Tag Archives: camp host

This Campground?

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It was Sunday, and I was on my mid-shift break from my duties at the Mercantile. I was hanging out in my van which was parked in the overflow parking lot at the front of the campground where the Mercantile was located. Javier the camp host was sitting in the shade right outside my van, jumping up to collect access fees whenever a new vehicle pulled into the lot. When people stood next to his chair to converse, I heard every word through my van’s open windows.

While Javier was sitting there, a young tourist couple approached him to ask how to get to a nearby waterfall.

This is the waterfall the young tourist couple wanted to see.

We got asked about this waterfall a lot, and I hated giving directions to it. No sign marks the spot, and the directions involve noticing an unmarked road that should not be turned down but simply used as a landmark. At some distance past the road is an unmarked dirt turnout where waterfall seekers must park before going off into the forest on their quest. Usually the eyes of the person who’d asked for directions to this place glazed over before I finished giving all the necessary information, and I had a strong suspicion the person would never even find the right place to park, much less the actual natural attraction.

When I heard the young man ask about the waterfall, I groaned inwardly. I was glad it was Javier giving the directions and not me.

Javier started in. Take a left out of the campground, Javier told tourists.

This campground? the young man interrupted.

Yes, this campground, Javier said like the professional he is, then continued with the directions. I sat in the van shaking my head, thinking of all the things I would have liked to have said to the tourist in response of his question of This campground?

Oh no! Not this campground? Why would I refer to the campground we’re currently in? Just go into any campground, then make a left out of it.

Or course this campground! Why would I be talking about any other campground? Yes! This campground!

My patience grew thinner every day.

I took the photo in this post.

 

Don’t Forget the Tent

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Last summer while working at the Mercantile, I heard of not one, but two sets of campers who got all the way up the mountain only to realize they’d forgotten their tent. Groan.

Sandra the camp host told me the first story.

Photo of Blue and Yellow Lighted Dome Tent Surrounded by Plants during Night Time

Two couples showed up at her campground for the night. They arrived around 4 pm. Sandra checked them in and told then the Mercantile closed at five o’clock. Around six that evening, one of the couples was on Sandra’s campsite begging her to open the Mercantile so they could buy a tent.

What?

Apparently as they unpacked, they realized their tent hadn’t made it into their car. They didn’t have a tent. They needed a tent. Couldn’t Sandra please open the Mercantile so they could buy a tent?

Sandra explained she could not open the Mercantile so they could buy a tent. Not only did she not work at the Mercantile, meaning she had not been trained on the store’s procedures, but the cash register was closed and there was no money in the drawer. There was nothing she could do to remedy the couple’s lack of tent.

Sandra was perplexed. She’d told them the Mercantile closed at five o’clock. Why had the people waited two hours to try to buy a tent? Perhaps they didn’t started unpacking right away, I offered. Maybe the Mercantile was already closed when they realized they had no tent.

Sandra also wondered why the couple needed their own tent. Their friends

Man and Woman Sitting Beside campfire and in front of tent during Night Time

had a huge tent, Sandra said. It was an 8 or 10 person tent with plenty of room for four adults.


Maybe the tentless couple had been planning a romantic evening that didin’t include their friends, I guessed. Sandra just shrugged. I guess she figured people hoping for a romantic interlude would have planned better.

The second story of a tentless camper came from one of the other clerks in the Mercantile. This clerk’s husband was the camp host at the busy campground down he road. One weekday afternoon, a camper approached the camp host and said he’d forgotten to bring his tent. The camp host suggested the camper drive down to the Mercantile and buy a new tent. The camper said he would do just that.

Later that day, the camp host saw the camper again. The camp host asked the camper if he’d gotten a tent. The camper said he hadn’t. He said he’d been to the Mercantile but there were no tents for sale. The camp host said all the tents that had been in stock must have sold out.

When his wife came home, the camp host mentioned the camper who’d gone to the Mercantile to buy a tent only to find there were none left. His wife assured him there were at least a couple of tents available at the Mercantile. She also told him that no one had asked her anything about tents that day. She thought the camper had gone into the Mercantile and looked around but didn’t see the tents. Not seeing any tents (and perhaps not wanting to admit to another person that he’d gone on a camping trip without one), he simply left without asking for assistance.

