group, but still consider it an illegal gathering. So far, the Forest Department has issued about 100 tickets for violations ranging from drugs to land damage, officials said. Last year, the Rangers issued about 600 tickets and arrested a few.
“It’s about protecting health and safety, and protecting forest resources,” said Hillary Markin, a US Forest Office spokesman assigned to a federal team of 60 overseeing the rally.
Markin, who has helped manage past rallies, said the ranger was built for proper filling of human waste, a communal kitchen that doesn’t contaminate the stream, and a campout when the rainbow leaves. He said he was concerned that the temporary structure would be removed.
“We require forest visitors to comply with all local, state, and federal laws in our enforcement measures,” Markin said.
One of the challenges of this year’s rally is that marijuana is legal in Colorado, but remains illegal on the land of the Regional Forest Office, giving out tickets when rangers catch people. An enterprising group of campers built a mailbox, loaded it with marijuana for use by strangers, and claimed that only a postal inspection service could open the mailbox without a warrant.
The Rangers of the Forest Department emphasize that the majority of members of the Rainbow Family with which they interact are respectful and compliant with the law. However, many Rainbow members are dissatisfied with what is seen as harassment by law enforcement agencies over minor issues.
Local officials say they are particularly concerned about public safety and health issues, given the rural nature of their counties and routes.
County Commissioner Beth Melton said the ambulance closest to Rainbow Gathering would need a three-hour round-trip drive to evacuate someone. This is the only ambulance normally available. Recent rains have made some of the dirt roads leading to the campsite muddy, making travel even more difficult than usual.
“We have a duty to public health and safety. This rally affects it, so we need to be prepared. This is a very remote number of people in our county. God. Forbids the presence of E. coli .. Outbreak of E. coli. “
Back in the shadows of the fast-growing Kid Village area, long-time attendee Filipechaves, 83, said he hopes to minimize conflicts with law enforcement agencies this year. Chavez, a retired truck driver, drove to Colorado with his dog Benny from near Gainesville, Florida.
He acknowledges his participation in Rainbow by helping him overcome the alcoholism he developed during military service in Vietnam. He said the attendees only wanted to be alone.
Among those who are surrounded by forests and share unique experiences, he helps maintain a perspective on the world, he said.
“This is a statement about how to live together with tolerance and respect. Even mosquitoes are here for a reason,” Chavez said, beating the insects.
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This article was originally published in USA TODAY: When the Rainbow Family gathers in 2022, 10K could be brought to the remote forests of Colorado