Camp Hosting at Usery Mountain Regional Park

We’ve been in our new camp-hosting spot at Usery Mountain Regional Park outside of Mesa, Arizona a week and as MsBoyink just said “A lot has gone on in a week. And yet, nothing.”

I have ‘round two’ in the title of this post - if you are somewhat newer to following our ongoing family travel saga you have probably intuited by now that there was a Round One.

Such savvy readers! I’ll let you go read that lengthy post to get a sense of why it was with a bit of trepidation that we accepted another camp-hosting assignment.

What’s Different with Round Two?

  • We know the park
    We stayed here twice for a week each during our first year traveling and loved the sunsets, the views, the programs, and the location which is remote enough to feel like we are living in a more natural area yet close to amenities.
  • We knew some of the people
    We met another full-time-rv’ing family who was camp-hosting during our first visit here and they are back for their 3rd year. Their 4 children and our 2 all it hit off quite well. Some of the other hosts who were here during our first visit have also returned.
  • They are used to kids
    Because the other family has been here for a while the park is used to the idea of having kids around which makes it much easier for us to come in as a family.
  • It’s a short-term gig
    We’re here for 6 weeks to fill a gap until another couple comes for the rest of the season. Typically this park wants its hosts to stay the entire season from the start of November through the end of April, which is longer than we’d prefer.
  • It’s a government-owned park
    Our first gig was at a private park and our impression was that private park management could either be awesome or horrible and we ‘lucked’ into the latter. We’ve been told that government-owned parks are better to camp-host at because they have more standards, consistency and ultimately chain of command to start climbing up if need be.
  • Free Laundry
    It sounds petty, but while the private park provided us shirts to wear with their name on them, and had laundry facilities in the park, we had to foot the bill to wash their uniforms along with the rest of our clothes.  Laundry is a significant expense for a traveling family with no onboard facilities - so if the volunteer camp-hosting arrangement can kill that one for us it’s a significant benefit.

First Week

So how has our first week been? Good, but not particularly organized-feeling if that makes sense.

We arrived with no sense of what duties we’d be providing to the park - there is a nature center, an entrance station, an archery range, 30 miles of hiking and biking trails, and a number of bathroom and shower facilities that all need oversight and maintenance. 

Including MsBoyink and myself there are currently 19 total camp hosts with another two expected soon. Different couples gravitate towards different areas of the park (some just clean bathrooms, some run the archery range, some primarily do programs for campers etc) but we still aren’t completely sure of our primary assignment. 

We have spent a couple shifts in the entrance station “shadowing” our friends there and learning how to deal with day-passes, annual passes, and campers. My guess is that we will do that and possibly some shifts in the Nature Center along with some odd maintenance tasks (painting trash cans etc) to fulfill the 20 hours per week each that we have agreed to. 

Government Work

Some of the delay in getting plugged into the schedule is due to being a government-run park. We had to get fingerprinted and wait for those to clear. We need a login for the point-of-sale system that is used to manage day passes, camping, and product sales and that comes from headquarters and can take a few days.

And some of the delay is that we are now in a holiday week that is a busy one for the park, and no one wants newbies in the booth trying to figure things out while traffic backs up for a half mile.

Kids Digging In

The kids have started getting involved - especially Miranda who really is engaged here.  She has gone solo “cactusing” three times, taking a lunch, water and her cactus ID guide to some of the trails in the park.  She’s attended a number of the programs, getting to know the resident Ranger and other camp-hosts who put those on.

She and Harrison have helped setup chairs and tables for presentations and then taken those down and swept floors afterwards. So far we’ve gotten some great feedback from the park about the kids engagement here and we can see they are enjoying a sense of responsibility in doing so.

Finding Balance

I’ve been trying to finish up come client work and arrange my projects such that I’ll have the time between the holidays off from those duties. It’d be nice to get a break from the online world and just be a park host for a little while.

So it has been a busy week - but yet we’re still feeling like we are waiting to get fully plugged in.  It’ll probably all settle out just in time for us to pull up legs and get rolling again….

