First Time on the Lost Coast

Sometimes when we are traveling people casually mention a nice place to visit and generally I add it to our list and check it out if time allows.  Sometimes the recommendation is a nice way to spend the day but other times, like today, I am completely blown away by the experience.  People who live in an area may take the beauty that surrounds them for granted (I know we got somewhat blase about the amazing New England fall foliage), but as a first time experiencing it, it can be magical.  After the long day on Thanksgiving Lee and I decided to visit Kings Range, which is a large chunk of BLM land along the “lost coast”.  Since I didn’t want to be anywhere near the Black Friday madness, I chose the less visited Northern Acesss for the trip.  I told Helen we weren’t sure if we would get back by 4pm, but she said we had done plenty and to enjoy the day.  The recommended way to get to the Mattole beach access site is to take 101 to Ferndale and travel Mattole Road from there.  It takes about 1-1/2 hours to travel 40 miles and a full tank of gas is a necessity as there are limited services.  We decided to take the road less traveled, however, and took Mattole road all the way from Humboldt State Park.  Well sometimes the road less traveled has a ton of potholes! Absolutely not recommended for RV’s or lightweight cars, the road takes you around Cooskie mountain.  I wouldn’t have minded the bumps so much if we could see, but since it is a back country road the views were few and far between.  We did stop at the apex of the drive though and got a great views as the Mountain of Mercy Mission Farm (which I later learned is a faith-based agency to help teens with substance abuse) had cleared some land.

We climged down a steep incline to get this view

We climbed down a steep incline to get this view

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Aside from these views though it was a rough hours and I definitely don’t recommend this way when the alternative is so spectacular, but I will get to that in a bit.  When we finally left the wood we did get to see some little farms and then suddenly we were at the coast.  It really doesn’t look like much until you get there, but park the car and a short walk on the beach and wow!!  The views were absolutely breathtaking and I loved the huge pieces of driftwood on the beach.  Plus there were rocks in the water, tons of seabirds, and an estuary leading into the ocean.  They even had a little campground for $8 a nice and they allow people to tent camp on the beach.  Absolutely amazing and what a find, but let me show you the pictures. These are roughly in the order we experienced it.

Little campground

Little campground

The hills ended and the beach started

The hills ended and the beach started

And there were cows grazing on the hills behind the beacj

And there were cows grazing on the hills behind the beach

Then you crossed the dunes and this is what you saw

Then you crossed the dunes and this is what you saw

A driftwood "house" a family was having lunch in

A driftwood “house” a family was having lunch in

Huge trunks of trees as driftwood

Huge trunks of trees as driftwood

The beach was all rounded stones. I got 3 rocks for my collection

The beach was all rounded stones. I got 3 rocks for my collection

Lee picked me up this beautiful piece of redwood driftwood

Lee picked me up this beautiful piece of redwood driftwood

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As if the beach and driftwood weren’t pretty enough, there were several rocks formations that were beautiful with the waves crashing around them and birds everywhere around the rocks looking for fish.  I saw several new species of gull and tons of brown pelicans.  You seriously could not take a bad picture.

These Pelagic Cormorants are a new one for me

These Pelagic Cormorants are a new one for me

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California Gull, Lost Coast, CA

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Five pelicans circling the rock looking for fish

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So you would think this would be enough, and it certainly would have been, but we decided to take a little road we saw and see if it led to the Punta Gorda Lighthouse.  Our map didn’t show the road, but it wasn’t posted as private so we gave it a shot.  IT was a dirt BLM road and took us up on the hill where we had the most amazing vistas.  And since it was on BLM land and wasn’t near anything Lee got to use his drone!!!  WE stopped in two different places and took pictures and drone footage and it got some terrific shots.  My pictures are below and I am linking a You Tube clip of a portion of his footage so you can see how beautiful it was and how good Lee is doing with the drone!

I walked down to the outcropping at the bottom and took some pictures

I walked down to the outcropping at the bottom and took some pictures

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The estuary is the water right before the ocean and had tons of birds in it

Lee prepping his drone

Lee prepping his drone

Lee flying his drone

Lee flying his drone

And here’s the link to Lee’s drone footage because a stationary picture simply does not do the view justice!!  It’s short, only two minutes.

Better view of the estuary

Better view of the estuary

I also loved the cows grazing on hillsides. Do you think their meat has a salty flavor??

I also loved the cows grazing on hillsides. Do you think their meat has a salty flavor??

Cow 04 was hanging out in the dirt road but moved out of the way on our way down

Cow 04 was hanging out in the dirt road but moved out of the way on our way down

Finally we started to head back because we weren’t sure how the “easier” route would be.  Although Matteole road is still rough in many areas, unlike the other direction the views are amazing.  We had ocean on one side and farmland on the other and so many hawks!!  We saw 8-9 of them hanging out by the road and I got the most beautiful pictures of a red-tailed hawk.  I was so excited because my new driving glasses were really helping me see better.  I even saw a mouse crossing the road at dusk which I could never have seen before.

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Look for the hawk wings in the brush

Look for the hawk in the brush

 

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Wouldn't you like to live on this farm?

Wouldn’t you like to live on this farm?

I was getting whiplash from looking back and forth so much and then the sun started to set.  We stopped on a hill to watch it and heard the barking of seals!!  So back down we went and found a spot.  Unfortunately the seals were too far away to see but Lee got some incredible shots of the sun setting.

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Where we heard the seals barking, but private land surronded it

Where we heard the seals barking, but private land surronded it

We stopped at this plaque which talked about the lighthouse that used to stand here

We stopped at this plaque which talked about the lighthouse that used to stand here

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This stood in the waters right outside of the plaque.

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What a perfect ending to a perfect day all the more special because it was unexpected.  Driving back we saw so many beautiful farms, rolling hills, and many views of the ocean like this one.

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First Thanksgiving Without Family

This is my first Thanksgiving ever without family so I wanted to make sure we did something completely different.  Some people try to recreate the family experience, and if you are with friends this is definitely a possibility, but I like to “remake” the holiday into something completely different if possible.  It makes it less sad for me, and also gives me an experience I wouldn’t normally have had.  I think my kids are thinking along the same lines this year.  Kyrston bought a complete Thanksgiving dinner from a local restaurant, Luca’s, in Keene that we are all really fond of, Kat and Micah had Mexican food with Jamie and Sara (they will eat the big family dinner over the weekend, and Kay really knocked it out of the park by going snow skiing for the first time, in Lake Tahoe, no less.  We had purchased a couple of beautiful ribeye steaks in preparation for the day but weren’t sure what the volunteering situation would be.  It turned out that the visitor center volunteers had a turkey dinner together which we would have liked to attend, but the campground was almost completely booked for the first time in years.  Usually this time of year the winter rains have started so a campground with no services is not the most fun place to be, but this year we have had many clear sky days and the park aides were very surprised when they looked at the reservation list and saw we only had three spots open.  All of the park aides were off that day so Lee and I made it clear we would work the day.  To be clear, no one told us we had to do this, but they didn’t tell us to close the kiosk either.  Mainly they seemed to leave it up to us and I thought it would be a great way to remake the day.  Plus, it just didn’t seem right to have a full campground and be here and not be available to help people.

