Tag Archives: Camp Hosting

Wheelchairs and Work Camping

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A reader recently asked me for my thoughts on work camping by someone who uses a wheelchair. I wanted to give as complete and thorough answer as possible, so I decided to make my reply a blog post, in hopes of reaching as many people as possible.

First of all, I’m not really qualified to write about the topic. While I do have experience as a work camper, I don’t use a wheelchair or crutches or a cane or leg braces or any equipment to enhance my mobility. As of right now, I don’t have any mobility issues. (I know this could change in a heartbeat.) I’ll do my best to answer this question based on my experience as a work camper, but if anyone reading this post knows of an article about work camping while using a wheelchair or (better yet) has personal experience work camping while using a wheelchair, please leave a comment with more information.

Folks should keep in mind that there are a wide variety of work camper jobs available.

Amazon hires work campers during the winter holiday season to pull, pack, and ship items. I’ve not worked for Amazon, but I know people who have. Many of the jobs available require pulling items from shelves and moving those items across large distances in a warehouse from where they are stored to where they are packed from shipping.

Work campers are hired for the beet harvest season in Minnesota, Montana, and the Dakotas. Again, I’ve not worked for a company harvesting beets, so I’m not sure how a person with mobility issues would fair in such a work environment. My understanding is that there are different positions available for members of the harvesting team, so someone using a wheelchair might be able to find a specific job compatible with his/her abilities.

My work camper experience has included two seasons as a camp host/parking lot attendant and my current position as a clerk in a campground store/visitor center.

As a camp host, my duties included cleaning pit toilets, picking up trash, raking campsites, collecting money from campers, and completing paperwork associated with renting campsites. I can’t really say what a specific individual using a wheelchair could or couldn’t do. Different people have different abilities, and may be able to do some or all of those tasks, depending on their individual situations and whether or not necessary accommodations could be provided. The campground where I worked had no pavement, so a wheelchair able to easily roll on dirt would be necessary in such an environment.

If a person who uses a wheelchair feels s/he is unable to perform all duties required of a camp host, one way to handle the situation might be to work as a team. The area where I work has three campgrounds where there are two hosts, each working 30-40 hours a week. In many situations, these camp host teams are husband/wife duos, but such teams could be made up of two friends or a parent and adult child. In most situations, the camp host team would be allowed to divide up the workload however they want, according to their abilities and preferences.

Some work camper jobs involve working in an office, either as part of being a camp host or as a job in and of itself. I don’t have personal experiences with office job work camping, but people in a couple of Facebook groups I’m in have done it. Working in an office may be ideal for someone with mobility issues.

I currently work as a sales clerk in what is essentially a gift shop. Except for breaks, there are at least two workers in the store at all times. I believe everything I do (folding t-shirts, restocking shelves, talking to visitors, opening the register at the beginning of a shift and closing it at the end, ringing up sales, taking payment, and making change) could be done by a person who uses a wheelchair. My co-worker doesn’t like opening and closing the register, so while I’m doing those procedures, he puts out or brings in the furniture that sits on the deck during business hours, carries the snack food in from or out to the storage trailer, and opens all of the windows. We are allowed to decide how we will divide the labor.

The bottom line is, every work camping job is different, just as every work camper is different and has different strengths and abilities. I encourage every potential work camper—with or without mobility issues—to investigate thoroughly any job of interest.  Be prepared to ask a lot of questions. What are the duties of the person who will do the job? What physical abilities are required of the person who will do the job? Does the job require lifting a certain number of pounds? Is a camp host expected to get on his/her hands and knees to clean pit toilets? What tools must be used to complete a job? Is the camp host expected to empty garbage can? Can a camp host team divide the labor however the team members wish? Is the campground paved? Is the camp host site wheelchair accessible? Do your best to make sure a work situation is a good fit for individual strengths and limitations before accepting a job.

I don’t know much about the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), but it may offer protections as to what questions a potential employer can ask and what accommodations an employer must offer to workers with disabilities. If I had a disability and wanted to pursue a work camper positon, I would familiarize myself with the ADA and the protections it offers before I began applying for jobs.

