At my jobs as a camp host and parking lot attendant, I am asked a lot of questions. After over three months, I’ve heard some questions so many times, they no longer surprise me.
Here’s a list of questions I am asked repeatedly (and my most common answers).
Where is the General Sherman tree? (In the Giant Forest in the Sequoia National Park)
What’s in that big tank on your campsite? (Water) Can I have some of it? (No)
Where are the rock slides? (I have no idea)
Is there a river or stream up here where we can get wet and cool off? (No)
How long is the trail? (About a mile and a quarter)
How long does it take to walk the trail? (That depends on how many trees you hug)
What’s the elevation here? (About 6400 feet)
How do I get to [L.A., San Francisco, the Sequoia National Park, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Palm Springs]? (Answers vary)
Where is a water fountain/faucet/spigot where I can fill my water bottle/wash my hands/get water for my dog? (Not here)
Is there a place around here to go on a hike? (I have a map you can look at)
Do you take credit/debit cards? (No because there are no phone lines or internet access here)
Where’s the nearest ATM? (8 miles that way)
Where is Crystal Cave? (In the Sequoia National Park)
Can my dog go on the trail? (Yes, on a leash)
Where’s the closest place to get food? (11 miles that way, but it’s not very good and the people who work there aren’t very friendly)
Is there a coffee shop around here? (The restaurant 11 miles away sells coffee…if you mean a Starbucks, no)
Are there picnic tables here? (Yes, there are five picnic tables in the day use area)
Can we have a barbecue here? (Only on a gas grill, if you have a permit)
Which tree here is the oldest/biggest/tallest? (I don’t know)
Where is the nearest campground? (200 yards that way)
Is there a gift shop here? (No)
Where can I buy gas? (25 miles that way, 40 miles that way, or 40 miles the other way)
Are there bears here? (Yes, but they are timid because they are hunted here…you’re more likely to see a rattlesnake here)
Where’s the restroom? (In the little building in the middle of the parking lot)
Some questions take me by surprise.
One day a young Asian woman with a fairly strong accent asked me if we had a resting room. I thought she meant restroom (toilet, WC, el baño), so I told her it was in the little building in the middle of the parking lot. She was clearly exasperated and said not a restroom, a resting room. I was perplexed and just looked at her. She explained she wanted to leave her mother, an elderly woman using a cane, in a resting room with chairs and shade. I guess she wanted a waiting room. I told her there was no resting room in the parking lot, and she clearly expressed additional exasperation. I didn’t even try to explain to her that the only rooms in the area are the two with the toilets and a tiny one for storage.
Another time, a family asked me how to get to the Big Chief. I knitted my brow and shook my head. (I do something with my mouth too, when I don’t know the answer, but I don’t know how to explain the expression.) I told them I’d never heard of it. They said it is the 7th largest giant sequoia, and it’s supposed to be in the area. I still had no information about its location to offer.
(According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_giant_sequoias, there is a Chief Sequoyah tree located in the Giant Forest Grove of the Sequoia National Park. It is listed as the 26th largest tree with a height of 228.2 feet (69.6 m), a circumference of 90.4 feet (27.6 m), and a diameter of 28.8 feet (8.8 m). There’s also Red Chief in Long Meadow Grove. Wikipedia lists it as the 41st largest tree with a height of 245.0 feet (74.7 m), a circumference of 80.6 feet (24.6 m), and a diameter of 25.7 feet (7.8 m). Maybe the family was looking for one of these trees.)
One Thursday was the day of weird questions.
It started when two young women and their two fluffy little dogs exited the trail. They walked right up to me, and one of the women asked, Can you suggest a good hike for dogs? I was momentarily at a loss, then said, I don’t really hike, and I don’t have a dog, so I don’t know a good hike for dogs. The woman thanked me, and they all walked away. (Perhaps I should have offered use of my map, and the women and dogs could have consulted it and discussed their options.)
Later that day, I did pull out my map for a family to look at. The man asked me about the Pinnacle Trail. I said I’d never heard of it. He allowed that he possibly had the name wrong. I offered the map to him. He found the trail for which he was looking (the name of which has two syllables and does not begin with the letter “P”). They had a bunch of questions about the trail. I told them I’d never hiked it and could only say what I’d heard about it from other people. They kept asking me questions, and I kept saying I don’t know. Finally the oldest kid said, Are there big trees on the hike? I said, I don’t know; I’ve never been there, and I was done with them. Sometimes people insist I answer their questions, even after I’ve told them I can’t.
That afternoon I was patrolling at the nearby campground, and two men flagged me down to ask about the yurts. After I answered their questions ($75 a night, sleeps five, no cooking inside, bring your own bedding), they wanted to know about the closest rivers. I told them about the two rivers in the vicinity, and one guy asked me if the fishing were good. I said, I don’t know. I don’t fish. It seems to me he should have first asked me if I’d fished either river recently.
The strangest (or at least most strangely phrased) question of the day happened back at my campground. I was checking in two young Asian men (brothers). I pointed out my van and told them to let me know if they had any questions or problems. The one doing the talking asked if I stayed in the campground, and I said yes. The he asked, If someone arrives late at night, will you be here to assist them? I told him I would be here if someone arrived late, but when people arrive after dark, I stay in my van and check them in the next morning. I wondered what kind of assistance he had in mind. There are definitely certain kinds of assistance I will not provide!