In Waterfall Heaven Part II

This post is a companion piece to In Waterfall Heaven, and between the two of them it covers the main waterfalls available for view along Historic Highway 30.  You can definitely see all of the roadside waterfalls on a weekday if you start early, but parking can be a problem on the weekends.  It’s also important to note that you can see just Multnomah Falls (the largest of the falls along the route) if you stop at the rest area along Interstate 84.  It’s a nice rest area that can accommodate bigger rigs and it is an easy walk over to a very nice gift shop and the falls.  We chose to start our day at Multnomah because that is where the largest crowds are and at 9am on a Tuesday were able to get some nice pictures with no people in them.

The gift shop also has a restaurant inside. We skipped it because it was a bit pricey, but might be a nice travel day lunch break

The falls in all their glory

For scale look for a tiny person on the left side of the bridge

We walked up to the bridge which was a somewhat steep trail but well paved and maintained. These metal nets were to control rock slides

The red cedars were huge and beautiful along the trail

The path continues on and you can walk to the top of the falls. Since we were pretty tired from working hard all week, we stopped at this point.

The spray was intense totally covering the bridge and making picture taking tough but I managed to get a few

Closeup with the long lens of the top

View from the bridge to the base which is a great viewpoint and easily accessible from the rest area

Next up was Horsetail Falls.  This was nice because you could walk right down to the water and the sun was shining in beautifully on the glade

 

Next we walked down to Oneonta Gorge, but it was closed because of trail damage.  It turned out to be a good thing it was closed because the Newbies we work with told us later that in order to reach the waterfall you had to swim through a narrow gorge.  We definitely weren’t prepared for that and it stressed to us again in this area you really need to research your trails.  The signage really isn’t that good and even the detailed map we got from the visitors center doesn’t give that level of detail.  I think they assume up here folks know what they are doing when they go on a hike, but that certainly isn’t the case for us.

We did see a couple people walking down there but since the trail was blocked with yellow tape and a sign was posted we followed the recommendation

The cars used to come through this tunnel but now you can walk through it

Next we went to Wahkeena Falls where we saw a photo shoot taking place.

We saw this “fairy” putting on her makeup in the parking lot

This is the view at the base of the trail which isn’t spectacular but you might want to stop there. The trail to the falls is only .2 miles and paved but it is very steep

The views are awesome though at the top of the trail

You can see the fairy in the right of my picture. They were shooting the same time we were there which made it tough to get all the shots I wanted

I was huffing and puffing just carrying my camera and a water bottle. The photographer did it carrying a laundry basket lol so it can’t be that bad!

I am sure they got some neat shots of her

There are several additional trails uphill from Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls and in particular I really wanted to see Fairy Falls, which a friend had told me about.  Unfortunately the trail to that fall was called Perdition Trail and was another .4 miles straight up.  Since we hadn’t researched it and were both pretty tired from the work week we decided to give it a pass until we could do more research.  Thankfully these falls are less than 1 hour from where we are staying so there will be more opportunities to do some hiking when we have a day we are more rested.  After Wahkeena though we were done walking and decided to take a drive up to Vista House.  That parking lot was totally full the last time we came here, but this time there were lots of available spots.

The house was designed as a rest area for travelers and is a hug oval room with restrooms downstairs. They have added a gift shop and bookstore, but mostly it is still the way it was originally

The ceiling in the main room

I loved the stain glass windows which were protected behind thick plastic

It was a bit hazy but the views were still pretty and you could walk out on the balcony which was nice

Loved the bathroom

They had a little photo gallery and one of the coolest things they talked about was how Historic 30 was designed for car trips. There are no grades over 5% and it had these little auto camps along the road for people to spend the night. This was in the 1930’s and if these aren’t the precursor to the RV parks we use today I don’t know what is 🙂

Near the Vista House there is a 14 mile dirt road that has a view of 5 different mountains but after talking to the women in the visitors center we decided to skip it.  They got 20 inches of snow just a couple weeks before and they weren’t 100% sure the road was open to the top.  That coupled with the fact that it was kind of hazy we decided to save that trip for another day. Since it was 12:30pm by this time we decided to head back and stopped at Shirley’s Tippy Canoe for lunch.  I saw this place the last time we drove by and the sign made me want to stop.

Really nice fireside area once we walked inside

Cool vibe and decor

We decided to eat outside because it was such a nice day

Loved, loved these tables but Lee needed more back support so we sat in pretty comfy lawn furniture

I ordered the special which was clam chowder with shrimp and sour dough bread baked in a casserole with cheese and green onions

Lee got a triple decker Ruben

Everything should have been perfect, but unfortunately it was not.  The lunch meals were VERY pricey with almost everything (including burgers) on the menu being $17.99.  Still I thought it must be good at those prices, so we went ahead and took a chance.  My meal was extremely mediocre and Lee’s Reuben had way more turkey and very little corned beef.  The service was also pretty mediocre and all in all I was very disappointed.  If the prices would have been reasonable I would have shrugged it off but for $35 for lunch before tip I expect better.  I actually went out on Yelp and gave it 2 stars, which is something I rarely do. Just to be clear for me there are three main parts to a restaurant review.  They are food quality, service, and ambiance/cleanliness.  The higher the price point the more I expect in each category.  This restaurant was great in ambiance but not good in service or food.  For me that’s a fail.  Part of that is Lee and I have a restaurant background.  We met working in a restaurant and both of us spent many of our younger years working in them so we know how things should be.  Even when we had plenty of money we would get upset when a restaurant experience failed to meet expectations and for several years rarely ate out for just that reason.  Now that we have $150 a month dining out budget it’s even more important to me at least.  Eating in restaurants is a real treat and when things are expensive and the experience is sub par I am never going to be ok with that.  Well that’s not 100% true, if we are hanging out with friends sometimes nothing else matters.  Sometimes though, as I am sure they would tell you, I do get pretty annoyed.  That’s one of the reasons we like to hang out at our rigs and cook together when we are with friends.  We know the food and service will be excellent and the ambiance can’t be beat!

Anyways, it was still a good day  with all those waterfalls, but we decided to take Wednesday completely off.  Hopefully the job will be less physically demanding once we finish the initial cleanup, but in the meantime we may need to only sight see on Wednesdays.  We are both just too physically tired from our work week. Will see how it goes.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback. 

First Time Scheduling Physicals

We have been on the road 2-1/2 years now, and health and dental care continue to be an issue.  Challenges with high deductibles,  finding out of state providers, and the timing of being in an area long enough to get an appointment scheduled have resulted in minimal heath/dental care.  Since we have been on the road we have only visited one Urgent Care, got teeth cleanings in Mexico, and another cleaning and cavities filled in Alaska.  What we have not done is have physicals of any kind.  Since I turned 50 last August I knew I would need to find a way to schedule annual appointments, but was intimidated by the process of finding an out-of-state doctor.

The ironic thing is I am very well suited to finding health care on the road.  My parents and brother and sister are all in the medical profession and I have 7 doctors and 4 nurses in my extended family.  Yes, you read that right, the medical profession is the “family business”.  And even though I chose not to enter that profession, I have learned quite a bit listening to others at holiday dinners and of course I have a terrific set of resources right at my fingertips.  I mention this because you would think it would be easy for me to work the system and find healthcare on the road, but unfortunately that is not the case, and the fact it is so difficult even for someone like me should tell you something.

I loved my doctor in Keene.  I had a schedule, we had a relationship, and I rarely had to worry about whether my insurance would cover something.  I had one issue in the 15 years I lived there with an anesthesiologist not being in plan, and when I called the insurance company they advocated for me and made sure the doctor accepted what they would pay.  That is absolutely not the case now.  I have a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Florida plan and although I am lucky enough to have access to a national network of doctors I have to be VERY careful who I select to perform services.  That is assuming of course I can get an appointment.  I’ve made the mistake in Alaska of waiting too long to start making phone calls and setting up appointments and as a result ran out of time and was unable to schedule a physical there.  I thought about scheduling the physical in Texas and even made a few phone calls, but very few doctors in the San Antonio area were accepting new patients.  So I kicked the can down the road to Oregon and on one of my first days off I took a deep breath and sat down to tackle the problem.

