Tag Archives: Work camping

Sandwich

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According to the National Day Calendar website, this Sunday, November 3 is National Sandwich Day. What will you do to celebrate?

In recognition of this popular food, today I’ll tell you a little story about a sandwich. It’s kind of a gross story which also involves pit toilets. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

I’ve heard it said that humans can grow accustomed to anything. Anything? Well, probably most things, including the gross and the stinky.

Pit toilet with lid down.
This photo shows an actual pit toilet.

When I worked on the mountain, pit toilets at the very busy trailhead and the campground next to it had to be pumped several times between the middle of May and the middle of October. The truck that came up to pump the toilets was the same kind that removes the waste from porta-potties. A long, flexible hose was dropped down into the chamber (also referred to the pit or the vault) below the seat. A pump on the truck sucked up all the waste materials from inside the chamber and deposited everything into a big holding tank mounted on the truck. When the tank was full, the truck went down the mountain to deposit the waste I-don’t-know-where.

A sign  reads, "For better smelling restroom keep toilet seat down." Two drawings of the side view of a pit toilet show that with the toilet lid down the "smelly" stays below the toilet and then vents up and out of a pipe, but when the lid is up, the "smelly" fills the toilet room.
Even keeping the lid down couldn’t control the bad smell after the pit toilets were pumped.

The pumping process stirred up all the decaying waste material and created a HORRIBLE smell. If you’ve never encountered a large concentration of decaying human waste, let me tell you, it smells really bad. It stinks to high heaven. To put it simply, it smells like death, and death does not smell one bit pretty.

I wouldn’t say I grew immune to the stench of toilets being pumped, but at least after the first couple of times I encountered the process, I knew what to expect. As GI Joe taught us, knowing is half the battle.

Most of the visitors to the trailhead and campground were city folks; many of them had never encountered a toilet that didn’t immediately flush their waste away. On a regular day, the smell from the pit toilets was often enough to make them mighty uncomfortable. When the city folks were present for the pumping or its immediate aftermath, they were quite surprised and quite disgusted and quite unhappy.They had no idea shit and piss could smell so nasty.

One day the pump truck came up the mountain. We could practically smell it before we saw it.

Small building with two doors, each with a restroom sign next to it. Two metal trash cans sit outside the building.
This is the building in the middle of the parking lot that housed the pit toilets.

Here we go, I thought. I knew the visitors were going to be melodramatically grossed out, and I was sure to hear complaints.

The pump truck went down to the middle of the parking lot where the two pit toilets were located. I couldn’t see the two men at work, but I could hear the pump and smell the funk. Yes, as always, the churned up human waste smelled horrific.

Finally the pump was switched off and the quietude of nature prevailed. I knew the stench would settle, but at the moment the entire parking lot was enveloped in an awful aroma.

The truck came around the curve leading to the parking lot’s exit, and the driver stopped it near me. Groan. The driver hopped out with clipboard in hand and asked me to sign the form stating he and his partner had been there and done the job. I agreed, wanting the reeking truck away from me as soon as possible.

Sign reads, "Keep this toilet clean." The sign gives instructions (with corresponding drawings) on how to properly use the pit toilet. Instructions include "Sit on the toilet during use. DO NOT stand on the toilet. DO NOT use the floor. Use the toilet. Put used toilet paper in the toilet. Do NOT put trash in the toilet. Use the trash can."
My favorite sign explaining how to use a pit toilet.

Just before I signed the form, I glanced over at the truck. What I saw gave credence to the idea that humans can grow accustomed to anything. The other pump truck worker, a young guy probably in his early 20s, was sitting in the passenger seat munching a sandwich.

The tourists were reeling, practically dry heaving and passing out, and this guy was sitting in the stink truck, nonchalantly having lunch. I wondered if he had no sense of smell or had simply become so accustomed to the stench that it was basically background noise–or perhaps more accurately, background stink. In any case, he seemed to be enjoying his sandwich, not at all bothered by the odor that was causing the rest of us so much grief.

I took the photos in this post.

Job Leads for Nomads in the U.S.A.

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White Vehicle Traveling on Road

The #1 question I encounter in Facebook groups for vandwellers, rubber tramps, and vagabonds is some variation of What do folks do for money while living a nomadic life? In the past, I’ve tried to answer this question by sharing information about getting work at campgrounds, house and pet sitting jobs, participating in clinical drug trials, and picking up temporary work.

