I didn’t go very far beyond the initial narrow corridor that first day because I couldn’t find anything that looked like established trails out in the wide open part. Instead I spent the morning at a kitchen that was just setting up called Camp Freedom. My asking for coffee was the stimulus that started a brother called Fire Walker to stoke a fire, find a grill to lay over it, and ultimately cook up a breakfast that included eggs and sausage.
I returned to the parking lot and at about noon and experienced my first rain on this site. For a few minutes it was accompanied by rice kernel sized hail, but this quickly subsided, and this was a rarity. Whenever it did rain around here, it always fell in small droplets. There were never any downpours, and the rains usually lasted only for an hour or two. But every day of the gathering there was a chance there would be at least one rainy period, and I started carrying a fold-up umbrella with me every time I went out on the trails.
There were a few long periods of rain, and one of these was most of the night and morning leading into June 22nd. When I got up and stepped outside of my van at about 5 in the morning, it had turned into snow. When I got up again at about 7, it was coming down in big clumps of flakes. I was able to stick the full length of an index finger into what had accumulated on top of my van before the tip of it rested on the metal. At 8:45 the sun came out, and shortly thereafter the snow turned back into rain and stated to taper off, finally stopping at about 11. Now the snow started melting, and the roads out of the parking lot turned into what looked like hopeless quagmires of mud surpassing even Pennsylvania in ‘99 and Arkansas in ‘07. I had been planning to walk into the main part of the gathering, but I resigned myself to perhaps spending the whole day in the parking lot. I lay down in my van and dropped off to sleep
By the time I had awakened at about 2:30 in the afternoon the snow had completely melted, and it hadn’t taken more than a few vehicles going over them to start packing the road surfaces down hard. The mud congealed and dried rapidly. I also noted that both Henry’s and Robbie’s vehicles had both left. I walked up the Handi-Camp road to Little Info to see if Change could use some help, and in the process discovered where they had gone to; they had parked in Handi-Camp’s small grassy field along the road just below where it made its brief final climb to the intersection with the FS road by Little Info.
Miss Information appeared to be doing all right and somebody had brought her some packages of ramen that she was boiling in a wok over the campfire, so I again tried to go into the broad part of the valley. This time I found what the FS had been calling an “ATV trail”, which was a strip of bare land about a foot wide running thru the grass. Over the course of two weeks other foot trodden trails would appear on each side of this strip, until there was a boulevard eight feet wide in spots. Later there emerged some forks leading off to other trails, and I started telling newcomers to always go to the left if they wanted to get to the most populated area. I walked this trail to where it ended at Kid Village, which had already erected a huge tarp covered structure. At about three quarters of the way in, I found the big dome tent that was going to be the Info supply tent.
On the morning of June 23rd, just before sunrise, the temperature was 26 degrees – the coldest temperature that I have experienced at a gathering. This turned out to be a rarity at this gathering too; the more usual sunrise temperature was around 40 degrees. It was cold enough to make going to the shitter in the morning uncomfortable.
An hour later I hauled in my tent and tarp to the Info site and found two trees near each other to tie a rope between and drape my tarp over my tent. Then I went on to Kid Village where they were serving their usual opulent breakfast on potatoes, eggs, pancakes, and oatmeal with fruit. I found out I was still regarded as an elder like Felipe had pronounced me last year and had the same be served from behind the line privileges. I returned to my van and brought in a second load of a cot and a blanket, and when I got back to Info I walked into a council that was being held in the Cooperations meadow beside it.
It was a supply and kitchen council, and there were few enough present that people could just talk across the circle at each other without the need for a feather. I was happy to see some faces from Tennessee back this year: Sloth, the Nick at Nighter who kept the books for the Magic Hat; Rae, the Fat Kids sister who handled most of Main Supply, Daniel, who had been focalizing Dinner Circle, and fellow Infomaniacs J’ai and Marken. There was much talk about determining the number of woks and pots in each kitchen and their capacities in gallons, and the comparative numbers of servings each kitchen was capable of, all to determine what proportion of the total amount of supplies available each kitchen would receive. Rae went on and on about keeping supplies off the ground and up on pallets or tables. It was decided that every day pile of food would be made destined for each individual kitchen and that each one would bring a tent or table for their own quota to be placed in. At that time all the supplies were being deposited at a point on the road far above Upper Bus Village, and there was discussion of moving it down to near the front gate (where it had been in 2000). This was not done immediately, but a few days later it was.