In the interest of sharing information I am going to walk you through the experience, but fair warning, quite a bit of this is colored  with anger.  This really shouldn’t be so difficult. Hopefully though you will find something beneficial in the account.

I started on Wednesday morning about 10am and the first thing I did was pull up the in network list of caregivers online.  Since it was out of Florida, I needed to go to the expanded list of providers, but there was quite a good selection.  That selection narrowed significantly though once I checked the search criteria box for “Accepting New Patients.”  It’s surprising how many doctors were eliminated and mostly what was left were doctors who were part of large medical groups.  I personally don’t have an issue with large medical groups, my brother belongs to one, and they provide lots of benefits to the physicians by handling administrative and billing tasks for them.  It also allows the doctors to have more of a regular schedule because they can share on call responsibilities with the other doctors in the practice.  Many of these groups also have nurse practitioners and  as my mother was one for many years I have no issue with seeing one of these either.  As long as the nurse practitioner can “write all the orders” (i.e. order followup procedures and write prescriptions) I have found their care rivals that of physicians I have seen and most take new patients.

Another major benefit of nurse practitioners as an alternative is that they are generally much easier to get a timely appointment with.   The appointment I ultimately got was with one, and it was actually scheduled for Friday of the same week which was two days away and pretty amazing.  It’s extremely unlikely I would have gotten that quick of an appointment with a regular physician.  In order to get to that point though I had to get through the gatekeepers, and that was a difficult process.  Initially I called the phone number online and got a scheduling service for Providence Medical Group, which has over 600 providers in its network.  I was told that they needed to do an initial new patient appointment prior to scheduling the physical and when I asked how much that appointment would cost (because I would need to pay this out of pocket) was told between $200 – $700.  Obviously that was absolutely unacceptable and since the person on the phone was unwilling to work with me and my somewhat unique situation I asked to speak to a supervisor.  The most distressing part of this conversation was if I would have not asked the question and just followed their advice it would have cost me extra money.  In the old days I would have, but now things are different.  I have a $14,300 deductible on my insurance and do not have the luxury of spreading these appointments out over a 6 month period.  I need to consolidate appointments, keep my out of pocket expenses down, and work around my work schedule.  If I can’t get someone on the phone who is wiling to work through that with me (which is what happened when I tried to schedule an appointment in San Antonio) I simply have to move on.  I have learned that the hard way.

The supervisor, thankfully, was that kind of person.  I explained my situation and she found me a nurse practitioner who was willing to skip the first visit and go right into the physical.  The only reason they were willing to do this, by the way, was because I stated I was in excellent health.  In the case of seeing a new dentist or doctors they always want to have an extra appointment.  Those appointments are rarely covered by insurance (and delay getting the actual treatment you need)  so I get someone on the phone and explain I have a limited time period to get the work done and have no pre-existing conditions.   If we did have pre-existing conditions we would have to pay for those first visits out of pocket every year, assuming of course we had a different doctor every year.  And I should probably stop here and say our situation is somewhat unusual.  Most full timers we know go back to the same place every year and get physicals.  As a general rule they schedule those appointments to coincide with family visits and are able to establish relationships with doctors and dentists in the area.  This is a great solution, but since our family is all back east and we are exploring the west, it doesn’t make a ton of sense for us to drive across country for a doctors appointment and then drive back.  To solve this problem some people even fly back, but again they have family in the area they can stay with.  If one of us gets to the point where we are having a serious health issue we would definitely need to consider this and luckily Columbus, Ohio would be a good choice for us because we have family in the medical community there. For right now though we are trying this the hard way and hopefully we can find a solution on the west coast that allows us to travel.

So my physical is scheduled for Friday and from there I will need follow-up appointments for a mammogram and a colonoscopy.  It is EXTREMELY important that you make sure all of this work is coded as preventive.  You can slip in questions about health issues you are having, but if the appointments become all about solving those issues rather than general wellness, they will have to code the visit as diagnostic and you will be on the hook for the cost.  This is a fine line, and a tough concept for many people, Lee included.  He despises going to the doctor anyway, and the fact that he can’t just talk about what’s bothering him once he gets there makes him nuts.  I agree with him philosophically, but since that is the system we are stuck working with I don’t have a ton of patience for his aggravation.  The main point in all of this is we all have to be our own health advocates and the days of relying on our providers, and more importantly, their billing agents, to look out for our best financials interests are largely over.  It is just the way it is.

After scheduling the doctors appointment I also scheduled dental cleanings.  Thankfully I had a recommendation from the trainers we have been working with here and called McKinsey Dental.  They were willing to accept new patients but once again wanted two appointments.  When I assured her we had regular cleanings, no history of periodontal disease, and used ultrasonic tooth brushes she agreed to allow us to schedule one appointment that included a cleaning.  Since we will have dental insurance with the company we are working with as of August 1st, we scheduled the appointment for August 15th.  This is cutting is kind of close, especially because I might need more cavities filled, but it’s better to wait and have the exams and cleaning covered.

Lastly I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist.  Once again I looked at the list of doctors in the area accepting new patients and this list was very small.  The closest one did have an appointment on June 6th and since I will be self paying, the initial 15 minute full body check would cost $200.  She couldn’t give me a price on what removing a mole would cost because there are various methods of removing them, but since she was friendly and seemed to understand cost was an issue I was OK with that.  It is VERY difficult to get prices on the phone when you call medical people.  Some of that is because the scheduling department and the billing department are so different, and in all fairness the procedures can vary as well, but how are we supposed to do a price compare if we can’t get basic pricing information over the phone? I hear quite a bit of political rhetoric about how being an educated consumer is going to change the face of medicine, but I can say from personal experience that is not an easy thing to be.  It actually reminds me a little bit of trying to get a quote from a car mechanic.  Unless you are educated about what actual costs are it’s hard to tell if you are being charged fairly.  In the old days I let my insurance company advocate for me (and themselves) but with these high deductibles it seems better to go with the discounted self-pay costs in which case you have to negotiate yourself.  In the case of the dermatologist I will go through insurance if they find anything complicated which I am hoping they wont.

I should probably mention here that I am going to a dermatologist because my mother was recently treated for basil-cell carcinoma.  I didn’t really understand what that was, but when we met in Vegas and she explained it I had her look at a spot on my cheek.  She was concerned and told me I needed to see a dermatologist right away and before I took care of any of my other medical needs, which she considered of lesser importance.  Since my mom is a very smart nurse practitioner and also my mom, I am doing what she told me to do. According to cancercenter.com “This type of skin cancer tends to occur in areas of the skin that receive the most exposure to the sun, like the head and neck. Basal cell cancers usually grow slowly, and it is rare for them to spread, or metastasize, to nearby lymph nodes or even more distant parts of the body. However, this can occur if the cancer is left untreated, so early detection and treatment is important.” Her main concern for me was it’s location, because the longer it is left unchecked the deeper they need to go to remove it.  Since it is on my cheek the eventual surgery could leave me with a pretty nasty scar and since she just went through this herself (thankfully in her case near the nose so it blends in) and if this is what I have she wants me to catch it as early as possible. If it is something, then we will also need to figure out how to handle it.  We have money in our HSA account but don’t want to wipe that out on one issue.  Hopefully if it is something it will be relatively minor to remove.

The long and short of all of this is we aren’t kids anymore, and these types of issues are going to be more common.  It would be more easily managed if we returned to the same area on an annual basis, but that is not how I want to travel at this time. That forces us to treat healthcare very differently though.  Back in April when we were in Vegas Lee went on a horseback adventure (a sunset walk kind of thing) and his horse went a little nuts and threw him.  He’s an experienced rider and has never been thrown from a horse before in his entire life.  Thankfully he was able to control his landing a little bit and avoided the rocks and hit the sand. But he landed on his side and we are pretty sure he cracked at least one rib.  Instead of rushing to the doctor, we did some research on Web MD and determined it likely wasn’t a punctured lung.  Then when we saw that the treatment for a cracked rib was leaving it alone to heal we decided to skip the doctor.  It probably would have cost $500- $700 for an appointment and an X-ray and since there was nothing they could do to help, what would the point have been?  Still, the whole thing just makes me angry.   All we need is reasonably priced healthcare with some wellness care, moderate deductibles, and a national network.  I had that type of coverage when I worked full time and everyone on Medicare has it as well, so I know it exists.  I don’t understand why as a self employed person I can’t have the same thing and it pisses me off. We are not the only ones dealing with this, of course.  Our fellow camphosts (the kayakers) are going through the same thing.  Mr. Kayaker has Medicare now, and according to them it is the best insurance they have had in years.  Mrs. Kayaker isn’t old enough though, and because she has a Florida based HMO can’t get medical care in-network out of the state.  She is thinking about signing up for the company provided healthcare for at least a couple of months so she can get some tests done.  The whole thing is crazy and I don’t see anything better coming along in the future.  That’s why I am pushing so hard to get all of these tests done, before we lose what little healthcare we have.