I wonder if the camper even made it to the store where I worked. There was a general store very close to the campground where he was staying. I wonder if he thought that was the store the camp host suggested. The general store was going through a transition of ownership and had very limited stock. I would have been surprised to know that store had any tents for sale.

Person in Blue Denim Jeans Standing Outside the Rain

Of course, people forget things. When I was in my mid-30s I went on a fishing trip without shoes.I was barefoot when I got in the car. I thought I’d put my shoes in the trunk. Apparently not. When we arrived at the lake, I found I was without footwear. Luckily my friend had a spare pair of sneakers in the car. I wore them even though they were several sizes too big.

However, a tent seems like an integral component of a camping trip, especially if the camper is not driving a motor home or a camper van and isn’t towing a travel trailer or a fifth wheel. It seems as if one is going on a camping trip and is planning to sleep in a tent, the tent would be the most important item to pack.

On this day, the cultural beginning of summer, I offer you a bit of advice. If you’re going camping this summer or any time, be sure to pack the tent. Check to make sure you have it before you leave home. Ask yourself, Do I have the tent? Go ahead and double check, triple check, and check one more time. If you find the tent is not in your vehicle with the rest of your camping gear, you’ll be glad you looked for it yet again.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-blue-and-yellow-lighted-dome-tent-surrounded-by-plants-during-night-time-712067/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-and-woman-sitting-beside-bonfire-during-nigh-time-776117/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/feet-rain-wet-puddle-105776/.

Full Truck

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I was about to close the Mercantile for the day when two men walked in.

They wanted to buy a map one said, but they balked when I told them the only one available cost $20. They just wanted to find a swimming hole or a creek. Their campground didn’t have water, and they just wanted to wash up. They gestured to their arms, as if they just wanted to splash some water on themselves.

I said they should go to the river, but they said 15 miles was too far away. They wanted me to tell them about a swimming hole or a creek nearby. I’m not much of a fan of putting my body in cold water, so I don’t seek out creeks or swimming holes. I knew about a waterfall about five miles away, but it wasn’t visible from the road, and it wasn’t signed, so I didn’t tell people about it unless they were enthusiastic, insistent seekers. I’d also heard of a swimming hole within a few miles of where we stood, but I hadn’t been there myself and wasn’t exactly sure where it was. The last thing I wanted to do was send these guys on a wild goose chase.

Because there were just the two of them and because they seemed to want to just splash some water on themselves, I told them about the creek on the far side of the campground where the Mercantile was located. The descent to the water was pretty steep and the water wasn’t  very deep, but I figured it would be better than nothing. I told the guys about the creek; they thanked me and walked out the front door.

I walked out the back door to give a heads up to Javier the camp host who was chopping firewood right across the street. I explained to Javier what the guys wanted and told him I’d sent them to the creek on the side of the campground. Javier was usually easy-going and receptive, but he had a whole list of objections to the guys going to the creek. He wouldn’t get in that water, he said, because of E. coli (from cows, I presume). He had people on site #4, he said, and the people who were looking for water shouldn’t be walking through anyone’s campsite. Well, I knew that. I’d told the guys not to walk through anyone’s campsite. Javier said Sandra, his partner in life and camp hosting, would talk to the guys and handle it.

I went back into the Mercantile wondering why Javier was being so weird and saw it was five o’clock. Time to close the doors! I walked out the front door to flip the sign around so it would read “closed” and hang the chain across the entrance to the long ramp leading to the store.

When I got outside, I saw the two men who’d been looking for the creek or swimming hole standing next to an extended cab pickup truck. There were more people in the pickup truck than I would have thought possible were I not seeing it with my own eyes. The two rows of seats inside the truck were full, and there were easily more than a dozen people sitting in the bed and along its sides. No wonder they didn’t want to go 15 miles to the river. Driving one mile with some many people in the back was probably unsafe.

I stretched the chain across the entrance and flipped the sign, then walked into the Mercantile and locked the door behind me. I walked through the store and out the back door to apologize to Javier.

I thought there were only two of them, I told him. I would have never knowingly sent that many people traipsing through his campground to splash in the creek.

