Tag Archives: Work camping

My First Raccoon

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To be honest, it wasn’t the first raccoon I’d ever seen in real life, but it was the first raccoon I’d seen on the mountain.

The other raccoons I’d seen had been spotted in Texas. On several occasions, raccoons tried to break into a house animal, raccoon, whiskerswhere I was staying, and one time while sitting on the back patio of a coffee shop in a major city, I saw a lumbering raccoon bigger than the biggest cat I’d ever laid eyes on. That sucker was huge. I guess everything really is bigger in Texas!

In the first three seasons I’d worked in campgrounds on the mountain, I’d never seen a raccoon, never heard one break into the garbage cans, never received a complaint from a camper who’d been the victim of raccoon crime. I’d occasionally wondered about the lack of raccoons, but since I knew about their persistence in the acquisition of food, I certainly didn’t wish for any of these critters in the campgrounds where I stayed.

During my second summer as a camp host, I’d asked my coworker about the lack of raccoons. He’d lived in the area for nearly 20 years, so he was my main source of information about local flora and fauna. He postulated that a lack of water kept the creatures off the top of the mountain. That seemed like a logical explanation to me, but the next year was wetter with still no sign of raccoons.

The raccoon made its appearance during the last week of July of my fourth season on the mountain. It first showed up in the campground where the Mercantile is located. Sandra the camp host told me on the night it arrived, it went from campsite to campsite, scavenging. On site #1, the raccoon stole a cheeseburger off the table while the camping family sat there eating dinner. It was certainly a bold creature!

The Man had come back to work a part-time maintenance job which required no dealing with money, paperwork, or the general public. Of course, Jerico the dog had come back with him. We were all staying at the group campground together. Maybe a week after the cheeseburger incident, the raccoon made an appearance on our campsite.

We’d been to civilization that day and come back with plenty of supplies. The Man had loaded all his food into his minivan but hadn’t yet put away a 15 pound bag of dog food which was leaning on a stump outside the van.

The Man had come over to my rig but left Jerico in his van. It had grown dark while we lay in my bed talking. Suddenly from the other van we heard Jerico start barking, and he didn’t stop. There were campers on the other end of the campground, and I thought one of them had approached our camp.

When Jerico started barking, The Man jumped out of my van and went over to his to see what the commotion was about. In less than a minute, he was hollering, Honey! Honey! Bring me my headlamp!

There’d been a raccoon out there, and now it was in the tree! Jerico had treed a ‘coon from inside the minivan! What a hound!

The raccoon was still moving up the tree when I got outside, so I threw a couple of pine cones at the tree for good measure.

Don’t hurt it! The Man said, but I had no intention (or ability) to hit it. I just wanted it to find the environment of our campsite inhospitable.

It might have rabies! The Man said, which was possible, but unlikely if it was content to slowly climb a tree. I heard a terrifying story on This American Life once about a woman attacked by a rabid raccoon and that motherfucker was aggressively going after the woman, not trying to take refuge in a tree. Our raccoon was obviously trying to practice avoidance.

With the light from my Luci lamp, I could just make out the raccoon’s glowing eyes high above the ground. With The Man’s bright headlamp, we could see the raccoon splayed out on a branch ten or twelve feet up. This one was much smaller than the lumbering beast I’d seen at the coffee shop in Texas.

The Man put the dog food in his van, and we made sure there was no food left outside to entice the raccoon. We all went to bed and didn’t hear from the raccoon again.

A couple of days later in the Mercantile, I heard about the further exploits of what must have been the same critter.

Two young men were in the Mercantile early on Sunday morning. They reported they’d seen a raccoon in the campground the night before. They’d actually seen the raccoon on their very own campsite. In fact, the raccoon had stolen a bag holding the swimsuit and towel belonging to one of the guys. It had been too dark to find the bag right after it was stolen, but he’d found it that morning in the bushes. The raccoon had ripped the bag trying to get to the contents. We joked about the raccoon being sad after it discovered that the bag it had just grabbed contained the worst snack ever.

I wondered aloud why, after three and a half seasons of seeing no raccoons, this one had suddenly appeared. The other young man said the raccoon must have been pushed out of its territory, and now had to find a new home. I suspect the young man was right. Maybe a wildfire had pushed the raccoon out, or maybe it reached maturity and had to leave the territory of its birth. I spent the rest of my time on the mountain doing my best to put food away so the raccoon wouldn’t try again to make my territory its territory.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/animal-whiskers-raccoon-16605/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/zoo-bear-raccoon-saeugentier-54602/.

Sloth?

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The cars in a caravan of about 15 parked in the overflow lot in front of the Mercantile. I don’t know if the people in the cars were a family or friends or what, but the folks from the group who visited the Mercantile ranged in age from babes-in-arms to senior citizens. Of course, the children who came inside ooohhed and ahhhhed over all the things they wanted but their parents weren’t going to buy.

A little boy who was maybe five walked right over to the wagon full of stuffed animals and pulled out a monkey.

Wait? What? A monkey? On a mountain in North America? Why in the world were we trying to sell a stuffed money? Those were the questions I wanted answered.