As I said before, I would appreciate if readers with personal experience or links to information on the web would post in the comments section. Otherwise, keep in mind that every work camping job is different and every person using a wheelchair is different, so do your homework and ask a lot of questions about specifics before accepting a position.

Do You Grow?

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It was in the last days of my second season as a camp host when I went to the group campground to check in the astronomy club staying there for the weekend. When I asked around, I was told the person who’d made the reservation had not yet arrived. A nice guy in my age group offered to sign the permit, so I wrote down his address and other pertinent information.

I meant to give him a fire permit too, so using their camp stoves would be legal, but I realized hours later that I’d forgotten to do so.

The next morning when I went back to the group campground, I had the fire permit ready for the same guy to sign. I’d simply copied the man’s address from the camping permit onto the fire permit. When I found the man and asked him to sign the permit, he jokingly asked if I’d memorized his address.

I explained I’d copied his address from the camping permit. Then he asked if I planned to visit.

I began to wonder if the man was flirting with me. Men never flirt with me, so I’m not sure I could recognize flirting if it actually happened. His being in my age group made flirting more probable, but I decided he was just being friendly.

I told him I couldn’t visit because I didn’t even know where his town was.

It’s in Santa Cruz County, he told me. We have a big organic farm. You could park your van on our farm.

(I don’t know exactly who the other people included in his “we” were.)

I made a bland comment about it must be nice to live on a farm. Then I  said, Do you grow…?

I meant to end the sentence with something clever, but nothing clever came to mind. (That’s what I get for I opening my mouth with no plan on how to end what I’ve already started to say.) Instead of ending the sentence with something at least reasonable, if not clever (beets? pumpkins?) I simply let the sentence hang there unfinished.

Then I realized, Santa Cruz County and Do you grow? when taken together have a definite marijuana connotation. What if he thought I was asking if they grew weed on the organic farm?

I’d never ask a stranger if he grew pot. It seems like a rude question, even in California, seeing how marijuana is federally illegal and all. It’s none of my business if someone is growing weed. It’s safer for everyone to keep marijuana cultivation on a need to know basis, and I don’t need to know!

I’m not sure if the man recognized my awkwardness. He started talking about the zucchini he and whoever else lives on the farm grows. He told me all about the big, big zucchini.

Any flirting that may have been going on was entirely incompetent.

 

So Proud!

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My apologies for two posts in one day, but my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods is now live and available for purchase in the Kindle Store. I couldn’t be prouder!

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
Click on the image of the book’s cover to go to Amazon to find out more or to purchase. (If you shop on Amazon using this or any other of my other other affiliate links, I receive an advertising fee.)

If electronic books aren’t your style, don’t worry! The paper version will be available soon.

Thanks to everyone who’s helped make this book happen…

Trash Picking

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Trash picking is in my genes, passed down to me by my father.

One of my earliest memories is going behind the local dime store after closing time so my dad could poke around in the unlocked trash room. It thin it was mostly cardboard in there, but sometimes he’d find good things like the metal bank the size of a softball and printed brightly with the countries of the world. He gave the bank to me, and even though the rubber stopper to hold in the money was missing (hence the exile to the trash room), I liked it anyway and kept it for years.

My dad was never too proud or too wealthy to pass up a discarded pile of building materials without investigating it for useful items and hauling home anything he might be able to work into a home improvement project.

My dumpster diving has gone farther than my father’s ever did. I doubt he ever climbed into a supermarket dumpster to pull out enough discarded produce and snack food to supplement the grocery budgets of several households. I doubt he’s eaten discarded pizzas as a diet staple while traveling across the country or pulled fancy food dumped into garbage cans by rich people in tourist districts. I’ve done all those things. We’ve all got to eat, and when I’ve had no money, I did what I had to do to feed myself.

As a camp host, I sometimes find things in trash cans I can’t believe people have left behind.

My first camp host trash score came with items campers left next to the trash can. They’d brought several green propane bottles with labels missing, and they didn’t manage to use all the fuel during their camping trip. I guess they didn’t want to haul the bottles home, so they were left lined up outside the trash can. I took the bottles over to my campsite and used them during the cold days of late mountain spring. Those partially full bottles must have saved me at least six bucks.

