Tag Archives: camp host

I Just Wanted to Connect

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My least favorite part of being a camp host was the lack of privacy. Unless I was in my van with the curtains closed, I felt as if I were on display in a department store window. The worst times were when I was on my day off and in the campground. Even if I wasn’t wearing my uniform, even if I had up a sign that read “Camp Host Off Duty,” people in the campground sniffed me out.

One day off, I got back from exploring early in the afternoon. I pulled into my site and sat in the van fiddling with my phone. A woman marched up to my open door and demanded to know if I was the camp host. My answer that I was the camp host on my day off seemed not to deter her in the least; she let go with a whole list of questions.

The campground where I was the host is in a remote location, so I understand that when visitors see somebody–anybody–it’s in their best interest to start asking all their questions. If the woman hadn’t asked me, she might not have had a chance to ask anyone. I honestly didn’t mind answering her questions, even if I wasn’t getting paid to do it. However, when she launched into a tirade about the poor condition of the road into the campground, I was done. I was not interested in discussing the condition of the road. I was not interested in hearing her complain about something I had no control over. I was simply not interested. As politely as possible, I conveyed my lack of interest, and the woman finally went away.

Another day I didn’t leave the campground on my day off. I was wearing my bright pink housedress and doing housekeeping on my campsite. Some campers had come in the day before, but becasue I’d been off that day too, I hadn’t spoken to them. I looked up from whatever I was doing and saw the woman camper walking purposely over to my site.

She asked if I was the camp host, and I said yes, I was the camp host on my day off. She didn’t even have any questions for me, but she didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t getting paid to talk to her. I just wanted to connect, she said. Apparently it didn’t occur to her that maybe I didn’t want to connect, that maybe on my day off I was enjoying my solitude.

When she said she wanted to connect, she actually meant she wanted to talk about herself. She started in on a monologue about being a textile artist and the book she had written. She didn’t seem very interested in who I might be when I was not busy hosting a campground. I tried to be stay polite, but I was relieved when she finally wandered away.

Am I a bad person because I don’t want to connect with every person I meet? Sometimes I just want to be alone.

I took this post’s photo.

Restroom Monitor

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It was Labor Day weekend and the mercantile was packed.

I’d tried to go to lunch twice before I succeeded. Both times I went outside, got to my van, and watched a crowd of people head to the store. I could have left the manager to deal with the customers alone, but I try to be a team player. Both times I turned around and went back into the store to help.

Right before I finally left for lunch at 1:15, one of the camp hots of the campground where the mercantile is located came into the store and said he was closing the women’s restroom at the front of the campground because there had been an “accident.” He said the restroom would be closed for a while.

The restrooms at the front of the campground get a lot of action. Not only are they used by campers and the employees of the mercantile, they’re also used by people who walk the trail. Lots of people park in the overflow lot at the front of the campground and visit the restrooms before and after their stroll through the trees. Other visitors utilize the restrooms when they leave the trail to shop in the mercantile or to take a look at the campground. It’s not unusual in the late morning or early afternoon on a weekend to see lines five or six people long waiting for both front restrooms.

A little after 2pm, a woman stepped up to the counter where I was standing. Is there another women’s restroom? She asked me. That one’s locked.

I glanced out the yurt’s front window. I saw five or six people (not just men) in line in front of the men’s room. It appeared the camp host had not yet cleaned the accident in the other restroom.

I told the woman the restroom had been closed because it needed cleaning. (I didn’t mention it had needed cleaning for at least 45 minutes.) Then I told her about the two additional restrooms at the back of the campground. I pointed to the road she should follow to the restrooms and sent her on her way.

When I wasn’t looking, the mercantile manager must have loaned the tourist woman a little bottle of hand sanitizer because several minutes later, I saw the tourist woman handing it back to the manager.

Did you find the restroom ok? I asked the tourist.

Actually, the ranger told me I couldn’t use it, she said apologetically.

My mouth literally dropped open, and I had quite a difficult time closing it. The manager of the mercantile was looking at her incredulously too. One of us managed to ask, What?, and the woman elaborated.