The plush toy in question is not visible in this photo.

I’d just pulled the monkey out of our plush toy back stock earlier in the day. Why are we selling a monkey? I’d asked the other store clerks. Neither of them had any idea. I tossed the monkey into the big wagon with the stuffed bears and raccoons and other woodland creatures. Maybe we’d sell it eventually.

The boy honed in on the monkey, picked it up, and carried it over to his older sister who seemed to be about nine. Look, a sloth! he said as he handed the plush toy to her.

The sister looked as confused as I felt. A sloth? Really? While selling a stuffed sloth in the middle of a North American forest on top of a mountain made about as much sense as selling a toy monkey in that location, I didn’t think what we had was a sloth. It didn’t look a bit like a sloth to me.

The sister was scrutinizing the tag attached to the toy’s ear, trying to find an indication of its species, I presume. I sidled up to her and said, I think it’s a monkey. She looked startled. Maybe she was surprised to find an adult getting involved.

My brother said it’s a sloth, she told me.

I know, I acknowledged, but I think it’s a monkey. I walked away from the girl then. I didn’t want to creep her out by hanging around.

A few minutes later, a man who turned out to be the dad of the two kids came into the Mercantile. He looked around at the goods for sale and found himself in front of the wagon full of stuffed animals. His daughter must have returned the monkey to the wagon because there it was, looking up at him. I’ll be damned if he didn’t exclaim, Look! A sloth!

The father had an accent that led me to believe English was not his first language. Had he somehow gotten confused in his study of animal names and thought the critters English speakers call “monkeys” are called “sloths”? Had he taught his son the names of animals, thus passing down the monkey/sloth confusion? Had the girl child learned the proper animal names in school, but the boy child hadn’t gotten to that lesson yet? Or could it simply be that what looked like a monkey to me looked like a sloth to others?

A few weeks later, a different little boy solved the mystery.

He was probably seven or eight and made a beeline to the big wagon filled with stuffed animals. A Sasquatch! he exclaimed as he plucked the monkey/sloth from away from its furry companions.

A Sasquatch?  I pondered. This kid might be on to something.

Is this a Sasquatch? the kid asked the adult who seemed to be his father.

I don’t know, the father said. Why don’t you ask? he said, gesturing to the other clerks standing behind the counter.

The boy marched up to the counter with the monkey/sloth/Sasquatch in tow. Is this a Sasquatch? he asked one of the other clerks.

I have no idea, she told him.

I took a good look at the plush toy. Yes. I could see how it was possibly, maybe, perhaps supposed to be a Sasquatch.

I want the Sasquatch, the boy told his father,

You only get one thing, the father told his son. He mentioned a half dozen other things the boy might want from the Mercantile, but the boy stood strong. He wanted the Sasquatch.

Just before the other clerk rang up the purchase, I ran over behind the counter. Let me see that! I demanded, grabbing the plush toy and finding the tag attached to its ear. Yep, there on the tag with the barcode and item number, in tiny letters it said, “Bigfoot.” Mystery solved. Why hadn’t I just looked there in the first place?

I took a photo of the stuffed animal in question and planned to share it here, but I’ll be damned if I can find it. It probably actidentally ended up in the wrong folder and I’d never renamed it, so itsname is just a bunch of random numbers. Sigh. Blogger fail.

I took the photo in this post.

Wad of Cash

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It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-June and the Mercantile was busy. A group of tween Girl Scouts and their families were scooping up souvenirs throughout the store. I was working the floor, helping people find sizes and doing my best to watch out for shoplifting.

I asked two young adult women standing by the shelf of t-shirts for kids if they needed any help. One of the woman asked if I had anything in XXXL. I told her I had one design in that size and led her over to where those shirts were stacked on a shelf. I reached to the bottom of a pile and pulled out the XXXL shirt.

The woman had a handful of stuff, mostly brochures for tourist attractions from what I could tell. She set all the stuff she’d been holding on the shelf between two stacks of t-shirts so she could take the shirt I was holding. She held the shirt at arm’s length and cast a critical eye upon it. I think this will fit my husband, she said. I’ll take it.

Rolled 20 U.s Dollar BillShe draped the shirt over her arm, grabbed her stack of stuff from the shelf and turned away from me. I glanced at the shelf, and lying where her tourist attraction brochures had been was a wad of cash. It must have been on the bottom of her stack and was smaller than everything else, so when she picked up her stack, the money was left behind.

Sometimes we have time to deliberate over our moral dilemmas and sometimes we make our moral decisions in an instant.

I reached out and grabbed the wad of cash. It would have only taken me an instant to slip it into one of the pockets of my apron. When the woman realized it was gone, she probably wouldn’t remember setting it on the shelf. If she did remember where she’d last had it, well, there were a lot of people in the store and any of them could have picked up a wad of cash found sitting on a shelf.

Instead of putting the money in my pocket, I called out, Ma’am? Ma’am? Man Holds 10 U.s Dollar Banknote

The woman turned around, and I held up the wad of cash. You forgot this, I said to her.

