First Time at Silver Falls State Park

I like the concept of hiking.  Being in nature, seeing flowers, trees, and the occasional animal is wonderful and I am a huge fan, but I am not such a fan of the hard work it often takes to get there.  Uneven trails where you have to watch your feet more than the view. and steep climbs and descents are not fun for me, and I know enough about myself now to understand that I will never be a person who hikes for the sake of hiking.  For me, it’s all about getting to the place to see the pretty thing, and knowing that about myself I am careful about which hikes I choose, and always judge them in the end on whether or not it was worth it.  I should also mention that because I don’t feel I can really trust most online reviews (my level of difficulty scale is usually much higher than others), I mainly stick with shorter hikes and Lee lets me plan the hikes because his physical limits are greater than mine.

This year I feel a little differently.  After tracking our steps at Amazon over the holidays and consistently walking 10 miles in a 10 hour shift, I thought I felt like I could tackle some longer ones.  I was a little disheartened in Utah because walking on uneven ground is NOT the same as walking on a concrete floor.  Still, when I heard about an 8 mile loop that contained numerous waterfalls I knew I had to go and try.  After looking at the map, and reading about the trails online, I thought the best bet would be to tent camp in the state park and split the loop into two separate days.  Not only would this allow us to see all of the falls, it also gave us an opportunity to leave the Timothy Lake area and get some much needed job separation.

Lee was pretty great about the whole thing.  The burden of prepping all the gear fell on him and since he only had a couple of days to get that done, he worked on it late into the evening.  I was left with figuring out what we would eat, but since we have access to free ice up here, I was able to use a cooler to give us more variety.  So Monday night we were packed up and ready to go and then on Tuesday we left work early and headed towards Silver Falls State Park.  It was a beautiful drive and a bright and sunny day and ultimately we arrived at the campground at 2pm.  Since our site was open, we went ahead and set up our tent and then went up to the kiosk at 3pm for formal check-in.

The view from our site

 

Our Tent

I was a little disappointed that the campground wasn’t near any of the waterfalls, but I will say that it was incredibly neat and the bathrooms were super clean.   The sites had nice separation with foliage and trees, and even though it was completely full while we were there it never felt crowded.  We were in the tent area which is $19 a night, but the campground also has numerous large RV sites with electric for $29, which is a huge bargain.  The best part is the camping fees also included Day Use, so we didn’t have to pay the additional $5 to go explore.  Since it was only 4pm when we were all set up, we jumped in the car and drove across the street to the South Falls Day Use area.  This is by far the largest day use I have ever seen and shows the popularity of the park.

Just one of the many large picnic/group areas

The South Falls Day Use has restrooms, a cafe, a lodge, and nature store.  It also has beautifully paved paths that lead to views of the South Falls, which are wheelchair and dog friendly. We walked along a relatively short path checking out the buildings, and then we got our first views of a waterfall.

My favorite part of walking the paths was although they were level and clear, the surrounding vegetation was dense, green and quite beautiful.  And the trees were HUGE!

 

The Nature Store was really nice. Original buildings have been maintained as much as possible

 

Plus they carried PooPoo Paper made of recycled poo so that’s fun

 

Once again we learned that a state park was the vision of one person. Every time we run into a place like this we are incredibly grateful for that person’s foresight. The Federal government wasn’t interested in this land, so he bought a chunk of land with his own money and eventually talked the state into making a state park

 

This was a neat sign showing wing span. The bird at the top was a condor and Lee didn’t come close.

 

Finally we turned a corner and saw our first peek of South Falls

 

Really beautiful and I was instantly excited and couldn’t wait for our hike the next day.

After seeing the falls from the overlook we went back to our campsite and made some hamburgers and ate some potato salad.  Then we had a nice campfire and snuggled in for the night.  As soon as the sun went down it started getting pretty cold, but we hoped it would be OK, even though our sleeping bags aren’t rated for extremely cold weather.  It was pretty chilly though (I learned later it got down to 44 degrees), and at 3am I was wide awake and very cold.  I went outside as quietly as I could and managed to start a good fire in the dark, and as I was thinking about whether I should make coffee or not, I heard some animals fighting in the bushes behind us.  I turned on my flashlight and walked around a bit and saw a potato salad container on the ground that had been eaten.  When I flashed the light at our cooler, and saw that our piece of wood was still on it, I immediately thought “Who was the idiot that left food out.”  Then I flashed the light under the picnic table and saw a HUGE raccoon, just staring at me.  I whispered “Git!” to it a couple of times and it nonchalantly wandered off, but he made it clear that I was not the boss of him.  When I started hearing more rustling in the woods, I thought “Screw this,” and went back inside the tent and tried to go back to sleep.

The next morning we were both up pretty early and it was cold!  We started a fire, but this one seemed to take forever to generate any warmth and while we were waiting I told Lee about the potato salad container.  He looked in the cooler (which still had the wood on it) and said, “Yup that was ours.”  I immediately felt bad, because I know better than to leave an accessible cooler out and felt even worse because I was the idiot!  We secured the cooler and then decided we might as well get up and start hiking because it would start the blood flowing, so by 8:30 am we were parked at the North Arm trailhead.  This trailhead has a much smaller parking lot, but I wanted to start there because that half of the loop had more waterfalls than the southern half.  Plus I was hoping we would avoid the crowds by starting at a less crowded place, and that is exactly what happened.  We only saw two other couples for the first half of our hike and had the place all to ourselves.  I really can’t adequately describe how magical it was, so let me show you with a picture tour.

There were multiple small, unnamed waterfalls along the route and we walked out onto this one

 

The walk was along the river and then climbed along the edge of the canyon where I was glad we had the fencing.  You can see how close it was to the outcroppings.  We had to duck under in several places.

 

And then back down again

 

It was absolutely gorgeous

We then went into the cave behind the falls

 

For scale you can see the tiny bench in the middle right of the picture. It was completely empty the entire time we were there, which was really romantic.

 

It was hard top take pictures from the inside because of the difference in lighting but it was wonderful.  The rushing water sounds echoed in the cave and you really felt like you were inside the water, without getting wet of course!

Those of you who have been reading for awhile, know I am a self-proclaimed waterfall junkie.  So it definitely means something, when I tell you that North Falls is my new favorite waterfall.  I have seen bigger ones, and wider ones, but I have never experienced anything quite like this fall.  I absolutely loved it and because the path continues through the cave and out the other side, we got to take pictures from all angles.