So we started the day at 7am with our morning walk-through and Helen, my favorite park aide had prepped the daily check list for me in advance.  After the walk-through I went back to the kiosk and immediately had some folks come up with questions.  The visitors center is a great resource for people, but since they were closed for the day I answered questions (as I was able) about the immediate area.  I did a pretty good job throughout the day with basic information, and was honest with people when I had no idea.  Do you know where the Albino trees are in the Redwood forest?  (Apparently on occasion an offshoot of a Redwood is pure white because it can’t do photosynthesis and currently there are 12 scattered throughout the park.  The staff doesn’t tell people where they are though, because people think they will make great Christmas trees and cut them down when they see them.  First of all, those people are idiots, second, they die almost immediately because they are basically parasites and rely 100% on the parent tree for all nutrients.  Anyway, if you want to see one in founders Grove at marker #2 you can look up 150 feet and see one there.  They tell people about that one because no one can reach it. I learned this when Ranger Davis stopped by on one of her rounds and filled me in.  She was the only ranger working that day and was based 30 miles away but came when I needed her and was very nice…but I am jumping ahead.

After the initial morning rush, I settled in and started to write up a Camp Host Guideline sheet.  There is a huge book here, but nothing really specifically for camp hosts so I had asked Ranger John if I could write something up.  My one-sheet turned into three, but I feel pretty good that it has the main information on it, plus it helped me get more organized just by writing it down.  As I was writing I got to check in or help several people.  Many young groups wanted the hike trail maps for serious hikers, which I provided, and for those who were more meanderers like myself I talked to them about the places we had been so far.   One gentleman stopped because he was hiking the area and no gas stations were open.  He had no water or food so I gave him a bottle of water and three power bars we had in the truck.  Another lady was wondering if we had any green beans because her husband loves green bean casserole and she had forgotten to bring them.  I had two cans of french cut, she was thrilled, and when she tried to pay Lee $10 he refused the money and said Happy Thanksgiving.  It wasn’t all pleasant though.  The girlfriend of one couple was NOT happy because it was so cold and they wanted a refund (which we cannot provide), and several other couples wanted to move.  Because we were booked we did the best we could and by 1pm I had sold the last site and put up the campground full sign.  You would think it would slow down from there, but I guess the traffic was pretty heavy coming north and many people got in later than expected.  We also sold a ton of wood (over $200 worth) and in general were busy with questions and the like.  Around 3pm, someone stopped and said the water was running non-stop in the faucet in the men’s restroom.  I contacted the duty ranger (bit of trial and error on that one) and she headed up because maintenance had just left.  Lee checked it out and turned the water off to that one sink, and we ended up leaving it that way all day.  It was great when Ranger Davis came because I was completely out of change and she opened the safe and gave me all the fives and most of the ones in there.  She also stayed for awhile and helped answer some questions (which I learned from) and in general was very pleasant to hang out with.  We stayed really busy until 5:30 when she left and things finally slowed down and I closed the kiosk and Lee and I had our steak dinner.  One of the volunteers (a single in a B plus) actually brought us some turkey day plates, which was so sweet of her.  The other volunteer, JD, who she was with though, gave me a bit of a scolding about working on the day.  According to him the camp hosts never open the kiosk on Thanksgiving and “if you are here next year you should keep that in mind.”  I was getting off a pretty long day and have to say was a bit annoyed.  My personal philosophy is provide more value than the compensation you are receiving but draw the line at being taken advantage of. The big question is “What is being taken advantage of?”

I am a people pleaser by nature and it’s tough for me (with vague expectations) to not overdue it. For some (like Lee) this will never be an issue because he has a firm grasp on the appropriate when it comes to work-life balance, but for me, and I am sure many others, this line is constantly moving. I think, after much reflection and discussion with Lee,  that if I am choosing to do things because they make me feel good, great.  If I am “scurrying” (for lack of a better word) because of pressure (either internal or external) I need to take a step back and reevaluate.   So to break it down for this particular job (knowing it will change in every situation) the work we did helping people with sites, selling firewood, and answering questions falls in the former category.  Everything else falls into the latter.

At 8:30 we called it a night and I was in bed by 9:30.  I know my 13 hour day doesn’t come close to comparing to what my Amazon friends are going through (good luck with Hell Week btw), but it’s the hardest I have worked since I quit my job.  And it felt really good, I really enjoyed myself, and most importantly created a memory for my first family-free Thanksgiving.

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In the kiosk

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Steak turkey day dinner...so yummy

Steak dinner for turkey day ..so yummy

 

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

First Time in Eureka!

I was very excited to go to Eureka.  First, the name is super cool, we would be out of the forest and in the sun,  and would get to see the Pacific Ocean!!  Sometimes though, the little towns aren’t what you would expect, and this is a great example of how to salvage a day.  Because it rained on Tuesday we delayed our Eureka trip to Wednesday and the weather did not disappoint.  Once we were outside of the redwood groves it was a beautiful cloudless day and I was soaking up the sun. Not only are the groves dark because of tree cover they are often very misty, it can be a bit like living in a cloud.  Great for the skin after the dry air of Susanville, but it can be a bit gloomy.  It usually burns off by noon and then we get a bit of sun through the trees until about 4pm when it starts to get dark. What’s funny though is as soon as you leave the groves it’s totally different weather.  It turns out that the trees themselves cause the mist, with a large Redwood putting over 500 gallons of water into the air each day.  Very cool fact, and certainly allows the lower plant life to thrive, but as you can see from the picture it can be a bit intense.

