A much smaller contingent of Rainbow Family members than North Carolina’s Nantahala National Forest has sometimes experienced descended on Buck Creek in the forest’s Tusquitee District in late June.
In 1987, an estimated 12,000 Rainbow Family members converged on Nantahala Forest in Graham County — an invasion that caused substantially more problems than the recent incursion.
A group of Rainbowers numbering 50 to 60 had converged at a campsite in the national forest in Clay County off U.S. 64 west of Franklin. Clay County Sheriff Joe Shook said it was actually four or five Clay County residents that ended up with citations from the U.S. Forest Service, however. It’s not that the local residents were arrested for harassing — or trying to join — the campers.
Instead the locals got tickets for various mundane violations, like dead tags, expired licenses, no insurance, improper registration and the like. Shook surmised the locals were driving out to the area to get a look at the campers, Shook said.
“They was just out there looking seeing what was going on and the Forest Service had set up some checking stations on Buck Creek. A couple cars and trucks didn’t have insurance, so they had them towed in,” Shook said.
Shook said the checkpoints were also not meant as a deterrent to people bothering the peaceable campers, but were a routine practice. Shook emphasized that the Rainbow Family campers presented no law enforcement issues at all.
“If they don’t cause us a problem, let’s not create a problem,” Shook said of his attitude toward them. In fact, the only concern was whether they would overstay the 14-day limit on camping. Leading up to Fourth of July weekend — when they would have hit the 14-day mark — Shook said a deputy would continue to check on the encampment until the campers left.
Attempts to get more detail from the Forest Service about the tickets issued were unsuccessful.
The Rainbow Family is a decidedly unorganized, uncentralized group or movement with its origins in the 1960s counterculture. The group subscribes to a philosophy of love and peace. The Fourth of July is apparently a traditional occasion for mass Rainbow campouts, which they reportedly call “harmonic convergences.” The events are said to develop by word-of-mouth and through information made available on the web.