Javier just shrugged. He wasn’t upset especially since Sandra had intercepted them and was giving them other ideas of where they could find some water to wash up.

I wonder where they ended up going.

I took the photo in this post.

 

Parked in the Road

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After The Man left the mountain, I stayed at the group campground down the road from the Mercantile where I worked. I was usually the only person in the campground during the week, but since I’d moved in, people had come in each Friday night, stayed over on Saturday, and left on Sunday while I was at work. Sandra the camp host told me this week would be no different.

I returned to the campground a little before six o’clock on Friday evening. All I wanted was to eat some dinner and go to bed.

Dirt RoadThe way into the campground was a dirt Forest Service road. It was rutted and dusty and bumpy and rocky, but if I drove on the wrong side of it as I headed to the campground, I could avoid the worst of it. The Forest Service road continued past the campground and disappeared into the woods.

The campground wasn’t very big and had no marked sites. People just figured out where to park and pitch their tents so they could be as close to or as far from the other people in their group as they wanted. Most groups congregated near the fire ring and the cluster of three picnic tables.

A narrow dirt road ran through the middle of the camping area. That road connected to the Forest Service road at two points, one on each end of the campground. Folks could enter and exit the camping area at either of those connection points. My camp was closest to the first connection point, but I almost never used that part of the road because it was steep and badly rutted. I drove a little bit farther to enter the second connection point, and when it was time to leave camp, I backed out of my parking space and drove through the campground so I could exit where the road was a little better.

When I arrived home that Friday evening, I drove over to the second entrance point to find a giant motor home trying to park on the far edge of the campground. An angry-looking woman stood outside the motor home, halfheartedly trying to direct the driver of the behemoth. The driving pulled the motor home forward two feet, backed it up two feet, pulled it forward again. I stayed on the Forest Service road with my blinker signaling a left turn until the woman motioned for me to make my move.

I drove slowly through the campground and saw several vehicles were parked off the road. I went to my campsite, cooked and ate my dinner, then crawled into bed. It was well after dark, but I was still awake when I heard a noise like an 18-wheeler nearby. The noise was close, and it lingered. I got out of bed and peeked out my front curtains. I could see what seemed to be vehicle lights, but I couldn’t tell what sort of vehicle I was looking at. I shrugged and closed my curtains. Whatever those campers were doing was not my problem.

In the morning as I was leaving for work, I saw that what the campers had done was indeed my problem. The sound I heard in the dark was a second giant motor home arriving. Both giant motor homes were blocking the Forest Service Road, and the second one was blocking the path out of the campground. I didn’t get out of my van and try to talk to anyone about the danger of blocking roads. Since I wasn’t the camp host, I was lacking in all authority, and no way was anybody going to be able to move that motor home out of my way in a hurry. I needed to get to work, so I slowly and carefully backed my van all the way to my campsite where I was able to turn around and exit from the steep and rutted part of the road closest to my site.

When I got to the campground where the Mercantile was located, I went directly to speak to the camp hosts, Sandra and Javier. I apologized for starting their morning with a problem, then went on to explain what was happening at the group campground. Javier said either he or Sandra would go down there later that morning to check in the campers and let them know they couldn’t block the road. I left things in their capable hands.

Javier reported back to me after he spoke to the campers at the group campground. The drivers of the motor homes told him they didn’t want to hit trees while trying to park in the dark, which did apply to the motor home that had arrived after the sun was down. However, in the case of the first motor home, darkness was a total bullshit excuse because when I’d seen people trying to park it, there was a good two hours of daylight left. But oh well. Javier said he’d told the motor home folks that there was plenty of room to park their rigs inside the campground, and the situation was all taken care of.

When I returned to the group campground that evening, I found that the motor home people had interpreted plenty of room to park the rigs in the campground to mean plenty of room to park the rigs in the middle of the road running through the campground. No fucking way! No one could drive through the campground because two giant motor home were completely blocking the road.

