Saturday, September 10, 2016

Unexpected Things I've Learned this Summer

Glacier Peak and Mount David (to the left) at the beginning of the summer.

This summer has been quite memorable.  I have learned a lot about things I never considered to learn about.  I thought as an end to my summer adventure, I'd share a few of these "learning experiences".

  • Having stood outside from 3:00 a.m. till 8:30 a.m. for almost a week straight, I discovered that it is actually coldest about an hour after sunrise.  You'd think it would start to warm up once the sun came up but it doesn't.  Of course I had to find out if this were actually true and not just me being a wuss.  I looked it up and turns out it's true!  Well, barring any other weather fronts or happenings.

  • People define "camping" in very different ways.  Some bring their entire household - INCLUDING the kitchen sink - setting up entire "rooms" in their campsite.  While others bring a tent and a meal that has to be cooked but no pot or stove to cook with.  (Yes, I actually cooked the guys dinner for him).  

  • I found that I like to keep a few spiders in the restrooms.  They help keep out the Riffraff insects.

  • Unfortunately I found out that you can kill your brand new, very expensive, Lifeline battery in just a couple of months using only about 3 - 5 amp hours a day and recharging once a week (or so I thought I was).  I have re-branded my battery "Flatline".

  • Some men would choose to risk flipping over their very expensive pick-up truck backing up their boat trailer than to listen to someone else / a woman? give them suggestions on how to do it easier.  I had a guy who came to fish for the first 4-5 days of Sockeye season and every morning he put his truck up on the hillside, but on the 4th day I swore he was going to flip his truck over when he ran it up about 6 feet onto the hillside!  His back tire was at least 2 1/2 feet off the ground.  He wouldn't listen to me on how to line it up before backing.  I just shook my head and prayed we wouldn't need the emergency crew out there again.

  • Feeding bats is great fun!  Stand out in a fairly open area where bats are flying around, turn on your flashlight and point it up and out from you a little bit.  The insects will be attracted to the light and the bats will swoop in and feed.  They will come really close to you too.  VERY FUN!

  • In general, most men say they aren't cat people.  I have discovered why - the secret they've been trying to hide for generations.  Men are actually descended from cats.  I know this because cats like to pee just outside the litterbox and in the corners, and so do men & little boys.  I have proof, pretty much every day cleaning the restrooms.  Yep, secrets out guys.  Sorry.  (In all fairness, I know sometimes it could have been women who like to hover and little girls who are afraid they will fall into the toilet if they sit back all the way - but mostly it was the guys).

  • Do NOT wear a headlamp when cleaning vault toilets at night.  Just trust me on this one.

Glacier Peak and Mount David just a few days ago.
Quite a dramatic difference!

Well, I am officially done with my job as of this past Wednesday.  Thursday I did my normal first day off routine - showered (so desperately needed, I was 4 days overripe!), laundry, grocery shopping and other errands including 2 new tires for Grania - now she has 4 new "shoes".  I think she is happy.  Now if only I could afford some new shoes for myself!  Friday I cleaned out Zelda and Grania and got all but a few last minute things packed up and ready to go.  I decided to stay an extra day to do some exploring of the area that I never got to do all summer.  So that's what I just finished doing today.  I am SO glad I chose to do this - don't ever let something you really want to do pass you by.  I had a great day hiking and exploring and watching the salmon heading to their seedy motels - and even watched them getting it on too!  ;0)  (Pictures and videos will be posted soon).  I will pull out tomorrow and start my journey to the ocean - just like a young salmon.  What adventures await me there?  Can't wait to find out.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sockeye Saga Madness

Ah, I've been trying to get to this post for so long!

The bane of my summer! Sockeye Season.


Well, let me start at the beginning.

I knew this hosting job would include the dreaded Sockeye fishing season. I was pre-warned. I just had no idea what to expect. Some of it turned out to be not as bad as I feared and some worse. I guess that is pretty typical of any new experience one embarks on. I will say that my stress level leading up to it was beyond healthy. First off, they opened the season early - typically it opens early August, but this year it opened mid July. Fisher people started pouring into the campground the Sunday before and I was PACKED for 3 weeks straight and still mostly packed for another week and a half. Now that is just those who were camping! This doesn't include all the day users coming in with their trucks and boats at all hours of the day and night. Insanely crazy was an understatement.

Unfortunately the kick-off to the season was NOT good. As if my stress level wasn't already maxed out, I returned from my second day off that first week, on the eve of the season opening in the foulest mood ever. I had only been back maybe an hour when I heard someone yelling for help. Everyone stopped to see if it was a real call for help or just someone playing around, but as the yelling got more hysterical we knew. The campers who were camped by my campsite all went running as I grabbed my phone and truck keys. I got over to the campsite where the incident was happening to find that someone had what was most likely a heart attack. One of the campers already had 911 on the phone so I drove to the other end of the campground (where I can sometimes get a cell signal) to try to call my boss to let them know what was happening then drove back to tell the people that I would meet the emergency vehicles up the road and bring them down. By the time the first wave of paramedics and I had returned to the scene, they had the guy on the ground and were giving CPR -the paramedics took over and I went to direct traffic (remember, it is the eve of Sockeye season opening and we have trucks with boats pouring in!). I think we ended up with 4 ambulances, 1 fire emergency truck and 1 big fire truck filling the small area of the campground. They did lifeflight the man out, but unfortunately he didn't survive. Kind of put me in my place as to whining about my stress level. He had been fishing here for years and it was one of his favorite places. I only hope I'm that fortunate when it is my time to go - quickly and in one of my favorite places.