 

We descended once again down to the river level and walked along the path until we came to this tree. It was a beauty and I just had to sit on it.

 

We also saw another great small waterfall and Lee walked out to get some video

 

The water was so clear

 

The flowers were also in bloom

 

Lee’s pic

 

And we even saw some berry bushes, which of course made Lee wonder about bears

 

There are a few smaller named falls along the way, but the Twin Falls were hard to see because the overlook was roped off. I think the smaller falls are actually more dangerous because people feel braver around them.

 

We ended up going down a steep side trail and I used my long lens to get this picture

 

One of the many school groups we ran into, gives you a feeling for what the crowds would be like on the weekends or in season.

 

Around the time we got to the sign for Middle North Falls, we started seeing people along the trails walking in the opposite direction.  There were several school groups on the trails, but thankfully most of those we passed quickly.  We also starting seeing smaller groups of people who we ran into later in the day.  Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, which was a good thing, because my one complaint about the hike was the signs were a bit confusing.  Thankfully I had my paper map with me and I referred to it often.  A couple of times I even had to ask people coming the other direction for assistance, which was kind of strange since it is just one big loop.  Well really it’s not so much a loop as more like a figure 8 and in a couple of spots two different trails ran close together and we weren’t sure which path to take.  But like I said people were super friendly and we enjoyed meeting people throughout the day.  Generally we don’t talk to people much when we are hiking, but the waterfall stops really encouraged people to talk to one another. Plus lots of us were willing to take pictures for each other.

 

We were able to walk behind Middle North Falls as well. Most of the waterfalls you could walk behind which is what makes this place so special

 

It’s almost impossible (for me at least) to capture what looking through a waterfall is like. If you have never experienced it, you should definitely put it on your bucket list!

 

Maybe the smile on my face does help capture the experience

 

Middle Falls side view

 

Lee walked down a pretty muddy path with another hiker so he could get some video at the base. He was getting sprayed with lots of wind and water and loved it.

 

In the same small area there were three of the smaller falls, and although the views were less spectacular it was still neat that so many were together.  At this point we had a decision.  We could turn around and walk back to North Arm, leaving the rest of the loop for the next day or we could continue.  Since it was still pretty early (around 10:30am I think), we decided to press on and then stop at the cafe at South Falls before heading back.  My major concern was that the other loop had several long sections with no waterfalls, but since the morning had gone so well, I was game and we kept going.

Double Falls with Lee for scale.  We met a guy here with a Grove City, PA shirt on and since I grew up in Grove City, Ohio I actually knew exactly where that was.  They had come to Oregon on vacation and we had a nice chat.

 

Drake Falls was wide but only 27 feet tall

 

Lower North Falls was another wide one, but again couldn’t get a good picture. That was a bit disappointing.

 

At this point we had about 1.2 miles to get to Lower South Falls and although the walk was pretty it was getting much hotter and the trail was much more crowded

 

It was worth it though because the Lower South Falls were my second favorite of the day

 

Lee shooting some video

 

 

Looking up was spectacular

 

After the Lower South Falls though there was a series of very steep steps.  Those were a killer, especially because we still had a ways to go, but we took our time and I made it up them.  Then we had another half mile or so to reach the South Falls we had seen the day before.  This time we walked behind them and then walked up the hill to the upper level.

View of the bridge from the falls to give you an idea of how far up we had to walk at the end

 

 

Then from the falls we had to walk the trail winding along the hill to the very top.

At this point we were both very tired, but when I saw a sign to Frenchie Falls I had to check it out.  I had read that the most marriage proposals in the park happened at this location and since it was only a tenth of a mile away I headed down the trail.  Lee wasn’t crazy about the idea but he humored me, and we were both disappointed when we saw the falls had been blocked off and we couldn’t see them at all.  At that point he said “lunch!”, and I really needed to go to the bathroom (there are none along the trails) so we headed to the cafe and ended up having a pretty good lunch.  Lee got a pannini and I had a chicken Caesar Salad. We had gone 5.2 miles at this point and it was great to just sit down inside and rest for a minute.

 

This is where the trail stopped. We could hear the waterfall but couldn’t see it.

After lunch we headed out, really dreading the 2 mile hike along the Rim Trail back to the car.  I was hopeful that we would see at least one waterfall along the way, but the hike down to the Winter Falls was extremely steep and neither of us had that in us.  The Rim Trail was extremely well-maintained, but dogs were allowed and since the bike trail ran in parallel occasionally bikers were on the trail as well.  Plus despite having been told it was a level trail, we found the ups and downs a bit exhausting.  A big part of that was how tired we were, but it definitely wasn’t flat.  It was lush though and when we got near the parking lot we caught a glimpse of the North Falls which cheered me up.  By the end of the hike we had gone 8.3 miles, which was by far the longest hike we have ever taken.

The path, at least it was mostly shaded.

 

Love these little flowers

 

Glimpse of North Falls…still my favorite!

 

Hooray the parking lot!!

 

We did it or at least most of it.  We skipped the half mile connector between the canyon and rim trails.

At this point it was only 3:15pm, and we started talking about what to do with the rest of the day.  We could spend another cold night and then hike the Upper North Falls and Winter Falls the next day or we could strike the tent and head to Eugene and have dinner with our friends.  We had last seen Jim and Georgia in Campbellsville, KY as they were headed out on their own adventure.  They had decided that they wanted to live on the West Coast and had quit their jobs and headed that way.  After some traveling, they ultimately landed jobs in Eugene, Oregon managing a very nice 55+ community.  They had been there about two months and we hadn’t had a chance to see them yet, and since we were more than halfway there, decided to check with them and see if they could meet us spur of the moment.  Georgia said , “Of course!” (she’s awesome like that) and we had a great time seeing their place and then going to dinner.  Their job has a lot of similarities to running a campground, and we spent some time talking about what it is like to live where you work.

 

Georgia and Jim

 

Lee, me, Georgia and Jim

 

It was a great day and even though we got home at 11pm, we were glad to have done everything we did.  And as an added bonus we told the park ranger that we were leaving so they were free to rent out the site and we ended up getting a refund for the second night.  We certainly didn’t expect that, and she must have done it manually, and it was extremely nice of her.  It was a perfect cap to a wonderful stay and makes Silver Falls State Park the best state park we have ever stayed in.