I stopped the van, turned the engine off, got out, and walked over to the people sitting around a campfire. I told them my name, said I worked for the company managing the campground, and pointed out where I was camped. I told them I was concerned about the motor homes blocking the road. If there were an emergency, I said, if there were a fire or someone if had a heart attack (I looked pointedly at the elderly man who’d come over to talk to me) having the road blocked might delay emergency responders. If a Forest Service employee saw the blocked road, I added, he or she wouldn’t be happy.

We talked to the Forest Service, the elderly man told me. A guy came out here! He said park there!

It turned out they had not discussed the parking situation with a Forest Service employee. They’d discussed the parking situation with Javier. The campers maintained Javier had told them the giant motor homes could not block the Forest Service road but could block the road through the campground.

I shrugged and said, If Javier told you to park there, that’s good enough for me. I turned around, got back in my van, turned it around, and drove slowly down the steep and rutted entrance near my campsite. If they weren’t concerned about most of their cars being blocked in by the motor home, why should I worry? In an emergency I could get my van out of the campground; if the campers weren’t concerned for themselves, I wasn’t going to spend my whole night worried about them.

I didn’t ask Javier if he’d told the campers to park their giant motor homes in the middle of the campground’s road. I didn’t see him until Sunday morning, and I knew the motor homes and the rest of the group would be gone before I returned from work. There was no sense making a big deal out of something that soon wouldn’t matter.  Beside, Javier was the camp host, not me. If he’d told people to park in the middle of the road through the campground, that was his call.

A narrow dirt road ran through the middle of the camping area. That road connected to the Forest Service road at two points, one on each end of the campground. Folks could enter and exit the camping area at either of those connection points. My camp was closest to the first connection point, but I almost never used that part of the road because it was steep and badly rutted. I drove a little bi farther to enter the second connection point, and when it was time to leave camp, I backed out of my parking space and drove through the campground so I could exit where the road was a little better.

I drove slowly through the campground and saw several vehicles were parked off the road. I went to my campsite, cooked and ate my dinner, then crawled into bed. It was well after dark, but I was still awake when I heard a noise like an 18-wheeler nearby. The noise was close, and it lingered. I got out of bed and peeked out my front curtains. I could see what seemed to be vehicle lights, but I couldn’t tell what sort of vehicle I was looking at. I shrugged and closed my curtains. Whatever those campers were doing was not my problem.

In the morning as I was leaving for work, I saw that what the campers had done was indeed my problem. The sound I heard in the dark was a second giant motor home arriving. Both giant motor homes were blocking the Forest Service Road, and the second one was blocking the path out of the campground. I didn’t get out of my van and try to talk to anyone about the danger of blocking roads. Since I wasn’t the camp host, I was lacking in all authority, and no way was anybody going to be able to move that motor home out of my way in a hurry. I needed to get to work, so I slowly and carefully backed my van all the way to my campsite where I was able to turn around and exit from the steep and rutted part of the road closest to my site.

When I got to the campground where the Mercantile was located, I went directly to speak to the camp hosts, Sandra and Javier. I apologized for starting their morning with a problem, then went on to explain what was happening at the group campground. Javier said either he or Sandra would go down there later that morning to check in the campers and let them know they couldn’t block the road. I left things in their capable hands.

Javier reported back to me after he spoke to the campers at the group campground. The drivers of themotor homes told him they didn’t want to hit trees while trying to park in the dark, which did apply to the motor home that had arrived after the sun was down. However, in the case of the first motor home, darkness was a total bullshit excuse because when I’d seen people trying to park it, there was a good two hours of daylight left. But oh well. Javier said he’d told the motor home folks that there was plenty of room to park their rigs inside the campground, and the situation was all taken care of.

When I returned to the group campground that evening, I found that the motor home people had interpreted plenty of room to park the rigs in the campground to mean plenty of room to park the rigs in the middle of the road running through the campground. No fucking way! No one could drive through the campground because two giant motor home were completely blocking the road.

I stopped the van, turned the engine off, got out, and walked over to the people sitting around the campfire. I told them my name, said I worked for the company managing the campground, and pointed out where I was camped. I told them I was concerned about the motor homes blocking the road. If there were an emergency, I said, if there were a fire or someone if had a heart attack (I looked pointedly at the elderly man who’d come over to talk to me) having the road blocked might delay emergency responders. If a Forest Service employee saw the blocked road, I added, he or she wouldn’t be happy.

