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.
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.
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.
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….