Later that afternoon at Info I found out that the Rainbow Posties that that appeared for the first time last year were back. They were a Rainbow postal service who walked all over the gathering delivering messages written on paper and put into envelopes with “stamps” hand drawn by the sender. They continued to deliver up to the 2nd, when the population of the gathering and the number of messages got beyond what they could handle. I was told that on the 3rd they had a ceremony where they “fired the gathering” and burned all of the still undelivered messages in a campfire. They did not deliver any more letters after that.
Robbie Gordon and his friend Tony set up their tipis about a hundred yards down the main trail to the north from Info on June 23rd, and I spent some time over there every day. On the afternoon of the 24th I was sitting out in front of Robbie’s with them and a few other friends when Plunker came up to us and said he had some things to report. He said that he had heard reports of people being stopped by LEOs as they came in and subjected to checks of their licenses and registrations, but he said they “weren’t using dogs”.
Shortly after, while Plunker was still there, a man in a LEO uniform accompanied by a man in a light blue plaid shirt, blue jeans, and a tan baseball with a black and white American flag on its crown. Plunker pointed to the man in civvies and said, “I’d like to introduce you to this year’s Incident Commander, Tim Walther.” He was wearing no gun holster or any other police equipment. The man in uniform told me he was Kris Hancock, the Operations Officer (and, as he told us, second in command). Mr. Walther said that this was his first gathering, and he “hoped to learn how to work together with you”. Plunker described him as “a fine gentleman who I think we will really be able to work with”.
They were going all out to introduce and shake hands and ask our names, and they willing to chat with us and listen to our concerns. There had been an official looking piece of paper that showed up at Info stating that the Forest Supervisor had issued a special order banning nudity. Mr. Hancock said, “We don’t care, just as long as it is not in sight of a public highway.” Later on in the conversation I heard him say things like, “We might as well work together”, and “I think we can accomplish a lot more thru cooperation and not confrontation”. There was no mention of any permit.
Then they told us of two recent incidents they had been involved with, a baby elk that had been attacked and killed by a dog, and a brother attacking another with a shovel in “an argument over a girl”. We expressed our concern and our assurances that we would work with our Shanti Sena to prevent things like this from happening again, and they seemed to accept them. All of us Rainbows there were surprised and cautiously optimistic over this dramatic change in tone from the past.
Later that afternoon the gathering had its first Dinner Circle, with the stated starting time of six o’clock and the actual serving starting at about 6:30. About 150 people showed up, and Fat Kids, Mudder Earth, and Iris kitchens were the first to bring food. Daniel was focalizing as he had in the past, and in later days he poured out the same flour rings on the ground for forming concentric circles around that he had in the past. At the kitchen council the previous day, it had been agreed that it would not be in the same place it was in 2000, but over to the west in a lower part where there was no sagebrush and all grass.
All over the site in the areas not covered by trees there were dried out patties of cow manure that were sometimes as big as two feet in diameter. There was a greater number of these in the grassy area, and before the Dinner Circle started several people showed up with wheelbarrows and tried picking them all up. There had been spotty rain showers all day, and some of cow pies were starting to moisten, making them harder to pick up without breaking. Most of the big stuff was successfully removed, but there remained lots of little bits and pieces. To the end of the gathering you had to exercise caution over just where you plopped down your rump when you sat down.
Later that evening in Bus Village, there was an electronics addict who had to have his pickup truck stereo going for all the time it took him to unload all his gear, and I thought back to 2000 where I had to move my truck almost every night to get away from some noise that had just showed up. Previously both J’ai and Marken told me that I was “allowed” to park in Handi-Camp (I guess because of my age), but I resisted it for a while because I was still able-bodied and didn’t want to use up space that might become scarce. This guy helped me make the decision to move, and I drove up the road and found a place after a brother there warned me not to park in the first place I chose because of some treacherous rocks. It cut about a quarter mile off of my walk in and out, so I became comfortable with my decision. There I could close all the doors and windows of my van and be in complete silence.(to be continued)