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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