She looked sheepish and said, I won’t be able to buy anything without that.

I reached out and returned her money.

It was the right thing to do.

 

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/rolled-20-u-s-dollar-bill-164527/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-holds-10-u-s-dollar-banknote-928201/.

Treachery

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It was the morning of the first day of training for my seasonal job. About a dozen of us workers sat in the small conference room of a shabby Best Western, learning the ins and outs of our jobs on the mountain.

We were wrapping up from a short break when The Big Boss Man said for all to hear, Blaize, it’s a picture of your van!

He was looking at his phone, so I thought a visitor had posted on some review site a photo that included my van. The real story was much more complicated than that.

The message my boss received came from the Forest Service. A visitor to the trail had taken a photo of my van in the parking lot and sent the photo with a message to someone in the Forest Service, but whether the message went to some national email address or directly to someone local, I have no idea.

This is the iron ranger The Man and I were accused of robbing.

This is the (paraphrased) story the visitor told in the message to the Forest Service: The visitor was in the parking lot and saw a van pull up to the iron ranger and two people who didn’t look like they belonged there retrieved the money from the iron ranger. The people seemed to be “under the influence.” After taking the envelopes from the iron ranger, the two shady people stayed in the area, probably to hit other locations.

I don’t know what day or time the reported incident occurred. The Man and I had gone together to empty the iron ranger a few times in the six days we’d been on the mountain before we received this report. Depending on what day the visitor saw us empty the iron ranger, the circumstances were slightly different. The Man thinks the incident probably happened the day he opened the ranger and 35 or 40 envelopes fell into his lap, causing him to yell exuberantly to me, Honey! Honey! Get a bag! Get a bag! I think the incident happened the day I emptied the iron ranger, then The Man and I stayed in the area (parking lot, campground, trail, highway) picking up trash. In any case, please allow me to separate the fact from the fiction in the visitor’s tale.

FACT: The company I work for does not provide me with a vehicle to drive between campgrounds, so I drive my van to the parking lot when I go there to retrieve money from the iron ranger. My van sports no decals or magnets with the company logo. So, yes, the visitor did see my hippie van with out-of-state plates in the parking lot. There is no disputing that the van in the photo is indeed my van.

FICTION: Two people who didn’t belong there retrieved the money from the iron ranger.

FACT:  The Man and I very much belonged there. We were on the company payroll, with instructions to empty the iron ranger.

It seems to me that seeing us emptying the iron ranger in broad daylight would have been a clue we belonged there. It seems to me the fact that we had a key to unlock the padlock protecting the money would have been a clue we were authorized to retrieve the envelopes.

FACT: To be fair, we weren’t in regulation uniforms. I had not been issued uniform pants, so I was wearing a uniform shirt, my uniform jacket, and my nametag from last season along with a pair of tan Carhartt-type pants. The Man was wearing a uniform shirt and uniform jacket with grey sweatpants because he was on his way to paint and didn’t want to ruin his uniform pants before the season even began.

So maybe our attire did not scream professional, but if the concerned citizen had spoken to us, even casually, we could have explained who we were and what we were doing there.

FICTION: We were “under the influence” (presumably of some illicit chemical substance).

FACT: We were certainly not under the influence of any illicit chemical substance. I don’t know where the visitor got that idea. Maybe because we were laughing and joking? Maybe the visitor thinks only people who are chemically altered can have a good time at work?

FACT: Yes, we stayed in the area after we emptied the iron ranger. We either went next door to the campground to work there, or we spent the next couple of hours picking up trash.

Honestly, I’m not upset my boss was contacted, although I have to admit I’m a bit miffed about that “under the influence” part. I know The Man and I were doing nothing wrong. However, why can’t people just talk to each other? If the concerned citizen had only spoken to me or The Man, we could have cleared everything up.

 

 

Thieves!

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The Man and I got up the mountain early and started our season of work. He was hired to be the camp host at the campground where I’d held that position for two seasons as well as to work at the parking lot for the trail. I was hired to work at the store, but it wasn’t scheduled to open until Memorial Day Weekend. Before the campgrounds were even open, The Man was working to get his and the one next to the parking lot ready for campers. I worked at the parking lot on the weekends, collected the day use envelopes each evening, and spent my nights babysitting yurts.

We worked on the mountain for six days, then went back down in the valley for staff training. We spent two days in the conference room of a shabby hotel with our work camper peers, learning about the company we work for and how to properly complete paperwork. Our two days off (Friday and Saturday) occurred immediately after our training. Friday was payday, so we stayed in town Thursday night and did our shopping on Friday morning. We were back on the mountain by early Friday afternoon. All told, we spent two nights away from the campground.

On Sunday I worked at the parking lot while The Man did more prep work at the main campground. On Monday I spent my entire work day reconciling the money I’d collected at the parking lot over the last eight days while The Man wroked at the main campground again, this time removing tarps from yurt platforms. We ate breakfast and dinner at our campground on those days, and The Man spent his nights there while I was away guarding the yurts, but neither of us ventured far from our campsite.