 


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Two Visits to Hood River

Before we even came to Oregon, my friend Ruth was reaching out and trying to coordinate when we could see each other.  With her work schedule and mine being so complicated, we finally settled on meeting in Hood River for dinner, but I didn’t account for all the vacations I would be trying to cover.  Ultimately the week came and I wasn’t 100% sure I would be able to make it.  Thankfully several of the managers had noticed that I wasn’t really taking my days off and made arrangements for someone to come up from another area and cover for me.  That was incredibly nice of them and drove home how important it was that I start to get my days off under control.  It wasn’t just that I wasn’t doing anything, but I was also starting to get really tired and we all knew this pace wouldn’t be sustainable.  Plus, I finally was starting to feel more comfortable in the job, and thought it was a good time to get away.

So on the Thursday of our dinner, Lee and I both worked in the morning, but around 2pm we headed towards Hood River.  One of the most interesting things about living so close to a mountain is the weather patterns can change dramatically.  In this case it was gray and overcast when we left Timothy Lake, and sunny and 20 degrees warmer at a lower elevation.  Since we had extra time we went into this great Olive Oil store called Arome and taste tested several oils, vinegars, salts, and teas before making our purchases. There’s nothing quite like the “good stuff” when you are talking about olive oil, and I walked away with a pretty large jar of the mild.  Lee picked up some hickory flavored salt to try on steaks and we really had a nice time.

Then we walked down to the restaurant and took a few pictures in front of the fountain.  We were a few minutes early, but I told Lee I knew Ruth would already be there.  And sure enough she was and we had a very lovely dinner with her and Dale. They spend a ton of time in Oregon, and she recommended lots of places for us to go and see.

The restaurant had a cool fountain right outside

 

I had a grilled cheese with blueberries. Neat concept but not quite sure those two things go together

Lee had pork riblets which he really liked

From Left: Dale, Ruth, me and Lee

After we said our goodbyes and were heading out, I saw a sign for the Hood River Annual Library Sale on Saturday.  I love libraries and library sales and since they only usually happen once a year I always get excited when I stumble across one.  Plus because of the vacation schedule I actually had Saturday off, so I resolved right then and there to make the trip down again.  When Saturday morning came I almost talked myself out of it.  It was 1-1/2 hours to get to Hood River and I had no idea if the sale would be good or not.  But, mindful of my need to disconnect on my day’s off, I jumped in the truck at 8:30am and headed that way.  God/The Universe smiled upon me because it was an absolutely beautiful day.  Since it actually took less time than I thought, I took a few minutes and drove up to Panorama Point.  The parking lot was completely deserted and I got some wonderful pictures of Mt. Hood and the valley.

Hood River valley is known for it’s wine.

 

After seeing the view I arrived at the library at 10:02am and found free parking.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but was thrilled to learn that the cost was only $2 a bag.  I plunked down a $10 bill and pretty quickly filled up two paper grocery bags full of recipe books.  After that I saw they had lots of movies and grabbed a bunch of those to add to the little movie library the office has for the staff. They didn’t have much in the way of books, but I did grab several about hiking in the area (which I donated to the staff library) and one absolute treasure called Romance of Waterfalls. It’s an older book and a little out of date, but has terrific descriptions of the hikes.  Plus for every waterfall it recommends kissing spots, which I loved!!

The Hood River library

While I was driving to the library, I saw a sign for the Farmer’s Market and was thrilled to see it was open on Saturday as well.  There are tons of farms in the Hood River area, so as soon as I finished at the library I drove over.  It was a really, really good farmer’s market.  All locally grown and a great mix of farm products and crafts, which was nice to see.  I bought some spinach, some cabbage, and some gorgeous radishes and then headed back to Timothy Lake an extremely happy person and more relaxed than I had been since I got here.

Loved all the great signs, especially this one

The musician was really good. I gave him my change when I left.

I bought some beautiful vegetables from here.

Lots of the booths had signs talking about their mission.

Or belief system

There were tons of dogs, but they were very well mannered, which was nice to see. That can be a problem at some farmer’s markets

I had such a good time that as soon as I got back, I went and looked online to reserve a tent site at a state park Ruth had recommended.  It’s a good thing I did because they were totally booked in July, so I grabbed the next Tuesday and Weds night after asking Lee if it was OK.  It was really short notice, but since he was in full agreement we needed to start taking our days off he rolled with it.  Next up I’ll share our amazing time in Silver Falls State Park, which turned out to be our favorite State Park that we have ever been in.


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

May Budget 2018 with Money Tracking Explanation

We often get the question of how we track our money, and when David mentioned recently he was “drowning in receipts” (I can relate) (No she can’t. I can relate. – Lee)  I thought I would go ahead and combine the explanation of how we track our money with this month’s budget, so those of you who skip these budget posts, can skip this explanation first, before you skip the budget post. (You never know, though, there might be a pretty picture at the end of a budget post, and if you skip it, you’re only robbing yourself. – Lee) Let me start by saying it wasn’t easy initially.  In our former life, we were used to having enough money that we didn’t need to track every penny, and it was quite the mental transition to not only track everything, but also talk about it.  (I still tracked every penny back then, I just didn’t care what the data revealed. Well, I cared a little. I used to hassle the kids about how much it cost to leave lights on, to the point where I made a spreadsheet of how much an hour of anything electrically powered cost, and put post it notes all over everything. I was a super cool dad. Oh, and I also told them, a LOT, about how I didn’t want to heat the neighborhood while they opened the sliding door all the way to let out a dog that needed a 6 inch opening. Did they think we were MADE of money? Also, food waste makes me crazy. And turning up the heat so they could walk around the house in shorts and a t-shirt, with no shoes or socks in the winter. Sorry. I ranted a little bit there. Apparently I still have a little New England Fuel Oil Cost PTSD.  – Lee) I know from talking to our friends, we aren’t alone in this, and although people track to varying degrees, everyone it seems is tracking more than they did prior to becoming full-timers.

So how do we do it?  Well for me it starts with a spreadsheet, and I purchased the basic template from Howard at RV-Dreams before we even went on the road. Yes, I could have created my own, but I liked his format and I wanted to support him and his lifestyle, so I bought his way back in the summer of 2013, and never looked back.  I have been using it since the beginning, and am a big fan.  It’s relatively simple, all the formulas work, and it helps me stay organized.  We have changed descriptions on some of the categories over the years to ones that work a little better for us, but mostly we have used it as is.