So that was the kick-off to Sockeye season.

Then that night I had to be up and out working at 3 a.m., directing traffic and collecting fees. This went on for the next 5 nights. I tried to enlist the help of others by offering a 3:30 a.m. breakfast potluck, but no one ever came. I just don't understand why not. EVERYONE loves a Potluck! Of course I still had all my daytime campground work to do as well, making my days 12+ hours long sometimes. Not fun. And it was still COLD and windy too. The campground is small and there is very little parking for those camping let alone a bunch of trucks and boat trailers. Like I said before, it was insanely crazy. That first morning reminded me of that scene from "Jaws" just after that little boy went missing and everyone was swarming the marina to get out there to catch the shark! Yep, that was pretty much the scene at my campground and boat launch – just minus the shark.

Boats out fishing the first morning.  This is only a tiny view of the whole 5 mile long lake!
During those early morning hours I had fun with some of the fishermen that came regularly. I told one guy he had a cute boat. Another fisherman heard me and said "Don't tell a man his boat is 'Cute'!". I said "but it IS cute. It's not sleek or speedy or fancy, it's short and squatty and therefore 'cute'!". There were several fishermen that came with the same "cute" boats - they were actually made for river fishing. I also gave them hell for complaining about the wind. How hard could it be? They were using motors, not paddling. Plus THEY got to be out on a gorgeous lake, with a beautiful view all around. Besides it wasn’t like they were really fishing. They didn't even hold their fishing poles! That's not fishing! Besides, the fish deserve a fighting chance too. I have to say that I was initially happy to hear for the fishes' sake that the fishermen often lost more than they caught, but now that the season has gone on forever, I am telling them they need to do better in getting those 37,000 fish caught so the madness will end! 

I was talking to one of my camper fishermen one night before the season opened and he was explaining that Sockeye come back to the lake where they initially started out, and will hang out there for about a month before heading up into the rivers and streams where they will spawn and die. I found this very interesting – that they hung out in a lake first. Of course not having internet where I am, I hadn't been able to check out the lifecycle of Sockeye Salmon. I asked him if it was the Sockeye that had the gnarly mouths and humps; he said the males do once they get up into the rivers to spawn. After he explained all this, I thought for a few moments then said: "Oh, I get it! The lake is like the bar, where all the salmon hang out, the boys checking out the girls, the girls checking out the boys, buying drinks for each other, getting drunk, dancing, and singing bad karaoke. Then the rivers are like the seedy motels and the backseats of cars where they get it on! Then like going home drunk with a stranger, you sometimes wake up and get a good look at what you just slept with!! Aacckkkk! Then you die." - of embarrassment in the human world, or for real in the salmon world. He laughed and said, “Yep, that was pretty much it! You nailed it!” So there you have it folks – Jordan’s Sockeye Salmon mating analogy.

Sockeye Salmon when it enters the lake

Male Sockeye ready to "get it on" up river!

I think it was on the 4th morning of 12 + hour days, that was the coldest morning of all and besides falling asleep standing up, I was so cold I couldn’t hold the pen any longer to write down license plates. When I left the boat launch area to go back to my trailer to get some breakfast, I decided to go sit in my car and turn on the heat and try to get warm. Of course this brought about a slight problem – warming up makes you more tired! I turned the car off and I set my alarm on my phone for 20 minutes so I could try to catch a quick nap. Next thing I know someone is knocking on my window. I bolt awake to find the sheriff standing there – a very young, handsome, hottie sheriff too! It took me a few moments to figure out where I was and what was going on. Turned out he had come out to evict a problem camper I had and was letting me know how that went. I was so embarrassed! I already looked like crap being the end of a long week of work, dirty and probably stinky, then being caught sleeping in my car by the sheriff – probably snoring loudly with my mouth hanging open drooling! And not just any sheriff, but a handsome, young hottie sheriff! Humiliation just follows me everywhere, like bad weather. Think I’d be used to both by now.

