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 email@example.com so we can arrange a visit.
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