Friday morning Lee drove me to the doctor and the whole experience turned out to be terrific.  First and foremost I highly recommend making appointments on the Friday before major holiday weekends because the crowds were relatively light.  When I checked in to see my doctor, I discovered that the receptionist checking me in was from Keene,  New Hampshire.  She knew a good friend of ours Ernie and I Facebooked him while in the waiting room and let him know she said hi.  It always amazes me when I meet someone on the road from Keene, but it is indeed a small world.  Unfortunately, despite my lengthy conversation with the scheduler, Tiffany did not have anything in the system about me skipping the pre-exam.  I explained the situation and she asked her supervisor, who was noncommittal, and then I was called back.  The nurse took my vitals (I need to eat less donuts) and I explained that I needed to be set up for a Pap Smear.  At first I heard the party line, but when I said I had gotten approval from a supervisor she went ahead and set me up.

The nurse practitioner was great. Once again I explained the situation and then apologized if I was making her feel like an order taker at McDonald’s.  She immediately said nothing to apologize for, and said she was glad I was taking such an active interest in my own healthcare and wished more patients did the same thing.  I was careful though not to take up too much of my 40 minutes with talking though, and after running through my history pretty quickly we completed the exam.  If I was having any problems, or if I had a complicated medical history no way would I have gotten away with that. Since I kept it simple we had enough time.  She was pretty great about ordering the additional tests as well, putting orders in as we talked for a colonoscopy, mammogram, and routine blood work.  She also set me up on their online My Chart system so I could see the results (rather than waiting for them to be mailed) and best of all told me I could go right downstairs for the blood work.

So off I went for blood work, and after verifying during check-in all the blood tests were coded as “routine” I called to make my mammogram appointment while waiting my turn.  I tentatively asked if that had any appointments that day and she said as a matter of fact the entire afternoon was open.  I snagged the first available at 11:15pm and then went in to get my blood drawn.  My technician did an excellent job (minimal pain, only one stick required) which she said was a benefit of working in a busy center…lots of practice.  Afterwards I walked a couple of buildings over to the cancer center and checked in for my mammogram.

That was really nice.  Heated robes, tea and coffee while we waited, and a very nice technician.  We spent a little more time talking about my history prior to this test since I had a small piece of breast removed about 9 years ago, but once again I stressed this needed to be coded as a routine screening and not diagnostic.  The whole process started at 9am and I was waiting for Lee on the sidewalk at 12:00pm. Pretty awesome.  (I made much better use of my morning, going all around downtown Portland visiting camera stores in search of a pro sling strap since my daughter stole mine, and a few other things that I didn’t even know I needed. – Lee) The colonoscopy will of course be scheduled separately but I felt great about every interaction I had and would highly recommend the Providence Medical Group and their hospital if you are in the Portland area.  I’ll talk more about the remaining visits (and how Lee does in his visit) at a later date, but for right now I feel pretty darn good about the whole thing.  It required some upfront work, and vigilance throughout the process, but hopefully we won’t have any issues with the billing. (I do not expect my experience to be anywhere near as smooth, pleasant, or painless. – Lee)

Oh, and as an extra treat we stopped at Dean’s Homestyle Cafe for lunch and we got a bacon cheeseburger, hamburger, fries, and onion rings and left a $5 tip for a total of $20.  It’s not much to look at on the outside, but the inside had really comfy booths, the food was great and the portions were huge.  My kind of diner!!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback. 

 

 

 

First Time at a Whitewater Festival

We were pretty excited when we learned the Upper Clackamas White Water Festival would be held in the area we were working.  I have had the opportunity to go white water rafting twice (read about one fun trip here), but I have never seen a festival.  From what we were hearing some really amazing athletes would be participating in the event, plus it would be tons of fun to watch.  Although we were working both days (Lee covered the river sites and I helped in the information booth on Saturday) we did have some time to take some pictures.  Not only is watching the festival a blast, taking pictures was really fun and challenging so I wanted to share some of of our favorites here.  Lee took most of the river and festival shots, but I got some good ones of the paddleboard events, which were my favorite.  I hope you enjoy them.

The main even area was pretty low key with a raffle for products

 

And several vendors who specialized in rafting equipment

 

The one food truck was reasonably priced and there were plenty of restrooms which I did not need to clean 🙂

 

Put in’s for events were all along the river and one of the favorite sites was Sandstone Bridge which was officially opened over the weekend and was a big hit with the boaters

 

Lee got to see how the new boat ramps worked

 



 

Many people were just running the river for fun that day and it was cool how the event schedulers worked personal recreation traffic in the more formal events. Not quite sure how they managed that but it obviously worked and showed what a tight knit community it is. In between heats they also allowed people to do practice runs or just takes runs with their families through the race area which was also really cool and not something I think I have ever seen in any other sporting event.  Most events happened at one set of rapids near Carter Bridge and people sat on rocks or down near the river and they closed off one half of the bridge so you could stand there and watch as well.  We liked the bridge spot for the best views and most of our pictures were taken from there.

There were 7 gates and the poles that hung down could be moved with a pulley system. Part of the challenge for the rafters was not missing any of the gates.

 

They had safety boats in the water at all times and occasionally someone wiped out, couldn’t recover, and needed a lift

 

 

Several women participated

This run in particular was really good and her upper body strength was impressive.


 

This was impressive.  Big boat one guy.

 

People went on runs with their kids and family. The kid in the green boat on the left looked like he was 12

My favorite event of the day by far was the SUPs or Stand Up Paddle Boards.  I learned this technique had started in Hawaii and was hitting the paddling world by storm.  The fact that they could run these boards through the rapids was absolutely amazing and I was lucky enough to spend some time with the owners of Clackamas River Outfitters who participated in many of the events.  Luke, one of the owners, used to be part of the Pabst Blue Ribbon team and now rents equipment right down the road from us.  His wife Tanley was kind enough to answer my numerous questions and let me know when the best events would be happening so I could get some pictures.  Super nice people and I was really glad I got to hang out with them, because their booth was right next to mine in the main festival area.

The start of the SUP final

 

Luke has the orange helmet. He volunteered to start at the back of the pack since they can’t all start at the same place

 

What was amazing was even if you fall off you can get back on and finish the race

 

Check out the guy to the far right he got back up

 

Here’s a close up of Luke’s feet. Check out how he is balancing

Even the wipeouts were spectacular. So much fun to watch

 

Serious paddling was required after the rapids to reach the finish line.

 

And then the guys had to carry their boards up and back to the top of the event area to be in the next heat.  Look how much fun they were having.

 

They had a shuttle service for the bigger boats but they still had to be carried up from the water and onto a trailer parked pretty far (at least by my standards) away. This was a physically fit bunch of people.

Luke also participated in the kayak race which was really neat as well. That guy had amazing energy




The festival itself was a mix of locals, experts from other areas in Washington and Oregon, and spectators of all age ranges.  Since it was a dog friendly event I also got to see lots of puppies and Lee took some great shots of the festival goers at one point, as he covered for me while I took some pictures of an event.

 





 

They took these blow up rafts over the rapids but I missed that unfortunately

 

This absolutely beautiful female malamute was huge at 110 pounds

 


It was a fun group 🙂

 

The kids loved it too and were climbing all over everything and no one cared. It was that kind of crowd

 



We gave away these whistles which were a hug hit with kids and adults alike. I learned you need a whistle on your life vest to be “legal”

 

At the end of night 1 they even had a free BBQ and a beer garden

At the end of the last day there was a “rodeo” which had folks doing tricks and trying fun things on the river.  Lee and I were able to watch all of that together because we worked long hours the day before.  I really really enjoyed this.  The people, the events, all of it.  My only regret was I didn’t have the equipment or skill set necessary to get in that water.  It looked like so much fun.

