Rainbow Family Gathering of The Tribes
Hold the silence until the arrival of the Children’s Parade.
This year's annual gathering to be held in Cherokee National Forest. The site is East of South Holston Lake between the lake and Holston Mountain in the NE corner of TN just Southeast of where Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee meet up. N 36.50175 W 82.04347. Please note each of the following set of directions came from people on the land. My recommendation is you print them all out and take them with you. The maps were made by a friend of mine.
Directions from points south:
From Knoxville TN, go North/East on Interstate 81 and near the Tennessee/Virginia border, get off at Bristol VA. From Bristol: I 81 take VA exit 3, follow 11E through town about 3 miles, turn left at the light at Weaver Pike (358), follow to the end turn left onto 44 *
*Continue East about 3 miles on 44 at Past Hickory Tree Grocery then turn right on to Flatwoods Rd. If you've gone more than 4 miles, you past the Grocery Store. Go back. Once you're on Flatwoods Rd follow FS camp/horse/boat signs follow signs park with all 4 wheels off on Flatwoods Rd.
NOTE: If you're on I-81, it intersects with I-26 about ten miles north of Johnson City.
Also please note that many people on site are saying that coming thru Bristol is the better, easier, wider and faster north route on 421.
Directions from points north:
This route stays on paved roads longer and is better for low clearance vehicles.
Get off I-81 south in Abingdon VA @ Exit 1. Get on 421 south. 421 winds south through Bristol TN, changing streets abruptly - watch carefully for signs. 421 south eventually takes you across South Holston Lake. When you cross the bridge, check your odometer - exactly 3.9 miles later, turn right onto Camp Tom Howard Road. Main trail is exactly 8 miles from there. Stay on the newly-paved road (FS-87), passing Sharps Creek Road on your right. You'll go another 6.3 miles until you come to a fork - there are signs directing you to the left. The pavement ends - Main trail is 1.3 miles later. The trailhead is at the bottom of a slight downhill in the road, and there is a turnout on the right, probably filled with FS LEO vehicles. The trail is on your left. This is the easiest of three moderately steep uphill trails. Bus Village is another mile or so past these trails, continuing west. The road from Bus Village continues into the site, but it is a good two-three miles walk.
Signs say that parking on the 'lakeside' (north) side of FS-87 is prohibited. Park only on the south, or left side of the road. Several tow trucks are already prowling this corridor, so don't risk it.
As always, please park with all 4 wheels off the gravel on Flatwoods Rd.
From either of the Bristols: From Bristol, TN or Bristol VA, get on the 421 going east.. (while there may be other ways in, they are not recommended as being good for most vehicles) Turn right onto "Camp Tom Howard Road" which soon becomes Big Creek Road. The name of the campground on Big Creek Road is "Little Oak". If you look for the sign for "Little Oak Recreation Area" make a right there, then follow the road about 2 miles past the campground. Welcome Home.
Another set of Directions from Bristol, TN
From I-81, exit at Bristol, TN
1. Head north on Volunteer Pkwy toward State St
2. Take the 1st right onto State St
3. Turn right onto Pennsylvania Ave -0.8 mi
4. Turn left onto Maple St - 0.1 mi
5. Take the 2nd right onto Virginia Ave - 1.2 mi
6. Continue onto TN-34 N/US-421 S/US-421 Scenic S/Carl Moore Pkwy
Continue to follow TN-34 N/US-421 S/US-421 Scenic S - 12.4 mi
7. Turn right onto Camp Tom Howard Rd - 0.9 mi
8. Turn right to stay on Camp Tom Howard Rd - 0.9 mi
9. Take the 1st left onto Big Creek Rd - 0.6 mi
10. Turn right to stay on Big Creek Rd - 4.1 mi
11. Turn left to stay on Big Creek Rd - 1.0 mi
12. Turn left
ONCE YOU'RE HOME:
**Good for carts gate: 87A on right is a gated 2+ mile moderate walk to main circle on a gravel road
**Hardy hiker gate: 3 miles past 87A look for trail head on the right, Josiah Trail 50 most hardy, Josiah Horse Trail 45 still hardy for now but milder incline
Both routes in are UPHILL!
