Thursday, April 28, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: X you are here!

You are here!
Here's a map of Sunset Bay State Park.  Can you find us?  We're the happy campers in B-4.

A to Z Challenge 2016: W is for Welcome

This month I've been writing about our experiences as camp hosts at Sunset Bay State Park in Oregon.  It's a beautiful wooded park with easy access to the beach, and just a short drive into Charleston Harbor for great fresh seafood if we get tired of cooking.  In a lot of ways being a park host is like being a Walmart Greeter, except we're not putting stickers on your bags as you enter the park.  I'd like to think that the intent of the Walmart Greeter is to help customers efficiently get to where they need to go.  But, since that doesn't happen, they're probably there to watch out for shoplifters.

In the parks, we help campers find a site they've reserved on-line, or find a site for walk-ins that is big enough for their giant, over-sized RV's.  Last night's entertainment was watching the wrecker pull a behemoth RV out of the mud after the owner tried to maneuver the beast into a tight site surrounded by a mud bog.  $250.00 dollars later the driver had learned the lesson emblazoned on the park signs, "Stay on the pavement."  This morning we took our shovels and rakes and filled in the giant ruts he had torn in the grass.

Our job is to help people enjoy the park.  After a month, we have a wealth of local knowledge and freely share our recommendations for the best place to watch the sea lions, where to buy propane, or the best local restaurant for breakfast.  We have met some fascinating people.  Al spent four days here waiting for a package he had ordered to arrive.  He was waiting for a flashlight!  Al is riding his bike to Costa Rica.  Yesterday we met a couple from Germany.  She spoke English well, and her husband just nodded his head and said, "Thank You!" a lot.  They had rented a mid-sized RV and were exploring the southern Oregon coast.  I'm still nervous about RVing in my own country; they're pretty brave to drive an RV on unfamiliar roads.

It is fun to work with people who are on vacation.  Everyone is carefree and happy.  (Well, except maybe for that guy in the mud bog.)  We're happy to welcome them to Oregon's beautiful state parks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: V is for Volunteering

This is our second year as a volunteer for the Oregon State Parks.  Last year I read about an opening for a lighthouse host on a blog, Wheeling It, written by a full-time RVer.  I contacted the park ranger she mentioned in the post and the lighthouse was no longer available, but he was looking for hosts for the Port Orford Lifeboat Museum....and so began our adventures as park hosts.

The Lifeboat Museum assignment required us to work four days a week from 10:30 to 3:30.  Our museum wasn't very busy and we rarely had over 20 guests a day.  We gave a little introduction to the museum and pointed out interesting exhibits.  We also staffed the "gift shop," which was a couple of shelves in the lobby of the museum.  

The museum had an old WWII era dogtag maker and we made and sold dogtags for guests.  It was the spouses favorite part of the job.

We both loved the beauty of the area and having the ability to walk a trail or stroll the beach every day.  It was a peaceful and inspiring break from our regular, ordinary life.
We are heading back to Port Orford next week.  Now, we are camp hosting at Sunset Bay State Park.  Camp hosting is a different type of volunteer experience.  We have daily responsibilities and are on duty five days a week for four hours a day, but those four hours don't start and end on any regular schedule.  I think our job is to help campers have the best possible experience in our state parks.  We're here to help keep the park tidy, offer assistance, and sell firewood.  Everyone is on vacation.  People on vacation are in a good mood.  It's great to help people have a good time.

Ever think about volunteering?  There are a lot of opportunities available.  You can check out volunteer opportunities in Oregon at the Oregon State Parks website here.  There is also a link on that page to the application.  We've met lots of other volunteers who do this full-time.  There are openings with federal parks, Corp of Engineers, and many others.  Some even pay a salary...but I'm sure you have to work a lot harder than we do to get paid!  Think about it; volunteering is a way to give back to our parks systems and protect this resource for the future.

A to Z Challenge 2016: U is for Unexpected Benefits

Unexpected Benefits

Our month at Sunset Bay State Park ends this week.  We have enjoyed our time here and hope we will be invited back.  After volunteering last year at Port Orford's Lifeboat Museum, we happily learned to live with less and coexist in a small space.  We worked together and lived together.  It was a lot of togetherness!  We learned to take time alone and the benefits of silence.

Our experience at Sunset Bay has been much the same, and we've learned some new lessons.  The spouse was worried about being away from home for two months.  We brought my car in addition to the pickup that pulls the trailer, just in case he needed to return home for something.  Perhaps just having the option to "run home" (an 8-hour trip) eased his mind.  He recently said, "I thought I would need to go home to check on things, but now that I'm here, I don't need to."  This morning he's off collecting shrimp for fish bait and having some alone time.  I enjoy having Stanley (our trailer) to myself.  It's a lot easier to tidy up without having to climb over the spouse.

We spend time outdoors, mostly sitting in our campsite reading.  Although, we both are walking more and riding our bikes.  We've learned that we need more than reading to pass our time camping.  Most of the other hosts have taken up hobbies that are travel-friendly.  Our new friends, Chuck and Jane, can be seen almost every day sitting at the table in front of their trailer working on their projects.  Chuck whittles wood he finds around the camp and Jane makes rag rugs and placemats on a small loom.  Before we leave she's going to give me a lesson.  I made a quick run into North Bend to visit the craft store and picked up a few supplies to get me started on my artistic endeavors.  I'm not sharing yet.  So far I've made prototypes...the nice way of saying I'm still experimenting.  If you are the recipient of one of my new masterpieces, just smile and say "Thank you!"  You can laugh later and I'll join in when I get over my fear of trying new things!