We talked to the Forest Service, the elderly man told me. A guy came out here! He said park there!

It turned out they had not discussed the parking situation with a Forest Service employee. They’d discussed the parking situation with Javier. The campers maintained Javier had told them the giant motor homes could not block the Forest Service road but could block the road through the campground.

I shrugged and said, If Javier told you to park there, that’s good enough for me. I turned around, got back in my van, turned it around, and drove slowly down the steep and rutted entrance near my campsite. If they weren’t concerned about most of their cars being blocked in by the motor home, why should I worry? In an emergency I could get my van out of the campground; if the campers weren’t concerned for themselves, I wasn’t going to spend my whole night worried about them.

I didn’t ask Javier if he’d told the campers to park their giant motor homes in the middle of the campground’s road. I didn’t see him until Sunday morning, and I knew the motor homes and the rest of the group would be gone before I returned from work. There was no sense making a big deal out of something that soon wouldn’t matter.  Beside, Javier was the camp host, not me. If he had told people to park in the middle of the road through the campground, that was his call.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/dirt-road-1008739/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/beige-wood-putted-on-fire-164168/.

You Don’t Belong in This Campground

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It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. While the Mercantile had been slow all morning, the parking lot had been hopping since at least 10 o’clock. The Mercantile got busy right at noon, and the shopping barely let up for the next four hours.

At 1:30, I ducked out to eat my lunch, leaving the complete operation of the store in the capable hands of the other clerk. As soon as I stepped off the yurt’s deck, I looked across the small front lot and saw a young woman walking toward Javier the camp host. The young woman was speaking loudly enough for me to clearly hear her say, You don’t even belong in this campground!

I looked around. Surely she was speaking to someone other than Javier. Javier was in full uniform–brown shorts, tan shirt with a collar. If anyone belonged in this campground, it was Javier.

I didn’t hear the first few words Javier said to the woman, but I did hear him tell her, You yelling at me is not going to help me help these people.

As this interaction was happening, I’d been walking toward my van. I took a few steps more so I’d be close if Javier needed some sort of backup or support.

I looked over at the woman who’d told Javier he didn’t belong in the campground. She was young, and appeared to be drunk or under the influence of some drug. Her eyes didn’t seem to be focusing correctly, and her face was contorted, but maybe that was from anger or just the way she looked.

We’re trying to help! she insisted.

A large man was standing off to the side, silent. He was ignoring the woman. Maybe he didn’t didn’t know her. Maybe he wished he didn’t know her.

I looked over at Javier. He was standing in front of a small sports car. I glanced over at the car and realized the driver of the car had somehow driven it up over a very large log set there as a barrier. Now the car’s front passenger tire was on the wrong side of the log. Apparently the driver was having a problem getting the tire back over the log, because Javier was asking the fellow who seemed to belong to the car, Do you think it’s light enough  for a bunch of guys to lift it off the log?

At that point the drunk woman seemed to have backed off, and in any case, Javier seemed to be paying her no attention, so I figured my assistance was not needed. I climbed into my van and had some lunch.

Later I asked Javier how they’d released the car from the log. He said a half dozen guys had pushed the car while it was in neutral. It must have been good teamwork because I don’t think the car sat stranded for very long.

How’d they even managed to driver over the log that way? I asked Javier. Let me just repeat, it was a very big log.

Oh, you know, he shrugged, just being themselves.

I probably shouldn’t talk, as just a couple of days before, I backed into a tree and dented my back door. It still closes, and it still locks. The Man says I’m lucky, but I say if I were lucky, I wouldn’t have backed into a tree.

I probably shouldn’t talk, but damn! Driving a little sports car over a big log barrier in a parking lot has got to be a mark of bad driving.

I took this photo.

Willow Flat Campground

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When we were planning our visit to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, The Lady of the House suggested we spend a night in the Park’s Willow Flat Campground. Sunset at the Green River Overlook was a big deal, as was sunrise at Mesa Arch. Camping in the Park would make it easier for us to get to the viewing points at the appropriate times. Also, living in a major metropolitan area means The Lady doesn’t get nearly enough dark sky. The International Dark-Sky Association named Canyonlands an International Dark-Sky Park, so she wanted to camp there to get a good look at the stars in the heavens.

