First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Father’s Day Week

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.

Campground and Marina Gates


Lower Launch Gate


This one is tough for me because of this heavy bar, but with the use of a crowbar I can do it by myself


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.

Doggie bag dispensers



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!

Path down to the pond

Small fry pond has a path all the way around it which I walk looking for litter

A thankfully clean fish cleaning station. Mr. Newbie and Mr. Kayaker do a great job of keeping the fish cleaning station clean.

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.


Beautiful views of the river from the bottom of 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.

One of Lee’s first project was organizing the shop. He even added the top shelf and made sure there was enough room to park the gator inside.


The gator with the nifty mop holder that the guys created from PVC pipe


Main restroom with showers.


Modern toilets and showers


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.



Desk area with the well maintained communication log. Everyone here does a great job of using this


The maintenance list is ever changing, but there isn’t much on here that I have the time or skill set to work on. I do try to jump in where I can though


I make this map with the Ins and Outs every Monday and then check off the campsites as I complete them. Of particular interest is any campsite with an In and an Out as those need to be turned as soon as possible


The Yomes are very popular


They have two sets of bunkbeds in them and most have electric


We spray with disinfectant and then use this dry mop. Very effective

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.

Campfire rings. It’s amazing what people leave in them. The worst is half eaten food though and the worst of that I have seen so far is when someone poured beans all over a piece of wood. Gross!!


The cabins


They have electric and a small electric stove. They still smell like new wood and although they are rustic they are really nice and very reasonably priced.


Great river view from one of the cabins

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!!

The green cone in the front is the dump sink and takes the grey water from people washing dishes  to a tank. One of the guys cleaned this the other day and wow was that a gross job. The rotting food smell was pretty intense.

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.

Back the gator up to the small dumpster. It’s easier if you can roll them, but they are too heavy for me to move when they are full


Use a GIANT ratchet strap to attach the can to the gator, getting it as tight as possible so it doesn’t move side to side


The giant ratchet strap was super intimidating for me, but now I feel comfortable. If nothing else I think I have finally gotten over my somewhat unreasonable fear of these things.


This steep hill is the worst. It goes down to where the dumpsters can be emptied by the garbage truck and going down this hill with the rattle of the wheels and the push of the weight is a little nerve wracking. After doing this a few times I was happy to trade days with Lee

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.

2 needles and a metal plate


Needle disposal box

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.

The sprayer had three bars you could position which made spraying the rocks much easier.

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!!

The goslings are so big. Many of their faces turned black practically overnight


This Osprey looked smallish so I think it is the partially grown baby.  Not 100% sure though


Super excited about this Violet -Green Swallow


Violet Green Swallow




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First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Memorial Day Weekend

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 actually like working holiday weekends.  Because you are competing with the casual camper, it is a pain in the butt to find a campsite and on top of that all the nature places we like to go are usually very crowded.  Good for those folks for getting out in nature, but for us who live this way it can cause some challenges.  That’s why I think having a campsite and things to do on these weekends is one of the very best benefits of working a summer camp host job because we are covered for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.  That being said those weekends are quite a bit of work, and because the six of us were brought in pretty late everyone was scrambling to get ready.

Our focus had been on the river sites because of the festival, but fishing season opened on Monday and we needed to squeeze in cleaning the lower launch area. This was complicated by the fact that on Monday Lee was helping in the campground, we were off Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday we were split up again as I worked in the campground. Monday actually went very well.  Lee opened the gate at 5:40am (posted time was 6am) and there were already 6 cars waiting in line.  They were very happy to see him and when I went back a little later in the day everyone was very friendly.  The lower launch and culvert are used mostly by locals and I wanted to start off on the right foot with them.  Later I went to do a river run and all in all it was a pleasant day.

We were off Tuesday and Wednesday  and when we came back Thursday things had held up very well.  I worked in the campground that day (I will talk about what that looks like in another post) and Lee made the river runs.  He emptied trash, restocked toilet paper and made made sure all of the sites were ready for the big weekend.  He also spent some time trying to get a hitch for the truck for the water trailer we need for filling pit toilets and watering plants, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.  So we left some loose ends, but nothing that we thought was major.