I have missed having my furbabies with me, but know that I can’t care for any right now between lack of space and money. As much as I want to get one, I know that wouldn’t be fair to whatever I would take in. I have said that when the time is right, the right critter will find me. Well, I need to learn to be more specific. A little side story to explain. Many years ago while working at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I went to a class they were offering on using visualization to get what you want. It was very interesting and convincing. I decided to try it out. I lived in a very tiny guest house at the time and needed a small table to sit at. I had the type of table I wanted in mind, but couldn’t find anything like it. One day, after really trying to visualize the table, I was driving by a house having a garage sale and as I went past noticed a table inside that looked very similar to what I wanted, so I stopped. I asked if the table were for sale – it was just what I had been looking for - and the guy said no, but he’d ask his wife. I told him I probably couldn’t pay them what they’d want for it, only $30. He said he’d ask anyway. He came back out and told me she said that was fine, but they couldn’t sell the chairs with it because they used them. I gave him the $30 and took the table, laughing to myself the whole way home – I forgot to visualize the CHAIRS with the table! Just assumed they would come with it. Since then, it has become this joke with me – I always seem to forget to visualize the WHOLE picture – or be specific with what it is that I want. Inevitably, something is always missing or not exactly what I pictured. So it was with the whole pet thing. One day in the middle of Sockeye Madness, a young girl came to my campsite with a box saying that another camper told her to bring it to me. Inside was a seagull with a broken wing. I looked at it and knew I couldn’t do anything with the wing without causing more damage so told her how to care for it until the next day and I would try to find a place that could take it and either rehab it or euthanize it. I made some contacts and eventually found someone who would take it to a vet to be euthanized since the regional rehabber couldn’t take it. Yeah, I know, it’s a gull – a sea rat. But it’s still a living thing and hurting and scared – it deserves to be treated with love and respect in my opinion. The girl returned not too much later saying her dad wouldn’t let her keep in their HUGE motorhome. So I got to keep it in my tiny teardrop that night. Probably better for the gull’s sake anyway. Of course I found myself laughing again - not being amused by the cosmos’s sense of humor in my lack of specifying things again. Will I EVER learn!? Doubt it.

Two Sundays ago we had another emergency out here, though this one had a happy ending thank goodness! A teenage girl had taken her sailboat out that morning and the wind picked up good with some pretty wicked gusts. One of the gusts caught her just right and capsized her boat. She was fine, just wet and very cold from being in this glacial fed lake. One of the emergency crew people who came down happened to be one that was here for the first emergency at the opening of Sockeye Season and had also been one of my regular fishermen those first 2 weeks. The last time I saw him I had told him if I saw him again it better NOT be for another emergency - and here it was, for an emergency. I then asked him if this signaled the end of Sockeye Season since the previous emergency kicked it off, but regrettably, he and another co-worker said no, it was never going to end. I had a feeling they were going to say that. The girl was fine, the salmon, not so much.

After all the insanity of the past 1 ½ months and promises of a salmon, I never did get one to try. Kinda bummed about that. I didn’t need a whole fish, but would have really like to have tried a fresh one on the grill. I was given lots of promises for some, but no one ever delivered on them. Oh well, I like to think the one I would have eaten is still out there in the lake, rather pickled by now from drinking for over a month, still singing really bad karaoke, and getting ready to get it on with the ladies up in the rivers soon! Better he’s out there to spread his seed than in my stomach. I hope that his offspring have great adventures and all return to have a go at it themselves in several years. I’m planning to head up to their “seedy motels” (rivers) to see them doing their thing before I leave. Hope they give me a good show!

This was my "Sad Sockeye" someone left by the boat launch.

For more information about these amazing fish, click here: Sockeye Salmon

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

As My Summer Turns

Snippets from my summer on a mountain lake.

As stressful as it has been at times, there have also been some memorable and fun times too.

River into town

I've had some long time friends come visit me this summer.  First some friends from Chattanooga came up and camped with me one weekend.  (No, they didn't drive all the way from Chattanooga to see me, I'm not worth THAT long of a trip! - They live in Seattle now).  I hadn't seen them in probably 4 1/2 years?  Their daughter has grown up so much and they all are a blast to hang out with.  Such a fun weekend, I only wish I didn't have to work so I could have spent more time with them catching up.

Another friend I met when I lived in Seattle way back in 1988 also came up to visit.  She stayed at a hotel in town so I got to see what the local accommodations were like.  We had a lovely dinner in town and walked around a little bit, but she really wanted to see the campground where I worked.  So, she followed me all the way out there after dinner and was quite taken (as in taken aback!) with the remoteness and primitiveness of my campground.  Actually it's not THAT primitive or remote, but it does feel like it the first time you visit.  I really enjoyed having her come up to visit & have someone to try out one of the restaurants with!  It was wonderful seeing all of these friends again and I am so grateful that they drove all the way from Seattle to see me (and so I didn't have to drive into Seattle myself!).  I'd love to see the city again, maybe I could drive there at 3 a.m. or take a bus in from the outskirts.  I don't do big city driving.  Scares the crap out of me!

My very first Teardrop Friend made this for me and Zelda!  She built her own amazing teardrop, Celeste, and invited me to stop and meet her and Celeste on my way to meet Zelda 3 years ago!  She is obviously a woman of many, many talents! 

I've also made some new friends here - campers that have come to my campground.  So many interesting people.  I actually met some folks from a town almost next door to the town I grew up in Ohio!  Small world.  As an added bonus to meeting awesome people are the goodies you sometimes score!  One night I was given a piece of someone's birthday cake from one campsite and 2 huge pieces of homemade banana bread from another.  A week later I was given a big bag of Rainier Cherries and more recently some Dungeness Crab legs!  Yes, life is very good, and yummy too!  I have also received some lovely notes and one camper even left me this adorable Cherry dishtowel for my cute teardrop.