Later in the summer, I opened a trash can and found nothing but an empty one gallon glass wine jug. It even had a cap. I pulled it out of the can, washed it, and still use it as a water container.

Young people driving shiny cars throw out the best stuff. After one group left, I opened a garbage can to find several tiny, almost new tubes of toothpaste, a nearly full bottle of propane, a box of individually wrapped herbal tea bags with only a few bags missing, and assorted other things I no longer remember. Another time, I found half a bag of marshmallows, half a Hershey bar, and several unopened packages  of fancy chocolates that had melted, then re-formed while in an ice chest. Let me be the first to say, fancy chocolate is still delicious, even when one has to eat it by biting chunks out of a blob.

Once a group of young professional types cut out the garbage can middle man and offered me approximately seven gallons of bottle water they didn’t want to carry home. Hell yes, I’ll take that, thank you. Even at the cheapest bottle refilling rate in Babylon ( 25 cents a gallon), I saved almost $2 and didn’t have to spend my time filling bottles.

One Sunday morning when I was emptying trash cans, I found beverages of an adult nature. When I tried to pull the bag out of the can, I realized it was too heavy for me to lift. I began pulling beer bottles out of the heavy bag and throwing them into an empty trash bag. When I pulled a bottle out and it seemed unnaturally heavy, I examined it more closely. Yep, there was liquid in there. Yep, the cap was still sealed. Who throws out unopened bottles of fancy beer? Well, underage kids do. Camp hosts don’t card, so I’m not sure how old anyone at the campground was, but the members of one group seemed young enough to be underage. That would explain why they didn’t take the beer home to mom and dad’s house, but I don’t understand why they didn’t drink the beer before they left. Didn’t they know there are sober children in China?

In any case, I ended up with six full bottles of beer, and I’m not talking PBR. This was good stuff, some California microbrew. However, since I’m not much of a drinker, I gave the beer to my coworker, who was quite pleased with my trash score.

On another Sunday afternoon, I found a two-pound plastic container nearly full of plump, ripe strawberries. I scooped them up and took them right back to my campsite. Upon further inspection, I found some of the berries were a big squashed, but I washed them and ate them anyway. They were super ripe and juicy. I ate them with some whipped vanilla yogurt I’d gotten on super sale at the bargain supermarket. The yogurt was quite like whipped cream and went well with the berries.

By far, my best food score came near the end of the fire when a crew of young people from the California Conservation Corps stopped by to see the sequoias. Each of the crew members was carrying a paper sack about 2/3 the size of paper bags groceries are packed in. After a couple of the folks dumped their paper bags in the garbage cans,I wondered what was in them. After the crew left, I started poking around in the trash cans. In addition to at least three meaty sandwiches (which I left behind), almost every bag contained an apple; an orange; a couple of small packages of raw carrots; a foil packet of tuna; a bag of banana chips; a bag of trail mix; a bag of M&M’s; a package of fig cookies; and a bag of either Oreos, Chips Ahoy cookies, Ritz bits crackers with cheese, or Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies. There was so much waste of prepackaged food! I have no idea why those people hadn’t saved the snack food for later. It wasn’t going to spoil any time soon.

Their waste was my gain. I filled up two of the paper bags with food, and I lived large for weeks. I saved easily $25 worth of food from going to the dump.

I try to be discreet with my trash picking because the normals sometimes do weird things like call the caps when they feel uncomfortable. However, I never feel ashamed for living off other people’s castoffs. If anyone should feel ashamed, I think it’s the people throwing away all the good stuff.

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Something Terrible

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Something terrible happened.

A young man died

and I found his body.

I woke up Thursday feeling kind of off. I still had enough sick-time hours to cover my workday, so I left the campground I was babysitting and drove the few miles to my campground. I spent the day working on my book and taking down my privacy tent and generally resting up for the weekend. After eating dinner around 4:30, I felt well enough to put on my uniform and check-in some campers who’d just arrived. As I prepared to drive back to the campground I had to babysit, it occurred to me that I hadn’t been to the group campground I was responsible for since the previous morning. So after emptying the iron ranger at the parking lot, I headed over to the group campground.