As she walked toward the back of the campground, the female camp host (whom the tourist mistook for a ranger) stopped her to ask where she was going. When the woman said she was going to the restroom, the camp host told her she couldn’t use the restrooms in the back!

The manager and I both apologized to the woman and told her the camp host should not have denied her access.

Both the manager and I were astonished. While we trusted the tourist woman was telling us the truth, we could hardly imagine a camp host prohibiting a visitor from using a functional restroom.

There are many reasons a person might not be able to stand in line and wait for a restroom.  Maybe the woman was pregnant. (Granted the woman didn’t appear pregnant, but I’m not an obstetrician.) Maybe the woman had a physical condition that necessitated an immediate restroom visit. Maybe she’d simply pushed her body to its limit and needed to go NOW! Maybe she was trying to be efficient and take care of her needs elsewhere while her family was using the one open restroom in the front. Maybe she just didn’t want to go into the overused men’s room. The bottom line is, the camp host should not have denied the woman the use of any open restroom in the campground.

During my profuse apology, I asked the tourist woman if she wanted to write a comment card. She said she did. When she finished, I promised to get it to my boss, and I did so by sending it home with his wife.

The next day the mercantile manager and I saw The Big Boss Man talking to the female camp host. I was busy when he came into the mercantile, but the manager later told me he said the camp host said (this is like a game of telephone, I know) there had only been a couple of people in line for the restroom when the tourist lady tried to use the back restroom. That, of course, was a lie, but even if only one person had been in line, the woman should have been allowed to use one of the restrooms in the back. The camp host went on to say she didn’t want any day-use visitors messing up the restrooms the campers were using!

I’m not going to say day–use visitors wouldn’t mess up a restroom in some way. However, it’s the camp host’s job to clean restrooms, no matter who messes them up. I sure hope The Big Boss Man explained to his employee that cleaning a dirty restroom, regardless of who made the mess, is the duty of a camp host.

Nice Day

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Toward the end of the camping season, the mercantile was closed for inventory. The manager worked with two ladies from the corporate office to count everything in the store. Apparently four people would have been one too many for the task because when I showed up for work, I was told my services were not needed. The Big Boss Man didn’t want me to lose pay, so he told me I could work in the campground to make up my hours. I walked over to the parking lot where The Man had my van and changed into a cobbled together camp host uniform. Back at the campground, I cleaned restrooms, raked campsites, collected access fees, gave directions, and had a very nice day.

guide, idaho, mapFor a slow parking day, I gave a lot of directions. So many people who pull into the campground or the parking lot are unsure of how to get where they’re going at best, but usually out and out lost.

I talked to a lovely young woman who wondered if she and her guy should take the time to visit the nearby national park. I told her they totally needed to visit. As I told her, while our trees are beautiful, the national park is like a magical fairy land of giant sequoias. That’s what she wanted to see, she said, so she and I discussed the best route to take.

The next people who needed directions were an old couple from West Virginia. They were totally lost. They were supposed to meet the woman’s brothers in a national park, but followed their GPS (which had been programed to our coordinates while they were still in West Virginia) to a campground hours away from where they wanted to be. I told them how to get where they wanted to go,, and they hoped the brothers would still be there.

Another older couple pulled in later in the day. I noticed their big ol’ Chevy conversion van right off. I explained the access fee of $5, and the woman in the passenger seat asked if her Golden Age card would cover it. I said it would not cover parking, but it would get them half off camping. Most people who want to use an access pass to pay for parking don’t want to camp, but this couple decided to do it. I told them what sites were available, and they drove through the campground to pick one.

I talked to them quite a bit that afternoon. The man said they were from Illinois, and when I asked about their Southern accents, he said they were from southern Illinois. I thought he was joking until he told me they do their grocery shopping in Paducah, KY. (I always forget Kentucky borders the Midwest.) They also spend a lot of time near Gulf Shores, AL, which I’m sure also enhances their accents.

