Our First Campground Host Gig!

Intro

We have been members of Workamper News (workamper.com, referral #206705) since we bought our Winnebago Journey in 2016 (“The Class A Motorhome—Our Summer (hurricane season) Cabin”). Our first workamper job was Amazon Camperforce in 2018 (“Our First Workamper Job—Amazon Camperforce”). Before heading west this summer, I added Idaho to our Workamper News resume as a “preferred work location”, since we were hoping to stay in the area awhile.

Flash back to August. While visiting cruising friends, we receive an email from Scenic Canyons Recreational Services, asking us if we are interested in an immediate opening as a campground host in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest in northern Idaho for two months. Since we are so close, we drive up the next day to check out the campground, then reply to the email letting them know we are interested (& close by!). We receive a phone call two days later and are hired. After some quick grocery shopping and buying an AT&T sim card (because our T-Mobile was roaming on AT&T at the campground), we arrive at our new home less than a week later!

Amazingly, some Amazon Camperforce friends are in the area and beat us to the campground, walking-in to the site right next to ours. Our levelers drop at 10:30 am, after several attempts to wiggle into our relatively small parking spot (note rear overhang in the pic below!).

Our managers stop by to say hello and let us know they will be back in the afternoon to train us. After a quick walk through the campground with our friends (the kid & dogs allowed us to be incognito for about 5 minutes), a flood of campers start dropping by to say hello and ask questions. We decide to ingratiate ourselves to our campers by jumping on the golf cart and doing a quick clean of all the bathrooms and are quickly complimented on the “cleanest campground bathrooms ever” (they may have been buttering us up. We do have the toilet paper). We will learn many of our campers are regulars, some of whom have been coming here every summer with their families for vacation since the 70’s. They break us in quickly and teach us about the campground and the area.

Our HUGE campsite!

Why?

  • Free campsite ($630 value for this campground): Most people assume that fuel is our biggest expense—and I guess that is possible, but for us it is actually overnight parking. Yes, there is WalMart, Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome and boondocking on public lands but these all have limitations. Weekly and monthly rates help, but the lowest we’ve paid is $450/month and the highest is $900 ($700 monthly rate and $200 metered electric in July!). An RV park we stay at in St. Louis just changed their monthly rate to a minimum of a 2-months stay or $324 weekly—PASS!
  • FHU, or “full-hookup” (electric, water and sewer): The State Parks we’ve stayed at in the past tend to have 30 or 50-amp electric, maybe water but NEVER sewer at our site (which means the dump station every 5-10 days). Campgrounds have been packed this summer and we’ve done “30-amp, no sewer” a few times because it was all that was available. As camp hosts, we’ll have full-hookups when the campsites in our campground have none!
  • We live in a National Forest! Most government-run campgrounds have a “14-day during any 30-consecutive day period” limit. We get to stay for two months–or the whole summer when we come back next year!

Our Campground

  • Elevation 2500 ft
  • 27 campsites including 7 premium sites along the lake (17 are reservable on recreation.gov, 10 are “walk-ins” or first-come, first-serve), 3 bathrooms (flush toilets, no showers), and 4 bear-proof trash bins in addition to our 2 big dumpsters. It’s dry camping so no electricity, water or sewer at each campsite (potable water spigots in each loop). $21 for a regular site, $23 for a waterfront site. Half-price if you have a Senior National Park Pass. $8 for each additional vehicle.
  • Cell coverage: T-Mobile roaming on AT&T (we bought an AT&T unlimited sim with 10 GB tether, network managed after 20 GB. $75 with autopay)
  • 35 miles straight-line to Canada, and on the border with Washington state.
  • We have a couple small markets close by but the nearest big town is Priest River (30 minutes). The nearest WalMart is Sandpoint (1 hour). The rest of the big retail chains are in Couer D’Alene (1 hour, 40 min).
The view from our RV. We have a great spot giving us a view of all the comings & goings. Our prominent spot means all the camper’s know where to find us!

Our Job

Camphost jobs vary. They can be a volunteer position or paid–at a government campground (local, state, national, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Corp of Engineers) or private campground (KOA or “Mom & Pop”). You may work 20 hours total up to 32 hours each (with possible overtime with pay).

