My shift at the parking lot was almost over when the small and shiny Jeep SUV pulled in. I approached the vehicle and found white folks inside. There were only two of them, an older couple, both speaking with accents my lazy ear could only identify as “European.” They were asking about campgrounds, so I sent them next door to ask about availability there. They soon returned to the parking lot, asking if I were the camp host next door. I told them I wasn’t, explained I was the host at the campground two miles down the road. They said it looked as if all the sites next door were reserved but said they hadn’t seen the camp hosts to speak to them. I thought they wanted to camp next door so they could walk to the trail from their campsite, so I sent them back to talk to the camp hosts. I also told them to come to my campground if things didn’t work out for them next door. Every site in my campground was open.
I packed my chair, water bottle, and backpack, then walked down to the restrooms to restock toilet paper. It didn’t take me long, and I was soon on my way back to my campground.
When I pulled in, I saw the same small Jeep SUV already parked on site #6. After getting the van backed into my spot, I walked over to site #6 where the woman exclaimed, Now this is a campground!
The other campground was just too busy, she said. Too many people. She wasn’t happy with the yurts, either. Talking about them made her shudder, although she called them by some cute name I wish I could remember.
When I checked them in, I found out they were from Austria. They had so recently arrived in the U.S., they were still suffering from jet lag.
They asked me if the my campground was likely to stay quiet all night. They said they’d had experienced campgrounds where people were partying and loud. I told them I couldn’t guarantee people wouldn’t show up and be loud, but I said they could let me know if anyone bothered them, and I would put a stop to the disturbance.
Only one other vehicle pulled into the campground that evening. A young couple and a wolfy dog were in the white SUV. They were looking for a camping spot, they said, but is there anywhere that doesn’t cost $21? the young woman asked me after I’d run through the campground info. I told them about the nearest free campground and dispersed camping. They said they’d go check out the free campground and maybe come back, but they never did.
The campground was empty all night, save for me and the Austrians. I got into my van around 7pm and didn’t hear a noise outside until morning.
The next morning, the Austrian man approached the restrooms moments after I’d finished cleaning the first one.
How was your night? I asked. Did you enjoy the quiet?
The man stretched out his arms and declared, This is better than a five-star hotel!
He asked if he could use one of the restrooms. I pointed to the one I’d just finished, and said, That one’s clean.
He gestured to the one I hadn’t started on yet and said, That one’s spotless too.
A little before 9:30, as I’d suggested to them in order to beat the crowd at the trail, the Austrian couple left the campground. When I arrived at the parking lot at 10am, I saw their rental car parked near the front. It was after one o’clock when the couple emerged from the trail. They told me they’d enjoyed seeing the trees and thanked me for my advice to arrive early. They said they’d decided to stay another night at my campground.
When I got back to the campground, I found the Austrian couple eating a late lunch. I collected that night’s camping fee from them and got the man’s signature on the camping permit. When I returned to my van, I saw the free travel booklets my boss had dumped on me that day. The booklets contain information about the National Forest and a couple of National Parks. I knew the Austrians were headed to a National Park, so I thought the booklet might be useful to them.
I brought one over, saying I’m sorry to bother you again, then explaining I thought the information in the booklet might help them. They were quite grateful and the woman said, You are the best camp host we have ever had!
It’s nice to be appreciated, but it’s even nicer to know I’ve made my campers happy.