I asked the fellow about his van, then told him about mine. He and his wife aren’t full-timers, but they do travel extensively in their van. Las year they’d visited the area (their daughter lives nearby) in a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, but the mountains destroyed its transmission. They already owned the conversion van, so this time they decided to travel in it. The minivan was really too small for two people, they agreed, and they were really enjoying the extra room in the larger van.

The fellow asked me if I watched YouTube videos, and I said not so much. He said he really liked watching van-build videos. He talked more about van builds, and some part of our conversation led me to say, If you go to Quartzsite, AZ in January, you can go to, and we both said, the RTR. He’d heard of the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous! He said he’d never been but would love to go. I told him I’d been to three RTRs, and I became something of an instant celebrity. He was quite impressed to learn I’d been where he wanted to go.

When The Man came to the campground to pick me up that afternoon, we went over to the couple’s campsite. I wanted to introduce them to The Man, and I wanted to give them my business card with the name of my book (Confessions of a Work Camper) and my blog address on it. The four of us had a good conversation about minivans and transmissions and traveling. When we left, I said, Maybe I’ll see y’all at the RTR someday. They agreed that maybe I would.

Between meeting the people in the conversion van and going home that afternoon, I met a group of adventure, camping, forestyoung people on a birthday celebration camping trip. I showed them to their campsite and told them how to get to a secluded waterfall. They were mellow stoners—love kids—and I enjoyed sharing my knowledge of the area.

It was fun to be a camp host again, especially on a slow day near the end of the season. I didn’t have to work too hard, and I met nice, interesting people. If every day as a camp host could be that good, I’d never want to do anything else.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/map-navigation-guide-108942/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/forest-trees-adventure-tent-6714/.

Lock the Door

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It was the end of the season, and The Man and I were the last camp hosts standing. While we started out working at the mercantile, by the beginning of October, the two of us were covering the parking lot and the three campgrounds on our side of the mountain.

It was Saturday, and The Man was working on a special sign assignment twelve miles down the road, so I was back in the saddle at the busy parking lot.

I took this photo of a giant sequoia in Deer Creek Grove, the southernmost grove of giant sequoias.

Before I was fully out of the campground, I was waylaid in the driveway by some people from Florida  who wanted to know if it was really worth stopping to see giant sequoias.

Um, yes, I said as politely as possible while selling them a day pass. I guarantee they’d never seen anything like a giant sequoia in Florida.

When I got to the parking lot, I started right in on the restrooms, as I always do.

I knocked on the door on the left. No response. I opened the door, pulled over one of the big metal trashcans to hold it open, and assessed the toilet paper situation. So far so good.

As I moved to the restroom on the right, I noticed a kid milling around. He was about eight and appeared to be alone, but I didn’t think much of it. I was on a restroom-cleaning mission.

I took this photo of the restrooms in the parking lot.

I knocked on the door on the right. No response. I opened the door and when I looked inside, I saw a person. I assume the person was male even though the person’s back was to me. I assume the person was male beause the person was in the distinctive taking a piss stance male people get into when they pee.

I was surprised and a little embarrassed, although I’d done nothing wrong. I knocked and no one responded. I opened an unlocked door. Why hadn’t the occupant locked the door? Why hadn’t the kid standing outside warned me about the guy in the restroom? The kid must have known the guy was in there.

I turned away and let go of the door immediatley, letting it slam shut. I didn’t hear the pisser apologize or say anything at all.

My parting words?

Lock the door!

Increasing Weirdness

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Have you ever started doing something fairly normal only to have your actions turn into high weirdness? That’s the story of my life.

One morning at the campground, I opened a garbage can in order to deposit trash inside. Sitting on top of the trash in the can, still perfectly clean, was a pretty little padded envelope. I’m a dumpster diver from way back, and I often need such envelopes when I send out jewelry, so I scooped it up. I saw the envelope had been addressed to the camp host. He must have tossed it after he’d emptied it.

I started peeling the post office stickers from the front of the envelope. I knew I could cover up any leftover sticker residue with whatever I wrote the recipient’s address on.

This is when my perfectly normal (at least for me) action of reclaiming something useful from the trash started getting weird.

