Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: August 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Going to the Sun!


Yep, you do feel as if you are “going to the sun” when you travel this awe-inspiring, impressive road...a continuous work in progress!

That’s exactly what we did yesterday, Tuesday, the 28th. As many of you know, Monday and Tuesday are our days off from camp hosting and we like to make the most of them, specifically getting to know beautiful Glacier National Park a little better each day.

The best way to get to Logan Pass, Crown of the Continent,  if you are short on time, and want a good overview of the park, is by the free shuttle busses that run every half hour. This time we made a choice to drive ourselves – we dedicated a whole day to this adventure.

Some interesting facts about the road itself, and some of the history of building Going-to- the-Sun-Road are available and I have to say captivating. It was, and remains an engineering feat! Today, as has been the past several years, there are road crews “repairing parts of this history” which does cause some delays. But in our eyes yesterday, these delays were most welcome. They enabled us to just sit and admire and soak in this glorious creation of wonderment!

What too was so remarkable yesterday, it was as if we were traveling on this road for the first time! Of course we have been on it many times before, be it by ourselves back in the day of T1 at 19’, or with friends in cars, or most recently with other Park Staff when heading for the Logan Pass Star Party.  We also experienced some of the fog/smog from all of the surrounding fires…yet still it was awesome!

Every turn, every bend in the road displayed new and astonishing surprises! We had left Apgar campground heading to Logan Pass which is at the very top, and then travelling downward, and then up again to Many Glacier Hotel. All along the way, we stopped at the various campgrounds the Park has to offer guests, combined with the numerous Exhibits that dot the roadway – and lucky us…we were able to actually view the sun and see an actual sun-flare at St. Mary’s visitor center where a volunteer astronomer had set up a special telescope.

My words cannot possibly express, or give credit to, the beauty that is in, and surrounds this breathtaking Park – the Park we call home for two months.

On our way back to Apgar Campground, we stopped at a little cafe near Babb, Montana. It was recommended to us by a fellow camp host. Two Sisters Café was yet another interesting and delicious stop on our journey excursion.

Warning…when you take a look at the photos here, they too are unable to do justice to what you actually see with your own eyes. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Behind the Scenes - On Being a Volunteer Camp Host


Almost a day never goes by without someone commenting, “boy I sure would like your job”, followed by, “how did you get to be a camp host?”

How we became camp hosts

We have been traveling by RV and camping since 1997. For many of those years we talked about becoming camp hosts. In 2010 while traveling through Texas we got serious about giving hosting a try. We started asking camp hosts in each park we visited how they became a host, how long they had been hosting, how they liked it and what their duties where. We also talked to park rangers and other park personnel about volunteer opportunities.

The result of all this “research” was our picking out parks, both state and national, we would consider working at. The next step was to go on-line and fill out volunteer work applications. We also put together a résume that included all of our work experience, skills and interests. Our initial list included several state parks in Colorado and Texas and Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Zion National Parks. We submitted our applications in the fall of 2010.

Our fist call back and offer came from Ridgway State Park in Ridgway, Colorado in late November. This park was one of our top choices and since this would be our first volunteer experience we liked the idea of it being close to home. Also, the park is in what is arguably the prettiest part of Colorado. So, the idea of spending the summer in Ridgway was very appealing. We accepted their offer. You can check out our posts from this experience starting here.

Subsequent to our acceptance at Ridgway we received offers from all of our other choices. We had to tell them that we were already committed but asked them to keep our application and résume on file.

After our summer at Ridgway we knew we liked volunteering as camp hosts and while didn’t want to do it “full time” we agreed that we would like to continue volunteering for a couple of months each year.

Our next camp host experience was at Galveston Island State Park in Galveston, TX. Our blog about this park and experience starts here.

In March of this year we were in Florida (buying our new RV) when we received a call from Glacier National Park. They had kept our résume and wanted to know if we were still interested in being a camp host. Glacier was our top choice and we jumped at the opportunity. So, here we are…

What we do

The duties at each park have been quite different. In Ridgway we greeted campers and checked reservations. We also cleaned out grills and fire pits. JoAnne worked in the office one day a week and we had “beach duty” every couple of weeks. I also set up their Facebook page and continue to manage it. We were camp hosts from May 15 through Labor Day weekend.

Our main duty in Galveston was patrolling the beach in the park furnished “gator” and picking up the trash that washed ashore. Yep, we spent several hours a day enjoying time on the beach. We were camp hosts for the month of November.

Glacier is our first national park experience.

Our routine

Our campground (Apgar) is next to McDonald Lake and there are 194 campsites (a big room with a view). Two volunteer couples share the host duties. We are responsible for loop A&B – 118 sites. The other hosts have fewer sites in loops C& D but also oversee loop E the group camping loop. We are “on duty” for 5 days and “off duty” two days – Monday and Tuesday. On our days off the other host couple covers for us and of course we do the same when they are off duty.