During early April when we visited Canyonlands, campsites were not reserveable. We were on a strictly first come, first served basis, so we wanted to get there early to improve our chances of getting a site.

When we rolled into the Park, no one was staffing the admissions booth, so The Lady said she’d have to go inside the visitor center to show her Southeast Utah Group Annual Pass. As we went past the admissions booth, we were dismayed to see a large wooden sign declaring the campground was full. We’d woken early and emerged from the van into a frosty morning to eat a quick breakfast and get on the road. Could the campground really be full this early in the day? The Lady said she’d double check on the campground’s status when she went inside to show her pass.

I stayed outside to check the transmission fluid level in my van. The Lady returned to the parking lot triumphant. There was space in the campground! The woman in the visitor center said they never removed the sign that said the campground was full, but that morning they’d received no report that all of the campsites were occupied.

(Excuse me, but what’s the point of a sign that’s supposed to report the status of a changeable situation but is never removed?)

The Lady and I hopped into the van and drove directly to Willow Flat Campground. We pulled in and saw a site that seemed unoccupied. We certainly saw no personal belongings anywhere on the site. There was a piece of yellow paper clipped to the sign pole in front of the site. Upon examining the yellow paper, we found written on it that day’s date. It appeared that the folks who’d stayed on the site the night before were scheduled to check out that morning and had in fact already left. Score! We had our site!

I pulled the van onto the flat asphalt parking pad. We got out of the van and looked around. Was there a camp host we should see? Should we look for a self-pay envelope and an iron ranger?

Across the paved road that ran through the campground, an elderly couple was bustling around on their campsite. They seemed to be packing up, so I supposed they could tell me the process to go through to pay for a campsite.

Hello! I called out to them, or perhaps I said, Excuse me, as I walked into the street and approached their site. Is there a camp host here? I asked once I had their attention.

A what? they both asked, not quite in unison.

I thought the problem was one of hearing, so I repeated, A camp host? a bit louder.

A what? they both asked again in utter confusion.

A camp host, I said once again, then added, the person you pay for your campsite.

You pay with an envelope, the old man said, pointing. He and the woman continued to look at me as if I were a very strange person using an obviously fabricated term to confuse them. How was it possible they’d never encountered the term “camp host”? Was this their first camping trip? Obviously, not every campground has a camp host, but these people seemed unaware of the very concept. However, they had answered my question about where to pay, so I thanked them and moved on.

The Lady and I walked in the direction the old man had pointed and found self-pay envelopes and the iron ranger.

Our campsite in Willow Flat Campground

The camping fee was $15, as expected from what we’d read online. For our money we got clean pit toilets with toilet paper, trash cans, a flat space to park the van, a fire ring, and a picnic table under a shade structure. The grounds of the campground were very clean and well-maintained.

When The Lady and I read the information boards near the iron ranger, we learned about the procedure for disposing of grey water. We were either supposed to strain all food out of wash water, then sprinkle the de-fooded water on the road or dispose of nonstrained water by pouring it into one of the pit toilets. I’d never heard of this sort of cleanup, but I suspect it’s to keep wild animals away from campers.  I suppose even the smallest food particles on the ground attracts critters, so this is a way to keep the campground unappealing to unwanted visitors.

After dinner, The Lady and I went to the Green River Overlook to watch the sun set. Unfortunately, the sunset was a non-event, but we were still glad to have our spot at Willow Flat. We were in the van soon after dark, early to bed with plans to rise early for sunrise at Mesa Arch.

 

 I took all the photos in this post.

There Should Be a Sign

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The campground wasn’t open yet, but people kept coming in. Some were the usual lookie-loos who just wanted to see what was at the end of the dirt road, but some folks were looking for a place to camp. The Big Boss Man told The Man that as camp host, he could choose to let people camp for free, or he could explain the campground was closed and send them on their way. The Man has a kind heart, so he let most of the would-be campers stay even though he was trying to get the campground ready for the opening of the season.

This photo shows the big tree that fell and crushed one half of the gate at the front of the campground. Notice the arm of the gate on the ground.