On Tuesday we planned to spend our morning at our campground. The store yurt was up, and the box truck with all the fixtures was supposed to arrive on Tuesday afternoon. The Man and I were going to help unload it. Before that, I wanted to give the restrooms at the trail a good sanitizing cleaning. The Man and I decided before we headed to our work down the road, we’d spend the early part of our morning working at our campground.

I was in a restroom on the back side of the campground wiping down the outside of a pit toilet when I heard The Man yell.

Honey! Honey! he shouted. Someone stole a fire ring!

A fire ring? I wondered. Those things were made of metal and heavy. How could someone steal a fire ring? Doing so would not be a casual endeavor. Why would someone steal a fire ring?

I walked out to where The Man was standing on site #1. Sure enough, it was lacking a fire ring. I remembered seeing it while raking on site #1 before we went to civilization for training, so I knew it hadn’t been stolen over the winter.

The thieves had pulled the fire ring up from where it had been partially sunk in the ground. We could see the marks in the dirt where it had been dragged across the site.

The Man wondered if someone he’d told the campground was closed and sent on their way had stolen the fire ring as a form of revenge.

I doubt it, I told him. No one in a Volvo stole the fire ring to bring it home to suburbs. I bet someone in a truck took it, but there’s no way we’ll ever know.

The Man said this was a wake-up call for us; we should put our things (water jugs, stove, propane tank) away when we left the campground. I just mentally rolled my eyes. I always put my stuff away before The Man came along and told me I was being overly cautious.

I can’t believe someone stole the fire ring, The Man said for the tenth time.

Actually, I counterd, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before.

If you enjoyed this story, check out my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. It’s all about my two seasons as a camp host and parking lot attendant at a very popular trailhead.

 

Welcome Back! (An Update on My Current Situation)

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I hadn’t beein in the forest three minutes, and already a tourist was asking me a question.

The Man and I had been boondocking on public land just outside a mountain town, waiting around until we were

This was the view the last time I dealt with snow in May.

closer to the day we had to report for training for our summer jobs. We could make the trip from where we were to where we needed to be in two days. We were more than a week away from when we planned to leave when I checked the weather forecast and saw we were facing a cold snap. The report said the high on Wednesday was predicted to be 44 degrees with a 70% chance or rain or snow. Snow! In May? Snow in May is not unheard of in the higher elevations.

I could wait out a day of cold at the library or a coffee shop, and The Man and the dog and I could cuddle down for a night in the mid 20s, but I was concerned about what rain and snow would do to the road that brought us into and out of our camping spot. It was a red dirt road, already rutted and rocky. I was afraid a day of rain or a melted blanket of snow would turn it into a mudyy, mushy, soupy mess. I didn’t want to get stuck in the mud, and I didn’t want to get stuck on our campsite because I was avoiding the road. The Man and I decided we’d leave on Tuesday, before the weather turned bad.

We were up Tuesday morning early. We cooked and ate breakfast, packed up our kitchen and the last few items we had lying around. Our last two errands in town were to dump our trash and hit up the food bank. We were on the road by 9:30.

We drove through rain, but made it to our stopping point just fine. We hadn’t been there long when my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, I found The Big Boss Man on the other end of the line.

He had a favor to ask, he said. Maybe we could help him. The crew was coming to the main campground on our side of the mountain in the next few days to put up the yurts. Once the yurts were up, he’d need someone to babysit them, especially at night. Did we think we could get up the mountain before the training?

That might work, I said and told him we were already more than halfway there. We could be there in the next couple of days, I let him know.

I asked him if he actually had work for us so we could start earning money and he said we could rake and paint and clean firepits, and do whatever needed to be done to get the campgrounds ready to open. He could certainly keep us busy and pay us for our work.

When I got off the phone, I talked to The Man about the situation. We agreed we were ready to get up the mountain and get to work so we could start making money.

We drove the next day and made it up the mountain. Before we’d left cell phone service behind, I’d called The Big Boss Man and left a message letting him know we were on our way. I knew once we got on the mountain, we’d have no cell service and wouldn’t be able to call anyone.

I decided to go to the main campground first to see if the boss was there supervising yurt construction. I found myself driving behind a medium-sized rented motorhome. It passed the trail’s parking lot and pulled into the lower part of the long, wide driveway of the campground next door. I pulled my van into the campground’s driveway too, and The Man followed me with his van. The gate was closed and appeared locked. I jumped out of my van to determine if the padlock was actually locked or only dummy locked. It was actually locked; no one was working in that campground.

I walked over to The Man’s minivan to let him know the gate was locked. We decided to go to the campground where we would be living for the summer and wait for the Big Boss Man to come to us. The Man zipped around the motorhome and was out of there fast. I was climbing back into my van when I saw a woman emerge from the passenger side of the motorhome. She walked over to my van, a yellow sheet of paper in her hand. Oh no! Here we go! I thought as she approached me. Then I realized if I let myself be annoyed in my first three minutes back, it was going to be a long season.

I opened my door (because my window doesn’t roll down) and said, Yes?

She pointed to the map on her yellow sheet of paper. We are here? Her accent was definitely not American. She was looking for the trail.

