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!

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