A group of 4 tried to come down on a paddleboat

 

With predictable results

 

Still having fun though

 

But finally gave up and one guy even lost his pants 🙂  The bridge crowd got pretty excited about this!!

 

The guys in this twosome almost fell out

 

She grabbed him

 

The bridge crowd was cheering “She saved your ass” …was funny

 

This guys lost his paddle right in the middle of the rapid

 

Tried to get it several times while his buddy was paddling his butt off

 

Success!!

 

Everyone cheered

 

My favorite was though rafting Santa. He was amazing doing “rodeo tricks” with this raft

 

He has turned the raft around and maneuvered it onto a huge rock. Amazing

So glad we got to participate and meet so many local people.  Everyone made us feel very welcome, which is definitely not always the case with small communities. I am sharing some of the pictures with Luke and Tanley and definitely am going to try paddleboarding while we are here.  I may need a wetsuit though because this water is COLD, hovering at around 40 degrees, which makes what these folks did all day even more impressive. If you ever get a chance to see one of these festivals I highly recommend it.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback. 

First Time Working In a Utility Co. Park – Adjusting to the Schedule and Communication

The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy which I am adhering to.  This includes not mentioning other employees by name, so I will do the best I can to recount our experience using people’s roles or titles.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out who we are working for,  I want to be clear that I in no way speak for the company, and am only recounting our unique personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong (and I am sure there will be many) are due to misunderstandings on my part. When researching any job or place to stay/visit I highly recommend going to the source and starting with the company website for information. 

One of the challenges, I am sure, of managing people in multiple locations with limited cell coverage is communication. Although almost everyone has a cell phone and can text, and we all have company email accounts, the lack of consistent cell coverage (both in the parks and on the drives to the off site locations) and only being able to access company email on a company computer makes using those common means of communicating tough.  That leaves the best way of communicating with people in person, but varying shifts and disparate locations make that challenging.  As a result our contact with our direct supervisor over the last week has been minimal.  Some messages are getting to us through our trainers, but when we have questions (which I invariably do) it takes a while to get those questions back up the food chain and then get a response.

One of the areas this has been challenging this first week was around our schedule.  We knew we would be working at least 32 hours a week, but didn’t talk much more about the specifics in our interview, so I was a little bummed to discover we would be working 5 days a week.  Once we learned more about the job responsibilities it made perfect sense, because gates are opened at 6am and closed at 9pm and there is quite a bit of downtime in the middle.  Our supervisor did a nice job of putting together a schedule that spread the gate opening and closings between multiple people who helps minimize people working split shifts, but we did end up with the splits on Saturdays and Sundays.  Basically our schedule is Mondays 6am-2pm, Tuesday and Wednesday OFF, Thursday 6am -2pm, Friday 3pm – 9:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday 6am – noon and then back again 8:00pm -9:30pm.  We also are responsible for opening the gates Monday, Saturday, and Sunday and closing the gates Friday – Sunday.

It’s a complicated schedule and initially was pretty confusing, plus to be honest I had to mentally work through the whole split shift thing.  It’s not that it’s on the weekends that bothers me (we actually prefer to have days off during the week), but that’s a long break in the middle of the day, and I was trying to figure out what that would look like.  I talked to Cori about it though and she brought up a great point that we would have enough time on the weekends to get out and explore if we wanted which made me feel better about it.  We definitely want to take advantage of the sunny days here and one benefit of the schedule is if we have the energy we could hike, explore, etc after 2pm almost every day. Really I just wanted to sit down and talk about the schedule with our supervisor, but because of some issues at another location and the complications I listed above that was just not possible.  We did offer to come in on one of our days off to chat about it, but it still couldn’t happen.

We also had some confusion about exactly what needed to be done prior to opening day.  All but one of the day use parks are in use, but the campground opens May 19th and the lower marina opens May 22nd.  Also there is a big Whitewater Festival scheduled May 20th and 21st and although none of our day use areas are being used specifically for the event, they are located close to the event and will probably see some use.  We thought they were in pretty good shape because of the work we had done the initial weekend, but Lee briefly saw our supervisor and he mentioned that the weeding really needed to get done before Saturday.  That sent us into a bit of a tailspin because initially we were trained not to worry about the weeding until things dried out a bit. On a side note, we found out a few days later that Sandstone Creek was being dedicated during the Whitewater Festival and since many executives would be there  they wanted it to look extra nice. All we knew on Tuesday though was it was a priority and so we set about to make it happen.

I think it’s worth mentioning here that this is where generational differences might kick in.  There have been plenty of scientific studies regarding the differences between how Boomers and Gen Xers and Millennials work, and since we keep running into this I think it’s more than fair to mention it here.  As work forces are getting younger, all companies seem to be struggling with changing how they manage a younger generation.  This problem is really obvious in the work kamping world.  90% of the people we are working with are Baby Boomers, so the work roles and managerial styles are largely tailored to them.  Makes perfect sense, because you want to keep your work force happy, but for us “younger folks” it can be frustrating.  And to be clear there is no right or wrong way to work here, but it’s tough when a work system is designed for folks with one work style when you fall into a different category.  For me, the biggest challenge is not being told “Why”. I don’t want to speak for our entire generation, but Lee and I are both “point us and we’ll go” kind of people.  What I mean by that is give us clear expectations, explain why it’s important so we have context, and then let us do our thing. If there are obstacles we will move heaven and earth to remove them and aren’t much bothered by who or what gets in the way.  Generally Boomers seem to want to analyze the situation and feathers can be ruffled by a more direct/urgent approach.  Worse, the behavior is often seen as “over exuberance” at best or “panicking” at worst, which drives me absolutely crazy.

As a project manager, I can certainly sit back and see the benefits to either approach, and usually don’t mind slowing things down a bit if the task is not time sensitive, but when something needs to be done and there is a limited amount of time to get it accomplished I generally go to what works for me.  If I know what I am doing and need minimal assistance it’s rarely an issue, but when I need other people’s help or more information it can be a problem.  In the case of the weed eating we needed functional weed eaters, gasoline (straight and oil mix) for both the truck and the two trimmers, and some idea of where the job started and stopped.  And we found out on our first day off and had to decide how we wanted to handle it.  Eventually, we got some help with getting the gas and the initial testing of the machines and one of the guys with the riding mower promised to drive up and do what he could with the riding mower.  That was a huge help, and cut down on the amount of time it took significantly.  Lee spent part of Wednesday driving to the hardware store to get the correct type of trimmer string and we did manage to be ready to go first thing Thursday morning.

Between trying to get a handle on understanding the schedule, and the getting ready for weeding though, it didn’t really feel like we had any time off.  In all fairness, the constant rain didn’t help, and we were pretty limited by what we could do on our days off.  On Tuesday we went to see a movie and went to the grocery store.  I have to say I am a huge fan of Winco and this may be my favorite grocery store in our entire three years on the road.  Their prices are really good (lower than Walmart in some cases) and their selection is solid.  Plus they have an awesome bulk foods section and we spent a ton of time getting items in that section which saved us quite a bit of money.  My plan on Wednesday was to take advantage of the rainy day and “pre-cook” so we would have food for work days.  This meant large batches of chili, spaghetti sauce, and cooked hamburger for the freezer and I also made potato salad and crunchy cole slaw for the upcoming group pot luck.  Basically I tied up the kitchen most of the day and wanted to listen to some TV shows, like The Voice, while I was cooking.  The bad part of that was it tied up both the kitchen and the living room and since it was pouring outside and our cell booster wasn’t working Lee couldn’t make phone calls or use the internet.  NOT a good combination.