I pointed back the way we’d come. The parking lot for the trail is about 200 yards that way.

The tourist season had officially begun for me.

I took the photo in this post.

10 Things You Can Do to Increase Your Chances of Having a Great Experience as a Camp Host

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Some aspects of having a great experience as a camp host are matters of chance. You have little control over the weather, the mood of your boss, the number of mosquitoes buzzing around your campsite, or whether your campers are nice folks or jerks. However, here are 10 things you can do to increase your chances of having a great camp hosting experience.

#1 Choose a campground in an area that’s right for you. If you read my previous post 10 Steps to Getting a Job as a Work Camper at a Campground, you’ll know you need to consider where you want to work. If you hate humidity, don’t take a job in the Deep South. If you love humidity, stay out of the desert. If you’re hoping for a cool summer, go up in the mountains. You’ll start out at a disadvantage if you hate your campground’s location.

#2 Ask a lot of questions before you accept a job.

The following are questions you may want to ask:

  • What is my pay rate?
  • How many hours will I be scheduled to work each week? What happens if I work more than my allotted hours? Will I get paid for overtime? Does overtime have to be approved in advance?
  • What duties am I responsible for?
  • How many days off will I get each week? Will I get the same days off each week? When does my time off begin and when does it end? What if my day off falls on a holiday?
  • Will my partner and I work the same hours? Will we get the same days off?
  • Am I allowed to have visitors while I’m on duty?
  • If I drive my own vehicle for work related duties, will I get a mileage reimbursement?
  • If I work after Labor Day weekend, will my hours be cut? If they are cut, by how much?

#3 Get it in writing. Ask for a contract. If there are any disagreements between you and the management in the future, you can refer to your contract.

Skunk cabbage growing in the campground where I was the host for two seasons.

#4 Research the area where you’ll be working before you go. Learn all you can about the nearby attractions as well as what animals and plants you might see. Keep learning once you get to your campground. Go to the places campers ask you about. Learn the answers to the questions everyone asks.

#5 During your research get yourself a really good paper map of the area. Some people are visual learners and will really appreciate it if you can show them how to get from here to there on a map. Also, if you are in a remote location, GPS systems and map apps may not work.

#6 Know the campground rules and follow them. It’s difficult to enforce rules if campers see you breaking them.

#7 Get paid for every hour you work. It’s only fair. Likewise, work every hour you put on your time card. That’s only fair too.

These are the comfortable, sturdy boots I wore during my first season as a camp host.

#8 Use gloves when cleaning toilets. If the company you work for doesn’t provide you with gloves, provide your own. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to clean toilets when you’re not overly worried about getting grossness on your hands.

#9 Wear comfortable, sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Break them in before you start your job.

#10 Laugh every chance you get.  People will be rude. You’ll have to pick up annoying micro trash. It will rain when you were hoping for sunshine or snow when you were hoping for warmth. A sense of humor will get you through the rough spots and make your entire camp hosting experience much more enjoyable.

Blaize Sun was a camp host for two seasons (mid-May through mid-October) in a remote Forest Service location in the mountains of California. She wrote a book about her experiences. It’s called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During her time as a camp host she chased a nursing mouse out of a restroom, cleaned feces off the floor, and discovered a dead man. Her sense of humor is all that kept her going on more than one occasion.

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I took the photos in this post, except for the image of Confessions of a Work Camper. That’s an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on the image, anything you put in your cart and buy from Amazon during that session will earn me a small advertising fee.

 

 

10 Steps to Getting a Job as a Work Camper at a Campground

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Lots of rubber tramps, nomads, vagabonds, and van dwellers are drawn to the idea of work camping. Working a few months, accumulating a pile of money, then living several months without a job can be quite appealing. While there are a variety of work camping jobs available throughout the year (Amazon CamperForce during the winter holiday season, the beet harvest shortly after that), working at a campground during camping season (typically Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, but sometimes later in the year depending on the weather) gives workers the added bonus of spending time in nature.

People who’ve never before worked in a campground often wonder how they should go about getting such a work camper job. Today I’ll share with you ten steps to help you get a work camper job at a campground.

#1 Be honest with yourself about your strengths, weaknesses, desires, and dislikes. If the thought of cleaning pit toilets makes you gag, you may not cut it as a camp host. Perhaps you might be better suited to a job at a campground store. Not really a people person? Maybe you should get a job (such as doing maintenance) which doesn’t require contact with the public every day.

#2 Consider where you want to work. What state or region draws you? Do you want to be close to family members or as far away as possible? Hate sand? You probably don’t want to get a job at the beach. Have breathing problems? You may not want to work in the mountains. Can’t stand the heat? The desert is probably not for you.

Remember that as a rule, temperature drops with a rise in elevation. If you’re looking to escape from summer heat, get a job in the mountains. If you’re always cold, find a place to work at sea level.

Being flexible may improve your chances of getting a job. If you decide you’ll only work in Delaware, you might discover the job market is tight. If you expand your job search to the entire Eastern Seaboard, you’ll have a better chance of finding employment.

