The Story of Campfire Tails
I think it was when we reached 24 when Feyala said "Listen, do you want some help?". Up until then, it was just a campout. My biggest flaw is and always has been pride. Asking for help has always been an issue, and letting go hasn't been easy. If I have something in mind to accomplish, I obsess over every tiny detail, and the further away it is, the worse I feel about it. To this end, I've never been completely happy with CFT or seen it as fully 'complete'. I can feel proud of myself and and my peers who help to work without hesitation, but there's always the little tingling inner voice that tells me, "You know, you can always do better...". So I try to do my work better, and communicate better and plan things out a little better. All the same, if I know I can't cover my bases, help will be accepted. If it's someone who I think can show the same passion I feel inside for it, I'll accept it eagerly. These are the things I saw in the people who I eventually asked to be on staff, or who offered help and I accepted.
I remember the yurt campouts where it started. This particular one was just 3 months after I had injured my knee and was informed that I wouldn't be able to walk normally without surgery, drugs and therapy, none of which I could afford. Up until a month previously I'd been in a legbrace, and by now was able to get along with the use of a cane. It was just a weekend. At this point, the deal was simple. I'd appraise the site, figured cost of food and gas and divided up the cost equally amongst everyone involved. At the time I think it came out to 15 bucks per head. Dinner on the first night was tempeh tacos, made by Feyala, a mountain of snacks, and a yurt dedicated to alcohol. The next morning I burnt Charm's bacon, served pancakes, had falafel for lunch and dinner was a potato soup, prepared by a very drunk Smight and served after 10pm in the dark. It contained so much red pepper we buried it in a shallow grave, salted the earth and vowed never speak of it again (lol).
As per the last time, we met up at A&W after it was all over, ate hangover-nursing food them limped our way home. Back then, things were simpler. Gather in the woods, get drunk, play games, have fun and go home. It was in the yurts on the coast where my now closest friends and I finally met eachother. Cramped in close quarters with nothing to entertain ourselves but eachother, you learn to open up a little. You start inventing excuses to talk to the person next to you. The multiple yurts were also kind of their own microenvironments on their own, to boot. Go to one, and you find people engaged in deep, philosophical discussion and playing acoustic instruments, go into another, find drinking, music and loud animated conversation, step into the next and it's calm and goodnatured gaming, yet another, sleeping and quiet contemplation. Between it all as you travel, you're balls deep in the forest. Surreal, different, and beautiful. In a way it seemed to me that this single component was what made the campout special. Each location had it's own improvised sorts of gatherings, or happenings that each host put together to make each location, safe, fun, and enjoyable for those taking part in them. It was Zyk who said it first, "I kind of feel like I'm taking part in the birth of something amazing here, Crowley!"
The idea began to mature when it grew to 42 attendees in the summer of 2009 and we moved from the oregon coast out of the yurts into an inland campground called Schwarz Park, just a short walk from Dorena Lake. This was the year Feyala and I spearheaded the effort together, and our friends acted as our network of support. Up until now, though, Feyala, our primary cook, was a vegetarian and only produced vegetarian meals, telling others simply to bring their own meat if they wanted it cooked. This changed in 2009 when I simply gave people the option to donate 5 bucks to a meat fund, ensuring they had a portion of meat with their food, but keeping the non-meat-eating crowd secure in knowing they weren't contributing to other meals they couldn't eat themselves. At this point, we still had no events really, and instead relied on the campers entertaining themselves. Our primary incentive was to take care of the campers, ensure they were fed, bumps and scrapes handled and otherwise had their primary needs taken care of, leaving them the freedom to have their respective parties, relax and otherwise make new friends. I met some future staff, and cemented the relationships with other future staff here. Our chef, X_Panther, was just another friendly camper in the chow line that eagerly jumped up to a wok to help, Koda led a night hike up to the dorena reservoir where everyone howled into the valley and many others all joined in to start gradually evolving the campout into a more community-oriented event. In the end the feedback was pretty straightforward: We needed better security, better event structure, a more private location and we needed to be a bit longer than just a weekend.
Not long after this, in September 2009 I had gathered together those friends who had shown the innate skills I judged sufficient to organize a formally staffed event and after securing a site C at Ogden Group, our current home. Happenings came together in a kind of test of concept, and I made sure that there were some scheduled events by the boundlessly energetic Koda and his partner, Z as well and I somehow convinced Koinu to build us a website over the course of 2010. From there, well, it evolved. And it continues to evolve, too. I have a feeling that in a few years it will continue to reinvent itself into some strange combination of all the things that make us feel good and safe to be whoever we are.