Recently in one of the Facebook groups for vandwellers that I’m a member of, I ran across a great list posted by a woman named Jamie Fox. She called the list “Some Links for Working While on the Road,” and it consisted of links to websites nomads can use to find work. I contacted Jamie immediately and asked if I could share the list with my readers. I was delighted when she said yes.

Of course, I’m not going to give you a list of links and leave it at that. I

Person Holding And Showing 100 Dollar Bills From Leather Wallet

researched the links on the list Jamie posted and made sure each one took me to an actual website. I also found the name of the website each link represented, and looked at what kinds of jobs were listed. During my research, I found other helpful websites; I’ve also included those as well as some I’d heard of or written about in the past.

I’m not going to say this list is complete, but it is the most comprehensive list of job leads for nomads I’ve ever seen. From camp host to beet harvest and everything in between, I present to you lots of ideas for making money while living on the road.

Warning: Neither Blaize Sun nor Jamie Fox are vouching for any of the companies or websites on this list. We’re only telling you what these companies and websites say about themselves. You are responsible for your own self. Do your own research before you pay any money or accept any job offer.

White Green and Black Outdoor Tent

Campground and RV Park Jobs Probably the most well-known work camping job is the camp host. The following companies do hire camp hosts, but some also hire folks to do other jobs that keep the campgrounds running smoothly.

American Land & Leisure is “a private contractor that cares for over 400 National Forest, Pacific Gas & Electric and State Park campgrounds throughout the United States,” and hires campground workers.

California Land Management hires camp hosts and other support personnel to work in campgrounds in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada.

The Rocky Mountain Recreation Company website says the company hires camp hosts, maintenance personnel, retail clerks, landscapers, day use area workers, and interpretive personnel.

Hoodoo Recreation hires camp hosts, attendants, and mangers to work in the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot National Forests in Washington.

Scenic Canyons Recreational Services hires people for campground jobs. Their website specifically mentions Workampers.

Recreation Resource Management “provides private operations management for public parks…[The company] operate[s] campgrounds and other recreation facilities in the US Forest Service, for state parks agencies, and for many other government parks and recreation agencies. Almost all…employees, even for…stores and marinas, are work campers.”

RV Park Store is a website with listings for campgrounds, resorts, and marinas for sale. It also has a Help Wanted for RV Parks and Campgrounds page.

Sun RV Resorts has a Work Camper program. Work campers in the Sun Resorts program “earn wages for the work…perform[ed], [and] earn rebates that are applied towards…site rent,” among other perks.

Bethpage Camp-Resort in Urbana, VA hires workampers. I was not able to find a list of their available workamper positions, but the website says potential workampers can send a resume and cover letter to bethpage_mgr@equitylifestyle.com.

The Working Couples website also offers campground job listings. (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

The Camp Channel website offers a list of summer camp jobs and employment opportunities. (Note: These are jobs working with children.)

Members of The Camphosts Facebook group often list available campground jobs.

 RV Hosts & Work Campers of America is another Facebook group “for posting campground hosting reviews as well as posting of available positions.”

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a volunteer opportunities page that directs folks to Volunteer.gov and advises folks to check with local BLM offices. Volunteer.gov calls itself “America’s Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal.” I’m not sure if any of the opportunities listed on Volunteer.gov are paying positions or if local BLM offices offer paying positions for work campers.

The Workers on Wheels website has a Campground Work page full of articles about working at campgrounds and RV parks.

Agriculture Jobs If you like working outdoors and don’t mind getting dirty,

People Harvesting

an agricultural job might be for you.

The Unbeetable Experience website is where you can apply to work the sugar beet harvest in Minnesota, North Dakota, or Montana, and possibly “earn up to $2,400 in two weeks.” You can also follow The Unbeetable Experience on Facebook. If you are considering working the sugar beet harvest, be sure to read the informative blog post “9 Expectations While Workamping the Sugar Beet Harvest.”

Michigan apparently has a beet harvest too. You can find out more on The Michigan Beet Harvest website or on their Facebook page. In answer to a question on Facebook, they say they do hire Workampers.

While WWOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) does not involve monetary compensation, it does offer “accommodations, meals, and learning” in return for working “usually about 4 to 6 hours a day” on organic farms and other places involved in “an organic lifestyle.”

The Working Couples website has a Ranch-Farm Couples job list page for folks “who enjoy working outdoors and with animals.” (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

The Workers on Wheels website has a page called Agricultural Jobs for Campers and RVers: Jobs Involving Plants and Animals with many articles on the topic.

Red Wooden Shed on Farm Land

Caretaking Jobs Some  property caretaking and house sitting jobs pay a wage and offer a free place to live, while some only  offer free accommodations in exchange for keeping everything safe, secure, and in order.

The Working Couples website has a Caretaker Couples job list page, and says “some pay salary, some are hourly, some are just housing and utilities.” (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

The article “How to Become a Summer Lighthouse Keeper in Michigan” will tell you how to do just that. (Beware: Some of these positions don’t pay a wage and many require application fees or a payment to stay in the lighthouse.)

The Caretaker Gazette is a resource you have to pay for. It is a “newsletter [online or print issue] containing property caretaking and house sitting jobs, advice, and information for property caretakers, house sitters, and landowners.”

Housesitters America is a web based resource that also costs money. Potential house and pet sitters pay $30 per year to browse ads seeking sitters and to make their profiles available to people looking for sitters. I (Blaize) had a membership with Housesitters America for a year and wrote about my (positive) experience with the website and the homeowners I sat for.

The Workers on Wheels website has a Property Caretaking Jobs page with many articles about house sitting, pet sitting, and providing security and care for the owners

Driving Jobs If you like driving—or at least don’t mind it—you can make

Aerial Photo of Asphalt Road

some money that way.

The Happy Vagabonds website has a page dedicated to RV Camper Delivery Jobs. The page says, ” Some of the RV transport companies require specific licensing requirements…”

CWRV Transport hires independent contractors to “deliver over 40,000 fifth wheel and travel trailer RVs, annually, using owned or leased ¾ or 1 ton pickup trucks.”

Horizon Transport “is one of North America’s largest RV transporters.” The company hires drivers who “use their pickup trucks to pull RVs and other trailers across the country, one at a time.” Horizon Transport’s Flatbed division hires drivers of flatbed trailers “to haul multiple RVs and other vehicles or trailers across North America.” The company also hires folks for Drive-Away which “is unique in that you don’t need a truck. You simply get in the RV, UPS truck, or other large vehicle and drive it to the destination.”

The Working Couples website has a Driving Couples page. When I (Blaize) looked at that page, I thought a few of the listings might appeal to work campers. (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

Gray Industrial Machine during Golden Hour

Oilfield Gate Guard Jobs Gate guarding jobs often require a couple or a team of two because it is necessary for someone to be on duty 24/7.

The Happy Vagabonds website has a page with Oil Field Gate Guard job listings.

Timekeepers Security, Inc. seems to hire RVers as gate guards. You can contact the company via its Facebook page.

A 2011 post on the blog My Old RV titled “Oilfield Gate Guard Hiring and Contact Info” offers a list of companies that hire(d) “oilfield gate guards in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.” This information is old, but it might be a starting point. Also, the author of this post listed the paperwork he had to complete to get hired as a field gate guide.

If you are considering doing this kind of work, be sure to read the article “Oilfield Gate Guarding” on the Heartland RVs website.

Tourism Jobs If you can stand working a lot of hours during the busy tourist

Person Folding White Bath Towels

season, you can bank quite a bit of money in just a few months.

The Black Hills Experience website makes the offer, “Camp for free or at a discounted rate in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota and surrounding area while making an honest wage at one of the many area businesses.”

The Live Camp Work website features the article “Jobs for RVers at America’s Theme Parks” which gives information about three parks that recruit nomads for summer work.

The Working Couples website has a Resort Couples page which lists jobs such as bartending, waitressing, housekeeping, grounds keeping, etc. (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

The Grand Teton Lodge Company provides dorm housing for employees as well as offering sites in an employee RV Park. “The GTLC Employee RV Park has a limited number of sites available. There are water, electric (30 and 50 amp), and sewer hookups at each site. These are suitable only for hard sided, fully self-contained RV’s (no tents or pop-up campers)… All RV sites are charged a daily fee of $7.50.”