Have a great day.  It is good to be retired!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: S and T are for Stop Thief!

I'm catching up by posting two letters.  S and T are for Stop Thief!  One of our responsibilities in our camp hosting gig at Sunset Bay State Park is to sell firewood.  On the weekends when there are more campers here, we load the electric cart with wood and drive around the campground like an ice cream truck and sell wood.  During the week, we have a cart with wood parked at the entrance to our site. We make a surprising amount of money for the park selling wood.  People are honest.  Most campers knock on the trailer door if we're not outside, but some have just taken wood and left the money stuffed in the cart or our front door.  One time we found a twenty dollar bill under the windshield wiper of our car.  

Last week we had beautiful weather and the park was full.  We sold a lot of wood from the cart in our driveway.  Once the sun went down it turned cold and business picked up.  One guy stopped by and confessed that he had bought wood in town.  He tried numerous times to get a fire started, but it just smoked and never caught fire.  The wood was too wet.  He asked if the spouse would trade his bundles for two of the park's dry bundles. The spouse gave the guy some dry wood and he was so grateful he said he would be a hero to his family when he got a fire going.  The spouse stacked the bundles of wet wood next to the cart and said he'd put it in the woodshed to dry out in the morning.  We covered the wood in the cart with a tarp and closed up shop for the night.

In the morning, the spouse took the tarp off the cart and all the wood was gone.  In its place was a twenty dollar bill for the four bundles of wood.  The spouse looked next to the cart and saw that the wet wood bundles were also gone.  That customer did not leave ten dollars to pay for the wood.  That's karma.  If you steal wood you get wood that won't burn.  Serves him right!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: Q is for Quiet

We have been enjoying the laid back lifestyle at the beach.  It is peaceful and quiet here, and other than our "work" duties, there is little that has to be done.  This time of year it is mainly retired people camping.  There haven't been any rowdy groups to break the calm tempo of life here.

Today we ventured into new territory.  Along with a fellow park volunteer,  we kayaked 4.5 miles from the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve to the Charleston Bridge.  Until we rounded Valino Island and could see the Charleston Bridge, we didn't see another human.  It was a lovely break from civilization. The only sounds were the geese taking flight and the thwap, thwap, thwap of our paddles against the water. 

I was surprised that we covered that many miles so quickly.  I hadn't even stopped to eat the snack I had packed!

I took a selfie, just to prove I really am a kayaker, but I don't look especially peaceful and relaxed in this shot!

Here's a shot of the spouse and our friend, Julie, exploring near the shoreline.

What a great day of peace, quiet, and good company!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A to Z Challenge 2016: P is for Pacific Coast

The spouse and I are spending April and May on the beautiful Pacific Coast of Oregon.  We are volunteering for Oregon  Parks and Recreation Department.  Oregon is blessed to have beautiful state parks and, thanks to the "Beach Bill" passed by the legislature in 1967, the public has "free and uninterrupted use of the beaches."

Most people know that the Pacific Crest Trail, made famous in the 2014 movie "Wild" with Reese Witherspoon, runs through Oregon. Did you know that Oregon also has the Oregon Coast Trail that runs 382 miles along the Pacific Coast in Oregon.

Yesterday I walked a section of the trail.  Here's the rest of the story:

While the spouse and I are at the coast, we've had our mail forwarded to the park. When we get around to it, we drive up to the ranger station to pick it up.  Yesterday I decided to walk.

I asked the spouse, "Is there a trail that leads up to the ranger station?"  He says, "Yeah, just go down by the hiker/biker camp and you'll see the trail.  It goes right to the ranger station."

I head off for a 15 minute hike and find the hiker/biker camp easily.

I cross the little bridge over a boggy area,

and start up the trail.  

The trail is heading up the hill and I chug along easily following the well-groomed trail.  A few minutes later I can no longer see the camp or hear cars from the highway.  I am alone in the forest.

Twenty minutes later I am wondering why I can't see the ranger station.  Ten minutes after that I realize that I am exactly like those dumb people you read about in the newspaper who get lost in the wilderness.  I have no cell phone, I'm dressed in short sleeves and slip-on shoes, and I have no snacks or water.  I am alone in the forest.  I keep walking.

The trail gets harder to see.  A few times I had to make a decision about which path was the main trail.  I can't hear or see any sign of civilization.  The forest is beautiful...except for the spider webs strung across the trail.  I begin to wonder if I'm going to have to eat grubs and worms to stay alive.  I keep walking.  This trail has to eventually get somewhere.  After walking about an hour I can hear cars in the distance and finally the trail breaks out onto the highway.  I have no idea where I am on the highway; there are no signs, but I turn left and keep the ocean on my right.  After a short walk, I begin to recognize some of the all looks different when you're whizzing by in a car!

The ranger station is about a half a mile back from where I exited the Oregon Coast Trail.  I picked up the mail and asked the ranger if there was a trail to the campground.  

"No" she says.  "There's no trail up from the campground to here, but the Oregon Coast Trail goes to Bastendorf Campground."

When I got back to our campsite, I told the spouse that I was taking a nap for the rest of the day and I would NEVER trust his directions again!

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