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?