I didn’t see the pickup truck until I was on the road running through the middle of the group campground. It was parked as far to the left side of the road as possible. It was still partly in the road, but there was just enough room for a vehicle as large as my van to pass it.

I thought the pickup probably belonged to a hunter. It was deer season, and hunters in pickups were all over the place. I thought the hunter had left the truck there and had gone out past the meadow and into the trees to look for a buck.

I noticed a bag of charcoal in the back of the truck. It had been opened, some of the charcoal removed, then the top edge rolled closed, In addition to telling the hunter s/he was parked in a $126 per night campground, I wanted to make sure s/he knew charcoal fires were prohibited.

I didn’t think I would actually talk to the person who’d driven the truck into the campground. I thought I’d end up leaving a courtesy notice under a windshield wiper, but I decided to try to make personal contact before I wrote out a notice.

Hello! Hello! I called out when I left the van. I looked around the campground, but I didn’t see anyone walking about or sitting at a picnic table.

I approached the passenger side of the truck and peered through the dusty window. To my surprise, I saw someone sitting in the driver’s seat. Judging from the person’s short hair and flat chest, the person was male. His face was unlined, young. He seemed to be sleeping—eyes closed, mouth slightly open—although the position of his head and necked looked extremely uncomfortable.

I knocked on the glass of the passenger side window with a series of knuckle tingling thumps—no gentle taps for this camp host in a hurry. The young man’s eyelids did not flutter. His shoulders did not twitch.

Wow! I thought. That kid’s really sleeping hard!

I had a new idea.

I went back to my van and sounded the horn. Honk! Honk! Honk!

Then I laid on the horn for several long seconds—Hooooonnnnnkkkkkk!!!

I walked back over to the truck and peered through the dusty window again. The young man had not moved. At this point I started getting worried.

I rapped loudly on the passenger side window again but saw not a flicker of movement.

I began to focus on my attention on the young man’s chest.

Throughout my nervous life, I’ve concentrated on so many chests—those belonging to children and pets I was caring for, those belonging to the boyfriend I hoped would die in the night and the boyfriends I hoped would live. Always, if I stared at the chest long enough, always, the chest would eventually move. This time though, the breath had run out. I saw no rise, no fall, no movement, no nothing.

I beat on the window with the flat of my fist. Bam! Bam! Bam!

No response. No movement of the young man’s chest.

I thought I should try knocking on the driver’s side window. Maybe the young man was just a really deep sleeper. Maybe the young man was chemically altered. (But his chest wasn’t moving. I knew his chest wasn’t moving. I knew what it meant that his chest wasn’t moving.) I tried to get to the driver’s side window, but the truck was parked up against trees and brush and there was no clear space to easily slip through.

I went back to my van and honked the horn, then laid on it again. When I got back to the truck, the young man had not moved a muscle. Although I was beginning to have to believe he was dead, I pounded on the window a few more times; of course, I received no response.

I stood there and wondered what I should do.

I’ve seen enough cop shows on TV and read enough mystery novels to know I did not want to be the hapless individual who stumbles upon a murder scene and destroys evidence or gets accused of the crime. This didn’t look like a crime scene, but what did I know? I didn’t want my fingerprints all over everything.

Should I try to do CPR on this guy? I haven’t had CPR training in nearly twenty years. Would I remember what to do? Better question: Would CPR do this guy any good? I remember reading or hearing somewhere that CPR can sometimes keep a person alive until EMTs arrive on the scene, but CPR alone is probably not going to save anyone’s life. Even if I got past the brush and dragged the young man out of the truck and performed CPR on him…No professional medical person of any kind was likely to happen down a winding dirt road and into the group campground to take over from me and save this guy’s life.

I decided the best thing I could do was call 911.

Of course, I was nowhere near a telephone. So I jumped in my van and drove fifteen miles to the campground where my boss was stationed. There was a landline there. I drove as fast as I dared on those mountain curves. (Slow down. I’m in a hurry, I  heard a former co-worker quote her grandmother.)