Friday I had the doctors appointments and we started our day at 3pm.  That’s tough for us as we are both early morning people, but it makes sense because that’s when the crowds are. The first thing we had scheduled was going and picking up a new refrigerator for the campground.  The old one didn’t work anymore and it’s a nice benefit that the six of us have a full size refrigerator to use.  I wasn’t looking forward to loading it though, and was thrilled when our supervisor came out and helped Lee load it.  Very nice!!  After dropping that off and Lee and Mr. Kayaker getting it into the office, we filled up the large weed spray tub and headed out.  By this time it was close to 5pm and we knew we had alot of work to do.

Unfortunately in the 24 hour period when Lee stocked everything and we came on, the bathrooms had really taken a hit.  There are two of us but we share one company vehicle and every bathroom needed attention.  We also wanted to tackle some weeding at the culvert and spray the rocks we had done last week on the river sites before the weeds grew back.  Long story short we only managed to stock and clean the restrooms and spray Moore Creek before we ran out of time.  Part of that was the Culvert was a mess with lots of trash to pick up.  That appears to be a party site for the locals and there were lots of beer cans and bottles laying around.  Since kids come in with their parents to fish in the weekend mornings that was a priority to me, but it takes awhile to clean up that much trash, especially broken glass.  There was the sweetest little girl who was fascinated by the trash picker and after seeing her in these weeds I really felt that was a priority.  Also I am hoping it will discourage folks from throwing trash on the ground.  My thought is keep it nice and neat and people will be inspired to help with that.  If it is overgrown they will be less likely to do so.

We did what we could and closed the culvert gate at 8pm (the gate is closed to cars but people still walk down at night) and went to the lower launch at 8:15 pm to start the closing process.  This is a huge area and you start by backing the truck in which makes a loud beep beep noise and then final cleaning the restroom.  The restroom was really rough by the end of the night and I can see this one will be a challenge.  Plus we have been unable to fill the pit toilet with water because we don’t have the water trailer hitch, and the deodorizers are back ordered, so the smell was a little intense.  Still people were very friendly and many started packing up as soon as they saw what we were doing.  We had two cars parked down near the walkway though so we knew we needed to find some folks.  You can fish all along the reservoir, but because the bank is very steep it’s hard to see people and let them know we are closing soon.  We found one couple and they headed back but the other car was a mystery.

This is the area that the walkers use to park so when we drive past the gate we look for groups that correspond to the amount of cars down in this section. It’s an inexact science but works fairly well.

Folks fishing along the bank.  Pretty steep climbing down there, but there are areas with paths and/or ropes to help.  Others take boats in.

Another hang out spot is these log barriers.  Since it takes some time to walk back from this spot we drive up there first and let people know we will be closing in 45 minutes. Sound carries over water so we don’t always need the bull horn to communicate.

This is a pretty big deal since we need to clear the lot to lock the gate, so when we only had one car left at a quarter til 9pm and no idea where that person was, we pulled out the bull horn.  It’s a heavy duty police style one, but needs to be used carefully because you don’t want to upset people.  We discussed whether or not to use it and what to say and finally Lee said, “Good Evening.  The gate will be closing in 15 minutes.  Thank you.”  Polite, but to the point.  We started back down the path when we saw a kid with fishing poles flying towards us on his skate board.  He was very nice about it and packed up quickly so we actually were able to close the gate 5 minutes early.  Perfect!!  I have no expectation every night will go like this but it was a great start to our summer.

We knew the next morning would be rough though.  We are scheduled Close/Open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday which means we have to get up and out the door in the morning no later than 5:30am.  I had a hard time going to sleep and didn’t sleep well at all, but we were up and ready to go at 5:30.  We opened the gate to the campground, then the culvert (two women getting ready to walk down were very happy) and then went to lower launch.  There were only two cars waiting but by the time we opened the gate and checked the restrooms the parking lot was 1/3 full.  Everyone was very friendly and we spent about 45 minutes making sure everyone was parked in the right places and there were no boat “traffic jams” as folks were putting them in the water.  Once again everything went flawlessly and we headed to the culvert.

