As Time Goes By

Days became weeks and we continued to labor and greet campers into our little sanctuary.  We had scouts, schools, groups of friends, churches, and clubs.  Each was different and interesting and we met some really cool people and a few old grouches.

By this time we had a telephone attached to a pole in our side yard and I would stand leaning against the pole and call Mom in Indiana.  Not long after, Danny was able to snake the wire through the screen, under the window and we had inside phone service.  Still hauling the nasty to the pit toilets via the blue boy, and internet connection was 5 miles down the mountain.  

Now that the prep work was completed for the campground we added a few new duties to our schedule.  We manned the gate where people entered for day use, fishing, and picnicking.  This included collecting fees, handing out pamphlets, and giving directions.  It also including chasing off those who wanted to sneak in without paying and putting up with comments about how taxpayers should not have to pay to use the national forests.  Yeah, yeah, whatever. 

An activity which we particularly enjoyed was going up and down the mountain in a Forest Service truck picking up trash at overlook points.  I'm not kidding, this was loads of fun.  We got to talk to all kinds of people who thought we were Forest Rangers (our uniforms looked very official).  Occasionally we would find money, lots of cigarette butts, and other items we didn't want to think about.  We also were able to stand and look over the beautiful Catalina Mountains at some of the most breathtaking views anywhere.  Every now and then we'd say to one another, "and we're getting paid for this!"

Life is GOOD!

Really? This is workamping??

I'm not sure what I thought workamping would be, but it is NOT sitting at your site and waving to folks as they pull in. 

In a national forest campground there is much to be done before the campground can open for the season.  There are fire-rings to clean, sites to rake, leaves to blow, and pit toilets to scrub.  Cleaning, raking, blowing and scrubbing take on a whole new meaning when done at 7200'.  I can say without hesitation that I have never worked so hard in my life.  SIDENOTE TO NEWBIES:  Don't ever be the first couple in - you will pay!

Soon enough we were joined by four other couples, only one of which had prior workamping experience.  We all worked like maniacs and  before long the campgrounds began to emerge from their winter's hibernation, looking inviting and fun.  Bring on the campers!!

Our first group arrived about 3 weeks after we did, on a cold and snowy night.  We're snuggled in the camper, Danny in his underwear and me in my long flannel nightie, when we heard a knock on the camper door.  We nearly jumped out of our skin because as far as we knew we were the only living souls within 5 miles.  I honestly didn't want to answer the door.

Cautiously Danny opened the door, peering into that inky blackness.  A young man was standing there and said he had a group of scouts with reservations for the night.  He didn't have any paperwork with him, we hadn't been alerted to expect anyone, and he had hiked in about a mile as our gate was locked and all the scouts were waiting back at the gate.  I just assumed he was an axe murderer.  Turns out he really was a scout leader and we had our first group.  It was quite a site to see all those tents lined up the next morning, snow covered and frosty.

Gee, I guess we really are workampers.


The "grands", light of our lives.
A manatee floating on his back in Tampa Bay, his little "flippers" folded across his chest.  We should all be so relaxed!  These guys are huge!


So now it's getting real and we need to find a place to call "home on the road".  We did a few forays into camper territory trying to decide what fit our needs and budget.   Danny had towed a fold-down camper during our early camping years, and thought he'd be most comfortable towing a travel trailer.  Even though I really wanted to go with a fifth wheel, I knew who would be doing the driving, so deferred to his judgement.

We found a really nice couple selling their 23' travel trailer, excellent condition, lots of nice features, felt spacious and open.  We were now the proud owners of an RV and felt sooooo official.  We could hardly wait for the campground to open so we could report for duty.

Opening day finally arrived and, with the help of some good friends, we made the hour and a half trek to our site.  Turned out we were to be in charge of the group camp, and the only hosts at that location.  It was so exciting to begin setting up, unpacking, cleaning and raking the site of pine needles.  Our friends pitched in and we later enjoyed a good meal under the beautiful pine canopy. 

As evening approached we said our goodbyes and watched their tailights recede down the dirt road.  I felt an overwhelming loneliness as I realized where we were and what a tiny and remote speck we were on this planet.  Wondering what the heck we had gotten ourselves into, we went inside.

We had no phone service, no tv reception, and no sewer on-site.  (Danny would soon get very familiar with the blue boy.)  With nothing else to do and being tired from the busy afternoon, I decided to turn in .  Things were going swimmingly until I turned on the bedroom light, reached to turn down the covers and almost TOUCHED the biggest wolf spider I've ever seen!  The scream brought Danny immediately and he dispatched the darn thing post haste.  This was followed by a thorough search of the entire bedroom to assure we weren't sharing quarters with any other critters.

It sure was dark and quiet.  Day 1 completed.


Danny and the gator at The Dam Diner, a funky old Florida restaurant.  It was built out over the ocean, the sand snow white and the ocean a clear beautiful blue.  A fun day!



We didn't have long to wait. Within a couple of weeks we had offers from Mt. Lemmon AZ, Lake Bomoseen VT, and a remote sight in Washington state. As much as we would have loved going to Vermont, common sense prevailed and we accepted the Mt. Lemmon gig.
At the time we were still very much homeowners with all the baggage that implies. You know, you don't own a home - it owns you. There were plants to water, bills to pay, and rocks to rake (very little grass in AZ). The Mt. Lemmon job was an hour and a half from home so it seemed prudent to go with that one.

We had a little over a month to report for duty, but we don't wait well so up the mountain we went to scope out the campgrounds. Turned out there are four Forest Service campgrounds on the mountain and we had no idea which one would be ours. All were closed for the winter so we parked the car and hiked in about a mile to get a look. It was a cold blustry day with snow and ice still clinging along creek banks, wind stinging our cheeks, eyes and noses running.

Our hearts sank as we rounded a turn and the clearly marked "host" sites came into view. Only one had on-site sewage, and all were clinging precariously to the side of the mountain. Did I mention we're at 7400' at this point? Not one level site, or anything resembling a pad or driveway. We looked at one another and I went to shelter behind a pile of dirt, perching on a cold cold rock. Danny went exploring.

All the way down that winding mountain road we discussed the possibilities. If we could just snag the site with the sewer we decided we'd make it work. It was, after all, supposed to be an adventure.

Next on the agenda - find and buy a house on wheels.