SKOOKUM MEADOWS, Wash. – It was supposed to be a fun week spent at a “hippie campout.”
But over a month after thousands of people left the Rainbow Family of Living Light's Gathering at Skookum Meadows in Washington, a grandmother from South Lake Tahoe described as a “hippie at heart” is still missing.
Tawny Enterline, daughter of Marie Hanson, 54, said her mother told her that she was going to a “peace rally” in Washington for a week. The annual gathering usually takes place over the July 4 holiday.
“A hippie campout. That's how she described it,” Enterline said. “So I was thinking maybe a couple hundred people, a bunch of hippies camping."
The Northwest edition of this year's Rainbow Family Gathering, a free-form festival held on Federal forestland in the US, attracts thousands of attendees, not hundreds as Enterline believed.
Estimates of the size of the crowd at the site of the Washington gathering this year placed attendance at about 20,000 people.
Campers are expected to clean up after themselves, police themselves and then return the land its original state or better. Local officials in Washington said that’s pretty much what happened at Skookum Meadow in July.
Days before the gathering took place, Hanson reportedly landed an open spot in a neighbor’s car filled with like-minded campers and headed north. Friends of Hanson said they last saw her on July 7. Her family reported her as missing on July 9.
She left behind her wallet, medication, extra clothes, souvenirs and other items, all in her tent.
Enterline said she has not gotten much help from the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office which has so far refused to take in tracking dogs to the site to look for clues to Hanson. Enterline said her local police department told her they were not sure a crime had taken place and were reluctant to investigate.
She said Rainbow Family members are helping her search for her mother. Flyers have been posted in towns near where the gathering took place. A missing persons search site for Hanson has been set up online.
Meanwhile, Enterline continues waiting for word, now five weeks after last seeing her mother. But hope is fading.
"You know, I think maybe she was trying to get out of there and she trusted the wrong person,” she said.
Some Rainbow Family attendees live on the road, moving from gathering to gathering in a fashion similar to how Grateful Dead fans used to follow the band across the country in loose caravans.
Enterline said her mother would never just up and leave her family and was dedicated to her two grandchildren. "She loves her grandchildren, my two children, more than anything in the world and she would not have just disappeared on them,” she said.
No one is turned away from the gatherings and there is little oversight of the loosely organized event, which dates back almost four decades. There is no central authority for the event.
Where information about the gathering has been by word of mouth in the past, information about the location of each gathering, transportation and other topics has now moved onto the Internet.
While there was a law enforcement presence at this year’s event in Washington, Rainbow Family events have traditionally been relatively free of crime and tolerated by local police agencies near where they take place, despite reports of some drug use at the gatherings.