Gus, my loyal work buddy, was feeling quite under the weather a while ago.  I was really worried about him - he isn't a spring chicken anymore, pushing 25 years!  Well, let's just say that you could hear us a comin' from far away and he'd cough and hack if I left him idling.  The day I had to drop him off to go to the Car Hospital, I needed ear plugs while riding in him!  I was afraid he wouldn't come back.  Well, 3 days later he came back  - a "new" truck!  He left a decrepit, sickly old truck and returned a tuned up, buff, young hottie of a truck!  Oh Baby!  Let the good times roll!

My Rooftop Garden!  Egon gave me this tomato plant when I stopped back in May.  It was only about 3 inches tall then.  
Now look at it!
I even have some tiny tomatoes!

I had mentioned in a previous post how frustrating it is dealing with some of the campers I get here.  A while ago I came up with an idea to keep those who leave home without their common sense (if they had it to begin with) out of the campground.  If you have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail (one of my all time favorite movies), you'll remember the scene where they have to answer 3 questions to cross over the Bridge of Death.  Well, I wanted to start the same thing at my campground.  Campers would have to answer 5 questions correctly before being allowed to camp there.  1) What do "Quiet Hours" mean?  2) How big can wood / logs be for a campfire?  3) What is the appropriate way of disposing of your trash?  4) How do you properly extinguish a campfire?  5) Are pets allowed off leash in a public campground?  If they miss even 1 question they are then catapulted to the opposite side of the mountains from where they came (seems easterners and westerners don't think too highly of each other out here).  That ought to teach them they shouldn't be camping without knowing proper camping etiquette.
Snow in July on Steven's Pass

Ice is Damn expensive here!  Not using much gas running around, but I'm making up for that cost in ice for my cooler!  It's $2.75 - $3.00 for a 10 lbs. bag.  I've lost track of how many bags I've had to buy already.  At least 2 per week and that is leaving my food in just cold water for a day or 2 sometimes.

Wildlife is sometimes abundant here.  Lots of "killer ground squirrels" (Golden mantled ground squirrels to be be precise) that will kill your food if you leave it out.

I had a gorgeous pair of Western Tanagers that frequented my campsite when I first moved out along with some hummingbirds.  I know at least one of the hummers was a female Rufous Hummingbird, and quite possibly both were.  I often hear Swainson's Thrushes, which are special to me.  When I lived in Oregon years ago I volunteered at an animal rehab facility and got to raise 3 Swainson's Thrushes (Larry, Curly and Moe), so hearing them again has been a treat.  There is at least 1 Bald Eagle and 1 Osprey that fish off the campground.  A couple of my campers watched the Bald Eagle swoop down and pluck a duck off the lake and take it to a tree to eat.  They said they had feather raining down from the feast.  And just the other night I watched probably the same one catch a fish and take it up into the trees to eat.  One calm, quiet morning a few weeks ago, I got to watch the Osprey fishing and be rewarded with a fish breakfast.  Those are the moments I savor and long for more of.
She was in my campsite & really was this close to me!  

There are also several deer that visit the campground on their way to the lake.  They came very close to people and weren't too skittish, but now they have made themselves scarce due to the campground being overrun with all the fisherpeople there for Sockeye season.  I really miss seeing them.

I met another toad friend on my way to the restroom other night.  I keep meeting giant toads, at night, on my way to the toilet - wonder what that means?  I haven't seen a bear or cougar yet - both are my summer wish, but I did see a T-Rex in one of the campsites.  Yep, I sure did!  I had to do a quadruple take in Gus's mirrors, but there it was in site 19!  You never know what you might encounter in the wild.  Not to worry, as much as I wanted to feed a few campers to Ms. T-Rex, I refrained.  Wishing I hadn't now.

One weekend I actually had neighbor campers steal stuff from my campsite!  I had collected these really cool wood pieces from a tree that had to be cut down.  I had them for 2 reasons - 1) they were really neat looking with crystallized sap running through the ring sections and 2) I didn't want anyone trying to burn them in the firepits because of the sap and their size.  Well, the guy decided he should have them because they were too nice to burn!  Some other neighbors had watched him take them and load them into his truck and after I asked around about them, that neighbor went over and confronted the man.  He returned 1 piece, but not all of them until I told him to the next day - which now consisted of 3 pieces because he broke one.  I was stunned at his arrogant disregard for other people's property.

I was getting frustrated one day with how some people left their campsites and was shaking out my rubber glove to put back on (I just turn them inside out and then put back on as I go from one restroom to the other).  This was the response I got.  Rather appropriate for how I was feeling that day.
The wisdom of the Glove!

One thing I have done better with is hard-boiling eggs.  One of my campers gave me another tip to try for "perfectly cooked eggs" - add them to already boiling water.  Well, I can't say they ALWAYS come out perfectly, but I have had the best luck with this suggestion so far.  The one problem I have is the first egg or two I try to carefully drop in the water inevitably crack.  Usually it isn't a big deal, but I did get the coolest mutant egg ever from one batch!  I couldn't have made this if I tried!  LOVED IT!
Mutant Egg Extraordinaire!

Well, I need to get this posted so I can start working on the next post which I have been wanting to get to for so long!  I am so far behind in these posts, but here is something current.  This summer has been very cold to cool so we have been fortunate to not have so many fires as there were last year.  But there is one about 20 miles north of me right now.  Last week was the first time I saw evidence of it.  On Thursday I noticed some reddish-brownish "clouds", then Friday and Saturday it was very hazy with the smoke.  The winds changed direction on Sunday so it has cleared the air around the lake again which is very nice.  Hopefully it will stay that way and the fire will burn out soon.

Smokey haze from fire north of me.
I know there are so many other things I had wanted to share but have forgotten now.  I only have 2 more weeks left then I'll be free to roam again.  First stop is the Pacific Ocean!!!  I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to see it again.  When I got Zelda I promised her a trip down the Pacific coast and this year for my birthday I promised myself as a birthday present.  I can't afford to do the entire trip I wanted to do with campgrounds so expensive and not many boondocking options along the coast, but I'm going to do the Oregon coast into very northern California.  Have a few places already picked out that I plan to stop as well as hitting some of my old stomping grounds.  I hope this will be not only a fun trip but also a healing one for me.  The ocean is my soul's home.

Some parting shots of tree bark.  Yep, you heard me correctly, tree bark.  But just LOOK at these different kinds of tree bark!  They are amazing!

Yeah, I know - doesn't take much to get me excited does it.

Hey, it's been a looong summer!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Truth Uncovered?

It has been a very chilly summer at my campground - mostly because I'm on the south side of the lake and the winds usually come from the Northwest - right off the snow and glacier capped mountains and across the cold lake water and smack right into us.  The winds can get very strong and last all day, keeping things much chillier there than inland a few miles.  I have had recent days where I have been so cold in the early morning that I've had to get in my car with the heat on just to warm up to functioning abilities.  Now, all of a sudden yesterday and today it is like 90 some degrees!  What the Heck!?!?  Where did the mid 70's - low 80's go?  I was VERY specific when addressing the Weather Goddess on what was acceptable warmer temperatures (never even mentioned the word "Hot" in my description).

Some of my friends have asked what I've done to make the Weather Goddess hate me so. Best I can guess is that sometime in a past life I was a virgin sacrifice gone bad. Had hot, lusty sex the night before with all the priests so actually wasn't a virgin when pushed into the volcano's lava spewing cone - so now the Weather Goddess is getting even.  

Long Overdue!

This whole no cell phone / internet really sucks.  I have had so many posts I have wanted to write but can never seem to get to the library to write and post them.  I have a kick-ass solar system now so that I can recharge my computer, but very little sun where I am to keep the battery charged up.  I have enough gigs of data to post with, but can't use them (but I still get to pay for them!).  I have lots of stories to share, but little time to write them.  So much for my dreams of a relaxing summer of exploring and working on projects.  But other interesting things have happened to keep life stirred up and interesting.

Part of my campsite with a vault toilet in the background

[I'm going to intersperse pictures of my campground throughout this post.  My family and friends have been asking what the campground looks like.  Most of the campsites are tent sites along the lake shore that you have to hike down to from the road.  You park up top along the edge of the road.  I can't believe the amount of stuff people haul up and down the rather steep paths to set up their campsites!  Yes, some even bring the kitchen sink!  I just don't get it - this is supposed to be primitive camping folks!]

Work.  Well, it, like many jobs has its positives and negatives.  First, what my job actually entails.  I live in the campground that I manage.  I work 5 days a week and usually get 2 consecutive days off (Monday and Tuesday).  I am paid for working 6 hours a day, but I actually end up putting in more like 8 hours or more some days and at least 1 hour on each of my days off (money collection, toilet paper restocking, checking in with people and if I'm there, then dealing with things as needed).  My daily routine consists of:

1)  Morning rounds of restroom cleaning.  Wiping down the vault toilets and scrubbing the inside "tube" as necessary, refilling toilet paper, sweeping, mopping the floor (I swear men and little boys who go camping have worse aim the George W. Bush!  What gives guys???  Big hole, close range - how can you miss?  Please enlighten me!), and spraying what I unaffectionately call "stinky stuff" - cinnamon air freshener - YUCK!   I have 5 vault toilets to clean and unless I have to scrub all the tubes, they don't take long to clean and are easy to do.  I really don't mind cleaning them.

2)  Campsite cleaning.  Picking up trash, scrubbing down picnic tables, putting out fires people have left burning (after explicitly being told to drown them with water before leaving!  GRRRR!!!) and once firepits are cold, shoveling out the ashes and old wood pieces.  Sometimes raking campsites if necessary.

3)  Collecting money.  My campground is a self-pay campground (you really see how many dishonest people there are out there!  Sad, just sad.).  There is the campsite fee, extra vehicle fee, day use and boat launch fee.  I have only been stiffed a few times on the campsite fee, but boy are people dishonorable about the other fees!  Mostly for the boat launch and day use fees.  I am astounded, but guess not overly surprised at the sense of entitlement people have anymore.  I have actually had people say that they are only launching a kayak or canoe so shouldn't have to pay the BOAT launch fee.  Last I looked, a kayak and canoe were both BOATS!  Not, trains, planes or garbage trucks (I am shaking my head in bewilderment here).  After I collect the fees from either the deposit box or having to hunt the people down, I then have a bunch of paperwork to do.  That can take 30 minutes on a slow day to over an hour on busy days, and even longer on report days.  It is challenging to do in Zelda with the lack of space, but we manage.