#5 Decide if you want to work at a private campground or on public land. Some facilities on public land are run by private companies who have negotiated contracts with the government agency managing the land.

#4 Think about the amenities you need. If you need electricity for medical reasons, don’t take a job at a campground with no electrical hookups unless you will be allowed to run your generator whenever necessary. (Many campgrounds have quiet hours when running a generator is not allowed.) If you can’t live without Facebook and YouTube, don’t work in a remote location without internet access. If you have to check in with a loved one every night, a campground with no landline and no cell phone service is not going to cut it for you. If you need a hot shower every morning and you can’t take one in your rig, make sure any campground you consider working in can provide that for you.

Find out not only how far any campground you are considering working at is from town, but also what is available in that town. Where I work in the mountains, there are communities where I can buy ice and highly overpriced food eight and twelve miles from my campground, but those communities offer no WiFi and no cell phone service. I have to drive a minimum of 30 miles to get to even a small town grocery store. You’ll need to decide how far from civilization you can stand to be.

#5 Assess your rig. Can it make it across country to get to a job? Will it make it up a mountain if that’s where the campground you’ll be working at is? If you’ll have to drive it back and forth to civilization on your days off, what’s your gas mileage like?

Some companies only hire workers with newer rigs. Check with the companies you hope to work for to determine if your rig matches their criteria.

Some companies also require a photo of your rig before they’ll make a hiring decision. When you take the photo, be sure you get your rig’s “best side.”

Before you take a job, make sure your rig will fit in the site reserved for the camp host.

#6 Look closely at your financial situation. Can you afford to work in exchange for a only spot to park your rig and full hookups or do you need to earn an hourly wage? Some state parks do give campground volunteers a small stipend, which can help offset your costs.

Consider how much it will cost you to get to your job. Are you going in the hole to get to work? How many hours will you have to put in before you recoup your expenses?

If you’re working in a remote location, how much will it cost you each time you go into civilization? Factor in the amount of gas you’re using, wear and tear on your vehicle, and the amount of time you’re losing driving.

#7 Start your job search.

If you’re on Facebook, join the groups relating to work camping. Some of these groups include Work Campers Mobile Jobs, RV Hosts & Work Campers of America, Workampers, Journey RV Workampers, and The Camphosts.  Members of these groups share information about work camping jobs, including jobs at campgrounds.

Private companies that hire camp hosts and other workers for campground jobs include American Land and Leisure, California Land Management, Recreation Resource Management, Hoodoo Recreation, KOA, Rocky Mountain Recreation, Scenic Canyons Recreational Services, and Thousand Trails. Go to these companies’ websites to find out what campground positions are currently open.

Several job search websites list camp host and other campground jobs. Try Indeed, Happy Vagabonds, and Glassdoor.

If you’re interested in a volunteer work camper position, go to Vounteer.gov. You can put in keywords (such as “camp host”) in the search bar and even choose the city and state you would like to work in.

Workamper News is another source for finding work camping jobs. There’s a free membership which includes the digital version of Workamper News Magazine and a $47 a year membership that includes the printed version of the magazine and a lots of extras like a résumé builder and a member directory. I’ve never had a Workamper membership, but I know the company is highly regarded by the people who use it.

#8 Write an awesome resume. If you’ve never been a camp host or work camper, accent how the jobs you’ve had in the past relate to the job you want. Research I’ve done indicates that even if a potential employer asks for a resume, the person actually reading it appreciates applicants who keep things concise and relevant.

#9 Interview like a champ. Make a list of questions before your interview. You can find a great list of questions to get you started on the Workers on Wheels website. Take notes during the interview and repeat what you’ve heard to make sure you understand what was said. Ask for clarification about anything you don’t understand. Be honest, but don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Let the employer know how you will be an asset to the operation.

#10 Apply early and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Work camping positions in popular locations fill up fast. If you are willing to apply for several different positions, you increase your chances of being hired somewhere. If this is your first shot at work camping, you may want to take a position that is less desirable to you so you can get your foot in the door and some experience under your belt.

Blaize Sun got her first work camping job as a camp host and parking lot attendant in 2015. She wrote about her work camping experiences in her book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. In May she’ll start her second season working in a campground store.

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I took the photos of the pit toilet and Smokey the Bear. The photo of Confessions of a Work Camper is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it, whatever you add to your cart and buy while on Amazon will earn me a small advertising fee.

Lovies

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The family in the mercantile was an interesting one.

There were two older people—a man and a woman—who seemed to be the grandparents. With them was a younger adult male who seemed to be the dad of the two kids on the group. The girl was the older of the two children. She was probably 11. The boy was quite a bit younger, maybe four. Everyone in the group except the girl had some sort of British (or of British heritage) accent.

 

The little boy was immediately drawn to the plush puppets. He grabbed a bunny puppet and hugged it close. I love him, the boy proclaimed in his adorable accent. The boy held onto the bunny puppet as the family milled around the store.

I thought the dad might buy the puppet for the boy, but no. The dad told the boy to return the bunny to its friends. The boy didn’t seem happy to reunite the puppets, but he did as he was told without throwing a tantrum. (I’ve seen many tantrums thrown over those puppets.)