The Grand Canyon Conservancy “employs an average of 80 employees with seasonal retail positions consisting of work campers.”

Delaware North Parks and Resorts at the Grand Canyon “offers shared dorm style housing to its associates…at a minimal cost to the employees.”

Delaware North also hires work campers in Yellowstone National Park. “For those with their own RV’s, our Park RV site rental ranges from $35-78… RV’ers are responsible to pay metered electric and propane… For those living in our dorms, we do charge $29.50/week per person for your housing…You will be charged $63.50/week per person for three (3) set-menu meals a day, seven (7) days a week. All dorm residents are required to participate in the meal program.”

Seasonal positions are available with the National Park Service. You can find the jobs at USAJOBS. Enter ‘national park service’ in the search bar on the top left of the page. You can also sort jobs by location.

The Xanterra concessions management company offers jobs in several National Parks including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Glacier, and Death Valley. In many cases, housing for employees is provided. “Employee lodging facilities are generally dormitory-style facilities with communal baths…A limited number of trailer sites with full hook-ups are available for employees who bring their own self-contained recreational vehicle (single body, hard-sided with shower/toilet facilities). Meal and lodging costs vary by property. ”

Forever Resorts has “over 20 properties located in and around National Parks across the United States…” The company “…offers opportunities in the hospitality, food & beverage, retail, marina, and outdoor adventure industries as well as operational and administrative support positions.” Forever Resorts offers seasonal employment.

The Blair Hotels in Cody, WY hire workampers May through October for jobs such as housekeeping, front desk/reservations, maintenance, line cooks, buffet servers, and retail/gift shop clerks.

Adventureland Resort in Altoon, IA has a Workamper Program and “provides a free hook up campsite that includes electric, water, and sewer” to seasonal workers with RVs. Workampers primarily work in the amusement park and are paid for all hours worked.

Cal-Am Resorts food service team hires workampers for their Mesa, Arizona location. They hire singles and couples and jobs range from servers and bartenders to cooks, food-runners, bakery assistants and restaurant managers.

Cal-Am Resorts also has numerous workamping opportunities at their other 10 RV resorts.

Dollywood hires work campers but does not seem to offer RV sites. Instead, the website mentions the abundance of campgrounds in the area and says “[m]any of the campgrounds are within 10 miles” of the amusement park.  The website also says,”[w]ork campers will mostly be working outside” and “should be aware of the high humidity level and seasonal temperatures.”

PeakSeason is a job site “specializ[ing] in seasonal and resort area employment, including hospitality, restaurants, outdoor and adventure jobs, transportation, food & beverage, golf & tennis, and retail.” It is free for job seekers. You can also follow PeakSeason on Facebook.

Other Work Camping Possibilities This work camping job didn’t fit in any other category.

Amazon CamperForce “is for mobile RVers who work seasonal assignments at Amazon facilities.” Amazon CamperForce has three sites in Kentucky (Lexington, Hebron, and Shepherdsville), two in Tennessee (Murfreesboro and Chattanooga), and one in Arizona (Phoenix).

To learn more about CamperForce, you can read a book written by a woman who was part of the team in 2013, 2015, and 2016. My Guide To Camperforce was written by Sharee Collier of Live Camp Work.

White Rc Vehicle Near Tall Tree

Free Work Camping Listings The following websites offer job listings you can look at for FREE! Some of them also allow work campers to post free “position wanted” ads.

The Workamping Jobs website was created “to give RV workers and those businesses that hire them a place to find each other…for free!” You can place a “work wanted” ad or peruse the “help wanted” ads. You can also follow them on Facebook, but there are no workamping ads on their FB page.

The Snowbird RV Trails website offers a list of “hundreds of current work camping jobs.”

Wanderlust Estate community has a workamping section with available jobs listed by state, an explanation of the difference between “workamping” and “work camping” (Spoiler alert: none, really), a video about work camping job experiences, and really helpful workamping FAQs. You can also follow Wanderlust Estate on Facebook.

Cool Works lists “Jobs with RV Spaces.” You can also follow Cool Works on Facebook.