4)  Campground maintenance.  Brush trimming, weed wacking, log moving, minor repairs, sign posting, basic stuff like that.

5) Camper management.  I like to try to meet and greet all my campers.  Let's me know who is here and to let them know the campground rules and basic info, and that there is someone here should they need anything or have questions.  Kind of like checking into a hotel - Campground Concierge!  I also have to enforce the rules as best as I can.  Not always easy and not something I like doing.  Safe campfires, quiet hours, property damage done by un- or ill-supervised children (and sometimes adults), issues with other guests and one of the biggest problems, unleashed pets.  One or more of these I have to deal with on a daily basis it seems.  But I like to make my guests feel welcome, so I have a summer special going on: Unlimited Free Gifts with Purchase!  All the mosquitoes you can fit into your tent and car!!  But no one seems to appreciate this amazing offer!  Com'on people!  How often do you get UNLIMITED free gifts with purchase?  They make great gifts too!  Going to a BBQ and need to take a gift?  A box of mosquitoes!  Have one of those hard-to-shop-for people in your life?  I bet they have never been given a box of mosquitoes before!  And these are like Designer Mosquitoes!  (And everyone LOVES designer goods!).  You can't get them anywhere else but my campground!  I know, I know, I really do take good care of my guests.  I also deliver firewood to their campsites!

6)  Get supplies and firewood.  Cleaning supplies, special tools and firewood bundles are kept at my boss's campground (where I stayed when I first arrived), so I often have to drive there to restock my supplies and load Gus up with firewood to sell.  It's about 5-6 miles each way and not a fast drive.  I also usually try to catch up on phone calls and internet stuff while there, but don't have a lot of time to accomplish much.

So, that pretty much sums up my job description.  I enjoy most of it, the basic duties of the daily campground maintenance and meeting most of the campers.  However dealing with the problem campers and visitors and especially the ones who think they are entitled to do whatever they please, whether it bothers anyone else, endangers others, or is simply stealing by not paying has really brought on more stress than I need or feel up to handling.  I left the 9-5 job world to get away from this kind of stress and dread of getting up to face the next day.  It has taken a lot of joy out of this experience for me.  Granted, I have to take some responsibility for the stress, I take my job seriously and want to do a good job for my guests and help them as best as I can.  That can add to the hours I end up working each day and living there has me "on call" all the time.  I am not the kind of person who says "Sorry, I'm off the clock right now so I can't help you until I come back on at 4:00".  I had looked forward to working on some of my projects this summer, but I have not had any of my creative juices flowing at all - and that is NOT like me.  I usually can't turn them off.  I am at the point now of counting down the days till the job ends.  I don't like that.  I have had some great times and have met some wonderful people and made new friends, but the job has become a JOB, the kind I was trying to stay away from for my all around health and well-being.  So, would I camp host again?  I don't know.  I'm glad I tried it - always good to try new things.  But if I did it again, I'd have to be sure of a few changes first.  If I have to work a summer job again next year, I will try something different.

[For anyone considering camp hosting, please don't take my experience as the only one to look at.  Many people do it and love it!  Every person is different and handles things differently.  Every campground is different and every guest you get is different.  If I did it next year I'd have a totally different experience.  But for me, this year, this experience, it just hasn't been what I had hoped it would be and has been more stressful than I wanted and needed in my life right now.  I am responsible for some of that disappointment and some is totally out of my control.  One thing I would change is that if I was at a busy campground again, I'd prefer to host with someone else.  I haven't been afraid to be a single woman doing it, but sometimes it would have been nice to have had another person there to help at times.  It can get overwhelming trying to do everything all on your own with no support or back-up when it gets busy.]

I am not disclosing where I work until the job ends for privacy reasons.  If you recognize the place, please do not say where it is.  Thank you!

There often aren't great sunsets where I am, but when we do get one, it is pretty spectacular.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

My Summer Destination

Well, it's been a very busy 4 weeks.  I thought I'd have a few days to settle in and explore the area, but nope, I started working the very next day after I arrived and have been going full-tilt ever since.   But first let me catch you up on the last leg of my journey getting here.  Time warping back again about 4 1/2 weeks:

After leaving Baker City, OR area (I have to go back there and really check out the town, it looks like a very interesting place), I headed into SE Washington to the warmest place I could find at that time.  Colder, wetter weather was moving in for OR and WA.  Rain was pretty much going to be everywhere, so I wanted to be sure I was at least someplace warm while it was precipitating.  I headed to Windust, WA along the Snake River just below the Lower Monumental Dam for a couple of days of hanging out - once again without any cell service.  That's where I discovered the second flat tire I mentioned before.
Tug and barge going down the Snake River
After leaving Windust and holding my breath that the "Fix-a-Flat" and aired up tire would hold until I got to a sizeable town that had a place to look at it, I made it to Moses Lake where the wonderful guys a Les Schwab not only looked at it, but cleaned it out and plugged it for me and sent me on my way just before they closed for the day.  I was so grateful for their help.  From there I then headed towards Quincy, WA to camp for the night.  I found a great place called Quincy Lakes just north of George, Washington and south of Quincy.  It was a rough road at first going in, but once I got back in about 2 miles, it was great.  Kind of high desert meets wetlands.
Quincy Lakes
The next morning, not too long after passing through Quincy, the landscape changed drastically as I passed vineyards and green meadows as I approached and passed through Wenatchee, WA.  As I travel back and forth across this country, I find it absolutely amazing how quickly and dramatically the landscape can change.  Within less than an hour I went from sagebrush and desert-like landscape to this:
Eastern edge of the Cascade Range
It was gorgeous driving up into those mountains.  I kept wondering where in the midst of them I would be for the summer.  It was fun trying to guess.  Of course, I was way off on my estimates.  I had called my bosses from Wenatchee to let them know where I was and estimated time of arrival later that day and was to meet them at a point along the way so they could take me the last miles to their campground and get me settled in to my temporary campsite.  They took me for a drive out to my campground to show me where it was and what it looked like.  I always try hard not to imagine what something will be like before I get to see it or experience it, because it is almost never what you picture.  Sometimes you are disappointed and sometimes you are pleasantly surprised.  I like to shoot for the latter.  When we got to the campground, it was beautiful, but I was surprised by how steep it was.  It literally was on the edge of the mountain.  I knew it was along the lake shore, but hard as I tried not to imagine it, I did have it in my mind that it would be flatter and the paths down to the campsites were short and not too far or steep.  Well, some were that way, but most weren't.  It didn't detract from the beauty of the place, just something I had to readjust my mind to.  Now that I've been working out there for a while, I have gotten used to it and know which trails down I like to try and avoid!
View from my campground to the glacier and snow covered peaks across the lake.

Having had the BIG holiday camping weekend looming ahead of me the next week, I had lots of work to do to get my campground ready for the onslaught of campers.  Campsites to rake, tables to scrub, firepits to shovel out, toilets to clean, brush to cut back, plus learn how to do all the paperwork and money handling operations as well.  Lots to keep me very busy, but I got some helpers.
This is Gus.  My new BBF.
I love him because he is short like me and I can reach everything in his truck bed!
This is Cyndi.  (If you grew up in the 80's you'll get her name!)
Gus and Cyndi have been big helpers in accomplishing all my job duties.  Couldn't do what I do without them!  I love old beater trucks - they are so much fun.  Gus takes good care of me on my rough, pot-holey road and is happy to carry all my supplies and waits patiently for me to finish my tasks.  He grumbles sometimes, but he still carries on.

A week ago today, I finally got to move into my summer campsite.  YAY!!!  It is nice to finally be in my spot.  Of course, it was just in time for the busy weekend, so I haven't had the chance to get settled in yet.  And with the exception of 2 weekends ago, it has been pretty darn cold here.  Are you at all surprised to hear that?  I just don't know what I ever did to offend the Weather Goddess so much.  Being on the south side of a glacier and snow melt fed lake (read that as DAMN COLD water) with the wind coming down those same glacier and snow covered mountains, that cold wind comes across the cold water smack in to the campground.  I have been freezing my butt off again.  On the bright side, the wind and cold temps have helped keep the mosquitoes population down a bit.  Though they will be out in force again as soon as it warms up - and they are merciless.  I blew it on getting a screened house at a great price.  There was one on sale back in Ohio before I left, but I didn't get it because I didn't know if it would fit in my campsite and I was hesitant to spend the money before my trip, just in case I had problems along the way (like 2 flat tires!).  So now I know I will definitely need one and am on the hunt for one I can afford before the "blood-sucking air force" retaliates against the cold.

The scariest thing I have encountered so far.
I hate clowns of any kind.  They creep me out.
(Sorry to any of you who are clowns.  Nothing personal to you, just one of my phobias)

Aside from the wind and cold, the two downsides to my summer campsite is that I don't have sun in my campsite to charge up my solar system, and I don't have any internet and only very sporadic cell service.  Hopefully I will be getting some portable solar panels along with a booster and antennae soon to help with those issues.  Thus the huge delay in getting this post posted.  I tried to finish it at the other campground I was at, where I had good internet connectivity and sun exposure, but then I ran out of data.  So, I had to wait for that to reset and am now sitting in the local library again using their wifi and charging my computer.  Always something isn't it.

I am enjoying my job.  I like the physical activity of it, the good feeling of keeping my campground clean for my guests, assisting them with any of their needs, and meeting the people who come there (well, most of them).  But I really like Sundays, after most people leave and I can just focus on cleaning the campsites.  I get to enjoy the beauty around me and the quietness of nature at peace.  Very Zen-like.  Though I'm still waiting for a bear to visit!  That's my summer dream!

(I hope I will get internet at my campsite soon so I can keep up better with you all.  There are so many things I want to tell you about, but they slip away when so much time passes before I can get internet access to post it or get my battery recharged.  I will try to do better!!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Oh Boy, A Surprise!

Guess what i got yesterday?

Go ahead, guess!

You'll never guess.