Since we couldn’t weed eat the day before we wanted to get it done in the morning but we knew this might be a problem with the morning fisherman.  We were hoping to squeeze it in but the parking lot filled up fast and there were around 30 people fishing on the lake.  I started picking up trash and it was even worse than the day before.  Tons of beer cans and bottles, which honestly I can live with because the company sends the recyclables to a charity, but there were several broken bottles. In case you think I am exaggerating, I picked up half of a big black trash bag full of trash from the ground, including a pair of underwear.  So here we had young kids fishing on the bank next to the trash the night before and it made me crazy.  Lee started weed eating and the closer he got to the water the more folks grumbled about the noise.  Finally someone said something and I went to try some of my verbal judo.  I explained I was concerned because of the broken glass and the kids and the only way to see all the glass was to get the weeds down.  He was having none of it though, despite being there with his daughter who looked like she was 5-6, so we stopped weed eating and left.  It was upsetting for me, although I certainly can sympathize with his despite for a peaceful morning, and eventually Lee and I decided to cut our AM short by an hour and go back at 7pm and try to get it done.  I know Memorial Day Weekend is not a good time to do this, but we’ve seen folks down there at all hours all week.

The whole situation upset me, mainly because I felt bad we hadn’t gotten to it sooner, so we went out to Faraday and checked the restrooms there.  I mopped the floors and weeded a small section around the sign and doggy bag area that had been driving me crazy and then we went back to lower launch.  At this point lower launch was almost totally full, but thankfully we still had a few boat spaces empty.  Folks from the morning were leaving and new folks were coming in and the schedule seemed to be working fine.  A couple of people did park cars in boat launch spaces and we had to find them and ask them to move their cars and one couple asked me to talk to the family fishing from the dock.  Since putting the no fishing sign up was one of the things Lee had not got to, I apologized for the confusion and then Lee was able to get the sign up.  The whole day it seemed like everything we had missed was coming back to bite us and since the locals know exactly how things should be they were having none of it.  Rightly so, and I appreciated how nice most people were but I still spent the whole day feeling like I was “a day late and a dollar short.”  The lower launch restroom saw a ton of use and in the short time it took me to weeds around it, at least 20 people used it.  I replaced three rolls of toilet paper that were used between 6am and 9:30am both Saturday and Sunday so there definitely seems to be a pattern there.

Folks waiting in line at 5:40am when we open the gate

The parking lot at 6am. Already several cars there getting prime parking spots down near the beach.

The parking lot at 9:30am


The smell in the restroom was much worse as well, and despite bringing 4 pails of deodorized water throughout the day it didn’t seem to help.  The pit toilet requires around 150 gallons of water and I wasn’t really making a dent in it.  Lee sent a text to our trainer (who is off on Saturdays) and hopefully we can get some help resolving the issue on Sunday, but I apologized and at least kept it clean but it was tough when kids were complaining about it. By then it was 11am and we had to knock off for the morning and I still felt we had so much more to do.  We didn’t even touch the river sites, but hopefully they will hold up throughout the day and we can start working on the culvert at 7pm this way.   Our supervisor is open to discussing rearranging the schedule, based on our feedback but we both feel we need a couple of weekends under our belt before we make a recommendation. It is a holiday after all, so I can’t say it will be this busy every weekend, but based on what I saw in traffic on the weekdays I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.  Folks love to fish up here and everyone was catching some beautiful trout so I can see why it’s a favorite weekend past time.

Part of the problem with splits of course is what do you do with your down time.  Both of us sort of collapsed as soon as we got home, but around 12:30pm we started moving.  I put a pot roast in the Instant Pot and Lee ran to the hardware store to pick up one more thing he needed to hang the last sign.  Running into town takes time we really don’t have so he just took our personal truck and made the trip.  I wrote one and a half blog posts, watched the finale of Dancing with the Stars, and tried to chill.  I did appreciate the time to write, but not sure how this will work throughout the summer.  It’s too much time to not do something with it, but I don’t know how much energy we will have with the close/opens.  Will just have to see.

We started working again at 6:30pm and once we stocked up the truck with toilet paper and  cleaning supplies we headed to the culvert.  There were many people there swimming, but this crowd didn’t seem to mind the noise.  Lee weeded and I picked up trash and sprayed some weed killer behind him and the area looked sooo much better.  The folks we talked to were really happy and cooperative and we managed to get the weeding done and clear the parking lot so we could close the gate by 8pm.  Having this done made me super happy, even more so when the next morning we saw lots of families taking advantage of the newly cleared spots and there was relatively little ground trash to deal with.

Saturday night when we locked the gate

And Sunday morning!! So much better once it was weeded.