Oh I wanted to mention that.  The WeBoost has been working fine except in heavy rain.  On heavy rain days the internet goes in and out frequently which makes it practically impossible to use.  Worse, we often lose signal during phone calls, which is not great.  It’s pretty clear this is a known issue so we will just need to be prepared for that going forward. Needless to say the combination of all of these factors made for a pretty lousy day.  Wednesday was actually the worst day we have had in a long time and in retrospect we should have punted at some point and just got out of the RV.  There are times when you are keenly aware of how small your living space is, and on those days at least one of you getting out is always a good deal.  The only good thing about it was we did get lots of stuff done and were prepared to hit the ground running on Thursday, which according to the forecast would be the start of 10 sunny days in a row…hooray!

One good thing about Lee and I is we may burn hot when arguing but after the storm is done we are generally pretty good about laying it aside.  We woke up to a beautiful day, were out the door by 6:30am and after grabbing the trimmers were working at Hole in the Wall by 7:00am.  Despite having the correct trimmer cord (the hardware store looked up the head model number for Lee to get it) he still had some trouble getting it to spool so I started with the push trimmer.  I have never used one of these before, but I really liked it.  It handles like a push lawn mower, but underneath are two set of trimmer cord instead of blades so you can get closer to things.  That was great because the boundaries in the day use are large boulders and the grass was really high around them.  I was clipping right along (no pun intended) when the riding mower showed up and about an hour later that was all done.  Definitely made the whole project seem more attainable and after he left we focused on the areas he couldn’t get to.  The first couple of hours were fine for me but then I started to slow down.  It required upper body strength, especially on the hilly areas, and I was definitely feeling it.  But the sun was out and Lee seemed to have found his rhythm with the trimmer.  It was a large one, but came with a harness and he was doing great with it.  After three hours though I was struggling so we switched for a while, but the trimmer was too heavy for me and he wasn’t crazy about the push trimmer, so we soon switched back.  Thankfully around the time it got really hot and I was sweaty and sore we were done.  It looked quite a bit better and definitely good enough for the event.

Lee using the push trimmer for a little bit.  He definitely liked the weed whacker better. 

The before weeds on the left and the after section to the right of the rocks

I took a short turn on the trimmer but it was pretty heavy for me, so stuck mainly to the push version

We decided to stop for lunch and then made a run up to Faraday and went to the hardware store to pickup up a couple of miscellaneous items. I definitely needed a better pair of gloves, since my hands were really hurting and we got a new trash can for the Sandstone Creek area.  I am really glad I had pre-cooked my potato salad because when we got back to the rig at 3pm I kind of collapsed.  Dinner was at 5:30pm and I had just enough time to take a shower, have a nice conversation with my sister, relax for a few minutes before we headed over to the Promontory park Day Use area.  There is a very nice day use area with a full kitchen, fire pit, large barbecue grill, and lots of picnic tables but because of the no alcohol rule it is rarely rented out. Our trainer, who was hosting the event, had scheduled it for the day and invited some of the people we would be working with this summer.  It was very sweet of her and her husband, especially because they provided all of the chicken, and we had a nice time eating, sitting around the fire, and getting to know each other better.

This is probably a good time for me to talk a little about the people I will be working with this summer.  Since I can’t use names it’s going to be tough to describe people so I am going to have to  find other ways to denote who is who.  I hate referring to people by one thing because obviously people are more complicated than that, but not sure how else to do it.  Hopefully I won’t confuse you in the process.  There are two other couples who are at Promontory Park with us and they are opposite ends of the spectrum.  One couple is younger than us and very new to the full timing lifestyle.  They live in a 14′ converted utility trailer, and it is incredibly cool.  I have seen conversions on Facebook, but seeing it in person was amazing.  The back wall has a full size bed that is elevated like a bunk bed, and their dogs have an area underneath.  Since it is a utility trailer the entire back wall is a door, which allows them to open the trailer up to the outside.  The opposite (front) wall has a 70 inch TV and surround sound.  Amazing!!  They have a tiny sink, tiny camp stove, and a cooler. There is also a surprising amount of storage because they used an IKEA crate system on the side walls and I although there is quite a bit in there it doesn’t feel cramped.  I loved it! The whole thing, including the renovation, was only $5K, and the entire setup impressed the hell out of me.  This is their first camp hosting job, and their only other work kamping job was volunteering at a fish hatchery so I will be referring to them as the Newbies, and for only that reason.

The other couple has been “semi-retired” since 2005.  This is their first season here but they have worked a ton of different seasonal jobs.  Although they are over 10 years older than us I would never have guessed that because they are avid kayakers, and nature people, and in great shape, so I am going to call them the Kayakers for the season.   I really like talking to Mrs. Kayaker and we have had some nice conversations about making the transition to a seasonal employee from a regular job.  In the last twelve years a desire for roots has put them back in a home and traditional job a couple of times but after a year or two they start to get itchy feet and go back on the road.  The way she summed it up was “in a house I feel like I work to vacation, but in this lifestyle I feel like I vacation and then go to work sometimes”.  I get what she means.  I just love talking to her to get the female perspective on this lifestyle long-term and can’t wait to chat more.  The coolest thing about the six of us is it turns out we all have birthdays this summer.  We have a cancer, three leos, and two virgos in the group, and our birthdays range from mid-July through the end of August.  We spent quite a bit of time at the potluck trying to decide if we should have 6 mini-parties or one big party because, hey, those are the important decisions!!The other two couples who came are our neighbors on the other side of the mountain and town, and stay in a Day Use area. One couple have been our trainers and I have talked about them quite a bit, but the other couple I didn’t know very well.  Turns out they have been on the road full-timing since 1999.   Wow!!  Because of that and the fact that he was in the military, they’re the Veterans. I think the Veterans have been living this lifestyle for longer than anyone else we have met.  He was a linguist in the Air Force (like our daughter Kay) and then retired from the post office.  To supplement their income they have done a variety of jobs, including Christmas Trees/Pumpkins, selling jewelry and clothing in booths, and camp hosting.  At this gig the husband works but the wife does no,t and she was pretty honest about preferring jobs where she could work for herself.  I get that too and really admire it, and they have a trailer they pull behind their Class A where over the years they have kept their inventory.  Really hope we get to talk to them more as the season progresses.

The other couple that lives at the day use area and have been doing the bulk of our training and supporting us are Mr. and Mrs. Trainer. This is their sixth year working for this company and they know the ins and outs of how this company works.  They have been very helpful with getting us settled in and teaching us the basics this week plus they organized the pot luck for everyone to get together and know each other which was very nice.

So that is the main group in this area (the 12 couples scattered at the other utility company properties we will rarely see, if ever) and we also got to hang out with one of the regular full-time employee maintenance guys, who is very sweet, and one of the corporate employees who brought her 6 month old baby.  Since her husband was out-of-town working, she came with him alone and we had a nice long cuddle session while she ate her meal.  I remember having kids that age, and what a blessing an uninterrupted meal is, plus he was absolutely adorable and I was happy to get a baby fix!  She’s running the booth during the White Water Festival and I was happy to learn I was going to get to help.  Lee and I will help her get set up on Saturday, and once I am comfortable I will run the booth the rest of the day, so that should be fun.  I always like when I get to do something different like that during a work kamping job and I was really glad they asked me to do it.

On Friday, we spent another four hours trimming the Moore Creek area and then we deep cleaned the changing rooms and pit toilets along the river.  Everything was ready to go for the festival and after another long day we headed back to the campground.  Our supervisor was their when we arrived and we got to have a nice long conversation with him.  We talked about his priorities, how to best communicate with him, and special projects he would like done during the summer.  I also received permission to have signs posted in the pit toilets with the campground phone number so if there was an issue people would have a place to call.  The nature of toilets is that you can clean them and someone could have an “incident” and that could go unresolved until the next visit.  Since we can only check some of these sites once or twice a day, I would feel much better if people had a way to reach out in this circumstance.  Our supervisor was fine with that and thought it was a good idea, so I will be working with their sign person to get something printed. Overall, the entire conversation made me feel better.  I had a better idea of what he wanted and he knows a little more about us. Clear expectations and communication seems to be the key to most of these jobs and we are trying to communicate better in the early days of these positions.  In the past we have let things go into later in the season and that has never served us well.

So that was our week, and it definitely had its share of ups and downs, but hopefully we will get settled in soon.  Today we need to finish the weed whacking at Moore Creek and give both of the pit toilets a solid cleaning.  My next post will be all about the white water festival, and hopefully will include some amazing pictures.  I hear the demonstrations are pretty amazing as these guys are all really good.  Can’t wait to see it, and in the meantime I will leave you with the promised pictures of Faraday Lake and some absolutely adorable goslings.