Taken from the road right outside our grove

Taken from the road right outside our grove around 10am

So we enjoyed the drive (about 50 miles) to Eureka, but when we hit the town itself were a bit shocked by the traffic.  I had forgotten the day before Thanksgiving is a school holiday and a big shopping day, and the town was packed.  The fact that there are one way streets everywhere did not help, and we had a bit of trouble navigating in the big truck.  Lee was a good sport about it though and eventually we found our way through town and to the Pacific Ocean.  I used the Roadside America app to see what was cool and unusual in town and found a memorial for a sunken submarine right on the ocean.  At low tide you can see remains of the USS Milwaukee, but since it was high tide we just saw the small memorial rock.  Great place to access the beach though, and we walked out and onto the sand.  It’s very different than the Atlantic Ocean.  Deeper sand, foamier water, and bigger waves.  Plus, unlike Florida, the prime beach real estate was completely undeveloped and there was actually a lumber yard and waste facility plants across the street…weird.  Still the waves were beautiful and despite the cold wind it was a lovely, sunny day.

Memorial Stone

Memorial Stone

The dunes were great

The dunes were great

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I put my foot on this sand and it sunk up to my ankle. Walked carefully from there on 🙂

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After the beach we were excited to explore the town and drove back to see old town.  The old town area is reminiscent of a little San Francisco and is along the harbor water. There are tons of cute and unique local shops and in season I am sure it is great with carriage rides, a trolley, and walking along the waterfront.  This particular day though it was crowded and since I am staying away from window shopping if there is nothing else to look at, we gave it a pass.  I like going in little shops if we can also walk and see historical attractions, houses etc, but for my sanity (and the budget’s sake) avoid shops if there is nothing else.  I think in season we would have walked around, but on this particular day we gave it a pass.  By the way, Lee is absolutely the perfect husband when it comes to shopping.  He is perfectly willing to spend hours walking in and out of small shops, I am generally the one who loses patience with it if the circumstances aren’t just right.  His step-dad Denny is absolutely the same and one of my favorite people to go shopping with.  And I went shopping once in Vegas with one of his best friends Mark and we had a great time.  So ladies, there are men out there who shop and do it well!! They can add a lot to the experience.  Anyway, we gave it a pass but did stop and see another Roadside attraction in old town.  The Carson Mansion is the quintessential haunted house.  Disney actually used it to model his haunted house attraction after and for that reason alone it is worth seeing.  It is a private Club now but you can take pictures from the street and there is a little public path on the side that shows a great view of the marina and the bridge.  We loved it, and I think it is my new second favorite old house (after Stephen’s King’s home in Banger, ME) that I have ever seen just from the outside.  (For inside tours nothing beat any of the Vanderbilt mansions.  I have seen several in numerous states and none ever disappoint.  But this was a great find and I would recommend driving through Eureka just to stop and see this alone.

The Carson Mansion

The Carson Mansion

Road across the streey has a San Francisco feel

Road across the street has a San Francisco feel

 

The marina

The marina

The bride crossing the bay

The bridge crossing the bay

So far the day was going great but that’s when plans went a little awry.  I saw a Vietnamese restaurant when coming into town and was very excited.  Pure Vietnamese restaurants are rare and they have my favorite kind of Asian food plus they are usually very reasonably priced.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed for the holiday week and when we saw there was a second and navigated our way to it (with difficulty) it was closed as well.  So we made our way back up to the Wendy’s which was so packed we ended up driving through and eating it on the road.  So it was still quite early and I was running through my list pretty quickly.  Some days you find cool stuff and don’t even get through your list of things to see, but others you see them quickly and are like “now what?”.  I decided to swing by the zoo in town (smallest accredited zoo in the country) because Wednesdays are half price, but due to the holiday it was packed.  Next door is a 57 acre park with groves which we might have explored if there were less people but in both cases I asked Lee to keep driving.  I did get a quick pic of the kids playground though.  Loved the way the slide was built between two trees.

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So now what?  The town was too crowded and all I knew was we needed to get out of town.  On the way up we had seen a sign for a federal wildlife refuge so despite not knowing anything about it we decided to stop on the way back.  We took a long about way out of town through some neighborhoods which was kind of cool and saw a fruit stand on the side of the road.  I asked Lee to stop and we talked to a really nice guy and got a sample of his Central Valley oranges.  AWESOME!!  So for $4 we got 2 oranges, a giant cucumber, and a red onion.  That cheered me up!

Fruit Stand

Fruit Stand

Then we decided to try the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex

What a wonderful find.  The people at the small visitors center were very nice and they have several paths through the marshes where you can look for birds.  Even off season we saw many and the walk itself was very pretty.  The wind was cold though so we only went halfway before turning back, but we were the only people there and it was just what I needed.

Visitors Center

Visitors Center

A few little along the way to watch birds from

A few little huts along the way to watch birds from

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We saw numerous hawks but didn’t get any close enough pics to identify

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The vistas were amazing

 

Caught this bird in flight

Caught this bird in flight

I loved the huge groups of cattails

I loved the huge groups of cattails

Different landscapes throughout the walk

Different landscapes throughout the walk

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Another hawk

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This big pond had groups of ducks in it

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Great Egret hanging out by the visitors center

Great Egret hanging out by the visitors center

This bufflehead was a first for me

This bufflehead duck was a first for me.  Wish I could have gotten a better picture

After out very brisk walk we drove to the the other side of the park and checked out the Hookum Slough entrance.  Kayakers can launch from here (Deb you would have loved it) and there is a little island to paddle around.  Plus the entire refuge is bordered by Wiyot Reservation and their wishes have been incorporated in the management of the land which was pretty cool. As the literature states, they have been stewards of this land long before we arrived and I was glad that they were part of the process currently.  The refuge allows controlled duck hunting in part of the preserve and fishing in the waters.  I liked the combination of hunting/fishing and wildlife viewing.  It seemed like a very well run organization and since it was 100% free definitely worth a look.

The dock

The dock

 

Beginning of the kayaking trail

Beginning of the kayaking trail

Afterwards it was still somewhat early so on the way back we took one more quick stop to check out the Bear River Casino and Hotel.  Despite an unassuming appearance on the outside, the inside was very nice with many table games which you don’t always see in smaller casinos.  Plus as we were walking through I noticed a white slip hanging out of a slot machine.  You see these on occasion and usually they are for 3 cents or something, but Lee said check it out.  The slip was for $14.86!  We waited a moment, but no one came to claim it so I played it down to $10 on a penny machine and then cashed it in.  That paid for our lunch! Then we went across the street and checked out a coffee shop and the views were really amazing.  They are up on a hill and all the houses are very neat and clean.  Plus there is a huge community center and construction on the school.  That’s how it should be in my opinion.  Indian casinos are great, but some of the money should be going back into the communities and this was a great example of that.