I got myself a flat tire!  Yep ANOTHER one!  I seem to be collecting them.  This one had a tiny screw in it.  I'm sure I got it the same place as the nail.  Of course I discovered the problem while camped a good 45+ miles from any sizable town & out of range for cell service. Between the can of Fix-a-Flat I had & the very wonderful camp host where I was camped who had a small air compressor, I managed to get to a tire store. They patched this one & I'm hoping it will hold until I get my first paycheck so I can get 2 more new tires.  In the meantime, I picked up a few more cans of Fix-a-Flat & a bike pump!!!  

I think Grania just wants new shoes all around!  Oh, life sure knows how to keep things exciting!

Got to my summer job site today.  I can't get into my campground campsite yet.  The Forest Service has to clear out some hazardous dead trees first, so I'm staying in another campground & will just go out daily to attend to things.  So nice to finally be here.  I'll tell you more about it after I get started  - today has been a long whirlwind of activities & I'm exhausted.   Plus I have a stack of paperwork to read through yet tonight before I go to bed.

I think it's gonna be a fun summer!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Travel Log Catch-Up: Finale

After being phone and internet deprived for almost 3 days, I decided against heading into even more remote areas of southeastern Oregon.  I headed back the way I came, and north towards Baker City, Oregon.  I was bouncing back and forth between Hell's Canyon area to the east or Phillips Lake to the west.  At almost the last minute, I decided on Phillips Lake, since that took me in the direction I was thinking of going for the rest of my travels.  There are 3 Forest Service campgrounds around Phillips Lake and I chose Miller Lane on the south side.  It was smaller and less expensive.  Boy, did I choose the right one!  The view is simply breathtaking here.  The quintessential alpine lake picture.

I found a site that had sun exposure through the tall pines so I could keep my solar panels happy and battery charged.  I walked down towards the lake, but the water level was low and the Canadian Geese and friends were none too happy about me invading their space, so I kept to higher ground and let them scold me from below.

The first night I had an owl serenade me along with the cacophony from the Canadian Honkers on the lake. I don't think those birds ever sleep!  They sure throw some wild parties - would put most frat parties to shame!

After going to bed having enjoyed the above views, I woke up to this view:

It was as flat as flat can be.  I was just so grateful it happened while here at this campground where I had cell service and a decent size town close by.  I jacked up the car and got the spare out (that was interesting!  It's stored under the car between the front seats and you have to lower it down and drag it out from under the car), but for the life of me, I couldn't get the darn lug nuts off!  Knowing how to change a tire is pretty useless if you can't get the tire off to change.  Unfortunately, my emergency roadside assistance company, Good Sam, totally let me down.  They said they couldn't find any services around to send out.  That was not true.  I called the Forest Service office figuring they might know who I could call, and they gave me the names and numbers of 2 tire shops in Baker City.  I called Les Schwab and they sent someone out to help me get the spare on, then took care of me when I drove down to have it fixed.  They were great.  Turned out I caught a nail.  I could have had the hole plugged, but I thought the tires were starting to look pretty worn and noticed some cracking along the side and I didn't want to take any chances having a blowout while driving, so I bought 2 new tires.  Not good on the quickly dwindling budget, but a necessity.  When I have some money coming in, I'll go ahead and get the other 2 tires replaced.

That pretty much consumed my day and it was too late to move, so I stayed another night.

Common Camas
I don't see anything common about it, I think it is quite beautiful.

Last night while walking up to the vault toilet by moonlight, I thought I saw a large pinecone in the road - then it moved!  So I surmised it was either a very rare, walking pinecone or something a bit more alive.  Good thing I had a flashlight with me and it revealed that it was unfortunately not a walking pinecone but rather a very large Western Toad!  Not at all what I expected the object to be, but a very pleasant surprise.  We had a nice little chat in the moonlight.

You have finally caught up with me!

Today, I had to decide where I was going to go next and when.  Hard decisions.  Watching the weather forecast, I knew the rain was moving in starting Friday night in parts of the state and sticking around the Pacific NW through at least middle of next week along with a drop in temperatures.  Originally I had planned to head further west into Oregon and spend several days checking out John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, but I go where I can find the best weather, so I decided to head north into SE Washington instead.  It looks like the rain will hold off there until Saturday and the temps will stay decent until I have to head to the mountains.  It's gonna be wet and COLD when I get up there, and stay that way for a while.  Bummer.  But for the next few days, I will be hanging out along the Snake River northeast of Kennewick trying to stay warm and as dry as possible.  It doesn't look good for cell service in that area, but I guess I'll find out when I get there.  So, I may not be posting again for several days.
Haven't been able to identify this flower yet.  Anyone know what it is?

Monday I will head to the eastern Cascades and my home for the summer.  I am looking forward to getting there and starting my new job, though I don't know my official start day yet.  I think I will have a few days to get acquainted with the area and learn my way around before I start work, which would be really nice.  

So, that has you not only caught up, but reading ahead into the next chapter.  Let me know what happens!  Well, whatever it is, it will be an adventure as always.

Have you noticed a theme to my campsites during this travel log?  I didn't plan it that way, it just happened.  I have always been drawn to water.  Maybe I was a Divining Rod in a previous life?