As good as the spreadsheet is you have to get the information into it and that’s where we initially ran into a problem.  Initially we tried to keep all our receipts, but we kept losing them, or didn’t get them, and it just didn’t work.  This was making Lee crazy, and ultimately he decided to use a program called Quicken which he was familiar with because he used it at his former job.  Quicken does all kinds of amazing things, but I still preferred my spreadsheet, so what Lee does is download our transaction info from all of our accounts into Quicken and then categorizes each purchase so they match what we have in the spreadsheet.  He then runs me a weekly report, which I transcribe into the spreadsheet. (Sorry, I just need to take a moment. I’m  just laughing and laughing at her use of the word “weekly”. It’s June 7, and as soon as I proof read the first part of this post I’m going to load up Quicken and categorize all of May’s transactions because the last one I did was May 2nd. Then I’ll run the category reports so she can put them all into the spreadsheet. Weekly. That’s funny. – Lee)  

This is double the work, certainly, but what I like about this system is if he makes a categorization mistake I catch it when I move the numbers over. And the categories are important.  In order to control our spending we need to know where the money is going and to trust that information it needs to be input in properly at the beginning.  Even though this sounds like a ton of work, and initially it was a little challenging, at this point all of that happens very quickly (still giggling. – Lee) with both of us spending maybe an hour a month on budgets.  It actually ended up being way less time than rifling through a million receipts, and we never have to worry that what we enter into the spreadsheet doesn’t match what we have in the bank. (Do as we say, kids, not as we do. – Lee)

The only tricky part is cash, and we try to use that as little as possible.  Let me give you an example.  We know we will need cash for campground fees or a special event so we take $100 out of the bank.  In Quicken we can break that $100 down and categorize it, but since we tend to hold onto to the cash in our wallets, they don’t always get categorized in the same month we took the money out.  My solution to this has been to capture cash purchases in the spreadsheet as they happen, and to be honest occasionally one slips through the cracks.  (Back to laughing really hard again. Laughter is good for the soul, thanks, honey! – Lee) But since we prefer using cards (we want the AmEx points!!!) this generally isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.  We had a similar issue with our Pilot/Flying J fuel card (transactions not showing up until the next month when we got the statement). so now Lee enters our Pilot gas purchases on the spreadsheet as they occur and when the bill comes in the next month I just ignore that charge because it’s already been input. Figuring out how to handle the fuel was a much bigger deal, because that can have a huge impact on our budget in any given month, but we seem to have a system that is working.

I am sure this all sounds pretty complicated, and initially it was.  It eventually it becomes second nature and what I like about it is we are both seeing all the transactions every single month.  It’s much easier to hold each other accountable when we both have a stake in “paying the bills” and even though there is some double work involved, this stops one of us from being oblivious to what is going on.  The only other thing I will mention here is that now we talk about a money a lot more than in our old life. Initially those conversations were very stressful, but now it’s rarely any different than talking about who is going to take out the trash.  That is a major improvement for us, and came from us “meeting in the middle” in money conversations.  I stopped worrying obsessively about every little dime and Lee stopped holding the information so closely and then giving me the bad news all at once.  This transition did NOT happen overnight.  It took a couple of years for us to reach this place, but I often think that if nothing else came our of our full timing adventure, the way our relationship handles money now is a huge benefit.

Hope this answers the question.  On to the month of May!! The good news is that despite not having full pay periods we were only $61 over budget this month.  One of the benefits of working so hard was we didn’t have a ton of time to spend any money.  We definitely had issues with the grocery budget again though, which seems to be a pattern for us when we land in a remote place.  We end up stocking up, as if we were going to be snowed in or something, and then spend the rest of the summer trying to figure a way to eat all of that food.  More details are listed below.

 

Groceries – Like I said in the summary, we spent way to much and went over by $363.14.  On the plus side we were under by $121 in eating out which helps offset some of those costs.  

Memberships – Both our Costco and our Amex memberships came due this month and since those are both providing us value we went ahead and paid them.  Currently we aren’t paying for Work Kamper or Escapees so for now we are still under in this category. 

Clothing – Lee broke down and requested a bunch of work shirts. He’s been wearing this same model since 2006. When he finds something he likes he sticks with it. Instead of the black he’s always worn, he a moss green which goes better with the type of work he is doing now.  Since having a tucked in, buttoned down, well fitting shirt matters to him I was all for it.  Plus, these shirts really last. The ones he’s replacing are over 10 years old, and they’re in perfectly good shape, but the black has faded quite a lot. (I absolutely love these shirts. I wore both the long and short sleeve versions for 10 years at work, and I’ve continued to wear them since we hit the road. You’ve seen me wear them. I wear them pretty much every day, and they’re nearly indestructible. What I really like about them is that the tails are extra long, and they have arm gussets, so they stay tucked in. And I’ve never had a button come off of one. They’re pretty reasonable considering how long they last. Check them out here. – Lee) 

Miscellaneous – I spent $56 on plants for my garden for the summer.  I really should put this in entertainment or maybe food 🙂

Overall it was a good month, and I was pleased to see we only spent $3071 since it was all pretty crazy, and things tend to get out of whack when we are working so hard. Now that things have settled down we will really need to stay on our costs, because part of the reason we took these jobs is to sock away some money for our next break in October/November. Although that is always a balancing act when we also want to do stuff.  A friend of mine said the other day that she is finally “living within her means”.  I don’t know if we are actually doing that, but we are always getting closer, which is good enough for me.


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

What Our Days Look Like at Timothy Lake

In a word, we are busy!!  My official title is Team Lead and my territory is 6 campgrounds, totaling over 200 sites, and a lodge.  Despite my best efforts my days always seem to start between 7am – 8am and depending on what’s happening in the campgrounds they end around 7pm.  I do get some breaks in the middle, but most days so far I have had minimal downtime. Part of that is because I am new to the area and the position, and the learning curve (at least for me) has been pretty steep.  I’ve also been working 6 days a week since I arrived, and that has mostly been due to getting a handle on the job.  It’s important to note here that working the extra days is voluntary, but I just don’t feel comfortable leaving the property at this point, although we have taken a few day trips to run errands.  The thing is, there is always something to do, and since the tasks have a ton of variety my multi-tasking skills are definitely getting used.  I enjoy the variety though and Lee is really enjoying himself as well, mainly because we both feel that despite the hard work we are actually accomplishing things.  For both of us that is an important part of our job satisfaction and we are both getting that in spades.