The casino

The casino

School under construction

School under construction

 

Really pretty views

Really pretty views

So what started as a planned day turned into something completely different, but we still had a lot of fun.  Plus lots and lots of sunshine which we both needed.  Next up is the big Thanksgiving volunteer day.  We expect the park to be full and since we are the only ones working should be interesting.  Stay tuned!

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More Volunteering and a Rainy Day

The last couple of days have been much busier here at the campground.  For the first time in years on Thanksgiving weekend they are nearly booked and we have been at around 80% capacity every night leading up to the holiday.  They must have known we would be here! It doesn’t really matter how many people are here though, so much as how they sign in, from a workload perspective.   Every morning, rain or shine, I go into the ranger building and check the overnight envelopes.  If people fill them out correctly the morning rounds are easy and our first few nights here that was the case.  The last couple of days though it took a little longer.  Sometimes folks put the wrong site number down and then when I see an “open” slot with people in it I have to look at the license plates on the sheet and try to find them.  If there are no matching license plates, which is now happening 2-3 times per walk, I have to knock on the car window and wake people up.  I carry envelopes and change with me and basically stand there until they pay.  Most people are pretty gracious about it, but twice we have had people say they didn’t have the money and once two young girls swore they paid and I sent Lee back out once I double checked the drop box.  He said he would have to call the ranger and suddenly the money appeared. The mom approach didn’t work so I sent the Dad in and he has tons of experience with raising girls!! Those situations are the exception though.  Mostly these people are getting in late and don’t want to mess with the envelope. I get it, but what they don’t know is this buys them a cheery wake-up call at 7am from yours truly.

I have been really surprised by how many people are staying here with just a car.  It’s not really creepy, they are mostly 20 somethings and the hotels around here are few and far between and expensive, but there are a ton of them.  Maybe this happens everywhere and I never noticed it before or maybe it’s a California thing but it seems like a pretty unpleasant way to spend the night.  These folks are almost always the ones who don’t use the pay envelope, but thankfully not one person has been hostile during the morning wake up visit.  They generally look sheepish because they know they shouldn’t have blown it off.  In my mind we provide the most value in the morning because I am sure some of those folks would skip out without paying.  We have also been trying to be here by 4pm on the days when only one person is working because 4-5pm can be a little busy.  We have gone over a couple of times and sold some wood or answered questions when they really got backed up.  Once the regular staff leaves we flip over our sign and we are “on duty” until 8 or 9pm.  Most nights we don’t see anyone, but one particularly nice night we sold 5 bundles of wood.  That’s been the easiest part of the job since it is dark and we would be here anyway.  People seem surprisingly hesitant to bother us and I have gone so far as to put a lit tiki pot over by the sign to make sure people know we are available.

So the work itself is fine, but the general ambiguity around the position is still tough for us.  When working for Stan we only had to keep Stan happy and he was great about communicating.  Here, we are dealing with multiple people and it’s not really clear who is in charge.  The normal volunteer coordinator is taking some time off, so she handed us to the ranger John who is new at running this area so he is deferring to the support staff.  They unfortunately all have a slightly different take on things so we can sometimes get different answers to the same question.  It’s also hard to get real feedback on how good a job we are doing, because none of them feel it’s their responsibility to tell us what to do.   I am trying not to let all this  make me crazy, but I have never been great at dealing with no one being in charge.  I talked to my friend Kelly about this though and she is working the split shift at Amazon and she has to change the way she does things when the night manager comes on in the middle of her shift because he and the day manager can’t agree.  So it could be worse.   My favorite person here is Helen,  who reminds me of my grandmother.  She is no nonsense but kind and has been here for 5 years so I try to keep her happy.  And no kidding, as I was writing this paragraph Lee came in the RV and said Helen was impressed by us this morning because we had finished our rounds so early in this heavy rain.  So we must be doing something right.

The weather here has been surprisingly good.  Usually they get 50-80 inches of rain in the winter, but we have had several sunny days.  Not that you can really see it in the grove.  We have a small patch of sun in the back of the rig, but it’s pretty dark here most of the day.  The lack of sun was getting to both of us so we decided to take our first day off and go to Eureka, but it rained pretty heavily on Tuesday so I stayed and worked.  Although these volunteer jobs  usually expect 20 hours a week we tend to work whatever makes sense.  You can ask for and receive specific days off, but the staff are not really fans of that in both places we have been and prefer you just let them know when you won’t be available and ask that you try to schedule the time when they aren’t busy.  The way we think about it, it’s a good gig and we are not going to get super picky about the hours but many people feel differently and like a set schedule.  I don’t recommend that, however, as several people have shared their feelings with us about volunteers who are “rigid” and it is generally not well received.  That doesn’t mean you need to feel taken advantage of, though.  If we give more hours or days than expected, I take the time when the weather is right or we have something planned.  We just try to schedule those activities when special events are not happening.  For example we volunteered to work thanksgiving since almost everyone else is off.  I have had jobs where I worked holidays before and since we don’t have anything special planned with friends or family, why not?  Provide a little extra value here and there and it is much appreciated.

Even on duty days there is still time to pop out and see things.  I really like the visitors center next door (one of the nicest ones I have seen) and we went to Big Tree Grove and saw the Tall Tree.  We also drove down to the horse campground, which is closed now, and picked some apples.  Lee’s philosophy, which I am adopting, comes straight from All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.   You work a little and play a little every day.  It’s a pretty good philosophy.  So really overall it’s a pretty good gig.  There is absolutely no antenna TV so missing my football some and the ATT signal is on the low side, but we definitely would have never been able to stay here without this gig.  We found out that they only like to have 30 foot or less RV’s.  Some of the sites are plenty big enough, but they worry about the road getting to them.  Experienced drivers would have no issue, but they strongly discourage the larger rigs.  Even the horse camp, which has tons of space, is on a road that is very narrow and not recommended for large RV’s,so you can’t get to it.   There are some private RV parks in the area though that a big rig will fit, but it’s a shame when most full timers can’t fit in a place.  In this case, though, the only way to make the road bigger would be to cut down trees and I can totally see why they would not want to do that.   

View of the visitors center from the back of our site

View of the visitors center from the back of our site

 

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Great display of local animal

Great display of local animal

Redwood RV!!

Redwood RV!!

Had a bed and everything

Had a bed and everything

The drivers seat...loved the bear

The drivers seat…loved the bear

Even had windows!!

Even had windows!!

