Posts Tagged ‘camp hosting’

What’s wrong with this picture?

The Fire.

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? In any campground, USFS or even a private campground, this type of fire is not only NOT permitted, but reveals the foolishness of those making it.   Most ‘normal’ people wouldn’t even think to create such a potential disaster, but then in Alaska, most Alaskans aren’t normal.  And, yes, this was started by Alaskans.  

The actual tree fell during one winter.  The Forest Service – the name implies their job – did nothing to mitigate a potential problem. They cut this very tall tree into two huge pieces rather than bucking it so it could fit in the fire pits and be used as real fire wood.

This year they took a chain saw and mowed down small evergreen trees along the river bank leaving them there as what I call, Fire Fans. Why? Because people do not know that green wood doesn’t burn and these little branches will just produce embers that fly into the air. And, this is the US Forest Service trying to mitigate the forests.  Protect us from forest fires.  I’m sure Smokey the Bear would be a little disconcerted with what we had to deal with.  Yes, he’s in town.

What would you do in this situation? 

My husband called 911 who told him these people weren’t committing a crime!  What were they waiting for?  A forest fire? A fire arm exchange? Assault? We’re not sure what law enforcement up here considers a crime for all of you who watch “Alaska State Troopers.”  Two years ago when some disgruntled campers who squatted on someone else’s camp site left very nasty notes about my husband and stole our gas can that wasn’t considered a crime either.  It was ‘circumstantial.’ Circumstances such as this fire lead to crimes and well, what about Crime Stoppers?

He was also told by the dispatcher that we are in national forest and this fire is the responsibility of the National Forest Service.  However, they have no one working nights.  When do these events happen?  At night. This was 11 p.m. This is our tax dollars at work!

After being told this was no one’s problem and no one would help us, we called our son-in-law who volunteers for the local fire department.  From this day forward, we will call 911 to dispatch the fire department to an out- of-control fire in our campground. Our son-in-law and another firefighter arrived in a truck to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, my husband had taken issues in hand and they had nothing to do. That won’t happen again. We will walk away, let it burn and call the fire department. In any case, if the fire becomes full-fledged, its the Cooper Landing Volunteers who will be first responders any way. They actually care about the well-being of their families, friends, community and homes!

To make the situation even more ridiculous, the dude had an axe and a saw.  When he was ‘caught,’ he began to chop the tree into pieces (though he laid the burning branches on the ground thinking they would just go out).   Now, why not do that FIRST before starting the fire?

What we do with logs like this that keep appearing in camp sites is throw them in Cooper Creek or the Kenai River and rid ourselves of them forever. This will be the fate of this tree today and many others that campers love to put in these fire pits standing up like a beacon for starting a forest fire.

These are all the unbelievable things that we camp hosts find and discuss when we get together. These are the things that make us scratch our heads or do face to hand plants!   My husband went to check another campsite this morning and those campers had left their fire burning!

Our log home in Boulder, Colorado burned to the ground because of a small fire that still had embers.  When the wind picked up, the embers started some brush on fire and eventually, hundreds of people lost their homes, including the one we built with love and passion.   My trailer is now my home and my daughter lives here in her home with her husband and our grandson. An out-of-control- forest fire essentially could destroy both our lives and many other people’s lives we come to know in this beautiful state.

This is a good campfire! Thanks, Chuck!

The Tent.

Not so obvious is the tent is in the woods near the river and not on the tent pad in the camp site.  This is our responsibility as camp hosts/managers to deal with and they did move their tent to where it belonged after shutting down the fire.   There is a sign hanging on the tree that they walked by with their equipment that says, “No Tents Beyond This Point,” but again, Alaskans think the rules aren’t for them.  “We’re locals,” they remind us.  But, they are some of the worst campers we deal with from fires, to scattered toilet paper, to filleting fish on wooden tables in bear country, to leaving coolers out for bears and insisting their dogs can be off-leash because they obey voice commands. Really? An off-the-leash dog running into a bear will bring the bear back to you! Face plant!  

The Not-So-Obvious

The reason my husband found this disaster in the making at 11 p.m. was because these responsible campers had NOT paid for their campsite.  Though they ‘said’ as many do, they were getting around to it. They weren’t. They have 30 minutes to pay and in that 30 minutes they built a fire, set up their tent and went to bed! They wanted to camp free, pitch their tent wherever they pleased and have an out-of-control-fire.  Three strikes and they should be OUT, but we are only allowed to inform campers not enforce any Forest Service rules.

So, why do we do this? Because we love camping (glamping), the outdoors, visiting family, and meeting new people. Because there are so many other campers who obey the rules and don’t act like complete idiots (using the term an Alaskan State Ranger used in a recent conversation). We love meeting the good people, making new friends and enjoying beauty of the Kenai around us. Unfortunately, and it really is unfortunate, there are those few who blow our minds with their stupidity and put us on the front lines of battles with which we have no support from law enforcement. It is very unfortunate that in an area with so many campgrounds, there is no one to make rounds to enforce their own Forest Service rules. So, we will keep plodding on, learning in each situation how to deal with imbecile campers.

Oh, if you happen to be one of those, could you send me a note and explain why you do the things you do, including smearing poop on the walls of the toilets? Thanks.