It was rough getting up early Sunday morning and we were both definitely getting tired.  We opened the lower launch and immediately headed up river.  Moore Creek was low on toilet paper, but thankfully we were able to clean and stock it before the rafting boats started showing up.  We also we able to spray the border rocks which we hope will cut down on the need for further weeding.  Next a trip to Hole in The Wall and then back down to check lower launch again.  After lower launch we met with our trainer to put gas in the truck which was almost empty.  Unfortunately the large tank we use to fill the vehicles was also empty so we scrounged some gas from the timber fuel cans.   We had 3/4 of a tank going into the holiday weekend, which we thought would be plenty, but those extra trips up and down the river took more gas than expected.  Thankfully the trainers hooked us up and we had enough to get through the rest of the weekend.  Mr. Trainer also put 55 gallons of water in the lower launch bathroom and my deodorizers I had been waiting had come in, so the smell was much, much better at lower launch.  So we cleaned Faraday (women’s toilet paper was empty) and then made one last check at lower launch before stopping for the morning.

I know this is all a ton of detail and probably pretty boring, but I can tell you it wasn’t in the moment.  It was hard to keep up with the crowds all day and when we didn’t it bothered me.  Yes it is a job cleaning restrooms, but I take that as seriously as any other job I have had especially because I have used these pit toilets and know first hand how awesome it is when they are clean and lousy it is when they aren’t.  What I didn’t know until now was how difficult it can be on a busy weekend to keep up.  In one 40 minute period at the lower launch for example I watched at least 20 people use the restroom.  That’s a lot of people.  So here’s some rough stats to get you a feel for how busy it was.  Assuming toilet paper was used and not stolen that’s a lot of folks using these areas.

  • We replaced at least 48 rolls over the weekend and had three instances where the 6 rolls in a toilet were completely gone during our off time.
  • We emptied at least 22 full bags of trash with every trash can emptied at least once.  We only had one instance where the trash was overflowing and that was at the beach trashcan on our busiest day.
  • We filled a minimum of five 5 gallon buckets with ground trash.  The culvert continues to be our trouble spot for ground trash, but seems to be getting better especially after we got the weeding done.
  • We mopped  the floors of every restroom at least once and Lower launch and Moore Creek we did daily.

Sunday was more of the same and even busier if possible.  Tons of boats and the beach area was completely full, but we were both thankful folks did a good job of getting most of their trash into the cans.

Beach area

Full house

My favorite part of the weekend was when we saw the osprey out during one of our runs up the gate.  We were taking pictures of the dam and fish ladders when he started to fly around.  Our picture of the nest was on the outer edge of our range and we are not sure if that was a baby or the mom but we could hear the chirping from in the nest.

Looking for fish

Could see a head poking up in the middle

Beautiful birds in flight

The North Fork Dam was built in 1958 and is a thin-wall construction

The North Fork fish ladder is 2 miles long and one of the longest type construction in the world. It also includes a recently added adult fish sorter which sorts native from hatchery fish.  Here’s a video on what they invented to solve the problem. Very cool.

The fish ladders are very cool

On Monday Lee worked the campground and I covered the sites alone.  It was busier than a normal Monday, but not too bad because of the heavy mist in the morning.  Up at Faraday I got to watch an Osprey circle and dive into the water several times for fish.  It was absolutely amazing, but unfortunately only had my phone with me so the pictures are not very good.  Loved, loved that though.

It made a big splash of water every time it went in

Finally after numerous tries it finally caught a fish (which you can see hanging down) and flew off. It was a great moment.

So yes I cleaned a bunch of toilets, mopped floors, and emptied trash this weekend. I also saw an osprey along with it’s nest and watched another one dive and catch a fish.  The drive has not lost it’s magic (more pictures in a later post of the amazing river), and almost all of the people we met with were friendly. I lost count of how many people thanked us for what we were doing and how many made it clear that they “carried out more than they brought in” which I always thanked them for.  It is absolutely true that in my corporate life I was nicer to the cleaning lady than I was to the President of the company.  Her job was harder than his in many ways, she often knew more about what was going on than he did (people talk about all kinds of stuff in the bathroom), and most importantly I like clean bathrooms and she did an excellent job.  Now that I am the cleaning lady,  I hope folks treat me the same way and do what they can to help out.  We will see how it plays out and as always thanks for reading, despite I am sure being tired of hearing about toilets!

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 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 here

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

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

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

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

Lake Harriet Dam


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


Loved the water rushing from the dam when we arrived


Stunning views of Mount Hood from the Day Use area


The Lake reminded me of the lakes in Glacier


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


One of the most requested campsites


And it’s view past the tree line

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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