One of the picnic tables and some of the lake at Faraday

So many Goslings!

This mama goose was letting me know I was getting too close

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback. 

 

First Time Working In a Utility Co. Park – More Training and Getting Acclimated

I forgot to mention something very important in the last post.  I got to be on the radio to talk about my cookbook! I had to get up pretty early to be interviewed since there was a 3 hour time difference, but it was a ton of fun talking about our lifestyle, the website, and the cookbook to people we knew in our previous life.  Plus Danny and Luca made it very easy for me, asking all the right questions and jumping in whenever I faltered, which was super sweet.  The interview is available on podcast if you are interested (see link here) and of course my cookbook is available for purchase in ebook or paper format on Amazon.  For those who have purchased a copy I wanted to say “Thank you!”.  We seem to have settled into a pattern where we sell a book every few days and that is pretty gratifying. That shows me it isn’t just friends and family who are making the purchases.   At this pace,  the projected royalties for the year might be around $1,000 which, on our budget, would certainly be welcome.

Plus,  since we can get mail now, I received my paper copy of the book and I have to say holding it in my hands was really a special feeling.  I had been concerned about the formatting since we didn’t pay to have that professionally done, but it turned out pretty nice.  The pictures look good, the print is nice and big, and the paper stock has some substance to it.  It really was cool sitting and holding it in my hand, and if nothing else that feeling made all the hard work to get there worth it to me.  OK, back to the blog, and let me start with the disclaimer you will be seeing a lot of this summer:

The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy which I am adhering to.  This includes not mentioning other employees by name, so I will do the best I can to recount our experience using people’s roles or titles.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out who we are working for,  I want to be clear that I in no way speak for the company, and am only recounting our unique personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong (and I am sure there will be many) are due to misunderstandings on my part. When researching any job or place to stay/visit I highly recommend going to the source and starting with the company website for information. 

After two days of group training, Lee and I spent Friday and Monday on the job training with two experienced seasonal employees here.  Even though I am not currently scheduled to work in the campground office, I was trained on their computer system Reservation Friend I was pretty excited about that because although I have years of computer experience, I have never worked on a campground reservation system, and wanted to put it on my Work Kamper News resume.  As I have mentioned before, we are a big fan of Work Kamper News and I pay for a Gold membership to get their daily updates and keep a resume on file with them.  The resume serves the dual purpose of giving me an up to date and easily accessible couples resume (which most employers will accept although occasionally we run into an employer that needs individual resumes) and potential employers search that database looking for workers and we have been contacted several times by potential employers because that information is out there.  More and more of these jobs require experience on Campground Master or some other camping reservation website, and after receiving this training I have a better understanding as to why.  Oh, and as a complete side note, before I forget, both of the couples we are working with this summer use Working Couples.com.  I had never heard of it before, but since both work most of the time on the road like us and they both independently mentioned it, I am going to check it out.  At first glance it looks like there is a fee, but it also seems to provide a more comprehensive list of opportunities than “traditional” work kamping jobs which is of interest to us.  Don’t know anything more than that so if anyone has used it, please leave a comment and let us know how it worked. 

Anyway, back to the training.  The trainer and materials were both very good, but the system itself was more challenging than I expected.  I have years of experience working on Oracle Customer Relationship Management software and built two call centers from scratch in my career.  So I thought it would be super easy for me.  It started off pretty well as a standard reservation is pretty easy and they provide lots of ways to create that reservation depending upon your preference, which is great.  For example, you can look at the existing schedule from a grid view (think Excel spreadsheet) or from a map view.  Pretty cool.  Where it got complicated though was when multiple reservations were linked and payment for them was through one credit card.  This is a pretty common scenario for weekenders, and I just found the series of steps tough.  That would all be OK if you were able to take the reservation on paper and then add it into the computer afterword, but because the reservation system is available online to customers you can’t do that.  You need to be live on the phone with the guest while you take the information and follow the series of steps.  I am sure after some practice that will be second nature (it certainly was for our trainer), but it was a little intimidating.

Thankfully the trainer spent all day Monday working with us on the system and we got lots of hands on practice.  Not all of their camp host positions require computer work.  The National Forest sites are all on the Reserve America system, which is a third party company, but two of the campgrounds are 100% owned and operated by the utility company and are on this system.  Despite the challenge for the employees I do think it is the right way to go.  Having customers “self-serve” online has significantly decreased the workload in the office and I am sure improved customer satisfaction.  But it also (in my opinion) turns the office position into one where some level of computer experience is required.  The level of computer expertise in the camping workforce is changing as more people use smart phones and the work force is getting younger, but as I said, this program was not simple.  When we got to a point where we wanted to try working with live customers, one of my fellow trainees made the call and the customer wanted to change 5 different reservations over the phone.  The trainer and my co-worker did an awesome job working through it, but it showed the level of complexity some of these phone calls could have.  Anything easy is probably being done online so the calls that come into the office (although fewer than before online reservations) are mostly more complicated.

Aside from the computer work, which I am glad I was cross trained in but will only be using when I need to cover someone’s days off, you are probably interested in hearing about what we will be doing all day. Since I was in the office, Lee got an overview from the husband of our trainer on Friday and then we spent Saturday and Sunday getting acclimated and doing a first and second pass on our daily route.  I thought the best way to describe it was to show each site with pictures and I have to say I have the most amazing “office view” to date.  The work on most the sites is pretty basic, stock and clean toilets, pick up and empty trash, weed, etc, but there are a few extras that I will explain as we go along.  I am presenting these locations in the order they are along the river but we will be using visiting them in different orders depending on the day/need.  Three sites are upriver from us and the other three are down river and we are located right in the middle which is nice.  Since a picture really is worth 1000 words in this case, let me jump in.

We cover the three sites along the river along with the culvert and lower marina in the North Fork Reservoir and Faraday Lake. So you can see there is some distance between all these sites

Sandstone Creek Boat Launch – This is a new site for the company and is a boat launch and fishing area.  There are no toilets here as of yet, so we just check the area and pick up trash. 

These stairs are really cool. The middle rails are shorter so you can put your boat in the middle and slide it down. Lee was leaf blowing them off because they had quite a bit of forest detritus on them from the winter.

 

The boat launch/fishing area is pretty rustic but there is a pretty waterfall to the left right under the bridge.

 

Hole in the Wall Boat Access Site – This is a very popular site with rafting companies and is a day use area.  It has a pit toilet, boat launch area and 4 picnic tables.  This site will require quite a bit of weed whacking which is a high priority since a White Water event will be held in this area on May 20th and 21st.  More to come on that later. 

Four of our sites have dog baggie dispensers which we keep filled. I was happy to see them, make our life easier.

 

This site also has the cool boat launch stairs, which is probably why this is a popular site for rafters to have lunch.

 

View looking up from the bottom of the stairs

 

The river view from the launch area

Moore Creek Boat Access Site – This is our busiest rafting site as it not only has a pit toilet but two changing rooms.   The rafting companies meet their customers here, and they use the changing areas to put on wet suites.  We’ve met some of the rafting company employees and they are very nice, which is great since we will be working with them all summer.  We are giving them business cards with the campground office phone number and encouraged them to call us if they see any problems.  They informed us the common times they use the site are 9:00am -9:30am and 12:00pm -12:30pm, which was very helpful, because we will know when to schedule our cleanings.  This is an older site and doesn’t have the modern boat launch stairs yet, but instead has a cool rock path. 

The changing rooms are pretty big and have a long bench inside each to make it easier

 

The parking lot is used by rafters and by folks who are driving the road and need to use the toilet.

 

This is the rock path, although there is simpler gravel path to the left

 

View from the bottom looking up. I need to watch my step on the rocks. I think they push the boats down this path and then walk down the gravel path to the right.

 

Wild flowers are blooming along the path

 

View from the boat launch area.

 

Those three sites are upriver from us, but downriver from the campground are three other sites.  Since these are closer to town, not in the National Forest, and are used mainly by fishermen they have a totally different vibe.  They also have gates which complicates things a bit, so let me spend some time on a couple of these.