When I arrived at the campground, my boss wasn’t there. The camp host didn’t know where he was or when he’d be back. I was on my own.

I called my boss’s cell phone first and left a message on his voice mail saying I’d found someone I thought was dead and was calling 911.

The 911 call was a farce. The dispatcher had me spell my name but still got it wrong when she read the letters back to me. She asked me the last time I’d been in the campground, and I said between 7am and 9am the day before. She said, So 10am yesterday? Was she even listening to me? Finally, she asked if I could go back to the campground to guide the first responders to the body.

Yes, I said. I can do that.

I sat at the end of the road to the campground for nearly an hour before a deputy arrived. He had me drive in first, while he followed behind. I parked in front of the truck and got out of the van. The interior of the truck was dark, and I couldn’t see the young man in the driver’s seat. I hoped he’d woken up, left the truck, walked out into the meadow to take a leak or shoot a deer, or anything at all, really. I was totally willing to look like a fool for calling 911 if only the young man could be alive.

The officer shined his flashlight into the cab of the truck. The young man was still there.

He hasn’t moved, I said softly.

The officer tried to open the passenger side door. Locked.

Then he squeezed between the truck and the trees and the brush and tried the driver side door. Unlocked. He opened the door and the overhead light came on. I saw the officer reach in and put his fingers on the young man’s neck to check for a pulse.

In a few moments, the officer stepped from the side of the truck and said to me, He is deceased.

Then the officer rummaged around in the back of the dead man’s truck. He told me there was a small charcoal grill behind the passenger seat. He said it had evidence of charcoal that had been lit, but whether the young man had been trying to kill himself or stay warm, he didn’t know.

Medical personnel arrived and the officer and the EMT both squeezed between the truck and the trees to look at the dead man. They managed to get the door open and the overhead light was on again. The officer pointed out the charcoal grill and said he thought the man had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

If carbon monoxide had killed him, his face would be red, the EMT said. Carbon monoxide poisoning would make his face red like a tomato, the EMT said.

I can vouch for the fact that his face was not red at all.

The deputy and the EMT agreed the young man must have died from suffocation. The fire used up all the oxygen in the tightly closed truck, and the young man had nothing left to breathe.

The EMT left, and the deputy took my statement. I told him I had a group scheduled to arrive in the campground the next afternoon. He said the mobile morgue was on its way and the body and the truck would be going in the morning.

I went back to the campground where I was spending the night. I felt empty and old. I kept remembering how the young man’s face looked while I was trying to wake him. I know it’s a cliché to say I kept seeing his face, but it’s true.

I don’t know if I should write about what happened. It seems so personal, not so much for me as for him. Should I write about a stranger’s death? I was there, for part of it at least, so now this death is a part of my story too.

Please, if you’re going to leave a comment on this post, please be compassionate. I don’t want to read anything negative about how this young man died. I don’t want anyone telling me what I should have done. I did the best I could under the circumstances. I think the young man probably did the best he could too. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but this time, please share the negative ones with someone else.

Too Big

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This post is dedicated to the camp hosts who left the mountain the day before these events occurred. You are missed.

The other camp hosts were gone, and now I was covering three campgrounds and my shifts at the parking lot. The campgrounds were substantially less busy now that the season was drawing to a close, but I still had eight pit toilets to scrub on Sunday afternoon.

I finished my shift at the parking lot and headed next door to clean restrooms.

As I approached the campground, I saw a big pickup truck towing a long 5th wheel. The truck/trailer combo was stopped and entirely blocking the road’s left lane. A car had passed the truck/trailer combo and was now in the right lane, going the wrong way. The wrong-way car was nose to nose with a car traveling in the proper direction in the right lane. Luckily, I was able to turn into the entrance of the campground without getting involved in the vehicular mess.

The campground next to the trail is laid out on a one-way loop. The host’s campsite is at the immediate front of the campground, but to back into it (and to see who’s in the campground), I drive the whole loop whenever I arrive.

I made the circle and found the campground empty. As I approached the front of the loop, I saw the big pickup truck towing the 5th wheel had entered the campground and was trying to navigate the loop’s first turn.