I thought the family would leave after the puppet was put away, but they continued to walk around Rana | Frog by Mawthe store aimlessly. The little boy picked up a green plush backpack in the shape of a frog. It was nearly as big as he was, so he struggled a little to carry it around the store.

After a few more minutes, the dad told the boy to give the frog a hug and put it away. The boy gave the frog not only a hug but several kisses on its head. The manager of the mercantile and I couldn’t help but grin at each other like the childless middle age women we are and whisper Oh! How cute! a few times.

As the boy put the frog back into its bin, the father said they’d be bringing home no more stuffed animals.

The girl looked at me and explained that in their house, each family member had a small bin (she demonstrated the size with her hands) to put stuffed animals in. All stuffed animals owned had to fit in the bin with no parts sticking out. If anyone wanted a new stuffed animal, he or she had to discard from the bin so the new one would fit.

The dad piped in that he and his wife had as many stuffed animals as the kids did. Then the older man added that he and his wife were still storing stuffed toys from the dad’s childhood. These were some serious stuffed animal lovers!

Multicolored Teddy Bears Background by GDJThe girl went on to tell me about the downsizing that happened before the bin storage system was implemented. Everyone in the family chose their favorite animals to keep in his or her bin. They gathered up all the stuffed animals they had decided to discard, and she and her dad took them down to Tijuana where they donated the toys to an orphanage.

I was happy to know this family had donated their excess to people who had less, rather than chuck it into a landfill. I bet it felt just like Christmas to those Mexican kids when the girl and her dad handed over those toys.

 

Images courtesy of https://openclipart.org/detail/159691/rana-|-frog and https://openclipart.org/detail/230149/multicolored-teddy-bears-background

(Guest Post) How I Picked Up Seasonal Jobs to Support My Campervan Lifestyle, and You Can Too

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Van life, while cheaper than traditional lifestyle, is still more expensive than I first thought it would be.

One very real and somewhat harsh reality that came to light early in my van journeys, is the need for cold, hard cash.

When I first set out, I had $500 saved as a cushion. I thought with the lack of a rent payment I would be able to go without a job for a couple of months. However, I was wrong.

I realized pretty quickly I needed to pick up a job to feed myself as well as to buy gas to get us back to our campsite after each day of adventure.

Finding a Job

Leverage your experience and plan carefully

My partner had some experience with the van lifestyle, and he suggested that table waiting was a valuable skill for landing short term work.

Since I had several months to prepare for life on the road, I took a job at Applebees to round out my food service experience and insure that I’d be able to find good gigs in the towns we planned to stay in.

This strategy paid off very nicely when I was hired at a swanky joint to wait tables. This job covered all my expenses while working just a few hours per week. Best of all it left my days free to play in the mountains.

My partner was also able to land a job in a restaurant as a host. Toward the end of our time in Colorado, when the seasonal work at the restaurant dried up, he picked up a short-term day job cutting down trees for fire mitigation.

Location, Location…

How easy it is to find a job depends on where you put down temporary roots. For example, it will be easier in a tourist town than in an unknown small town.

Additionally, the economy of the area should be taken into consideration. I spent time living in Estes Park, CO, and it was quite easy to find a job.

However, in Joshua Tree, California, a smaller, less traveled town, I could not find a job to save my life.

… and more about location

Before you hit the pavement to look for work, consider that it’s most convenient to work close to where you park and sleep. I mean, one major reason for this lifestyle is to avoid a nasty commute! When looking at jobs, pay close
attention to travel logistics.

But sometimes that is not possible, or that otherwise perfect job will require some daily travel. If you will be using some type of public transportation, try to get work near a bus or train stop.

Another option is to plan to camp and work in an area that’s bicycle friendly. Even if you don’t normally pack a bike in your van, a used one can be acquired easily in most areas and then sold, given away or carried along to your next destination.

To improve your options, raise your standards

If you hate working in a certain industry such as retail, fast food, ect. do not even give this type of business a second thought.

I reached that point with the restaurant industry long ago. It took some effort, but as I upped my standards for the type of work I was willing to do, I started getting better jobs.

Craig can help

Craigslist is a great place to find some temporary work. My partner used to find odd jobs on Craigslist regularly. He found jobs as a mover, a construction worker, and a maintenance man.

Sometimes, a small job on Craigslist leads to longtime work. Other times, you want to run the opposite direction. Either way, it’s often tax-free money, and a networking opportunity!

It’s not what, but who you know

Keep in mind that most business owners don’t fill positions via ads, but by networking with people they already know.

One of the absolute best ways to network for any job is to decide on the industry you want to work in and meet people who are already working there. This is not always easy to do on the road, but it can be done.