The Culvert – This is a beautiful little fishing spot that unfortunately turned into the weekend drinking spot at some point.  They have really focused on getting that under control though and there is a gate that closes at night at the location.  Folks can still park at the top and walk down, but its clear who is hanging out down there on Friday and Saturday nights.  It took us awhile to do trash pickup at this area.  Our very first volunteer gig was for a BLM day use area and the manager Stan taught us all about micro trash.  Water bottle tops, beer bottle tops, and small pieces of trash buildup over time, and can be harmful to wildlife so were a major focus of his. Taking that mentality into this particular area was a bit challenging, but I collected 2/3 of a five gallon bucket full of “micro” trash before I was done.  Hopefully this was mainly from the winter and having a clean area will encourage people to keep it clean.  We also added a second trash can down there to help encourage folks to deposit their litter, cans etc.  One good thing, at least from our perspective, is the restroom is a port-a-john which is serviced by a third party, so we just give it a quick look and then mainly focus on the trash. 

Beautiful pond. Not sure how far back it goes.  We heard some homeless people were living in this area, but again, an effort has been made by local law enforcement to stop that.  For now we will stick to the main areas.

 

No that crazy about this little tunnel with my claustrophobia

 

You walk through this to get to the larger lake area where most folks fish. I had Lee pickup the trash in there 🙂 but I did walk through to see the lake

 

The lake is really beautiful

 

All of these lakes are stocked with trout and many of the locals subsistence fish in the area. Stocking started this week, so we should see an increase in traffic in these areas. What we are hearing is the “raised” fish are much easier to catch

Next is the Lower Marina which many of the locals use to put in fishing boats.  There is also a very small beach area and lots of places to fish.  This area was in the process of being cleaned of winter river debris and since it doesn’t open until May 22nd we have spent minimal time there.  We do know there is a gate and have heard there is some boat traffic waiting in the morning.  We also know you have to wait for the parking lot to clear before you can shut the gate at night.  It has one pit toilet and 5 trashcans cans and supposedly gets quite a bit of use.  I will provide a better description and pictures once this area is open and we have a better idea of how it all works, but I did take a couple of pictures to start off with.  This doesn’t come close to capturing the area though.

These big logs were pulled from the river over the winter and there is another huge pile in the middle of the parking lot. As of this posting that debris has been removed so the next steps are striping the parking lot and getting it ready for opening day

 

Plus we saw this amazing Osprey nest down by the dam and fish ladders. I guess they are super active at night so can’t wait to see that in person

 

Finally we have Faraday Lake.  This is a very large area with two toilets, 7 trashcans, three picnic tables, and a lake.  Although we were told this area doesn’t see much use, both times we have gone up there lots of people were fishing it or walking their dogs, and that was before the fish were even stocked.  Thankfully the large lake area is mowed by someone else, but we do clean the restrooms, empty trash, and weed whack around the picnic tables.  By the time we got to the lake area the day I was taking these pictures it was pouring, so unfortunately don’t have pics of that either, but again promise to talk more about this area in a later post.  The good news about this area was people seem to keep it very clean, so although it is geographically our largest site it may not require a ton of time.  Will need to wait and see on this one.

So it’s multiple sites and a lot of ground to cover, but there are two of us and all of the sites don’t necessarily need checked every day.  My mind always goes towards putting together a plan, so after surveying the areas and talking to the more experienced employees who have covered these sites I put together a rough plan of attack.  I also documented the specifics of all the sites and our perceived job responsibilities, and then put all of that in a Word document and sent it off to our immediate supervisor.  The main thing we have learned in these jobs is to have clear expectations of what constitutes success from the beginning.  We like that we have flexibility in our schedules to complete the tasks, just want to be clear on the priorities.  And of course you’ll be hearing a lot more about this as the summer progresses, and hopefully about some fun stuff outside of work too, but I think this overview will help give you an idea of what I am talking about as we go through the season.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback. 

First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Training And Orientation

Disclaimer: Before I start, I want to mention that the company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  As usual, if you want current job specifics I recommend checking out the company’s website. OK, that’s done, now on to the post!

All across the country there are campgrounds, marinas, and day use areas owned by and/or operated by local utility companies.  Sometimes maintaining locations is required by contract, other times it is done for conservancy, providing additional customer value, or sites for employee recreation.  I have had friends who have stayed in these places and even stayed in them myself a time or two, but I have seen nothing on the scale of what is happening here in Portland.  We didn’t really understand the scope of it, until we decided to take a ride up to the Timothy Lake location.  Since our campsite in our campground is a new one they are creating, we didn’t have a fire ring, and when we asked we were told there would be extras at Timothy Lake.  We could have waited for someone to bring one down to us, but since it was a nice day we decided to drive up and see it for ourselves, and save someone that trouble.  The main road to the campground still had quite a bit of snow on it, so it was recommended that we take the back road.  This was a twisty, turny road and led us through National Forest, past Lake Harriet which has a dam, a small campground and day use area.

Lake Harriet Dam

 

Eventually we made it to Timothy Lake and received a very warm welcome.  The campground is still closed and not all the camp hosts were there yet, but everyone we met was very nice and helpful.  Not only did they find us a brand new campfire ring, but they also encouraged us to look around and told me where the best campsite would be to take a picture of Mt. Hood across the lake.  This is a huge lake with multiple campgrounds around it, plus a lodge that can be rented by utility company employees.  Although this is a National Forest campground and the reservations are handled by Reserve America, because of the dam and lake it is watched over by company employees.  This is an example of a positive partnership between a business and our forest service and from everything I have seen relationships between the two entities are very strong.  The Forest Rangers here cover 1.1 million acres, and since this is a very popular campground area it is important to have people on site continuously.  Most of the camp hosts we met work out of Timothy Lake and many have returned year after year because they enjoy the beautiful setting. (Some have been coming back for 16 years or more, which in my opinion says a LOT about the company. – Lee)

 

Loved the water rushing from the dam when we arrived

 

Stunning views of Mount Hood from the Day Use area

 

The Lake reminded me of the lakes in Glacier

 

The rocks weren’t as pretty as Glacier Lakes but the water was nice and clear

 

One of the most requested campsites

 

And it’s view past the tree line

This is definitely remote camp hosting as wifi/cell coverage is limited, and none of the sites have full hookups and some don’t have any hooks ups at all. We saw hosts use a combination of solar, and generators for power, but these folks knew what they are doing.  In the last few days, we have met numerous RVers who have been full timing for many years and have worked summers for this utility company for many of those.  I am always fascinated when I meet folks who have been doing this for such a long time because it’s a rarity on my social media network, and it’s generally a good sign when we stumble across a job that has a high concentration of them.   We met several long-term  full-timer couples at the beet harvest and more while gate guarding, but this is the highest concentration we have seen.   More about that later though.  We enjoyed our visit to the lake and after discussion decided to head back down on the main road with snow because it seemed the more direct route.  The road wasn’t 100% cleared yet, and still had some heavy patches of snow, but with some careful driving we made it through and headed back down to our campsite with a bran new fire ring.

One of the many trees still in the road. They had been cleared from one lane but not removed yet.  This big one was covering the left lane completely.

 

This snow was slick and although Lee tried to stay in the previously made tracks our dually tires were sliding a bit. Doesn’t look like much, but was a bit nerve wracking since we didn’t want to end up in a ditch on a little used road with no cell coverage. By staying on the “sunny side of the road” we managed to mostly avoid the worst of it.  In retrospect though we probably should have gone back down the way we came.

 

The next day all the new employees had a training class and thankfully it was just down the road in one of the utility offices.  Some folks were at locations much farther away and if they wanted to were able to stay in one of the cabins or Yomes in Promontory Park.  Since all three couples at “Prom”, as it is called are new, we were all at the first training class and we met several new couples there as well including the new Lead Hosts out at Timothy Lake.  Our immediate supervisor and his boss did a really nice job of providing us an overview of the company, their philosophy, and hierarchy.  We also received a full certification course in CPR, Safety, and AED use.  I was particularly excited about that because I haven’t had CPR training since I was 19 years old and things have changed dramatically, plus they had lots of hands on activities and the instructor was really great. I enjoyed the class very much, Lee less so because he is not great at sitting still in one place for that long, but I was really grateful for the time they spent.  It’s unlikely we will have an incident this summer, but if we did, the fact that they went to the time and expense to prepare us goes a long way with me. Plus I thought the exercises were fun, but hey, I am a nerd like that.

