Saturday, March 26, 2011

Scouting 101

The first Scout Rendezvous, called by Thanksgiving Council, is happening Sunday, May 8 at a location to be announced the first week of April on this blog and all the other usual places.

As with all things Rainbow, no experience is necessary to participate and new blood is always needed provided you can be self sufficient, have a dependable car or gas money to donate to someone who does, and want to do the hard work.  The more people who come prepared with potential sites to the Rendezvous the better.  Do your homework before you come. I realize that weather conditions may preclude actual walking (Step 7 below), but map work should be done ahead of time and if you come to the Rendezvous with sites in mind, bring the topo maps and all the research you've done on the area: endangered species, first national (tribal) land issues, grazing permits, etc. For all you know, someone else scouted that site last year and found some reason why it was unworkable. It's hard to find sites for the Annual Gathering and it's important we use our collective wisdom in site selection.

If you've never been scouting, here's my short list of how to scout (based on the collective wisdom that has been shared with me and my own hands on experience).  We generally gather on lands managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) but some areas of the country do have good land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). We don't gather in federally designated wilderness areas, national park, or  national monuments as these areas are not compatible with our needs due to one of the following reasons:  no cars, focus on protecting wild life and land, need to preserve sensitive ecosystems, and entrance fees to name but a few.

Step 1) Pick a gathering or gatherings that you personally attended.
Step 2) Find those gathering sites on a topo map. I was taught to use 7 minute maps. Many university libraries have good collections of topo maps. Or visit topo zone maps online.
Step 3) Once you find the topo map, correlate the parking lots, kitchens, main circle, and various camps you remember with spots on the topo map so that in your head you can see a gathering on a map.
Step 4) Pick a national forest or area under BLM management that you feel would be appropriate for a gathering - if you're planning on  scouting for the annual gathering in 2011, we're looking in Washington State.
Step 5) Look at the topos for that area trying to find a site that has the qualities you liked about the previous gatherings you've attended. Some of my personal favorite features are a good hike in at least 1 mile, closer to 2 if it's an easy hike because I feel that the harder it is to get into a site, the more committed people are to staying and creating gathering reality. For a large gathering, having a main meadow and a couple of separate smaller meadows is a good thing, water is of course necessary. Places to hike away from the main part of the gathering for people wanting to get away. Two roads in and out to the gathering site (Front Gate/Back Gate). No roads into the gathering site proper or the cops will drive into the heart of our gathering.
Step 6) Make sure the site is far away from civilization to minimize gatherer/non-gatherer conflicts and runs into town for booze.
Step 7) Go out and walk the site and see if it has what the maps showed and the above mentioned features, if it's workable and if it has the magic. In my experience, if you have done you're home work on five sites, maybe one is workable as there are always issues that don't reveal themselves until you are on the land.

Thanks to all my family who are spending time and money scouting for this gathering! We Love You!


  1. I love your posts, Karin. You really reveal how much work and cooperation it takes to make this happen. It's amazing that it takes this much communal effort for seven days of utopia. Thanks!

  2. A naturalist friend from Washington expressed concern if the gathering were to be on the olympic peninsula. Specific concerns were the indigenous people and limited natural resources.

    Just want to voice her concerns here so scouts are aware of these issues.

    Corey pine

  3. The gathering will not be in the Olympic peninsula for several reasons. It has almost no sprawling meadows to speak of, poor access, way too wet and it has been scouted often in the past offering very little. I bet the that the "scouts" will not even take a passing glance at that topos of that region.


  4. " Some of my personal favorite features are a good hike in at least 1 mile, closer to 2 if it's an easy hike because I feel that the harder it is to get into a site, the more committed people are to staying and creating gathering reality."

    OH? So never mind the 100's of handicapped people who also want to gather. We're passed over in every other segment of society so I guess we don't matter to rainbows either, according to the words above. Instead of ignoring us and our needs why not look for a place like we had in New Mexico a couple years ago? It accommodated most of us but we could have used a little more space that went to the lazy late-arrivals days before the end of June. But at least we did have some space set aside for us gimps! Some of us are not as young & fresh as we once were but we still contribute...if we're "allowed" our space.

  5. As a person who has taken people in wheelchairs to a gathering, I am intimately aware of some of the challenges for people with bodies that don't allow them to hike a mile or two with gear. There are other ways to allow all people to participate fully than having a "parking lot gathering." For example, rickshaws or horse drawn carts that help people get in and out. Sherpas to carry gear for people who can't carry their own gear, flat trails (such as we had in California in 2004) that make it easy for family with strong arms and backs to help family in wheelchairs roll from the parking lot to main meadow and points in between. I know that generally in the differentially abled community, the goal is to be independent but for me the goal of a gathering is to be interdependent and help each other out. Every one I've ever met at a gathering has contributed something and depended on other people for help in some way or another. I know plenty of brothers and sisters with young strong bodies who relay on the assistance of people in wheel chair or with less functional bodies to help them with their gathering. Why shouldn't the reverse be true. Another facet of a good site is a great location for bus village for folks who prefer to live in a vehicle than do the tent camping thing. As one of the co-authors of the Access Rap, I work very hard to make sure that all people can participate in the gathering. That being said, this is a primitive camping event, so check out a copy of the Access Rap at

  6. I'm glad to hear an able-bodied person such as yourself knows all these "helpers" but I have yet to meet a single one of these 'helpers' who would lend a hand helping with my gear, let alone helping my body get outside of the parking lots in all the years I've been gathering.