 

Tall Tree Stats

Tall Tree Stats

Big Tree Grove , the tall tree

The Top of the tall tree is above. The pic below is the bottom

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Big Tree Grove

 

The horse campground

The horse campground

 

Tons of Deer because of the apple trees

Tons of Deer because of the apple trees’

They let Lee get pretty close

They let Lee get pretty close

Lee picking me apples

Lee picking me apples

Recipes

Crazy Marinated Pork Chops 

This recipe has an unusual combination of ingredients, but totally yummy flavor.  I am not a huge fan of pork chops, but loved this and Lee who really likes pork chops loved it as well.  You do have to marinade overnight though to get the full effect which requires some pre-planning. 

  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 TBL Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBL lemon juice
  • 1 TBL prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 bone-in pork loin chops
  1. Combine all ingredients except pork and blend well
  2. Place pork in large Ziploc bag, add marinade, shake to mix well in place in refrigerator overnight
  3. Drain and discard marinade
  4. Grill covered over medium heat 4 minutes per side
  5. Y101Let meat stand for 5 minutes before serving——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

 

First Time in the Redwood Groves

All throughout Humboldt State Park there are groves that were bought and protected by different groups.  It is a testament to how much of a difference a small group can make if properly motivated.  The signage on the groves is not the greatest, so I definitely recommend stopping at the visitors center and getting a map, and each one requires a walk into the woods to get to.  The first one we looked at was sponsored by the Women’s Federation League.  These are very magical places and walking through them was a very spiritual experience for me.  This particular grove is a Day Use area in season, but the gate was closed in November.  No problem, we simply parked the truck (being careful not to block the entrance) and walked through.  The pavement was in excellent condition and we had the entire place to ourselves.  At the end there is a beautiful hearth which was designed by on of the few female architects in the 1950’s.  The hearth has four fireplaces with the most beautiful inscriptions in the stone above.  There is also a very nice picnic area and seating by the river. The walk was very pleasant and totally accessible to anyone.

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The hearth

The hearth

Loved the fireplaces

Loved the fireplaces

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Even the water fountain had an inscription

Even the water fountain had an inscription

This burl on a tree reminded me of a jaguar face

This burl on a tree reminded me of a jaguar face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also along the Avenue of the Giants there are some places to stop where large trees have fallen.  The size of these fallen trees is so huge it is hard to believe which is why all the pictures have a person inside to give you some scale.

This tree was as large as a cave

This tree was as large as a cave

I am near the back and at 5'4" can still stand upright

I am near the back and at 5’4″ can still stand upright

On another day we went to Founders Grove which was absolutely amazing.  It is a half-mile stroll along a flat wide path and there are the most amazing trees there.  They have gone to great trouble in this grove to let nature take its course and some of the best parts are the huge trees that have fallen.  They also have the absolutely best pamphlet (50 cent donation requested or return after use) that I personally have ever seen that gives information about what you are seeing.  If you visit here and do nothing else, see Founders Grove.  It was really amazing.

Stats for the Founders tree

Stats for the Founders tree

No way to get a complete shot of this . Hopefully it gives you an idea though

No way to get a complete shot of Founders Tree . Hopefully it gives you an idea though

Lee loves the walk in trees and there are several of these

Lee loves the walk in trees and there are several of these

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It's amazing that these can have such large holes in them and still be alive

It’s amazing that these can have such large holes in them and still be alive

Beautiful walk through the path

Beautiful walk through the path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trees are so tall they have three different climates and the needles at the top are different than the bottom because the air is much dryer

The trees are so tall they have three different climates and the needles at the top are different from the bottom because the air is much drier.  There are plants an animal that spend their entire life in the canopy in particular the Marbeled Murrelet bird which flies to the ocean during the day and nests in the trees at night.  The only downside is because they are protected no drones are allowed anywhere in the Redwood Forest by state law.  Lee was really bummed when he discovered this was a drone free area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the trees fall over 4000 species can live on or near a downed log. that is why they let them fall and then decay naturally

When the trees fall over 4000 species can live on or near a downed log. that is why they let them fall and then decay naturally.  the younger trees nearby are  dormant until a big tree falls and then they get their chance to grow in the sun.  The process is called plant succession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Dyerville Giant which fell in 1991. It was 362 feet tall, weighed about a million pounds, and is comparable to a 30 story building

This is the Dyerville Giant which fell in 1991. It was 362 feet tall, weighed about a million pounds, and is comparable to a 30 story building

I tried to take a picture from the end, see if you can see Lee way down at the other end. when this fell the noise could be heard a mile away and it fell because one tree knocked another which knocked it over.

I tried to take a picture from the end, see if you can see Lee way down at the other end. when this fell the noise could be heard a mile away and it fell because one tree knocked another which knocked it over.

Some of the pictures have burl sprouts growing on them. A seed can germinat in one of these sprouts and if the tree falls can use the mature root system of th tree for nutrients and stability

Some of the pictures have burl sprouts growing on them. A seed can germinate in one of these sprouts and if the tree falls can use the mature root system of th tree for nutrients and stability

Sometimes a burl forms at the base and so many sprouts occur that a "fairy ring" is created

Sometimes a burl forms at the base and so many sprouts occur that a “fairy ring” is created

 

 

In addition to the groves there are a few places sprinkled throughout where for a few dollars you can see a tree tourist attraction.  These sites are old and pretty cheesy but for a few dollars we just had to try them out.  The first advertised itself as “the famous drive through tree” and although this isn’t the same drive through tree you see in all the pictures it was still pretty cool.  The truck could make it through so we parked outside and walked in, but luckily I caught a car driving through so I could get some pictures.  This attraction also had a couple of redwood tree playhouses, which Lee and I went into.  One even had a tight set of stairs and a second floor, which was very fun. Again super cheesy, but for $6 total we had fun with it.

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The tree was kept in place by numerous iron cables

The tree was kept in place by numerous iron cables

The view up from inside

The view up from inside

 

Another view

Another view

I thought this burl looked like a reclining angel

I thought this burl looked like a reclining angel

 

Really cute tree houses

Really cute tree houses

This one has two stories inside

This one has two stories inside

Lee climbing up

Lee climbing up

My face in the window

My face in the window

 

We also stopped at the Immortal Tree which was free to view and next to an amazing wood shop called Burl N Drift.  I liked the tree because it shows clearly how the tree survived the woodsman’s axe, fire, and the 1964 flood.  Many of the trees have fire damage but continue to live and in 1964 there was a huge flood in this area and you can see water marks on many of the trees.  The flood waters were at least 20 feet high in some areas, which is amazing when you look at the Eel River now, which because of the drought is barely a trickle.  Anyways, I loved the gift shop, really unique redwood products made right there (which I wanted but the budget didn’t allow for) and I got a great T-Shirt for only $13.95.  They also had some leftover pieces of wood for a few dollars and I picked a great one for $2.

