Forest Hosts Rainbow Family Reunion

Albuquerque Journal
Published: 07-01-95
Edition: Final
Page: D3

Byline: Andrew Stiny For the Journal

Thousands Unite By Tres Piedras

TRES PIEDRAS -- To those over 40 it might seem, as Yogi Berra once said, like "deja vu all over again."

There are colorfully painted VW buses, many with obligatory cow skulls mounted on the roof. There are sightings galore of the V-fingered peace sign. There are lots of folks with long hair and tie-dye shirts who are making music.

It hearkens back to 1967's Summer of Love, which spawned the counterculture whose echoes can be felt on this basin along the San Antonio River. Except that many of these people weren't even born then.

It's called the Rainbow Family gathering, and this 25th annual communion with nature and meditation for world peace is taking place in the Carson National Forest northwest of Tres Piedras.

By their own account, the loose-knit Rainbow Family consists of "every person imaginable from all over the world" who is "dedicated to respecting her cycles and her life-giving force."

The actual gathering, which starts today and runs through July 7, is expected to attract between 12,000 and 15,000 people. About 5,000 had arrived by Friday, Forest Service officials said.

Some Vallecitos residents have protested the gathering, saying its size will cause environmental harm. But federal courts have ruled that similar events are legal and do not require a permit.

Instead, mounted officers of the U.S. Forest Service and state Game and Fish Department patrol the gathering area and issue citations for damaging vegetation.

On Friday, a steady stream of motorists turned off U.S. 285, north of Tres Piedras and bounced along 15 miles of a bumpy gravel road to reach the site.

Some found it isn't easy reaching utopia.

The debris of the anxious or the careless was strewn along the wayside. A mid-sized bus named the "Jolly Trolley" straddled a ditch like a beached whale. Farther up the road, an abandoned compact car showed the telltale marks of a rollover, of which there have been several.

Cowhands on horseback stopped traffic as they moved a herd of cattle across the road onto summer grazing land. Around another bend, a small ocean of 2,200 bleating sheep gave not-so-mute evidence that, as the Forest Service likes to say, these are lands of many uses.

A sign nailed to a post reads "Slow down Hippies at play." But many gathered here say it's the psychic and spiritual signposts that really matter.

A free-lance artist who identified himself only as Paul said he comes to the gatherings for the unity and the brotherhood.

"Ten-, 20,000 people are getting along, no need for money, everybody just works when the work needs to be done," Paul said. "Yeah, you get some degenerates and bad people, but for the most part it's a good bunch of people, good energy."