On the Workers on Wheels website, you can subscribe to the free Workers on Wheels Newsletter which includes job listings and tips from working RVers. There are current job listings posted on the site as well. The website also offers a LOT of helpful information for folks new to work camping.

The Happy Vagabonds website has a Work Camping Jobs Menu page with many different categories of job listings. You can also follow them on Facebook.

The Job Exchange Powered by Escapees RV Club “matches job opportunities with traveling contract workers who want full or part-time work.” Job seekers at RVer Job Exchange must sign up for a free account. After signing in to the site, job seekers can post resumes, view jobs, contact employers, and receive job alerts. You do not have to be a member of the Escapees RV Club or Xscapers community to use this job board.

The Your RV Lifestyle has a job board.

Good Natured Jobs “was created to connect passionate job seekers with…employers offering unique…career opportunities all over the world in the outdoor adventure and travel industry” and has a work camping category. You must be signed in to apply for a job, but creating a profile is free for applicants. Folks can sign up for FREE Custom Job Alerts and have an email sent to their inbox immediately after a matching job has been posted You can also follow their page on Facebook.

Backdoor Jobs lists “short-term Job adventures” in categories such as wilderness therapy jobs; summer camp and ranch jobs; jobs in the great outdoors; and resort, guest services, food & hospitality job opportunities.

The mission of itravelft is this: “bring every employer of full-time travelers and every full-time traveler who wants to work together on a one-site job-and-lifestyle platform.” The FAQ promises “searching jobs and applying for them will always be free,” but suggests folks will want a membership because of the extra job-search tools and value-added items available to members.

Facebook Groups about Jobs for Travelers You can join these

Green and White Volkswagen Combi

Facebook groups where people often post job openings.

The single workampers working together group is “for anyone that likes to workamp.” Members are invited to post gigs for single workampers and to share reviews and experiences.

The I Travel Full-time and I Work Here! group is a “forum for travelers seeking jobs and people who employ them.”

The Work Camper Jobs group is “a place to match super park hosts and work campers with extraordinary employers.”

Members of the Work Campers/Volunteers group are invited to “Post Work Camping or volunteering experiences (good or bad).”  Members are also allowed to post “work camper or volunteer (camp host) positions available.”

The admin of the group Work Campers mobile jobs has invited members to post information about employers looking to fill positions.

White Rv on Road

Companies You Pay for Job Listings or to Help You Find Work Camping Jobs If the free job listings aren’t enough, here are some companies you can pay to help you with your job search. These sites offer listings for several different kinds of work.

Workamper® News “has been the premier source for connecting RV lovers and potential employers for more than two decades.” There are three levels of membership (Gold for $19.95 per year, Diamond for $47 per year, and Platinum for $67 per year), each with different benefits. Workamper News also has a Facebook page. (Note: A reader alerted me that Workamper News does off some job information for free. There is a free intro option that includes email with “hotline jobs” delayed 14 days and digital access to the previous month’s magazine. The reader says, “There are also Featured Employer pages, volunteer opportunity listings, upcoming Jobinars, and banner ads ran by employers available for free.”)

To be a member of Work Camp Connections, you pay $14.95 per year. The company sends you a “host profile to fill out.” They verify your profile, run a background check, and check your references. Then they mail your “profile out to prospective campground in the areas you want to work.”

To see complete contact information on job postings on the Working Couples website, you have to be a subscriber and sign in. There are three subscription levels. The Free or Limited Subscription allows you to see featured jobs only. The $5 per month Monthly Subscription and the $12 per quarter Quarterly Subscription give full, unrestricted access to employer contact information for all active job listings, provide access to forums, and offer the optional upgrade to resume posting for $14.95.

The website for the KOA Work Kamper Program says the jobs offered vary by location but may “include maintenance, front desk staff, and manager.” Apparently to get access to the KOA Work Kamper website, one must pay $35 per year. Benefits include unlimited access to the KOA resume website, unlimited access to all KOA job postings, and training and educational opportunities.

For $50 a year, folks can join The Adventure Collective and get unlimited access to “jobs [sic] opportunities & work exchanges in the world’s best adventure destinations,” gain the ability to contact employers directly, and apply for jobs from anywhere in the world.

FlexJobs is a job site that helps people find professional remote and flexible jobs. A one-month membership to the site costs $14.95, a three-month membership costs $29.95, and a one-year membership costs $49.95.