    I guess we're back to square one with this issue...IOW, we're on our own.

  7. Thanks Karin, I'm so amazed at all it takes..and yet WE do it. i was just think'n how I've never been a part of scouting...I have been to seed camp a few times. It's all good.Someday I hope to stay for cleanup too. I'm going to have to be grateful for around 5 days only this year.I'm bringing a newby sister who has wanted to come for years and she has limeted time off work. I love your gathering sites and usually agree with all you say. 'Specially love how you want to hear of diversity. Gratefull that you wrote "differentially abled community", as I have aged and pay a price for being hard on my body. Even with and sometimes as a result of my inabilitys I've grown, learned, and loved better than ever with each gathering. Love'n U, mama T

  8. Sam, I'm afraid it's your vibe. Like in New Mexico we stumbled down to Sumptin' To Eat and while exhausted, we were nevertheless getting ready to hike further and I heard some young man offering to help and then heard the blessed words, "I don't need help but you might ask the old guy." As Cleo called him, Rainbow Wonder, Dallas from Dallas put on one gal's pack on his back, my pack on his chest, bags of oranges in each hand and charged down the slippery trail, leading us to a nice camping spot near Rumors...

    Or like in '01 at the edge of the parking lot there were two grizzled A-campers squatting in a cardboard box. I thot they were leeches until one poked the other and they jumped up and and lifted a wheelchair with person riding it up and over the bridge and helped them down the trail. So I'm not sure where you camp in the parking lot, but pass the word and we'll get you to where the nayked hippy chicks will bathe you and dance all night.... Well in your dreams, but I'm sure that you can do better than what you've described.

  9. Pat I think you are right, Sam I could feel your vibe in what you wrote.....What I put out comes back to me time and time again. And like Karin and Pat said, I have seen many family helping others often at gatherings. Just because I'm a little differentially abled doesn't mean I can expect help, I still have to depend on me. Many times the past few years I've been offered help, sometimes I except and other times I tell the sweet person I'm ok, just slow and need to do this myself. I may only get to main meadow 1 or 2 times during the gathering-because I CHOOSE to camp with family who live in the outskirts. It's all about personal goals and choices, and what WE make of it.I think Karin is right about the longer than 1 mile walk ins. It's a whole different milue when it's easy to get in and allows vehicles close. The other thing that changes US is if cell phones are easy to use. Love'n U Sam and wish'n you the best.

  10. Ditto and all that, and while I agree with my post, I reread Sam's:
    "...why not look for a place like we had in New Mexico a couple years ago? It accommodated most of us but we could have used a little more space that went to the lazy late-arrivals days before the end of June. But at least we did have some space set aside for us gimps!"
    and it struck me that it would be nice if one piece of flat ground of the parking area near Gathering was dedicated to the differentially abled (Gimps and Old Farts?) I'm not sure what 'lazy late arrival days' means and it would take some planning (or at least a couple big carboard signs).

    All we need is about 20,000 volunteers to get this going!

  11. please call. my name is patricia salvatore , roland salvatore's mother 575-590-0226

  12. So where is the scout rendezvous?

  13. As sacred as the scouting process is itself it would be much more difficult without our beloved scouting vehicles. In addition to having the vehicle in good working order, with no major looming mechanical issues, there are some items you'll want along for the ride. The following is a suggested checklist of stuff to have on-board before you set out for the woods.

    1. Spare tire. In good condition, properly inflated to your vehicle manufacturer's specifications.

    2. Spare gas can. Filled with fresh fuel. Gas can go bad, so make sure your spare gas tank is filled with nice fresh fuel.

    3. Maps. Compass(es). Don't leave home without a scout's most important tools! GPS is nice but nothing beats the realiability of paper maps and a compass.

    4. Shovels, tow rope, come-along (hand winch). For extricating yourself from the occasional mud-pit or snow bank.

    5. Chain saw. You probably only need one of these for the entire scouting party to remove fallen trees from forest roads. A come-along can sometimes suffice in a pinch for pulling fallen trees out of the road.

    6. Food. Water. You might be out there a while. Plan for the unexpected, like the possibility of getting trapped in the woods by snow or floods. It happens. Really. A good water filter is nice, though a cook pot for boiling available water will get you by in a worst case scenario.

    7. Tools, repair manuals. For the occassional roadside repair. Scout vehicles take a hard beating!

    8. Secondary vehicles. Nothing works quite like the buddy system. Don't go out alone if you can avoid it, nothing quite like being stuck out in the middle of nowhere alone. If you must go venturing out on your own let the rest of your expedition know your travel plans, where you're heading and when you plan on returning.

    9. Communications devices. Cell phones, CB, Walkie-Talkies and internet devices are all good ways of staying in touch with the rest of the expedition. There's nothing like redundancy because some of these won't work in remote locations.

    10. Common sense. Don't drive down a road you can't navigate safely with your vehicle. Don't go up roads you can't turn around. Don't set out if the weather is hazardous. Just because a map says something is a road doesn't make it so in the real world. Always get out and actually look at the path of travel before driving it if you're not sure.

    11. Your sense of adventure. Get out there and discover our forests! If you feel a calling to drive down a particular road, go ahead and do it, you may never make it back that way again.

  14. Thanks again for valuable. It has been snowing a lot this week in Montana, so I hope the folks have done their research and are prepared for snow while scouting.