Here are a few quick and simple places to network for short or longterm jobs

  • Others you meet at the camp area. Find the folks who’re up early and heading to work and pick their brains.
  • On the trail or other outdoor activities. Strike up conversations and ask folks about how they’re supporting their travel passions.
  • Local coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Talk to the barista, bartender and waitstaff and strike up conversations with other patron.
  • Go to the types of businesses where you want to work, and meet people who already work there. For example if you want to pick up landscaping work, get to know the local nursery and plant supply. Into horses? Head to the tac shop. Willing to walk dogs? Go to local pet stores and veterinarians and introduce yourself. Comfortable with computer hardware? You get the idea.
  • Meetup.com groups related to your industry. Make friends in the industry you want work in.

Tips For Nailing The interview

in a what?

I’m not advocating for outright lying…however, it is best to avoid telling your potential employer you live in a van. If you must say something, do it after you are hired.

I personally did not tell my employer I lived in a van until I had to. This was something my boyfriend warned against, based on some bad experiences, so I listened.

If asked about your living situation, a good response is to say you are camping/staying at a friend’s place until you find a rental. If you know someone in the town, this conversation can be avoided by using their address on the application and for mail.

Clean living

Showering before your interview should be among the first things on your mind. You can find showers at local outfitters, gyms, and laundromats. At the very least the confidence boost will help with the interview.

Leave your crew behind

This one will be obvious to most of you, but… my younger self had to learn it the hard way, so I’ll share this misstep.

While it may be tempting to bring in your peeps for support, it will backfire. Even bringing your crew just to wait inside (or even within eye sight) is a bad move because it rings immature. Honestly, it is just as bad as bringing your parent along!

Dress to Impress

Always dress nicely for interviews. If you don’t have any business or business casual clothing with you, try to bum from friends or buy something from a thrift shop. I know living in a van does not always jibe with dressing to impress, primarily because storing nice clothing takes up space.

Obviously if the job requires decent clothes you’ll have to buy them anyway. If not, get something decent for interviews and then donate them once hired.

Point is, don’t have “I live in a van” written all over yourself when you show up for an interview.

Scheduling and freedom

The most important thing for most rubber tramps is finding a schedule that works with their lifestyle. Finding a place that allows for flexibility is important.

When I lived in Colorado, I found a place that would work around my climbing schedule. When you go in, feel out the management and try to work out the best possible schedule for you.

You may need to interview at more than one place, so don’t be afraid to tell a potential employer you will think about their offer. I have found businesses near National or State Parks to be more accommodating.

Get paid what you’re worth

Always try to negotiate pay, no matter what industry. It won’t always work, especially with seasonal jobs. However, playing a bit of hardball can be worth your while. Once I was hired onto a position making $3 more than they offered, just because I asked.

Of course this depends on your level of flexibility, expertise, the availability of other workers in the field you’re applying for and other factors.

Keep in mind that many employers will respect you more if you are reasonably assertive and show you can take care of yourself.Try this line: “I plan to give this job my all, and to help you be as successful as you can while I’m here. In light of that, (plus my experience, my education, my talent…) I feel I’m worth $x per hour.”

Breaking up: Leaving your short-term position

I would never suggest lying to an employer about how long you intend to stay in a position. I also feel there can be gray area here, such as with jobs that tend have a very high turnover rate, where an early exit can be easily justified and even expected.

During the interview the fast food manager is going to talk about career opportunities and long term benefits, but no one (not even that manager) is going to be surprised when you leave that job within 3 months.

Of course in any tourist town, how long you stay will resolve itself as much of the available work will be short term.

 Bridge burning

As for non-seasonal jobs where the expectation is that you stay long term, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to fib about your long-term intentions. Ask yourself how this will impact your future work in the particular industry.

Obviously, if you’re applying in a professional situation where your long-term reputation is at stake, consider your actions carefully. Will the stress of maintaining a lie be worth a few bucks? Did you land the interview through a relationship that will be damaged if you don’t stick around? Would it make more sense to be honest and risk not getting the gig, in hopes the employer will hire you anyway?

Pros have options

Consider my partner’s advice from the top of this article. Acquire a skill that pays well and is appropriate for short-term, seasonal, or gig work.

A girlfriend and fellow van lifer, upon arrival in any town, peppers local bulletin boards, power poles, and Craigslist with fliers for pet sitting and dog walking. She’s got a list of referrals as long as your arm and she gets repeat business whenever she visits those towns. No fibbing required.

Another friend is a computer hardware wizard. He can build you a gaming box that will blow your mind, assemble a network for a small business or repair your laptop, and his skills are applicable anywhere he lands.

Simple math for nomadic income

The formula here is to have a skill that pays well, is in reasonably high demand, plus your willingness and ability to promote yourself when you need work.

I’m not saying you should starve, or even miss out on road adventures to avoid lying to an employer here and there, but do some careful thinking and planning to set yourself up for the best possible work life while van traveling.

Share your campervan work life stories

We’d love to hear your thoughts on finding seasonal work as a campervan traveler, and we’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Please drop your comments or questions below and we’ll do our best to answer.

Thanks for reading.

When she’s not writing guest posts about van life, Veronica Cavanaugh from VanSage.com is camping, backpacking, or planning her next outdoor adventure. She also enjoys watching old movies and writing poetry.

Photos from Joshua Tree National Park courtesy of the author.