Resources for Work Campers Some of these websites and groups offer

Person Holding Black Compass

advice and suggestions for finding and getting work camping jobs while others offer work campers a forum for reviewing the places they’ve worked.

At The Goats on the Road blog, you can find a comprehensive post titled “101 Best Travel Jobs That Can Earn You Money While Travelling.” This post offers many ideas for work beyond the typical camp host job or working for Amazon during the pre-Christmas rush. There’s even more info about traveling and working on the Remote Jobs page.

The Live Camp Work website calls itself “your online resource for information on working on the road.” The mission statement says the site “was created to help provide information to working RVers about ways to make money on the road.” Several of the articles mentioned elsewhere in this post comes from Live Camp Work, and the website offers the extensive article “Workamping Families: Full-time Families Go Workamping With Kids!” You can also follow Live Camp Work on Facebook.

The Workers on Wheels website offers resources for workamping parents in the section RVing Families with Children: Working While RVing with Kids.

The authors of Live. Work. Dream. blog answer the question “What is Workamping?” and share their own adventures as work campers. They also offer an e-book Income Anywhere, in which they tell readers about the “various…revenue streams [they’ve] developed to support [their] nomadic lifestyle.” You can also follow Live.Work.Dream on Facebook.

Reducto posted about making a living as a traveling poker dealer on the Cheap RV Living forums. In the post he writes about what training a poker dealer needs and how to get started in the business.

The Workamper Dreamers Facebook group is the Workamper News intro group for “those that want to live the RV Lifestyle and learn how to take that next step to the freedom we all desire.”

The Workamping for Single Workers. And Campground Reviews Facebook group is “for workampers where a single or one half of a couple is able or chooses to work for a FHU or other compensation. All RV’ers are welcome…” In addition to items for sale and reviews of campgrounds and their staff, there are some job postings on this page.

The Workamping Reviews website allows work campers to post reviews of their worksites. Reviews are also posted on the Workamping Reviews Facebook page.

The Workcamper jobs & Reviews Facebook group “is to REVIEW work campers/camphosts jobs…We hope to be a resource for Work campers. With honest reviews as well as any job opening.”

The Workamper Reviews Facebook group is “for individuals that are WORKAMPERS. Our group offers members a place to share reviews of places they have work camped.”

I hope you find this list of job leads for nomads in the U.S.A. helpful. I would love to know if you get a job from this list. I’d also love to know if you have any other leads for jobs for nomads. In either case, please leave a comment below.

If you found this post helpful, I’d love your support! Hit the donate button in the right toolbar or go to Patreon to become my patron.

Special thanks to Jamie Fox for sharing the list. Jamie is a strong, independent woman who raised two boys on her own with many trials and tribulations. Now in her 40s with her boys on their own, she can travel. She doesn’t think people should let fear stop their hopes and dreams. People who live outside the box are the bravest people, so you’re already one step in the right direction.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-vehicle-traveling-on-road-2416592/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/relaxation-forest-break-camping-111362/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-and-showing-100-dollar-bills-from-leather-wallet-1877353/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-harvesting-2131784/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/agriculture-barn-clouds-cloudy-206768/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/aerial-photo-of-asphalt-road-1046227/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-industrial-machine-during-golden-hour-162568/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-folding-white-bath-towels-1437861/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-rc-vehicle-near-tall-tree-1906155/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-and-white-volkswagen-combi-594384/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-rv-on-road-2580312/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-black-compass-1308751/.

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/.

Why I’m Not Going Back Up That Mountain

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A hand holds the book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
My book

It was a good run. I worked four seasons on that mountain, a total of 18 months. My first two seasons I was a camp host and a parking lot attendant. (See my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods for a collection of humorous essays I wrote about my experiences during that time.) The second two seasons I worked at a campground store.

The short answer to why I’m not going back up the mountain comes down to ice. I got tired of making 25 mile round trips to buy overpriced ice. There were two general stores on the mountain that sold ice. One sold eight pound sacks for $3.69, and the other one sold seven pound sacks for $4. Halfway down the mountain a general store sold 10 pounds sacks of ice for $3. In civilization I could get a seven pound sack for 99 cents.

