Wednesday, August 01, 2012

US National Rainbow Gathering

After arriving back in Cleveland from our trip to Minnesota we spent our days getting ready for a camping adventure to the US National Rainbow Gathering in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.  We've done plenty of camping as a couple, but the gear required for a family of four seems to be much more than double what we once needed! 

After attending the Australian Rainbow Gathering when Ari was only six weeks old, we were excited to go camping again and felt sure that it would be easier this time around.  And since I've been attending US Rainbow Gatherings since 1998, I was excited to see a whole host of friendly faces who I hadn't seen in the six years we were in Australia. 

And to make this camping adventure even more epic, we took nearly the whole family along with us!  Carl and Jan, Heather and Aaron, Teagan and Cael all accompanied us and it was the first time Jan, Aaron and Cael got to experience a Gathering.  So after quite a bit of planning to figure out how to make a week in the woods a mostly comfortable experience for the kids (and for Grammy) we packed ourselves and our mountain of gear into three cars and caravanned to Tennessee. 

We spent that night in a hotel in Virginia so that we could arrive at the site in the morning for what can sometimes be a long hike in.  Boy, were we glad we did!  The hike was one of the longest ever, about three miles on bumpy and windy trails - thank goodness for the little red wagon and the bike and trailer and our good-natured sherpa, Brian who lugged a rather obscene amount of gear and food to our campsite (after spending considerable time scoping out the site and locating the best camp spots).  It was a long, hot and rather miserable first day and we all collapsed into our tents just after dark.  Except for Heather and Aaron who carried the last load in on the wagon long after the sun had gone down. 

Once we all had our camp in order we could settle in, relax and start to enjoy ourselves a bit.  We camped, as always, with the good folks at Turtle Soup Kitchen and were so pleased to see many familiar faces.  Turtle Soup is always an awesome kitchen but this year it was particularly fabulous as we had the best and most reliable spring-fed filtered water system in the whole Gathering and a spring fed shower which was a favorite place for young and old alike on the hot days. 

Going to a Gathering with very young children is a different experience to that of years past when I'd stay up late listening to music, drumming and dancing to the wee hours or spending hours in the kitchen cooking up yummy food.  Instead we were able to connect with other parents and kids and have interactions that would probably never have arisen without the cuteness and curiosity of our children. 

All and all, a lovely week in the woods was had by all.  Some photo highlights below.

Greetings of "Welcome Home" fill our ears as we hike in with our gear.  Lots of kind folks help push the wagon and navigate the stroller over bumps but it was still such a relief to arrive at Turtle Soup!

Carl and Jan, Aaron, Heather, Teagan and Cael at the Turtle Soup trailhead

Two views of the Turtle Soup kitchen

Aaron and Brian build a wood fired oven out of a 50 gallon drum and lots of rocks and blue clay.  Bread, cookies and pizza in the woods are pretty awesome. 

Kids at camp

Teagan gives Heather and I and herself rainbow and butterfly tattoos with markers. 

Tallulah, Cael, Jaden, Teagan and Riker in our hammock.  What great neighbors we had this year! Oh, and many thanks to Heather for being better about snapping a few photos than I was!

Camping is always lots of fun and Rainbow Gatherings are their own magical experience.  Away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life there is time to reflect on a sunset, savor a tasty stew and converse with friends next to a glowing fire.  The creativity of hippies in the woods knows no bounds - artwork, music and performance abound.  From the hard labor required to make a Gathering run smoothly to the lovely man who stopped at our camp and played an entire game of chess with Riker to the major clean up efforts afterwards, people are incredibly kind and generous.  And that's why we keep trekking across the country to spend the fourth of July in the woods whenever we get the chance.

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