We are getting paid to work at a Forest Service campground, because it is being managed by a concessionaire. We don’t have a set minimum number of hours–just get the job done with two days off a week. For us, our job involves:

  • Cleaning bathrooms
  • Removing trash from bear-proof trash bins in each loop and transfering to the dumpsters
  • Cleaning campsites including litter, picnic tables and fire rings
  • Putting out reservation cards
  • Collecting money for walk-ins, firewood and campers with additional cars
  • Answering questions including hiking, ice, cash, restaurants, boat ramps, water & dump station
  • Monitoring and encouraging compliance with the rules and regulations
  • Other light maintenance such as painting tables, replacing light bulbs, etc.
  • Assisting in shutting down the campground at the end of the season.
  • (See full description in “Reference” below)
Our campground’s swim beach

A Normal Day

AM

  • About 8:00 am, I check the “Iron Ranger” for pay envelopes, then do a voluntary morning walk-through to check and see who left and who arrived (& who paid). I get in a walk and my husband gets another cup of coffee.
  • 9:00-9:30 am. We have a loud golf cart so we try not to start too early, but it is dictated by the toilet paper consumption of our current campers. We jump on the golf cart together to do the bear-proof trash bins and a thorough clean of the 3 bathrooms. We also clean any campsites that have been vacated. This takes a little under an hour.

Afternoon

  • Depending on the day, between 1 pm check-out and 2:00 pm check-in, we do another round to clean campsites. He blows off the paved parking spot with a leaf blower while I pull the reservation tags, check the fire pit and pick up any trash (average of 1 hour). Some days we don’t have anyone leaving. Sundays can be hectic if the campground is “turning over” for the next group of vacationers (0-up to 2 hours).

PM

  • Between 5-6 pm, we do another round and check the bathrooms are still clean (may need toilet paper or a sweep), pick-up trash (if needed), and say hi to any new arrivals (less than an hour depending on how many campers stop us to chat).

Miscellaneous

  • Throughout the day, people may knock on our door about walk-ins, water access, nearby hiking trails, or firewood. However, we are free to run to the store, go for a hike or take a nap. I try to sit outside for a few hours after check-in to greet campers, especially if we still have walk-in sites available. We close the curtains at 8 pm, and we’ve only had a few knocks after that. Quiet hours are at 10 pm, but we haven’t had to enforce it.
  • Our managers stop by three times a week to drop off new reservations, supplies and to check on anything we need to report around the campground—dead trees, broken water spigots, missing reservation clips, etc. We also have a monthly camphost meeting.
  • If our neighboring camphosts are off, we cover their campground, if needed.
  • My husband also volunteered to help our Area Manager with some maintenance projects at other campgrounds.
  • Camphosts are also encouraged to do a 30 minute Interpretive Talk on holidays.
Woodrat Trail

Our Hiking Trails

We get paid to hike! Stay tuned for a complete write-up of our local hiking trails

Beach Trail No 48

Summary

What we learned:

  • The key to a happy camper is a clean bathroom and lots of toilet paper!
  • Who knew a shed (man cave) and a golf cart (freedom) could be so much fun!

Chores can be done by one person or divvied up amongst a couple. I am in charge of paperwork, a majority of camper questions and light bathroom cleaning. My husband is in charge of trash, toilets, mopping, the leaf blower, the weed whacker and “other light maintenance”. Some days we alternate rounds with each other or alternate days, depending on our moods and how busy the campground is.

We’ be back next season!

Reference

Forest Service website for Outlet Bay campground at Priest Lake, Idaho Panhandle National Forest:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ipnf/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=6765&actid=29

Scenic Canyon website for Outlet Bay:

https://www.sceniccanyons.com/outlet-bay.html

Making a reservation for Outlet at Priest Lake (Idaho Panhandle, NOT Selkirk):

https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/234740

(Last year’s flyer for the camphost position)

1. Need to have own hard-side RV for living quarters.

2. Live on site in the designated host site.

3. Provide information and assistance to guests to insure a quality recreational experience.

4. See that all fees are collected for facility use

5. Clean restrooms daily and make an additional walk-through inspection to insure restrooms are clean and supplied late in the afternoon.

6. Police camp sites for litter and clean tables and fire rings after guests leave.

7. Do light maintenance duties such as paint tables, replace light bulbs, etc.

8. Sell firewood and other approved items.

9. Monitor and encourage compliance with rules and regulations.

10. First Aid & CPR Training is encouraged but not required.

Training will be provided. Necessary tools and supplies will be furnished. Uniform shirts, hat and name tag will be supplied.

Pay: Monthly salary plus free site.

Hookups: FULL HOOK UPS depending on campground.

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