Here’s to being a campground host!
Some have asked us, “What do you do?” Others think we have a great ‘semi-retirement’. A little background. We aren’t completely retired. We are here for a couple of reasons. First, my husband’s job at Cabela’s ended last June and it was time for a new career choice. Second, our daughter and son-in-law live in Alaska and are expecting their first baby, our first grandchild so we thought it would be a fun way to be here for that event. Third, my husband would like to work as a pilot so he is continuing that process with actual experience in the area where he would do sight-seeing tours, bringing guests from Anchorage to Alaska River Adventures, our son-in-law’s business. We have been told repeatedly that it’s an unchartered resource here. And finally, my husband used to live in Anchorage and always wanted to come back. Four-month summer stints seemed to be a good option for Alaska’s long daylight hours while we travel the rest of the year.
Why not campground host? I have loved camping over the years beginning with my family when I was a child and then with my own children. My husband was a backpacker and forEVER until this fifth-wheel, we tent camped everywhere imaginable from Glacier National Park to Rocky Mountain National Park to Zion National Park, to state parks in South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado. We have the blessing to be outdoors and breathe nothing but fresh mountain, sea level air, enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Kenai Peninsula, watch for moose, eagles, bear and whatever else saunters along, as well as spend time with family.
Our job is not lucrative though we found that we will earn more than we actually read on the website – a pleasant surprise. One of our duties includes cleaning the vault toilets. I start with this because it is essential to me that the toilets are clean. As I said, we have camped for many years and stinky, dirty vault toilets, well… you get the idea. There are too many people these days who do not have toilet etiquette and that is sad for the rest of man and womankind. Consequently, someone, like me, has to scrub and clean the risers, replace toilet paper, and collect the trash bags. I do wear gloves, YES, I do wear gloves. And, my toilets will be clean and smell like lavender.
One of the perks of this little job is meeting people from all over the world. Cooper Landing with the Kenai River has the world’s best salmon fishing run. June 11 is opening day and our little campground of 28 sites is going to be bustling with fishermen from probably every state in the U.S. as well as maybe every continent. We already had visitors from Switzerland; many take scenic float trips down the river with ARA. We are awaiting the ‘soft opening’ of Memorial Day weekend and the onslaught of people arriving for the three days.
As hosts we are to inform, not enforce rules. For example, dogs need to be on leashes. That is a forest service rule. Also, there is a rogue bear in these parts and for the protection of the dog, it need to be on a leash. A bear actually destroyed a tent the other morning at a nearby campground. Also, on Cooper Creek the Fish and Game folks put a Rotary Screw Trap. Without going into all the reasons why (damns ruin wildlife in the creeks and rivers), this trap catches small fish so they can count them and see whether or not the species is growing and returning to their spawning areas. Any animal, a beloved dog, for example, that gets caught in it will drown. Of course, even knowing all of these reasons, people still refuse to leash their dogs and then there’s a dog fight! Alcohol is allowed; drunkneness and disorderly conduct is not. We have met law enforcement and the forest service enforcer of rules. Along with them, we have the power to ruin anyone’s fun trip.
Our campground has two areas, one north of the Sterling Highway we call ‘riverside’ and one south ‘the mountain side’. We are in the south campground and all of the sites are reservable. They are filled for over the holiday weekend with some people leaving and others arriving the same day. We will be busy cleaning sites from one guest and preparing it for the next. The north side has seven sites which are all first-come first-served. These sites are along the Kenai River and have beautiful views of the river.
We are responsible for collecting the money envelopes from the “Iron Ranger.” That event has been quite humours because it is so difficult to get to the lock from underneath and behind, unlock it, and then re-lock it. We’re getting faster and think we should time each other. From those envelopes, we must make sure that everyone in the campground has paid. If not, we are to remind them that there is a fee for camping in a forest service campground. We have already learned that the $18 fee isn’t always in that envelope. Some people put whatever they have in their pockets; others put whatever cash they have in their pockets. In reality, we aren’t to open the envelopes, but a few have not been closed or marked with “$12.50, Sorry!” From those envelopes, we have to fill out daily reports of what sites were full, license plates numbers, states, whether or not they have a national park/forest pass, and what type of camping equipment they used (RV, tent or trailer) – all for demographics.
We also sell firewood by the bundle. We have a little birdhouse for depositing that cash. It’s cute and I hope to paint it to make it a little more exciting.
After campers leave their sites, we re-rake around the fire pit, check it for trash and other objects, look in the bear boxes for anything left behind, and pick up garbage. For the most part, everyone is pretty clean. However, we do find treasures. I won’t discuss the horrendous ones, but we have found a boomerang, a very nice bungee cord, an entire spool of halibut fishing line (gave to son-in-law), two tennis balls (gave to our ‘granddog’), a small parrot trinket we named Cooper, tent stakes, and a growler. We learned that we can take the growler to Soldotna, about an hour away, and get it filled with homemade root beer!
So far everything is going well. No bear attacks. No dead dogs. No stolen wood. Friendly co-workers from the Alaska Recreation Management team. Neighborly campers. And, of course, beautiful scenery and wildlife like moose and bald eagles make cleaning vault toilets worth every minute.
“Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the nations with equity” (Psalm 98:7-9).
©2017 Tentstake Ministries