Walter and Sara On the road to who knows where
Since camp hosting at every park in every state is different, but people are always asking us what it is that we do as camp hosts, I thought I'd put together a short summary of what it is we did as hosts at Lake Cascade State Park in Idaho.

Hosts and staff at Lake Cascade are linked together with a radio system. Each morning after we'd gotten up, we'd hook up our radio and tune it to PR Cascade. Many hosts leave their radios hooked up all the time, but our Airstream is so tight that we had no way to thread the antenna cord into our rig except through our open door. If we closed the door on the cord, it would pinch it and cut into the cord itself. So we disconnected the antenna cord each night and hooked it up each morning some time between 8:30 and 9:00 am. The radio also gives you the US Weather Service forecast for the McCall area and we'd often listen to that to start our day.

Once the radio is turned on, you're 'on the clock' as far as your time sheet is concerned. It doesn't matter what you're doing, your time counts. Since we always had our radio on until at least 10 pm and often later on the weekends, we recorded 13 to 14 hours a day on our time cards.

Sometime between 8:30 and 9 am most mornings (at both Huckleberry and Sugarloaf Campgrounds and a little later at Buttercup) the seasonals would drop by and give us our daily arrivals report (and re-stock the firewood bin). This is a 7 day report of all the reservations for all the sites in your campground. I'd take the day before's report and compare it to the new report making sure there hadn't been any changes in name (reservations can get canceled and the empty spot grabbed up again in the 24 hours between reports), any cancellations or any additions.

If we'd had campers arrive without reservations late in the evening (this happened often at both Sugarloaf and Huckleberry) and I hadn't made contact with them then, I'd go out and find out how long they were here for and call in on the radio to let the office know the 'walk in' info on them.

Mid-morning we'd do our rounds and I'd change any signs that might need changing. During our rounds we'd check the bathrooms for cleanliness, picking up any trash and replacing any empty or very low toilet paper rolls. Usually in the morning we'd walk the entire campground picking up trash, greeting campers and answering questions. If someone was leaving that day and the site was filling up again, I'd stop by and let them know they had until 1 pm until check out time. Most folks left well before that so we had time to police the site before the next folks arrived.

If at least a section of the campground was empty, we'd then set up hoses and rainbirds to water what we could. At Huckleberry and Buttercup this could take all of Monday and Thursday (Sugarloaf has an automatic sprinkler system so watering isn't part of your job). We ran the sprinklers for an hour and then moved them. Since we'd often have 4 or 5 sprinklers running at the same time this could be a lot of work once an hour. When we were done watering for the week, we'd roll all the hoses back up, load them and the sprinklers into a wheelbarrow and return them to the pipe chase (the closet) in the main bathroom.

In the afternoon on weekdays, we would often have folks come in looking for a spot for a night or two. We'd greet them, help them figure out what their fees were, tell them the rules and then call in on the radio to the office to let them know that we had a 'walk in'. If people wanted to stay more than one night, that had to be cleared with the office to be sure someone hadn't reserved the site during that day for the future nights. If folks walked in after office hours, we called the walk in information in to the ranger on duty and had folks call the office the next morning if they wanted to stay another night (or we'd call via radio for them in the morning).

Of course, we also had folks arriving with reservations too and we'd do the same meet and greet with them though usually we'd wait until evening rounds for that.

On Thursday through Saturday evenings we were asked to record the license plate numbers of all the cars in each spot and check to see if they had an Idaho State Parks Passport or Annual Pass. If the site had more than one car and they didn't have a passport or pass we had to inform the campers that they owed the daily $5 Motor Vehicle Entry Fee. It would often times take me 2 or 3 trips around the campground to get all the license plate numbers because of course campers don't all arrive at the same time. If it wasn't too busy, I'd combine the recording of the numbers with greeting folks and letting them know about the rules.

At about 8 pm each evening, we'd do rounds again checking the bathrooms and walking the campground talking to folks. I found that the more folks I engaged in casual conversation, the easier the weekend would go in terms of contact about broken rules. The basic rules were all dogs belong on a leash; all cars belong on the pavement; quiet hours are from 10 pm to 7 am; and extra cars need to have a sticker or pay the $5 car fee.

Quiet hours began at 10 pm. We'd give folks about 15 minutes to quiet down and if there were still generators going or folks being really noisy we'd go out and ask them to quiet down. Most evenings this wasn't necessary though on warm evenings it was always noisier. Week nights, we'd disconnect our radio and close our door at about 10 pm. On the weekends it might be later depending on how full we were and how noisy things were. On the holiday weekends we were lucky to close up by 11:30 because with more people there is just lots more stuff going on.

We usually saw a ranger every evening during the weekend. We'd give them our license plate record and report any problems we'd seen or wanted help with. He could show up any time between about 6:30 and 10 pm depending on whether we had one or two rangers on that evening and how crazy things were.

On Sunday, when the campground usually emptied out, we'd walk the campground checking to be sure that all the campfires were out (in cold weather there were usually a few that needed to be doused) and picking up trash. Cleaning the trash out of firepits was a big job on Sunday, though we did it each time anyone vacated a spot if we could get to it before the next folks came in.

In addition to all of this, we had a steady stream of folks coming to our site to ask questions about site availability, firewood, hiking, fishing and ATVing. During the week we had folks hoping for sites that would go through the weekend--a long shot since we were usually full with reservations.

We got two days off each week. We usually took Tuesday and Wednesday as our days off. Many of the hosts at Lake Cascade live in Boise and they would go home for two days and get a real break from it all. We however didn't have that luxury. On Tuesday we'd pack a lunch and take off and go on a hike and we'd be gone for 4 or 5 hours. On Wednesday we'd go up to McCall to do our shopping and errands and once again be gone 3 or 4 hours. Each day we'd still do our arrivals report, update the signs and do our rounds in both the morning and evening. At both Buttercup and Sugarloaf it was quiet enough on our days off that we really didn't feel the need to be gone longer than that. But at Huckleberry in late June and July we were still pretty full mid-week and being away for a few hours each day really wasn't enough. I started doing the laundry in Donnelly on Monday's to be gone for 2 more hours and Walter would stay and be on duty while I was gone. And the last week we were there, when we were so full and so tired we took off for a drive on Thursday just to get away.

Our biggest job was to be the eyes and ears of the park for the rangers and managers. We reported water leaks, missing backflow protectors, broken signs and other repairs that needed to be done. We kept our eyes on kids, dogs and folks doing crazy things with their campfires and their toys. At the end of a full weekend we were always tired even though we hadn't done anything more physical than walk around and around the campground many times.

This turned out to be longer than 'a short summary' but at least this way you have an idea of what it is a camp host at Lake Cascade State Park does.