As we neared the end of our summer at Cooper Creek, we knew we needed a winter ‘job’ somewhere in Colorado. Why not Florida or Texas? Colorado is our ‘home.’ My husband and I met in Boulder, built a log home in the foothills west of Boulder in Fourmile Canyon, and had each of our four children in Boulder. Though we moved from Colorado to podunk, our hearts never left the place we called ‘home.’ Now that our four children are adults: our oldest daughter is married and lives in Alaska, our youngest son lives in California, our oldest son is married and lives in Parker, Colorado and our youngest daughter lives in Fort Collins. We spent the summers in Alaska and so we figured why not spend the winter in Colorado with two of our other children? (The one in California will be visited on the trips north and south.)
The best part about Colorado winters is that one day you can receive two feet of snow, but three days later it is gone due to the number of days of sunshine per year (300) and the warmth that sun provides. So, my search began at Cherry Creek State Park because it’s very close to my son’s house in Parker. I sent an email every day for a week to the same person requesting a camphost position for the winter. Amazingly, I received a response – a positive response. We were offered a ‘volunteer’ position in the park as the main camphosts in the only loop they have open in the winter. I found it funny that it is called Abilene as we could say we are in a part of Texas!
In Alaska, we boondock and get paid. In Colorado, we live for free and volunteer our time cleaning the bathrooms which are beautifully tiled and relatively spotless (especially after I started working in them). We also have to ready sites for the next guests which doesn’t involve much when there is snow all around though some guests still have campfires so the pits have to be cleaned. Though the loop is the same size as our loop in Alaska, we have a golf cart to drive around with our cleaning supplies. Honestly, I enjoy walking more, but it is easier to transport a broom, shovel, and trash buckets in a cart. We also had to be trained to work in the campground office answering phone calls, booking group sites for the summer, checking in and out campers along with general cleaning.
Not long into our gig at Cherry Creek, my husband was hired at Centennial Airport as a ramp manager. He directs airplanes in and out of the ‘parking area’ in sun, rain, snow and below zero temperatures. For a man who is virtually retired, he works hard 40 hours per week. His pay and his daily tips cover our basic life costs, and, he meets a lot of rich and famous people (Peyton Manning being a regular).
Because he has a fulltime job, I became ‘the camphost’ who either works in the office or cleans sites and bathrooms. Unlike Alaska, I actually have days off per week which allows me to do laundry and grocery shop after I take my husband to work. One of the interesting differences between Cherry Creek and Cooper Creek is the constant oversight of the park by rangers/law enforcement. At Cherry Creek we are not to deal with issues that we constantly deal with at Cooper Creek. For the most part, we enjoy not having such intense responsibility with keeping guests ‘in line,’ but we do not have as close of contact with visitors as we would like as hosts.
As a ‘camp host,’ I work with two other volunteers who help with the daily routines. They both spent the hectic summer here at the campground – one worked in the tent loop, the other in the office. Hectic? This park has over 1 million visitors per year because it is literally an oasis in the middle of Denver. It is the largest and oldest state park in Colorado, and, someone had the forethought to protect this area as a wildlife refuge.
Within the park are coyotes, white-tailed and mule deer, geese, rabbits who get into trouble, squirrels who live in the dumpster, and owls. Every evening we are whoooooed to sleep by so many owls it seems like thousands live in the trees above our trailer. As I mentioned earlier, Colorado winters are unique. With the miles and miles of trails, on beautiful days bikers fill the park along with hikers and dog walkers. I have taken to hiking the trails on my days off and collecting trash in and around the beach areas. Sadly, the only place I have ever hiked that I didn’t find trash was in the wetlands area where no bikes or dogs are allowed. As the weather gets colder, people ice skate or ice fish on the reservoir though it’s not recommended by the rangers and I wonder if the small bike tires they have planted near the beaches would really save anyone if they fell through the ice. Still, the ice looks beautiful with its frozen waves, cracks, and birds scattered on it hunkered down far from the shore.
As we wind down our 5-month commitment here, the weather has turned much colder with the lows in the negative digits. We have propane delivery which has made the heating aspect of our time here less stressful. We have water which has frozen only once because of a loose connection at the outside faucet. Even with it freezing, we don’t have to haul water! We have electricity which allows us to run our fireplace heaters and make it a cozy little home. No listening to a generator every morning and evening! Even better, we have sewer so we don’t have to haul our waste to an outhouse. It’s actually like living in a real home; however, we really do love boondocking on the Kenai Peninsula and look forward to heading north again in April – IF we have a safe trailer to pull behind us which is another story in the Miss Adventures of the Modern Nomad.
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