I understand why I had to pay more for ice I bought on top of the mountain. That ice had to be trucked up there. The stores had to pay for the ice, pay to have it transported, and still make a profit. The stores also had to pay for electricity to keep the ice frozen. Believe me, I get it. I think I could have stomached the high prices on ice if I hadn’t had to drive so dang far to get it. Twenty-five miles for a bag of ice is just too far! After I paid for gas and wear and tear on my van and wasted so much of my time (driving 25 mountain miles took about 45 minutes), I shudder to think how much those sacks of ice were really costing me.

You might suggest I do without ice. Sometimes I did, but I love drinking very cold water. If my water’s not cold, I don’t drink enough. Also, ice in a cooler was my only form of refrigeration. When all the ice in the cooler melted, my food (eggs, cheese, produce) was at risk of spoiling; that would have been another waste of money.

A road between trees curves twice.
Driving those mountain miles

Being so far from civilization was a bigger part of the picture of why I’m not going back. I was 60 miles (again, mountain miles) from the nearest Target, Wal-Mart, or supermarket. My third and fourth seasons up there I could access the internet at the store where I worked, so technically I could shop online, but the post office where I picked up my mail was a 25-mile (you guess it, mountain miles) round trip from the campground where I stayed.

Having internet access at the Mercantile did help me stay in touch with friends and family. However, it didn’t help me much when it came to keeping up with my blog. I could only work inside the Mercantile when it was closed. If I wanted to work on my blog on my day off during the eight hours the store was open, I either had to sit on the deck in front of the store in full sun or in my van. Almost every time I tried to work in my van or on the deck, one or more of my coworkers came over to talk to me, usually to complain. What’s a writer to do? The only thing I could think to do was go down to the valley where nobody knew me.

There was a coin laundry on the mountain. It was 25 (mountain) miles away and consisted of one washer and one dryer. I could have gone there to do my laundry. Considering that each week I typically had a load of work clothes and a load of other clothes, it would have taken me a minimum of 1 and 1/2 hours to wash and dry my clothes, plus about 1 and 1/2 hours making the round-trip drive. If I had been doing The Man’s laundry too or if the two of us had been doing our laundry at the same place on the same day, it would have taken five hours, including driving time.

A carved wooden bear holds a welcome sign. It and a wooden chair sit on a wooden deck in front of a yurt.
The front porch of the Mercantile with no shade

Shall I go on? (Feel free to stop reading here if you’ve had enough of my whining.)

My first season working in the Mercantile I decided I liked working there more than I liked working as a camp host and parking lot attendant. The next season I wished I wasn’t working in the store. More of the questions I got in the store seemed substantially dumber than the ones I fielded in the parking lot and campground. People let their children run amuck in the Mercantile and expected me and the other clerks to babysit them. The temperature in the Mercantile rose to over 90 degrees if we weren’t able to use the swamp cooler. Last summer we had a lot of problems with the solar panels and batteries and the generator that powered the store; on many days we had no power to run the swamp cooler. I was overheated a lot last summer and would often stand outside and pour water over my head and neck to try to cool off. If I were working a retail job in civilization, at least I’d be in an air conditioned environment.

The prices of everything in California are freakin’ high. The prices of everything–gas, food, propane, water, (legal) recreational marijuana, auto repairs, tires, other consumer goods, and the taxes on everything–are higher than in Arizona or New Mexico. Yes, minimum wage is high in California, but companies raised their prices to cover the increased expenses when they had to start paying their employees more. (You didn’t think the shareholders were going to take a hit when companies were required to raise wages?)

Looking up the trunk of a giant sequoia to see the top.
A giant sequoia because we could all stand to think about a big tree right now

In the end, I barely broke even while working in California. I managed to save a little money, but not nearly as much as I hoped.

I figure if I’m going to work retail, I can get a job as a cashier in a supermarket or even a Dollar General and at least spend my work shifts in air conditioned comfort. I figure I can go to a tourist town in some state where prices are less than they are in California and not have to spend so much of my wages on survival. I figure I can find a way to live in my van or find a long-term house sitting gig in a town where I can walk or take public transit to the library or a coffee shop when I need to work on my blog.

Four years was a good run, but I think it’s time to try something new.

I took all of the photos in this post.

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.