Since 120 compressions per minute (2 per second) are the standard, I spent quite a bit of time figuring out what would work for my body strength.

 

They really stressed why protectors were so important and the stories of projectile vomiting into the mouths of the person attempting to do CPR really got my attention.

 

The bandaging part was cool, and although my technique wasn’t that great it will get the job done. I didn’t know that in case of eye injury you should bandage both eyes, because as the good eye moves it will also move the injured one. Lee was a pretty good sport while I practiced.

So I left class after the first day feeling really good about the training and the fact that they were investing in me as a seasonal employee.  And in case you are one of those people who are skeptical about this sort of thing (and Lee certainly is) let me contrast to it to most jobs on the road we have had where they give you minimal instructions and throw you out there into situations that could be more dangerous than this job.  But then again I come from a corporate environment and for the first time in a long time in working on the road I really felt comfortable.

The next day all of the employees participated and we filled up a large training room.  We had a series of short presentations and learned about the archaelogist they have on staff (very cool), the biologist we had on staff, and other members of the full time team.  The fact that the company has an archaeologist and biologist and specific processes to follow if you find bones, birds nest, etc impressed the heck out of me.  I, like most full-timers, love nature, and the time and trouble they have gone to to protect wildlife was impressive.  In particular, the Clackamas River is a major fish spawning area and they have spent millions over the years making sure the fish can migrate past the dams.  I hope to learn more about that as the summer progresses.

The Diversity and Inclusion section was next, and let me just say there were some strong personalities in the room.  Although I would recommend spending a little more time on this in future training they did manage to get the main points across. And the bulk of the day was spent on Verbal Judo training.  These techniques were developed for law enforcement officers and the trainer, who was a state park employee, was excellent.  We spent quite a bit of time on this and it was impactful, but since we are more educators than enforcers it would be good to have it tailored a little more to the camp host position.  Part of the problem out here is there is minimal law enforcement to cover huge tracts of land, so it is more likely we will need to deal with situations ourselves, at least initially.  Many of the campsites also have no cell coverage, so just getting someone to a place to call 911 could be challenging.  I was getting a little concerned to be honest, but when we talked to long-term hosts on the break were assured these type of incidents rarely happened.  Mostly problems are around off leash dogs and alcohol and since Promontory Park is alcohol free that should be less of a concern hopefully for us.

There was also quite a conversation around marijuana use, because it is legal in Oregon but not in the National Forest, which is public land.  Even in Oregon it’s not legal to use “in public” so it can get tricky.  Again, the conventional wisdom of long-term hosts carried some weight because their point that marijuana users rarely caused a problem was a good one. Hopefully with edibles and vaporizers it will be a non-issue because it’s not like we are going to go looking for trouble.  They seem to have struck a nice balance between having some rules and not being super militant about enforcement.  That’s a stance I personally appreciate, because there is nothing worse than an over zealous camp host making a fuss about a minor rule.  In the stories we have heard across the country it happens though, so once again I was glad they took the time to spell out their policies.

So I loved it and Lee was just ready to get to work, but that’s OK.  We are pretty much two ends of a common spectrum with lots of folks falling somewhere in between.  Plus it was nice to get to meet so many people and get to know our fellow camp hosts more.  For once we weren’t the youngest people in the crowd, as there were other couples our age and a few people in their 20’s and 30’s.  And again, I walked away feeling really good about working for a large company again, even in a limited capacity.  My experience in my life is small companies can often have a level of capriciousness in their rules and processes that make me uncomfortable.  I have been trying to stretch myself in that area, but it is nice to take a turn at working in a place with a solid set of policies in place.  That’s just me though, and we will see how it plays out over the summer.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback. 

In Waterfall Heaven

Many years ago I came to Portland to give a training class and we spent our one free day visiting  waterfalls in Columbia Gorge.  The combination of the falls and the amazing weather had me thinking I could live here permanently, so when the opportunity came up to take a work kamping job for the summer and check it out I couldn’t resist.  Originally we planned on spending today visiting the Japanese Tea Garden in Portland, but a Sunday with beautiful weather really brought out the crowds so instead we drove down to Historic Route 30 to see the gorge.  This area was absolutely stunning and will require several trips, but I wanted to share with you a few of the falls that we saw and say some things in life do live up to how you remember them.  This was the place that cemented my love of waterfalls and I have always wanted to share it with Lee.

We started Historic Route 30 in Troutdale. You can access some of the falls from Route 84 but we wanted to take the old path.

 

We stopped at the Chanticleer Rest Area to get our first views of the Gorge

 

This explains the event that caused the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America.

 

You can see the Vista house in the upper right of picture. The parking spots were all full when we drove by so we will save that for a later day.

 

Our first stop was LaTourell Falls which was a beauty. Short walk to either an observation point of the base of the lower falls. We will be coming back later to hike the 1.8 miles roundtrip to the Upper Falls.

 

You can see the people at the very bottom for scale

 

The force of the water was blowing Lee’s shirt back

 

This map shows many of the main falls all along the route, although there are many others that require walking  to get to. I definitely see lots of hiking in my future!

 

Here was one of the un-named falls along the route

 

The road was very twisty and narrow (a bit like Going to the Sun road in Glacier) but really pretty

 

Plus everything was blooming

 

Even the weeds were pretty

 

Next up Shepherd’s Dell which is smaller but really pretty

 


 

Definitely walk down to the end of the path it’s super pretty

 

Don’t forget to walk across the road and see the view from the bridge

 

Next up was Bridal Veil falls and this one we decided to walk down to

 

The trail was steep coming back up but absolutely worth it

 

The creek was amazing leading up to it

 

Lots of people were in the water at the base

 

From the lookout absolutely breathtaking

 

I had to climb down and sit on the rock

 

Around this time though things were really getting crowded. All of the parking lots were full and near Multnoma Falls there was quite the traffic jam

 

We will come back on a weekday but here’s a pic I snapped from the car as a teaser

 

Since the crowds were getting worse, we decided to get off Historic Route 30 and get back on 84 and head back home.  But we passed the Bonneville Fish Hatchery and Lee really wanted to stop and see the giant sturgeon. Well OK, I liked the fish Hatcheries in Alaska so off we went.

These hatching areas inside the building were very interesting

 

Different sections had different types of fish

 

Big rainbow trout

 

The entire hatchery is totally free and I loved how many families with small kids were there

 

Lots of guys in this room talking about Herman the giant sturgeon

 

He is 70 years old and as large as a reef shark

 

That’s a full size tree down in that pond he is swimming next to

 

This gives you an idea of how big he was

 

They also had a wonderful gift store with lots of variety and very reasonable prices

 

And all the flowers were in bloom

 

So pretty

 

Then we headed back down Route 35 which is along the Hood River and saw lots of farms.  We can’t wait to go back there in July when all the farm stands are open, but we did get some amazing shots of Mount Hood on this perfectly clear day.

You are driving on a road and turn a corner and wham this is what you see. Very cool

 

Since we were both starving at this point we stopped at The Huckleberry Inn at  Government Camp and had a reasonably priced dinner.  For $13 I got a salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli, and roast beef.  Then we splurged and split an a la mode Huckleberry pie which was delicious.  We definitely need to do a better job of taking food for these long days, but since it was Huckleberries I didn’t mind so much.

The town itself was a bit disappointing, but then we are spoiled by living near all those Vermont ski towns for so many years

 

My kind of diner

 

First time having Huckleberry vinaigrette, it was pretty good. Sweet and tart.

 

Nice big servings. I got two meals out of this

 

The pie was yummy delicious!!

Terrific day despite the last minute change of plans and now we have made two big loops around the surrounding area to get the lay of the land.  Not a doubt in my mind we will have plenty to keep us busy for the 4 months we are here and look forwarding to seeing lots of waterfalls.  Lee made a video of the few we saw on this trip, which is linked below.

 

 


 

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.