Our primary responsibility is to do what we can to help provide a positive camping experience for all campers. That involves answering questions about the campground and the park. Typical questions include, “where is the amphitheater”, “what is the ranger program tonight”, “where do we catch the shuttle”, “are there any sites available” and “where can I find a shower “. It also involves enforcing campground rules such as generator hours and food storage (we have bears) and pets on leash.

Our typical day starts at around 7:00 am when we pick up all the tags from the sites where campers will be checking out. Our next trip through the campground it typically around 2:00 pm when we check new tags to make sure they have been properly filled out. This is also when we make an effort to meet and greet campers and answer any questions they may have. Our final walk through the campground is at 7:00 pm. At that time we make sure generators are off and do a final count.

On most days when we are finished with our rounds we hang out around our campsite. Yes, we are available to answer questions or help campers with any issues or emergencies that may arise. Yet, most days are pretty quiet and it we have plenty of time to enjoy this beautiful park. We also use this time to do our laundry and grocery shopping. In the evening we may times attend the ranger lead talks at the amphitheatre. Since I am still working I have plenty of time to attend conference calls, write and handle other work related duties. We will be at Glacier for about 9 weeks.

Why do we do it

I could tell you it is for philanthropic reasons and a sense of giving back - but you probably would not believe me. So,... we get a “free” full hook-up site, we get to experience some amazing places, and we feel like we really get to know the area. Bottom line… we are having fun volunteering. More photos are here.

If you have been a camp host, how does this match up with your experience?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Glacier National Park – Week One


On Tuesday, July 24 we pulled into site A2 in the Apgar Campground in Glacier National Park. We will be volunteer camp hosts here until the first week in October.

But first... Two of the biggest fans or our blog are my parents, Mary and Dick Morgan. After reading our last post my dad called wondering if I remembered our pack trip up in the Spanish Peaks. For several summers our family would pack up the station wagon and head “out west”. More specifically we went to Lone Mountain Ranch. This was over 50 years ago, before there was Big Sky, MT. At the time the ranch was a true working “dude” ranch. We stayed in “rustic” cabins complete with elk and deer heads on the walls and bear skin rugs on the floor. I remember the main lodge had the head of a Texas Longhorn hanging over the huge fireplace. (I wonder if it is still there?) I spent two weeks, mostly on a horse riding in the surrounding mountains and rounding up the far-flung cattle. Yes, there was also time for some amazing fly-fishing. The trip my dad was reminiscing about was a several day pack trip to a snow fed mountain lake high up in the Spanish Peaks.  If my memory serves me right this is where I caught my first Golden Trout. I was 11 or 12 and for a kid from the suburbs of Chicago this was as cool as it gets. Yes, Dad I remember – How could I ever forget? To paraphrase Bob Hope - "Thanks for the memories"? 

Boy were the other camp hosts happy to see us. The campground has 194 sites that are covered by two volunteer couples. The couple we were replacing had to leave early, which left the oversight of the entire campground to the one remaining couple. We had expected to have a few days to get settled in before starting our work but that was not to be the case. Luckily, this was not our first experience with camp hosting and we were able to jump right in. I will write more about our duties in a future post.

Surprise (not really) on Wednesday, July 25th our friends Hal and Lois pulled in to the campground. They had been on an extended trip through Alberta and British Columbia and were on their way back to Colorado. We have been on several RV adventures with Hal and Lois (as many of the posts on this blog will confirm) and it was good to see them.

When we are with Hal and Lois there are always plenty of laughs. During the day they toured the park while we worked and in the evening we would reconnoiter (Lois’ favorite word) in our “living room” and over a campfire and glass of wine share stories. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

While JoAnne held down the fort, the three of us had a chance to drive to Polebridge and Bowman Lake. The Bakery at Polebridge Mercantile is awesome – and yes, Hal, I ate 7 cookies on the way back to Apgar. On Monday (our day off) we played golf. On the 18th hole a Bear joined our foursome.

On Tuesday morning we said good-bye… We miss you guys.

For more pictures click here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Yes, We Are in Glacier – But First! Part ll


Part ll

Continuing on toward Glacier:  On Friday July 20 we left Billings and headed for Bozeman - what a difference. Unlike Billings, Bozeman "feels" like a western town. The Bridger range and Spanish Peaks surround Bozeman making for breathtaking views in all directions. As we explored some of the neighborhoods and outlying areas it became clear that Bozeman has some very upscale residents. In many ways it reminded me of Boulder, CO and Bend, OR. To our friends Jeff and Lauran Yates who are moving to Bozeman as I write this blog - nice choice! We will look forward to visiting you.

Perhaps the biggest surprise while in Bozeman was our trip to the Museum of Modern Human Progress (formally, the American Computer Museum). The name change reflects the fact that the museum is more than just the history of computers. Yet this is a small but comprehensive museum remains true to it's mission,  "To collect, preserve, interpret, and display the artifacts and history of the information age." 