If you're coming from the Left coast, you can pick up I-40 at the I-15 in Barstow, California. Then go east, east, east to Knoxville, TN.
If you're hitting the road soon and won't have Internet access, when you get in the area call (770) 662-6112 for recorded directions that will be updated frequently.
If you're trying to book a flight, Knoxville, TN is the closest major airports - about 150 miles away. Asheville, NC is about 75 miles away but is a smaller airport. There is a closer regional airport with a handful of carriers outside of Blountville, TN call Tri-Cities Regional Airport (located just 3 miles off Interstate 81 at Exit 63) and will put you about 50 miles away. Keep in mind that if you fly into Asheville, you have to go over the mountains to get to the site on I-26.
** IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO KNOW ABOUT THIS YEAR'S GATHERING **Signs say that parking on the 'lakeside' (north) side of FS-87 is prohibited. Park only on the south, or left side of the road. Several tow trucks are already prowling this corridor, so don't risk it.
Don't park along the blacktop portion of the road. Only park along the gravel portion of the road with all four wheels off the gravel or you will be towed. 87 is paved halfway in, then it turns to gravel. parking is only allowed on the gravel road. pull as far off the gravel as possible. you do not want to be "blocking the road" or they will tow your car.
87 is one of the most heavily patrolled roads in the county, just because of the LOCALS, never mind a few thousand hippies!!
Rumor is that LEOs are also ticketing for marijuana and nudity on the road. There has been thunder storms this week - come prepared. The site is lush and green. Bears have been sighted, but they avoid people. Don't tempt them with food left in the open.
There's a rumor circulating that we may have a horse drawn wagon shuttling gear and/or people who need help in to the site and up the hill. Just a rumor at this point, but manifest positive energy and it may happen.
Posion Ivy - lots of poison ivy on 87, hardly any up in the gathering. Ticks and chiggers not very prevelant.
Clarification: Rattlesnakes and copperheads on the mountain that people are hiking. Not sure if they are down in the meadow or not.
This site is quite favorable to bicycles and carts, once you get up there. the "hike up and in" feature of this site may prove advantageous for cleanup. Be prepared for rain. Bring rain gear, lots of tarps. Roadside parking. Ticks. Elevations is in the 2,000 foot range. Expect warm days, cool nights. Please leave all electronics at home or in your car. If you bring them into the gathering, keep them powered off and carry them with you at all times. Leaving electronics in a tent tempts thieves.
BOIL OR FILTER ALL WATER ~~ our water is not spring fed this year -- disturbed springs due to ancient (5,000 years ago) avalanch activity~~~ boulder fields abound! Plenty of rocks! I strongly recommend that your bring at least two gallons of water per person to cover your first few days at the gathering. Filtering water is slow going this year so you'll need the jugs to fill up. To filter water, use a 2 micron filter or less. Filters for use in the home are not useful in these condtions.
BEAR AWARE!!! DO NOT FEED THE BEARS! Be noisy when wandering thru the woods. Bears love ~ dog food, compost, sugar, meat, trash, their cubs, berries, etc. DO NOT FEED THE BEARS!! Bears do not love: NOISE, light, dogs, fire, YOU between them and their CUBZ, human voice in some or clanging cup and spoons! BE BEAR AWARE! Avoid confrontations with BEARS!
Please keep your pet well fed, on a leash, out of the kitchen, dinner circles and fights. Bury your dog shit, bury all dog shit you see. ($125 fine for dogs off leash and LOTS of horses on trails and roads near gathering.) Do not let your dog chase wildlife. All dogs should be vaccinated for the Parvovirus. Don't bring your puppies if they are not vaccinated.
Bring water shoes for swimming in Lake ~~~ I believe that dogs have gotten cut feet...
Keep checking back for more info. Just a word of warning, online maps don't always match the signs on the ground. Best recommendation is to take multiple sets of directions, come in the morning so you can see the markers. Look for piles of rocks on the side of the road.
Camp Map from a friend whose been on-site
A brother on Facebook made this basic map of the site and offered it up for sharing.