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I've Been There!
I went to the gathering site on 06-15-96 and on 06-30-96 I just hate to say this but the site has some serious problems. I struggled with whether or not I should put this on the web because I don't want to discourage people from coming to the gathering. However, I feel a moral responsibility to inform people what to expect so that if you do come, you can be better prepared.
I have lived in Missouri for 21 years and whan I first came to Missouri I live in a small commune less than 10 miles from this years site. I am very familiar with the area and it is a beautiful area indeed. But for those of you who were at the 1985 gathering and thinking it's going to be similar, it isn't. These pictures are pictures of the 1996 gathering.
The site is at the headwaters of the eleven point river. There is plenty of water there. In fact, that's one of the problems. If you like water, you're in luck. Several good size creeks and swimming holes with water over your head. This is spring water and it is very very cold. A lot of you won't be able to swim in water this cold, but if you're hot this will definitely cool you off.
This is the dry season and it usually doesn't rain much this time of the year. But sometimes it does. If we were to get a three inch rain you are likely to see some serious flooding here. Although unlikely, you run the risk of getting trapped. You will not be able to cross these creeks until the water levels go down and you could get stuck there for days. It isn't likely to happen, but by not likely I mean the odds are about one chance in 10. Even a one inch rain would wipe out the bridges that the gathering has built.
Hot and Humid
And you will be hot. Because of all the water and that the site is a flood basin, you have over 100 percent humidity 24 hours a day. There are a few sites in the Ozarks that are like a tropical rainforest and this is one of them. It is like living in a cloud. To illistrate the humidity, when I left the site at 7:00am just using my windshield wipers wasn't good enough to see. I had to use the defroster as well.
This is July in the ozarks and you can expect temperatures in the mid 90s in the daytime and mid 80s at night. Because it's in a valley you can expect less wind that most of the Ozarks gets. So you are going to want to enjoy the water to escape the heat.
You definitely want to be sleeping in a tent. The tent will help keep you dry from the condensing moisture and keep the misquitoes out. If you plan to just sleep out on the ground at least bring a little misquito netting to protect your head.
Humans are not the only species that's having a Rainbow Gathering. The misquitoes are celebrating as well. This is prime breeding grounds for misquitoes and they are thick. However, they are not bad during the daytime. There are two time a day, sunrise and sunset, where misquitoes are at their worst. You will want to bring some serious insect repellant for these times of the day. Garlic will not be good enough.
Ant then there's the ticks and chiggars. The ticks aren't to bad. By the time you get there the ticks will probably be thinned out by those who are already there. The chiggars, well, chiggars will be chiggars. Figure on some scratching.
Unlike the other Missouri site you'r not going to see large grassy fields to camp in. This whole area is covered in weeds that are about 2 feet high. This site should have been brush hogged, but it wasn't and it's probably too late now. When you trample down the weeds for your site it will look more like grass, but it's not. And misquitoes love to breed in tall wet weeds.
I have never been to a gathering 2 weeks before it started. There are about 200 people there now. And I do know that most of those who show up this early are a somewhat different crowd that those who come later. But what amazed me was the smoking. And I'm talking about tobacco. Everyone smokes! It looked to me like 80% of the folks there were doing nicotine!
I would walk up to a camp with 10 people sitting around a fire and 8 of them would be smoking. It felt more like being in a 12 step meeting so substance abusers and the air smelled like being in a bar. I had to keep moving to try to get out of the nicotine cloud. Now we are outside and people have to right to smoke outside. However, I don't like breathing it and I don't want to be around it. I have the right to not like it.
My first gathering was in Montana in 1976 and in those days people who smoked were ashamed if it and felt guilty enough to go off and hide, as they should. Although we love the smoker, we hate the smoking. But things have changed and that isn't the way it is anymore. The smokers rule.
When hiking in to the site, which is only two miles and on good road, you are traditionally greeted with "Welcome Home Brother." And although this is still happening, I find that I am more often greeted with, "Hey man, you got a cigarette?" Quite frankly, and speaking for myself only, I come to Rainbow Gatherings to get away from that.
And then there's the noise. People are louder and my in a party sprit than into peace and meditation. They we up all night hollering and beating drums literally to dawn, when they all went to sleep. When I lived in the woods with no electricity, we woke up at dawn and at sundown we went to bed. Work in the day, sleep at night. But these folks are up all night and sleep in the day, if they sleep at all.
So, if you are like me and you want to sleep at night, You should definitely bring ear plugs! I can not stress this enough. If you think you'll be sleeping to the sounds of the frogs and crickets, you're in the wrong place.
Lack of Parking
This could turn out to be a big gathering. It's just a feeling I have. And if it does, it didn't look to me like there was enough parking space. It also looked like there might be a problem with good camping space as well, however, there is a good chance I'm wrong about this. The road going in is a narrow dusty road and there is not room to park along the road. It is a very dusty road so you want to drive in at no more than 10 miles per hour.
Like I said, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But what I want to stress is, if you go, be prepared. Bring misquito repellant, ear plugs, plenty of supplies. What they really need to do, in my opinion, is find a second site. There are plenty of really good sites in the area. If it were up to me, and it isn't, I'd find a site south of Cabool in the forest there and create a non-smoking, not alcohol, midnight kerfew (on noise) site for those of us who are looking for a gathering the way it used to be.
Just went back this weekend and have new information. The temperature wasn't as hot as it was two weeks ago. The misquitoes have thinned out as well as the ticks and chiggars. However, it is as crowded as I predicted and it will get worse. There is a serious parking problem developing. But, the vibes are better. It now feels like a rainbow gathering. So in spite of everything, you will have fun. But come prepared.
Jerry Garcia Sighting!
As you know Jerry Garcia faked his death and was seen at the Rainbow Gathering. I managed to get this picture of him.