Disclaimer: 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 or my co-workers, 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.
I’ve been promising a walk through of what we do on campground days, and since Monday is my campground day, and it finally stopped raining so I could get some pictures, I thought I would share those details in this post. Many people think camp hosting jobs are easy. Heck, I thought they were easy, and on some days they can be. Campground host duties are very much driven by how full the campground is, and since this campground is largely used on weekends, those are the busiest days. We are seeing more people during the week though now that school is out, and the workload has increased exponentially. It’s a pretty simple equation. More people means more campsites to clean, and the bathrooms and showers see heavier use. There are more questions to answer, more firewood to sell and deliver, and more time spent on making sure folks are following the rules. Since we only work day shift, I can’t speak to the evening duties of the camp hosts, but I can give you a run down of what an average mid-week day shift looks like, at least for us.
During the week, the camp host opens the gates to the campground, the marina next door (you can see the gates to the marina just beyond our gate in the picture below), and the lower boat launch, which is about a mile down the road. Since all gates are supposed to be opened by 6am, we get up and out the door by 5:30am and drive to the three locations to allow plenty of time to get all the gates by 6am.
One of the nicest things about mornings on the river is the mist. Almost every day the mist hangs above the water, and it is really pretty in the mornings. After opening the gate at the lower launch we unlock the bathroom and I always like to take a minute to look around and enjoy the mist on the water. It’s much prettier than the pictures below suggest. We’re pretty low in a canyon/valley, so it takes several hours for the sun to finally hit the water on the reservoir.
After opening the gates, we come back and check the marina. We look for trash and check the dog bag holders, but anything major is left for the evening shift. There is a large fish cleaning station, picnic tables, and a significant amount of weeding down there, but since we just fill in one day a week that is not something we tackle. After checking the marina, we unlock the bathrooms at the campground day use area and check the playground, again looking for trash or mess from the night before. Rarely do we find any issues there, because the evening shift cleans and locks those areas prior to locking the gate.
Next is Small Fry Pond and this takes a little longer. This pond is for children under the age of 18, stocked with fish, and is open to both campers from our campground, and the public. The amount of traffic it gets varies wildly, so it requires a morning check of the three trash cans and picking up litter along the trail. It’s a beautiful little path down to the pond, and not the worst way to start a morning, but not so fun on a rainy day because the path is a little steep and can be a bit slippery, especially when hauling out a full trash bag. This area also has it’s own fish cleaning station, which see some use, but thankfully I rarely have to clean it. The evening camp hosts usually check this prior to closing the gate and so far I have been lucky not having to deal with fish guts that early in the morning!
Next up is another large day use area. This area can be booked for the day for a small fee, but can be used by anyone if it is not reserved. Generally it is in pretty good shape, but needs extra attention the morning before or the evening after a booking. Again, I have been pretty lucky with this as well, but always check it, because sometimes folks hang out there or have an impromptu gathering and it can get messy. It’s a really nice day use area with a huge fire pit, lots of picnic tables, including some under a roof, and a fireplace under the roof, a large charcoal grill, electric stoves, large sinks, and two bathrooms (which are only opened if someone books the site). Below is a picture from the river edge looking back up at the day use area.
Once the day use area is cleaned I head back to our RV. I take the company truck to complete the first set of tasks and then hand it off to Lee who runs up and down the river on Monday. Usually I get all of those areas checked and cleaned by 6:30am, but occasionally it pushes closer to 7am. Once I hand the keys over, I walk down to the campground to start my day down there.
The first thing I do is open the maintenance garage and pull out the Gator. It’s pretty early and the gator makes a pretty loud beep when you back it up, so I try to back it out very quickly. I make sure it is stocked with a wet mop, dry mop, rake, and squeegee along with making sure the black tub has full cleaning supply bottles. I then take a quick run down to the two sets of bathrooms and poke my head in and make sure the toilets, sinks, toilet paper, and showers look OK for the morning rush. It’s too early to do a complete cleanup, but I will spot clean areas I think need it. Most of the time the real issue is the sinks or empty toilet paper rolls, so I can take care of that pretty quickly and quietly.
After the morning restroom check I come back to the office and wait until around 9am when folks start waking up and I can make more noise. I use this time to read work emails, look at the communication log, look at the ongoing maintenance list, and look at today’s check ins and outs. The number of campers checking in and out will largely drive my day, so on days with less check in/outs I can work more on the task lists, but other days that (along with cleaning the bathrooms) is the bulk of what I get done. At 9am, I head out with the cleaning supplies and start working on the sites. All sites are cleaned as soon as the campers leave, so theoretically sites that weren’t occupied the night before shouldn’t need to be touched, but it never hurts to take a second look. Sometimes campers “spread out” into adjoining sites if they are unoccupied and the Yomes are not completely airtight so needles and dust can get in. Cleaning a Yome involves sweeping or blowing the floor, mopping it, and spraying the plastic mattress covers with disinfectant and wiping them with the dry mop. Generally they don’t take that long, but they do take longer than a regular campsite.