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

The Calm B4 the Kampers

Ready and Waiting …

This may be the last time I actually have time to write about our adventures at Cooper Creek Campground. Why? Because Memorial Day weekend begins the days of reservations. After Memorial Day, June 11 follows as the BIG DAY that brings on summer.

This is the confluence later in the season after the intense combat fishing!

This area of Kenai Peninsula is known for its fishing – salmon and trout. Fishing season opens June 11. From that day until school starts in mid-August followed by a small Labor Day crowd, we are packed solid. During the height of the fishing season, there are no campsites to be found anywhere near the Kenai and Russian Rivers. Those poor souls who didn’t know to make a reservation – both tourists and locals alike – generally find themselves by the side of the road on a pullout if there is room. The locals love to act like the whole reservation process is new even though it has been around for 25 years. Their guilt trips are better than a float trip on the Kenai.

View of Langille Mountain and our Host Site from Site 4

So in these days of calm before the campers, we have enjoyed taking evening walks in a completely empty campground. We always remember we forgot our bear spray at the farthest point where bears tend to hang out (though we have yet to see one in three years). We have had looky-loos on the mountain side checking out the campground, but only one has stayed overnight. On the river side, we have had two to four campers per night.

Site 17 Before Raking

We have also spent our free time getting the campground ready for campers. This means raking dead autumn leaves that have accumulated all winter everywhere. We rake trails to the bathrooms and all of the campsites – our small campground has 28 sites. We rake around the bear boxes, the tables, the fire pits and make the perimeters obvious. We use a blower to remove the leaves from the roadway.

Site 17 After Raking

We also clean. We clean up trash and toilet paper that we know wasn’t left by bears or moose. We clean the toilets. This involves not only wiping the actual toilet, but also wiping everything down from the walls to the door handles and taking a broom and removing all cobwebs. We make sure there are sufficient rolls of toilet paper and trash bags (which people take for their personal use). I also reprint the rocks I use for the door stops. Note: This is NOT the Rocky Mountains so rocks are very difficult to find.

My Hard-working Helper

We also gather all of the tools of the trade from rakes and shovels and trash pickers to supplies of toilet paper, paper towels, and cleaners with spray bottles. We keep those in something called a ‘coffin.’

National Forest Campground Signs

We gather the signs for the Self-serve Kiosk that remind campers about wood cutting, bears, stay limits, no ATVs, and keeping their pets on leashes. We hang those when we find out the water has tested ‘potable.’ At that point in time, the campground is no longer free, but $18 per night.

Our Information Kiosk

We also prepare our Kiosk. Over the years we have found that people want to know about Cooper Landing and vicinity. We put signs on our kiosk with information about fishing and rafting to help with RV issues. The spaces left in this year’s Kiosk will have photos of resident wildflowers and berries. (My printer ran out of color ink.)

Our manager drops off our tubs of stuff too. We have Reserved placards, reservation forms and sheets, and pay envelopes for the iron ranger. We have keys for the locks on the toilet paper rolls, keys for the storage closets at the toilets, keys for the iron ranger to pull out the payment envelopes, and a key for the birdhouse where payment for the firewood goes. Yes, we do sell firewood and bundles should arrive any day.

The Paperwork

Today my manager arrived with my DAR or Daily Arrival Report. This lists all of the upcoming reservations. I have to fill out a reservation form for each one to be used as my check-in process. I ask each camper if they are who the reservation says they are, ask where they’re from and take down their license plate number. On my little form, I make notes if they are Locals that I will call if they don’t show up the first night of their reservation as that is part of the process – all sites must be occupied the first night. If they don’t come, I find out if they are coming or if they want to release their site. I write their arrival date and departure and their reservation number on the reservation sheet. After I fill out those forms, I fill out the placards that hang on each site with reservation dates and the name of who reserved the site. Then, I walk around the campground and hang them on the site post.

View from Site 11

This evening as I trekked around the 1/4 mile loop and saw the signs, I realized ‘it’s all going to start this weekend.’ We’re going to meet people from around the world – already we’ve had people here from Australia and Hungary, but for about 8 weeks it will be a never-seeming-to-end process and then it will be over. Just. Like. That.

Stump by Site 9

Tonight I enjoyed the smell of moist, decaying leaves in the air, the quiet and uniqueness of each campsite wondering who will occupy them, and listened to birds singing at 8 p.m.

Moose Tracks – Good Ice Cream Too

I followed the footprints of a moose up the road, said ‘hi’ to Steve or Allen, the resident squirrels, and made note of the tree stump with mushrooms or lichen growing out of it. When the calm ends, these moments won’t return until September when the wild berries ripen and the trees lose the leaves we have to rake in the spring.

Steve or Allen …

The nights will continue to be lighter later – until 1 a.m. – and visits with new campers will last longer into that evening blur. In the morning, the routine of preparing sites for new campers after people leave, cleaning toilets, preparing and printing a daily report of the campers who stayed with us, and saying goodbye to those campers who made our day special will begin again. We will share what we know with newcomers about nearby hikes to see the salmon jump up the river, about the beautiful opportunity they have to float the Kenai and see bald eagles and bears, about fishing regulations, about carrying bear spray on back country hikes, and answer questions about the Rotary Fish Trap by Site 18.

The Rotary Fish Trap

Apart from raising my children, this is the best job I could have ever imagined having. As I write, the evening sun touches the newly-greened trees by our campsite and I know this is truly the calm before the campers.

Sunset 11 p.m.

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing