By DAVIDSON SMALL, as told to Elise Herron firstname.lastname@example.org
Nearly three decades ago, the Rajneeshee sect packed their bags and decamped from their 100-square-mile ranch outside Antelope, Ore. In 1998, Montana billionaire Dennis Washington donated the property to Younglife, a nondenominational Christian youth summer camp. Here's what a trip to the Washington Family Ranch is like for Christian high schoolers—as described by Davidson Small, who attended the camp in the summer of 2012, when he was 18 years old.
I went to Washington Family Ranch right after I graduated high school, in 2012. I went because my friend was going, and he didn't want to go alone. It's geared toward high schoolers, and I was technically too old—18 is the cutoff—but because I graduated that year, they let me come anyway.
I never really knew much about the Rajneeshees, but I remember hearing about the camp all through high school and wanting to go.
It actually ended up being super-fun. There was a zip line, a huge indoor skatepark, a couple pools, volleyball courts, basketball courts—all kinds of shit. We at one point did a crazy night-time obstacle course that they set up.
The ranch doesn't really talk about the Rajneeshees at all. They told us that where the ranch is and where the people actually lived are separate. We went out to the fence line and looked at where the old A-frame living quarters used to be. But the camp is pristinely manicured, and unless you knew about it, you would never suspect there used to be a cult there.
Honestly, it seemed like Younglife's whole approach was to say, "Hey! You're going to have as much fun as we can possibly facilitate, and then we're going to talk about God for, like, an hour every night, and it'll make you love God." Which I guess isn't that far removed from what the Rajneeshees did. Minus the orgies. Not for lack of trying.