We spent the rest of the afternoon in downtown Bozeman eating and hunting for interesting beads.

On Saturday, we pointed Tiger lll (our RV) north toward Flathead Lake. Trying to find a campsite on Saturday during the height of the tourist season is never a good idea. Sometimes luck is on your side.  We had resigned ourselves to a night at the Polson Walmart. However, as we entered the very small town of Ronan we saw a sign for the Diamond S RV Park. Indeed it was a diamond. This is a wonderful little RV park about 9 miles south of Polson and the south shore of the magnificent Flathead Lake. Check out this view of the Mission Mountains from our campsite.

On Sunday morning, we headed to Polson and the annual Cherry Festival. Yes, Mt. Rainier Cherry's are really good but not any better than fresh Flathead Cherry's - we bought lots, ate a buch and froze the rest. Yum.

The afternoon was spent traveling along the west shore of the lake and visiting the charming little town of Bigfork. They have a great little cooking store and of course we had to stop for some ice cream.

Monday on the suggestion of Diamond S RV Park camp manager we headed out to the Miracle of America Museum. OMG this is to paraphrase Steve Martin,  a "Wild and Crazy" place. But what fun... In some ways it is a glorified junkyard. But it is also a history of the gadgets and mechanical inventions of America. What we had anticipated as a short visit turned into several hours of wandering through the many buildings filled with an amazing array of stuff.

On Monday afternoon, in sharp contrast to Miracle of America Museum but in keeping with our "history" theme we went to the Ninepipes Museum and St. Ignatius Mission 

The Ninepipes Museum is named after Chief Joseph Ninepipes, a Bitterroot Salish Chief. JoAnne and I were amazed at the wealth of early photos, artifacts and antiques contained in the museum that spanned over a century of life in the Flathead Reservation. 

The St. Ignatius Mission is a Roman Catholic mission founded in 1854. It is really a pretty little church.

On Tuesday, July 24 we pulled out of the Diamond S and headed to Glacier to start our volunteer camp hosting. Stay Tuned.

Click here for all of the photos.
Blog 081112

Friday, August 3, 2012

Yes, We Are in Glacier – But First!


Part l

We are settled in to site A2 in Apgar campground in Glacier National Park and have started our volunteer assignment as camp hosts. Yet, before I tell you all about Glacier, I wanted to write about some of our adventures on our trip from Broomfield to this magnificent park.

We left home on July15 and traveled to Guernsey State Park in Guernsey, WY. Yes, there is more to see in Wyoming than just the Tetons and Yellowstone. While not on the scale of the National Parks, this state park has an interesting history dating back to the CCC days and the completion of the dam in 1927. The town of Guernsey is also home to Register Cliff and Oregon Ruts National Historic Sites. The ruts here are the best-preserved trail ruts anywhere.

However, the big news for us while camping here was the Guernsey fire and fact we had to be evacuated from our original site to a safer location deeper in the park and much further from the fire. Seems as though the Colorado National Guard accidently set the fire while training in WY. Anyone living in Colorado or the West for that matter knows how unbelievably dry it has been this summer and how horrific the fires have been.

Our next stop of note was the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  We have been here several times but with each visit we come away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of not only this battle but of the significance it had in shaping Indian/US history. If you have not been here since 2003 you will find the Indian Memorial particularly interesting. This is most definitely a place of reflection.

On to Billings, MT. This is a city that seems out of place in the wild west of Wyoming. We heard one person describe it at the “Newark of the West” – indeed. We did stay in the very first KOA. It was a nice enough KOA but with all the beautiful national and state parks, BLM land, and natural forests I just can’t get my head around the $50 a night they charge. (I could go on a rant here but will restrain myself).

The best part of our trip to Billings was our “side trip” to Red Lodge, MT and the ride over the spectacular Bear Tooth Highway which took us to the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, then through Cody, WY and finally to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Powell, WY. Let me back up a minute. We left our RV in Billings and took our “toad” (Honda Fit) for this daylong trip. Red Lodge is a fun little town which when we got there was getting ready to host their annual Harley Rally. We stopped in at the visitor center where the super friendly staff helped us map out our trip. 

If you are a biker you have most likely heard of the Bear Tooth Highway, which is rated as one of the best rides in the US – and I will assure you it is! The Chief Joseph scenic Highway is also a great drive. Cody has lots to offer but we have visited many times and did not stop but instead headed to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. This was one of the 10 internment camps used to incarcerate Japanese Americans during WW ll. The national award winning learning center/museum opened in August 2011. 

As wonderful as our trip on the two scenic highways was – it was the visit to Heart Mountain that was the real highlight and the memory that will linger the longest. After an emotional visit we left wondering if we have in fact learned lessons from the past.

Part ll will follow in a few days... But here is a link to more photos.