The campsites are generally pretty easy. They have a tent area which may need raked and a fire pit that needs cleaned out. One of the perks of the job is we get to keep any leftover firewood, and we carry a metal bucket on the gator to put pieces in. Since checkout time is not until 1pm many people start fires on their departure morning and it’s not uncommon to walk away with 5-6 pieces. The only tough cleaning job for me is the cabins. They are incredibly nice and only a year old, but the bunk beds are tall and it’s hard for me to climb up and clean the top bunk. For whatever reason those just wear me out and I am always grateful when there are just a few I have to work on in a day. They also take the longest and for me it’s about 20 minutes each, so when we have lots of check ins and check outs it can be hard to get done before my shift ends at 1:30. It’s fine if we don’t get everything done and have to pass some things along to the next shift, but I like to get as much done as possible so they can focus on guest interactions and the maintenance list.
While touring the campground we also clean the 4 cook stove areas. This is a really nice feature and all campers have access to two hot plates, a counter, and a sink. Some folks keep these areas very clean, but others are kind of messy and it requires Easy Off and a scrub brush to get them somewhat clean. Along with these cook stations are two more fish stations, but again I rarely have to clean those. Have I mentioned I am super thankful for that!!
Campground days are an 8 hour shift and since most of that is working I am definitely pooped out at the end of those days. But we have our two days off so I can rest up and then the rest of the week is river sites. Thursday is Lee’s campground day now and we mainly switched because of moving the dumpsters. I took some pictures of that process so you can see it, because it is really hard to explain.
The whole thing feels a little Beverly Hillbillies to me, but it does get the job done. Not much fun in the pouring rain for sure though and the last two Thursdays Lee has worked it was raining pretty hard. Still he is a trouper about the whole thing and since he was worried about me getting hurt was happy to make the switch. Now on Thursdays I run the river alone and it is one of my favorite days. Although no one checks our river sites on our days off, generally they are still in pretty decent shape and I actually have some extra time. This week I decided to ride over to an area we don’t technically cover, because there are no trash cans, but several regular dog walkers have mentioned there was trash over there. There certainly was, and I picked up three 5 gallon buckets worth of what looked like “picnic trash”. I also unfortunately found my first needles and drug paraphernalia.
I have actually been expecting this since the beginning and thankfully had ordered a needle disposal kit which we carry in the truck. Thankfully I never pick up trash with my bare hands and always use the quik pickers and since they were capped there was no danger. Let me be clear here, these are public areas, and we all know that drug use has become an epidemic in all areas of the country. It’s not surprising then that in this out of the way corner I found the needles, and in a way it is good news because I think it shows the areas we are focusing on, the drug users are staying away. In keeping with that premise, we decided to add an additional trash can in this corner of a day use area we cover and we also let our supervisor know so he could tell security and the authorities. It was mildly unpleasant though, and not something I wanted to run across on my favorite work day.
Friday and Saturday it rained and/or was overcast so we followed our route but couldn’t do any extra projects, but finally Sunday was bright and clear. It was also Father’s Day which we knew would be a busy day, it was also the first non rainy day in 10 days and we desperately needed to weed on the river sites. After doing some initial traffic control at Lower Launch Lee went and borrowed a trailer with a John Deere riding mower and a powered 45 gallon weed sprayer and we set off to Hole in the Wall. Lee is a really good teacher and showed me how to use the tractor, trailer, and sprayer and I felt pretty confident by the time his shift was over.
Unfortunately though I had to do the beginning of the late shift by myself (Lee had used his hours earlier in the morning) and every site was packed. I emptied 14 very full garbage bags from the various sites and most were very heavy because they were full of beer cans and bottles. I also was scrambling to clean floors and restock toilet paper because we were almost out at both Faraday and Lower Launch. Still I managed, but I was super tired by the time I went to pick up Lee and for the first time we had some difficulty clearing the lower launch and shutting the gate. Despite three polite time checks, there was one boat who didn’t even come in until 9pm and then we had to wait an extra 15 minutes until he put his boat on the trailer. Long day and a physically demanding one, but we did get a bunch done. Lee went back with the sprayer and did Moore Creek on Monday so at least the two worst sites are done.
But it wasn’t all hard work this week. I took a few minutes to get some bird shots. I have been waiting for a sunny day to get a few bird pictures and they include a Violet -green swallow which was kind enough to stay still on the gas pump for me and is a first for me!!
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Always enjoy reading the blog. Sounds like a tough gig, though. Are you doing the beet harvest again or is that a ‘been there, done that’?
I would definitely be open to doing it again, but we are scheduled for Amazon in Kentucky and I am going to start looking for a consulting job. Going forward I am going. To try and expand our job searches a bit and look less at “traditional” work kamping gigs and see what’s out there.
Great accounting of a typical day. I never really thought about everything that goes into keeping a campground “public ready”. We’ll be starting our first workamp job in a few weeks. I hope I can do as good a job as you obviously do!
I am sure you guys will do great and good luck! Piece of advice if something is not working for you…address it sooner rather than later. THere is a tendency to take a wait and see approach but with the shirt time frames if these jobs that has not served us well.
Thanks. Sounds like good advice.
Good account of your gig! Love the birds (of course)!
I was crazy excited about the swallow. They fly so fast and I never saw one sit still for that long