Camp Host 101

Before we jump into the journal on this post that we are calling Camp Host 101, we wrote a little bit about our overall experience back in June of 2017 in a post entitled Camp Host. The post highlighted what led us to become hosts as well as some of the duties it entailed. Here, in this post, you will read our journal entries for the first week of that six week stent.

April 30th, 2017

We woke up lazily after a full and exhausting week experiencing the Historic Triangle and Busch Gardens and got ready to go. The heat from yesterday has stuck around, the process of breaking camp was a hot and sweaty one. When we set up camp here it was raining and I was soaked afterwards, now I am soaked again, but not by rainwater this time. Hooked the dolly and Civic up and stopped over at the bathhouse for a quick shower to rinse off the sweat.

Our next destination is our long awaited Camp Host role in Maryland. We are excited and nervous – but looking forward to the adventure and the opportunity to serve. Cortney shows her love through hospitality and I through acts of service – so we can’t wait for this part of our Get Living Adventure.

We headed north and I knew our path today would take us on the bypass that rings around the capital – Washington D.C., then north through Baltimore. We figured there would be traffic. We were right. Even for a Sunday the highways were packed. Sweet thing for me was Cortney drove nearly the entire way. Cortney lives in the moment, when she got settled in that drivers seat today, I can guarantee you she had not given a thought to the fact she would be driving through major metropolitan interstates, interchanges and traffic. It was a blessing in disguise. There was no time to stress about what was ahead or which direction the interchanges would merge, she in her typical fashion took the drive in stride and didn’t even let the stress of city driving in a 33 foot rig get to her!

I had some work to get done to prepare for a May 1st deadline – when requests to rent space for our chess and LEGO programs in Colorado starts at 7am. So I settled in to get the maximum amount of work in while the kids entertained themselves with coloring, games, snacks (always snacks!) and a movie.

After driving all day we arrived late at Elk Neck State Park. We met Dennis at the gate (Dennis is a Volunteer Ranger at the park and among many duties he takes on, he and his wife camp host and help coordinate the other hosts for the park manager). He led us to our site, showed us where we could store our tow dolly for the time we will be in the park as hosts, and said they would be by sometime later tomorrow morning to get acquainted with our responsibilities. It is still early in the season for camping and there is no one else on the loop except us, kind of strange to be the only people here – this is a first, but no complaints it is a pretty sweet backyard!

Our intial plan is to work 4 weeks,  possibly more – the end date is yet to be determined. (Even that first night Dennis was certain he would convince us to stay longer and several times that night and in the coming weeks reminded us we could stay through the end of the season – October. Now 1 year later we wished we could have stayed, as we write this today we have the best kind of ache in our souls to get back!)

May 1st, 2017

Busy morning of my Colorado work. So thankful for our Verizon Mifi Jetpack for internet service on the road. The booster is working and we have signal – good to go! Cortney helped me with the requests – went twice as fast!

On the camp host side of work – lazy day – no work yet to be done. Dennis – having just arrived yesterday as well – is busily trying to clean up some messes from the winter season, tracking down the needed keys, supplies, shirts, etc. for us to get started in our role. Dennis is hoping to get things squared away and start us tomorrow – Tuesday – with our training. For now he said relax – so we did.

May 2nd through 4th, 2017

We officially started training with Dennis and his wife Jane on Tuesday. Key had been found for the bathhouse closet – where mops, toilet paper, soap and all other supplies needed to clean reside. First task we need to complete, is to clean out that storage closet, getting it restocked with supplies! Things were in disarray as the park has been closed all winter, items needed to be replenished and spiffed up, including some of the largest and thickest cobwebs we have ever encountered. They are everywhere, in fact they are so prevalent, they have a large brush on a telescoping arm just to combat the gigantic webs!