Back to trying to describe my day.  First thing in the morning, I walk a few hundred feet to the office and check my email. Since my bosses have multiple locations they are managing, lots of the communication is done via email, which works fine for me since that was mainly how I communicated in my former professional life.  Once I get a handle on any new information/tasks that have come in, I talk to the office/maintenance folks about what’s happening.  I am not a micro manager by nature and  I don’t like it when people do it do me so I go to great lengths to avoid doing it with others.  It’s tough when there is so much going on and because I am new I try to strike a balance between understanding what is going on and actually directing people in their tasks.  As much as possible I trust people to handle their individual jobs and bring any issues or problems to me.  That seems to be working well with most people although at times it can be a delicate line to walk.

That’s really my main job, being the point person for communication, and thankfully people are talking to me.  Nothing worse than not knowing what is wrong with folks, and in order to encourage that type of environment I not only make sure there is lots of one-on-one time with people, but I also do everything I can to address their concerns as quickly as possible.  In order to facilitate this I try to get out of the office as quickly as possible and drive around and talk to people.  So far that has been my favorite part of the job, even though I often come back from those rounds with a long list of new things to work on.  That is an area I can provide the most value, and although I can’t always solve the problems I am committed to at least giving them an answer why.  My boss has also been really great about helping me with this and it’s amazing how much trust you can build simply by listening to people and giving them what they want. Let me give you an example:

One of the camp hosts doesn’t have a motorized gator and he requested a hand pulled cart to use when delivering firewood or cleaning the restrooms.  Getting him a gator would have been expensive and difficult so I appreciated the fact that he came up with a more economical solution that provided him with what he needed.  Since we had  5 carts at one of the other campgrounds (used by customers to take their gear to hike-in sites) I decided to move one to his campground.  That decision might have seemed like a no-brainer,  but I had to think about whether 4 carts would meet the needs of the guests and whether anyone would have an issue with me making the change. Once I determined it wouldn’t be a big issue, I had to arrange for someone to deliver it to him.  I got lucky on this one and was able to talk to everyone and have it delivered the same day, but unfortunately these types of changes are not always that quick.  As much as possible Lee and I try to cut through the “red tape” as quickly as possible and get problems solved, but as I said, there are times this can be a challenge for a variety of reasons.

And because we have multiple campgrounds, there are times when we have completely different issues in multiple places happening at the same time.  Obviously I can’t physically be in more than one place at a time, but thankfully I have a couple of people I can rely on to drop what they are doing at a moment’s notice and provide onsite assistance.  Lee has been wonderful about this, and in all seriousness I am really lucky to have him.  He can switch gears really quickly, and rarely pushes back when I ask him to help someone out.  His responsiveness is not just because I am his wife, but more because that is just who he is.   He has a lifetime of experience working in live events and is used to his priorities changing very quickly. Having someone who is that customer/team focused is invaluable to me because of course often everything happens at once. Let me give you an example of that:

Recently we had an issue where someone was lost and I was working with the local Sheriff’s department to get someone out to our remote location.  This was particularly challenging because they were in the middle of working on an active injury search and rescue in the forest that pretty much all of their people were tied up with.  Simultaneously the camp hosts were trying to accommodate several groups of walk-in campers, and I was trying to call the people who had no-showed the night before to see if they were running late or weren’t coming so we could open up the spots for others.  Forest Service policy allows us to reassign campsites if the guests do not show up by 4pm the next day, but we try to make those courtesy call first in order to avoid a guest arriving and their spot having been given away.  This was complicated by the fact that it was Memorial Day Weekend and my first time making those calls.  I knew conceptually what needed to be done, but it took me a little while to get the proper information and figure how when and how to make the calls.   Lee saw that all of this was happening and decided to drive up and down the main road a bit to see if he could find the lost person.  He ultimately found the man walking on the main road pretty far from their campsite, and was able to relay information which I could then give to the Sheriff. He then spent over and hour and a half driving back and forth keeping an eye on the man waiting to find out if the Sheriff’s department was going to send someone. Thankfully everything turned out OK, but it was pretty stressful for awhile.

That is obviously an extreme example, but there are lots of times when multiple issues come in at the same time, and since I often don’t know the answer to the questions I need to contact someone to find out.  This will get easier as the summer progresses and I learn more about the rules up here, but I am constantly surprised at how varied the scenarios are, and how often a judgement call is needed.  I think that through and hope that I get it right more often than not.  More importantly I am absolutely confident that my boss will have my back in any case where I get it wrong, as long as I can explain how I made the decision.  Nothing worse than living in the grey area without feeling supported, but thankfully that has not been an issue here, although I have certainly experienced it in other jobs.

To help with that long-term I am spending some time documenting the more important processes here.  It is something I enjoy doing, and most people seem interested in, so as these scenarios come up I get an answer and then document the process going forward.  I try to only do this on the more common scenarios though.  I want people to feel they have the leeway to make judgement calls, and as I explained to them, once we have a rule I have to enforce it.  Some areas in my mind, like the cash policies, should be completely black and white, but other “guest-facing” policies should be less rigid. My general guideline on this is to always say yes unless we have a compelling reason to say no.  I try to do that with all the camp hosts who need things, and would like them to do that with the guests as well.  Certainly you have to be careful of people who are trying to work the system, but in general if a guest needs something special and it doesn’t cost us anything, why not?  This is a change in mindset for some folks, but mainly people seem to like the idea and are running with it, which makes me feel really great.

So that’s the broad strokes of my day, and I am hoping that as the season progresses I will spend less time putting out fires (not literally) and more time in positive proactive customer interactions. That’s an area I really feel I could add value, plus would be very enjoyable for me.  For now I am happy that we are able to make people’s day to day life a little easier. And speaking of that, I am going to have Lee explain what he does all day in a later post.


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

A Tour of North Arm and Lake Harriet

My last post, A Tour of Timothy Lake, showed you the main areas we are covering this summer, but didn’t include the two remote campsites we also help with as well.  These two locations are actually really great, and I enjoy my visits to them and their solo camphosts, but they are remote enough I don’t find time to visit every day.  Let’s start by orienting you  first, so if we see the map from the last post at the top of the picture is the north arm of Lake Harriet and the location of North Arm Campground.

North Arm is a rustic campground that has several hike-in sites, a day use area, and both reserveable and first come, first served campsites.  Some of them are large enough for trailers, but the road getting up to the campground is mostly gravel and in places can be a little rough.  The directions from Sandy, OR: travel east on Highway 26 for approximately 40 miles to Skyline Road (Rd 42). Turn right on Skyline Road, travel south 4 miles. Turn right on FS Road 58 and follow for 4 miles. Turn left onto 5890 for 3 mile.  I actually go up the back way and the drive itself is beautiful.  For me the route is to just stay to the right and eventually I make it there.  Cell coverage is in and out when you get in the forest, so make sure you have the coordinates ( 45°8’39″N, 121°46’31″W) in your GPS prior to checking it out.

I start out on a decently paved road, which turns to graded gravel.

 

Meditation Point parking lot, which you can see from the first map is roughly the halfway point.

 

Love the views of the lake as I travel the ridge.

 

And I even get views of Mt. Hood during a portion of the drive. I always forget it’s here and it’s such a nice surprise.

 

Almost every trip I see a deer bounding across the road, so I generally drive 20-25 mph which is why it takes me so long to get there.

 

The sign for the entrance is actually across the road, but the big gate is a good clue you are in the right place.

 

Entrance

 

Kiosk at the start of the actual campground. The trees are so tall here that I couldn’t get the entire thing in my picture

 

Wonderful views of the lake and it is VERY popular with kayakers

 

Dock and small beach area people like to hang out

 

Not only are there several sites there, but also dispersed sites in the surrounding area which people hike into. This is one of the most popular dispersed sites and I would love to camp up here with Lee.

The campground itself is more rustic like I said and I just love the vibe.  People are really friendly, there are lots of repeat customers, and everyone seems to knows the camp host by name. Since he usually has at least a few available walk-in sites, we try to stay in close contact when there is overflow from the main campgrounds.  Communication is tough though because the radio and phone only work in certain spots, and sometimes we just need to jump in the truck and make a trip up to check in.

#6 on this map is Timothy Lake and #7 is Lake Harriet. You can see their distance from each other and the distance from Portland (the closest major city) and Government Camp (the closest small town).  As an FYI these are all of the recreation areas that the company I work for manages. Last year we were located at #4 Promontory Park. 

Usually after making the drive up to North Arm I then go down to Lake Harriet, which is the only location on a completely different waterway.  Harriet Lake is halfway between Timothy and the river sites we covered last year, but is supported by the team out of Timothy.   It also has a solo camp host and 8 campsites, but because of the popularity of the lake for fishing does a brisk day use business.  This campground was completely remodeled last year to help with parking and people seem to like the new layout.  Day Use fees of $5 also apply here, but since this lake is heavily stocked and has trophy fish put in a couple times a year, it is almost always packed on the weekends.  Actually the host told me the regulars book the campsites as soon as they are opened on the website every year and even though it has a couple of walk-in sites, they are rarely available.  In a way that is actually for the best since cell phones and radios don’t work down here so my only way to contact the host is via a landline.

 

The drive to Lake Harriet, despite being pretty is definitely not my favorite.  It is an unpaved national forest road and in sections has steep drop offs and is extremely narrow.  It’s not so bad when traffic is light, but on the weekends the drive is worsened by the clouds of dust being churned up by other vehicles.  I just drive very slowly and pull over frequently when the clouds of dust completely obscure my vision, but thankfully once I get on pavement towards the end it is much better.

As you can see there are no guard rails of any kind and the drop offs easily 100 feet into the river below

 

Clouds of dust linger long after cars go by

 

This is one of the worst areas and it does have markers at least, but really only one truck at a time can fit through.

 

Turnoff to Lake Harriet.  This road is narrow as well, but it’s pretty

 

It even has a little waterfall along the route

 

The campground/day use entrance is to the left

 

Brand new dock for people to fish from. It was getting lots of use on Memorial Day weekend.

 

Boat launch area for both small craft and larger fishing boats

 

Entrance to campground

 

The sites are large, level, and mostly along the river. Easy to see why they are in such high demand.

Despite the relatively long drives to these remote sites, I really enjoy visiting them.  First and foremost I want to make sure the camp hosts feel supported, but I also enjoy how quiet it is.  My radio and cell phone don’t work in these locations either, so I am able to really focus on the camp host and the visitors without competing demands.  I’ve told both the camp hosts that if I get really stressed out I am going to come and hide out with them for several hours and they have both said I was welcome.  Lake Harriet even has a resident golden eagle that I am dying to get some pictures of, which makes it an even better place to be.  I’m going to write a post soon talking about what I am doing all day, but for now I need to get on with my day.  I had to get up at 4am  this morning to even have time to get these posts done and since I am covering a campground today need to get down to Hoodview pretty early.  Again, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me as regularly as you are used to.  It’s taking me longer to get acclimated in the new job than I originally expected.


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

A Tour of Timothy Lake

Sorry it took me so long to get this post out, but Timothy Lake is a really large area and I have been waiting for both the time and a couple of sunny days to take the pictures I needed to provide this tour.  To prove that point, I am going to start out with an overview map and then walk you through the area, starting at the West Shore Day Use area (roughly 8 o’clock) and working my way counter clockwise. See that little vertical line to the left of West Shore Day Use? The lodge, office, and the sites for those of us that aren’t camp hosts stay between that line and the West Shore Day Use area.

One of the things that I like about Timothy Lake is that there are several day use areas for visitors that aren’t camping. Campers can use them as well, but it’s nice that there are places for non-campers. Lee’s main job is to cover the West Shore, Pine Point, and Cove Day Use, which the restrooms, trash cans, recycle bins, and monitoring the iron rangers.  If you rent a campsite a vehicle pass is included so you can park at any of the day use areas (or hike to them), but non-campers are required to pay a $5 day use fee.  Since these areas are great for fishing and picnicking and include a boat ramp, they see heavy use on nice weekends, and he drives back and forth (in a company vehicle) between them.

All the Day use stations have a kiosk like this and there is a metal box that people can put their envelope with the fee in. That’s called an iron ranger because a long time ago rangers collected the fees before the forest service went to a self pay system. Hence the name iron (for the box) and ranger. The guests fill out the envelope and then stick the stub on their vehicle windshield so we know they paid. If they don’t pay Lee leaves them an envelope on their windshield with a friendly reminder.

 

But back to what they look like.  The West Shore Day Use is a thin strip along the lake and includes a small craft launching area, restroom, and a larger parking lot for people to park overnight to hike into dispersed camping.  To the north of West Shore all the way up to Meditation Point are wilderness sites, which thankfully a separate group covers.  I say thankfully because the only way to get there is by hiking in, and there is a separate program (managed by a separate team) that handles that.  The Day Use is ours though, and here are a couple of pictures to show you how it looks. This is West Shore day use and parking, and you can see how far it is to meditation point in the next image. The day use is all the way at the bottom left of the second picture.

Picnic Area with fire pits which, is a nice feature.

 

The small craft launch area.

 

And view of the lake.

This is the only day use site on this side of the lake, and to get to the other sites you cross over the dam. One of the interesting things about this season is they are doing major work on the dam area, and although I don’t understand much of what they are doing, there is a large team of people working on it.  In the past, the water constantly being released from the dam came out of a pipe with a cover on the end of it that acted a lot like a nozzle on a garden hose. It made a huge spray, which you can see in the picture below. For whatever reason, they changed it to a concrete spillway along the side, which you can also see under construction in that same picture. Now, the water comes out of the spillway sort of off to the side, and instead of the giant loud obnoxious spray, there’s a really pretty natural waterfall.

Despite the amount of people working down there, it has been very quiet from our perspective and since they aren’t generally working on weekends, their traffic and ours haven’t been at odds, which is nice. It’s also surprisingly quiet, which is probably because of the sound of rushing water which is really all you can hear.

Construction staging area by the dam which is completely fenced in.

 

Really pretty waterfall and the large crane they are using.

 

View of the lake from the road over the dam.

Right around the corner to the right from the view above is the Pine Point Day Use area.  It is a little confusing when we are talking to each other because there is a Pine Point Day Use and a Pine Point Campground, but generally context tells a person which place we are talking about.  The Day Use has a large boat launch area and trailer parking, along with a huge picnic area and a dock for fishing.  There is also a really nice trail (Timothy Lake Trail #528) that goes around the lake (roughly 13 miles) and although you can kind of start anywhere many people come up and start from here. It’s hard to see in the aerial image, but the area all along the water is part of the day use. There are very nice large picnic areas and fire pits.

 

Pine Point Day Use as viewed from across the lake.

 

Picnic area.

 

Boat Launch which is for people who fish the lake or campers who use their boats to get to dispersed sites.  Camping in dispersed sites is free, but people are required to fill out a wilderness permit and have to pay Day Use to park their cars overnight.

Right next door to the day use is the actual campground, which was recently “remodeled” and is probably my personal favorite.  It is one of the few campgrounds that has some ATT service (depends on the site) and also has a few double and even a triple campsite which is nice for small groups or large families.  Across the road is Pine Point Group Campground East and West, where there a few large group sites that see heavy bookings on the weekends.   The Pine Point campgrounds are all reserveable sites on Recreation.gov and since they are very popular they fill up fast.  Occasionally there is a last minute cancellation that allows for a one night walk-in, but the best way to get one of these sites is to reserve it.

Entrance to the campground. The host site is to the immediate left by the stop sign.

 

Because there is no cell signal message boards are used to communicate with the campers and visitors are welcome to leave notes for each other.

 

One of the large double sites.

 

View of the lake from one of the picnic tables.

 

Entrance to group camp area which is locked unless the sites are rented.

 

Each group campground has a large communal area with picnic tables and grills.

 

RV sites along the outer edge.

 

And tent camping in the middle. Really cool layout and perfect for groups who want to give their kids a separate camping space but still keep an eye on them.

All of the campgrounds have sites that are lakeside and also interior sites.  The lakeside spots are generally more popular, but the interior spots are very nice as well. One of the things I like is that every campground has its own small picnic/beach area, so even if you aren’t on a lake view site, you still have a place to enjoy the lake.  Which leads me to the Cove Day Use area.  This spot is a large amphitheater and play area that is for all of the campers.  People do come and hang out for Day Use, but generally the campers will walk in along the lake from their various sites.  Over the summer several programs will be held here and including a music program with a classical pianist that I am particularly excited about.  Lee spent a chunk of time the other day determining if we could get a baby grand piano down the path and onto the stage, which was pretty fun for him and reminded him of his previous life when he used to work in concert venues and large scale live events.

The amphitheater. You can see why getting a piano down here might be a challenge 🙂

 

My favorite part of this day use are the natural play areas.  These logs have notches carved into them but are smooth which is a great place for small kids to get up close and personal with nature and were created by one of the long time employees.

 

This Day Use has two parking areas, which are completely full on busy weekends.

 

Next up is the Hoodview Campground, which is aptly named because it has the most campsites with views of Mount Hood.  Mount Hood likes to play peekaboo in this area, and depending on where you are standing around the lake you get spectacular views or can’t see it at all.  Hoodview’s Day Use area has a great view and also has a place where you can picnic or launch a boat.  This is mainly used by the campers who stay here, but some folks do drive in and use it for the day. As with Pine Point all of the campsites are reserveable and although they do have some openings mid-week, reservations are definitely the best way to go.

View from the boat launch

 

Nice view of the lake as well

 

One of my favorite campsites sits on a small inlet. I just really like this one which is heavily wooded, but also has a view of the water.

After Hoodview there is a large section of undeveloped woods, which is nice for taking walks, and then you get to the last two campgrounds we cover. The first is Gone Creek which is scheduled for a remodel at the end of the 2018 season.  For now this is the most forested and natural looking of the campgrounds (it’s Lee’s favorite) and also is the only one that has numerous walk-in sites. There are only a few walk-ins that have lakeside views and many of them are definitely meant for smaller vehicles.  It also has views of the mountain from it’s day use area, but most of the sites aren’t at the right angle to see the mountain at all, which is a shame.

 

Entrance

 

View from the boat launch area

 

One of the larger interior sites

 

This is one of my favorite lake side sites. It’s a pull through, and a narrow one, but what a great view. Several of these are actually up on a small cliff, which is nice if you want the views but don’t want your campsite to be close to the lake trail.

Finally there is Oak Fork, which was remodeled just a couple of years ago.  This campground has a little bit of everything and it’s all very nice.  There is a huge boat launch and parking area, large picnic area, 7 cabins (the only cabins we have on Timothy Lake), and several hike in sites.  Not surprisingly with all this variety it is super busy, and the camp hosts here are definitely busy.  It’s also the first campground people get to when they drive into the area (unless they come up the back way) and many people stop here to check on walk-in availability of campsites.  Despite the distance from a major town, we get a surprising amount of people driving up on the off chance they can get a last minute site, and we try to accommodate them as much as we can.  This requires close coordination between all of the camp hosts of cancelled and no-show sites, and if we are lucky we can find a place to allow people to camp.  When we are completely full, we have to direct them to the dispersed areas surrounding us,  but those are often full as well.