 

The 'ES' (Entry Station if you aren't on-board)

The 'ES' (Entry Station if you aren't on-board)

The relatively new nature center

The relatively new nature center

Here's our drive.

Here's our drive.

Our spot by the Archery Range

Our spot by the Archery Range

Pass Mountain in the background

Pass Mountain in the background

Colorful quills

Colorful quills

The view from our door

The view from our door

One perk - a place to wash vehicles

One perk - a place to wash vehicles

A clean truck!

A clean truck!

A sheriff's toy...but I know where they keep the keys..

A sheriff's toy...but I know where they keep the keys..

Sunset at Usery Mountain

Sunset at Usery Mountain

Just can't get enough of them

Just can't get enough of them

Another sunset. They are like crack.

Another sunset. They are like crack.

Or Jays potato chips...

Or Jays potato chips...

Everything has a barb

Everything has a barb

Data starting at the ground floor in the Nature Center

Data starting at the ground floor in the Nature Center

The largest sign of this kind in the USA, as tall as Empire, took scouts 5 years to make

The largest sign of this kind in the USA, as tall as Empire, took scouts 5 years to make

A typical desert scene in this area

A typical desert scene in this area

A view of our friend's spot at the other end of the park

A view of our friend's spot at the other end of the park

Yes, more crack

Yes, more crack

9 Comments Camp Hosting at Usery Mountain Regional Park

  1. Picture of Storybird Storybird November 20, 2012

    Yeah, it is really fun here. I’ve been exercising a ton more than I usually have been. I want to be fit or mostly fit by the time we leave this park. The time here is going to fly by way to fast. I just want to stay here forever.

  2. Picture of Bryan Bryan December 12, 2012

    Hi Boyink,

    Sorry to bug with an ee question. I’ve really enjoyed your book, but I’m wondering about implementation of the photo gallery (such as you have here). You mention in the book that you use Matrix and a jQuery photo gallery. Can you point me to any tutorial or link on how to get this gallery going? You’ve achieved such a clean implementation.

    Thanks. Your trip looks like a great adventure. Good on ya!

  3. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink December 12, 2012

    Here are some example templates:

    http://www.train-ee.com/courseware/free-tutorials/comments/boyinks4adventure-the-rv

    EE1 yet but mostly the same.

  4. Picture of Bryan Bryan December 12, 2012

    Thanks, Boyink! I really appreciate all of the work you do!

  5. Picture of Jen C Jen C January 21, 2013

    Wow, so excited to have found your site. We spent Oct and Dec in Arizona. My major issue has been finding reliable internet for work. In Sedona we lucked out finding a site with 3G but in other places it as been tough.  Are you able to get 4 bar 3G here? Do you have a post on what you use for connectivity? Also, I have to upload/download large files a lot and I use up 2 or 3G a month pretty fast. Would love any tips or ideas you have.

  6. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink January 21, 2013

    Hi Jen -

    Thanks for the comment - glad you found us as well.

    Usery Mountain is a great place if you have Verizon as there is a tower right in the park (disguised as a Saguaro cactus - so it’s been dubbed the “cellaro cactus”..;)

    I do get solid 5 bars of 3G here.

    Our internet setup is detailed here - but I’ve been eyeing the 4G hotspot deal now as it’s felt like the 3G aircard has been slowing down overall in places previous to this.

  7. Picture of Patty Patty November 26, 2015

    Enjoying your site!  We loved staying at Usery- we rarely pay for campgrounds but that one was worth it.  They used to make people line up to grab spots as they opened up, as I recall,  but have changed over to reserving in advance.  That may keep us from popping in much during the busier season since we don’t plan well.  haha

  8. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink November 26, 2015

    Thanks Patty. We were there the year they switched that over. Many folks liked the first come first serve.  When we worked the entry station we almost thought it would easier to manage not using reservations too - the reservation software wasn’t great and dealing cancellations/moves was a pain.  Probably about a wash either way.

  9. Picture of MoHobyDick MoHobyDick March 27, 2017

    Thank you for a detailed post. It helps readers/RVers who may be thinking of camp hosting at this beautiful county park. We have stayed there as paying guests and hope to return.

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