It was easier to keep folks out of other campgrounds that were closed because other campgrounds had big metal gates at their entrances that could be chained shut. The campground where The Man was the host only had a gate. Sometime before I’d ever been to the area, a huge tree fell and crushed half the gate. One arm of the gate would still swing shut, but the other arm was on the ground.

The Man swung the one arm of the gate shut one day, and that cut down on lookie-loos a bit, but folks continued to come in looking for a place to camp. It was easy enough to squeeze in between the closed half of the gate and the crushed metal and fallen tree on the edge of the driveway. Some people would even get out of their vehicles, open the closed portion of the gate, get back into their vehicles and drive into the campground. People who swung the gate open generally didn’t bother to swing the gate closed.

This photo taken in 2015 shows the Forest Service sign on the standing gate. “Road Closed to Motorized Vehicles,” it says. In 2018, the sign was no longer on the gate.

Two seasons before, when I had been the camp host at the campground in question, there was a Forest Service sign on the standing arm of the gate, visible when the gate swung shut. The signs said the road was closed to motorized vehicles but non-motorized travel was welcome. However, when I checked for the sign after The Man swung the arm shut, I realized it was gone. I think someone must have stolen it during the winter. Perhaps a sign would have kept people from driving down the road when half a closed gate didn’t deter them, but I doubt it.

The Man did let some people who bypassed the partially closed gate camp. After talking for a while, he invited a nice couple to stay the night. I think the woman was pregnant, he confided in me. We agreed a pregnant person should have access to at least a pit toilet.

That couple left the gate open, we discovered later, and a single European man drove into the campground that afternoon. I let him stay, The Man told me after going over to talk to the guy. He didn’t speak a word of English. I suppose it was easier to let him stay than it would have been to try to pantomime campground closed and explain to him where to find dispersed camping.

The next morning when I returned from my night babysitting the yurts, I saw the European man making his exit. He’d driven his car to the edge of the dirt road and found half of the gated closed. Instead of driving out on the side of the road with no gate, he had opened the closed arm. When I approached, he was still outside his car. He knew I’d caught him immediately after the act of opening the closed gate, and he looked hella guilty. Instead of getting in his car and driving away, he did some nervous pacing in circles, as if he was unsure of what to do.

The road into the campground is only wide enough for one car, so I waited patiently on the main road for the European man to pull out before I pulled in. He finally got into his little white sports car and drove away. After I entered the campground, I got out of my van and closed the gate behind me.

About a week and a half before the campground officially opened, The Man discovered someone had stolen the heavy steel fire ring from site #1. He decided he didn’t want anyone coming into the campground while we were down in the valley, so he came up with a plan as we were leaving. Once I pulled the van past the gate, he got out and not only swung closed the half of the gate still standing, he dragged the downed arm across the rest of the entrance. The blocked road should let people know the campground was closed, we agreed.

We spent one night in town, returning late the next afternoon. The blocked driveway was a slight pain in the neck when I left in the evenings to spend the night with the yurts, but it was worth it to have a day off in peace in the still-closed campground.

After our two days off, it was back to work for us. The Big Boss Man asked The Man to get the group campground ready for campers, so that’s what he spent most of the day doing. I sat in the van and reconciled the money I’d collected from the iron ranger over the last several days.

We got back to our campground early in the afternoon. When we pulled up to the gate, we saw the large piece of metal The Man had used to block the entrance was pulled to the side. Someone had moved his barrier!

As I drove down the narrow dirt road, a white pickup truck came flying from the depths of the campground like a bat-out-of-hell. I pulled off the road as far as I could so the truck could (hopefully) get past my van, but then the truck pulled off the road too. So I pulled back onto the road, then drove up next to the white pickup truck.

The driver rolled down his window. He was a young guy, probably no more than 30. The woman in the passenger seat was young too and wore a ball cap with a ponytail passed through the opening in the back. She kept her face turned toward the window facing the meadow, acting as if she were very interested in examining its every detail. Never once did she look in my direction.

The campground’s closed, I told the driver. It won’t be open until Memorial Day Weekend.

Are you the host? he asked me.

He is, I said, gesturing to The Man sitting next to me.

We saw your camp, the driver said.