We toured Dennis and Jane’s loop and bathhouse and saw how things ought to be organized – or at least how they organize their closet. He is a former Marine, so there is a system for everything! They ran us through some of the ins and outs of bathroom cleaning and the proper way to protect ourselves from chemicals. Learned that yes some of the horror stories of camp hosting are true. Such as wrecked bathrooms after large groups of teenagers camp with little to no supervision, people using showers for things that should be done elsewhere in the bathroom or not in the bathroom at all and so on. Primarily – funny stories were shared, like how did those muddy prints end up on the vaulted ceiling – no idea – but they were there and thus needed to be cleaned.

Took a tour of the park facilities where we could grab items to resupply our storage closet, found the special spot where we as camp hosts could pick free firewood (huge plus!), the staff laundry facility (for free!! this deal is getting better and better!) and several other locations throughout the park. All along the way we were introduced to the park staff – the rangers and other support staff – including maintenance staff (these are some of the hardest working guys! They were super helpful throughout our stay including helping us troubleshoot some issues with our propane tank on the RV).

At one of the facilities we learned two wonderful details. First we had access to a gator – one of the four wheelers with the small dump in the back to help us cleaning out fire pits, move firewood and supplies and in general have a wild hoot cruising in the gator (please use your best hillbilly accent here when you say gator). Secondly,  we learned that there was a power-washer we could borrow and use. Once we heard this, we knew what we were doing the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday – power washing the cobweb infested bathhouse & storage room!

With no one in the loop yet – we went to work – cleaning out the bathhouse like I think no one has before. (Now I will say the Maryland Park Service and the Park Manager Margot have been doing some great things at Elk Neck – we could tell. Recently they had redone the walls & floors in our bathhouse which made cleaning and mopping a breeze! The bathhouse had sat all winter and was due for a good power washing, watching the dirt come off that place with the power washer was highly satisfying. We wanted a clean slate to work with and more importantly a clean bathroom – it was the bathhouse we would be using ourselves. Selfish motives aside, who likes to dry camp and have to use a dirty bathroom…no one! 

The kids spent these days getting acquainted with the park. A short walk from our site is a playground. The kids are very excited about the playground – because it’s proximity to our site allows them to go back and forth and play on the structure without us being there. They are loving the independence. (When no one was on the loop during the week – the kids had free rein, they enjoyed riding that loop on their bikes and scooters near endlessly all day). We spent some of the days exploring the park around us as well as checking out some of the other camping loops and the waters of The Chesapeake nearby.

On Thursday – after returning the power washer (yes – we cleaned our RV again too – shhh!) we headed out to Turkey Point at the end of the peninsula where the Elk Neck River flows into the Chesapeake Bay. A short hike leads to a lighthouse at the end of the point. We had a nice walk – listening to the birds and the wind and enjoying the sunshine.

Our Camp Host job requires that we be at our site Friday morning through Sunday afternoon check out – as the weekends are the busiest. The one exception is church on Sunday morning – we can leave for that. We enjoyed our time away from the camp on our walk and are looking forward to tomorrow – the official start of our hosting campers on our loop. On Thursday night we received our list of schedule campers and which sites they are assigned. Not too many, just a couple of sites will be occupied in our loop (Elk Loop) of 27 sites. (Our loop was a loop of simple camping. There was no electric on the sites and just a few water spigots sporadically located throughout the loop. So there were mostly tent campers in our loop during our stay there).

One of the things we also did this week was to finish planing out our trip into Washington D.C. early next week. This is so exciting, as it was on our list of places to see when we set out in January, but had no idea or plans to make it this far north to experience, it was a pipe dream of sorts. One great thing – among many – about Dennis and the staff at the park is that they are totally flexible and encouraging us to get out and experience all that there is to see and do in this area. We are super grateful for their support and encouragement, after all isn’t point of RVing – to see the country, its history and all that it has to offer! It is the best of both worlds to be in such a secluded and breathtaking park, camping for free, serving others and working as a family while getting to explore and see so many historical and special places! The kids enjoyed helping me with the planning.