The stats on the Immortal Tree

The stats on the Immortal Tree

Lee in front twith the Axe showing where the tried to cut it and could not and the fish shows the water line in 1964

Lee in front with the Axe showing where the tried to cut it and could not and the fish shows the water line in 1964

Beautiful Burl sculpture outside the shop

Beautiful Burl sculpture outside the shop

Inside the shop

Inside the shop

 

These bowls were amazing but out of my price range

These bowls were amazing but out of my price range

My very cool piece of wood

My very cool piece of wood

 

And along the route there are breaks in the trees with some places you can see the surrounding hills.  It’s been a great couple of days and more to come.  Are you tired of tree pictures yet 🙂 Oh and after numerous tries I found a really good recipe for flank steak (often on sale for $2.99 a pound) which I have listed below.

The Eel River

The Eel River

This is also the Eel river and all this dirt is usually water

This is also the Eel river and all this dirt is usually water

Recipes

Coffee-Rubbed Flank Steak 

  • 1-1/4 lb flank steak
  • 1 TBL finely ground coffee
  • 1 TBL light brown sugar, packed
  • 1-1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 1-1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients (except state) in a small bowl and blend well
  2. Rub coffee and spice mixture onto one side shaking off excess when complete, turn over and repeat
  3. Preheat gas grill to high, oil grill grates
  4. Cook for 3-1/2 minutes then turn over and cook for another 3-1/2 minutes
  5. Let steak REST for 5 full minutes before slicing
  6. Cut in thin strips at a diagonal

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

 

Re-establishing the Work/Life Balance

These thoughts have been rattling around in my head for a couple of days, and since it’s another early morning I am going to try to write them out. You would think that now that I don’t have a corporate job and a Monday-Friday schedule establishing work/life balance would be easy.  I certainly envisioned that a life without that schedule would be much easier to manage.  In some respects it certainly is; the travel days are so much easier, I don’t have the constant pressure of needing a cell connection absolutely all the time, and we don’t have to cram all the fun stuff we want to do into just the weekends.  But, as someone who is used to a rigorous schedule it is a bit of an adjustment, because here we are in this beautiful place and there is still work to do.  So we have to figure out when. And it is complicated by having another person to work through it with.  It’s no surprise that I like a more formal schedule than Lee does.  I want to look at every day and say “Let’s work until X time and then go see things” and  Lee would rather work until he is ready to stop and then decide what to do. I understand rationally that his approach makes perfect sense, but it offends my Midwestern sensibilities somehow. But I am not the boss of him and although sometimes I get itchy with the desire to project manage his day, it’s incredibly important that I don’t. The reasons for that one should be obvious.

I need to take my own advice here and sort myself out first, so here is what I have been doing with my time.  Finding work is work as anyone who has ever looked for a job knows, and a few hours every day need to be applied to that task.  First, I spent  a considerable amount of time working on foundation items to start our three businesses (business cards, resumes, websites, etc) and now I am working on marketing and job searching.  Since I haven’t done a ton of job research over the years this has required some education on my part.  For example Career.com was the place to go the last time I seriously was looking and now it’s Indeed.com, which didn’t even exist the last time I job searched. Unfortunately,  these job sites’ search engines aren’t very helpful when looking for contract, temporary, or freelance work.  Finally, after some research, I broke down and paid $50 for a yearly subscription to FlexJobs.com. Basically for $50 a year they sort through all the ads and weed out any company that is not reputable plus provide a search engine specifically designed for folks looking for short-term work.  If you are a master of internet searching, you certainly won’t need this site, but I breathed a sigh of relief when I found it, because it is saving me a ton of time.

Simultaneously I am researching consulting firms and sending out my resume.  Many companies hire contract workers though larger firms and they have databases of resumes and will search for skill set matches to meet their clients’ needs.  Many specialize in certain types of work so finding reputable ones that need skills sets like yours can be a little tricky.  I reached out to my professional network for these companies and also looked for jobs that were interesting, and then backtracked to the firms managing those positions and put my resume on their site.  In the notes section, I made it clear I was looking for short term assignments and completely mobile because they will use my Florida address and think I am only available for jobs in Florida, which is obviously not the case.  I also have set up my consulting business and Lee’s video business on two freelance sites, Guru.com and Upworks.com. These sites are particularly designed for freelancers who bid on smaller projects and initially seem like a great way to get “filler” work.  It takes a significant amount of time to build a portfolio on these site, however, and since I was doing it for two businesses the work was double.  Once that is done you have to look very carefully at what folks want, the descriptions are often vague, and then put together a proposal.  In Lee’s case in particular I need to be extremely careful when writing bids to not inadvertently commit his time for too little money as the time it takes to edit can vary greatly based on the amount of raw footage.  So, I am proceeding VERY cautiously with these two sites, but I do think they are an important part of our overall strategy. Finally, I read the Work Kamper news bulletins religiously. Combining outside work with a work kamping job is absolutely the most cost effective strategy, but it requires some luck and major coordination.  Thus far we have let the work kamping jobs and family commitments drive where we have stayed, but going forward that will probably flip and the work opportunities will drive the itinerary with work kamping jobs being picked up wherever possible to reduce costs.

Sound unpleasant?  Well, it can be, especially when you are trying to figure out a website that is not particularly user friendly and to add to that I have never been great at marketing, and it’s been a bit of a struggle.  Also, don’t forget we have regular life as well.  Meals to cook, dishes to wash, and Lee has been working on several home projects that simply need to be done before we hit Quartzsite.  (He added several new outlets yesterday, including a 12 volt outlet for my fan in the bedroom so I can get to sleep when we’re boondocking).  We need to plan travel days and research travel day campgrounds.  Although we have gotten better at managing those tasks, they still can take a chunk of time, in particular when we are driving through challenging terrain.  Along with regular life stuff,  I’ve also been working on this website,  trying to clean up some of the pages.