 

Designated parking spaces for hike in sites is a nice touch

I love that there are full fire buckets up here for putting out campfires

Nice wide boat launching parking lot

And the dock

Beautiful picnic area on the beach

A cabin

Lots of bigger spaces here for larger rigs

I know many people don’t like to plan their travel and make reservations in advance, but for this area (particularly on the weekends) I really would recommend reservations.  Many of the sites will not fit a large RV, so planning is definitely called for if you have a bigger rig.  Also, I should probably mention that none of these sites have electric and water is only available at a few stations throughout the parks.  There is also no dump station close by, so if you are planning on visiting make sure you have full water tanks and empty sewer.  Despite these restrictions, it’s definitely worth a visit.  The lake is stocked with beautiful rainbow trout and the hiking and kayaking opportunities could keep you busy for days.  And best of all, it is quiet!  These campgrounds are well managed by the hosts, have incredibly clean bathrooms, strictly enforced quiet hours, and an enforced leash rule. So some of the problems you normally find in the more remote campgrounds are less of an issue here.

 


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time Opening a Campground

I am writing this post the morning of 5/17/18, so finally my posts have caught up with me!  Actually it was a really great thing that I had so many posts scheduled over the last two weeks, because I would have been hard pressed to find the time to write anything.  We have worked in campgrounds before, but we have never been part of the opening process, and because this is a new area for us and we are in new jobs there has been a steep learning curve.  First and foremost there are actually 6 campgrounds areas up here near Timothy Lake (7 if you count the dispersed sites, but that is someone else’s responsibility) and each one has it’s own set of challenges.  Thankfully the core support team (maintenance, security, office, and lodge staff) are all returning couples, but we are new and three sets of camp hosts (out of 8) are new as well.  Each of the 6 campgrounds has a main camp host(s) that cover them, couples or a single depending on the size, and then we have two sets of rovers that help cover on days off.

It was really important to me that all the new folks had the training they needed to be successful, so I was simultaneously learning myself and trying to make sure they got the information they needed.  Thankfully the veteran camp hosts have been extremely helpful, and ultimately we paired the veterans up with the newbies so the new people would have always have a go-to person when they had questions. We also had a team meeting this week, which included some training, and the experienced folks took turns training us first-timers on various aspects of the paperwork and other processes.

Campground hosting in and of itself doesn’t vary that much from place to place, but the paperwork and rules can and do vary.  The way I look at it is that if it is not self-evident to me, it probably won’t be to someone else, and personally I had a ton of questions.  Not surprising at all for those of you that know me.  Thankfully folks were mostly very patient with answering them and as we went along we found some grey areas and got clarification on those from the managers.  And since I am a big fan of things being written down, I have spent a lot of time finding any existing documentation or creating new documents when none exists.  That in and of itself would have kept me busy, but of course there were many other things to do as well.

When you are getting a campground ready to open after a long winter there is a pretty large lists of task that need to be done.  I tried to jump in wherever I could and do actual work and Lee has been going pretty much non-stop since we got here.  Because this is a remote facility, most of the equipment is stored about an hour away in the winter, so multiple trips were made to pick things up.  Lee made one or two 2 hour round trip drives almost every day in the beginning and filled a truck bed  (and sometimes a trailer) on almost every visit.  Simultaneously people were cleaning, putting up signs, organizing, and getting settled in, and despite the amount of work that needed to be done, most of it went very smoothly.  This is where having experienced people was really invaluable as they knew the most efficient way to get things set up for the season.

Since there was obviously a setup system in place, I mainly tried to not slow people down, and remove any impediments that came up along the way.  I also created a readiness checklist to use for next year.  While I was doing all of this I also spent as much time as I could just talking to people.  A big part of my job is to help people get what they need to be successful, and the first step to doing that is to just ask them.  Initially to be honest I felt a little overwhelmed by all the information, but by the end of the first week I had created a master list of risks, issue, and action items and having it all written down in one place made me feel so much better.  And if at this point you think this is all overkill for a campground job, I would politely disagree.  By the end of the first week I had 40 different items I was working on that list, and personally I can’t keep 40 different things going in my head without writing it down.  Plus documenting the issues and actions will help me next year as well, and give me a simple way of reporting to my boss what’s going on.

Many of the issues are relatively minor things, but not all of them.  They ranged from needing to special order a special type of bathroom deodorizer for one of the camp hosts, to having someone cut down a huge tree that was causing a hazard.  Certainly some items (safety issues in particular) are of higher priority than others, but they all matter, especially to the people who requested them, and even if everything can’t be solved, people do deserve resolution.  Personally I hate when I ask about something and it totally slips through the cracks, so the list is my way of hopefully ensuring I don’t do miss anything.  Plus as I said, it really helps keep me grounded.

Which is important, because things have been coming at me at a furious pace.  Because this area is snowed up until a couple of weeks before the “soft opening”, the team never really knows what it is getting into until they can get up here.  Since it is a national forest, water lines, phone lines and electrical lines can all be impacted by trees falling and other natural occurrences and every year when they arrive the situation looks a little different. Thankfully the head of maintenance has lots of experience dealing with these scenarios and has been nice enough to both educate me and keep me in the loop as he works his pretty long list.

So I would love to say that I handled every moment well in the last two weeks, but of course that wasn’t the case.  At times I felt like I was in a whirlwind, and although overall I think I did pretty well I certainly had a few mis-steps along the way. Thankfully those moments were few and far between and in the grand scheme of things I think people understood.  Like I said in the beginning, it is a steep learning curve and people are helping me get up to speed as quickly as possible. Plus I have wonderful support from the management team, and for me at least that has made all the difference.  Knowing that they are committed to my being successful has really helped.

All this being said, I should probably mention again that I am not sure how much or even if I will write about this job this summer.  Because I am in a team lead role, it doesn’t feel appropriate to write about what is happening, unless it is 100% only happening to me.  Since that is pretty unlikely, I won’t be writing much about it, although Lee (who is covering the day use areas this year) may do some posts about his experiences. It’s just different than working at Amazon or the Beet Harvest, and those of you who have worked at both types of work kamping jobs will understand why.  My rough plan is to blog more about our experiences outside of working, but initially at least there might not be many of those.  I’ve been pretty tired on my days off so far and will need some settling in time before we start exploring.  Thankfully some friends are already making plans to come and see us, which is really nice since we may not get out much initially.

The whole point of me saying that is don’t worry if you don’t hear from me.  It just means that work is the priority for right now and we need a few more weeks to settle in. Once everything is open and setup, I am planning on doing a virtual tour of the area.  And if you are planning on passing through the Portland area this summer please feel free to send me an email at camperchronicles@gmail.com so we can arrange a visit.


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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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.