May 5th, 2017

Today (Friday) there wasn’t any work to be done in our bathhouse because Maintence was here repainting the ceilings. We are bummed because we just power washed them, but excited as the ceilings need it and we think it will be a great improvement and a much needed upkeep project!

Tonight we attended a camp host meeting where we had the opportunity to meet all of the camp hosts assigned to other loops in the park. The park manager covered more training topics and general information on the park.

Once we got back to our site we enjoyed a campfire! Free wood, remember!

Because not much was going on in our loop, the kids and I held down the fort and Cortney headed into town to replenish our food supply for the week, shopping at her new-found favorite grocery store, Aldi! She loves Aldi, and so do the kids and I because she finds really yummy treats!

May 6th and 7th, 2017

On Saturday the 6th, we just hung at the site, settled in a bit more and just enjoyed a leisurely day. The maintenance crew finished up painting and did such a fantastic job cleaning up after themselves, it left us nothing to do – so no cleaning on Saturday.

On Sunday – after looking up several local churches on google maps – we ended up at LifeSong Christian Church for their morning service. We choose the church based on pretty much three criteria. It was a Christian church, it was nearby and the website was decent. Now I know that sounds weird but you should have seen the websites of the other churches in the running! What a gem, we can’t wait to come back next week. Never in our life have we picked a church to check out and all left wanting to come back!

Following church we headed back to the campsite and cleaned the bathrooms. Late that afternoon, once our loop had cleared out, we made our way into town. The nearest town is Northeast. Makes sense – the name – since it sits in the very northeast part of Maryland. The Aldi’s that Cortney went to was in Delaware – so we are residing in the very northwest part of Maryland for sure.

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon / early evening in town and not much was open. We found a candy store and a coffee house – the Chesapeake Bay Coffee Company. It was a cool local coffee shop. Good coffee, reasonably priced and on certain mornings they have donuts – we will be back! I caught up on some work for the week – since we had a busy week of learning the camp host role – while the kids caught up on some school.

We quickly worked up an appetite and made our way to a local crab shack. Enjoyed some local seafood – being from Denver this is a big deal, fresh seafood!! Then on back to the park – where stopped off for a sunset on the bay. Really, does life get any better, look how beautiful! Of all the places we could be, there is no where we would rather be, such a gem in the north east!

Then back to RV where we enjoyed the quiet, quiet, quiet. Oh my – it is heavenly quiet.

May 8th, 2017

Enjoyed my first experience today of a weird story that Camp Host’s get to enjoy. When we went to clean the bathrooms the shower in the men’s bathroom – I could hear – was running. So instead of closing down both bathrooms like we usually do – we started with the women’s to give the man some time to finish.

Upon completing the woman’s bathroom- the shower in the men’s was still on. I gave it a few more minutes until finally I went in and announced, “Park Service!…Hello!”. No response. I repeated, “Park Service!…Hello!…Anyone in here?” No response. I walked further into the bathhouse, not really sure what to expect, kind of thinking the worst. As I got closer to the showers I saw the shower curtain drawn shut and shower running. Is this person deaf? Did someone have a health episode? How do I proceed. Hmm?

One more try, as I ‘knock’ on the shower curtain, “Park Service!…Hello!” I then slowly pull back the first curtain and I catch a glimpse of red. Lots of red. Oh crap! This is my first thought. What in the world?! At this point there are many thoughts racing through my head. I pull the curtain back more – expecting what, I do not know – a body!? And get the curtain halfway open and it’s… Spaghetti and meat sauce! Oh thank God it was not a body!

But really? #1 Who brings a pot full of spaghetti to the shower? and more interesting #2 Let’s the shower run and leaves the spaghetti – all over the shower?

Oh well. Grateful that is all it was. Still shaking in disbelief that it was not worse or as my mind had imagined it being. We got it cleaned up and finished the men’s side.

Afterwards Cortney ran clothing down to the laundry and we packed and got ready for our trip to D.C. tomorrow. We catch an early train and we are looking forward very much to the adventure of exploring our nation’s capital.

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