I looked over at the little pile of sticker peelings I’d set on the garbage can lid. If I threw them into the garbage can and the camp host noticed them, then noticed the envelope was gone, would he think that was weird? I told myself I was being silly. He probably wouldn’t even notice the padded envelope was gone. (Most people aren’t aware of the contents of garbage cans, right?)

As I was about to walked away from the garbage can, I looked into the padded envelope.  Inside was a plain white envelope. I removed the plain white envelope. I knew I needed to return the plain white envelope to the camp host, but that would require me telling him I’d been digging in the trash (although the padded envelope had been right on top and I hadn’t actually had to do any digging to get to it) and had taken something he’d thrown away. Would he think my taking his trash weird and stalkerish?

My next thought was that I should maybe throw out the white envelope and keep the padded one. The thought after that was I should check the white envelope and make sure there’s no money in it. I swear I had no intention of keeping any money I found. Any money I found would have gone directly to the camp host.

I could have stopped the weirdness right there. I could have told the camp host, I dumpstered your discarded padded envelope and found this in it, while handing him the sealed white envelope. Did I do that? No. Instead, I ripped open the white envelope. I found no money in it, only a pretty little notecard. I opened the notecard to check for money. There was no money, only words.

Then I did the unthinkable. I read the words written on the notecard!

I’m going to blame my breach of etiquette on my lack of sleep (less than five hours) and the coffee I’d drunk to get through the day, but the reality is, I knew better. I knew and I know it’s not ok to read someone else’s mail.

So there I stood, padded envelope and open white envelope in hand. My first impulse was to put the white envelope in the garbage can. Actually, I hid the white envelope under some other trash. Then I realized I’d only added to the weirdness instead of ending it. What if the camp host talked to his friend who’d sent the mail and she mentioned the note? What if he went to the garbage can to retrieve the padded envelope in order to find the white envelope and the padded envelope wasn’t there? What if he dug around in the trash can and found the opened white envelope?  He’d know someone had opened his correspondence, then threw it away. Every scenario I considered as a way to solve the problem only added to the potential weirdness if the camp host got involved.

There was only one thing to do. I had to confess, even if I was confessing to being the world’s biggest weirdo freak. Sigh.

I dug the open white envelope out of the trash. Thankfully, nothing gross had happened to it.

As soon as I saw the camp host, I explained the whole situation. He didn’t seem upset, even when I told him I’d read the note on the card. (Maybe it helped that the card wasn’t highly personal.) Luckily the camp host has seen a lot of weirdness in his life. Perhaps my weirdness barely registered. One can hope.

 

Another Day in the Life of a Camp Host

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My friend the camp host told me this story right after it happened to him on a Thursday morning. I didn’t witness it with my own eyes, but I’ve always known the guy to be honest.

The regular hosts of the campground were on their day off, so my friend was patrolling. He was responsible for cleaning the restrooms, preparing for the arrival of campers with reservations, checking in new campers, and collecting money from folks who didn’t have reservations so hadn’t prepaid. His arrival report told him someone would be checking into yurt #3 that afternoon, so he went over to unlock its door.

He opened the door after unlocking it and was hit by a terrible smell. Upon investigation, he found a pile of dog poop (his words) under the bed.

The previous campers had checked out sometime prior to 2pm on Sunday, meaning the feces had sat under that bed for four nights. The camp hosts must not have gone into the yurt to sweep the floor or otherwise check for cleanliness. The way my friend described the smell, there was no way anyone could have walked into that yurt without realizing something was very, very wrong.

What kind of person lets a dog defecate under the bed of a rented yurt? Yes, maybe the dog had an accident. I’ve been responsible for dogs who’ve had accidents on the floors of rented lodging. But what kind of person doesn’t clean up after their dog that’s had an accident. From what my friend said, there’s no way the dog’s person could have failed to notice what the dog had done.

It takes all kinds, The Man said, but I think leaving dog feces under a bed for someone else to clean up is unacceptable behavior.

Being the trooper he is, my friend the camp host removed the feces from under the bed and disposed of it properly. I think he even swept the floor before propping the door open to air out the yurt. It was just another day in the life of a camp host.

Wheelchairs and Work Camping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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