Which brings me to monetizing this website.  All along folks have talked to me about the possibility of monetizing the website.  I steadfastly said I wouldn’t even think about it until my first year was done.  Well, here we are at the end of the first year and I had to keep that promise to myself.  First of all I don’t generate the type of traffic that could make this site a significant revenue stream (over 500 unique visitors a month or 10,000 hits) and even if I did, I am not sure how I would feel about it.  As I have said in the past, I write this blog to help people.  I write the blog I wish I could have read when I started.  I am in no way an expert in this lifestyle, actually the opposite, which is kind of the whole point, so if anything I think of myself as a story teller.  I tell my story and if it helps, great, if not, well at least it helps me just by writing it. So I thought about adding a “Tip Jar” thinking I could put one out there just like I was playing guitar on the street and folks could “virtually” throw in a dollar or two.  Before doing something like that though I wanted to get the VOC (Voice of the Customer, or reader, in this case) and asked a close friend, Lee, and a reader who doesn’t know me personally at all for their feedback.  It was very negative from all three and all three said it could “turn people off.”  Since that is absolutely last thing I would want to do, I started to look into banner ads.  It turns out that since I use WordPress, which I like very much because of the ease of formatting and excellent Spam filter,  the only banner advertising they allow is their own.  I would only consider banner advertising if it was a product I personally approved and a reputable company, so that was completely out.  I do own my website domain and if I wanted to I could leave Word Press but that would be a ton of work and again I really am comfortable with the Word Press format.  So that leaves me with being an Amazon AssociateCamper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

As a side note  I also found a few recipes and Lessons Learned I never put on their respective pages along the way and fixed that and made sure the campground reviews and major milestones pages were completely up to date.  Hey if you are going to re-look at every single post, might as well double check everything!!  It took a day and a half, but I am glad it is all done!!)

So at this point you are probably thinking “why is she writing about all of this?” First and foremost I write about my life and this decision was a big deal to me.  Many things in my life are different now and this blog and writing about my experiences helps keep me grounded.    Plus it does take a chunk of my time.  I spent hours on the yearly updates and updating all the links took over 8 hours.  Since time is a precious commodity I needed to think about whether this time was well spent.  I never want to be a person that just writes about life and doesn’t live it, so I need to balance this time with revenue generating time and living life time.  Finally, I think many people feel they will write a blog and make enough money to supplement the lifestyle. There are lots of blogs out there and the ones that generate money in the RVing world are a small subset of the total.   From what I am seeing the people that make some income from a blog also have something  special and unique to offer.  Technomadia has their internet and cell phone expertise, Paul and Nina from Wheeling It offer financial management support and detailed campground reviews, Kyle Hensen offers RVer insurance information, and Howard and Linda from RV-Dreams  offer budgets and all around support for people who are interested in the lifestyle.  All  of them have spent years on the road and massive amounts of time building the knowledge and materials required for their particular expertise.  They provide a valuable service and deserve to be compensated for it.  If you want to read a great blog post on the pros and cons of blogging check out Nina’s post on the subject here When I look at myself I think,   I am new at the lifestyle, have no particular area of expertise, and really, I am just telling a story as truthfully as I can.  I hope its a good story and who knows where it will ultimately lead, but for right now I am thrilled that people read at all and are so wonderfully supportive in their comments. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be happy if people click on a link and buy something we recommended, but if that never happens that’s ok too.  Alright back to the important stuff.

I have listed all the things I am working on mainly to show it’s a lot of stuff for someone who isn’t working a full time job anymore.  Add into that our work kamper hours, and hours spent actually working on jobs, and if we weren’t careful we could fill every day.  But the whole point of this is to see and experience things.  That’s why we travel and stay in beautiful places.  So on the other side of the equation is the amazing nature we are surrounded by.  It’s tough to stay inside and work when it’s all right outside the door. It is a constant balancing act and one we are still trying to get good at. And you may be thinking “boohoo, you have it so tough”.  And that would be fair.   The me from a year ago may have thought the same thing.  But let me show you in pictures what is a few miles down the road so you maybe you can understand why establishing a balance is a struggle.  With

views like these it can be hard to strike a balance!Y114Y125Y124Y168Y133Y123Y074

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Time Volunteering in a State Park

There are some differences between volunteering on BLM land and in a state park, but although I know my sample size is small with only 2 work kamping jobs, there are definitely patterns emerging.  I know folks are curious about what an average day looks like (I certainly was) and now that we are settled I will walk you through our day, but please keep in mind that every one of these jobs is different and to some extent what you make of it.  Because you are volunteering for the site, most people are hesitant about asking a lot of you.  Plus I don’t know what type of people they have been getting, but more than once Lee and I had been described as “mellow people”, which if you have met us will crack you up.  It’s not so much that we are mellow as professional and I have to wonder who they are comparing us to.  We are polite and friendly to customers and full time staff alike, always keeping in mind that we are visitors, but they have to live here.  It’s a pretty simple formula really.

So, details about this job.  We found it on the State of California volunteers webpage.  There were tons of opportunities out there, although the website can be outdated a bit so it took some legwork on Lee’s part.  First, he emailed all the ones we were interested then and it took weeks in some cases to hear back.  Then we had to get a background check (cost to us: $10 each) and fingerprinted, and send 20+ pages of application to the state.  California may be worse than others on the paperwork, but again this all took some time so some pre-planning is called for. Also, the back and forth communication was a bit vague.  Despite all of the pages of paperwork, we walked into this not knowing exactly what we were going to be doing.  That was partly our fault because we didn’t ask the right questions, but the communication was not great.  Once we go here, the people have been very friendly.  Keep in mind they don’t know what they are getting into either and there is a bit of a period where everyone is checking each other out.  Once they figure out that you’re going to help, and not make their lives more difficult,  things go much smoother.

We have been told at both jobs that “we want you to have a good time and explore the area” and the schedules allow for this.  This camp host job has us checking the overnight box in the morning for people who came in late and paid.  I then take the information and write it on a clipboard.  While I am doing this Lee puts the flags up (weather permitting) which he really likes to do.  Brings back his ROTC days.   Once he’s done,  we walk the campground loop making sure no one slipped in without paying, and everyone is in the site they stated on the paperwork.  It’s dark at night and sometimes people move around, which is fine, we just need to change the sheet.  If there are any reservations for the upcoming day, we put a little sign out so people know those sites are not available.  The “worst” of it is that if anyone did not pay, we am supposed to wake them up and have them pay.  Apparently this is pot harvesting season (yeah, who knew?) and lots of folks with tons of cash are traveling through.  But according to the staff they don’t want to pay.  Now, this is where it gets interesting.  We can’t make anyone do anything and the amount of pressure we apply is totally up to me.   So I feel about this the way I felt about people smoking pot in the BLM day use area in Susanville.  I am just not getting into all that.  Ask people politely once to do the right thing and if they refuse, document it and move on.  First of all, I think the state of California can afford the $35 if someone refuses to pay, and secondly we don’t escalate with people.  Lee taught me that.  It never leads anywhere good and that’s where being a volunteer comes in handy.  Since I am not getting paid, it’s ultimately not my responsibility.  When I explain my philosophy the full time employees and rangers seem relieved.  We are not trained to deal with these situations and they would much rather we left it to them.