The campground was really not designed for big RVs. I think it was designed for tent camping, but some of the sites can accommodate small-to-medium motor homes or small camper trailers. But I couldn’t think of a single spot where such a long combo would fit.

I backed into the camp host’s spot. As I did so, I heard the driver of the truck telling the passenger(s), There’s a place! I realized he was pointing to the host’s spot. Ummmm, no.

I got out of my van and strode over to where the truck and the 5th wheel were totally blocking the roadway.

Are  y’all looking for a place to camp? I asked the driver, a white man probably in his 50s. He said he was.

I explained the campground is small, with small sites. I told him I didn’t think any of the sites would work for his big rig.

That one would have worked, he pointed to the host’s site, but he already took it.

I explained I was the camp host and that was the camp host’s site.

No wonder you backed in so damn fast! the man said with disgust.

Yep, that’s my spot, I reaffirmed.

I suppose I could have let them park in the host’s space. In retrospect, I can’t think of a rule against doing so. But the location of the host’s site lets me easily see who’s entering the campground.  Also, the water tank–which I’m supposed to ensure is not tampered with–is on the host’s site. I think I was justified in keeping the spot to myself.

I told the man he was welcome to drive around the loop and decide if any of the sites worked for him

What if I walk around? he asked.

I told him that would be fine, but you are blocking my roadway.

I think the man was (justifiably) afraid he was going to get his big rig stuck in the little campground.

About that time, the passenger appeared. She was a small Latina woman with a pronounced accent, about the same age as the man.

They were trying to get to the National Park, she said. I told her they still a had a long way to go.

She wanted to know where they could camp.

They could camp here, I told her, if their rig fit on any of the sites, which I didn’t think it would. I also told her about the free camping area up the road, which I though might work for them since it’s basically dispersed camping with no real sites. I also mentioned a fee campground past the free campground. I said several times that I didn’t know if either campground could accommodate them or how it would be to pull that rig on the winding mountain roads.

How would they get to the National Park? the woman wanted to know.

I started giving her directions, and she said, Wait! Wait! Let me get the maps!

She ran to the truck and came back with two dreadful maps. General maps of California seldom show the small roads people must use to get around in the area where I work. One map was barely adequate, and I pointed out the tiny lines representing the roads they needed to follow.

I give the couple props for actually having maps and a general idea of how to use them. However, I don’t understand people who tow such big rigs on unfamiliar mountain roads with no plans for where to park for the night and only a vague idea of how to get where the want to go.

Once I’d give them ideas of where to camp and directions to where they wanted to go, the man asked if they could park and walk the trail. The overflow lot was mostly empty, so I said yes, but told him he’d have to back the trailer in between a sign and a log. He said I could help him back up so he wouldn’t hit the sign. Ummmm, no.

I said, She (indicating the Latino woman traveling with him) can help you back up.

He muttered something about her being too nervous, but after I collected the $5 parking fee, I busied myself with preparations for scrubbing pit toilets. I did not want the responsibility of telling the man how he should back up his shiny, new, unscratched, undented, mulit-thousand-dollar-probably-owed-to-the-bank recreational vehicle. Besides, he and his passenger lady needed to learn to work as a team.

I cleaned the back toilets first. When I returned to the front of the campground, the truck and 5th wheel were parked in the overflow area and the couple was gone, off to the trail, I suppose.

I scrubbed the front toilets, then positioned folding road work barricades in front of both doors, in hopes of keeping visitors out. I didn’t want anyone slipping on the wet floors, and I didn’t want anyone tracking dirt onto my clean floors.

I finished up my chores and climbed into the van to drive to my campground where I still had four pit toilets to scrub. As I approached the campground gate, I saw the couple of the 5th wheel approaching the obviously closed restrooms.

The man gestured to the barricade in front of the men’s restroom with a look on his face that clearly said, WTF?

I’m sorry, I called from my small side window, those restrooms are closed! The restrooms in the parking lot next door are open.

Or go use the one in your big shiny 5th wheel, I muttered under my breath.

Happy Campers

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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.