Enchanted Forest: A New Legend at Black Oak Ranch
Traveling to Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, California for Enchanted Forest is something magical all on its own. Driving through kitsch towns and towering trees has a real “American road trip” quality to it and pulling directly off of highway 101 to enter the venue is almost hilarious. Can you imagine seeing a festival going on right off of the highway and a bunch of festival kids driving their packed-to-the-brim and dust-covered vans and cars straight into the shenanigans? It’s a sight to be seen. For two years Enchanted Forest has been held at Black Oak Ranch and the history of this land is abundant. You’re probably familiar with legendary names such as Bill Graham, Wavy Gravy, and Grateful Dead; well, those are the musical movers and shakers that put Black Oak Ranch on the map due to their financial and musical contributions. For years, the widely-known EarthDance Global Peace Party was held on this land until it outgrew the space and currently the Kate Wolf Music Festival takes place there every year. In addition to all of the good juju that has blessed this land, founder of Enchanted Forest, Tulku, actually attended EarthDance as his first festival at Black Oak Ranch in 2004; it is amazing how things tend to come full circle.
Enchanted Forest is a truly unique and special gathering. The festival puts a large importance on being family-friendly, the festival strives to be a dry one with their “get saucy, not sauced” policy, and there’s a sensual tinge that often fills the air. The hot and dusty weekend was combated with on-site river access and the Saucy Spa which included shower stalls and a Dr. Bronner’s foam station where attendees were sprayed with thick layers of refreshing peppermint foam and rinsed down with cool water. Seriously, it was mind-blowing and no, you didn’t have to shower naked if you didn’t want to. The Saucy Spa was a top-notch place to cool down and chill out; not only could you get yourself squeaky clean there but most of the area was shaded and offered space to lie or sit down. You could also catch some awesome entertainment on the squishy, puzzle-mat dance floor in the Saucy Spa that was graced by artists like Soohan, Mihkal, Zack Darling, and others. Not only were you constantly greeted by soapy, smiling faces whenever you walked through the spa, but there was just something about the space that was real magical. Maybe it was the Dr. Bronner’s or maybe it was the break from the heat that it offered, but whatever it was, it was damn good.
The art that was on display during the festival was next level. From the pieces on display at Branches Mobile Gallery, to the collaborative mural that was being worked on all weekend, to the intricate and mind-blowing design of the main stage by Audiowaska, all were masterpieces in their own right. The micro-environments spread throughout the venue were also seen as art. The Nectar Temple, Kidslandia, The Hearth Tea House, The Crystal Dome, and the medical marijuana dispensary brought by Emerald Pharms were all spaces that festival attendees could relax, connect, play, and engage with one another. Throughout the three days on site people could be seen receiving healing massages, sipping on some late night tea, grounding themselves with crystal medicine, laughing and playing with their children, or lounging within the medical dispensary area. These environments were always full with people and being able to observe so many people enjoying the company of one another created a beautiful portrait of community.
Not only was Enchanted Forest full of micro-environments that were available to enjoy, but there was also an ample number of workshops and lectures that were being offered throughout the weekend. Dance, flow, and yoga workshops were held all weekend as well as workshops that were focused on relationships and sexuality, science and spirituality, health and wellness, and nourishment. The flow zone was particularly outstanding both as a student and as an observer. People were able to learn new skills and brush up on their current skills whether it was poi, hula hooping, fans, or contact staff. Watching people get into their flow and really embrace the art of prop play was captivating and it made people want to learn all of the cool tricks and techniques they were able to. Sure, you might bonk yourself on the head once or twice, but as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain!”
Oh, and the music? That didn’t suck either. Enchanted Forest was jam-packed with musical talent and many different genres were represented on the lineup. Some highlights at the main stage from the weekend were Clozee on Friday night, Nominus and Shpongle on Saturday night, and Psy Fi (who replaced Minnesota due to a travel complication) on Sunday night. Clozee is a tall, soft-spoken, French goddess who throws down the tribal trap something fierce and can get anyone’s booty to shake; she’s like a modern-day snake charmer. Nominus and Shpongle served us those weird, squishy, psychedelic sounds that the audience had been craving, and they served them to us on a silver platter. The visuals at the main stage paired with Shpongle could have made even the most sober person feel like they were blasting off into a different dimension and it was easily one of the best recent Shpongle set. Tons of gratitude should be sent towards Psy Fi’s way as it isn’t always easy taking a headliner spot when the scheduled headliner can’t make it. Some people rise to the occasion and some crack under pressure, but Psy Fi proved that he was able to take on, and own, the task at hand. At the Live Lounge the singers and songwriters were haunting, beautiful, and graceful. Haana, Cheraki, Marya Stark, and Ayla Nereo all took the stage at some point during the weekend and their sets were the perfect potions for those who wanted to be uplifted by the sound of music, but were searching for a more mellow atmosphere. Sometimes people don’t expect to go to a festival and sit around listening to live music with soft vocals and minimal instrumentals, but the artists at the Live Stage were both powerful and soothing which pulled in many different people throughout the day.
Enchanted Forest is a one-of-a-kind festival; truly nothing compares. There is something wholesome about the whole gathering and their signature brand of sacred, sexy, silly, and saucy is something that no other festival embodies quite like this. The staff, the volunteers, the artists, the collaborators, the teachers, and all other participants are kind, caring, and hardworking which brings a priceless amount of comfort into the Enchanted Forest container. This gathering is one that is family-inclusive, incredibly safe, and is also one of the juiciest parties around. Not only can you learn an incredible amount at this gathering, but you are able to connect to others in ways you never have before. If you missed the festivities this year, don’t worry. Keep up with all of their social media channels and be the first to purchase your ticket next year. You will not regret it.