Sunday, March 3, 2013

Getting Back to the Dream!

We are campground hosts again!! This is the most exciting news to us after a few months of being "grounded"!  We are at Jessie Honeyman State Park, near Florence, for the months of March and April. We are the “meeter-greeter” hosts, right at the entrance of the park (site A-26).  The front of our Moby looks right at the registration booth.  A firewood barn is next to us, and the recyling area is just beyond that.  Our responsibilities include helping campers with registration, renting yurts, providing information on activities for the area, selling firewood, recycling, cleaning A loop of litter, checking and light cleaning of A loop restrooms, and anything else needing to be done. We are so excited to have this 2-month job on the south end of the central Oregon coast! We had received calls from a couple of other parks in February, looking for help for March, but neither had openings in April also. Working for two months in one park gives us a better chance to get to know the park and the surrounding area. By the second month, we pretty much know the unique aspects of a park, and can better assist campers, as well as the rangers.

Honeyman State Park

Available hosting opportunities are more numerous in Oregon State Parks during the winter.  It’s a matter of the kind of hosting job you are looking for, the amenities you need or desire, the location you are willing to go to, and the weather you are willing to deal with!  It appears to us that not all parks post their openings on-line.  Some park rangers may have a regular pool of hosts they are familiar with and are able to find workers from their own lists.  It seems that some of the more difficult positions to fill appear on the on-line postings list.  This is an assumption on our part, however, often we see openings for cabin or yurt hosts, or interpretive hosts, or even security and maintenance positions.  For us, the campground host is the desirable position.  Being around people is what makes the job fun for us.  We’ve noticed that when cleaning yurts or cabins, the job requires the work be done before the campers arrive, and after the campers leave.  We want to be there in the midst of the campers, not only working behind the scenes.  Even cleaning campsites and doing litter patrol means we are wandering among campers.  Children will sometimes join us and help us look for tiny pieces of litter.  It's a treasure hunt to them!  Our uniforms (vest and hats usually) identify us as someone who might know something if a camper needs some information or assistance.  I also think our uniforms say, “We are approachable – come talk to us!”  There are a lot of people who are curious about what it’s like to be an Oregon State park host.  Many are thinking about the future when they will be retired and perhaps have the chance to try new things.  That’s exactly where we were only a year or so ago, and we love to share our story!
We had a restful, yet challenging few months since returning from Wallowa Lake State Park near the end of October.  I truly believe that God charts our path, and we can now see how He has purposed these past few months.  It was a necessary time of being stationary.  Now that I know I have Type 2 Diabetes, I can say with 20/20 hindsight that I am so thankful we had this down time!  It took me a month to begin telling others about my diagnosis, but I’m good with it now.  The lifestyle changes have been relatively simple for us, and I am feeling so much better, both mentally and physically.  Getting back to park hosting only makes things better as our activity levels have gone back up considerably.  Those walks we need to take each day happen without a second thought as we busy ourselves working around the park!
When we saw this opening for work at Jessie Honeyman State Park, we knew it would provide us with the perfect opportunity for the next couple of months.  We have fond memories of camping here perhaps 15 years ago.  At the time, we camped in a 24' travel trailer, pulled by our Chevy truck.  We've moved up in our RVs twice since those days.  We were so much younger .... we rented Odysses to play with on the dunes.  I fondly remember how Steve drove in circle after circle until he made himself sick!  Ah, the good ol' days!

Our up-front host site at Honeyman is a great site.  We have 50 amps at our host spot, with good access to people as they enter the park.  The park is plenty large (the 2nd largest in Oregon, behind Fort Stevens State Park), giving us lots of opportunities for exercise.  We haven't worked within this management group (a grouping of parks overseen by the same management), which means an opportunity to meet new rangers, which can also open up other opportunities down the road.

As we see over and over at each new park we work in, the host coordinator ranger here is very nice, and works well with volunteers.  We spent 3 hours in orientation on our first full day here.  There were 4 sets of hosts starting this month, with a couple others who started a couple weeks earlier.  One couple was in the hospital on orientation day, having a baby!  They will join us soon.

Steve and I have more responsibilities with registration, so our orientation took longer.  By the time we returned to our coach at 4:30pm, we really had to hit the ground running.  Campers were needing firewood, help getting into yurts, etc.  While it was overwhelming to remember so much new information (each park is unique in many aspects of what they ask hosts to do), we seem to be getting through each situation as it arrives.  We  had many people hoping to find yurts available for the weekend, but we're full until Sunday.

This is a popular park for ATVers!  It is H-loop, which has been set up especially for the ATV (all terrain vehicle) crowd, with access to the sand dunes, where these folk like to be.  This loop in the rear of the park has extra wide paved areas on each site for parking trailers and accompanying vehicles.  There are also extra parking areas for storing their ATV trailers.  ATV's are not allowed to be driven around the park itself, but are allowed dune access directly from the back H-loop.  Anybody camping elsewhere in the park with ATV's must "trailer out" their ATV's and access the dunes from the jetty area.  Getting a space in H-loop is a special deal for these dare devil's (our perspective!).  We are happy up in the more "gentle" front area of the park.

Well, the sun is up and it's time to put the flag up the flag pole.  I'll try to share some good dune pictures and stories with the next post!  For now, I am one happy camper!