Oh, one more thing.  There always seem to be some locals that you need to be a little wary of.  Either they are big shots in the community or activists who like to push the envelope.  In both places we have been we have been given detailed descriptions of folks we needed to “be careful with.”  I get it.  We lived in a small town and some people like to throw their weight around, but thus far our professional and courteous stance works just fine for those folks too.  Actually Lee is awesome at dealing with those people.  All those years of running the local public access station in the small town of Keene have made him eminently qualified for dealing with these situations.  I, coming from a corporate environment, had more trouble with it at first, but there are always people in every corporation who have power beyond their title and require special handling.  I just put these folks in the same category.  And thankfully I have had minimal dealings with the “crazies.”  My general stance in life with folks living on the fringe is to speak softly and respectfully and give them as wide a berth as possible. The first morning we didn’t have any walk-ins who didn’t pay, but the second morning we had three cars on two sites that hadn’t filled out the little envelope and put money in it and dropped it in the iron ranger. It is a little unsettling to knock on a car window at 7am, but my experience as a mother getting children out of bed to go to school definitely comes in handy here!  It’s all about unrelenting cheerfulness, which is particularly obnoxious at 7am. Hey, if they don’t pay the fee, fine, they are going to be inconvenienced.  I was definitely glad Lee was with me on these wake ups as he just stood there and looked official and I gently got people to pay.  The first car was full of 20 somethings from France and I told them how sorry I was about what happened in their country.  They paid, but needed some help with the paperwork which I gladly did.  The second car only had 30 dollars and I am pretty sure the name “Jones” was a fake one, but I took their money cheerfully and said “OK” when they said they would return with the other five.  I resisted the urge to tell them to make sure they left their campsite clean, again, years of experience with kids and mornings, and we went on our way.  It was kind of fun actually, except for that initial contact, and definitely woke me up for the morning.

Regular staff is here every day from 10-6 so we have the day to ourselves to work from the rig or explore.  We try to be back by 4pm  to help with the walk ins and we are then “On Duty” until we go to bed.  They have an Iron Ranger station (drop box with envelopes where people register) so we are available to answer questions and sell firewood or make change for people.  Two days in we have had no one see us at night, but we will see how the weekend goes.  We do have two days off, not sure when those are yet, but the expectation is 20-25 hours per couple.  Mainly though we are here as a presence.  As Ranger Thomas stated, folks might rethink mischief if they know there is a Camp Host on duty.  And again, since this is off season, so far we are only getting 5-6 campers per night. Oh and no restroom cleaning here.  They have a maintenance staff that cleans the restrooms and showers and empties trash, so that’s cool.

So after hearing all that you might be thinking, “Well, why bother?”.  You might have income coming in, and you don’t need to supplement your income.  Well, it turns out there are numerous perks that might make it worth your while, the financial benefit aside.  Some of these we have experienced, and please don’t expect these because I am sure they won’t be everywhere, are:

  1.  An “All Access Pass” – We get keys,  and so far, in both of the places we’ve been, the keys have allowed us access to areas where the general public can’t go.  This allows us to drive our truck on roads less traveled and really absorb an area.
  2. Having the place all to yourself – We love the shoulder season.  Yes, the weather isn’t optimal, but the places are largely deserted which lessens the work load and gives you tons of opportunities to be the only people experiencing a place.  Totally worth the trade off in our mind.
  3. Getting a full hookup site in a place you couldn’t normally stay – This is a big one.  This campground for example has only one site we could squeeze into and at $35 a night for no services at all  it is unlikely we would have ever stayed here. Thus far our two sites have been big with great views and the water, electric, etc have all worked great.
  4. Getting to really know people in the area – Folks have gone out of their way to get to know us and spent time educating us about the area.  They want you to like it, because they want you to come back. The free education has been wonderful, plus when people are super passionate about where they work, it’s infectious.   Really enhances the experience.
  5. Access to extra services – Here they have a full kitchen, small library full of books about the area, free wi-fi, a giant maintenance area with tons of tools that we can borrow, a woodworking shop, and one of our favorites: free firewood.  Since these jobs don’t pay they often offer extra little perks to sweeten the deal, because again, they would like for you to come back.  And why not?  Repeat volunteers make their life easier, plus give them some continuity of volunteer staff.
  6. Being part of a community – Part of how we travel is to go to an area and learn how the people live.  This is much easier when volunteering because people go to a lot of trouble to introduce you to the locals, give insights on the best businesses in the area, and basically make you feel more like part of the community.  You can pass through an area and see it, but our goal is to experience it which is different.  Experiencing an area involves getting to know the people a little bit as well. So volunteering is a short cut to meeting people.
  7. Giving a little back – Even though we are getting something for volunteering, we are giving something back to our wonderful parks system.  Volunteering was something I rarely had time for when I was working, going to school, and raising kids and it’s a nice feeling to contribute, even in a small way.  Being thanked by people for picking up trash or giving information goes a long way towards making it feel less like a chore and more like something of value.

So that’s my summary thus far.  Again, it’s a small sample size but I feel pretty confident about what I am seeing.  I’ve shared some pictures from our tour below.

forgot to share a picture of this delicious chinese buffet we ate at. first decent Chinese food in a year and the sushi boats were awesome

Forgot to share a picture of this delicious Chinese buffet we ate at our first night in.  First decent Chinese food in a year and the sushi boats were awesome and only $12.99 for dinner

Me and Ranger Tom in front of a Burl that was stolen and recovered. These are used to make clocks and the street value is $1K the retail is $5K. The rangers protect the forests from people poaching them

Me and Ranger Tom in front of a Burl that was stolen and recovered. These are used to make clocks and the street value is $1K the retail is $5K. The rangers protect the forests from people poaching them

Lee admiring the crazy big chain saws

Lee admiring the crazy big chain saws

There are lots of these little houses that summer workers stay in

There are lots of these little houses that summer workers stay in

This tree was at the visitors center with tags on what was happening at the different rings

This tree was at the visitors center with tags on what was happening at the different rings

The center was 912 AD so I had to touch it. Crazy old

The center was 912 AD so I had to touch it. Crazy old

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Here's our site

Here’s our site

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