Also known as “Why did I get my Master’s Degree to Sort Garbage?”
Don & I volunteer as campground hosts for a variety of reasons – many people assume the reason is to get a free campsite. Actually – nope!
To meet people. Rving and travelling can be lonely – even with the internet, email, cell phones. And with your spouse (or partner) as your main communication you may need some variety.
This proved very true at our Memaloose State Park hosting job where we were hired as interpretive hosts but sold wood/ice, dealt with angry campers, cleaned up trash. Not the job we signed up for but it needed to get done and the Rangers we not thrilled about doing it. We had two hosts quit in the beginning of their first month (one for understandable personal reasons and one because they were just unhappy – about everything). This left a lot of work to do and not enough people to do it – a common occurrence at campgrounds. Always a good thing to keep in mind when you cannot find a Ranger or a campground host when YOU are staying at a city, county, State or Federal Park.
The remaining hosts were very good to work with and pitched in gracefully. Marion, the volunteer of the Year at Memaloose (nominated by me) loved hosting and always had a smile on his face. Tom and Vivian were volunteering as surveyors but always helped with campground duties. They loved it. Dennis was conscripted to move from another park to assist and was a great add to the group. We enjoyed many group pot lucks and happy hours with this great group of people in the lovely Columbia River Gorge. And this is where I learned to sort garbage.
To get to know an area in depth. Kam Wah Chung with its interesting history proved this. Located in John Day Oregon, we hosted at the request of the lead Ranger Christy Sweet when she had a one-month gap in staff. We really enjoyed exploring the area including John Day Fossil beds, Strawberry and Major lakes – and Christy gave us a schedule to accommodate our wonderlust. And we met some really nice people (see above).
To leave the bus in one spot for a period of time. We enjoy moving around and also enjoy staying put! So many days we are busy driving from one spot to the next or trying to make time moving from East to West coast or back again. When we are able to stay in one spot, it allows us to recharge, relax. And meet people and explore (again, see above).
To work & flex our ‘interpretive muscle’. Once we took the National Association for Interpretation Guide Class and became certified interpretive guides, we morphed into the folks who bring you the Friday nite campfire talks at your campground (and kayak, hike, walk, Junior Ranger, etc. guides). To do this, it requires that we learn about the area – the cultural and natural information about the area that makes it unique. This peaks our interest in the area and demand that we get out, explore and meet people. Love it!
Campground hosting – since (typically) a host serves as a volunteer without pay – supports our Parks by providing additional staff – performing maintenance, camp host & interpretive staff duties, etc.
And yes, as hosts we do camp for free. A great perk – but not the main objective.