The campground’s closed, I repeated.

There should be a sign! the young man said, probably to distract me from the fact that he’d not just crossed a barrier so he could enter a closed campground, but had in fact moved the barrier in question.

There used to be a sign, I explained, but now it’s gone. I think it was stolen. That’s why we had the gate closed.

The woman in the passenger seat continued to study what must have been the most interesting meadow in the world.

After wishing the people in the truck a good day, I drove the van deeper into the campground. The driver of the trucked pulled it out onto the highway.

A sign, huh? A 150 pound piece of metal didn’t discourage him from entering the campground, but he wanted me to believe a sign would have done the trick?

I took the photos in this post.

 

Nearest Bar

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It was around eight o’clock on a Saturday morning. I was performing some camp host duties to help out. The folks on site #1 hadn’t gotten checked in the night before, so I was walking over to have them sign their permit.

A slow-moving car approached me from behind. The only other people on the far side of the campground were the young folks who had sites #6 and #7. One of the young women in the group had come over while I was cooking breakfast to ask me now far the campground was from a body of water. Not much later I heard a car leave site #6. I thought they’d taken off for a day on the river, but now I heard a car behind me that could only belong to part of that group. I figured some of the young folks had gotten a late start and were just leaving now.

When the car pulled up next to me, it stopped.

Excuse me, a feminine voice said, and I turned to look.

Two young women were in the car. Both were looking at me expectantly.

Do you know where’s the nearest bar? the driver asked me

I was stunned. I involuntarily glanced at my watch. It was well before 8:30. I try not to judge, but I’m pretty sure anyone inquiring about the location of a bar before noon while on a camping trip has a problem.

The nearest bar? I echoed slowly.

It turned out these gals did have a problem.

Their friends had left with all the food. These young women thought the friends had gone to a bar to watch a soccer game, since that’s what the friends had done the day before. I suppose these young women wanted to track down the friends and get ingredients for breakfast.

I told them about the small community 15 miles away. There’s a restaurant, bar, and general store there, I said, but added it wasn’t much of a soccer kind of place. It’s under new ownership, I remembered aloud. Maybe they’ll have the soccer game on.

I told them about the larger (although by no means large) town 35 miles away. There’s a brewery there, I told them. Maybe the soccer game will be on there. It was only later that I wondered if the brewery would open at eight on a Saturday morning so customers could watch soccer on television. I suspect a brewery doesn’t serve breakfast and would normally open around 11am for lunch.

Where should we go? the driver asked me.

I didn’t know how to help. I certainly didn’t know where their friends had gone. I ended up suggesting they go to the closer place first. At least they could get breakfast there, The Big Boss Man said later when I related to story to him.

I assume the friends found each other. I was at work at the Mercantile all day, then headed down the mountain to get gasoline and propane and a giant ice cream cone. It was dark when I got back to the campground. People were in the tent on site #7, and they didn’t run over to tell me their friends were missing, so I figured everything must have worked out ok.

(The people in the tent didn’t realize their voices carried in the forest. We’re drunk and you’re high! I heard a feminine voice exclaim clearly. Soon another feminine voice was relating the story of the time she got roofied.  Oh Lord! I thought. They’re going to be up all night, but thankfully they piped down shortly after 10pm.)

There are lessons to be learned from this tale.

#1 Don’t pack all the food in one vehicle.

#2 If all the food is in one vehicle, don’t drive that vehicle out of the campground while your friends are sleeping.

#3 Communicate with friends before bedtime about who’s leaving the next morning, where they’re going, when they’re leaving, and what time they’ll be back.

#4 For goodness sake, don’t schedule a camping trip for the weekend of the most important soccer tournament of the year.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sport-game-football-the-ball-52504/.

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.

Another resource for nomads looking for campground work is the job board on the Your RV Lifestyle website. Campground jobs listed on the board range from store and office workers to camp hosts to grounds maintenance staff.

#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.

If you are offered employment as a camp host, be sure to read my post “10 Things You Can Do to Increase Your Chances of Having a Great Experience as a Camp Host.” This post will give you tips for for getting the most out of your job in a campground.

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. She also worked in a campground store for two seasons.

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 Camperis 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.